SYW #44

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you want to play along, click here. Here are my responses for this week:

What was your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subjects changed over the course of my education. When I was in elementary school, it was reading. Library days were my favorite, and I loved plowing right through the SRA reading kits. When I got to middle school, my favorite subjects became writing and art, partially thanks to a very creative teacher. In high school, I discovered that I loved biology. It was only in college, when I was taking a teaching math course, that I discovered a love for my previously hated subject, math, which goes to show you that anything is possible.

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for two hours, what would you have them do?

  1. Clean the bathrooms. Worst job ever.
  2. Pull the weeds. Seriously, how do they grow so fast? I don’t know if two hours a day would cover it on our little acre plot. (But it would beat the zero hours a day I’m spending on it right now.)
  3. If there is any time left, they could just straighten up, wash dishes, whatever would give me more time to research and write without the burden of these chores hanging over my head.

Where did you live when you were in the third grade of school?  Is it the same place or town you live now?

I lived in a newer suburb of a city. It was a safe place to explore, at least as far as we knew. Who knows what unknown dangers actually lurked around there? I’ve moved around a bit, but still live fairly close to where I grew up. It’s fun to drive back through the neighborhood sometimes and stir up old memories. I have a lot of acquaintances from those days who live mere blocks from where we all grew up. That seems strange to me.

In your opinion, list some places that are great for shopping?

I’m not much of a shopper anymore. My needs are small, and as long as I have coffee, chocolate, and a good book, I can procrastinate any shopping trip. When I go to the mall and don’t find what I like, it’s a frustrating waste of my time. The closest mall is 20 miles away and mostly caters to the high school crowd. I find myself shopping more and more online. That being said, if I’m anywhere near a T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods, you might not see me for a couple of hours. 😉

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was grateful for a quiet week of my husband being gone hunting.

This week I look forward to seeing a zombie opera that my younger brother co-wrote. He’s now the artistic director of his town’s theater and is excited to be showing off his thus far magnum opus.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun challenge.

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Fight or Flight

The creature peered out of the shadows, its coarse hair dripping with a viscous ooze. Its  ears were pricked and pointed forward. Predator ears, she thought involuntarily. It had a low forehead and its eyes glinted as it looked toward her, reflecting a streetlight that suddenly flickered. Her breath caught in her throat, panic rising. Adrenaline was taking effect. Keep it together, she told herself, thinking of her early days of studying the effects of the neurotransmitter on rabbits, many of which had died of shock.

The creature moved its head from side to side in a feral motion, eyes wide. She thought of all of the animal attack stories she’d ever heard. Dogs. Bears. Wolves. Should she run or stand her ground? She couldn’t remember the advice, and she didn’t know if it would apply to this unknown creature, this city dweller, this mutant. The prickling sensation was coursing through her body. All of her own hairs were alert and at attention.

Stay calm, she told herself as she eyed the creature. Think. Its gaze never left her. It exuded a coiled energy. Her own muscles were tensed, awaiting a split second command. The streetlight flickered again and then went out. She began to move ever so slowly backward down the empty street toward light. The creature rose, and she realized it had been crouched over something. It was large, larger than any dog she knew of. Could it smell her fear?

On this busy Halloween Monday, she’d been forced to park a block away and walk to the lab. She rued staying so late. Not one to believe in the supernatural, she knew even a quiet neighborhood held its very real dangers. There was no otherworldly creature who struck fear in her quite like her fellow humans. Not until now.

She stole a glance behind her, looking for a place to run. The sleepy brownstones were dark, their  Jack-O-Lantern candles long since extinguished. Any parties had succumbed to the weeknight; the costumed revelers going home to get a few hours sleep before work or school. Joyous trick-or-treaters slept in candy-induced comas, face paint staining their pillows. Not a single late-night light illuminated the building’s face.

She looked back at the creature. It had its full attention on her now, eyes trained in laser precision, ears forward. She recognized the posture from her days in the field. She had seen it in wolves, in lions. The predator on alert. She was the prey.

She knew her bipedal body was no match for the spring of four muscular legs. The human brain had adapted to use thought and reasoning to survive. To hide, to create barriers, was the hominid protection. All of the barriers were closed to her now. If she could just get to her car.

There was a sticky sloosh as the creature started moving slowly forward through the thick puddle of ooze, each foot carefully placed in front of the other. Its head was low, shoulder blades alternating a slow up and down motion with each step. Her heart pounded in her chest. Another streetlight flickered.

She could see her car now. It was halfway down the block. Still backing up slowly, she pushed the panic button on her keys. Nothing. She must still be out of range. She picked up her pace, still backing up, always keeping her eye on the creature. It moved with her, slinking in the shadows, dripping, stalking.

Suddenly it stopped, alert, its attention drawn away from her. A small black cat darted across the road and into the creature’s path. In a flurry of fur and teeth and yowls, the creature and the cat became a violent ball of primal fury.

Now was her chance. She ran.

Grabbing her keys, she fumbled for the unlock button to the Prius. No time to look back now. A sudden silence told her all she needed to know. Grabbing the door handle, she yanked it open. She was just about to slide into the seat when the creature slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. Dazed, she found herself staring up at two soulless eyes at the other end of a blood-stained muzzle. Before she could scream, she felt sharp fangs lock around her throat. She pushed the panic button again.

The horn and lights of the Prius pulsed a bored and regimented alarm. Lights flicked on in the sleepy brownstones. As the minutes ticked by, doors opened and robed, middle-aged men and women peered out into the street.

One by one, people gathered around the open-doored, beeping car. They gasped and pointed. As if a giant sumi brush had come down from above, a dark red swath of viscous blood pointed back down the road toward the lab where, if one knew what to look for, a dark shape burdened with its prey was slinking back into the shadows.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Eerie

Happy Halloween!

Lose the Labels

We in the United States are stuck in a word quagmire these days, a quicksand-like atmosphere where we can’t even slog along for all the mud on our boots. Everywhere you turn, people are talking, yelling actually, and yet what is actually being said? We slap a label on something and draw lines. Don’t you dare step on the other side. We have created otherness to the point that it’s like walking in a carnival funhouse, only without the fun.

And what about these labels? Where do you and I fit in? Are you a libtard or deplorable? Are you a nasty woman? Are you sexist, racist, and a xenophobe? Are you a poot, a faketriot, a conservative, a tea bagger? What exactly do these designations mean? What are they saying about us, both the speaker and the recipient of the label?

When we label someone, we don’t have to consider their ideas. We just summarily dismiss them. What about the kernel of truth in what the “other” is saying? You know there is one. By labeling and dismissing, we are missing out on a chance for dialogue and understanding. We can’t all know everything about the issues, and many of us don’t have time to delve deeply, so we respond off the cuff, reactionarily, to maintain our personal status quo. But who is that hurting?

Beyond the initial personal sting to the recipient, it’s hurting us as a country. It’s weakening our integrity. It’s the water in our joists that softens the stability, providing the perfect substrate for the ideological termites and divisive carpenter ants to eat away at it. One day soon we will look up to find the walls are caving in. Then will we stand back and try to figure out how to fix what we’ve destroyed?

This American experiment in democracy is a beautiful thing. We all have a chance to get involved, but we have to allow others their opinion and their right to vote. We must attempt to create understanding based on logic and empathy, not divide with fear, innuendo, and intimidation.

This election is nearly over. We are all dissatisfied. Can we at least agree on that? Let’s figure out why. We were given two candidates whose character has been called into question, affecting their ability to lead. We had other choices. Whether you agree with him or not, Bernie attracted a huge following, a groundswell of support from the people, similar to Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, however, his personal ethics were never called into question. His integrity was sound. This is the type of person we should look toward to lead us as a country. It’s too late for us this time, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have work to do.

How can we help good leaders rise to the top? First, get big money out of politics. The mostly unseen influence of just a few voices has given us legislators who work for them, not us. Groups like Represent Us are fighting this corporate corruption at the ground level. Second, step back and consider what people are saying, from those at the top to your neighbors and family members. Each of us has issues that are really important to us. We might need to just agree to disagree on some things because what’s really happening is that while we, the people, are distracted by our infighting, someone at the top is bankrolling lobbyists and influencing politicians, creating a country that benefits him, but not necessarily us. How do you think that will affect our future conversations?

In addition, a separation of church and state would be nice, not just from a constitutional standpoint, but from the view of those who don’t toe the line with the conservative right. Some of us who have been silenced by our own faith-based organizations really believe in the tenets of Christianity, especially that of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor is gay or Muslim or fears for their child’s safety when they walk out the door in the morning. Sticking fingers into politics sullies the message and highlights any and all hypocrisy. Is that the light you mean to shine?

This is our country. We are fellow Americans. Our citizenship, our day to day struggles define who we are. We are not more or less American based on the number of flags we wave or whether we kneel during the national anthem in quiet protest. We can fight injustices without fighting each other.

Let’s unite these United States.

Are you with me?


Side note: My son just informed me that John Cena scored a 36 on his ACT. Wow!

Share Your World – #43

It’s time for the latest installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click here. Here are my responses:

What are you really glad you did yesterday?

Yesterday I cooked. And cooked. And cooked.

My husband and father are going on their annual hunting trip to Eastern Oregon and my small contribution to their meals has transitioned into me being their main supplier of good eats. They like it and that makes me happy, but it is a lot of work.

When I opened my giant Mexican cookbook to search for a chile colorado recipe, I thought (again) how fun it would be to open a restaurant. By the end of the night reality had struck its familiar blow, reminding me that I probably didn’t have the stamina to do this day after day. Toward the end of my cooking marathon, my son reminded me of the Food Network show Restaurant Impossible and how brutally hard it is to be in the restaurant business. I guess I’ll settle for cooking for friends and family.

Would you prefer a one floor house or multiple levels?

I’d trade my one story for a two story in a heartbeat. I grew up in a house with a basement. As my kids have grown in our own small, one-story house, I’ve come to realize the advantage to having a separate floor for them to gather with their friends to play games and watch movies. There’s the added benefit of daily workouts as I’d travel up and down the stairs. (Thankfully, I’m in good health with no knee issues.)

Have you done something you truly want to do today?

The day is young! I’ll get back to you on that.

What plans did you have as a teenager that didn’t happen? Are you happy it didn’t work out that way?

I was a dreamer as a teen. I think my biggest goal was to move to Colorado and be the country girl John Denver made me believe I was. I was going to live a simple life and spend a lot of time skiing. Alas, my dreams didn’t come true, but the alternative with my husband and four kids has been pretty wonderful.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was just grateful to get through last week. Sometimes that’s as good as it gets.

This week I look forward to spending some time on my writing.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun opportunity to share our worlds.

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The Art of Artifice


Photo credit: gato-gato-gato via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Carefully crafted,
Artfully arranged,
Smiling face selfies shower the internet –
A tilt of the head,
A coy look to the universe
Always showing our best side.

Sculpted backdrops, but no teardrops;
Paused family gatherings –
Artificial moments
Instantly posted,
A perfect photo for eternity,
Evidence of a life well lived.

Yet…
Stepping back into the darkness of our solitude,
Behind the closed doors,
We see the better,
Prettier,
More loving.
And we stash the smartphone in a pocket
As a silent teardrop falls.


Written in response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Artificial

Share Your World #40

It’s time for another contribution to Cee’s Share Your World. The latest questions were put out there by kids. 🙂 If you want to play along, click here. Here are my responses:

Why did you start blogging? 

My daughter started blogging on a recent trip to Costa Rica. I was inspired by her. I’ve always loved writing and thought it would be a good outlet. (She inspires me in a lot of ways.)

A piece of clothing you still remember?

So many things, unfortunately. Halter tops. A terry cloth onesie shorts outfit. Lots of shorty-shorts. (They were in style.) A pair of purple overalls. Those were all my choice. I have a lot of clothing I would like to forget, including the plaid pants my mom bought at Sears. (Though it’s an interesting complaint to rehash from time to time with my mom.)

I do have fond memories of my ski jacket, however. It was different colors of blue radiating outward from the zipper. It was super cute back then, and so warm up on the ski slopes.

Who are you trying to reach with your blog?

I haven’t decided yet. I’m still trying to figure out where it’s going. I want to be a fiction writer, but I like the connection I get with people when I write about what’s going on in the world today.

Is there a stuffed animal in your bedroom?

There were three stuffed animals in my room until just recently. One was a wolf that my son bought me for Christmas from my college bookstore. Another was a big-eyed dog from the same son. The third was an owl that my eldest son got from Build-a-Bear to celebrate my teaching degree. They are sweet reminders of what’s most important to me – my kids.

The best birthday present ever?

Of all of the wonderful birthday presents I’ve ever been given, the very best one was a  framed list on my 40th birthday from my sister and her family entitled 40 Things We  Love About You. It was really sweet of them to sit and try to figure out things to list. I felt important. I felt noticed. I felt loved.And really isn’t that what life is all about?

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What would surprise me about you?

I’m pretty good at Mario Kart.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am grateful for the cooler weather and changing leaves.

I look forward to getting back to the gym. (Maybe if I write it I will do it…)


Thanks to Cee and to her young contributors. Have a great week!

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The American Dream

Let’s talk illegal immigration.

Last Saturday, I took the back roads on my way to my destination. I passed through the lands belonging to a farm I worked at during a summer in college. What used to be acres of berries and filberts has seen many improvements. There are now acres of nursery stock, windmills in the blueberries, ponds and sprinkler systems. There were posted notices where the plants had recently been sprayed, and there were a few people working in the field across the road.

I was transported back to those same fields over twenty years ago and my job as row boss/checker. Back then, I spoke a little Spanish, and I relished the chance to practice my skills. In the process, I got to know people, hard working people, old people and young parents who had their preschoolers in the field with them. I saw how they interacted with each other, joking, laughing, caring for one another. There were large extended families and neighbors from the same small town. I felt how kind they were toward me, “la güera.” I was invited to after hours get togethers with the other summer workers and the crew bosses, pizza dinners in town or sitting around a fire with the crew bosses singing Norteño music to the tune of a guitar and accordion. I greeted people with a smile and got a smile in return.

There were occasions where I had to visit the camps that housed the workers. One was newer, cinder block housing, camp style, nothing fancy. People who had been bent over strawberries all day, dusty and sweaty, had cleaned up for a foray into town for supplies or a trip to the bar. Little girls in spotless dresses with hair pulled back tightly into braids that didn’t allow for any flyaways played together while young boys kicked a soccer ball around. There was another housing unit, a derelict old building that many people were crammed into. These were the housing options for these workers. If they started seeing a decrease in income as the season progressed and the harvest declined, some of them sought work elsewhere. When the strawberries were on their way out, blueberries and caneberries were ripening. These folks had to move. The farmer wouldn’t house them if they weren’t working on his farm.

On certain occasions I was asked to go along with people as a translator. On one occasion, I translated for a couple with small children who were looking for an apartment. I called and the owners said they had an open apartment. When we arrived, they very quickly said they couldn’t rent to the couple, that they only rented to students. This was my first encounter with discrimination. Another time I accompanied a young mother to the public clinic to get to the bottom of intense abdominal pain. She expressed hesitation at gowning up for the exam and the doctor turned to me and exasperatedly said something about how she didn’t have a problem spreading her legs for her husband. My decision to open my mind to another person’s experience was enlightening me to the nasty undercurrent that existed in my own world.

There were bad things that went on. I heard about the prostitutes that went to the camps, American girls from the fringe of society. True free market. Supply and demand. Once, I was accosted in the fields by one young man and managed to slip through the bushes before he managed to kiss me. Overall, though, I felt as though I was surrounded by basically good people.

Were the people here illegally? We didn’t know, though it was assumed they were. Were they acting criminally while here? Not in my experience. I saw people who worked hard, who bought American clothes and American products, people who sent money home to take care of families who stayed behind. During that time, their help was needed, so the government and the farmers turned a blind eye. This was common knowledge at the time. In reality, if you had wanted to stem the tide of illegal immigration, placing a hefty fine on the employers might have been the best option. If there were no work to be had, people wouldn’t make the grueling journey. The reward has to outweigh the risk.

I have kept in contact with some of these people. The young man who wanted an apartment just became a citizen last month. I have a smiling picture of him at his citizenship ceremony. He and his family routinely spend their free time at Disneyland. Another woman who worked for years in the fields was recently had a late stage cancerous growth removed, and she had to travel to Mexico to have her health concerns taken seriously. (Some things have not improved.) One gentleman started his own business. Another works for the Department of Agriculture. At least half of their children are seeking military service or post-secondary education. (Many of these parents never attended high school.) All have benefitted from the 1990 Immigration Act introduced by Ted Kennedy and signed into law by the first President Bush.

As I drove by that old farm, I couldn’t help but feel the unfairness of it all. The improvements I saw were due to the backbreaking labor of ordinary people who are being villified today.  One of our candidates would have you think that this subset of our population consists of murderers and rapist sent here by Mexico. What a simplistic world view.

As you consider my words, please enjoy this Republican blast from the past: