Across the Ocean


30 Post Writing Challenge: a story that takes place pre-1950.

I had no interest in taking the long boat ride to Ireland to visit my husband’s family.  My mind drifted as my stomach churned with the mysterious sea.  Having lived in New York all of my life with my parents of Spanish descent, the thought of a cabin home with a bare outhouse was not anything I had heard of or cared to experience.  With no prohibition to worry about in Ireland, liquor was easier to come by but who would prefer sitting at a bar stool in a pub to dancing the night away with a live jazz band.  Of course I would do whatever my husband asked and here we were sitting in this thatched cottage in Londonderry.  The north of Ireland was picturesque but all I saw was this farm, day after day.  How long would I have to endure these boring days on this pasture?  The smells of the cattle were foreign to me although the scent of the peat that burned to keep us warm was pleasant.

I stood up to look out the window and see if my husband was returning from the morning milking with his father.  I looked outside and squinted my eyes because I was sure they were deceiving me but as a plane got closer to the field and then landed I was simply speechless.  I ran outside without putting on my hat, I had no time for that, I must rush out and see what on earth had just happened.  By the time I got outside the plane had rolled to a stop and was about a couple of hundred feet from me as I rushed toward it.  I suddenly wondered how strange I must look running in my polka dot dress with farm boots on but I also didn’t care because I was so curious.  By the time I got closer I was out of breath.  The neighboring farmer had made it up to the plane and I stood back catching my breath, straightening out my dress and I pushed it down with both hands, brushing off grass.

I looked up to see a slender, feminine figure emerging from the small door that opened on the side of the huge machine of a plane that I had never seen anything like other than in photos.  Her head was covered with a cap like something I had seen on swimmers except this one was made of leather and had a strap to buckle it around her neck.  Hers was not buckled though, the strap hung on one side and her face was pale and bushed.  Her movements were so firm and confident that I caught myself wondering if I was mistaken and this was a slender man but with her tiny waist and smart fashion I knew it wasn’t.  She pulled that cap off and I admired her brown wavy curls.  She exited the cockpit of the plane with a look of exhaustion and despair yet she was resilient and striking.  I was mesmerized by everything about this woman.  She was so different and beautiful with her original pants that were unlike anything I’d seen on a woman.  Then she said “I’ve come from America.”

“Have you now?” replied my father in law’s neighbor.  I also wondered if this could be true.  Then I realized that the remarkable woman before us was America’s most famous female pilot.  I had read one article about her when she was married to the handsome publisher but I had overheard plenty of conversations about her at the delicatessen and more at the beauty parlour.

As I kept my distance more people started rushing up to the plane.  All of the neighboring farmers had come and soon there was a photographer, and there were several reporters.  I watched this in awe and thought about how women were granted the right to vote some twelve years ago and now a woman landed a plane on this field after a nerve wracking trans-Atlantic flight.  What a wonder this world was, I marveled as I looked down at my sloppy Goodrich boots and the crochet hem on my dress that came from my Mom’s old bedspread.

Just then the household mutt Rosie rubbed her nose against the backside of my left ankle.  Apparently she had tired of all of the new people and smells, too.  I understood how she felt because it was quite enough excitement for me as well.  “C’mon Rosie,” I said as I turned to walk back towards the cottage.  Now the boring cottage and the smell of peat were now beckoning me back indoors.  As I passed the cattle I took a deep breath and noticed a sense of comfort from the familiar stench.  Rosie trotted happily at my side and the excitement of Amelia Earhart’s emergency landing on our farm was behind us now as we entered the cottage and the door slammed shut.

When My Heart Sang


30 post writing challenge: fan fiction.

I reached the moment when I could no longer make toast for dinner, no more cheerios as a meal or peanut butter to fill me up.  I knew there were raisins and I could have endless hot tea but I was on empty and a run to the market was in order.  But the weather, why must it be so frigid and snowy on this night when I have no food reserves?  Like many have done during many storms past I put my snow boots on, grabbed my puff jacket off the hook and went out to warm up the car.  The burst of cold when I opened the door jolted me into action.  I turned on the car and turned the heat up, then went back in to make a hot tea in my to-go cup.  By the time I went back out to my car it was somewhat warm and off I went to the market.  I could do a market run in my sleep, up and down each isle picking up my standards in a hurry.  Up to the cashier, loading it on the checkout counter in rapid motions and then pushing my cart over the snow covered pavement.  I loaded the bags on one side of my cargo area and off I went on my drive back home.

About two miles from home on my ride back from the market I turned off the highway as I had done hundreds of times before but it didn’t turn out as it had all of those hundreds of times.  While I was still in the process of turning I locked eyes with a beautiful creature that was now directly in my path.  His face was round but a bit wider than long.  The hair around his face was full and thick.  I had seen raccoons that were beige and black but this one was absolutely brown and black, very brown.  He stopped right in the middle of the road and stared me down.  His eyes were like lasers and brown and seemed to lock in with mine.  I stared back during this frozen moment in time and my eyes pleaded with his.  “Please move out of the road raccoon, there is no way I can stop my car on this icy, downhill road and I do not want to hurt you.”

But the raccoon continued to stare me down.  I pressed down on my brake pedal.  Gravity jerked my car forward and I heard the plastic grocery bags in the cargo area roll on top of each other.  For a split second I wondered about the eggs I had carefully placed to one side but that thought was quickly overtaken with the reality of my car spinning around so that I was facing the top of the hill where I had come from.  I knew icy roads, I knew the rule about not stopping for small animals if it could cost you your safety, how could I be doing this?  That raccoon staring at me intensely, those large brown eyes, what was I thinking? But again my thoughts were interrupted by the terrorizing fear of the moment.  The spinning of my car was halted by my car crashing into the bar ditch on the side of the road.  It was filled with snow which padded the thump but that also meant my muffler was likely obstructed with snow and I had to get out where there was clean air.  My hands were sweaty.  I turned off my car and put my purse strap over my head and across my chest.  I had to get moving as the night would only be getting colder.  This was a resort town and plenty of travelers came through here but the few people who lived in my neighborhood would probably be the only drivers on this road and they were definitely not out and about in these conditions.

As I stepped out of my car my feet pressed through the snow bed and the snow was up to the middle of my shins.  If I moved quickly out of this snow bank I could shake that snow off before I became wet.  My boots were past my ankles and were made for these conditions.  I hurried to the road and stomped my feet on the ground several times until the excess snow shook off of my legs.  I started walking in the direction of my neighborhood.  There was a small bridge at the bottom of this road and after that I would have an uphill hike for about a mile and a half.  As I started down the road I was shocked by headlights.  An oncoming car was driving slowly because of the slippery road and the snow that had started to fall again.  I waived and the gentleman pulled right over.  He wasn’t anyone I had seen in town.  Was this the right thing to do?  I didn’t have a choice.  “My car slid off the road” I said in a slightly raised voice.  I couldn’t see the man’s face but he wasn’t a large person and for some naïve reason I didn’t feel threatened because of his gentle demeanor.  He motioned with his hand for me to come over and I walked across the snowy road and towards the passenger door.  Now that I was next to the car I noticed that it was a black SUV and it had been washed recently because it had no dirt splashed on it from previous snow storms that had melted during the sunny hours.  I opened the door and was greeted with enveloping warmth.  The heater was on and the seats were also heated.

I looked at the driver in the light that had turned on from the opened door and I found myself speechless.  All of his songs that I loved, they all flashed in my mind.  I must have had the oddest smile on my face when he said “You can’t walk in this weather.  Which way should I go to get you indoors?” It was that same soft voice I had heard many times and listened to over and over.  I answered him but I’m not sure exactly what I said.  He drove to the top of the hill where he could use part of the intersection to turn around.  I directed him to turn at the road that led to my home and then we were at my place.  It seemed strange with no car parked outside but I would deal with that tomorrow.  I wanted to compliment him on his talent and tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his music, his performances at award shows, reading his kind tweets.

Instead I looked straight ahead with in twitch in my left eyelid and I started singing, “But I just want you to know, I hope he buys you flowers, I hope he holds your hand,” and towards the end of that verse I heard his voice singing along with mine.  His voice rang out loudly and was comforting. I didn’t hesitate to turn and look at him now.

Then we continued together, “Gives you all his hours when he has the chance.” Now we were smiling and singing loudly in that warm SUV.  I saw the lights on inside of my home and my heart was bursting with joy, even knowing I was going back to a bare refrigerator.  On cue we continued singing together, “Take you to every party ‘cause I remember how much you loved to dance.  Do all the things I should have done when I was your man.  Do all the things I should have done when I was your man.”  Then there was silence and we were grinning at each other.

I didn’t have to tell him how much I admired him now.  I only had to thank him for the ride out of that nasty weather.  When I did so he held his hand out and I reached over and shook it.  We both paused and that hand shake was a hand-hold for a few seconds.  Then I got out of the SUV and trotted into my toasty home.  I happily went up to the barren pantry and gathered my container of raisins and my chamomile tea.  After singing with Bruno Mars, I didn’t really care what I ate for dinner.

Chloe and Room 2108

hotel ceiling

30 Post Writing Challenge: Rewrite a classic fairy tale

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Modern

Chloe was sitting in an over sized couch in the lobby and marveling at the comfort of the pillows. Everyone was moving about with clear intent, on their cell phone, opening laptops on a table nearby, sipping water from fancy glasses.  This sterile and organized environment was a refreshing change from her usual hustle that included, changing diapers, and cleaning, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, cleaning and wiping runny noses.  Chloe saw a door cracked open in the hallway that was filled with conference rooms.  There were so many people bustling about, she knew no one would notice her peering in so she casually moved towards the door and leaned slightly to look inside the room.  The room was empty except for a very well dressed older man who had glasses seemingly hanging from the tip of his nose.  He looked at Chloe, then he looked down at his pocket watch, then without looking up he invited her to enter the room.  Chloe wasn’t sure what to make of this but she was out of town and enjoying the newness of her surroundings so she happily entered the conference room.  The gentleman was very preoccupied with his pocket watch and was speaking in circles about room numbers, check out times, slow workers.  He hadn’t looked at her much but he definitely thought she was a hotel employee.  He firmly directed her to go to the 21st floor and make certain room 2108 is in in perfect order for a very special guest.  With that he shoved a key card into her palm and ran off as he continued talking to himself along the way.

Chloe had nothing on her schedule for the day and the lure of a room prepared for a “very special” guest was more than she could resist.  Chloe walked to the elevators and looked down at the key card in her hand.  This is harmless, she told herself.  She was simply going to take a peek and then be on her way.  Besides, she was doing the nice man a favor in making sure that the room was ready, she tells herself as she rationalizes her actions.  She rode up the sturdy elevator and walked through the 21st floor hallway looking for room 2108.  The rooms were farther apart than she was used to seeing and she wondered if these were conference rooms.  Finally she came upon 2108 and slid the card into the slot. The green light smiled at her with a welcoming beep and the lock clicked to open.  As she opened the door she was utterly frozen, shocked by the luxury, size and beauty of what was inside.  This was not a room this was an apartment the size of her house.  The floor before her brown leather boots was marble and looked like it came from a historic castle in Europe. To her right was a table that had the largest vase of flowers on it that she had ever seen.

“Where on earth do they find such tall flowers?” She wondered aloud.

Chloe walked through the pristinely decorated space.  As she came upon the kitchen there was a cheese, fruit and cracker display like none other she had ever seen.  The knife sitting next to the blocks of cheese was beckoning her.  She knew she could cut a sliver off of that cheese and no one would know it was ever touched.  The decadence and allure of those exotic cheeses was too much for her to bear.  Chloe took the smallest sliver off of the triangular block of cheese.  As she put it on her tongue she was quickly disappointed, “Oh no, too sharp!”

This only enticed her further to try the cheese closer to the grapes because she had to  know what it tasted like so again she took the smallest sliver of that rectangular block of cheese.  Her nose wrinkled and her eyes shut tight when she put that piece of cheese in her mouth.

“This must be one of those stinky cheeses that everyone talks of,” she said aloud to herself.

There was one large round piece of cheese left in the middle of the enormous platter and this one was slightly melted.  Chloe knew there was no way of tasting this one without a missing piece being evident but eating the other pieces had emboldened her and she brazenly cut into it.  This one was a surprise to her, it had the slightest layer of pastry around the edges and beneath that was a layer of sweet jelly.  This cheese was amazing, it was just right!

Moving away from the counter Chloe took in the living room furnishings and had the sudden urge to feel the chairs and sofas.  She jumped on the longest sofa in the room and to her disappointment it was as stiff as a board.  Who made this sofa, she thought to herself.  She bounced to the loveseat next to it and what she thought would be a bounce turned into a quick sink.  The loveseat was like her Mom’s goose feather pillow that should have been thrown out ten years back.  Next to that was a small chair with a rounded back.  It looked too small to be in this setting and she figured they may have wanted to fill the space but she took a seat in it anyway.  Although it looked small her body was enveloped by it and the arm rests were positioned perfectly for her hands to rest on them.  It seemed to Chloe that this chair had been custom built for her.  It was definitely the coziest chair she had ever sat it and she suddenly wished she could have it for herself.  Then she remembered her cozy sofa at home and reflected on all of the material possessions in the world.  Chloe saw this perfect chair in a sea of furniture and felt overwhelmed by the endless material belongings that were possible.  All of the luxuries in the world were probably beautiful in ways she did not even know but the thought of so many things made her long for her cozy tattered sofa where she watched baseball games with her boys, laughed at videos with her daughters or leaned on her husband’s shoulder at the end of long days.

All of this thinking had made Chloe weary and maybe a touch melancholic.  The unreal flowers, the decadent cheese and the rich furnishings had transported Chloe to a place that wasn’t part of her world and in many ways the foreignness was more than she could process.  Certainly the opulent surroundings were a treat, they were intoxicating actually.  But now Chloe’s mind rushed to thoughts of children in third world countries, homeless people in this country, single parents juggling multiple jobs, children coping with their circumstances.  The lavish things around her were of another world and they were amazingly beautiful but to what end she asked herself.  Now Chloe found herself downright drained and with the stillness of this empty suite around her, she decided to rest her head on a pillow.

The first room nearest the living room space was a colossal bedroom that seemed more like a studio apartment in itself.  The bed frame was so large, Chloe imagined the workmanship that had gone into it and also wondered how many people it took to move it into this space.  As tired as she felt, she could not bring herself to rest on this unwelcoming bed so she moved towards the next bedroom.  On her way out she spotted the espresso machine on the marble counter near the bathroom.  It was beautiful but she headed towards the next bedroom.  As she entered that room she found her eyes squinting from the extreme color that was all about. Pink, pink, pink, pink, more pink.  How could anyone be in this room much less rest?  The excessive pink was discomforting and she had to turn right around and walk out.  She glanced at the sheer pink canopy that draped over the bed frame posts and imagined that somewhere there was a princess with a room like this one.  She headed out of that room and across the living room space to a closed door.  Chloe was still hoping for a place to lay her head down so she walked to it and opened the door.  This room was less dramatic, elegant yet tasteful.  She loved office supplies and wanted to explore the leather top desk and all of the matching desk accessories but she could barely hold her head up now.  Chloe put her head on the pillow and was asleep before she could think about the furnishings, the colors or the décor.

It could have been ten minutes or two hours later, Chloe had no concept of how long had passed, but she woke up from a sound of people talking and laughing just outside of the bedroom.  For a split second she rejoiced in her catnap and then she remembered where she was and panicked.  Chloe jumped up and ran to exit but as she reached the door the people who were laughing had walked right up to that area.  She thought she would slip by them and run for the exit but now they were staring right at her with blank faces.

“Oh, well, hello,” he said with his velvet purple jacket and eccentric eyeglass frames.  He was adorable and Chloe wanted to reach out and give him a hug, ask him if she could have a photo with him, get his autograph.  Wait, she was an unauthorized intruder in his VIP hotel suite.  Think fast, think fast, her flustered thoughts said.

“Hello Sir Elton John, it is such a pleasure to see you, I was checking on your accommodations and I hope you will find them acceptable.  It is such an honor to have you stay with us.  If you need anything at all please do not hesitate to call the concierge,” she said as she smiled nervously and walked past him and towards the exit while she was talking.

“Well then,” he said as he cracked a very modest but friendly smile.

Chloe thought to say something else (I love you, I love your music, Can I stay and chat, Will you be my friend, will you sing me a song?!?) but she anxiously walked backwards out of the front door as she nodded and smiled.  What just happened, who could she tell and would anyone even believe her?  Chloe ran down the hall, pressed the elevator button and rode down to the lobby with a mix of fear and joy in her belly and a memory that she would cherish for the rest of her life.  The key card was still in her pocket and she thought of it and knew she would hold it many times over, touching it and reliving what she had just experienced, reminding herself that it really did happen and it was not just a dream.

What Matters


When I was tossing and turning in the middle of the night I managed to doze off and then there he was, standing in front of me was my grandfather.  He looked amazing, so healthy and well.  His skin was smooth and a glowing flesh tone.  He wore a navy blue button down shirt, short sleeved.  He had an easy smile, a peaceful facial expression and he came to tell me that none of my worries mattered.  I didn’t only hear this I actually felt it and I was so grateful to him for this message, so comforted to be with him in my dream.  When he gave me this message I had a vision of this life being made small into a little compartment that I could hold between my thumb and forefinger.  Inside of that little compartment was a lot of noise and chaos and from the outside it was just a small bubble.  Then he reached into his pocket and took out a crumpled zip lock bag.  He reached into the plastic baggie and took out a broken piece of white cracker like a piece of the ones that are given out at Holy Communion services in Christian churches, a broken piece of Eucharist.  My grandfather reached over and put that broken piece of a cracker into my mouth and I chewed down onto it and started crying in my dream until I woke myself up with real tears.  My grandfather passed away 17 years ago and I have not had a dream with him in it for many years.  When he was alive he always wore short sleeved button down shirts.  I miss him very much and I appreciated seeing him in a dream, for a few moments.

Time Stands Still


Today’s daily prompt is about time standing still.  Time seems to be going faster and faster with each passing year.  But there is a certain time of day in the summer when it feels as if time pauses ever so slightly.  It is in the early evening, after 5 o’clock and before sunset.  The breeze is perfect, the clouds are moving and the shadows are long.  Whenever possible, I stop what I’m doing at that time and sit outside.  I watch nature, the children in the neighborhood, my kids.  Each night brings a different sunset depending on the weather and the colors can range from relaxing gray to popping hot pink.  As if my sitting there will prolong time, I stay on my chair until it’s dark and the mountain air has brought a chill.  Everyone has gone inside and I’m being summoned too but for that time I breathe in the air of a new night and imagine that time is standing still.

Here is a very short time lapse video:

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Shadows and Sunlight


When I step out of the shower my favorite thing to do is to dig my face into my towel and breath in through my nose. I smell my home, my life, clean, comfort. When I was near the shore I smelled beach, moisture, vacation, humidity. Life is wonderful and heartbreaking, amazing and fleeting.

I’m sitting in a room surrounded by treasured belongings that were once my husband’s aunt’s. The wooden trinkets and books make me feel she is actually here with me. The photo albums I made for her are now here. I can’t read the lines I wrote to her inside of those albums without fighting the sadness away. Holding her antique books makes me want to sit and read every page, touch each leather binding.

All of the special things we accumulate in life; one day they will be left behind. Special and treasured as the keep sakes are, they symbolize our defeated impermanence and the victorious passing of time. I know the glass is half full, none of it escapes me, not the blessings nor the heartaches. Still we are all going to be gone one day and the beautifully bound leather books will be here with the ivory candle sticks and the small wooden horse.

I once visited a friend who was moving into a house that came with all of the belongings of the deceased woman who lived in it prior to my friend purchasing it. The woman who had passed away had no one to claim her belongings, not one living family member or dear friend. My daughter asked if she could keep a few things she liked that day and when I see those things I am reminded of that woman who died alone. That woman’s white and blue painted cookie tin is in our kitchen and when it catches my eye it speaks to me.

“Loss and Possession, Death and Life are one,
There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.”
-Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Love Rocks

Daily Prompt: Viral | The Daily Post


This daily prompt challenge is to write a piece for the New York Post that will be the first many will know of me. When my son is prompted to write something about himself he sarcastically writes “I like cheese” and it annoys teachers and family alike. But as I sit here to write something from my heart one of the first things that comes to mind is “I love rocks.” Maybe that is because I have been on our family vacation collecting rocks for days but when I’m not on vacation I also pick up rocks from beside the river, on a nature trail or just outside my front door. My husband gave me a pendant years ago that says “love rocks” referring to our love or a shared love but it also applies to me in the way that I do love rocks. The thought of these natural objects having been here for hundreds,
thousands or millions of years before us fascinates me to no end. All of the passing thoughts, plans or concerns that the average person keeps in their head seem to shrink when I reflect on the many years and circumstances it has taken any one of these rocks to become the size, shape or texture that it is today. As we live our lives and think that the things in them are so critical, countless facets of nature are just being and many of them will continue doing so long after we are gone, much like some of them were doing long before we arrived. How many families has the hearty tree behind the time-shared lake cabin seen? That sturdy, majestic tree sits behind the cabin’s kitchen door, right where every family loads their food in and out of the cabin and like the smooth sea rocks on the shore, it will be there weathering winters and summers after many families are no longer vacationing at the lake cabin, or are even alive. Feeling the bark on that tree makes me nostalgic and I think of the people who were here before me and also ponder on those who have yet to start their journey here. Like the tree at the cabin, the rounded rocks I pick up in different places remind me of the passing of time and our place in it as people. I rub the smooth surfaces of the rocks and in my heart I feel like a little girl who wonders what it is all about. And I love rocks. -smilingbug

Love and Tears of Joy

When I saw the Daily Post’s topic about being moved to tears my first thought was about my children (which I wrote about) and my second thought was the time I sat crying from joy while looking at people in love, vowing their love to one another. It was a two days after the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court and I came across this link to photos of couples getting married in San Francisco.

I was not a kid who wanted to grow up and get married or be a wife. I did not clip out photos of wedding dresses or dream of being a bride. Yet if I watch “Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC I will shed a tear at the end of every single episode, no matter how annoying the bride’s sister was nor how endless the premise of the dress search dragged on. Even after all of the typical reality TV ups and downs in the episode, TLC shows that bride coming down the aisle and her father grinning, her mother crying, her partner glowing, it’s all over for me: water works. If you click on the link and see the faces filled with love and devoting their lives to each other are you moved to tears? -smilingbug

(photo above is from the BuzzFeed article referred to in this post, link provided above)