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The Sound of Joy


Scotty Peterson was born deaf, and had navigated the world in silence until his third birthday when the time finally came for the cochlear implant surgery that would dramatically change his life.  Scotty's most beloved friend and ever-present companion Max, the family dog, had roamed the house constantly while Scotty was in the hospital, barely eating and obviously deeply concerned about his missing buddy. 

Finally the car pulled into the driveway and Max came bounding out of the house, tail wagging furiously with hope. Scotty's mom released him from his carseat and he raced across the yard as fast as his chubby toddler legs could go, heading straight for Max with outstretched arms.  Unable to contain his excitement, Max let out a deep woof of greeting as he and Scotty tumbled together on the grass, and Scotty laughed with delight at hearing the sound of joy for the first time in his life.
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I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin
where the writing prompt this week is "joy".

Final Answer(s)


We have arrived at the final question in Carrie's ginormous Get-Away Give-Away contest at The Slow-Dripped Life.  In reality, I love to ask questions, and I love to answer them... it's that Aquarian curiosity thing I guess! :-)  I'd be happily playing along even if there wasn't this amazing prize for the winning, and I'm going to miss the contest when it's over.  But back to the task at hand...  This week we had a choice of two questions to pick from.  I think I'll answer both! :-)

1) "If you could be locked in somewhere overnight, where would it be and what would you do? Would you be by yourself or with someone, and if so, who?

It would be at a lovely little cabin like this, nestled in the woods, with my husband, my dear friend Annie, and her husband.  We would spend the night sharing good food and drink, and lots of laughter... visiting by fireplace light, talking about old times, and life now, and listening to her husband play all the songs of our generation on his guitar.  I know that when they came to let us out in the morning, no one would want to leave. :-)

 2) "Many of us have that one moment or decision that, if we could go back, we would choose differently.  If you could go back and get a do over, what would you do?"  

I had to think a bit on this one.  If I took an undo of either of my first two wedding days,  it would also mean that I wouldn't have one of my two amazing children, so guess I'll have to keep those.  (Could I keep the kids and undo the relationships with their dads? :-) 

I would love to do an undo of my decision as temporary acting director of a human services agency to rehire an employee who threw a tantrum and walked out over my appointment to the temporary role.  He returned at my request, and along with his side-kick made my life a living hell for the next ten years.  Undo, please! My heart was in the right place but his obviously wasn't.

But... the more I thought about it, there is one day, one decision, I made that has impacted every single day of my life since.  That one was when I was twenty two and decided to withdraw from college to chase follow my first husband's dreams and schemes which would soon take us to another state, and then another, and then overseas, where I finally dissolved the marriage.  If I had opted/insisted instead on staying in school and finishing my degree, I would have had so many more options in my life... a career that was meaningful, a way to support my children and myself so I wasn't stuck living with rats, and I probably could have been retired by now instead of working my butt off in a low-end job.  In other words, I could have been a contender!

It seemed like the easy answer at the time, and I believed that I would be return to school in the future.  Easier said than done.  Silly me, I should have seen that freight train derailing!  That's why it has been so important to me that both of my children have good careers of their choosing that render them financially independent and able to live there lives where and how they choose.  I couldn't be prouder of them, my son being an air traffic controller and my daughter, a registered nurse.  They will never find themselves in the situations I have, stuck someplace I didn't want to be because of that one choice, and my inability to make enough money to effect change in my life.  It's a lesson I can't preach loud enough to kids growing up... choose wisely and finish school!

She Promised



"But she promised!" Jackie wailed.  Her mother had just told her that her big sister Kayla wasn't coming home for Christmas.  This was Kayla's first year at college and little Jackie had been so lost without her.  Ever since Thanksgiving she'd been eagerly counting down the days until Christmas vacation when Kayla would be home. 

"I know Sweetie," her mom said gently, "But Kayla is grown up now and she wants to go skiing in the mountains with her friends this Christmas.  Doesn't that sound like fun?"

"No, she should be here with us for Christmas like she promised," Jackie sobbed.  Stomping up the stairs to her room in tears, she defiantly pronounced "You're wrong, I know Kayla will come!"

As her mother passed Jackie's bedroom door a little later she could hear Jackie crying and it broke her heart.  The truth was that she was feeling just as blue about Kayla's decision.  It had been her and Jack and the two girls together at Christmas all these years.  She knew things were changing, and she didn't begrudge Kayla the exciting holiday trip with her friends, but Jackie was right, Christmas wasn't going to be the same this year.

Jackie remained subdued in the final days leading up until Christmas, but insisted they hang up Kayla's stocking and set her Santa cocoa mug out on the sidebar along with theirs.  On the afternoon of Christmas Eve she took up watch in the big bay window and sat there for hours staring out at the snowy front yard. 
 
When suppertime came Jackie refused to budge.  Jackie's dad brought her a plate of of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut in star shapes and sprinkled with colored sugar, and glass of milk with a candycane striped straw, hoping to cheer her up a bit.  Jackie barely managed a smile.

Finally Jackie's Mom had to lead her away from the window and upstairs to take her bath.  Tears streamed down the little girl's face as her mom tucked her into bed.  "It will still be Christmas tomorrow and I bet you'll find some wonderful things waiting for you underneath the tree!" she said trying to lift the little girl's heavy heart. 

"All I want for Christmas is for Kayla to come home," she sobbed. 

"I know she will call you tomorrow to tell you Merry Christmas, won't it be good to hear her voice?"  Kayla nodded, but it really wasn't much consolation. She didn't understand why her sister would break her promise to come home when she had never, ever broken a promise before. 

"She must like her new friends better than me" Jackie thought to herself, and she fell asleep feeling like the loneliest little girl in the world.

In the middle of the night Jackie woke to the sound of jingle bells.  Her heart couldn't resist feeling a bit of excitement as she tiptoed down the stairs, thinking just  maybe she would catch a glimpse of Santa this year.  Half way down the stairway she peeked thru the railing and let out a squeal so loud it woke her parents, who bounded out of bed just in time to see Jackie flying down the remaining stairs  straight into the arms of her beloved big sister. 

"Merry Christmas" said Kayla grinning at her parents, as she swooped Jackie up in the biggest bear hug ever.  "I just couldn't imagine Christmas without my little sister, so I decided it was time to come home."

Jackie, still clinging tightly to Kayla and her eyes sparkling brightly, turned to her parents and announced "See, I told you she would keep her promise!  I knew she would come!"

Is there anything more  beautiful than the faith of a child?  Promises are a sacred trust... keep yours!
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where the prompt this week is "promise".

Two Shoes Tuesday #13 - Promise


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "promise".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... tell us about a "promise" !

Hate Mail


Popular advice columnist Susie Q was totally unprepared for the flood of hate mail she received following her answer to the letter about a cheating husband.  It seemed like every woman who had ever been scorned had written to attack her for defending the man.  They seemed to be exceptionally angry with the part where she suggested that maybe the man's wife wasn't doing all she could at home to keep him interested and faithful. 

This wasn't the first time readers had taken offense to one of Susie's columns, she knew that you were never going to please everyone when it came to giving advice.  Criticism was just part of the job and she'd developed pretty thick skin over the years.  But this time was different,  she'd apparently hit a nerve with a lot of angry women out there, and they were demanding that the editor drop her column.

The  publisher was concerned; the last thing they needed was another decline in newspaper readership, it was already a struggle to survive as more and more folks got their dose of daily news from the web.  He informed Susie Q that she needed to write an apology withdrawing her advice as being an outdated and unfounded perspective.

Susie struggled with the apology and found she just couldn't do it. The issue ran far deeper than folks at the newspaper knew.  For five years now she'd been convincing herself that her relationship with Bob was ok because, from everything he'd told her, his wife was a misery to him, always tired and cranky and demanding him to help out, and never showing him any desire at night.  Susie Q fired up Bob's passion, providing him with the attention and comfort he said he didn't get at home.  She believed that one day he was going to tire of that nagging woman and divorce her, and then he would be hers.

After too many drinks that evening, Susie decided to do a drive-by of Bob's house, just to reassure herself that there was someone who needed her and believed in her. As she drove quietly down the street she could see that the curtains were open and the light of many candles illuminated the darkened room.  Then she saw Bob wrapped up in his wife's arms in an obviously intimate embrace. He looked anything but miserable.  She watched just long enough to assure herself that he was an active participant in this little love scene, then she drove home in a zombie-like state.  Everything he had told her had been a lie, and that lie had been the foundation for her response in the column.  She was wrong, she knew it now,  the evidence was plain to see. 

The following day Susie Q failed to show up at her job with the newspaper.  When they hadn't heard from her by mid-afternoon and calls to her cellphone went unanswered, the editor drove out to her house to check on her.   Susie's car was in the driveway, but she didn't answer the the bell.  Trying the doorknob, he was surprised to find it unlocked.  He walked into the foyer calling her name and was stunned to discover Susie's lifeless body on the floor with a bullet wound in her heart and a gun lying nearby.

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I'm linking up with Sunday Scribblings where the prompt this week is "flood".

Just Like Mama Made


Billy sat down to his meal, his mouth watering at the beautiful sight and heavenly aroma. The other guys had laughed when he'd requested fried chicken, pointing out that he could have feasted on steak or even lobster, but Billy was feeling lonely for his mama and this tasted almost as good as hers. His mind drifted back to his childhood on the farm and how happy he had been there until his mother remarried and her new husband made his life a living hell. Billy hoped and prayed his mama would understand that he did what he had to do; he had taken fifteen years of that man's abuse and one day the dam finally broke on that ocean of anger and hurt.  Billy finished his dinner and pushed the plate away just as the guard walked into his cell and said "Time to go now Billy, are you ready?"

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I'm linking up with the wonderful Lillie McFerrin
for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "feast".

What Now?


This week in her blog hop Pondering With A Purpose, Brenda asked what we do when things go wrong.  She told a story about a Thanksgiving project that wasn't working out as planned.  It reminded me of baking project from long ago...

It was the Saturday before Easter and my mom was in charge of bringing desserts to the holiday gathering of my father's family.  My mom was a great baker, and make wonderful, beautiful cakes.  Just for fun she decided that we should make small individual Easter bunny cakes for each person.  We worked on the project all Saturday afternoon, with my sisters and I in charge of applying the coconut "fur", jelly bean eyes and nose, pipecleaner whiskers, and construction paper ears to each bunny once mom had frosted them. 

By suppertime there were two large flat boxes on the dining room table, each containing about eighteen little bunny cakes. They were adorable and were so excited about bringing them to share!

The next morning after church, still dressed in our Easter dresses, we loaded the car for the ninety minute trip to my uncle's farm.  My little sister, who was around eight or nine at  the time, was eager to help, and attempted to carry one of the boxes of cakes to the car.  The box slipped from her hands and fell upside down on the garage floor, leaving a jumble of broken bunnies in it's wake.  Needless to say, she was inconsolable.  She felt that she had ruined everything.

As disappointed as we all were, there was nothing that could be done about it, the bunnies were beyond repair.  Mom, quick to the rescue, suggested that the remaining bunnies be given to each of the grandchildren, since there would be plenty of other desserts for the adults to enjoy.  While it wasn't what we orginially planned, it worked out just fine.  The bunny cakes were a hit, greatly enjoyed by our cousins and bringing smiles to everyone's faces.  So in the end, despite the minor tragedy of the demise of one box of bunnies, the gathering went on as planned, food and desserts were plentiful, and everyone had a great time. 

Life is so much like this, even when it comes to much bigger concerns than broken cakes.  When something goes wrong, we can either fall apart, throwing a tantrum or dissolving a puddle of tears, or we can take a breath, assess the situation, and find a way to make the best of it and move forward.  Panic solves nothing, it just upsets everyone around us.  Giving up isn't the answer in most cases either (though there are times when the universe is trying to tell you that what you are attempting isn't good for you, and that's why it is not working out).  Don't focus on fixing the blame, but rather on fixing the problem, decide what to do now. 

Someone has to remain calm, keep a clear head, and come up with solutions.   Look for the leader... if you don't see one... be one!  As it is well said.... "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!"  You are up to the task, the answers will come to you, the universe wants you to succeed!  Take a moment to come to terms with what has happened, make a plan and then move forward.  Don't forget to reach out to someone near you who is also struggling and help them along too!

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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "disaster... or not"

Thirty Days of Thankfulness


Today is a special day in America, set aside to give thanks for all we have in our lives that is good.  For me, everyday is a day of thanksgiving.  I am ever mindful of what my life was once like, and I am so thankful for how very blessed I am now!

At the beginning of November someone started "30 Days of Thankfulness" on Facebook, with folks posting something they are thankful for each day as their status.  I loved the idea!  This is what I've posted so far... 
Nov. 1 - I am thankful that I am a child of God and that faith has always seen me through.
Nov. 2 - I am thankful that God saved the very best for last and brought Papa Bear into my life to share my senior years with... he is wonderful, amazing, more than I ever knew a man could be!

Nov. 3 - I am thankful that my children have grown up to be caring, loving, responsible adults that are able to take care of themselves and are always there for me. I could not be more proud of them!

Nov. 4 - I am thankful for the simple little home and slice of land we own free and clear. I love the quiet here, the wide open spaces, and gazing at the stars at night. I love the security of not needing to worry about the ever increasing costs to live in town.

Nov. 5 - I'm thankful that my beloved Papa Bear loves furkids as much as I do. They bring a lot of entertainment, love and laughter to our house! :-)

Nov. 6 - I am thankful that I live in a country where we have a voice in our government, and where we have freedom of speech, and the freedom to dissent. Those are very precious gifts that do not exist everywhere

Nov. 7 - I am thankful for the beautiful fall weather we've had in West Texas this year. Wearing sandals and short sleeves in November is far different from the way I grew up! It looks like it's going to be another really nice day. Wish I could stay outside and play! :-)

Nov. 8 - I am thankful that both Papa Bear and I have good jobs and are still physically able to do them. I deal with people every day that are unable to work due to legitimate disabilities such as illness or injury and have lost their homes, lives, and dignity because of it. I realize that this could happen to anyone of us at any time. Count your blessings!

Nov. 9 - Today I am ever so thankful it is Friday, as I am every Friday! Friday's were made for celebration. This week has been a high-pressure one at work, with so much to accomplish amidst the never-ending ringing of phones. But in the end it all gets done, and life has a way of evening back out again. I am thankful that I know this. I can always look forward to Fridays, when we can slide into the finish line and say "Ahhhhh, we survived another one"- and walk out the door smiling! :-)

Nov. 10 - There are always blessings to be counted, even when we have to search thru storm clouds to find them. If you believe you have no blessings in your life, you aren't looking! Today I am thankful for my husband as the strong, caring leader of his family. That he knows right from wrong, listens, thinks things through, and holds us together. I am thankful for family in all the forms it takes in my life, we walk the road together; we make it day by day.

Nov. 11 - I am thankful for true friends - the ones that "get" you, respect you, and cherish you - the ones who are honest with you, encourage you, have your best interests at heart, and can always be trusted - the ones that you can pick up with right where you left off, whether it's been five minutes or five years since you last connected.

Nov. 12 - When I awoke this morning it was 29 degrees outside, reminding me that winter is on it's way. I am so very thankful for the things I too often take for granted... food, clothing, and shelter. My thoughts and prayers this morning are with those who are living on the streets in Odessa and elsewhere. May God bless them and keep them in His care... and may we all remember to do our part to end suffering.

Nov. 13 - Today I am thankful for the folks at my office building whose presence makes this a nicer place to be - Mickey, the security guard, and Mary, the cleaning lady, who never fail to share a smile and a friendly greeting when I arrive in the morning. It's a really blessed way to start off each day.

Nov. 14 - Today, and every day, I am thankful for the Internet, that magical web that has allowed me to stay in touch with family, build friendships with people from all over the world, research and learn about anything and everything at the click of a few keys, and share my words with a group of writers more inspiring than I ever could have imagined! How did we ever live without it? :-)

Nov. 15 - I am so very thankful for my husband's handyman skills and determination. He has saved us a fortune in repairs and maintenance, and has done so many things to improve our land and home. I love a man who can fix things... and do an awesome job of it! :-)

Nov. 16 - Today I am thankful I survived the work week, it was a tough one. I am thankful that I have weekends off,  I wish Papa Bear did too. I am also thankful that I have learned a bit more verbal restraint as I've grown older, at least I didn't bite any heads off this week... but I was tempted! :-)

Nov. 17 - Today I am thankful that I realize the most vauable thing we have in life are our relationships, those who care about us and love us, those we share ourselves with. Material things pale by comparison, they are more "wants" than true needs. In reality we can live much more simply, with far less, and yet have very good and happy lives.

Nov. 18 - I am thankful for the gift of life, and even more thankful for treasured friends and family members who have at some point considered or attempted suicide, but were diverted from that course. Many of us will experience times of devastation and despair in our lives, but if we hold on tight, better days are sure to come.

Nov. 19 - I am thankful for the ability to listen with reason and fairness, even when my emotions are trying to sway my opinion. I want to choose the right path and the right decisions, regardless of whether they are always the easiest or most comfortable.

Nov. 20 - I am thankful for people who are honest, genuine and real, who don't play games, and who would never smile to your face and betray your trust, who are there for you always, without question or doubt

Nov. 21 - I am thankful that both Papa Bear and I work for businesses that do nice things for their employees. Papa Bear was given a big spiral cut ham for Thanksgiving and our boss gave us a $50 bonus!
Nov.22 - I am thankful that so many people have opted to count their blessings and post something positive on their Facebook page each day this month. What a refreshing change from what we often find here! 

Notes: 
I had to smile at the folks who dropped out after the first few days.  Weren't they getting enough "likes" from their Facebook friends, or did they run out of blessings so soon?  I'm thinking that if you can't find any blessings in your life to  count, you aren't looking very hard, and maybe you should try again! :-)

I find myself wondering why it has to end on November 30th.  What if we continued on for another month, and another... to count our blessings for a whole year?!

Non-sense


This week brings us to Question #7 of 8  at Carrie's unbelievably awesome Get-Away Give-Away contest at The Slow-Dripped Life.  This week she asked...  You have to give up one of your senses. Which one will it be and why?

Last April I wrote this post - Blessings of the Five Senses about the things I treasure involving each sense. So when it comes to the point of deciding which one I would be willing to relinquish if required to choose one, that's difficult.  So much of how we perceive and interact with life depends on our ability to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

After giving it some thought, I've decided the sense I could most easily live without would be the sense of smell.  Actually, this could serve me well.  I would never have to wrinkle up my nose when interacting with someone who hasn't bathed recently, and it would greatly help my allergic reaction to being around folks who have bathed in perfume!  I would miss the smell of flowers, and rainstorms, and fudge cooking on the stove, but I could still negotiate life without great difficulty. 

I had considered opting to give up my sense of taste, realizing that would be of great value in lessening my food cravings, but it certainly would take all the fun out of eating!  Interestingly enough, my maternal grandmother lost her sense of smell completely after a childhood illness, and I am told that it did affect her abilility to taste, as the two really work in combination when it comes to how we respond to foods.

I already have diminished hearing in both ears and am painfully aware of how this affects my ability to be alert to my surroundings and intereact with others.  When I am not wearing my high-dollar hearing aids, voices on the phone are often muffled, I cannot hear birds, someone knocking at the door, or my cats calling for me, and it is difficult to take part in conversation.  I know that to have no hearing at all would be tremendously isolating.

As I wrote about in my Blessings post, I would hate to think about giving up any of these wonderful gifts we were born with, and most especially the gifts of sight and touch which allow me to sit here at the keyboard and interact with each of you!  Today I am thankful for how wonderfully we are made!

Two Shoes Tuesday #12 - Gather


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I'll provide a one-word writing prompt and ask you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "gather".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business! Tell us about "gather" !

The Gathering




Two of Isabelle's three daughters sat next to the hospital bed which had become more familiar to her than her own at home in recent years.  Her weakened heart and lungs were weary of the battle to sustain her life, and those who loved her knew that death was gaining ground.

Although the doctors had told her family that she was unlikely to make it home again, it seemed that Isabelle had rallied that day, more alert and talkative than usual. Friends and relatives had come and gone, some staying to visit for awhile; and she had talked with her middle daughter on the phone.

As the day passed into sunset Isabelle had grown tired, and her youngest daughter noted that she seemed a bit puzzled as she kept glancing around the room.  Finally, looking at her daughter, she whispered in labored breaths, "Who are all those people?"

Knowing that her father and sister were the only others present in the room, Isabelle's daughter attributed the comment to her mother slipping in and out of awareness of her surroundings.  She didn't think more of it until late that night when her father called her to say that the hospital had summoned them; Isabelle had begun her journey to the spirit world.  Only then did she realize that the people her mother had seen gathered in the room around her had been family and friends who had passed on before her and had come to take her home.

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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where the prompt this week is "gather".

Business As Usual


The staff at Center City High School were amazed to see Superintendent Harold Flanders walk in the door on Monday morning with a smile on his face like nothing out of the ordinary had occurred last week.  

But that was far from true, since his dear friend and long time business manager Mrs. Barnes had been accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the school, and then had disappeared along with the school janitor.  Rumor had it that they had eloped and were hiding out somewhere in Mexico.

It was business as usual for Mr. Flanders during the remaining two weeks until Christmas vacation, though he seemed to keep more to himself.

When teachers and students returned to school after New Year's Day, they were shocked to learn that Mr. Flanders was being held in a Mexican jail, and Mrs. Barnes and James the janitor had been found dead.

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I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "business".

Then There Was Silence

In Loving Memory of Mariah LeeAnn Montileaux
January 3, 1995 ~ November 18, 2009


Shortly after noon on a cold day in November of 2009
on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota,
this beautiful girl of just fourteen years
decided that she could no longer
bear the sadness in her life.

So she hung herself while at home alone.

Then there was nothing left but silence...
 until they found her lifeless body.


Forever more her playful laughter has been silenced, 
leaving only heartbreak
and the endless tears
of her mother and her brother,
an extended family and countless friends.



 Thank you Lord for accepting the spirit of this child
into your loving arms,
as I know you have.
 May she find the peace and comfort
 that escaped her here,
and may she know how deeply she is missed and loved. 

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I'm linking up with Sunday Scribblings where the prompt this week is "silence".

Killing Time


This week in her blog hop Pondering With a Purpose, Brenda asked "What do you do when you have nothing to do?"  This is my story...

Lucy and her best friend Elaine were hanging out on Lucy's back porch on a warm summer afternoon.  They had run out of things to do, and were looking for a little adventure.  "I know," Elaine said. "Let's ride our bikes over to the old Henson place and have a look around!" 

"I don't know", said Lucy, the more timid of the two. "I've heard people say that some bad things happened there a long time ago, and it's supposed to be haunted."

"Oh good grief," Elaine responded, rolling her eyes. "You know that's just stuff people make up to keep us away from there, there's no such thing as ghosts anyway. Let's go!"

Lucy wasn't so sure, but wasn't about to let on that even the possibility of ghosts scared her.  Heading down narrow road along side Elaine, gravel crunched under the tires of their bicycles as they made their way through the small stand of trees that surrounded the old Henson farm house that had stood vacant for years.

Leaning their bikes against the battered remains of a picket fence, Elaine managed to push the rusty gate open far enough for them to squeeze through.  Together they climbed the the rickety steps to the porch and walked across the creaking boards. The front door was locked down with a padlock that wouldn't budge, but the window had a broken sill and  they were able to push it up with little effort. 

The girls eased their way through the window and found themselves in a dusty parlor that had obviously been used as a hangout by local teens; the floors were strewn with beer cans and the walls were covered in graffiti. 

Over to the right was a long hallway. Peering down it Lucy saw a doorway that was spanned by a curtain of black glass beads.  Intrigued, she headed down the hall with Elaine right behind her.  Lucy could barely make out the objects in the room as she  pushed the beads aside, since the windows were covered with heavy draperies that had blocked out the light.  A large round table seemed to be the only piece of furniture in the room, and on it stood a black candelabra with old stumps of candles still in place. 

A strong breeze blew through the house, causing the long strands of glass beads to rattle.  Elaine's eyes grew wide.  Lucy let out a shriek as the candles on the table suddenly flickered to life. Turning to run, the girls were confronted with a circle of dark-robed figures with deep hoods casting shadows over their faces, concealing their eyes.  Elaine and Lucy screamed in terror, but no sound came from their mouths. 

One figure stepped forward as others blocked the only exit from the room.  In a deep voice the man demanded of them "What are you doing here?" 

Stammering and shaking with fear, Elaine managed to choke out "We... we were just looking around... k-k-killing time.

At that the hooded figure let out a hollow laugh, and said "Well you've come to the right place then, and at just the right time."

"What do you mean?" whispered Lucy, now too afraid to even cry.

"It's the killing time" said the deep voice, with a sinister snarl.  The other figures in the room intoned his words like a chant... "Killing time... killing time... killing  time." 

Just as the large figure in front of them reached into his robe and pulled out a long knife, it's silver blade reflecting the candlelight, Elaine and Lucy heard Lucy's brother Sam calling loudly from outside "Lucy, Elaine, are you in there?  Mom says you'd better come home for supper right now"! 

At the sound of his voice, the shadowy figures vanished into thin air, and the candles extinguished themselves as rapidly as they had lit.  Lucy and Elaine flew from the room, and flung themselves through the open window onto the porch. 

"What's the matter with you two?" Sam asked. "You look like you saw a ghost!"

At that the girls looked at each other, and an unspoken understanding passed between them, there was no point in sharing this story, no one would ever believe them.

"Yeah, it was a little spooky in there," Elaine said, trying to sound casual. 

Sam looked at them quizzically, but didn't question more.  The girls hopped on their bikes and pedaled for home as fast as they could go.  Neither of them ever spoke of that day again, and as they grew older both tried hard to convince themselves that they had imagined the whole thing.
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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "killing time"

Thanksgiving Comes First!

We are now up to Question #6 of Carrie's Get-Away Give-Away at The Slow-Dripped Life.  This week she asked, "How do you feel about the holidays this time of the year, particularly the ever-melding of ThanksChristgivmasing that is continually being 'pushed' more and more each year?"

I've said for years that I'd much prefer to spend Nov.1 - Dec. 30 in a Muslim country, or at least holed up somewhere far away from "civilization" as we see it portrayed at this time of year.  The "holiday season" seems to bring out the worst in folks, and even more so in retail business.  It does seem to begin earlier and earlier each year, with Halloween things along side school supplies in September and Christmas trees next to Halloween costumes in October.  WTH??  If you're being honest, you'll probably admit that you are sick to death of Christmas long before it ever gets here, because the stores have been pushing it down our throats for over two months by then!

In the "olden days" when I grew up (no, I did not have a pet dinosaur), Christmas displays in the stores weren't seen until the day after Thanksgiving.  Christmas lights were lit up for the first time then too.  At home, my mom waited 'til the beginning of December to hang lights in windows and start Christmas baking, and our real fresh-cut Christmas tree wasn't put up until around the 15th. 

As a child, Thanksgiving was all about coming together with our extended family to count blessings and celebrate the end of harvest season.  We viewed it with great excitement as this meant that Christmas was now just around the corner, a few weeks away.  The memories I hold precious of Christmases growing up are not massive piles of presents underneath our tree, though there were always presents, but of the things we did together... decorating the tree, hanging wreaths on the doors and lights on the windows, baking tons of Christmas cookies, watching Christmas movies on TV, playing Christmas music on the record player (yes, I realize some of you have no idea what a record player is), shopping for small gifts for each other and wrapping them as best as our small hands could, hanging Christmas stockings, shopping for Christmas dresses, and participating in school and church Christmas programs. 

There was not the mad insanity to buy, buy, buy in those days.  Families did not charge Christmas to their credit cards, only to spend the next twelve months paying for the excess.  We were thrilled if we got a toy, a new pair of pajamas, and a board game that we could play together.  Mom would add a few special things, like the year she made red flannel doll blankets for each of us, embroidering designs around the edges... I still have mine by the way! 

We opened presents on Christmas Eve at our house, since Christmas Day was always spent with my Dad's family at one of my uncle's houses or ours.  Oyster stew was a Christmas Eve tradition at our house; to me it just doesn't feel like Christmas without it.  And of course, being raised in South Dakota, there was always plenty of deep snow, and hopefully a sky filled with snowflakes to make everything clean and beautiful for Christmas.

Now, December means the highest suicide rates of the year.  The pressure to buy more than you can afford, to push yourself to the point of exhaustion trying to do it all, and the loneliness of the many folks who are far away from family or don't have family at all, makes it a really difficult time. Emotions run high.  Greed and grumpiness reign, customers line up hours in advance to shove and push each other in a mad attempt to score the best prices on the hot-ticket items, and in school, the children aren't even allowed to sing Christmas carols!  Cards have become generic holiday greetings, and manger scenes no longer appear on public property for fear of offending.

I think everyone knows my stand on tolerance, acceptance, and appreciation for all cultures and beliefs, and I don't think my beliefs should be forced on anyone else.  But, we can and should all share the traditions and beliefs we hold sacred.  We don't have to hide Christmas in the closet!  In return, I would expect us to be respectful of other religious traditions and celebrations. 

I've rambled on long enough here, but I think you get the idea.  If I had my way we'd ban the buying of presents for Christmas, end the office parties and endless gift-exchanges, and return Christmas to what it was meant to be... a simple time of coming together to celebrate the meaning of the faith that is ours.  Jesus IS the reason for the season!  

I would love to see the stores stop with the pre-promotion of Christmas, joining the few brave chains who have opted to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to "deck the halls" and initiate the madness.  Realistically, I'm thinking this is a giant snowball that's been rolling downhill for quite a few years now, and there's no way anyone is going to stop it.  BUT, that doesn't mean we have to buy into it!  Keep Christmas simple and sacred, rediscover how meaningful and wonderful it can really be...and don't start the celebration until December!

A Friend for Zoe


Zoe lived with her grandparents on a small farm in rural Arkansas.  It had been home as far back as she could remember, her mama having died when she was just a baby. Grandma told her that her daddy lived in a big city and had a fancy job, but she had never seen him and wouldn't know him if he walked up to the door.

Zoe's grandma was a large, soft woman with a kind heart and smiling eyes.  She loved Zoe dearly and and they had wonderful times working together in the kitchen and the yard. Zoe's grandpa was another matter, he was a big man who towered over her, and seemed to always be unhappy about something.  When he came in the house grumbling and cussing, Grandma tried to keep her out of his way.  Zoe was afraid of him and would slip off to her room to play quietly with her dolls.  He never bothered her there and she felt safe.

One warm Spring afternoon Zoe was helping her grandma plant vegetables in the garden next to the big barn.  She stopped what she was doing and listened carefully.  There it was again... a tiny little voice crying in the tall weeds up against the barn.  She scampered over to investigate and, much to her delight, discovered a scrawny white kitten blinking up at her in the sun.  Zoe was surprised when she bent to scoop up the kitten and it didn't try to scratch her or run away.  It was like it had been waiting for her all along.

Cradling the kitten gently in the fold of her jacket, Zoe hurried to show the tiny treasure to her grandma.  Her grandma smiled at the little bundle of life, stroking it gently with two fingers and saying "Well, well, what do we have here?" 

"Please, can I keep it?" begged Zoe, excitement dancing in her eyes. "It could stay in my room."

"Oh Lordy child, your grandpa would throw a fit if he found a cat in the house, he's pretty convinced that critters were meant to live outdoors, and if they don't earn their keep one way or another he can't see much use for them." 

"It could catch mice in the house, Grandma", suggested Zoe hopefully.

At that Grandma chuckled, since the kitten was hardly bigger than a mouse itself.  "I think you'd better put it back where you found it, sweetheart, it's time for us to get back to the house and start supper now."

At that Zoe's heart sank.  She wanted this kitten so badly for a friend and a playmate. When her grandma turned around to gather up the garden tools, Zoe slid the kitten into her pocket and walked quickly back to the house, slipping in the door ahead of her grandma and heading straight up to her room. 

When her grandma called her for supper an hour or so later, Zoe shut the door behind her and hurried down the stairs.  Unfortunately, it was an old house and the doors didn't latch all that well. 

As soon as supper was over Grandpa moved to his favorite chair in the sitting room, lit his pipe, and picked up the newspaper to read.  Zoe was helping her grandma wash up dishes in the kitchen when suddenly she heard her grandpa's voice thunder "What in tarnation?!!"  She ran into the room just in time to see him reach down and grasp the tiny white kitten by the nape of its neck with his great big fingers.

Horrified, and feeling certain that her grandpa was about to end the poor kitten's life, Zoe cried out, "Please Grandpa, don't hurt my kitty!"  Tears rolling down her cheeks, she pleaded, "It's the only friend I have!" 

Her grandpa looked over at her with more tenderness in his eyes than she'd ever seen before.  Lifting the kitten up for a better look, then lowering it slowly to his lap, he turned to Zoe and said "Looks like you've found yourself a little girl here, what are you going to name her?"
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where this week's prompt is "hidden"
we'd love to have you join us!

Two Shoes Tuesday #11 - Hidden


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I'll provide a one-word writing prompt and ask you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "Hidden".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business! Tell us what's hidden!

Heed The Warning


Rumor held that there was a fortune in jewels and gold hidden away in a cave, high on a mountain in Asia. Explorers had sought this treasure for hundreds of years, and now a team of Americans felt certain they had found the location.  Those who had searched before them told of a frail old man who appeared on the hillside to warn of impending danger if they continued. "Heed the sign," he had implored, "heed the sign."  Unfortunately, the American team included no one who could read Chinese; and a moment too late, as searing flames roared from the cavern, they learned that the character painted on the large boulder they had pushed from the entrance said DRAGON.


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I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "character".

No You Can't... Yes I Can!

 

How were you raised? Did your parent's encourage and believe in you? Did they help build your confidence in facing situations?  My mother was a somewhat fearful person, she didn't have a great deal of self-esteem.  My father was cautious and over-protective in the sense that he wanted to make sure we avoided all harm.

I was raised with the "don't try that/don't do that/don't get involved with that" mentality, because you might get hurt in one fashion or another.   I was led to believe that life was somehow bigger than me, and that if I tried something new I was unlikely to be to handle it; I might get hurt... I might even fail.  Failure was to be avoided in those days, it was not seen as a "learning experience" as we tend to view it today. 

Obviously, parents need to protect their children from doing things or becoming involved with people that present serious danger.  We don't let our children play in the busy streets, nor get into a car with strangers, but there are also healthy risks that can be fun adventures and provide opportunities to grow self-confidence and learn from our mistakes. 

My father conveyed the message (even if not intentionally) that we really weren't capable of accomplishing basic tasks - things like riding a horse, driving his boat, or completing our own income tax forms. I did well in school, but I didn't have enough self-confidence to believe I could do something big, something great, or even something of value. I was pretty sure that anything I tried was destined to fail.  I didn't  know I had inner strength. I felt faulty, flawed, far less than good or perfect.  I got the message loud and clear that I didn't measure up to my parent's expectations, and I carried that message in my heart and head for many years to come.

While my parents were religious people, I can't say they were spiritual people.  Their faith was more about rules of conduct than it was about the  power of faith and the love of God.  In the Protestant Church, God is often portrayed as someone to be feared, much as I at times feared my own father.  God was not the essence of love and caring, not a refuge, not a source of strength. We never talked about things like that at home, or about dealing with life. 

My mother crumpled under the pressures of her role and relationship, and my father viewed her as weak.  In the tradition of men at that time, he posed a figure of stalwart strength and determination.  I can count the times I saw my father cry on one hand.  We heard a lot of "you can't" and "don't do it" messages growing up, but didn't ever hear "I love you", "I believe in you",  or "you can do it."  I don't fault my parents, I don't think they realized back then how important it is to a child's sense of worth and wellbeing.

It only follows that as an adult I remained in that mindset... accepting the things that befell me as my fate, feeling battered by life, but not realizing that I had the wisdom and strength within me to stand up and fight back.  I felt powerless, and people took advantage of that weakness.  I listened to the wrong people for advice, and I failed to listen to my heart.

It wasn't until I was much older and had lived thru a series of abusive and traumatic relationships that I realized I had the power and the ability to take life by the horns and face it head on.  I learned that I didn't have to be a doormat, I could instead be the doorman of my life - the one who chose to open or close a door.  Life didn't have to happen "to me", I didn't have to be a victim.  I could take charge of my life and choose how I responded to what it brought my way.  I could climb out of the mudpit I'd been stuck in all my life and become a survivor!

Nowdays I spend my time here in blogsphere, and in real life, preaching the gospel of encouragement... telling stories about my life, and trying to support and uplift others who are struggling, so that maybe they can see a glimmer of hope and began to believe that they too can change the direction of their lives.  It takes faith, it takes courage, it takes hope... and sometimes it takes someone who is willing to reach back down into the mudpit and offer a hand and a hug.

No matter how many times in your life someone has told you that you can't, I am here to say "YES YOU CAN!"
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I'm linking up with Sunday Scribblings where the prompt this week is "mud".


Little Miss Independent


This week we've been talking about choices at Two Shoes Tuesday, and I can't help but think about how the choices we make as young people and adults affect our ability to be independent in the years ahead.  Good choices open doors, poor choices close them and limit the opportunities we will have.

The one thing I most wanted for my children was for them both to acquire the education and life skills necessary to be able to have good careers that were not only fulfilling, but would enable them to be financially stable and never at someone else's mercy, or find themselves at fifty stuck in low-end jobs and unable to enjoy the nicer things of life because of it. 

My daughter inherited much of her mother's fiercely independent nature.  As she learned to talk she would chatter away in her room, but not have much to say in response to us.  She didn't take to instruction well, preferring to learn things on her own.  She taught herself to tie her own shoes, and she learned to swim on her own.  In Jr. High she independently decided to play the cello in her school orchestra and lugged the huge thing home on the school bus every night so she could practice.  One day while I was at work she called me up asking how many apples to buy for a pie she was going to make.  She had never baked a pie before, but like everything she has taught herself, it turned out awesome!

At the age of twelve my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  This is a life-long struggle I wouldn't wish on anyone.  It changes everything... it means you must spend the rest of your life being vigilant about food, insulin, rest, and your body.  There is no "forgetting about it" for the day.  Although it hasn't been easy, I can proudly say that my daughter has not let diabetes definine her.  She has gone on to become a Registered Nurse, and a good one, working long hours at a huge hospital in Nashville. 

My daughter has had to deal with some major emotional traumas in her life, the latest of which was her husband of several years suddenly deciding he liked the girl where he worked better, and pursuing a divorce.  She loved him dearly and cherished their life together; it truly shattered her heart.  She didn't think she could find the strength and courage to move on, she really didn't even want to live.  But I knew deep down that she would find a way to get thru each day on her own and move forward.  I told her that during a hunded tearful, heart-breaking phone conversations... that she was a survivor and she would be ok.  Over time she slowly began to heal and grow stronger.

A year ago I convinced her that it was time to relocate.  Living in the same city as her ex, with his new girlfriend residing with him in the house they had purchased and remodelled together, was too hard.  Every place she went held more memories of the life she once had.  So once again she summoned her courage and independent spirit, went online and researched job opportunities in cities elsewhere, and set her sights on somewhere pretty and green, with real seasons, and far away from Texas. 

She has been living in Nashville for a year now on her own, and although her brother lives less than an hour away should she need him, she handles life independently.  When her and her husband divorced she had to give up her beautiful home in a nice neighborhood and settle for apartment living, and she is again in a small apartment at the moment.  Now that she has decided she likes her new location and her job, she is hunting for just the right home to build or buy on a lot with plenty of trees, and she has her finances in order.  I have no doubt that I will be visiting her in new digs that she can proudly call her own within the next year or so. 

When we talk she tells me how hard it is being on her own, how lonely, how frustrating the dating scene is for women nearing 40, and how she wishes there were someone selecting a dream home with her.  I tell her that her knight in shining armour will come, but that first she had to come to terms with her own life and learn to survive again on her own.  Despite her unwillingness to believe in the beginning, she has survived, and she has moved forward with her life... moving all the way across country on her own, with her beloved cats in their carriers in the back seat of her car as she travelled down the road. She didn't think she could make that trip on her own either, but she did, and she got there just fine!

I continually pray that God will bless her with a man who treasures her the way she deserves to be, and that she will stay healthy, independent and strong.  My daughter is a survivor and I could not be more proud of her!  I know that no matter what other curves life throws at her, and even though she struggles with dark depression monsters from time to time, she is going to be ok.  To me, that is what being independent is all about -  not necessarily being alone, but being able to stand on your own two feet... much like her mother Josie Two Shoes has learned to do along the way. :-)
 
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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "independent"