Held Captive by the Writing on the Wall

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Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

“D.D.S.R.”

The letters stood out black and heavy on the clean white wall of her cell. She sat there before them, cross-legged, and puzzled.

How long had she been here, she couldn’t say, but she did remember when they arrived to take her. She could still hear the doorbell ring. She flew, freshly showered and barefoot, to the door only to find three men in black suits instead of the friend she expected.

These are no salesmen, she thought, immediately trying to close the door and blot out the vision before her. Before she could get the door closed and latched, a heavy arm clothed in black polyester reached though and stopped it. She could still see his hand on the door, his fat fingers curling around the edge, and the door suddenly pushing open into her face, the blinding pain as the door hit her nose and knocked her backward.

As the doorknob pulled from her hands, she reflexively reached to her face and stumbled backward into the foyer. The first man at the door entered quickly, the other on his heels, the last turned to shut the door behind him.

He strode quickly toward her and grabbed her upper arms to stop her from falling completely to the floor. The man behind, taller and thinner than the fat-fingered man that had hit her with the door, moved lithely to her left side and behind her, holding her shoulders so tightly she knew there would be no struggling against them. They had her pinned. She was upright but not standing on her own two feet.

The third man, the one that turned to shut the door as the first two entered, stood quietly by the door. So surprised by the sudden attack, she wanted to scream out but could not find the breath. She was held between the two men in shocked silence.

The door shutter, also clothed in a fine black suit, clean-shaven and serious, like the characters in Men in Black, looked from his steel-blue eyes and blankly stated, “You know why we’re here.”

She stared. “I do?” she stammered out.

“Don’t play stupid, Carrie. We know who you are. You can’t talk or buy your way out of it this time.”

With a flick of his wrist, he signaled to her captors to bring her toward him. Turning to the door, he opened it, took one quick look down the street, saw no one, and motioned them to follow. They lifted her like she were a floor lamp, clamping a smelly cloth over her mouth as they approached the door.

That was all she remembered. When she woke, she was unmolested. Nothing hurt but her nose from when the door hit it. She was dressed the same as when she had so eagerly answered the door. But now she found herself in this empty, windowless room, with these letters hastily painted on the wall before her.

Where was she? Why did they call her Carrie? And what did these letters mean?

My New Little Friend

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Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

“No meat? No meat at all?!” I heard my Grandmother exclaim when I told her I was bringing my new girlfriend to Sunday dinner. Cary told me not to bother explaining to my Grandma, that she’d just take what she could.

“Don’t tell her, she’ll only make herself crazy trying to make something I can eat. And then what if I don’t like it? Then I’ll feel terrible that she went to all the trouble for me. She’ll hate me.”

I pulled her into my arms and kissed her cheek, “No one could possibly hate you. You’re too sweet.” I kissed her neck and nibbled her ear. “Mmm…definitely sweet.”

“Stop. I’ve got work to do. Call her and tell her we’re both coming on Sunday, but don’t tell her I’m vegetarian. I’ll just make do around the meat.”

But I had to tell her. My Grandma does not take “no thank you” for an answer. She’d be offended if someone at her table didn’t eat something and then if we explain during dinner why Cary is saying no, she’ll be angry that we didn’t tell her earlier so she could make something special for my “new little friend.”

Man I hate it when she says that. I’m 27 years old. Cary isn’t my new little friend, she’s a woman, with a career and her own apartment. We’ve grown really close over the past few months since we met, maybe a little too close. I’m actually thinking about proposing for crying out loud. She’s my girlfriend!

“Grandma, it’s really no big deal. She isn’t a picky eater, but she doesn’t eat meat, any meat. She’s vegetarian. She said she’s happy to eat any beans, bread, or vegetables you make. Don’t go crazy trying to make something special. Please. I just wanted you to know before we got there.”

“Of course, honey. You worry too much. Hmm…maybe I can make a vegetarian lasagna. Carol brought a vegetarian lasagna to the potluck last week and it was wonderful, but your Grandpa hated it. He told her too, right to her face. He said it wasn’t lasagna at all, just vegetables with sauce. He’s always been such a crab to her. It’s like he just loves to upset her.”

“Grandma.”

“Or maybe I could make a tofu turkey! I saw that on a tv show. It was so funny! It didn’t look anything like a turkey and no one would eat it.”

“Grandma.”

“What about pizza? Does she like pizza? We could make a bunch of pizzas and everyone could put what they want on them. I love making pizza. It reminds me of my Grandma. She always let us have a ball of dough of our own and my brother would eat it raw.”

“Grandma!”

“What honey?”

“You’re going to make a big deal out of this aren’t you?”

“How could I not? Especially when you’re bringing your new little friend to meet us for the first time. It must be serious!”

“I love you. Do you know that?”

“Yes, I do. I love you too. My very favorite grandchild.”

“Grandma, I’m your only grandchild.”

“Still counts! I’m going to make those little won-tons you like so much for an appetizer. Be here by one or your uncle will eat them all himself.”


Thanks for the October writing prompts, Writers Write!

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Me using our VW Bus as a beer ticket sales booth at a local Music/Beer Festival this past weekend! Do I look hot and tired?

Once again, I’ve promised myself that I’d write something. Anything! So here I am on a Monday morning, right on schedule. My morning routine has been accomplished, which is a feat considering the wild weekend I had. My computer has already displayed its contempt for me by restarting without my permission just as I sat down, so I’m sure that won’t happen again this session.

This morning, I’m attempting to stay off the phone more. I did something clever. I accidentally gave the app that can limit my time a password and can’t remember what it is. Now when my social media time is up, it asks me for a password! I can get around it but that takes conscious thought and reminds me that I don’t need to scroll through social media whenever I have a couple minutes.

Here’s the thing, when my mind is quiet, like during my morning meditation, in the shower, doing the dishes, or driving, I remember the things I wanted to do or have an epiphany. Great ideas come to me in those silent moments, yet I have so few of them. When I’m between tasks or projects I sit down to take a five-minute break and the first thing I do is pick up my phone and open a social media app. It’s nice because I can catch a glimpse of my cousin’s sweet baby or find a sweet recipe for cookies, but I feel like I’m constantly filling my attention with so many outside things that I don’t have room for thought processing. I tell myself every day that I won’t check so often. I’ll just sit and take a deep breath, maybe get a glass of water, close my eyes and listen for a moment instead of searching for more input.

I just did it again. I stopped typing for a moment, wondering what word to use next, began to re-read, got stuck, leaned back in my chair and reached for my phone. What to write next is not on that phone! What an amazing power habit has!

This week, my goal is to sit and write for an hour on any day that I don’t have somewhere to be in the morning. That’s most days for me, but this week I’ll be off on an adventure on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m thinking I’ll post here on my blog more frequently (even if it’s just silliness like this) and post to Medium if I come up with anything spectacular.

Right now, I’m working on an article about my sons’ motocross “career.” Let’s see what kind of craziness I can write about when I put my whole mind to it.

The Clutter Isn’t Helping The Situation

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I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?

Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!

I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!

Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.

And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.

I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.

It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.

In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.

Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.

But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.

I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!

Practice makes…better!

20190514_1022191324249862372238474.jpgIt’s week three of making space for writing every day of the week and I think it is already starting to pay off.

Years ago, I read that to learn to read better, more complicated books, you should start reading and gradually you’ll learn to read for longer sets and to tackle more difficult texts. I started with a “classics” reading list for young adults and the suggested reading from my set of The Great Books of the Western World.

I started by changing the first thing I did every morning from TV to a book. Ok, it wasn’t the FIRST thing. The first thing was to visit the bathroom and then get a big cup of coffee. THEN, I’d get my book…and my glasses…and a pencil and journal. I’d start with the more difficult reading and keep at it as long as I could understand what I was reading. As I read, I’d take notes of things I found interesting and wanted to remember or comment on later. At first, I could only read that book for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time before my mind started to drift away. That’s when I’d move on to the easier book, usually some sort of classic fiction but sometimes my old favorites, Stephen King or Douglas Adams. I’d spend another fifteen to twenty minutes reading and then move on to the rest of my day. I had young kids then and they needed me. Thirty minutes a day was my limit for months, but it quickly evolved into an hour and then two most days.

I’m so glad that I’ve kept those reading journals! If I had to rely on my memory as to what I’ve read or what my reading habits have been, it would seem that I haven’t gotten anywhere in the last ten years. I look back on the journals and I know that’s not true. The proof, the trail of learning, is right there, written down for the world to see.

Today, I read for about three hours a day, in one hour stretches. I’m usually reading two books at the same time, some sort of fiction and non-fiction. I read the non-fiction first and then feast on the dessert of a sweet novel. It’s a beautiful way to start the day and sometimes I even work in an hour in the afternoon.

But…what does this have to do with writing? I was reading an article that mentioned writing journals a few weeks ago and put the two together. If the reading journal and making a tiny space for reading every day gave me what I have now, why wouldn’t it work the same for writing? And here I am.

I picked up one of my empty journals to use as a writing log. In it I list the date, the time I started on each project, and how long I spent on it. It’s a lot like my reading log. It has been amazingly satisfying at the end of the year to see how many books I’ve read and how many hours I spent reading them, so I thought maybe it would be even more exciting to see how much time I’ve spent writing!

It’s working so far. I put it at the beginning of my day to sit and write for two hours, Monday through Friday while my husband is working in the next room. I read in the morning, do my workout, work in the yard, and then sit to write. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I’m writing something and not checking Facebook or texting a friend.

This past week I found something else that really helps me focus. Earplugs! I’m such a light sleeper that I wear them every night so that I don’t wake at every sound throughout the night and they are working wonders for focus while I’m thinking. I used to sit and hear a bird, then my son’s phone, the cat, my husband’s phone call, etc. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. But with the earplugs in, it’s like I’m all alone. People walk through the room and I stay at the screen. Kids are in and out of the livingroom, watching tv, making food, I’m focused on my words. The only thing I can’t get past is music. My sons’ both play guitar and with my earplugs in I can mute out words but, for some weird reason, music drifts through and pulls me away. I’m able to shut my office door on those occasions, so it’s not a problem anymore.

Who would have thought earplugs would be so helpful? I wish I had discovered them in college when I was trying to write all those essays with my roommates around!

So here I am, tapping away on my keyboard. I can only stand to sit here for an hour at most before I get antsy and then everything I write starts to look bizarre to me, so I take a break at forty-five minutes and walk around my property. I don’t take my phone with me, even though sometimes I want to take a picture. That walk is to stretch my legs and think in silence. It’s very relaxing and centering. Today I stood at the top of my hill and looked out at the mountains still covered with snow. I’m a lucky girl.

To do anything well takes practice and you must make time to practice, not just shove it where you can. “I’m working right now.” I tell my sons when they come looking for me. They smile and back out of the room. “It can wait.” They say. They understand. They’ve learned this lesson too.

Journal Entry

My brain is a whirl of activity this morning. I have so many ideas that I THINK I want to write about thanks to a book my friend Sherry recommended, “Writing the Memoir.” It’s like a floodgate of ideas has been opened. I guess I just didn’t realize that “memoir” was such a big market and that people read these stories all the time. I always figured it was only famous people that wrote them, but then I think of all the times we’ve said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to hear the journals and thoughts of a regular person of that time? Why don’t TV shows ever focus on that?” Apparently, there are millions of books about it! Mine could be one of them.

Not only am I getting encouragement about publishing my arrest story, I’m getting ideas for other books as well. What if I wrote about my childhood, the people I knew, the places I went and lived, our vacations. And then my young adult life, Disney, college, Knott’s, etc. And my children, homeschooling. Hmm…there’s just so much there.

What I need to work on right now is focus. I need to make time to write and stop allowing myself to be distracted. Turn the phone off, don’t look at Facebook (it switches my focus), plan time to be at my computer every single day at a certain time. It can be done and I will do it.

Yesterday…was beautiful. Dan and I went on a date together. We took a picnic lunch out to Old Dale and spent a couple hours walking and sitting on top of our hill staring at the desert. It was raining when we left the house but not windy or overly cold. When we got to Dale it was cloudy, clouds so low they tripped over the hills to the south of us and spread out across the basin, dropping a fine mist of water as they went.

Dale was amazingly green for the desert in January. I imagined all the tiny green plants at my feet exploding into colorful flowers at the first sign of warm sunny days. I’m making plans to go back out as soon as that happens to catch them with my camera.

I took pictures of the water drops collecting on the leaves. The smell of the wet desert was delicious. I’m not sure what it is, the smell of small, wet leaves that usually see no rain for months at a time, sighing in the quenching drizzle.

This was the first time we have ever been to our family camping spot without the kids. We parked in the spot we usually camp, got our water and made our way up the hill where we placed a “monument” years ago. From that high place you can see the whole basin spread below. From the hills of Old Dale in the south to the ragged peaks above Wonder Valley to the North. Amboy road works its way up and over the pass in a straight line, at night you can watch the headlights of car after car coming down it. Where are those people coming from? We can see all the way west into Twentynine Palms and the road east into Arizona. It’s big and peaceful.

Up on the hill, we checked our box to see if we’d had any visitors since we visited last spring. Years ago, when the boys were little, we placed that box there as a monument for us to leave messages each time we came up. When I discovered “Letterboxing” we wrote detailed directions on how to find it and put them up on their website. It evolved into a Geocache a few years later. The notebook that is up there now is nearly ten years old and half full of notes left by people who have found it through the app or stumbled across it while exploring the area.

I love looking through that notebook and adding my own message. There are some weird ones, some poetry, some sad messages about how lonely they are, thanks for sharing the view, etc. This time someone wrote, “Made the trek up to Mt. Huelle again.” And now that is what I will call it.

We sat on the rocks at the top, side by side, holding hands and listening to the gentle rain. Amazing. I love this man so much. Amazing what we’ve been through, how much we’ve changed and how much we still enjoy each other’s company, each other’s touch.

This date was intentional. Earlier this week I was reminded of what we were missing, intention. We’d stopped going places and doing things unless it were necessary or something we intended on experiencing. We’d stopped going places just to spend time together. Our time as parents is quickly closing, soon it will just be us every day. What will we do on weekends when there are no races to go to, no events to attend? We’ve decided to start dating again. This was a perfect start.

We walked back to the truck the long way, stopping to look at interesting rocks and plants, to wonder what might be just beneath the surface. What if we brought the metal detector out here? The rain makes everything look so different. Rocks are darker, red, black, gray, and deep green.

We talked about future plans, things we’d like to do together. At the truck we spread the picnic blanket on the tailgate and had lunch while we talked more and watched the clouds move across the desert, the sun peaking through at one end.

It got cold when we weren’t walking. Shivering in our light, now damp, jackets, we packed up and headed back home. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.