Just Me

If I could choose to be

anything in the world,

I’d prefer to stay me,

an ordinary girl.

 

Nothing too special,

simply plain ol’ me;

terribly typical

without mystery.

 

Lacking true beauty

from the outside,

I’ve talents aplenty

on the inside.

 

Reader, writer, singer,

puzzle-solver, too;

teacher, sister, mother,

friend to folks like you.

 

I’ve never had a dream

of golden luxuries.

I’m happy as I seem

floating on a breeze.

 

I yearn for happy days

filled with simple joys,

living, loving, always

playing with my toys.

 

Call me tteach Terry,

call me your best friend,

call me mistress merry,

forever without end.

 

Dinner Talk

By the time Stan Ellis was finished mucking out the stalls, he was exhausted even though he’d been doing it for the past nine years. As an eight-year-old, when he first came to live with his grandparents, he hated the smell of the horses’ droppings, the texture of the straw, and working in the shadowy barn. Because he’d been born in the city, he knew nothing about ranch life and hadn’t planned on every living on one. But when his parents died, he’d had no choice.

His school day was followed by a hour and a half of band practice, something he’d recently added after Grandpa Ellis convinced him he needed an elective for college admissions. He’d picked up his grandpa’s old saxophone, and after watching a few YouTube videos, was soon playing elementary songs.

Band wasn’t too hard. It was marching and playing that exhausted him mentally and physically.

It was after four by the time he got home, then cleaning stalls for an hour before he could tackle homework. All of it added up to a lot of work.

Stan thoroughly washed his hands then made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He pulled out his homework and began studying for a Physics test the next day. Just as he finished reviewing the assigned chapter his seventy-year old grandpa came in. He brought the outside in with him which Stan now found endearing.

“We’re having spaghetti tonight. Is that okay?” Grandpa asked as he pulled a pot and lid out of the cabinet.

“Sounds great. Can we have a salad too?”

“If you make it.”

Stan pulled lettuce, radishes, and cheese out of the refrigerator. He took a tomato off the counter and fetched bacon bits from the pantry. “So, are you going to give me the money or not?”

“Can you explain it to me again?”  Grandpa dumped a handful of noodles into a pan of boiling water and then wiped his hands on his jeans.

“The money’s due tomorrow or I can’t go to Disneyland.”

“Why’re you going there?”

“I’ve explained it several times.” Stan finished assembling the salad, set it on the table, and then flopped into a hand-hewn chair. “I’ve missed every deadline so far. I’m surprised my teacher’s still letting me go.”

Grandpa stirred the noodles with a wooden spoon. “Let’s see. What extra jobs have you done to earn money?”

Stan sighed and ran his hands over his lanky brown hair. “I dug the weeds out of the pony pens and I trimmed the bushes along the drive.”

“That’s part of your job,” Grandpa said.

“According to that line of reasoning, then anything I do around here is my job,” Stan said. “Look, Grandpa, I really want to go. I’ve got to pay the full amount tomorrow or I’m out.”

Grandpa slipped a loaf of French bread out of its wrapper and laid it on the cutting board. He picked up a knife and sliced off four hefty pieces. “Explain again the reason for the trip.”

“The band’s marching in the Main Street Parade and performing on the stage in Tomorrowland.” Stan leaned his chin on his hands and looked at his grandfather with sparkling eyes. “I want to go.”

After popping open a jar of sauce and pouring it into a pan, Grandpa sat at the table.  “How much are we talking about?”

“We’re flying, so that’s about $300. No hotel costs because we’re staying in a high school gym. They’re feeding us breakfast and dinner. Admission to the park is about $100. The only other cost is for my lunch.”

“So about $500?”

Stan shrugged. “Yeah.”

“I don’t have that kind of money.” Grandpa walked over to the stove, poured a little oil into the water with the noodles and then stirred the now simmering sauce.

“You sold a foal last week to Mr. Newton for a thousand dollars.”

“I paid bills with that money.  We owe Smith’s Hay and Feed over two thousand and Bill’s been asking for his money since he fixed the truck.”

“But everyone else is going.” Stan flopped his head down on his crossed arms.

“Set the table.  We’ll be eating in about five minutes.”

Stan shuffled to the cabinet, and with exaggerated effort got down two plates and glasses.  With an audible sigh, he set them on the canvas placemats that were always on the table.

Grandpa strained the water from the noodles and then dropped in a slice of butter.  He tossed the noodles, poured in the sauce, and carried the pan over to the table.  “Let’s talk.”

Stan scooped a mound of spaghetti onto his plate and sprinkled on a heavy layer of Parmesan cheese.  “It’s during Spring Break so I won’t miss any school. You filled out the permission form that had all the details. I even left a copy for you to keep  My plane ticket’s been bought.  I can’t back out now.”

“I can’t recall filling out any form.”

“Well, you did.”

“What was I doing when you handed it to me?”

“Washing dishes.  You told me to put the form on the table.  You filled it out and handed it to me.”

“I’d never have signed if I knew how much money was involved.  You can’t go.  I’m sorry.”

Leaving behind his dirty dishes, Stan took the stirs two steps at a time up to his room.  When he slammed the door he knew it would shake the whole house, a violation of the rules, but he didn’t care.

After using a napkin to wipe off his mouth, then refolding it and placing it next to his placement, Grandpa cleaned the kitchen. Like always, he then went into the front room to sit and smoke his pipe, but before lighting up, he unlocked the small safe embedded in the wall behind his desk and pulled out a rubber-banded wad of money.  He carefully counted out the bills.  He locked the safe and went upstairs.

“Can I come in?” he said after knocking on Stan’s door.

“Sure.”

Grandpa extended his right hand. “Here’s the money.”

“Really?”  Stan’s face glowed with surprise.

“Yeah.  I was hoping you’d changed your mind and didn’t want to go all the way to California.  You’ve never been that far from the ranch in all these years. But just in case, I put the money aside.  I’m selling this weekend Misty to Steve Carlson.  I’ll use that money to pay off bills.”

“Grandpa you’re the best!”  Stan, even though he was a little too old for hugs, jumped up off his bed and wrapped his arms around his grandfather.

“One thing, though,” Grandpa said as he stepped away.

“Anything. I’ll do whatever you want.” Stan’s eyes gleamed.

“Have fun. Play well. Be careful.”

Stan nodded. “I will. I’ll even find a way to call if you want.”

Grandpa smiled. “That’d be nice. It would make me feel better knowing that you were safe.”

Stan hugged Grandpa again. “There’s supposed to be a pay phone at the school. I’ll call when we get there the first night, call when we get back from Disneyland, then call right before we leave for the airport.”

“Come downstairs. I bought strawberries and shortcake.”

Stan enjoyed his dessert, even though he understood that his grandpa had intended to give him the money all along. All-in-all, it was an excellent dinner.

Feeling Proud

I have never been an arrogant person.

For much of my life I’ve been shy,

Backward

Afraid to exude confidence.

Pride does not come to me willfully.

It sneaks up like a mouse in the night.

It catches me unaware, surmising me

When it calls my name.

Even though I’ve accomplished much in my life,

I seldom take an opportunity to brag.

Instead, when I do speak, I do so quietly

With an unassuming air

Because even I am surprised when

Something goes well.

There have been times when I wanted to shout out,

To proclaim loudly those things that

Fill me with pride,

But I haven’t.

Until recently.

I realize now, at my age,

That I have much to be proud of.

Every day of life fills me with such joy,

Such a feeling of accomplishment

That I want to brag about simply being here

On this earth.

Today I am bragging, just a little,

Because I am alive.

Truly a Miracle

The laugh is a miracle waiting to happen

A gurgling stream bouncing over life’s boulders

Riotous, rollicking with on which to lighten

Burdensome weights from heavily bent shoulders

 

Fluffy clouds frolic freely through each person’s mind

That soon bubble out in side-splitting guffaws

A feeling so wondrous, magical in its kind

Unique in its effect: mood altering awes

 

Liberally dashed out in portions humongous

No meager spoonfuls for humanity’s sake

Spread across boundaries, in actions so wondrous

That ribs crackle, tears flow, and sides quickly ache

 

The sun’s golden rays blossom majestically

Illuminating rainbows in bright huse

Emotions explode into sounds musically

Harmonious tunes blend in colorful views

 

Burdensome miseries removed from memory

Riotous, rollicking times for the taking

Gurgling rivers of life’s hilarious story

The laugh, a miraculous joyous speaking

Emotional Rollercoaster

Alone

In the middle of a crowded room

Silent voices scream for recognition

Fear

Twists guts into compressed clay

Paralyzing limbs, numbing throats

Degradation

Fills the ears of the emotionally injured

Ruining scarce moments of hard-fought joy

Depression

Carries sinking hearts into oblivion

Erasing memories of happiness felt

Hands

Reach out, begging for salvation

Yearning for one sign of love

Answers

Arrive in rain-soaked clouds

Pouring down tears of understanding

Compassion

Clears the night of unmasked terrors

Awakening remnants of esteem, long forgotten

Joy

Blooms in multi-colored bursts of words

Spoken, thoughts shared, kindnesses felt

Light

Seeps into crevices of the heart

Obliterating shards of self-doubt

Happiness

Explodes in multicolored bursts

Opening souls to welcoming voices

Surrounded

Encased

Enfolded

Alone no more

Raging Insanity

“Never again would they dare to call me insane,” Joe Witherspoon said as he rubbed his hands rapidly down his thighs.

“Why do you say that?” Steve’s forehead wrinkled with curiosity.

Joe slapped his hands on the table in front of them, causing their coffee mugs to rattle. “Come on. You know what really happened, don’t you?”

Steve stared into his friend’s deep blue eyes, wondering if the doctors were right about Joe’s emotional status.  “I’ve heard Sarah’s version, but never yours.”

Sighing, Joe picked up his mug and brought it carefully to his mouth, his shaky hands causing the hot liquid to spill.  Not noticing the drops falling to the table, Joe allowed the steam to caress his face as he inhaled deeply, drawing the soothing aroma into his trembling body.  “I’m not insane.  I never have been.  Sarah made up all that nonsense about me throwing that butcher knife at her.”  He sipped cautiously, staring into Steve’s eyes for confirmation.

“You admitted in court that you threw the knife.” Steve leaned forward, his eyes focused on Joe’s.

“So what?  I was drugged out and so I have little recollection of whether or not I did. It might have been you that threw it, for all I know.”  Joe placed his cup on the kitchen table, and took a minuscule bite of a freshly made chocolate chip cookie.

“Sarah was shaking like a leaf.  It took a strong sedative to calm her down.”

“She’s the nervous type,” Joe responded as he meticulously scraped crumbs into his open palm which he then poured into his mouth. He brushed his hands together, then resumed rubbing his thighs. “She’s nuts, you know.  Sarah can’t sit still for more than a few minutes and never sleeps.  And she lies.  She makes me so mad.  Sometimes I feel like strangling her.  She tells her friends that I’m nuts.  I’ve heard her.  She goes downstairs when she thinks I’m sleeping.  She calls everyone she knows and makes up stories about me.  That’s why people think I did it.  That I was trying to kill her.”  Joe stood and began pacing the floor.  Three steps to the sink, four to the back door, two to the refrigerator, one to the table, and then start all over again.  “Sisters shouldn’t do that.  Sisters shouldn’t do that.  Sisters shouldn’t do that,” he chanted.

“Settle down, Joe.  You’re making me nervous with all that walking,” Steve said.

“Can’t do it.  Once my feet get moving, I can’t stop them.”

“Did you take your meds this morning?”

“Don’t need ‘em.  Doc says I’m cured, remember?”  Joe’s speed picked up to a trot.  His hands twisted into knots, then untwisted, then twisted again, in time to his steps.

Steve quietly stood and then walking backwards, moved toward the kitchen door, never turning his back on his friend.

“I never did it,” Joe intoned.  “I never threw that knife, but I wanted to, I tell you.  She makes me so mad.  So mad.  I hate her!  I hate that lying woman!”  Now pounding his forehead as intensely as splitting logs, he moaned with each blow of his hands.

Steve tiptoed out of the room, barely breathing for fear of distracting the crazed man.  Joe dialed 911.  When the operator answered, he explained the situation.  When told to leave the house immediately, he complied.

Standing out in the freezing Seattle rain, Steve watched as the police arrived, followed shortly thereafter by an ambulance.  After knocking at the door and receiving no response, the officers entered the house, guns drawn.  Within minutes, one of the officers stood at the door.  He signaled the waiting paramedics, who grabbed their medical kits, clipboards, and the gurney before going inside.

Steve felt sorry for Joe.  Joe had struggled with mental illness since his teenage years and had been hospitalized several times.  When on the proper medications, Joe seemed like any other guy.  Without the drugs, he went ballistic, with superman strength and fearsome rages.

Within minutes the paramedics guided the gurney out the front door toward the waiting ambulance.  One had his hand on Joe’s right arm, patting him as one would a dog.

“Don’t call me insane,” Joe whispered. “Don’t ever call me insane again.  I swore that no one would ever dare to call me insane again.”

Tears ran down Steve’s face.  He knew that Joe couldn’t control the obsessive rages, but it scared him.  Sarah, too.  After Joe threw that butcher knife at her, she packed her bags and moved to New York, swearing to never return.  Shaking his head, Steve walked back into the home and tidied the table and counters.  He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed some more, trying to erase the remnants of Joe’s craziness.

 

 

Me Time

Even when I was a little kid I understood the value of time spent alone. Family life, for me, seemed confusing and chaotic. I struggled with my place in the dynamics of everyday life. I knew that I was less-than my older brother who was revered by my mother. When my sister was born, now I was less-than both of my siblings.

I loved being by myself. As a small child, it meant being out on the front porch, standing there, do nothing other than watching whatever transpired in the neighborhood. I didn’t play with dolls, probably because the only ones I had were kept stored in my parent’s closet on a high shelf.

I didn’t read yet and no one read to me. I didn’t go to school until kindergarten-age, and only then because my parents thought I was dumb. Interestingly enough, school reinforced that opinion as I was the most backward kid in the class, even through fifth grade.

The one toy that meant the most to me, that allowed me precious “me time” was my mother’s cookie tin of mismatched buttons. I played with them for hours, day after day. I sorted them by size and color, by shape and by how many holes in the center. Then I’d dump them back in the tin and start all over. I spent hours doing this, day after day, all year long.

In the winter I played on the kitchen floor while my mother napped. I the summer I took them outside and sat on the grass. It’s amazing that I am still not sorting buttons today as I found it both comforting and relaxing.

I have progressed from those early days it terms of what I enjoy doing in my free time. I love shopping. I can spend an hour easily roaming through stores, buying little to nothing. I am a great sale-shopper and almost never buy something that isn’t discounted.

I love looking at styles, brands, colors. I love trying on clothes, especially now that I have lost a significant amount of weight. I love feeling the fabrics and imaging them against my skin. I can tell by that action alone whether or not I would like something.

I love reading. I mostly read contemporary fiction, but I also branch into fantasy, Young Adult, and on rare occasions when a book is recommended by a friend, nonfiction.

What I love about reading is that it takes you into stories, into characters’ lives, into places where you have probably never gone and never will. It allows you to follow in another’s skin, seeing, feeling, tasting all the things that they experience. It’s an out-of-your world journey. I can spend hours reading.

I love exercising, especially swimming. When I am in the water swimming lap after lap, my entire body relaxes into the feet of water streaming over my body. The ritual of traversing the pool, turning, doing it again and again and again is a special time for me. It is something that I do alone. Well, not entirely as there are other swimmers in the pool, but I am unencumbered by family, by needs, by demands. It is just me.

I get the same rush from the elliptical, the stationary bike, the machines. It is me challenging myself to do more, to be stronger, to last longer. And it gives me time to think, if I want, or I can watch whatever TV program is available.

If I didn’t love writing, I wouldn’t have this blog. There is something calming about putting thoughts into the written word. It gives me an opportunity to analyze where I’ve been and where I’m going. It often gives new perspectives into my past which then form my present and future.

At times, when I am writing fiction, it brings me deep into my character’s life. I get to see what she sees, hear what she hears, feel her emotions. Her confusion as she navigates her world. Her delight when something redeeming occurs. Her perceptions of where she fits in her world. Yes, I can alter those dimensions, and often I do, but I also allow her to take charge of my fingers.

Me Time is important to me. It allows me to pause, evaluate, and reorganize myself. It gives me a sense of peace in what can be, at times, a disorderly world. It reinforces who I was, who I am, who I will become.

I cherish those moments.

I also love being with my family and with friends, but those experiences are different. There you fit into a mold, one that sometimes others have crafted for you. You play the mother, wife, friend game, participating in conversations that sometimes move past your realm of experience. This is where Me Time comes in handy, for when things are out of my control, even in a crowd, I can step back and allow my thoughts to roam free.

My trust in Me Time was formulated when I was quite small. It has sustained me ever since. It is a treasure that I hope everyone shares.