Not That Different After All…

No, this isn't my husband (usually)
No, this isn’t my husband (usually)

I’d say the most unexpected part of marriage was holidays with my husband’s family. After seventeen years, I can still see stark differences. Sometimes the differences are frustrating and aggravating, but examined with a sense of humor, they can be amusing.

Of course, I choose to view life through a lens of humor!

My husband’s mother and one of his brothers (along with his youngest two children) stayed with us for several days. Our Thanksgiving dinner was an eclectic mix of traditional food (my fare) and more ethnic food (compliments of their Greek heritage.)

I am not adventurous in my food, so I didn’t partake of the pastitsio my mother-in-law made. The lamb, noodles, two sticks of butter and aromatic Greek cheeses didn’t appeal to me. My brother-in law made turkey – I was excited for some ‘normal’ food. I didn’t know he would go all Emeril Lagasse on the bird, though. It came out with a strong garlic/citrus taste. My husband said it tasted like the waste from a living organism (well, he didn’t say exactly that, but I’d like to keep this a PG blog.) My assessment was a bit kinder: I ate it. (However, days later, I’m thinking the ice chest the turkey marinated in may never be the same.)

On the flip side, I’m sure my stuffing was bland for their palates. The green beans with onions and bacon were probably a few notches below boring. But they ate it anyway.  My pumpkin pie may have been passable smothered in whipped cream, but I still had leftovers.

Despite out differences in taste, we did manage to agree on one thing: we were thankful to be able to spend the holiday together.

Their early departure indicated there is at least one other thing we agree on: four days is enough family time for one visit.

How long is long enough for family to visit? I’d love to know your response!

Stranger Inside

Sometimes we find familiar around the next curve
Sometimes we find familiar around the next curve

Your eyes,

your face,

your smile (absent for too long)-

they are all familiar

impressions on the

repressed memories

lurking in the recesses

of my sub-conscious mind.

I wrestle with the

incongruity of

past and present-

the surreal shadow

that slithers across

the barren landscape

of a new reality.

I hope you can find

yourself,

your smile,

your life (reason to live)-

all buried beneath

the stranger inside-

the person I once knew.

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Inspiration:  For those who look to this part of the post to explain what on earth I was writing about, I won’t leave you hanging.  This poem has dual  meaning.  It was written to/about a person consumed by drugs.  He looks like the person you’ve known all along, but inside, he is gone.  His good heart belongs to his addiction.  It is also written to/about his parents; the people who have struggled to accept their only child is no longer the boy they raised.  How do you come to terms with that?  Not very easily.  That’s all I know.  Sometimes I can’t believe these are the same people I remember fondly from my childhood.  They are so different now; so sad and broken.

Unfortunately, this is about my family.  Just in time for the holidays, relationships have been severed and only time will tell if they can be repaired.  Right now, I’m sort of in the middle and will walk the line as best I can.  In the meantime, all I can do is offer prayers for peace, strength and forgiving hearts.

I realize I’ve neglected my fiction here lately.  I’ve written a couple of stories I plan to submit for publication, so I can’t post them here, but I do have a couple ideas.  I hope to post some fiction soon (either this week or next.)

I’ll sign off with this… if we look closely enough, we can find even the tiniest blessings in times of trouble.  I hope you have a beautiful week!

Divide And Conquer

11-10 Sedona

Divide and conquer… originally, used to describe a military technique that maintains control by dividing the masses. If they don’t band together, they are easier to manage. They don’t get together and rally against the ruler.

In my life, divide and conquer has come to mean dividing our resources so our to-do list doesn’t control us. Most recently, this thought came to mind when I over-booked our calendar. On the same day, we now have a Boy Scout camp out and putting up Christmas decorations at church. We also had a conflict with my older son’s band activities and our younger son’s doctor’s appointment. Divide and conquer.

I got to thinking – while our ‘to-do’ list is whimpering from our efforts, dividing our resources to manage it could have the opposite effect by bringing us to our knees.  The more things we don’t do as a family, the more memories we miss making as a family. Years from now, it means fewer things we can talk about that we all remember- because we experienced them together. Divide and conquer needs to be our last resort, not our go-to strategy.

This time of year feels like life has been put on “fast forward.” I guess my thoughts needed to go down this path as a reminder that less is more. Even as I write this, I feel a little guilty because I’ve declined to be a leader in Cub Scouts this year. Not because I don’t think it’s valuable, but because I have so little time- and I feel like I’ve over-spent it.

Unlike money, I can’t make more time.

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I appreciate you reading my random thoughts on life. I hope you have a peaceful Monday!

Set Free (Fiction) – Emilio Pasquale Photo

The photo below provided by Emilio Pasquale.  The story I wrote inspired by the photo follows…

An Emilio Pasquale Photo
An Emilio Pasquale Photo

She thought she’d find an ally in her sister, but as they engaged in a stare-down, it became obvious to Elaine that she’d miscalculated. Her stiffened legs and a crick in her back warned she should quit. Clearly, more than a laminate table divided them. Yet, she refused to show signs of wearing down. I inherited Dad’s stubbornness.

“She’s getting older. I think the stress of the trip will be too much for her. Please, convince her not to go,” Elaine said, mindful to keep desperation out of her voice. Jackie would never admit it, but they both knew she had more sway with their mom. It’d been that way from the beginning, when Jackie almost died the day she entered the world fifty-eight years ago. It took adulthood and having kids of her own for Elaine to forgive her for that.

Jackie snorted. “We’re all getting older, Elaine. There’s no way she’d not go.” She dunked her tea bag several times with the back of her spoon. Her mouth pressed into a thin line and a frown creased her eyebrows.

Three soggy tea bags rested on the saucer beneath Jackie’s cup. All spent. That’s how Elaine felt. After two hours, neither had budged. If the conversation translated into chess, it would be a stalemate. In their defense, there wasn’t much room for compromise; it’s not like they could half-way go.

Elaine shook her head. “She gets so upset. Besides, the Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point she doesn’t understand much anymore.” She hesitated before adding the root of her concern. “I have a bad feeling about it.”

Jackie smirked. “Another premonition?” She crooked her fingers in air quotes as she said premonition.

“Nothing specific; just a feeling.”

“Look, you know as well as I do she hasn’t forgotten that house.” With the back of her hand, she brushed her graying bangs off her forehead. “I don’t know why, but she has to visit that place on Halloween every year.” Jackie sipped her tea and set her mug back on the paper coaster. “If you won’t go, I’ll take her by myself.”

Elaine recognized the determination in her younger sister’s eyes. Just like Mom’s. “You can’t drive until your seizures are controlled.” She sighed. “Fine. I’ll drive. We’ll leave at noon so we can get there before dark. That house is darn creepy at night.”

Jackie laughed. “That, I’d have to agree with.” She pulled out her wallet. “I got this.” She dropped a ten on the table to cover the muffins and beverages.

After she slid out of the booth, Elaine left another few dollars to compensate for monopolizing the table for so long.

*** *** *** Continue reading

Motivation Has A Color: Pink

I don’t have a fiction piece ready this week- but I have two stories in process, so I’ll definitely have one posted next week. Instead of rushing fiction, I decided to write about something I’ve been thinking about for several weeks: motivation.

Motivation is one of those human mind things that fascinate me. There are times when the prospect of success is enough to get us moving. In other instances, external factors give us a kick-start (like when a toddler is offered a reward for using the toilet.) I tend to think that internal motivation is stronger than motivation by reward… then again, some kind of motivation is better than none at all.

For instance, I would love to see my older son do his chores- and do them right- because of a sense of pride in a job well done. It would also be kind of cool to see pigs (or javelina) fly.

We’ve tried motivation in the form of allowance, or rather no allowance when chores aren’t done, with little success. Quite by accident, we found what does motivate him.

The events leading to this serendipitous discovery:

When my older son was nine, he drove us nuts begging for a cell phone. Finally, I said, “Don’t even bother asking again until you’re twelve.” That bought me a few years of peace, but then it happened: he turned twelve.  Somehow, his mind interpreted my statement as, “You’ll get a cell phone when you’re twelve.”

The nagging commenced several weeks before his twelfth birthday.  We made it clear: no chores, no possibility of a cell phone. He showed a little more initiative in doing his work. His own mistake led us to the biggest motivating factor. When he accidentally ruined the flip phone that we share between the kids, we activated the other spare phone we had on hand:

This is what motivation looks like to a 12-year-old boy!
This is what motivation looks like to a 12-year-old boy!

A pink phone… brilliant. Man, I wish I’d thought of that on my own!

While my younger son doesn’t seem bothered by the pink phone, my older son refuses to use it… even if it means extra waiting when his school activities end earlier than expected. He wants an iPhone. I smile and remind him, “You know how to make it happen.”

Discovering what motivates my son made me turn to my own (lack of) motivation. For several months, longer writing projects have been in a holding pattern. Rather than writing, I found myself playing mindless/addictive games on my phone, or watching Forensic Files marathons on TV. It seemed procrastination had won. But then through comments on my last fiction piece, I realized some things about why I’d stalled on writing.

Offers of guidance and assistance with my longer work gave me the extra nudge I needed. I’ve dusted off the rough outline of a novel-length story I’d started last year. I can’t wait to feel the satisfaction again of knowing I can finish a story over 5,000 words!

Enter, hope (the light shining through the storm clouds)
Enter, hope (the light shining through the storm clouds)

That’s the motivation I needed.

What motivates you- personal satisfaction? Recognition? Curiosity?