Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trifecta: Paging Doctor Mom

 
            I knew it wasn’t right. But I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong, so I called in an expert.
            “Well? What do you think Mom?” I asked.
            “It’s a little bland,” she said being polite. “What did you put in it?”
            “MacKenzie’s seasoning—just like you always did. I followed the directions. I don’t understand why it tastes like wallpaper paste.”
            “Oh Honey, I don’t follow the directions!”
            “You don’t?”
            “That little seasoning packet is just how you start out. This chili needs a doctor.”
            “A what?”
            “You know. Something to add some pizzazz. Let me see what you have here.”
            She rummaged through my meager pantry.
            “Here we go,” she said. “Oregano, chili powder... you don’t have any chipotle do you?”
            “No,” I said sitting on the step stool feeling like I was five-years-old. I wanted to surprise Nick with his favorite meal of chili, but the results weren’t what I was hoping for.
            “Don’t worry Sweetie. This may not win any chili cook-offs, but we’ll still make it tasty.”
“You always made this look easy,” I said.
“What looked easy?” she said looking astonished.
“Cooking! You just waved your magic spoon and there was this fabulous dinner on the table.”
“Sweetie, by the time you came along I had years of practice. I was a lousy cook when I was a newlywed. In the beginning, your poor father choked down more burnt dinners than I care to remember! Now,” she said as she stirred more spices into the pot. “I know you’ll have some good dark beer in the house. Pour in a bottle.”
“Won’t it thin it down to much.”
“Just turn the heat up, leave the cover off, and keep stirring. It will cook down. The flavor will be great.”
She began to put her coat on.
“You aren’t leaving, are you?”
“Of course Dear. Your young marriage will survive a bland meal or two, but a hovering mother-in-law is a different story!”


I’m linking up this week with the Trifecta Challenge. This week’s word was: DOCTOR (noun)

1
a : an eminent theologian declared a sound expounder of doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church —called also doctor of the church
b : a learned or authoritative teacher
c : a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (as a PhD) conferred by a university
d : a person awarded an honorary doctorate (as an LLD or Litt D) by a college or university
2
a : a person skilled or specializing in healing arts; especially :one (as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice
b : medicine man
3
a : material added (as to food) to produce a desired effect
b : a blade (as of metal) for spreading a coating or scraping a surface

The challenge calls for us to use the third definition of the word. My own mother used to use “doctor” as a verb as in “This sauce is bland. I’ll doctor it up with a half cup of red wine.” But I had never heard it used as a noun. 

Write at the Merge: Snowfall & Secrets


            I’ve spent more time than usual with my boys over the last couple of weeks. We missed three days of school after the blizzard called Nemo and the following week was February school vacation. Most of our time together was great. There were days that I genuinely missed being a stay-at-home mom. We cooked together, did crafts, played games, and snuggled up to watch movies. My babies are growing into smart, interesting, funny kids. I don’t just love them—I really like them.
            But over the course of our time together, I became aware of a very disturbing secret.  My children are growing up and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. I don’t want them to be babies forever... but maybe just a little longer.
            A couple of weeks ago, I was standing outside with Owen. The sunlight, reflecting off the snow was bright enough to make me squint. In that brilliant lighting, my aging eyes finally saw something Owen had been telling me about for weeks—peach fuzz. Right there, under his nose. Incontrovertible proof that my little boy is growing up. 
            Last week, we were running errands. I finally agreed to change the car radio from NPR to their favorite cheesy pop station.  The song “Hey Ya” by Outkast came on. When the song came to the part, “Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture,” Owen said, “This song sounds inappropriate.”
            “Huh?” I said. “What do you mean? I think he’s just talking about dancing.”
            “It sounds sexual,” said Owen as I nearly lost control of the vehicle and narrowly avoided careening into a snow bank.
            Sexual.
            My ten-year-old said it sounded sexual.
            It probably is.
What else does he know?
            Don’t answer that. I’m not ready.

 

            I’m linking up with the wonderful group over at Write on Edge for this week’s Write at the Merge prompt. We were asked to write a piece inspired by the phrases, “a snow fall” and “a secret revealed”. It could be fiction or memoir.




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

100 Word Song: I Won't Back Down

 
            She straightened her back and willed her voice not to tremble.
“I won’t back down,” she said.
            “I thought you’d say that,” Manny sneered. His face looked like he was holding a handful of aces.
            Manny couldn’t possibly know, she told herself. As far as he knew, she had no attachments. There was nothing he could hold over her head.
            Frankie pulled a sheriff’s badge out of his pocket and tossed it on the table. It was dented and scuffed.
            “Huh,” he said with a nasty grin. “I think your new boyfriend lost something. Are you to cooperate now doll?”

  
           
           
My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
 
            I’m linking up with the 100 Word Song Prompt over at my friend Lance’s place, My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. This week’s inspiration is Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”.

Thrifty Tasty Tuesday: Peanut Sesame Slaw


             My kids aren't big salad eaters. I'm pretty happy that they're willing to eat most cooked vegetables that I put in front of them, but the appeal of raw veggies eludes them. We were at an anniversary party for a family member back in January. It was in a restaurant much nicer than my kids are used to. When the salad course came, we were served a salad that was like a cole slaw with an Asian style dressing. There were cashews sprinkled on the top and I convinced Owen to give it a try. Reluctantly, he nibbled a few pieces and loved it. He asked if we could try to make it at home.
           The following recipe is what we came up with. I substituted sunflower seeds for the cashews because that's what I had on-hand. I also used plain green cabbage because that's the most frugal option. But I'm sure this would be delicious with Napa or Chinese cabbage. It's a great side dish for chicken, fish or pork.

Peanut-Sesame Slaw

1 T. peanut butter
1T. canola oil
1 T. sesame oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. honey
2 T. rice vinegar
pinch of red pepper flakes

3 cups shredded green cabbage*
2 large carrots, grated*
1 sweet red pepper, very thinly sliced*
2 T. salted sunflower seeds.

Wisk together dressing ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss vegetables into dressing. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

*feel free to substitute a bag of cole slaw mix to save time.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Trifextra: Panic Hidden



            He left the rifle and his umbrage and found his parked car. The mother’s gentle traits had slowed his clanking mind. Relief wrapped him like a blanket. The urgent needles of panic hidden.

            I’m linking up with the Trifextra Challenge. We were shown page 33 of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge and were asked to take thirty-three words to create something. I thought it would be fun to follow the mysterious man on the train from this week’s piece Exhausting Kindness


Friday, February 22, 2013

Master Class: Trailing a Husband

 
            Conor always pictured himself reuniting estranged families and finding missing family heirlooms. He thought he was going to be the guy people went to when all else failed. He thought he was smarter than the police—more focused. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. But the he’d never find out working cases like this. This job, like most of them lately was to find out if someone was cheating. Sometimes it was a spouse. Sometimes an insurance company or a boss. Dishonest men paid Conor’s rent.
            She was in pain by the time she came to Conor’s office, convinced Hubby was cheating. He was spending more and more time at the office. He had lost weight—started hitting the gym. He even started dressing in the latest styles. She was convinced it was a mid-life fling.
            So far the trail was cold. Hubby’s late nights really were at the office. If Hubby was meeting with a girl, Conor hadn’t figured out when. It was beginning to look like Conor was trailing the only guy in town with nothing to hide.
            Then on Friday, Hubby’s routine changed. Conor watched him board a cross-town bus at lunchtime. He felt like a safe cracker who—partly by luck—had sussed out the first digit in a lengthy, arduous combination. Maybe this was it. Maybe Hubby was on his way to a nooner.
            Conor followed the bus to a crumbling office building on the desperate side of town. Hubby boarded the elevator and hit number six. Conor took the stairs and beat the ancient elevator. He waited in the stairwell until he heard the elevator doors slide open and footsteps pass. He opened the door as Hubby disappeared into the only occupied office on this floor. The door was stenciled with the name Sylvia O’Brien, Private Investigator.
            “Dammit,” Conor whispered reading the name. He moved closer to the door to listen to the conversation from inside.
            “On top of everything,” Hubby’s voice floated through the closed door. “I think I’m being followed. First Delores is cheating on me and now I’m being followed. I even took a bus to get here to shake the guy. I don’t know. Maybe I’m paranoid.”
            “First of all Mr. Landon,” said the detective with well-practiced patience. “We don’t know she’s cheating on you. I haven’t found a shred of evidence to suggest it.”
            “But all the hours at the gym, the nice dinners, the new hair... why is she trying so hard?”
            “I don’t know Mr. Landon. I think maybe it’s time to stop talking to me and start talking to your wife.”
            “Just because you haven’t proved it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And I know someone’s following me. I bet he’s right outside this door!”
            Before Conor could move, Landon had swung the door open and pushed him up against the wall.
            “See! I knew I was being followed. Why the hell are you following me?”
            “Mr. Landon, calm down. We’ll get to the bottom...”
            Sylvia’s voiced trailed off as she came into the hallway. She was just as beautiful as Conor remembered. She had pulled her soft blond curls into a bun and wrapped her perfect curves in a no-nonsense gray suit. But she was still the same woman he remembered.
            “Conor? What the hell are you doing here?”
            “You know this guy?” Landon gripped Conor tighter.
            “Know him? I used to be married to him. Let him go please Mr. Landon. He’s harmless.”
            Landon released his grip and Conor tried to pull himself back together.
            “Why don’t we have a seat in my office and sort this all out?” Sylvia said, taking charge of the situation.
            Inside the closed door, Sylvia gestured for the men to sit.
            “Well?” she said looking at Conor. “You’re on my turf now Conor. What are you doing here?"
            “Landon’s not paranoid. I was following him.”
            “Why? What gives you the right?”
            “Mr. Landon, Conor is a private investigator like me. We used to be in business together.”
            “Someone hired you to follow me?” Landon looked outraged.
            “Why not? You obviously hired my wife...”
            “Ex-wife,” Sylvia corrected.
            “Whatever. You hired Sylvia to follow someone else.”
            “That’s different. I just want to save my marriage.”
            “So does your wife Mr. Landon.”
            “What the hell do you know about it?”
            “She hired me. Delores thinks your having an affair. Sylvia was right. She’s a bitch, but she’s right. It’s time for you and Delores to talk to each other instead of us.”
            Landon stood up and walked towards the door.
            “I guess I’d better go home.”
            “That’s a good idea Mr. Landon. I’ll send you your bill,” Sylvia said.
            He nodded absently and left.
            Sylvia reached into the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a bottle of bourbon and poured some into two paper cups and handed one to Conor.
            “Well, I never figured we’d be working cases together again Conor.”
            “Me neither,” he took a long slow swallow of the bourbon. “I hate cases like this though.”
            “Same here. Although that one worked out okay, didn’t it?”
            “I guess. Maybe we could work together again.”
            Sylvia choked on the bourbon.
            “Are you nuts? Our business crumbled.”
            “Sure, our P.I. business.”
            “What else would do?”
            “Well, we just saved a marriage, didn’t we?”
            “I suppose.”
            Conor raised his glass in a toast.
            “I can see it now, O’Brien and O’Brien, Marriage Counselors.”
 
            I’m linking up this week with Master Class over at Sinistral Scribblings (or that was the plan before I realize I was working with last week's prompt!). Our prompt for this week was to use this quote from Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, “He felt like a safe cracker who—partly by luck—had sussed out the first digit in a lengthy, arduous combination.” We were not to use it to begin or end the story. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trifecta: Exhausting Kindness

                    “May I?” Mandy asked, startling a man sitting on the aisle next to a vacant window seat.
                   He gripped his duffel bag close to his chest and shifted his legs so she could get by without saying anything. Relieved to get off her feet, Mandy ignored the way he made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
                   She began re-reading about the second trimester in What to Expect When You're Expecting. At fourteen weeks, Mandy was still waiting for the reduction in fatigue the book promised. Finding no comfort in the book, she gazed out the window. In the reflection, she noticed her seatmate looked like he was about to cry.
                   “Are you okay?” she asked.
                   He turned his head and stared through her. She cursed her budding maternal instincts, wishing she hadn't asked.
                   “I'm sorry. You just looked... I don't know. Sad? I didn't mean to be nosey.”
                   “Don’t be sorry. I am sad. You're the first person to ask—a total stranger. No one at work asked. None of my family. I feel invisible.”
                   “That's terrible,” she said.
                   “Yes.” he faced forward again. “You're very kind.”
                   “Thank you,” she said and opened up her book and pretended to read.
                   “You're going to be a great mom.”
                   “Thank you.”
                   “My mother would exhaust all options before asking me about my feelings. She'd buy me books or send me to a doctor. I think she was scared of feelings.”
                   Mandy didn’t know what to say.
                   “It's my turn to be sorry,” he said. “You were kind to me and now I've made you uncomfortable.”
                   “It's okay. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to I guess.”
                   “Yes. Thank you for listening. You've helped me more than you know,” he stood up, holding tightly to his duffel bag. “I'm getting off at the next stop. Enjoy your book.”
                   As the train pulled out of the station, she watched him walk down the platform and throw his bag into a trashcan.


I'm linking up with this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week's word is:
EXHAUST (transitive verb)
1a : to consume entirely : use up <exhausted our funds in a week>
  b : to tire extremely or completely <exhausted by overwork>
  c : to deprive of a valuable quality or constituent <exhaust a photographic developer>
2a : to draw off or let out completely
  b : to empty by drawing off the contents; specifically : to create a vacuum in
3a : to consider or discuss (a subject) thoroughly or completely  
  b : to try out the whole number of <exhausted all the possibilities>
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thrifty Tasty Tuesday: An Ode to Oatmeal

                    I'm fortunate that my kids aren't particularly picky eaters. But one of them is pickier than the other. Every time I see him picking chunks of tomato out of my spaghetti sauce or inspecting meatloaf for hidden vegetables, I take a deep breath and remind myself how many things I refused to eat as a kid but eat enthusiastically as an adult.
                   Oatmeal is one of these foods. I couldn't stand it when I was a child. But these days I eat it for breakfast four or five days a week. It is a superfood from a nutrition standpoint as well as a frugality standpoint. For the price of a single box of cold cereal, you can buy enough oatmeal to feed a small army (or a large family) for a week. Plus, it's loaded with fiber and protein to keep you feeling full for a long time. My favorite bonus? There is nothing in the list of ingredients you can't pronounce!
                   I love Irish or steel cut oats, but I don't like the fact that it takes 15-20 minutes to cook them. Every minute in the morning is precious to me and spending extra time on oatmeal just isn't practical. This fall I discovered that Bob'sRed Mill sells  “instant” steel cut oats that cook in 5-7 minutes. I bought them feeling skeptical. After all,  instant rice is quick, but the texture is pasty. I was pleasantly surprised when I cooked my first batch. The texture and flavor are wonderful and it can be ready in about the same time as a pot of coffee. Here is my favorite way to cook oats. It feeds 3-4 people, depending how hungry you are.

Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal

2 cups water
1 cup Bob's Red Mill instant steel cut oats
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon turbinado or brown sugar
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
dash cinnamon
milk (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.

Stir in oats and salt. Turn temperature down to “low”. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add sugar, cranberries, walnuts, and cinnamon

Cook for 2 more minutes and serve.

I like to add a little milk when I serve it to thin the oatmeal a bit.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blizzards and Butterflies

Saturday morning. Those snowbanks are 4-5 feet high.
  
                   You may have heard we got a little snow here in the Northeast. Nemo radically changed my weekend plans. Instead of having the three final performances of my show, we were hunkered down praying the lights wouldn't go out Friday night. On Saturday, there was a lot of shoveling, a lot of reading, and a lot of eating. I have a confession to make. If you get to keep your heat and your electricity, a state of emergency is pretty fun. For my friends who lost both, it wasn't.
                   When we got the call Monday night, that school would be closed on Tuesday, I knew we had to get out of the house. The days together had gone pretty smoothly, but I knew we'd be getting on each other's nerves soon. Last winter I bought a family membership to the Boston Museum of Science. It has become one of our favorite places over the past year. For once, we were able to go when it wasn't a school vacation week. It seemed like we had the museum all to ourselves. And since we've been a couple of times over the past year, there was no feeling that we needed to rush to see everything. I let the boys lead the way and sat back and enjoyed their wonder.
                    There are several exhibits that cost a few extra dollars to see. I had never bothered with any of them before—you could easily spend an entire day and not see everything the museum has to offer. This time we ended our day with one of those extras—a trip into the butterfly garden. Outside, the snow was piled two feet deep. In the butterfly garden, it was the middle of summer. The tropical plants and riots of colorful butterflies were the highlights of our day. You aren't supposed to touch the butterflies. But apparently the butterflies don't read the signs.
                   We went back to work and school yesterday. Getting back into the swing of homework was daunting to my kids. Platitudes like, “Just think, you haven't had any homework for a week!” fell on deaf and grumpy ears. Hopefully, when they think back on the blizzard of 2013, they'll remember the four of us playing Star Wars Monopoly, cuddling up to watch “Castle in the Sky”, working as a team to shovel the driveway, and making dinner together. Maybe they'll remember designing a bobsled, or watching the solar system form in the planetarium show, or making friends with butterflies. I know I will. Thanks Nemo.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thrifty Tasty Tuesday: Blinner...


... or A Mom's Gotta Do, What a Mom's Gotta Do

         As you know, I've been trying my very best to get my family to eat healthier these days and share my inspiration with you. Well, sometimes inspiration and desperation go hand in hand. Last week I really felt like I was on top of things. I planned to make my favorite black bean soup for dinner on Tuesday. I soaked my beans the day before and had my onions and peppers chopped and ready to go before I went to bed. Tuesday morning, I tossed everything in the slow cooker, turned it to low, and went to work.
         I unlocked the door at the end of the day, expecting to smell gently simmering beans with a touch of chili powder. Instead, I was assaulted with the smell of raw garlic and onions. The Crock Pot wasn't plugged in. I thought about calling for takeout, but our budget only allows for that indulgence once or twice a week and I hate to cave on a Tuesday. I'd much rather wait until the end of the week to have someone else do the cooking. So I went to the pantry in search of something quick and easy. There was plenty of food in the house. But nothing that could be prepared with the time and energy that I had at the end of the day. So I turned to one of my kids' favorite meals: breakfast for dinner. I scrambled some eggs, thawed some frozen strawberries, and whipped together my favorite pancake recipes.
         There are loads of good pancake mixes on the market. But making them from scratch only takes a few minutes more and you'll end up with a more wholesome product—no trans fats, no preservatives, no bleached flour.

Vickie's Multigrain Pancakes

1 Cup Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 Cup Wholewheat flour
¼ Cup ground flaxseed
3 T. turbinado (raw) sugar
2 t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
½ t. baking soda
3 Cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 T. vegetable oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and oil.

Pour liquid ingredients into dry and stir lightly. A few lumps left behind will disappear in cooking. With pancakes (as with muffins and quickbreads) overmixing will make your pancakes tougher.

Let the batter rest while you heat your griddle*. Sprinkle a few drops of water across the surface of your griddle to test it. The water drops should “dance” when it's hot enough. Spray the pan with non-stick spray or brush with vegetable oil when the griddle is hot.

Pour slightly less than ¼ cup of batter for each pancake**. Leave space around each pancake so they can expand. Turn pancakes when the edges begin to look dry and bubbles appear on top—don't flip too soon! The second side will take less time to cook than the first.

Keep pancakes warm in a “low” oven while you continue to make pancakes and cover with a clean cloth napkin or dish towel to prevent drying.

Serve with your favorite pancake toppings.

This batter can also be used to make waffles.


*I highly recommend an electric griddle. I have a “fancy” one that folds in half so it doubles as a panini press. But inexpensive griddles are available for less than $25. They keep a consistent temperature and you can cook 6-8 pancakes at a time.

**An ice cream scoop works great for portioning pancake batter.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Scent of a Memory

 

                   Karen slid into the diner's red vinyl booth. The smells in the air caused a battle of memories in her mind. Her father used to bring her to show off his little princess to his cronies. She loved the spinning stools at the counter. Those happy memories faded when she started waiting tables here. When she was a little girl the diner meant time with daddy—the smell of apple pie and cocoa. As an adult it meant tiny burns on her fingers, sore feet, and the smell of bacon grease and stale cigarettes.
                   “This place hasn't changed a bit,” Danny said. “Mum brought me here for frappes to celebrate when I was a kid. It seemed, I don't know, grander then.”
                   “It did. It was a treat to come here with my Dad. When I started working here it became something else.”
                   “I had forgotten you worked here. I'm sorry. Maybe we should have gone somewhere else.”
                   “It's fine. Nothing else is open this time of night. Besides, it's nice to remember that it once was special.”
                   “You still manage to find the good in everything. Even when you were a kid, you always found something good about every situation.”
                   Karen brushed aside the compliment. What he saw as a strength she often wondered if it was herself being na├»ve.
                   “I remember you Danny you constantly fighting. It’s strange to see you on the path to Holy Orders.”
                   “What do you remember about my fights?'
                   The neighborhood had always thought of Danny as a troublemaker. But Karen could only remember the time he chased off the boys who were teasing her. She could picture his freckled face turning red and his root beer brown eyes looking angry and sorrowful.
                   “I'll never forget the day Billy Smith and his gang were teasing me. They said something about my dad. They said it was my fault...”     
“I was weeding my mother's garden when I overheard that. I always hated bullies,” Danny said. “I'm studying for the priesthood. I know now I'm not supposed to hate...”
                   “Thank you,” Karen said. “I didn't say it then. I was scared and confused. They never bothered me again after that.”
                   “I broke Billy's nose. I just meant to make him back off, but I snapped. My mother made me go to confession.”
                   “He's a cop now.”
                   “Billy? I know. I went to the police academy with him.”
                   “What? When did this happen?”
                   “I didn't stay for long. I went in thinking I could serve Justice. I thought I could make a career out of standing up for the little guy. But it was all the same guys I used to see pushing everyone else around when we were kids. Only now they'd be wearing badges.”
                   “So I got a job and worked my way through Boston College. I found another way to serve. What about you Karen? I never thought you'd still be here.”
                   Her face changed at that. A mask went over the face Danny remembered from childhood.
                   “I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong?”

                   She shook her head, “It's okay. I thought things would be different. I'm only twenty-two. Maybe things will be different someday. Or maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.”
                 



                    I’m linking up for the first time with Master Class over at Sinistrial Scribblings. Our prompt for this week was to end our story with the final line from Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes, “Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”  It’s also an answer to Write on Edge’s prompt this week which asked us to be inspired by the sense of smell as well as the word “elixir”.  If you’re new to Karen’s story, you can read more here.



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Trifecta Weekend Challenge: Rhoda

 
            I’m linking up with the Trifecta Weekend Challenge. This week’s Challenge is more of a reading assignment, than a writing assignment. Instead of writing 33 words, we are to post 33 favorite words from a work of literature. I chose a quote from one of the first “grown up” authors I read as a teenager, Ellen Gilchrist. Ms. Gilchrist has written a number of stories and novels about a fiery redheaded writer named Rhoda. This is something  Rhoda says about herself when she finds herself surprisingly proud that her grandson has driven off one of his mother’s suitors.

            I’m a Celt. I pile up stones and keep a loaded pistol in my underwear drawer. My ancestors painted themselves blue and impaled each other on oak staves. I can’t stand tyranny.

The rest of the quote is great. But sadly, I’m only allowed 33 words. If you want to read more, check out A Wedding in Jackson from Rhoda: A Life in Stories


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Karen: Silent Prayer

This story picks up where I left off here...

                   Karen slid into the cold oaken pew and gazed up at the jewel-like light streaming through her favorite stained glass window. The leftover smell of Sunday's incense brought her back to her childhood days of seeking refuge under the marble arches of St. Edward's. She had come one night as a child when her parents were fighting. It was raining and she found the door unlocked. She had come to Mass hundreds of time with her parents. But the church was different at night. The quiet was absolute and eery, yet comforting. It seemed more sacred without organ music and other people.  Karen found peace and space to have faith in this dimly lit sanctuary.
                  When Peggy died, Karen stopped going to Mass. That was something they did together. With her mother gone, Karen only prayed in solitude. She knelt and closed her eyes and couldn't think of what to pray for. For Henry? That he might leave his blushing bride for her. Surely that wasn't a very Christian thing to wish for. For her own pain? She admonished herself to stop the self-pity. For the wisdom to move on? That. That she decided was what she needed most on this night. She made the sign of the cross and walked up the aisle. She nodded absently to a young man who passed her.
                   “Karen?” he asked.
                   She turned and looked at the skinny red-haired man. He was familiar, but she didn't know why.
                   “Yes. My name is Karen. I'm so sorry, I just can't place you.”
                   “Oh, it's alright. It's been a long time. We grew up on the same street...”
                   “Danny? Danny O'Neill? Is that you?”
                   “Ah, you do remember!”
                   “It's good to see you Danny. Are you well?”
                   “I am. I'm happy to be back. I've been assigned to St. Edward's.”
                   She took in his somber clothes for a moment.
                   “You're a priest now?”
                   “Not yet. I'm a deacon. I'll take Holy Orders when I finish my studies.”
                   Karen smiled. Danny was an unlikely priest. He fought constantly with other children when they were younger. Maybe that would help him. This neighborhood had gotten a little rougher since then.
                   “How about you Karen? How's life treating you?”
                   She shrugged. Where to begin?
                   “Oh you know. Ups and downs like everyone else.”
                   “How's your mother?”
                   “She passed away last spring.”
                   “I'm sorry for your loss.”
                   “Thank you,” she said, grateful he hadn't added “She's with Jesus” or “It's all a part of God's plan.”
                   “Listen, I was just going to grab a cup of coffee at the diner. Will you join me? I'd love to catch up.”
                   “Is that allowed? I mean, now that you're...”
                   He laughed.
                   “It's just coffee with an old friend. You'll just have to fight the urge to seduce a man of the cloth.”
                   “Ah, there's the Danny I remember,” she grinned. “Why not? It's been a strange day. I'll end it on a date with a deacon.”

                    My latest Karen story is in response to a Write on Edge prompt that asked us to draw inspiration from the picture of the stained glass window you see above. You can read more about Karen here


Monday, February 4, 2013

To the Moon


      Good afternoon dear readers! I must apologize for my absence lately. If the last week of my life had been a novel, it would have been gripping. It had all the elements: drama, comedy, a touch of ill health, tension, romance, and even a smattering of violence. Since it was real life, however, it left me exhausted. It also left me feeling content and fulfilled. Last week was “production week”, the week that leads up to and includes opening weekend of a play.
      There were many late nights and many take out dinners. Thrifty Tasty Tuesday took a backseat to Chinese takeout. I took a picture for Wordless Wednesday, but was so off my game I barely cracked open my laptop all week. Fiction Friday? The only fiction I handled last week was Moon Over Buffalo, the comedy I directed.
      We opened Friday night to a small, but enthusiastic audience. Two months of creativity and hard work were ready to show the world. The cast and crew handled every detail with the utmost skill and grace. I felt like my kids scored a goal, got straight A's, and remembered to say “please” and “thank you” all on the same day. Two excellent performances down, three to go.
      Today I'm catching up with my blog, yoga, my laundry, my kids, and trying to get some healthier food on the table. If there's time, I may even catch an episode of Downton Abbey. Fiction Friday will return this week and Thrifty Tasty Tuesday will be back next week. See you then!