Monday, January 28, 2013

Fortuitous Forty

Tapping the Stephanie Plum novel against my bare thigh, I paced around the library parking lot, my eyes intently scanning the blacktop. The plastic book cover occasionally held fast to my damp skin and crinkled upon release. I was sweating, both from the heat and because of what I had lost.

Was this ridiculous, yet hilarious, "beach read" worth my morning's wages?  Hardly, but it was beginning to look like I would be spending $40 in cash to borrow a library book.  For some equally ridiculous, yet not hilarious reason, I had chosen to slip the twice folded 20's under the rolled down waistband of my athletic shorts.  Apparently, I then leaped around the library property with such enthusiasm for reading that they had become dislodged somewhere.

Smelling like french fries and sticky with snow cone flavoring that, no doubt, speckled my t-shirt, I combed the library next.  After retracing my steps, I approached the help desk a bit wound up.  Forty dollars was a small fortune to me and I had essentially allowed it to fly away after all morning at the swim club.  I am certain many midday library eyes were on me, my voice wavering with emotion as I presented my plight.

Two library patrons, perhaps a middle aged daughter and her mother, sweetly and positively suggested I try the parking lot again.  Afterall, it was a breezy summer day, a rarity with the humidity we often have.  Perhaps the bills had blown into the bushes that ran along the road.  Weaving through a small group of children, I hustled back outside.

Just as I had given up, resigning myself to the fact that my foolishness would not pay off, I looked up to hear one of the ladies from the information desk call to me, "Sweetheart!  Over here!  We found your money next to our car.  It must have blown this way." 

I quickly jogged over sputtering something similar to, "What?  You did?!?  Oh my goodness, I can't believe it."

The younger woman handed me two twenty dollar bills neatly folded twice together just as I had described them and arranged them earlier myself.  I took the tiny treasure with both hands, my book and keys now under my arm. 

"Thank you SO much.  What a relief!  I just can't believe it.  This is so great.  Thanks again!  Take care!" 

Racing back to my car without waiting for their response, I placed the money in the cup holder and headed home.  Once there, I removed my wallet from the glove compartment and unfolded the precious 20's to finally set them secure.

I froze.  These were freshly minted bills, printed with the new design.  Jackson's now-extra-large chiseled face glared at me.

I knew my boss had handed me "old" 20's from the register; 20's that were well worn, and featured the president's bust like a cameo, small and neat within the oval.  Instantly humbled, I began to process that the cash had come from their own pockets.  They had played it off as a serendipitous discovery to save my pride.

I have told everyone I can about the kindness of these women. Nearly 15 years later I still feel overwhelmed.  Perhaps, to them, the money was just a drop in the bucket; a simple gesture to relieve the malaise of my immature missteps.  But to me it was much more.  It was a life lesson in love.  They taught me that just a bit of in-the-moment, conscious care can fill someone right up.

remember these?  I certainly did that day.  I lost two of 'em.

my fortuitous forty was in two of these babies.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Inseparable socks wrestling,
raising fine dancing hair
An embrace that stings erratic
Conflicted, clinging underwear

Quick, cutting snaps are nestling,
betraying deep under cover
Welcome back, dear surly static,
winter's lonely, elusive lover


Today I am linking up with the weekend Trifecta writing challenge, Trifextra:

This weekend, we're sending you back to English 101 to revisit the concept of literary devices.
We want you to give us a 33-word example of personification

To read the other entries, click on the button below.  I highly recommend it.  Plus, each one is only 33 words...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Her Idea Book

"The magic was all in the finishing touches."

I barely acknowledged her breathy proclamation before she was off and running yet again.

"Like, for instance, they didn't just use generic tea lights, but pale pink ones to coordinate with the rest of the table's palate.  I never would have thought shades of gray and pink would hold up, but it was really sweet.  Even the chargers, which looked just like marble, had these subtle pink veins running through them."

Clearly, my sister had enjoyed herself last night, but I couldn't care less about the highlights she shared.  She didn't even come close to answering the questions I would have offered: Did they write their own vows?  Which readings did they choose?  Were there toasts?  Were there tears?  I returned to my book as Annabelle's swift back and forth around the bed shadowed my periphery.

"Oh, and the linens, the linens were gorgeous.  They must have had thin iridescent thread incorporated into them, or something.  They shimmered in the candlelight."

She paused, either to place her personals with more precision or to assess her appearance in the large mirror that rested on the floor.  The soft slam of the dresser drawer confirmed the former.  I kept my eyes on the words in my lap and merely flexed my toes to crack them. 

"And, get this, the soaps in the bathroom looked like marble, too.  Of course, those were more for decoration.  There were still automatic dispensers, but they made up these cute little baskets with the soaps and pink and gray towels and such.  They were kind of like centerpieces for the sink counters, you know?  Look, I took a picture of one with my phone for my idea book."

At this I looked up, sat up and opened my mouth to speak.  Annabelle beat me to it. 

"I can't believe I forgot to tell you!  I started an idea book, you know, for when I start to plan my wedding, our wedding, mine and Todd's.  I know he probably won't propose until next summer or maybe Christmas, but I get ideas all of the time and I want to make sure I don't forget."

I stared at my sister.  Her hair was back in a tight, neat ponytail that barely grazed the bright, white collar of her shirt, its crisp sleeves folded up and over her black, cable knit sweater with a perfect crease.  She was so organized, so together and so hopelessly clueless I couldn't help but continue to stare.

"What?  What is it?  Do you want to see the book?  I have it right here."

Annabelle turned to retrieve the book from its shelf.  "I have it all divided up into sections, see?  I even have one called 'Finishing Touches'."

I am not exactly sure what broke me, but I shattered like glass.  "Anna!  For Christ's sake, what is wrong with you?  You are so over the top, so freaking over the top it makes me sick.  Everyday you yammer on and on about all this superficial, sappy shit to hide the fact that you have no substance.  Stop wasting your life.  Todd doesn't love you and he never, not in a million years, will ever marry you!  God!"   

I fumbled with my own book to find the page I had lost.  As I brushed the hair out of my eyes to resume reading, I saw my sister wrinkle her face to wrangle her words of retort.  I decided this would finish her, "Everyone knows he's only with you because you're a slut."

And it did.  But the result, well, the result was far from magical.


This piece is a work of fiction and was inspired by this week's the speakeasy writing prompt.  Click on the button below to read the prompt and the other beautiful writers who hang out there.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Groovy Grace

I stood staring out the small powder room window at our backyard, where I first met her.  The door was open and my back was to the rest of the house and, more importantly, my two little girls from whom I was attempting to hide.  Why I continue to think I will successfully evade my children in the bathroom is beyond me.  In less than a minute, my three year old was at my side.  I looked down at her, ashamed she would see my tears; that I was crying over this.

"Mommy, why are you sad?"

"Well, honey, I am sad that we have to give Kitty away; that we can't keep her."

"Mommy, it's OK, " she assured me calmly, stroking my arm.  "We already have a pet.  We have Ben."

Ben, our 80-pound, adopted, Akita mix is literally the perfect family dog.  He only barks at new faces on the porch, lets the girls climb on him, prefers to relax over run, and never eats anything he is not supposed to.  His one fault is that he sheds approximately half of his body weight in fur each year, give or take.  We forgive him this, though I am not sure all of our guests do.   

But Kitty, the 2-pound, seven week old, gray kitten I found in our backyard two weeks before this was my dream pet come true.  Ever since I was a little girl I wanted a tiny, gray kitten of my very own.  While I deeply loved and cared for the hamsters and gerbils I had growing up, they clearly did not come close to Kitty.  My father is allergic to cats and, as luck would have it, my husband is as well.  And, yes, okay, fine, I admit it, I break out in hives when I hold a cat and am part of the reason she had to go, too.

The afternoon I found Kitty, I simply placed her in Ben's old crate on the back deck assuming I would drive her to a nearby shelter after my husband got home.  Silly Kristin.  After calling more than 12 rescues, shelters and volunteer groups I learned that no one in my area had room for any more cats.  The Feline Rescue Association told me, "You are this kitten's best bet."

Well, that was it.  My random afternoon meeting turned into a four-week, three-vet trip adventure, of which I enthusiastically enjoyed every minute.  I quickly became convinced that no one could care for her like I could.  I rescued her!  I saved her life!  So, I nursed her (with her worms, and her parasite, and her feline chewing louse, and her infected eye) back to health!  Kitty became my project.  She was mine.

And then she wasn't.  I am grateful that we found a home for her.  I am grateful it was with a family that we knew through friends.  I am grateful that they still send me pictures and that she is growing and thriving.  They named her Grace and I am grateful she graced me with her presence.  Thank you, God.  You work in such groovy ways. 

His Entire Life

Blowing bubbles in milk always feels good. Gabriel blows bubbles in his milk after every swim meet. At the diner, his mom orders coffee, his dad orders tea, his sister orders a Coke and he asks the waitress for chocolate milk. Gabriel loves chocolate milk almost as much as he loves swim meets. Swimming always feels best.

As he waits for his family to choose, Gabriel decides that he has been swimming forever. His mom says he and Leah both learned together 8 years ago in Florida when he was 12 and she was 6, but he is certain he has always known how. He can't remember a time when he didn't. 

In the summers, Gabriel loves prancing around on the warm concrete making wet prints with his toes. He wishes they could go to the swim club every day. It is his favorite place to swim. The water is so blue and so cold. He likes blowing bubbles in the water, too.  After lunch, Gabriel heads to the snack bar for "one cherry snow cone, please." He likes the workers there. They never need him to repeat his words like the diner workers do, and always compliment him on his bright pink swim shirt.

During school, Gabriel's mom takes him to the Y for open swim on Saturdays. He doesn't like this as much because Leah won't come with them and there are no snack bar workers to watch. The water still makes him feel free and powerful, but it is warm. He likes the cold water best.  After swimming, Gabriel heads to the locker room to get changed. He loves pretending the rough carpet is the outdoor pool deck. Walking on tip toes, he leaves patterns of dark gray spots on the light gray floor.

Gabriel is a real, grown up swimmer. He has been practicing hard his entire life. He isn't as fast as Leah, yet, but he made the high school swim team with her this year. Coach Pearson always tells Gabriel he is getting better at staying in his lane and that he is the best at smiling.

Gabriel drinks his chocolate milk and stares at his family staring at their menus.  Gabriel realizes that, more than swimming or chocolate milk or anything, he likes knowing. He likes knowing that when the waitress comes back he will ask her for pancakes with cherry topping and whipped cream.  Knowing feels the very best.


This piece is a work of fiction and was inspired by this week's The Speakeasy writing prompt.  Click on the button below to read the prompt and the other beautiful writers who hang out there.  Thanks!

Friday, January 11, 2013


He sucked in shallow, stale air and lifted the thick, plastic sheet.  There she lay looking far from familiar.  His composure collapsed.  When it was regained, he breathed in deeply and slowly exhaled.       


Today I am linking up with the weekend Trifecta writing challenge, Trifextra:

This weekend we're asking for 33 words about a new beginning.

To read the other entries, click on the button below.  I highly recommend it.  Plus, each one is only 33 words...


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Death Brought New Meaning to Life

I couldn't decide if I should tell him even though it was possible this might be my last chance.  I remained silent for the moment, methodically chewing each fruit snack I chose from the small pouch I shared with my sister.  Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I was having the weirdest cravings.  This one, no doubt, was inspired by my 18-month old's snack shelf.

If this were his first great-grandchild I would definitely tell him.  I would want him to know that his legacy would live on beyond the three women currently in his hospital room.  My sister and I watched our mother fumble to find an outlet in which to plug her father's electric razor.   

I watched my grandfather slowly run it over his face.  I didn't want to upset him by telling him.  Of course, the pregnancy was happy news, but I was worried it would only make him sad.  He would have to know he would never meet the baby growing inside of me.

He soon grew tired of holding up his arm to shave.  As my mom took over my cell phone rang.  More worried about breaking hospital policy than receiving the call, I dove into my bag for the device.  As I silenced it, I noticed it was my mother-in-law's number.  These days we talk regularly on the phone, but that day I knew it was important that I answer.

"Hello?" I whispered as I headed for the hallway.

"Kristin, it's Bette Rae.  I can't get a hold of Zach so I called you."

"Yeah, he left his phone charger in..."

"Kristin.  Liz died this morning in a car accident.  Bill and I are on our way to Kentucky right now."

I literally slid my back against the wall and sat down hard on the linoleum.  After a brief back and forth with Bette Rae, the tears came quickly.  I clutched the cell in my right hand and my bag against my chest with my left right there on the hospital floor.  I glanced down to the nurses station fully aware that my silent sobs would draw attention if someone saw.  No one was there.

I twisted my posture to peer back into Papa's room.  I wouldn't tell him about this either.  I made eye contact with my sister and she was quickly by my side. 

Two days later, Zach flew alone to Kentucky to sit with family and say goodbye to our 19 year-old niece.  He said he felt a peace.

Two days after that, I drove alone to the hospice to sit with family and watch for death to call our 83 year-old grandfather.   He was finally at peace.   

We did not name our new daughter after either Papa or Liz.  That is a burden too great for a baby.  She is a blessing just as she is.  Though neither Papa nor Liz knew she was to come those who mourned them did.  Of course, she is not a remedy or a replacement, but I have to think sharing the news of her brought some peace.            

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Beer (Bread) Season

I have no interest in hunting and live near a big city so I have no clue when deer season starts.  However, now that the holidays are over and winter is in full swing it is definitely beer (bread) season.  Nothing adds depth and texture to your favorite soups, stews and chilis like a homemade loaf of beer bread.   Plus, it tastes awesome, is great toasted the next morning for breakfast and is super easy to prepare.  Everyone will be overly impressed with your efforts and you can be all, "oh yes, I slaved away all afternoon baking, but nothing is too much for close friends, yadda, yadda" when in actuality you threw three ingredients into a loaf pan.  No kidding, this is the best 3, 2, 1, recipe out there.  Commence amazement and note taking:

Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 beer

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Open a beer to drink while harnessing your internal domestic god or goddess.  Grab a decent sized bowl (or if you are seriously lazy you probably could mix this up directly in the loaf pan.)  Add the 3 cups of self-rising flour.  Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Open a second beer and pour it right in.  Stir.  Add the batter to a loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour.  Boom!  Say good bye to those Tastefully Simple or some such other rip off mixes.  This beer bread is the real steal. 
Add flour and sugar
Add your favorite brew
Stir until well mixed


Ready for its closeup and your belly!
I like using Yuengling or Natty Boh for our beer bread because it is fairly cheap and we usually have some in the fridge.  But, I highly recommend experimenting with your favorite and see how the taste and color of the bread changes with the beer.  Even if you are not a beer drinker I am confident you will love this recipe.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Am A Coffee Vixen, Hear Me Whimper

One of my favorite things about staying at my mother-in-laws house is her magic coffee pot.  Every morning, without fail, it brews a full pot of fresh, soul-calming coffee for me and my husband to enjoy.  I merely have to shuffle across the cold kitchen floor in my warm wool socks and pour.  The biggest decision I must make: which Fiestaware mug color matches my mood best (she owns them all).  My hair may be askew, the girls may be running wild, but I will have had my coffee before 8am.  I don't even have to rinse out the machine.

I come from a tea drinking family.  My dad drank coffee at work, but it was never around at home.  I first acquired a taste for it myself on a missions trip to Jamaica in high school.  After a week working with kids on dusty streets and under corrugated tin roofs, the inside of my suitcase landed at home reeking of ganja (because that is was rural Jamaica smells like), but my addiction was for Blue Mountain coffee.   It was then, at 16, that I began a relationship with caffeine. 

Through college and our first years of marriage, I could easily get through a work day on tea, coffee or Coke just the same.  Now, two kids and four years deep in staying home, I require coffee to keep digging.  It is a minor vice I am prepared to live with for the rest of my life.  In fact, it is a vice I am resolved to perfect over this new year.  With the exception of those precious few magic coffee pot mornings, I rarely drink a full cup of coffee. 

6:30 a.m. - Open eyes half way, picture a steaming cup of coffee with milk, roll over in bed.  Sweet.
6:45 a.m. - Interact with my eldest daughter in a morning stupor, head downstairs to make coffee.
7:00 a.m. - In small act of attempted healthfulness, decide to drink a glass of water first.
7:03 a.m. - Pour daughter a cup of orange juice.  Drink a glass of that first, instead.  Sugar.
7:30 a.m. - Make coffee while daughters are strapped into booster seats eating breakfast.
7:57 a.m. - Remember to actually push "ON" button to brew the coffee when cleaning up breakfast.
8:05 a.m. - Pour first cup of coffee.
8:14 a.m. - Return to unsipped coffee on counter, lift to lips, put down to referee the children.  Sigh.
8:38 a.m. - Take one long satisfying sip from coffee mug while walking into living room to play puzzles.  Place mug on mantel to avoid spillage.
9:15 a.m. - Return downstairs after dressing girls.  Reheat coffee in microwave.  Sin.
9:30 a.m. - Leave the house, sans caffeine, to enjoy some such play date.  Pray my girlfriend will brew a fresh pot so we can forget to drink it together.
1:00 p.m. - Remove cold coffee from microwave to make Ramen noodles for lunch.  Open a Coke.  Settle.

It should not be this hard.  I need to change.  I think this year I am committed.  I did get this mug for Christmas after all: