Thursday, January 6, 2022

What Are You Taking for Granted?

 

In our modern world, we take so many things for granted.  A couple of weeks ago, the pump on our well stopped working.  All of a sudden, there was no water when I turned on the faucet.

A call to the well-driller brought the suggestion to shut it all down for an hour and then try to restart it.  So we did.  It worked, but then the same thing happened the next day!  Another attempt was made to reboot it with the hour-long shut off.

It happened again on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  Someone is trying to get our attention.

I realize our house is past ten years old, and nowadays that means things are going to break down.  Some of our appliances have already had to be replaced.  Not complaining.  It’s just life.

But this whole experience has made me realize how many things we do take for granted.  Like the water coming on every time we turn the faucet handle.  Or the lights coming on whenever I hit the switch.  Even my phone and my computer making it so much easier to do research and to write.

Many of us are old enough to remember the days of typewriters and rotary-dial phones.  (My first two books were originally typed on a manual typewriter!)  But I fear our numbers are dwindling.  What kind of things will our children and grandchildren never experience?  Kind of like how we (and often our parents) never experienced travel in a horse-drawn covered wagon, homes without indoor plumbing or electricity, and travel from Kalispell to Eureka taking days rather than under two hours.

Right now our well is working again, after the second reboot.  But I don’t take that water in my sink or shower for granted anymore.  I realize it could disappear any day now.

I think the timing of this wake-up call event was good, with Thanksgiving just around the corner.  I have a lot more things to be thankful for than I realized, and I hope to stop taking them for granted.

Friday, December 31, 2021

A New Excerpt from My Next Novel - to start the New Year

 

   The Tables Turn - 2008

 

The day of Ginna’s seventeenth birthday, she and Danny were tossing a baseball back and forth in their backyard.  Lauren had wanted to throw a party for her, like last year’s, her Sweet Sixteen Birthday.  But Ginna said she didn’t want one.

          “Mom, it’s too much expense for you.” Where was this new thriftiness coming from?  “Besides, I don’t have any friends here that I want to invite.”

          Yes, last year’s party had been awkward, Lauren knew.  By this time, she was hoping Ginna and her brother would have begun to fit in with their peers at school. 

          Watching them play, she reflected on how Danny was doing.  He’d always been more of a loner than his sister, quiet like his Grandpa John.  In the deeper recesses of her mind she sometimes wondered if he was keeping the same kind of secrets his father had about his sexuality.  Almost every day, she prayed this wasn’t true. 

          Today was just another example of how her children took refuge in each other.  For a while after Ginna started high school, they’d started acting distant and argued a lot.  They must have patched things up through the next couple of years because now they were closer than ever. 

          So many things Lauren wished she could change, but all she could do was try her best.  That’s what being a single mom is, she told herself for the millionth time.

          Just as she turned away from the kitchen window to do some dishes, Danny threw the ball over Ginna’s head.  She scrambled back to retrieve it, and when she bent over to pick it up, her hand went to her back, rubbing it.  With a start, it came to Lauren that this gesture was all too familiar.  She’d done it often whenever she was pregnant.

          No, that can’t be.  She’d never get promiscuous on me.  In spite of herself, though, Lauren began noticing other clues over the next few weeks.

          At last she couldn’t stand it any longer.  One night after Danny had gone to bed, she took her daughter into the kitchen, where he’d be less likely to hear them.  Once they were seated in the straight-backed chairs at their small wooden table, Lauren stared at Ginna, searching for words.

          Trying to keep the anger out of her voice, she began, “Is there something you need to tell me?  I’m a mother, and I know what pregnancy looks and feels like.  There’s no denying that none of your jeans are fitting now.”

          “Hey, who are you to criticize me?” she retorted.  “You’ve been sleeping with your boss for months.” 

          That’s a low blow. “So this gives you permission to sleep around?”

          Lauren was surprised when Ginna shook her head. “I don’t know.”

          “What don’t you know?  Who’s the father of this baby?”  Her voice grew sharp, as unstoppable waves of anger and disappointment swept over her.  “How many men have you slept with?”

          Ginna stared at the tabletop, tears filling her eyes.  “Mom, in the sense you’re saying, I’ve never slept with anyone.”

          “What is that supposed to mean, young lady?”  Tears began pooling in Lauren’s eyes.  Ginna turned, looking out the yellow-curtained window above the kitchen sink.

          “So, are you telling me someone raped you?” Lauren whispered.

          Ginna turned back to face her and shrugged.  “Would it make you feel better if it was, Mom?” 

          This comment sent a jolt through Lauren’s gut.  Suddenly, she remembered how Ginna had tried to warn her against having an affair with Dave, with the text she’d received in the elevator.  A text she should have read, but shoved aside.  Guilt and regret bubbled up from deep inside.  The tables were turning now.

          “But who?  When?  Was it date rape?”

          “You have no reason to hassle me,” cried Ginna.  “You’re the one who’s been sleeping with a married man.”

          Again, her daughter’s words hit like a physical blow.  She knew she was reaping what she’d sowed.

          By this time Ginna had stalked into the living room and collapsed on the worn brown couch, burying her sobs in a yellow pillow.

          “Cry if it helps,” Lauren whispered, sitting beside her and smoothing her short, brown hair with her hand.  “We can sort this out.  I’m sorry I got angry.  This is just so unexpected.”

          Ginna nodded slightly under Lauren’s hand.  “That’s for sure.  I can’t explain it, Mom,” she murmured into the pillow.  “It’s complicated.”

          “What’s so complicated?  Either you practice safe sex or you don’t.”  

          “I never meant to lose my virginity.”

          “What?  You must have let yourself be drawn into a situation where it could happen.”

          “Not really, Mom.  Like I said, it’s really confusing.  You wouldn’t believe me if I told the truth, anyway.”

          “Try me.”

          “It’s like a bad dream.  Maybe I’ll wake up and it will all dissolve into nothing.”  She gulped a breath.  “Danny and I have met some time-travelers from another dimension.”

          “Wait, this sounds like a great fable.”  Lauren almost laughed.  “Can’t you come up with a better excuse?”

          “Mom, I’m not lying.  I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told the truth.”

          “Well, I have to admit it’s the most imaginative excuse I’ve ever heard.  Whose science fiction book did you get this from?”

          “Forget it then.”  Ginna pulled the pillow on top of her head, and sobbed into the couch.

          She kept her face toward the back of the couch and didn’t speak for another moment or two.  When she began, she didn’t raise her head, but kept it against the cushion.  Her words were muffled, so Lauren could barely hear them.

          “These time-travelers—"

          “Wait, you’re saying some time-traveler raped you?”  Is this just an elaborate scheme to make me feel guilty, after all?

          “Mom, I’m so confused.  I didn’t even understand what was happening to me at first.  I was afraid I was gaining too much weight.  I know I’m just a huge disappointment to you now.”

          At this, Ginna sat up and pulled her into a desperate hug.

          “Except that I’m the one who failed, not you,” Lauren murmured.  “How could you have a good example, when I—"

          “Don’t say any more, Mom.  I can tell you still don’t believe me.”

          Lauren couldn’t deny this.  For whatever reason, Ginna wasn’t able to face the truth. 

Through the rest of the pregnancy, all Lauren could do was mull these thoughts over.  This tale of Ginna’s was unbelievable, but she never tried to give any other explanation.  Lauren decided it must have been date rape, and Ginna couldn’t handle it.  Perhaps someone at school, because as the pregnancy began to show more, Lauren had to force her to keep up her senior year of high school.  She came home in tears almost every day.  Her emotions were on edge because of the pregnancy hormones, but Lauren wondered if there was more to it.  They both were thankful when the high school teachers finally agreed to continue her studies at home during September and October, as her pregnancy entered its last months.

 

***

           

          Oddly enough, Lauren and her daughter did draw closer.  She supported Ginna in her decision to keep the baby, even though it meant taking on the responsibility of child-rearing all over again.

          Still, there were days when she was in a waking-nightmare.  Her first impulse was to seek comfort with Dave.  Even if nagging guilt began growing, her sheer need for him kept overwhelming her doubts.

          Of course, he could sense something was off and asked one night when they’d slipped off to their favorite motel in Fort Collins, “What’s bothering you?  Have I done something wrong?”  They were already lying in the tangled bedsheets.

          “Not you, just me.”  She tried not to echo the testiness in his voice.

          His dreamy eyes stared into hers, full of puzzlement.  “What’s that supposed to mean?  Sounds like an excuse I’ve heard before.”

          This wasn’t what she needed to hear.  “So you’ve had other affairs.”

          “Hey, they were just fun and games, Lauren.”

          “I’m not a fun and games person,” she snapped.

           He took both her hands in his.  “You’re a deep person,” he whispered into her ear.  “I’ve never known anyone like you.”

         

          “You probably say that to all your lovers.”  Though she was trying desperately to brace herself against his charms, she wasn’t succeeding.  “Your hands are so warm,” she sighed.  “I sure could use you in my drafty old house.”

          “Is that the problem?  You want more of me?”

          “Yeah, that’s part of it.  I don’t feel right being just your mistress.”

          He blinked but didn’t give a quick reply, so she went on, “The bigger problem is my daughter has gotten herself pregnant.”

          “What’s that got to do with us?”  

          She cringed.  His response was too quick and sharp.  Again, she needed to take some deep breaths before she spoke.  “I tried to raise her with morals, Dave.  Now that she sees what I’m doing with you, well—I’ve totally blown my credibility.”

          “Credibility?  Hey, this isn’t the Nineteenth Century, you know.  Values have changed.”

          “I know, but she’s my only daughter.”

          “Take it easy,” he murmured, pulling her closer.  “I know you love me, and you know I love you.  That’s enough for us.  Just put it aside and enjoy what we have.  Your daughter’s problems are her own.  You’re not responsible for every decision she makes.”

          Despite herself, she leaned into his embrace and nodded against his chest.  “I want to believe that.  Still, there’s something inside me like a judge saying ‘Guilty!’”

          He made no reply, but turned her face up toward his and kissed her lips, then nuzzled just below her jaw line.  He already knew this was one of her erotic zones.  There was no way to resist him.  Her body was responding in spite of her doubts. 

          Later, as they both lay on the hotel’s bed, she could hear his deep, even breathing in sleep.  All she could do was stare at the ceiling and blink back tears.  Why was she so weak?


 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Winter Solstice Greetings from Saturn?

 

Yet another new year will soon arrive!  I’m sure almost everyone is glad to see 2021 go away. Old Father Time, known as Chronos (the source of words like chronology and chronometer) to the Greeks, and Saturn to the Romans, is still a feature of our new year celebrations.  You know, the old bearded man with the scythe, who hobbles away as the old year passes.

 

When I took high school Latin, we were told “Io Saturnalia” meant Merry Christmas, sort of.  Most of Roman history was pre-Christianity, so Saturnalia was actually a pagan holiday celebrating the arrival of the New Year, as well as the Winter Solstice, when the days gradually become longer (in the Northern Hemisphere).

 

Saturn was the "grandfather" of the Gods, the father of Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) who was, in turn, father of most of the rest of the gods in Greek mythology. I find it interesting that old Saturn still shows up this time of year as Father Time, the thing we cannot control, because it just marches on. 

 

The planet Saturn was in the news in 2020, because Saturn and Jupiter were closer together in our viewpoint here on earth than they’ve been for over 600 years.  Some hoped this was a good omen for the year 2021.  Now that 2022 is on the horizon



, we need all the hope we can get!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Chapter 1 - The Lie

 I'm going to start posting chapters from a book I started years ago and set aside.  Hope some of you find it interesting.

Lauren Parker had been lying to her daughter.  She sat behind her desk at work, staring at the phone, knowing she needed to call and tell her she’d be late again.  Dread held her back.

Ginna was sixteen years old.  Was she old enough to understand?  Before she could change her mind, Lauren grabbed her cell phone and punched the speed-dial for home.

          “Hello, Mom?”

          Lauren breathed a slight sigh of relief when Ginna answered, instead of her thirteen-year-old son.  This would make it easier.

          “Hi, honey.  I’m going to be late again tonight.  Don’t wait supper on me.”

          “I know, just fix something for the two of us.  Oh, yeah.  It’s just me.  Danny isn’t even here.   He’s sleeping over at a friend’s.  How come I’m always the one left home alone?”

          Lauren tried to overlook the ache Ginna’s sarcasm caused.

          “So you’re working late on that public relations project?”

          “Partly that.  Dave has asked me to join him for dinner, too.”

          “You mean Mr. Cameron, your boss?  I thought his name was John.”

          “Yes, he’s John David Cameron, but he goes by his middle name.”

          “Isn’t he nearly ten years older than you, Mom—and married?”

          Here goes.  “Yes, he is.  But you don’t realize that ten years isn’t as big a deal when you’re thirty-five.  It’s not as much of my lifetime as for you at sixteen.”

          “Yeah, Mom, I can do the math.”

          “Please.  I need to see where this will go.  You have no idea what I went through when your father left.”

          “Danny and I went through a lot, too.”

          “I know you’d like to go back to the home we had before.  You’ve told me that often enough, but it’s all gone.  Your father took it from us when he walked out five years ago.”

          She had to stop, her throat closing up in a choke.  These were feelings she never wanted to dredge up—the deep, sharp pain of rejection, the feeling that she was worthless, and didn’t deserve to be loved, ever again.  How could he choose to love a man instead of me?  This was the part she couldn’t bear to tell Ginna.

          “Mom, are you all right?” 

          So she could hear the pain.  Her daughter had always been perceptive.

          “I’m fine, Honey.  Don’t wait up for me, okay?”

          “Okay.”

          Well, that could have been worse.

          Just then, Dave tapped on her half-open office door.  Hastily, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled up at him.

          “Ready?”  His voice had a rich, deep tone that always warmed her deep inside.

          “Sure am.”  She grabbed her purse and walked out the door with him into the nearly empty hallways of the High Plains Nuclear Plant in eastern Colorado.  This was the job that had opened almost miraculously after the divorce.  Her bachelor’s degree was in public information, and once he left--I refuse to even think his name—it was all she could turn to. 

When this job showed up on an Internet query, it was too good to pass up, even though it meant leaving Texas, where all her family was.  The move had been harder on her children than she’d expected.  They had ended up in a small rental house at the edge of tiny Deer Path, Colorado.

          At times, she felt guilty that the lives of her children weren’t enough to keep her happy and occupied.  But she needed this job as a way to feel valuable, contributing something to the world.  Besides, Tim--ugh! I thought of his name-- was very lax in paying child support, so they needed her paychecks to get by. 

          By now, she and Dave were standing in front of the elevator that would descend from their third-floor offices to the ground level.  While they were waiting there, her phone buzzed. 

          “You have a call?” he asked.

          Glancing  quickly at the phone’s screen, she shrugged.  “Just a text, probably from my daughter.  I’ll read it later.”  She should read it now, but her heart was pounding, with him standing so close.  She didn’t want to mess up this moment.

          With a chime, the elevator arrived and the door slid open.   It was empty, and her heart began to race as they stepped inside.  As soon as the door shut, he took her hand and drew her close.  When the light for the second floor came on and back off, he tilted her face up, his fingers weaving into her blonde hair, kissing deeply.

          “Oh, Lauren, I know you’re probably hungry, but I just want to be alone with you.  That’s what I’m hungry for.”

          She looked up into his shining gray eyes.  He wasn’t a truly handsome man, but he had a magnetism which set her head spinning.  It was so good to have value to someone again, especially to someone important in the company, like Dave.

 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

How Did a Turnip and a Beanstalk Lead to Jack-o-lanterns?

 


One Celtic tradition that crossed the Atlantic with many Irish and Scottish immigrants was the “Jack Tales.”  The one familiar to most of us is the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  Recently, I’ve learned that there are many more of these tales of a sharp-witted trickster named Jack.  Here’s one for Halloween:

The Celts have long observed Samhain (pronounced sah-wheen) on October 31, marking the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  As the northern nights grew longer, the Celts believed Samhain was the night when the world of the dead and the spirits was closest to the world of the living.

From this has grown our tradition of ghosts and goblins abroad in the night.  In ancient times, people dressed in costumes to scare the real ghouls away.  Offerings of special foods were set out to appease the ghosts so they would leave without committing mischief.  Hence our tradition of “Trick or Treat.”

The popular Jack-o-Lantern was also part of this tradition.  The tale goes that Jack’s spirit roamed the earth on Samhain, but decided he needed a light to better find his way.  In a farmer’s field he found a very large turnip, hollowed it out, cut eye-holes, and put a candle inside.  Thus was born the JACK-o-Lantern.

Perhaps others in the world of the living took Jack’s idea and turned it into a light to keep the ghosts and ghouls away, placing the lights on their porches or in a window.  In America, pumpkins were more common than turnips and easier to carve.  And so our tradition was born.

Wishing all of you a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Morning After

 Just a teaser: excerpt from a new book I'm working on.  (MFE)

Lauren woke with a start, wondering where she was.  Then she heard the deep breathing beside her and glanced over at the lanky form sleeping there.  His arm was lying underneath her.  White sheets were wadded all around them, and she suddenly saw she was naked.

          Then a rippling shock flowed through her,  What have I done?  Now there’s no turning back.

          Here she was in the silence of a hotel room, feeling a parade of emotions.  First there was fear and regret.  Have I compromised all I thought I believed?  But Dave seems to really care for me--I hope. 

          As she rolled and turned her face toward his, a slight smile played at the corners of his mouth, sending a throbbing thrill through her, echoing the[Ma1] warmth and pleasure of his intimate embrace.  For the first time in a long time she felt loved and safe.

          Now his eyelids fluttered open, and his smile grew larger and warmer.  “Awake now?” he murmured.  “Are you alright?”

          She nodded and drew closer to him.  “I’m fine, for the first time in years.”

          “I’m glad,” he smiled, and then kissed her lips gently.

          She flowed into him, their bodies no longer two separate entities.  There was nothing left to do but let the heat burn on between them.

 

***

 

          They couldn’t be together every night, even though she ached for it.  He needed to find ways to keep his wife from getting suspicious, so she had to be ready to change plans at a moment’s notice.  At first, this didn’t bother her.  After all, it wasn’t as though she had much of a social life.  Just transporting her kids to and from their activities.  Ginna had her driver’s license now, but they couldn’t afford a second car.  This wasn’t a huge problem, since Lauren had few other obligations outside of her job.         

          Soon, she was willing to drop anything to be with Dave, at whatever secret rendezvous he found.  Her needs began to outweigh her thoughts of her children, dear as they were to her.  Hunger for Dave kept growing within her.  Sometimes it caught her in an unexpected rush. Her lower abdomen would get an urgent contraction, then warmth, followed by quickened breathing, and often tears in her eyes.  She’d never realized hormones could do such powerful things to her body.

          Some days she’d get angry for reacting this way, telling herself she shouldn’t feel this intense attraction to someone else’s husband.  But her body was unable to listen.

          As the weeks went by, she stopped counting their encounters.  Whether this grew out of guilty feelings or not, she told herself not to care.  Things began to blur.  All she could focus on was when they could be together again.

          One Friday after work, he drove much farther than usual, west toward Denver.

          “Where are we going?”

          “Someplace special,” he grinned.

          It was late fall and the days were growing shorter, so everything was dark, and stars were appearing by the time he pulled into a lane with a sign reading Palisade Estates.  The road was unpaved and rough, so he took it slowly.  Evergreen trees loomed high overhead, blocking the stars.  Then just as he rounded a corner, a mountain vista opened with a small log cabin in the foreground.

          “Well, what do you think?”

          “Oh, Dave, it’s really romantic out here in the wilderness with only the stars to see[Ma2]  by.”

          “I’m glad you like it,” he smiled.  “It’s been one of my favorite places for a long time.”  He gathered her into his long arms.

          For an instant, she wondered if he and his wife had come here often but dared[Ma3]  not ask.  Instead, she took a deep breath to clear her mind as they got out of his car.

          “Why didn’t you tell me we were coming so far?”  she asked, an edge in her voice.

          “I’m sorry.  Is there a problem?”

          “Well--I guess not.  My kids are both sleeping over at friends’ places since it’s Friday.  But I need to know if I’m going to be gone more than one night.”

          He covered her hand with his large warm one.  “Your hands are cold,” he whispered.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t forewarn you.  I guess I’m only thinking of my needs.”

          My kids are old enough to manage.  She wanted to believe this—to stop the feeling of guilt growing in her chest.  Then her physical need for him began to override these thoughts.

          By this time, he’d pulled her closer and was gently moving his thumb across her cheek.  “You are so wonderful for me,” he murmured.

          Even though she wanted to reply, her voice caught somewhere in her throat.  Gazing over his shoulder, she could see the full moon rising behind him.  Soon his hair was outlined in a halo of moonlight.

          As they stood on the small cabin’s porch, his hands moved to her shoulders before she realized he’d even lifted them.  In the next instant, her sweater was being pulled over her head and his hands were working their way into her blouse.   One of his arms was behind her shoulders, pulling her toward him in a fierce embrace.  She’d never felt such urgency and power in him.  His lips pressed hard and hot against hers.  Gradually he moved his lips down her neck, and she moaned in pleasure. 

          Then he carried her in his arms through the cabin’s door, both of them pulling off clothing and tossing it aside as they made their way to the tiny room’s bed.


 


 [Ma1]comma

 [Ma2]maybe wilderness instead of wilds

 

 [Ma3]no comma after often

 

Monday, September 27, 2021

TURN, TURN, TURN

 As the seasons change, I have begun to analyze the thoughts of change flowing through my mind.


Many people in my generation probably have heard the songs of the “Folk Revival” of the 1960’s.  Things like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer”, “We Shall Overcome” and “Blowing in the Wind”.  There were others that were composed as songs protesting the Vietnam War and pleading for peace.

One of my favorites was “Turn, Turn, Turn” recorded by the Byrds.  It was an adaptation of verses found in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes (chapter 3).  The words are almost identical:

“To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  It goes on to list many cycles of life:  “A time to be born, a time to die, a time to kill, a time to heal,  a time for war, a time for peace…” etc.

With the way our world is going these days, these words mean even more now that they did in the 1960s.  To me it seems like history is repeating itself—the mistakes and problems, not the good things.

This idea of the unending cycles of life is highlighted in the old folk song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” as well.  I believe this is an adaptation of an old Russian song, though I’m not sure.  It begins with the title question, and answers that young girls have picked all the flowers.  Then it goes on the say that all the girls have gone to young men, the young men to soldiers, the soldiers to war, then to graveyards—every one. 

The final verse asks, “Where have all the graveyards gone?” and answers “Gone to flowers everyone.”  The cycle resumes.

The most poignant part of the song is the phrase that ends each verse, “When will they ever learn?"  When will we ever learn?