Stories, finally

Enough of the personal insights. Back to why I started this blog in the first place. Stories!

My creative writing class has opened more doors (hence the personal stuff, which I’d never have dreamed of writing in the past) and excited my “writing gene”. Our last challenge –well, actually the last two, given together — was for our class to write a personal essay AND at least one 101 word story. We could write up to three of the stories, but I opted for only two. We were to submit at least one of the stories to the local weekly paper — and, no…I haven’t heard anything back yet on them. The personal essays were to be read in class. Both were more fun than I expected — I dreaded each up until pen went to paper. Then the words poured out–to my relief and excitement!

Each of the stories had a few requirements:  obviously no more than 101 words (less was okay) & must include key words or phrases the newspaper provided. Daunting, I thought.

The personal essay could be on anything. I thought I knew exactly what to write about but when I read it in class, the instructor told me it was not a personal essay but more of a memoir.  Drats.  So I appropriately tweaked it, turned it in again with happier results & here are all three writings–sorry…will be a long post):

(For the 101 word stories, the title is the word/phrase that was required to be injected into the story and each story ended up being 100 words–only one word short of the maximum requirement!)

Truth

Long strides crunch in the morning snow, meandering.  Searching.  Chopping wood in the stillness of the morning; chips fly in all directions.

Deep footsteps trudge with its prize as the tree gently sweeps the steps, heading homeward.

The fire snaps and pops quietly, enveloping the room in warmth. The piney scent of the freshly cut tree seeps into every corner as it is jostled into place.

Ornaments, lights give the room a warm and festive look.  Triumph. And now, ready for another Christmas.  But in truth, perhaps a little sadness at the loss of another beautiful tree from the woods.

That’s not normal

He leaned back, closed his eyes and listened to the music playing softly.  He sighed.  Over this tranquil setting, the jarring sound of screaming launched him off of his bed and to the door of his tiny room.

He threw open the door to find a whisper of a woman, dressed in a flimsy nightgown in the hallway facing his door.  She let loose with another blood curdling scream, nearly knocking him over.

“What the heck?!”

The woman smiled at him.

Meekly, she said “Hi” before tottering off down the hall.

Staring after her, he proclaimed “Now, that’s not normal!”

And the personal essay–the instructor never got back to me with a grade or comments on this one because I was unable to make the last class, unfortunately:

On Stupid Things We Do

Everyone has done something stupid at least once in their life, whether they know it or not; whether it was accidental, just “having fun” or out-right planned.  I certainly have had my fair share – from all categories, like when I jumped off the hood of a moving car…it seemed like an okay idea at the time. I have one friend that seems particularly good at this sort of thing.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  She is an extremely intelligent, fun-loving person, but sometimes things just don’t go the way she planned, especially where cars are concerned.  But more on that later.

There are those accidental ‘foot-in-mouth’ moments, when the filter between mind and mouth is in the off position, resulting in things said that make absolutely no sense or are hurtful when that is certainly not the intention.  That’s when I usually humble myself & pop a prayer to God, asking Him to remind me to taste my words before speaking them — and wishing others would do the same.

There are times others goad people into doing ‘stupid’ things.  A salesman trying to sell “unbreakable” glassware approached one of my friends, who owned an auto parts shop.  He detested these solicitors, so he called one of his employees—yup, you guessed it, my fun-loving friend—to watch the demonstration, knowing full-well what the results would be.  The man went through his spiel and her response was to pick one up, give it a once-over and try what he had just done—tap in on the edge of the counter.  It shattered into a million pieces and she shrugged and walked off.  Maybe stupid, but effective.  The man mumbled his apologies, cleaned up the glass, gathered his wares and skulked off, with the owner laughing the whole time.

Then there are those stupid things people do that put themselves – and possibly others – into danger.  Driving down the road, talking on the cell phone certainly qualifies, and I have to admit, I have been found with phone to my ear, feeling that I am more capable than those other drivers.  It’s a scary thought of all the distracting things in a car that can cause an accident.  It’s not limited to the cell phone.  Reaching for the radio/CD changer to adjust sound or station, concentrating on a map – or even the GPS, shuffling papers in the passenger seat – all of these can be distracting enough to create mayhem.  “Joy riding” is another act of stupidity, usually performed by pre-adolescents and teens.  They don’t think of the consequences – merely the adrenalin rush of ‘borrowing’ someone’s car so they can experience the rush of driving illegally, usually without the experience of driving to aid their endeavor.

Then there’s my dear friend, Mary, who loves speed.  So she puts herself at risk anytime she climbs into her race-prepared Datsun 280-Z – or anyone else’s car – and goes onto a track.  It’s not as dangerous as some people think, because the “track” consists of a course set up using those big orange traffic cones in a very large space, but there is room for things to go wrong. Seriously wrong. Even the time she was a passenger during a “fun run”, after the actual autocross in my simple, ’65 stock Lotus Elan, she danced with danger.

You must understand that my Elan was a nimble little car, capable of much speed and very agile in corners, but with a very simply-made body.  The windows are the ultimate in manual – you push/pull the windows to open and close.  There are no metal hinges screwed into door and frame to secure and open/shut the door, just simple pin hinges, one on top and one on the bottom. The door latch on the interior is nothing more than a lever handle – push down, it opens.  Simple as that.  And, it being a “convertible”, the windows are required to be open while on the course.

She was instructing me on braking into corners and during the first lap, I stopped the car on course so she could refasten her seatbelt.  Then, as I continued practiced accelerating, braking and turning, she started to goof around, grabbing at the door, pretending she feared for her life.  We both laughed as I came into a left-hand sweeper, but honestly, I would love to have had a camera on us as she clutched at the door, hanging her helmeted head out of the window.  Such a goof.

Fully into the corner, the door opened – that foolish little latch of a door handle had accidentally been bumped – and the door flew out of her hands, breaking free of its meager hinges and sailed across the airport’s asphalt runway, taking out three cones with it.  It finally settled in a weedy patch.  Accidental, yes.  But potentially with dire consequences, since she could easily have followed that door to it’s resting place.

My goofing around on the hood of a car when I was about eighteen or nineteen has caused long-lasting effects.   Facing the windshield, I stupidly jumped off of the moving car, momentarily landing on my feet, then my rear and came to rest, hitting my head.  Nerve damage and the ensuing early onset of arthritis in my neck has been my penalty.  The daily reminder makes me wonder if I would have done anything differently, had I only thought before I acted.  What about my friend’s actions?  Probably not.  Young and impulsive, neither of us not prone to much forethought, means we probably would have done the same thing.

Didn’t someone famous say that stupidity was the act of doing something over and over again and expecting different results?  I am thinking that each of us is instilled, to a certain degree, with one form of stupidity or another and we are destined to keep repeating those acts – or at least similar ones – expecting things to work themselves out.

Those ‘accidents’?  Again, forethought is required.  I wonder – whether it be an accident, “just for fun” or a deliberate act – who  would want such a safe and sane – but boring life anyway?  And isn’t it is this kind of stuff that helps shape who we are?

fin

I realized that my personalized stories are much like the 101 word stories, only much longer and in greater detail, with parameters set by someone else.  So, if you’d like me to create a story for you or your child, go back to the storytelling page to the bit on personalized stories — or send me a note if you want more information about it.

D

To or not to…that is the question

As I started to blog today, my mind fractured into a million threads of thought. This makes putting any intelligent thoughts into print nearly impossible. You know those fiction stories that give you alternative endings–well, that’s what my brain did, only on a more grand scale…and at the beginning of the story. Sigh.

So, where to start?

I was looking out the kitchen window again–this is a daily ritual, as my coffee or whatever I am cooking finishes up or as I clean up the dishes.  I usually just gaze out, enjoying the natural setting around me.  Actually, I can look out any of my windows to view different aspects of my yard, without seeing much of my neighbors’ yards, but the kitchen window seems to bring on inspiration.

The view in itself is pretty nice.  I live on three-quarters of an acre in a rural-ish area of Monterey County. My husband and I discovered it over thirty years ago and have had a love-hate relationship with it ever since. It’s situated on a north-facing hill, up an incredibly steep driveway (thankfully, no snow & seldom icy long enough to pose a problem). Unseen neighbors sound like they are right next to you, literally. Sound travels with such ease. Even those rowdy families across the canyon sound so much closer!  That’s the downside.

The upside to living here is the immense beauty that surrounds me:  sounds of song birds and squirrels sounding warnings in the trees, trees gently swaying in the ever-present breeze.   Before this, we lived in the greater LA area, where, unless going to the beach,  it took at least two hours (remember, thirty years ago–probably more now) to get out of the “city” and into nature. We used to travel to Big Sur, Big Bear, June Lake, etc. to get our “nature fix”.

Living here, we were content to stay where we were. We were surrounded by beautiful trees, hills, sloughs, lakes with plenty of wild life–paradise, after living in LA.

So, where am I going with this?  (Insert laugh). Honestly, I don’t know.

We were content, right?  Well, then why did we keep trying to find something better?  We talked about moving, even started searching in nearby neighborhoods.  Was it because of the negatives I mentioned?  Because we grew restless?  Or just wanting to wipe the slate clean and start fresh?

Good questions, with no real solid answers. Since my husband passed away in 2006, I still find myself wanting to move.  Definitely not because it reminds me of him — there are many fond memories here.  Perhaps it’s because of the increase in population — when my husband put in a transfer to get out of LA, it was for “a small rural coastal town in N. California”. What they gave us was San Jose. Since I remembered San Jose from my childhood, I thought it was a good compromise, so we took it and moved — only to nearly die from disappointment.  It was a small LA!  He immediately put a transfer in for the Monterey office & thankfully, was granted the transfer.

So, maybe what I am craving for is to get back to a small town where everybody knows everybody’s business.  Well, not literally — not sure I want to get that intimate.  I do enjoy my privacy, but then, it might be fun to be “that old eccentric recluse”. That might just work for me!

So then, what keeps me from moving?  The practical reasons:  for one, where to move–as an independent soul with a business that can go with me wherever I go, not having a job to move to, means the whole of the world is open to me–way too many choices!  Next, not being able to sell the house for what it is worth. Another would be the taxes on the new house would bankrupt me. In California, my taxes fall under the Prop 13 umbrella, protecting me from astronomical taxation. A new home would triple or quadruple what I pay in taxes, unless I stay in California and can find a county that will honor my tax basis–fat chance in this economy!

I suppose I could overcome those obstacles, but the most important factor is that I’d be leaving behind friends. Friends that I cherish. Some old friendships, some new.  That would be the hardest thing of all–to leave them behind. Yes, I could visit–or they could visit me, but I love spur of the moment things and the distance would definitely injure those spontaneous gatherings.  Getting together for walks, going on photo shoots, just cosying up on the couch and talking ‘girl talk’ — those things just wouldn’t happen. And that saddens me. And keeps me from doing anything more than just threatening to sell the house.

Am I clinging too much to things?  As a twenty-two year old, I daringly quit my perfectly wonderful job, pulled up roots, piled all of my possessions into my VW Bug and left the Midwest behind me to move “back home” to California, where I was born and raised.  Why can’t I do that again? Too old and set in my ways?  I’d like to think not.  That brings me back to not knowing where to go — at least in my move back to California, I had an idea of where I wanted to go.  And I was willing to put aside friendships — everyone had moved on to college life, leaving few friends at home anyway.  And I had great plans to do grand things in my life…don’t we all?  With this move, I will need to start new friendships, find a church, doctors — oh, the list goes on.  Not up to the challenge?  Again, I’d like to think not.

Maybe some day, I’ll do more than just talk about it.

Maybe.