A Group Story to Keep from Going Nuts

If you’re like me, you’re starting to understand why pets try to run out of the house every time the door opens. (I wish I could take credit for that. It’s a meme going around Facebook.) In other words, I’m going stir crazy. Even this introvert is starting to miss community interaction, so recently I posted the following on my blog’s Facebook group:

Write a story with me! Everyone contribute a few sentences at a time. Please keep it relatively PG, and expand and read all comments before contributing. If it works out, I’ll post it on my blog.

I contributed the first sentence and chimed in to keep the story on track here and there, but special thanks to Chuck Christison, Cris LeCompte, Jennifer Dropkin, and Florita Robinson for contributing. This was fun! I may have to do it again!

Without further ado, here’s the story we came up with:

Serenity’s Tenement

In spite of the quarantine, Serenity was able to entertain herself by eavesdropping on her neighbors from the balcony of her crowded tenement.

And then a sound came to her that she had never heard during her daily, and now hourly observation, of the sights and sounds of her very small corner of the place she called home.

This particular conversation seemed to be rather one-sided until a response came in a guttural voice that sounded like the dog replying.

Could it be Mrs. Polliver’s poodle from across the way? Surely not.

Or maybe it was Mr. Pratt, that old guy who always smelled of cheap booze and cigarettes. They say he used to be a Negro league baseball player of some import. He even knew Jackie Robinson when he was a kid.

He did have a guttural voice, there’s no denying it. But he was a man of few words, once you got past all the Jackie Robinson stories.

Serenity didn’t think it was him though. He is only happy when his small social security check comes in and he can stock up at the bodega. Otherwise he doesn’t say much as he is slumped on the front stoop. It’s god awful hot and humid and people in these parts don’t have any cool air.

People were getting restless from the heat and the fact that they couldn’t leave their homes. Arguments were breaking out throughout the building. But this particular conversation didn’t sound like an argument. It sounded much more sinister.

It was the funniest thing to watch Ms. Shuller and Ms. Lopez argue while leaning out their windows. Serenity was not sure what it was about, but all that “red in the face” , hand waving and yelling must have been about something. She was really afraid they were going to fall out of their 3rd floor windows and splatt on that concrete.

Serenity wished those old biddies would shut up, so she could hear the machinations going on below.

She loved that word “machinations”. She heard it on TV, Jeopardy, she thought. Always lot of big words on that show. There is that sound again. It didn’t sound natural.

It sounded like a cross between a bagpipe and Mr. Tolliver’s typical after dinner belch, but sound tended to echo in this alley in unpredictable ways.

But then Serenity heard Ms. Lopez say to Ms. Shuller, “You shouldn’t have taken that package off of his stoop after he went back in to get more cigarettes.”

Ms. Shuller replied, “Nonsense. He’ll never miss it! Let’s see what’s inside!” Intrigued, Serenity peeked over her balcony railing. Could the package be where the strange sound was coming from?

The package was wrapped in brown paper with a ton of tape. Covered with a colorful mass of different size stamps all in symbols I didn’t recognize. Sure wasn’t English.

Ms. Shuller noticed some holes punched into the side of the package.

As Ms Shuller peered closely at the holes, she realized she heard a scratching sound from within the package. What could it possibly be?

And then the stench hit her.

It smelled like a combination of curdled milk and rotting asparagus. “Ugh!” Ms. Shuller screamed, and she tossed the package as far away from her as she possibly could. It landed squarely on Serenity’s balcony.

And then it moved.

I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t hear it the first time. It. Moved.

Suddenly the quarantine felt like the least of Serenity’s worries.

So Serenity thinks to herself? “Self? How bad could it be?” Summoning her inner explorer, she took out her trusty well-worn pocketknife, a gift from her grandmother, and started in.

But then she had second thoughts.

Serenity shrieked and jumped to the corner of her balcony. Now what?! She did not dare open the package. There is a 2 meter social distance, remember?!

So she grabbed a broom, and holding the knife in front of her for protection, she flipped the package over her railing. It landed squarely on the lap of Mr. Pratt, who had been passed out on the front stoop. He said…

“What did you get from Borneo?” He slipped into a chatty high pitched language as he rattled off the price paid, where it came from, and a story of being marooned with pretty local girls during that Typhoon in ‘46. He was just getting furloughed from the merchant marines and he was flush with Yankee dollars.

“Beats me,” Serenity shouted down. “It’s your package. Ms. Shuller stole it off you when you went in for cigarettes.”

“Did not!” Ms. Shuller shouted.

As his cloudy eyes focused, a sense of knowing came over him. He straightened up with an air of long lost tenderness. “Oh , Suni my dear?” His gnarled hands traced the exterior of the box gingerly that were splashed with his tears. “How could you ?”

Suni had been a surprise when Mr Pratt returned to Borneo eighteen years after his visit in ’46. It was quite something to discover he’d been a father without knowing all those years.

He had loved her instantly like any father would have. Alas, he could not obtain the visa to stick around. As a parting gift, he had gone to the local market and gotten her a Spectacled Flowerpecker. She had loved that bird and named it Phinnius, after her father.

When Mr. Pratt finally managed to cut the tape on one corner, he could see a single black eye looking back at him, Staring right into his psyche.

“Oh, Suni,” he said. “How could you?” Because gazing up at him was the very bird he’d given his daughter so long ago. In the package were its favorite foods, milk and asparagus, both long since spoiled. The creature was ravenous.

Then Mr. Pratt took a closer look and realized that it wasn’t his namesake, Phinneas the Spectacled Flowerpecker, after all. It was a Magpie Robin, and it needed a veterinarian who would not tell the authorities that it had made it from Borneo to the States without detection. And it needed some insects to eat. Whatever that stinky mush was in the bottom of the box, it wasn’t asparagus or milk….

Mr. Pratt was relieved that it wasn’t Phinneas after all, as he couldn’t imagine what he could have done to Suni to make her reject that gift. Then he noticed that there was a card inside a plastic bag at the bottom of the box. He had to wipe the stinky mush away to get to it, but he’d done worse in his time. He carefully opened the card. It said…

“Dear Dad, I know that you blame yourself for being absent in my life but I wanted you to know I forgive you. You did the best with what you had”. I hope this gift makes it to you and ……”

…and the rest of the sentence was blurred out by the stinky mush that had gotten through the plastic! Mr. Pratt whipped out his cell phone and called Suni in Borneo. “Suni,” he said,…

But Serenity couldn’t understand the rest as it was in another language.

While the words in the note were trashed, his eyes were drawn to the picture. The childish drawing of a stick figure tall man and a smaller stick figure child with a heart and a sun

And as the cheap booze-addled brain began to clear, he recognized that picture as being similar to the ones that Suni used to draw with worn crayons and scrap paper to leave in his lunchbox before he went to work. Many days of toil were broken by her sweet pictures. The emotions came flooding back as tears filled his eyes and poured down his weather worn cheeks.

“I love you, Suni,” he said. “Stay safe during this quarantine. Wash your hands.” His tears flowed as he hung up the phone.

Seeing this, Serenity wanted to hug the old derelict, but in these times of quarantine and social distance, she knew she couldn’t do so. So instead, she lowered a bag of birdseed down on a string. “For your new friend,” She said.

She then stuck her tongue out at Ms. Shuller, the package thief. Ms. Shuller went inside and slammed the window shut. But everyone knew she wouldn’t sulk for long. It was too hot to sit inside.

Mr. Pratt took the seeds and poured them into his cupped hand as the Magpie Robin began to peck at the seeds. After several minutes of frantic feeding it stopped. The bird looked up at Mr. Pratt and made eye contact. At the very moment he felt as if he had been transported to Suni’s side. He felt that wave of contentment flood over him and he closed his eyes to take it all in as it washed over him.

Even in this time of social distancing, there are ways to reach out.

Serenity looked at all the people on the various balconies and realized that each one had a story. And somehow that brought her comfort. We are each unique, and yet we are all in this together. As the bird began to sing, she felt as though she might survive this quarantine with her sanity intact after all.

tenement-2-web

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

An Unfinished Internet Story

Do you ever Google your own name, just out of curiosity? I do, sometimes. But I bet Joann Elizabeth Wingate doesn’t.

I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this story, because it is from the summer of 2014. When I found it, I was intrigued. The story itself is sick and twisted, but the fact that no one bothered to follow up on it is even more revealing, in my opinion.

Here are the very basics, which got picked up by one lowbrow news outlet after another, for about a week: Ms. Wingate was once a chiropractor, but her license expired for reasons not explained. So she decided to steal the medical license of a local psychiatrist who shared her last name, and operate a physical exam business from inside her own home. She targeted truck drivers, who need this exam to renew their certifications. She put up fliers at a truck stop.

She would meet these guys at the truck stop, drive them back to her shabby little house in her shabby little car, and perform a full medical exam, including urinalysis, for $65. At least 16 guys fell victim to this woman, who held no medical license whatsoever. (That’s what you get for getting your doctor off a truck stop flyer, I suppose.)

But here’s what I don’t get, and probably never will: That’s a lot of work for 65 bucks. It seems to me that if you’re going to do a con, you’d go for some bigger fish, unless there was some unexplainable kink factor for you with regard to making men pee into a little cup.

Whatever her motivations were, riches do not seem to have been her primary one. Instead, she wound up being held in prison on 10k bail. (And how do you make that phone call to your nearest kin?)

I can understand why so many news outlets jumped on this story. It’s insane. It’s funny. It probably went viral. And there was marijuana involved.

But here’s the thing: According to my lazy internet search, not a single one of those journalists bothered to follow up on the story. Did she do time? (She should have, because apparently she had already gotten caught pulling this creepy con elsewhere, and had to move to another county to keep it going.)

There’s nothing more frustrating to me than a story without an ending. The only thing I am fairly positive about is that Joann Elizabeth Wingate doesn’t Google her own name, if she even bothers to use it anymore. Because the only thing that pops up is this odd little unfinished story.

I would hate for that to be my legacy. And I feel awfully sorry for any woman out there who shares her name. (Note to expectant mothers: Google prior to naming your child!)

Where is she now? More importantly, what is she doing, and to whom? The possibilities are endless.

Joann Elizabeth Wingate
Joann Elizabeth Wingate

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

A Random Story

Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write, I’ll rely on the Random Word Generator for inspiration. That made me wonder if there was a Random Image Generator. Yay! There is! So today I decided to get a random image and then write about it. What follows is the story I came up with about this picture:

fruit-stall

To the casual observer, Gianni may have looked exhausted. This would have been a reasonable assumption, too, because he had to go to the produce wholesaler every morning at 4 a.m. in order to get the best fruit and vegetables for his stall. And for Gianni, nothing but the best would do.

That “nothing but the best” concept was rather new to him. A year ago he was running the streets with no real purpose or goal. The only consistent routine in his life was stopping by to visit his grandfather at this very stall, just as he had done every day since he was old enough to walk.

His grandfather was larger than life. He never took a day off, and yet he was always smiling. Oh, and how he loved his grandson! When he spied a younger Gianni running across the piazza, he would throw his arms wide and embrace him roughly, as if he hadn’t seen him in years.

Gianni would help himself to an apple or an orange and listen to Nonno talk about his day, and recount what was happening in the neighborhood. Mrs. Rossi was going to have another baby. The Conti’s daughter was going to be a doctor. The Bruno’s dog kept stealing carrots from the stall. (And yet Nonno never moved the carrots.) The stories would make Gianni smile. He loved these visits.

What he loved most was that Nonno never criticized him, no matter how much trouble he got into. Somehow he managed to express disapproval without berating him like his mother would. The message was silent but clear: “I love you, but I expect more from you. I know you’ll get there someday.”

That’s why Gianni never quite gave up. He just… he didn’t know what to do with his life, that’s all. He knew he’d never be a doctor like the Conti girl. University was out of reach for his family. And besides, his ambitions weren’t that grand. He knew he would live in this same neighborhood for the rest of his life, not because he was trapped, but because he wanted to. This was his home. He just needed to find his purpose.

Then one morning Mr. Gallo came pounding on his door to tell him that Nonno had a heart attack “or something” and had been taken to the hospital in the city. Gianni was not to worry. It was probably nothing. But could he watch the stall for the day?

This was Nonno’s way of distracting him. Of course he would worry. But Nonno’s stall had been open every day for 40 years. It wouldn’t seem right if it were closed. So Gianni got dressed and headed for the market.

The produce had already been delivered. Piled on the sidewalk haphazardly in splintery wooden crates, it had yet to be put on display. Gianni set to work.

He stacked everything neatly, just as he had seen Nonno do a thousand times. Not a single bean or tomato out of place. The stall was like a work of art. It said to all the passersby, “This is quality. Buy here.” The splintery crates were stacked in the alley for retrieval. And thus began the day.

Nonno recovered, thank God, but he had to slow down. So that summer, Gianni ran the stall for him. It was only temporary. Gianni’s friends would ride by and call him an old man. But a funny thing happened. He discovered that he didn’t care. He had found his purpose.

When the leaves started changing colors on the trees, Nonno sat down with Gianni and they both agreed that it was time. It was time for Gianni to take his rightful place in the family business. Besides, Nonno was enjoying feeding the pigeons as well as that damned carrot thief of a dog, and playing bocce ball with men he had known since the first grade. Now it would be Nonno’s turn to visit Gianni every day.

On the day Nonno took this picture, he could have told that casual observer that what he was seeing was not exhaustion. It was contentment and pride. It was the way things were always meant to be. It was just taking Gianni a while to figure it out, so Nonno had to give him a push. With his heart.

Now, how to get him to notice that Conti girl…

_________________________________

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Bodybuilder Guy

Back in the ‘80’s I attended a college in Florida that came with an outdoor swimming pool. I probably would have lived in that pool except for one thing: it seemed to come with a bodybuilder guy. I thought he was creepy and intimidating.

He was always (and by that I mean always) there, lying on the edge of the pool as if posing for a centerfold. He never spoke to anyone. He never got in the water. He just lay there, bronzing his grossly over-developed, veiny muscles while he metabolized his steroids. (That body just wasn’t natural. No way.)

All the girls used to stare at him. I’m sure he thought they liked what they saw. In truth, most of us thought he was a disturbing freak of nature. (Why do guys think women are attracted to that body type? I don’t know any who are. Truly. I was repulsed just looking for a photo for this post.)

The weirdest thing about this was that I don’t even know if he was a student. I never saw him anywhere else on campus. No one seemed to know his name.

I used to wonder about him. Was he intelligent or a stereotypical meathead? What was he studying? Was he full of himself or insecure? Where did he come from? Where did he live? Did he have any friends? Did he want any? Was he lonely? Was he happy?

I would have loved to know these things, but I couldn’t break through the creepily muscled wall to ask. I wonder what became of him. He’d be in his 50’s now, and if the steroids didn’t kill him, all those muscles have probably turned to fat.  I wonder how he copes with that. I wonder if he ever learned that there is much more to life than body shape.

Nothing bugs me more than a story without an ending.

ABFF 22nd Annual Pro-Am

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Drabble

I learned a new word recently. Drabble. According to wikipedia, “A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.”

To this I say, challenge accepted! And I soon discovered that once I started to drabble, I couldn’t stop. (Yes, I’m officially turning this word into a verb.) I like it so much, this may become a regular thing in my blog.

So, without further ado, here are my first 4 drabbles. Feel free to drabble in the comments section! (Or just comment. That works, too.)

On the Brink

I stand at the edge of the cliff, taking in the view. It’s comforting to feeI small by comparison. Nature, man. Who can top it? It embraces me, cradles me in its loving arms. I’m a tiny part of a much larger whole.

Awe is such a heady feeling. Just breathing it in. Just being. I’m renewed.

How can people look upon this beauty and still jump? How profound does your level of despair have to be before the tears in your eyes make you blind to this miracle, this splendor? Maybe, just maybe, some people think they can fly.

 

Cheese

I truly believe that there are few things in life that aren’t greatly improved by extra cheese. I could guzzle a cup of melted cheese, tilt my head back and pour it down my throat, with no regrets except for the lack of free refills. It couldn’t be less healthy than a slurpee or a shake, and it would be infinitely more satisfying. But I’ve always been more savory than sweet.

There’s nothing like looking forward to mozzarella after a particularly hard day. Who needs drugs or alcohol? Give me cheddar or feta, and all my cares slip away.

 

Pathetic

“You’re so loved it’s pathetic,” he said. And deep down, I knew he was right. I have amazing family and friends. They lift me up. They carry me forward. They bear witness. They buffer me from life’s tempests.

As isolated as I often am, I’m never truly alone. Knowing that sustains me. It makes all this possible. All this abundance. All this beauty. I’m really rich in the only ways that matter. Life is such a gift when it’s filled with the lives of others.

“You’re so loved it’s pathetic,” he said.

And yet he still left me.

Dumb ass.

 

Going Home

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. At least that’s the current wisdom. And I tend to agree. Usually.

But not when I’m trapped in an airport on Thanksgiving day, imagining the turkey getting cold and gossip getting hot. Not when I’m paying too much at Starbucks when I’d much rather have my sister’s apple pie. Not when they’ve lost my luggage and my rental car reservation and I feel my throat getting sore, and there’s no wifi and my book isn’t in my carry on.

I’m grumpy and tired. Screw the journey. I just want to go home, please.

autocorrect

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Whoa. My Parents Loved Each Other.

I know this is going to sound awfully strange to those of you who were lucky enough to grow up in intact households, but for the first time, at age 52, it recently dawned on me that at some point in time, my parents actually loved each other. And now I’m having to reframe my whole concept of what my mother’s life must have been like. It’s surreal.

You see, my parents were divorced when I was three months old. I never met the man. He never once sent me a birthday card or a Christmas present or paid one dime of child support. I never heard his voice or held his hand.

For many years I assumed this was no big deal. You can’t miss something that you never had, right? But as time passed, I realized that I definitely did miss out on something. I never had a feeling of safety. I never felt as though someone had my back. I had no positive male role model to show me what I should look for in a partner. (Unfortunately, the presence of this particular man wouldn’t have provided those things anyway, so there’s really no use in speculating.)

Growing up, I did have a natural curiosity about my father. I’d sometimes ask my mother about him. To her credit, she never bad-mouthed him, ever, other than to say that he came back from WWII as an alcoholic, and that’s what eventually caused their split. It wasn’t until years after she died that I found out (accidentally, from a cousin) that he beat her, too. So I came to view him as a bad element that had been excised from my life. Good riddance.

I never really thought about their history, as an actual couple.

Then, very recently, I was contacted by a very nice lady who said that she was my father’s goddaughter. That was a shock. I didn’t even know he had one. Apparently, her parents and mine had been great friends, and her father had been a photographer. She had tons of pictures of my parents from the 50’s. Would I like them? Uh… yeah!

When the envelope arrived, I sat holding it for a long time, kind of afraid to open it. I had no idea what I would find inside. More of the story, no doubt. But would I like the story more or less because of it?

She had a lot of pictures, indeed. Pictures of my parents on their honeymoon at Niagara Falls, my mother’s head on my father’s shoulder, both smiling blissfully. Trips to Montreal. Their wedding reception dinner. A picture of my mother, sleeping contentedly amongst a pile of coats on someone’s bed. And a picture that may just have been the moment my father proposed. He is kneeling, gazing up at her adoringly. She is looking happily down at him.

I have to admit that in all the photos he looks intoxicated, and he most likely was. That didn’t surprise me. All the pictures I have of him are like that. But I wasn’t expecting the adoration. That was new.

My mother’s parents were not alcoholics. I suspect she didn’t know what she was in for. She didn’t realize what havoc that blissful intoxication would eventually wreak on her life, and by extension, the lives of her daughters.

Hope springs eternal. Love conquers all. Until it doesn’t.

But those adoring looks still rattled me. Now, instead of looking at my father as a bit of mold that had to be cut out of an otherwise perfectly edible loaf of bread, I had to see him as a rusty knife that left behind a painful wound that never properly healed. My mother moved on, yes, but in all likelihood she got her heart trampled in the process. I don’t know why that had never crossed my mind.

When my father died, my uncle sent me the contents of his wallet. It included a picture of my parents on their honeymoon. My whole life, a life he never experienced, he had carried a picture of a woman whose world he had shattered, whom he hadn’t seen in 25 years. I think that’s incredibly tragic.

Niagara_Falls_-_Ontario,_Canada_-_August_11,_2015_05

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Are We the Stories We Tell Ourselves?

It’s always rather disconcerting when someone else has a different version of a memory that I’ve been invested in my whole life long. Which version is correct? And if my version is wrong, how did it change over time?

This is particularly unsettling when I’ve told a story time and time again to explain why it is that I’ve come to be the way I am. Have I been molding myself out of pure fantasy? But it feels so real…

Memories, it seems, can take on lives of their own. That kind of makes me feel as though I have nothing on which to hang my hat. The solid foundation I thought I had, as poorly constructed as it may have been, now seems to be built on quicksand. Scary.

And here’s the kicker: the older you get, the more memories you have. And the more they tend to fade. And yet you’re still you. Aren’t you?

Or are you?

Quicksand

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Another Story–About Saying Yes

I told yet another story at my local storytelling group, Fresh Ground Stories here in Seattle, Washington. I’m becoming addicted to this group and all the wonderful people in it. I never would have imagined that I’d take to standing in front of a group of 150 people and exposing my soft underbelly, but there you have it.

The theme this particular month was “Say Yes”.

Here’s the recording of the story, but if you are unable or unwilling to hear a sound file, I’ll put the story below it. Let me know what you think!

Quite often I call myself an only child with siblings. There were three girls in my family, and I love my sisters very much, but one was 10 years older than me and the other was 9 years older, so by the time I stopped being a self-absorbed little brat, they had already left home.

We had different upbringings. Their childhood was spent with my abusive, alcoholic father and my still hopeful mother in Connecticut, mine was spent with my abusive stepfather and my by now despairing mother in Florida. Our politics and spiritual beliefs and accents were completely different.

I kind of looked at them as more mature pseudo-mothers who were rarely there. I spent half my life desperately trying to get their approval and never quite feeling as though I had. In fact, when my oldest sister had my nephew, even though I wasn’t present for the birth, I called her up and said, “It’s really strange. I’ve never even seen him face to face, but I already love him anyway, so I want you to know that if anything ever happens to you, I will be there for him.”

She responded, “I think we both know that’s a bad idea.” Among other things, I lived in sin with someone for 16 years. Scandalous.

As my nephew grew, I visited him as often as I possibly could. I took pride in being the cool aunt. The one he could ride roller coasters with, despite my white-knuckled terror. The one who would listen. Someone who would love him no matter what.  I also wanted to sort of sneak other points of view into his life. Which went well as long as I didn’t get caught.

Then one day in 2007 I got a phone call from my sister to tell me that she had pretty advanced cancer. My nephew was 18 at the time. Too young. Too young.

A year went by. Toward the end, she said to me, “I need you to do something for me. I need you to promise me that you’ll be here for the funeral. Ryan is going to need you.”

Of course I said yes. This was the first time that she had really trusted me with anything. Ever. This was huge.

Two months later, she was gone. I bought my plane ticket so I’d be there in plenty of time for the funeral. I was going to fulfil her dying wish.

Unfortunately I had to change planes in Memphis. And there was going to be a delay. A 5 hour delay. A 5 hour, funeral-missing delay. They were gluing a new antenna on the plane, and it would take 5 hours for the glue to dry. And of course there was no other flight available. Oh, no. “Sorry, but here’s a 6 dollar lunch voucher…”

Have you ever had one of those soul-tearing, chest-heaving cries that leave you completely exhausted and Incapable of functioning? Well, I had one, all alone, right in the middle of the airport, with an audience of hundreds. For all the good it did me.

There was a tiny bit of good news, though. Her husband called me and said that his employer had missed the same flight, so when the two of us finally made it to Kansas City, we could share a rental car for the hour drive to his house. So that’s what we did.

When I met this total stranger, I must have looked horrible. Red, puffy, snotty, my hair all tangled. Depleted. Needless to say, he drove. As we got on the highway, he said to me, “So, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

Are you kiddin/g me right now? Can we all agree that there’s a time and place for that type of conversation? I:?t took every fiber of my being not to jump out of the moving car. I took a deep breath and said, “Look, I know you mean well, but I can’t have this conversation right now.” The rest of the trip was in awkward silence.

And when I got to the house, it was filled up with in-laws whom I had never met. I walked in and everyone stopped talking and just stared at me. Finally, my brother-in-law’s father said, “Well. Glad you could finally make it.”

I felt like I had been struck by lightning. So I just turned, went upstairs, and closed myself into the guestroom. I sat in there feeling like an utter failure. The one thing my sister had asked me to do, the one thing, and I couldn’t do it.

Eventually, my nephew got back to the house. He hugged me while I cried. He comforted me. This 19 year old young man who had just lost his mother comforted me. He calmed me down. He told me to take a shower and try to get some rest.

Later that night, I lay in the dark in that house that already felt empty of my sister, a house I knew I’d never return to. I began to accept the fact that some things are just going to be out of my control, and any approval I need has got to come from within.

I looked at the ceiling and I said, “You know, you have nothing to worry about. He’s going to turn out just fine. Just like I did.”

Since then, I’ve watched my nephew grow into an amazing man with my politics! Yay! And he also has integrity, compassion, conviction and decency. He happens to be visiting me, and he’s here tonight, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Your Blog Post HERE:

Usually I find commercials to be an annoyance, but there’s one for the perfume La vie est belle starring Julia Roberts that has me intrigued. It tells a story, but you can’t really be sure what the story is. That’s one brilliant ad campaign, because it makes you fill in the positive references based on who you are.

I’m not endorsing this product—I’ve never even been in the same room with it. I won’t be buying it as I’m not a perfume sort of girl. But kudos to the advertisers! Instead of making a one size fits all commercial, they’ve managed to make a many sizes fits each one sort of thing.

That made me want to do the same thing with my blog, just for today. I’ve heard many of you say that you’ve thought about writing a blog, but just can’t seem to get around to it. So here’s your chance!

In the comments below, write a blog entry. It could be about anything. (I do, however, reserve the right to delete with impunity. This is a family blog, and as head of the family I’m running a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy.) Can’t think of anything to write? Then write the story behind the commercial above. If you don’t feel like writing an entire blog post, write a few sentences about what you would write about if you did blog.

I’m hoping this post will give people the courage to start blogging, and give them a forum to tell stories that have been wanting to see the light of day. We all have a story to tell. I look forward to revisiting this post over time to see what develops. Have fun!

La-Vie-Est-Belle-ad
La vie est belle–Life is beautiful, indeed.

Storytelling Parties

A friend of mine had a party the other night that was a great success. Usually I avoid parties, especially ones where the only person I know will be the host. I’m just too introverted to mingle with strangers. But this party was structured in a way that it made “mingling” unnecessary.

12 people came, each bearing desserts. That turned out to be, in my opinion, an ideal number of individuals. Not too many, not too few. (And of course you can never have too many desserts.)

We all sat in a circle, and the host explained the rules. She’d start off, asking for a certain type of story. We’d all think for a minute, and then someone would tell one that pertained to the topic. It had to be a true story about them or a very close relative. When that person was done, if people wanted to ask questions, they could. But after that, it was that storyteller’s turn to ask for a story of a different topic. And so on. There was no pressure to tell a story if you didn’t want to.

That night we heard stories of courage, of surprises, and of starting over, to name just a few. We all got to learn some amazing things about each other, without having to break off into little awkward mingling subsets. At no time did I feel uncomfortable, and no one seemed to feel left out. No room for wallflowers when you sit in a circle! The time flew by and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

I look forward to the next storytelling party. Maybe I’ll see you there!

storytelling-circle-cropped
[Image credit: ecyc.org]