Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

Wednesday Whine: This n That

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It has been a few weeks since we’ve sat back on this comfortable old sofa and shared a glass of wine. Seems like it’s hard to carve out a few peaceful moments in the mad dash of the holiday season. Given that it is the holiday season, perhaps it’s fitting that instead of wine we lift a glass of wassail and wish each other good health in the coming year. Do any of you make wassail? The only time I’ve ever sampled it was during the Christmas festivities in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was mighty fine!

The last two weeks have been busy for me but also fun. December is rushing by and we are now a week shy of Christmas Eve. Hard to believe.

Part of the rush has been due to my theatre commitments!

Hippodrome, circa 1932

Hippodrome, circa 1932

In late summer, I convinced my sister that it would be fun to subscribe to the theatre season in Baltimore. I was glad when she agreed. Over the years it has become increasingly important to me to maintain a close relationship with my only sister, and I enjoy finding things we can do together.

So every month or so, we end up in our ‘left orchestra’ seats at the Hippodrome Theatre. The Hippodrome, considered the Grand Lady of theatre in Baltimore, opened her doors for the first time in November 1914. Since then, she’s seen a lot of acts come and go. Among them was a young, blue-eyed singer making his first appearance with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in June 1939. Word is that the young man had a way with a song… wonder whatever became of him?

Frank Sinatra, circa 1939

Frank Sinatra, circa 1939

The theatre featured many live acts until 1959; after that it became a movie house. In 1990, it closed its doors. Like the area surrounding it, the theatre had fallen on hard times.

Hippodrome InsideIn 2004, fully renovated, the Grand Lady was featuring live entertainment once again. Baltimore welcomed her back with open arms. Like a great lady, she has retained her charm. The inside of the theatre is stunning.

The most recent show my sister and I attended was two weeks ago. Newsies, a production that boasts more energy than charm, was our second show of the season. None of the songs are particularly memorable and the jokes are just so-so. The history (based the newsboys’ 1899 strike against newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer) is romanticized. The show had won a Tony for its choreography and it’s easy to understand why. Some of the dancing numbers are outstanding and quite athletic. I enjoyed the show, but it’s one that is forgettable once you leave the theatre.

Newsies_(musical)_poster

This past Sunday, my sister and I teamed up again to take our mother out in celebration of her 80th birthday. This time we went to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for the holiday show, Jolly Pops. It was delightful. How could it miss? It featured the Baltimore Choral Society as well as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. There’s something about hearing a full orchestra! The bright sounds of the horns, the sweet melodies of the strings, and the strong notes sounded by the percussive instruments are a treat for the ears. Put that together with a large choir and you have something pretty special. The chorus line of dancing Santas contributed to the holiday spirit – as did the glass of wine at intermission.

Baltimore Cuisine!

Baltimore Cuisine!

My mother enjoyed going out to the show, and then to dinner with her two girls. We let her choose the restaurant and she opted for her favorite, Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar in Parkville, Maryland. For her dinner, she ordered what all Baltimoreans order: the crab cake dinner. YUM. You want crab cakes? You come to Baltimore. Only Baltimore knows how to make a crab cake. The secret? McCormick’s OLD BAY SEASONING®. Baltimoreans love the stuff – and with good reason.

Seasons change...

Seasons change…

We had a lovely time, but there was an underlying bitter sweetness. Crossing a crowded, traffic-laden street to get to the theatre, I reached for my mother’s thin hand and guided her through cars and knots of pedestrians, pointing out high curbs or cracks in the road. Once she arrived safely across the street, she looked at me and smiled. “I remember when I used to take your hand and lead you across the street,” she said.

That brought a lump to my throat. My mother has reached the season in her life where she accepts assistance rather than provides it. It’s a sobering reminder of how quickly time passes, and how our days are numbered and precious.

All the more reason to celebrate them, I think.

Well, friends, I do believe I’ve taken enough of your time for this Wednesday. If you’ve any holiday thoughts or memories you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section. Also, if you make wassail, do let me know. Fair warning, however: if you make it, I’ll be coming to your house to lift a cup with you.

I’d like to end this week’s Wednesday Whine by wishing all of my Jewish friends a most Happy Chanukah. God bless.

Chanukah

An Hour Ago

This I know to be true: the course of a life can change in minutes. I learned the truth of this an hour ago.

* * * *

The mob’s excited murmurings captured my attention just as the men barged into the bedroom, pulling me from my lover’s embrace. Dazed, I tumbled from the bed.

One of the men, having the eyes of a zealot, threw a blanket at me. “Cover your nakedness, harlot.”

I scrambled for the blanket, wrapping myself in it as they dragged me out into the streets.

The voices of the women were loud and ugly and I gagged as warm spittle ran down my face. “Slut,” they shrieked, “wicked woman! Have you no shame? The stones for you! The stones for you!”

A clump of dirt hit me in the eye, blurring my vision. Frightened, I stumbled along, pushed and prodded by the good men of Jerusalem. “Where are you taking me?” I pleaded.

“The temple court – where your sins will be exposed!”

Finally, they stopped moving. Abruptly, one of them pushed me to the ground. His sandaled foot shoved the side of my face into the dirt, holding me hostage.

“Teacher,” said one of the good men, “this woman was caught in adultery. The law says she must be stoned. What say you?”

There was no answer.

“What say you, teacher?” repeated the voice.

An uneasy silence reigned for several moments.

The heavy foot lifted from my cheek. I looked up through the dust and saw a man kneeling in the dirt. He paid me no mind. His eyes were on the stick in his hands, and the words he began to write in the dust.

Liar. Cheat. Envious. Jealous. Greedy. Prideful.

With each word, the good men of Jerusalem took a step back.

Finally, without glancing up, the teacher replied, “If any of you is without sin, then be the first to cast a stone at her.”

The silence continued as one by one the good men slowly departed.

Tossing aside his stick, the teacher raised his head and looked at me. “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir.”

He nodded, brushing the dirt from his hands. “Then neither do I.” He stood up, reached out his hand, and helped me rise.

He looked at me intently. I sensed he saw everything… my loneliness, my fear, the sad nights spent in the arms of strangers, desperate for solace…

I felt the shame of it, the despair, and looked away. With his finger, he lifted my chin, forcing me to meet his gaze. When I did, I saw kindness there. “Go now,” he said, “and leave behind your life of sin.”

* * * *

I watched him join the small group of men and women waiting for him. He whispered something into the ear of one of his companions. The man nodded and hurried over to me.

Removing his outer cloak, he smiled. “Here, sister – take this.” He threw the garment over my shoulders. “Have you a home to return to?”

Did I? Had I ever?  I didn’t know how to answer.

It didn’t matter.

“Come with us. You have a home now.”

I clutched his sleeve. “That man… the teacher… who is he?”

“He’s the one you’ve waited for. The one we’ve all waited for.”

* * * *

An hour ago, good men sought to stone me for the law’s sake.  Another sought to redeem me. This I know to be true: he gave me back my life. I will never be the same.

mary-magdalene-stoned-jesus

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

~ John Newton

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Author’s Note: While this story is too long for ThainInVain’s 500 word flash fiction challenge, I want to thank her for the idea behind the story. Her challenge was to write 500 words based on the phrase ‘about an hour ago.’ So, many thanks, TiV, for giving me an idea for my contribution to the Christmas season. 

SEASONS

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To everything there is a season…
And a time for every purpose under heaven.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Ralph Evans was a new breed of pastor. He didn’t stand on ceremony and he was committed to reaching out to youth. The church’s previous rector was old school, preferring that congregants address him as ‘Father.’ It was a new season for our church, evidenced by the pastor’s request that people call him ‘Ralph.’

A teenager at the time, I was too shy to comply; he was always ‘Mr. Evans’ to me.

A father figure to neighborhood kids whose own fathers were busy, he listened to our concerns and encouraged our dreams. He tried to broaden our horizons.

Sometimes he’d bring graduate students from the local university to our youth group meetings. We’d discuss the serious issues facing the country. In a season of unrest, Mr. Evans wanted us to understand that many people had lives very different from our own.

He wasn’t only concerned with social issues. The human heart was equally important.

In an old movie, a dying heroine states, “Loves means never having to say you’re sorry.”

He didn’t share that sentiment. Believing our humanity based in the ability to feel remorse for wrongdoing, he encouraged us to say ‘I’m sorry.’ He also encouraged us to forgive others.

Times with Mr. Evans weren’t always so earnest. After Sunday services, he’d round us up and take us to the movies or to the park. At least twice, he took a group of us to the ocean for a weekend.

His house was a busy place, filled with neighborhood teenagers who’d pop in for a visit. His wife was a saint to put up with us.

Mr. Evans was the first person I trusted with my ambition to be a writer. With the bravado of youth, I told him I’d dedicate my first novel to him. He looked at me seriously and said, “If you want it, you can do it.” When I decided to learn to play the guitar, he spent an afternoon taking me to music shops, helping me find the right instrument. He didn’t grimace when I played the thing off-key or out of rhythm. “You’ll get it right next time.”

* * * * *

Life moved on. I graduated from school and put aside dreams of writing. I married and moved out of state. Life was busy and I stopped attending church.

I also lost track of Mr. Evans.

Twelve years ago, for no apparent reason, I started thinking about him again. I wondered what had become of him. The old church had long since closed its doors.

I thought of him so frequently that I finally contacted the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. They told me he’d retired from pastoring a country church. I decided to write him a letter, sharing the reasons he’d been an important part of my life. I sent the letter to the church, hoping they’d forward it.

A month went by; I heard nothing.

The second month, two letters arrived: one from his wife and another from one of his close friends. They wrote that Mr. Evans had battled a terminal illness, and that he’d received my letter on a challenging day.

His wife wrote that the letter had made a difficult day bearable, and he’d beamed after he read it. He asked her repeatedly to read it to the visitors who came to sit with him that day.

* * * * *

I sometimes wonder why I felt driven to seek out Mr. Evans after so many years had passed. Perhaps it is true that there’s a season for everything. That was my season to say thank you; it was his to receive it.

My letter arrived just when needed. Coincidence? The prompting of the Holy Spirit?

The story has a mystifying coda.

The day my letter arrived, Mr. Evans received a second letter from another person from his past.

Decades after knowing this good man, two people reached out on the same day to say thank you to someone who’d made a difference.

I believe in seasons.

In Praise of Repression

Kate Loveton:

If you haven’t checked out Malcolm Greenhill’s blog, ‘malcolmscorner,’ then you’re missing some interesting posts. Here’s one – and its ensuing discussion – that is indicative of the good stuff he has posted there.

Originally posted on Malcolm's Corner:

Repression

I once attended a Jungian workshop and found myself uncharacteristically emoting in front of a roomful of strangers. In retrospect I was probably just acting out what was expected of me as I usually have a rather British ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude to expressing feelings. I recognize, however, that this attitude has long since been on its way out, having received a virtual knock-out blow from the death of Princess Diana in 1997. After this virtually everyone became convinced that the way to get rid of anxiety was to talk about one’s feelings. Now, I’m all for talking about stuff, but personally, when it comes to traumatic events, I think bottling things up and repressing one’s feelings is often a much better idea. Think about it. Why would you want to relive painful experiences and unpleasant emotions? Surely it’s much better to try and forget them as soon as possible.

There…

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Semper Fi

Kate Loveton:

I love this sweet tale by Heather B Costa about a disfigured serviceman and the sweet girl who saw the beauty and heroism hidden beneath the scars. Enjoy! (Heather blogs at Trials of a Wanna-Be-Published Writer.)

Originally posted on Trials of a wanna-be-published writer:

I saw her standing there, waiting in line for her skinny mocha, just like she does every day. She always comes in at the same time, dressed in her work clothes and looking impatient as the people in front of her dither over which drink they’ll have today.

I know her order, it’s always the same. I even hear her say those words in my dreams sometimes. I watch as she inches closer to the front of the queue, wishing that she’d turn round and see me. Just once.

It’s not asking for much, is it? For this beautiful woman, the girl of my dreams to turn around and make eye contact with me?

They never do.

I’m the kind of person that others will go out of their way not to look at. My face is the kind that small children’s nightmares are made of. I know that folks…

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Wednesday Whine: Don’t Forget to Dunk

imageIt’s Wednesday once again… and I’m ready to pour the wine. Here’s a glass for each of us. In spite of the red wine shown in the photo, I’m going to tempt you with a pinot grigio I like very much – the Santa Margherita. I hope it meets with your approval.  It has a nice, dry taste, crisp and clean, and very light.

So, how was your Thanksgiving holiday? I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a nice time with family and friends. In spite of several hours of heavy snowfall last Wednesday, the roads where I live remained clear and we were able to visit our friends and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the crazy rush is on for the Christmas season. It’s time for buying gifts and wrapping them. It’s also time for decorating the house, making Christmas cookies, planning the Christmas dinner and trying to fit in as many holiday get-togethers as possible.

I’m feeling stressed already. Good thing I have my glass of Santa Margherita on hand as I contemplate the long list of tasks to get ready for Christmas day.images9VT2B3YK

Fortunately, my husband and I managed to decorate the house just prior to Thanksgiving, and almost all of my Christmas shopping is finished. I’ve even wrapped a bunch of gifts… now I just need to get some of them to the U.S. Post Office for their journey across the Atlantic to friends on the other side of ‘the Pond.’

I’m always amazed that things somehow fall into place each year. One minute I am contemplating how on earth I will get everything done… and the next minute, somehow I’ve managed to accomplish everything. It’s a mystery!

Under the heading of ‘Stupid Things I’ve Done’ comes this little gem. This past Saturday while wrapping Christmas gifts, I had a cup of my favorite blend of Christmas coffee. Could there be anything better than having a sip of your favorite holiday brew while standing in the midst of a bunch of Christmas clutter? Surrounded by empty gift boxes, brightly colored tissue paper, ribbons, bows, tape and rolls of giftwrap, I surveyed the scene with some despair. I clung to my coffee mug in much the same manner as a drowning man clinging to a life raft. Only one thought ran through my head: where do I begin? Just getting started seemed an insurmountable task.

images1IZLRDCRHoping to momentarily escape the chaos surrounding me, my mind suddenly recalled the black-and-white biscotti I’d purchased earlier in the day.

What could be better? Christmas coffee and biscotti! Yum!

Not so yum, I’m afraid. As I bit down on the biscotti, I felt a slight pop on the right side of my jaw. Didn’t hurt my tooth, but, boy, did that biscotti do a number on my jaw, which has since protested with regularity. I am still waiting for the slight discomfort to end and hopeful that a visit to Dr. Jawbone Expert won’t be in order.

When sharing my tale of woe with my friend, Heather B. Costa, she sympathetically offered, “Didn’t you dunk? Don’t you know you’re supposed to dunk those things in coffee, not bite down on ‘em?”

Uh… well… yeah…

I don’t know what possessed me to bite down on one. It was rather like one of those moments in life where you stand at a crossroads: to dunk or not to dunk? I was feeling wild, reckless, even!  For whatever reason, I chose not to dunk.

Instead, I bit down.

I should have dunked.

Next time (once they unwire my jaw, that is), I will dunk.

Or maybe next time I’ll just stay the hell away from cookies that have the feel and texture of a rock.

W.K. Tucker, another pal of mine, mentioned last week that I failed to whine in my previous edition of the Wednesday Whine. I am making up for it with this post. I’m whining big time.

Self-pity, surely thy name is Kate Loveton (the woman with the dislocated jaw!).

Anyway, a word to the wise: when handling biscotti, remember to dunk.

On to other things…

I am currently reading a Wally Lamb novel, We Are Water. I am generally a fan of Wally Lamb’s novels. She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much is True are among my favorite books. Lamb is a keen and compassionate observer of human nature, and his stories about people dealing with tough emotional problems always hold me hostage. His novels make me laugh and cry, and I generally walk away from them feeling I’ve learned something about how human beings relate to one another.9780061941023

I am having a tough time with We Are Water, though, and I’m having trouble figuring out where the book is headed. I’m thirty percent of the way through, and I keep waiting for the story lines to coalesce in a way that is meaningful to me.

I am not overly fond of the character the story appears to center around and that might be the problem.  Annie Oh is an artist who leaves behind her husband of twenty-seven years to pursue her art in New York. The book opens with Annie having ditched her husband for an art dealer (a woman) she plans to marry. Annie seems as ambivalent about marrying the art dealer as she is about most things in her life, save art. One begins to wonder what Annie really does want. I keep wishing I cared more.

Since I still have seventy percent of the book remaining, I’m hopeful that the story’s main thrust will soon become clear, and that I’ll find the characters more engaging.

Has anyone read this book? If so, feel free to share your thoughts. Also, if you’ve read any other books by Lamb, do you have a favorite?

Speaking of things I’m reading, today I was wading through a National Geographic issue from June of this year which featured a German Shepherd on its cover. The lead story celebrated ‘hero’ dogs – dogs trained by the military to sniff out IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The article detailed all the ways in which these dogs assist human soldiers, often saving their lives by rooting out these dangerous weapons. The soldiers bond closely with these animals. It was a touching story in many ways.

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But I found it sad, too. I make no bones (sorry – no pun intended!) about being an impassioned dog lover. There was something disturbing to me in the photographic images of wounded dogs, of a dog in a body bag, of dogs carried up steep walls to sniff out weapons. I think it may have something to do with the fact that dogs really have no choice in the matter. Man has waged wars throughout history – and he makes the decision to go to battle.images4VIPAFIP

But animals? Why should animals have to play a role in man’s never-ending wars?

Have you read about the use of dogs in war? Have you ever thought much about it? I never had until I read the article – and saw the photos. Like the use of animals in laboratory experiments, I might understand the benefit for humans, but it still bothers me.

* * * * * *

On a humorous note, thoughts of humans using animals for beneficial purposes brings me to my favorite ‘beast of burden’ – Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer.

th0IWLZCHZYes, it’s that time of the year when that perennial favorite will be shown on TV and kids (young and old) will celebrate the season in the glow of Rudy’s red nose. I always liked old Rudy. I liked that he showed those other uppity reindeer that sometimes being different is okay; in fact, sometimes, it’s better.

That may be the reason I also like the Charlie Brown Christmas special.   Like Rudolph, Charlie dared to be different from his friends and he questioned the real reason for the season – and, with the help of gentle Linus, came to the conclusion it was not just the presents, parties or managing to find the biggest Christmas tree in town that’s important.

Charlie’s pretty saavy for a cartoon character. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have had to retreat to the cookie cupboard in order to comfort himself through the ordeal of wrapping Christmas gifts like someone else we know…

charlie-brown-christmas-tree1
On that note, I shall end by expressing a wish that the rest of the week treats each of you gently. Whatever holiday you celebrate, whatever preparations you may be in the midst of, I wish you joy and humor.

Just remember one thing: if anyone offers you a biscotti, don’t forget to dunk.

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Note: credit for the images of National Geographic Magazine and of the dog in a soldier’s arms belong to National Geographic.

A Schuyler Falls Story: The Pearl

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The black man stood a fair distance from the group of mourners at the gravesite.  His nervous fingers worried the soft hat in his hands. He was dressed in his Sunday best – a worn blue suit, freshly pressed. The occasion demanded it.

It wasn’t every day a man buried his father.

He couldn’t make out the minister’s words, but Moody guessed the content. His old man had been a pillar of the Schuyler Falls Methodist Church. Moody watched the faithful dab their eyes.

People only see what they want to see, he thought.

Not so when it came to Granny Ella, standing ramrod straight at the foot of her son’s grave, eyes fixed on something only she could see.

No fake sentiment there.

She knew too well the stiff-necked nature of the man being buried.

Finally the service ended and Moody watched as Granny Ella and the others departed. He then made his way to where his father’s body rested.

“So, daddy, looks like it’s just you and me. Been awhile, hasn’t it? I gotta few things I need to say.

“You never figured me for much, did you? Since I was a young ‘un, you said I was a disappointment. Never mattered how hard I tried; nothing was ever good enough. How many times you reckon you said I’d never amount to anything?

“Well, it’s a fact that if you don’t expect much from folks, you don’t get much in return. Every bad prophecy you made about me has just about come true.”

Moody ran a hand through his crinkly hair. The feel of it still surprised him. He smiled. “Guess I look a bit different to you now, don’t I? This black skin of mine…”

“Life’s strange, daddy. One night, just when I was feeling the devil in every corner, God gave me a miracle. This old Black man come up to me and he looked deep inside my soul. Said he saw something good there…

“This sounds crazy, but I think he might’ve been an angel. He asked me how much I wanted to come home and start over, how much I wanted to see Granny Ella again. Next thing I know, he was gone.

“But here’s the thing – he gave me his face and his color. I was able to escape the past and come back here. Gave me a new start, he did.

“Funny thing… when he looked inside me, he saw a person of value.  Why couldn’t you?”

Moody sighed, shaking his head for what might have been.

“Daddy, you know anything about pearls? A pearl begins its life as an irritant, lodging itself deep inside an oyster’s soft body. Now, that old oyster, he can’t escape the pain that irritant causes.  To protect himself, he secretes a substance that covers it, layer after layer… until finally, this thing of value, a pearl, is formed, and all the irritation is gone.

“I guess you were my irritant, daddy. All your meanness, your harsh words… I covered ‘em over, buried ‘em beneath a protective coating. They don’t hurt me anymore.

“I made a pearl out of your meanness. Like that angel told me, I’m a person of value now.

“I wanted you to know that – and to know something else. You were my daddy and you didn’t do right by me… but I forgive you.”

Moody paused, surprised at the unexpected moisture in his eyes.

“Yeah, I forgive you, daddy – ’cause that’s what a person of value does.”

__________________
Word Count: 582

Author’s Note: Story written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly fiction prompt (here). This week’s prompt was to take a favorite character from one of our previous stories and write a story about him / her utilizing the word oyster.

The story of Moody was begun in ‘Miracle Night‘ and continued in ‘Second Chances.’

Book Review: The House on Tenafly Road by Adrienne Morris

imageLet’s cut to the chase: I absolutely loved this book.

When I started Adrienne Morris’s novel,’The House on Tenafly Road,’ I imagined it would be similar to ‘Little House on the Prairie’ – not that it was a children’s book, but I suspected it would be a gentle story of one  family’s struggles as they coped with life at an Army fort.

Well, it was indeed a story about an Army family assigned to a fort in Indian territory after the Civil War, but it was more than a gentle recounting of that family’s experiences. ‘The House on Tenafly Road’ is a realistic, at times grim, portrayal of love, forgiveness, and redemption.  It also offers a searing look at how often we end up hurting those we care most about.

John Weldon comes out of the Civil War a morphine addict thanks to terrible wounds he sustained in the Battle of the Wilderness. A child of a drunken mother, Weldon hates that he’s addicted to morphine.  He tries repeatedly to overcome the addiction. When he meets his Army friend’s sister, Katherine, a girl of good family from Englewood, New Jersey, he sees qualities in the young woman that make him love her.  Those qualities also convince him that she can help him stay away from the drug that seduces him. He marries her, refusing to share with her the knowledge of his addiction. As a result, Katherine never truly understands the moods of despair that drive her husband and that, eventually, play terrible havoc with their lives.

Katherine’s father disapproves of her marriage to Weldon, whose parentage is half Indian and half British. The older man is unhappy that his daughter and her children will end up living far from home, and that Katherine will have a harsh life as the wife of a soldier in Indian territory. He sees Indians as savages, and this often causes him to act badly toward his grandson, William, whom he loves very much.  The boy’s unhappiness and sometimes unruly behavior, a result of traumatic events experienced during his parents’ unhappy marriage, cause his grandfather to grow angry with him and label him a savage.

Sometimes one loses patience with Katherine. She’s a strong character, and a complex one. She is deeply flawed. She has great passion for her husband, but her inability to truly understand him leads her into despair. She experiences a terrible loss, and the loss drives a wedge between she and her husband that takes years to overcome – and rends the fabric of their little family, leading to much unhappiness for their boy.

Weldon is also a strong character, and fully drawn. He loses faith – in himself, in those that love him, in his God. He escapes his unhappiness in the morphine which he cannot give up, no matter how good his intentions.  His unwillingness to confide in his wife wars with his need for the drug.  He drives away those who love him with his black moods, his addiction, his need for secrecy.

I said this was a tale of forgiveness and redemption. It is that, but it is a long, hard road before the main characters achieve grace and renewal.

One thing from the book that will stay with me is something Weldon says to Katherine toward the end of it. It seems he has finally regained his faith and he remarks that ‘God shows his grace in chance meetings…’ and he goes on to talk about meeting Katherine’s brother and, as a result, meeting her, and how profoundly happy she made him in spite of all the tragedy the two endured.

I like the idea of God showing his grace in chance meetings, and I can think of a few examples where that has been true in my own life.

How good is this book? I had about two hundred pages remaining to finish it last evening.  I was so caught up in the story that I stayed awake until 3:30 in the morning to see how things would turn out for Katherine and Weldon.

‘The House on Tenafly Road’ concludes on a hopeful note.  I like that.  There are no easy answers… just hope. Isn’t that how life is?

You can purchase ‘The House on Tenafly Road’ at Amazon (here).

51T8AM4NvwL._UX250_The author, Adrienne Morris, blogs at Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained. She has a fascinating blog where she explores through her writing and through photographs the Gilded Age. You’ll want to take a look at her blog – it’s really something special.

The Wednesday Whine: Counting Our Blessings

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
…If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.
~ Irving Berlin

image Did you bring your wine glass? I hope so because I’m ready to pour.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving turkey dinner, I’m sampling a glass of Rodney Strong Pinot Noir. If you like a dry red wine that has satisfying spice tones, this is pretty darned good. I’ll be taking a few bottles of this nice wine to the Thanksgiving dinner we’re attending.

At least that is the plan! It’s snowing right now in ‘my neck of the woods,’ and so we may be having our Thanksgiving feast at home – which would be fine, too. As insurance, we have a turkey ready to prepare as well as the fixings. Now we wait to see what the weather will decide to do.

I’ve always liked the night before Thanksgiving – perhaps because I am not usually required to prepare the feast! Not being an enthusiastic cook but quite an eager diner, one of the things I am thankful for is the kindness of friends. We have traditionally spent Thanksgiving with our best friends in Baltimore. They are, in fact, more like family than friends as our friendship has spanned decades.

norman-rockwell-thanksgivingThanksgiving is the time we remember to count our blessings. The Thanksgiving we share with friends is a celebration right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, full of good food and happy fellowship.

Our hostess prepares a huge turkey for the fifteen of us that gather. We enjoy all sorts of goodies along with the turkey. There are usually several different kinds of dessert – and, of course, the lovely pinot noir that we will bring to tomorrow’s feast will be featured.

Prior to the meal, the host always says the Thanksgiving prayer. He asks God to bless our men and women in the military and keep them safe from harm, and he states simply and sincerely what we are very grateful for – the opportunity to gather together once again and enjoy the feast before us.

MILLER_1941_cover_Saturday_Evening_Post_Nov22_process Corny? Yeah, maybe. But I love it – it reminds me of the Thanksgivings of my youth.

Corny isn’t so bad.

After the meal concludes, the men watch football while the kids play various board and video games. And we women make short work of the pots and pans used to prepare the feast. Holiday china and silver is carefully hand washed, and then dried and put away until used again at Christmas. Much merriment ensues during the cleanup, perhaps due to the wine we’ve imbibed.

It’s a happy time. We’re thankful for it.

Over the years, I’ve watched the attendees at this feast change.

Grandmothers, aunts and uncles have departed, leaving only memories. It’s bittersweet to put away the special china bowl given to my friend by her grandmother, remembering that lady’s gentle smile and how she always told every female in the house how pretty she was while giving her a warm hug.

That’s the thing about holidays. It’s not just the people who are sitting at the table whose presence you celebrate; it’s the people from your past who also come to mind. In some sense, they still sit at the table with you. You’re thankful for the memory.NormanRockwellThanksgivingPie

This Thanksgiving as our host offers up the Thanksgiving prayer, I’ll remember again all the many reasons I have to be thankful.

I’m thankful that God has graced me with a good marriage to a man who is both husband and friend.

I’m thankful for the gift of enduring friendship – those friends still with me and those who’ve moved on, like my friend’s grandmother.

I’m thankful that geography does not define friendship and that I’ve made a wonderful friend who is very special to me even though she lives a few thousand miles across the ocean.

I’m thankful for good health.

I’m thankful for family, and that I have a younger sister – a person who has shared my life’s journey since we were children.1957-girl-missing-tooth

I could go on about the job that takes care of my economic needs, the co-workers who make it fun and, in stressful times, bearable.

I could tell you how grateful I am for the gift of writing and the ability to share it on my blog – or how grateful I am for the internet which has made it possible to develop friendships with people I would have otherwise never gotten to know.

I’m thankful for the teachers who taught me how to read and who encouraged me to love books. Reading has been one of the chief joys of my life, and I’m very grateful for good books that entertain and enlighten me. God bless the story tellers!

I’m also thankful for my warm house that shelters and comforts me on cold, wintry nights. I’m grateful for the food on my table.

And that brings me back to the Thanksgiving feast…

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In a world full of turmoil, fear and insecurity, it’s important to take a moment to be thankful. We are so much poorer when we fail to reflect on the people and the memories important to us, and so it’s good to lift a glass and remember to count our blessings. It’s so easy to take them for granted, the big ones and the small ones.A%20Christmas%20Prayer

So in the quiet of this night before Thanksgiving, I lift my glass to each of you and wish you a lovely holiday. Make some memories that you’ll giggle over in the future or recall with warmth. Remember those who are no longer with you, but who are still so much a part of your life because they still reside within your heart.

Take a few minutes to offer up a prayer of thanks – or to pause for a moment to reflect on the things near and dear to you. Remember, life is precious and so are the moments we share together.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Mysterious Ways (a Schuyler Falls Story)

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I hated seeing my girl so sick. My wife and I continued to pray but it seemed God wasn’t listening.

How could He be so unfair, bringing this sorrow into our lives once more? Wasn’t losing our first-born hard enough?

Polly sat next to the child’s bed, wiping her brow. “Cindy, won’t you eat just a little for Mama?”

Cindy shook her head weakly. “I just can’t, Mama… I’ll throw it up. You know I will.”

Polly threw a look of despair my way before turning back to the child. “It’s okay, sugar,” she said, setting the soup bowl on the nightstand. She pulled the comforter close to Cindy’s chin and kissed her forehead. “We’ll try the soup later.”

Rising from Cindy’s bedside, she followed me out of the room. She closed the door and collapsed in my arms. “Fred, how can this be happening again? I don’t think I can get through it…”

Holding her tight, I breathed in the sweet scent of her hair. “Baby, you’re worn out. Why don’t you let me get one of the churchwomen in to help?”

“No,” she whispered, “Cindy’s my baby… I’ll be the one to tend her. She needs her mama…”

The doorbell rang and Polly moved away.

“Wonder who that is?” she asked, smoothing back her hair. “Can you get the door, Fred? I’m going to see if I can tempt Cindy with a chocolate muffin.”

“She says she can’t eat, Polly; she’s just gonna throw it back up.”

Stricken, Polly stared at me. “She’s gotta eat something! How’s she gonna keep up her strength if she don’t eat?”

I had no answers and bitterness washed through me.

Where was God in all this?

Nowhere.

I wiped away Polly’s tears. “Okay, baby… you try to get her to eat. Maybe she’ll keep it down this time.”

******

I answered the door, surprised to find Isabel Perkins standing there – and with her, Sheriff Barton.

“Evening, Isabel, Sheriff – something I can do for you?”

That’s when Mrs. Perkins began to tell me about the monsters in Schuyler Falls.

******

I dismissed her tale as the ranting of an old woman who’d spent too many lonely hours with only her dog for company.

“Won’t hurt to take a look now, will it, Fred?” asked the Sheriff, his eyes sharp. “Might put this lady’s fears to rest. How about it?”

I stared at him, confused.

“C’mon, Fred,” said the Sheriff. “Let’s take a look upstairs.”

******

I miss my wife.

Despite everything, I still love her.

Crazy, huh?

We found her upstairs, standing in her secret place, injecting a syringe full of Drano into a chocolate muffin.

Now I think of my first girl’s death and the signs I missed – signs the whole damned town missed! I get to questioning how the Good Lord let this happen.

Makes no sense.

And that talk about monsters? I lived with one for years and never knew it. Took an old woman’s nightmares to open my eyes – and save my child’s life.

I don’t know…

I guess what the Bible says is true: the Lord moves in mysterious ways.
__________________
Word count: 525

Author’s Note: This is the fourth and final story in a story arc about Polly Andrews, ‘the good mother.’ If you’d like to read the entire arc, the stories, in order, are: The Good Mother, Monsters Under the Bed and Signs.

This story is written in response to a challenge to write a flash fiction story in which the narrator finds something hidden in the family home. In Fred’s case, he found out there was a monster hidden inside his wife. The challenge is sponsored by ThainInVain and can be found here.

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