Saturday, March 19, 2016

Do'Nut Eat This

 In my defense, I want you to know that, being gluten sensitive, I have been deprived of gluten products for several years. I’ve made due and it’s been tolerable. More recently I made a decision to limit my sugar intake and on top of that, gave up coffee for the week. Hopefully this helps you understand the frame of mind I was in when the following took place.

The tantalizing aroma of fresh baked donuts permeated the room. A perky young lady in a crisp apron stood smiling at the door of our store, rectangular pink box balanced in her hand. With a dimpled smile she presented the offering to my co-worker and I. “Compliments of your new neighbor; our bakery opened today!”

With reverence we carried the box to the employee break room. Upon sitting it down, and lifting the lid, a small moan escaped my throat and tears threatened to spill. My knees buckled and I knew my willpower had just run out the door taking common sense and pride along with her. 

There inside, nestled gently in white tissue paper were a baker’s dozen of the loveliest assortment of hot fresh-out-of-the-bakery treats. Glazed and frosted donuts, some jelly filled, apple fritters, bear claws, and oh my -- maple bars! My hands flew to my eyes. "DON'T LOOK! TURN AWAY NOW!!" But it was too late. Gluten be damned. Sugar free be damned. Forget about the strict healthy eating plan I was determined to follow.

The maple bar was cut in half in a futile attempt of restraint but I knew it was a joke. The entire bar would be eaten, by me, and in short order! In a heartbeat the feeding frenzy was on. Each bite was shameless unadulterated pleasure. Whimpers of ecstasy from my corner of the break room caused my co-worker to look over and chuckle. And, then, it was over. All that was left was the sweet stickiness on my fingers and a frosting glaze on my chin. I sighed and burped delicately.

Later, at home, as I rolled in discomfort from the thickening around my waist where my pants cut into my bloated belly, I sighed again and this time the burp was a belch and there was nothing lady like about it. But was it worth it?

 Finding a last drop of glaze in my bra cup as I undressed I said softly "Yes.” I licked the glaze off my bra. "It tasted just like a baby angel*."

*Credit Tim Hawkins for this amazing quote

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Autumn Haiku

swirling leaves
dancing in the wind,
enchant me.

crimson amber brick
natures crayons bursting forth
green fades; a slow death.

last harvest;
the garden closes
on its gate.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Season of Socks and Sweaters

The rain fell
And the wind blew.
Tree branches bowed
and broke.
Lights flickered, then darkness.
And the rain fell.
And the wind blew.

Just like that
summer got packed up into a box and
tucked into the closet.
Down came the patio furniture, the umbrellas, the tent.
A chill in the morning, an extra blanket at night.
And the rain fell.
And the wind blew.

Bare feet tucked into thick socks
White t-shirts traded for cable knit sweaters
Pumpkin scented candles and pumpkin spiced drinks
sound ridiculously appropriate
3 weeks before the official fall date arrives.
And the rain fell
And the wind blew.

"Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."
Goes the quote by Dr. Seuss.
For summer was indeed delightful, blissful and long.
And autumn with it's brilliant colors,crisp mornings and nights
will thrill us too.
So, let the rain fall.
and let the wind blow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

That Favorite Time of Day

Its pitch dark and a heavy cloud of sleep presses upon her like the downy comforter in which she is curled up. In her dreams a bird is screeching in her ear and as she fights to ward it off it slowly transforms into a round metal ball. The metal ball continues to screech until finally the noise penetrates a new level of consciousness and she fumbles through the tangle of sheets and blankets to reach for the annoyance. 

Groping blindly her hand makes contact with the metal object, searches out the button and finally—silence! Exhausted from her efforts to protect her sleep, she now rolls onto her back and admits defeat. Forcing her eyes open, she searches the ceiling for the meaning of life, waiting for her brain and body to reconnect and allow her to negotiate her way out of bed.

Scuffing down the hall, her robe securely tied around her, she is aware that certain parts of her anatomy are more awake then others. Morning rituals must be followed. When she finally makes it to the kitchen she sniffs appreciatively; the auto setting on her coffee maker is a life saver.

Taking the first cup black, she lifts the mug to her mouth and sips slowly. This is nectar of the gods she thinks. This is a holy moment. She senses before she sees, her husband, ensconced in his chair in the living room already sipping his coffee. He lifts his mug in silent greeting; he knows the rule. No speaking till her cup is almost gone.

“There isn’t enough coffee in all of Central America to make me a morning person.” She once told him and he believes it. It is safe to say that early morning is not Jane’s favorite time of the day.

The early morning routine rarely changes and soon Jane has eggs frying while she tucks sandwiches into Sam’s lunch box. It’s amazing what a person can do in their sleep, Sam has said, after watching her shut the refrigerator door with her hip, while balancing juice, and a pot of jam in the crook of her arm. Although occasionally an unintended item makes its way into his lunch (the raw egg that was thought to be hard boiled comes to mind) Jane pretty much has getting him out the door each morning down to an exact science, whether she’s fully awake or not.

With Sam out the door and daylight still fuzzy on the horizon, Jane pours a second cup of coffee and adds her daily treat of half and half. Settling into her own chair, she is soon joined by a purring Marley. The tuxedo cat stretches across her lap and lets her scratch him between the ears for a few moments before taking his sentinel place on the back of the couch. This is Jane’s quiet time.

She will read her bible and perhaps a page or two from a favorite devotional before flipping open her journal and jotting down any significant thoughts. It is safe to say that without this quiet time each day Jane will flounder. It has taken her a long time to learn this and now it’s a habit she cannot afford to give up. As she returns her bible and journal to her chair side table, a little sigh of satisfaction escapes her. This might be my favorite time of day, she thinks.

The next thing of habit for Jane is a brisk walk through the neighborhood. She rarely misses a morning, regardless of the weather. On a cold or rainy day the exercise is especially invigorating. but on a sunny day she turns her face upward and soaks it up. Breathing deep makes her feel as if she could swallow the sun like a tall glass of orange juice.

When her walk is done and she places her shoes and coat back in the hall closet she feels accomplished and gratified. She truly enjoys the physical movement and the benefits she gains from being active. With her endorphins pumped up Jane is ready for anything. “Bring it!” she challenges. There is no doubt that her daily walks are a favorite part of her day.

Being a stay-at-home-wife and-empty-nest –mother means the rest of her day is quite practically hers to command. Household duties are easily interwoven with volunteer activities and outside interests. Doing laundry or running to the bank, a trip to the grocery store or to the library, women’s bible study, or preparing a meal for a shut in, all of these things bring Jane fulfillment. Contentment is a rare gift but Jane has learned that it is also a choice. Reaching out with both hands she grabs hold of it vigorously and tries to live in the moment. Could it be safe to say that those are her favorite times of the day?

Yet, when Sam returns each evening and she hears the motor announcing his arrival, a little pitter-patter occurs in her chest. Like the nervous flips her tummy did when they went on their first date, or the way her heart picked up speed when his eyes locked with hers, his return at the end of each work day still brings her pleasure. She kisses his cheek and tells him often that this is her favorite part of her day; his return. Watching his eyes light up when she says this only makes it all the more true.

And yet… when Jane sips her after dinner tea and reviews her day she is often surprised to realize how fast the day has gone. Keeping busy will do that but for Jane this goes deeper. She has spent a greater part of the day in her own company, something probably only an introvert can truly appreciate, but she is also aware that she doesn’t really walk alone. The presence of the Holy Spirit is always there, strengthening her, guiding her, teaching her. And when she offers her humble prayers of thanks for another day in His presence, she arrives at the conclusion that for every moment she recognizes this,  its beyond a doubt, the very best and most favorite time of her day.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Java Love

Coffee or Tea? The question was posed. My answer came swiftly.  Coffee. Hands down. No offense, Tea. I mean, I do enjoy a steaming cup of Earl Gray, made in a proper china teapot, every now and again—usually mid afternoon, with my feet up, but … its coffee that has my heart.

You have to understand. I grew up drinking coffee. I was raised on a dairy farm and it was my job every morning to bring the cows in from the field to be milked. This required EARLY rising and I am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person, let alone an early one!

Mom would roust me out of bed; I’d stumble out to the kitchen, wiping cobwebs from my eyes, to find a special treat waiting for me. A sturdy mug of coffee, specially prepared for me by Dad. Now, granted  it was mostly cream and sugar with a splash of coffee in it, (the original latte) but the privilege and luxury of sipping a mug of sweet creamy coffee made me feel  important, grown up and most of all, loved.

Charged up by the sugary octane, I would find my way to the mudroom for my coat and boots and head out into fields still shrouded in darkness to search out our herd of cows.

As I grew older the amount of coffee in the milky cup got stronger and while I eventually gave up sugar, the cream is still a very important part of my morning cuppa.

Now days, mornings are made possible by my husband, who almost without fail, brews a pot of fragrant coffee, before I’ve even rolled out of bed. When I scuff my way into the kitchen, he will hand me my cup. 

He knows to not try and engage in conversation with me until that cup is at least half way gone. That morning pot of coffee,I tell him, is one of the reasons I fall in love with him all over again. He chuckles but I’m dead serious.

I chuckle when I think of our early courtship, when he confessed to not being a coffee drinker and I, shocked at such an acknowledgment, drug him off to the nearest coffee house and introduced him to mochas. He can blame me for his coffee addiction, but I stand by my convictions. Coffee is a necessity!

I was terribly chagrined when a trip to the south a few years ago revealed an appalling lack of coffee stands. 

As in NONE. 

Sweet Tea, yes. Coffee? Uh, No.

I made do but after two weeks of Waffle House Sweet Tea, I was desperate. I threw myself shamelessly on the barista at the airport Starbucks and practically kissed her feet when she handed me my iced Americano. Hey. Don’t judge.

All our road trips start with a coffee stop. Gotta have proper fuel for the journey. I think the perfect road trip might be to plan it around espresso stands. We could call it research! One of the highlights now when we go camping is making coffee in my old fashioned percolator. That cheerful little glub, glug, glub as the water boils up into the coffee grounds and hits the little percolator knob? Sheer delight, I kid you not.

What else can I say about coffee? I love the aroma. The feel of the mug in my hands. But in the broader sense, it’s the conversations that take place and the relationships that build simply because someone says, “Let’s meet for coffee.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Preacher's Wife

Alice let the screen door slam behind her as she stepped out of the steamy kitchen onto the back porch of the café. Pulling an empty milk crate away from the wall with one hand, she scrounged her apron pocket for her cigarettes with the other. The carton had one slightly bent Virginia Slim left in it and she withdrew it carefully. Her tips had been good this morning. She’d be able to buy another pack before withdrawals kicked in.

She perched daintily on the milk crate and lit her cigarette with a shaky hand. Blowing out the smoke, she leaned back against the wall intent on relaxing. Behind her, the sounds of the kitchen echoed across the fresh fall air.

Rattling dishes, sizzles from the grill, the chatter of the other waitresses seasoned with occasional laughter all offset by Murphy growling orders. He hadn’t been happy when he saw her edging towards the door but he couldn’t exactly fault her for taking her break just then. He knew who had just settled herself at the lunch counter. Knew and understood.

Alice flicked ash off her apron and grimaced. That woman. Came in every day at the same time and always sat in Alice’s section. Her ample figure spilled over both sides of the stool but it would have been more difficult to fit in a booth.

“Order up!” She heard Murphy bark. One blue plate special being handed across the serving window where little Amber Dawn would stand on tippy-toes to reach it before delivering it with a big smile to the woman at the counter. Let Amber Dawn be the benefactor of Mrs. Horseman’s unsolicited advice today. Alice wasn’t going to rush back in there.

She finished her cigarette and glanced at her watch. She still had a few more minutes before she had to head back inside—enough time to pop over to the Shell Station and grab another pack of smokes. She hated that she’d picked up this nasty habit again but, C’est la Vie. 

She peeked in through the screen. Mrs. Horseman was bent over her plate, the floppy hat she favored bobbing slightly as she scooped up her mashed potatoes. Next to her on the counter, being jostled by her elbow was the main reason Alice had needed to escape. Feeling heat rising inside her, Alice whirled around and headed to the gas station.

For the entire three months Alice had been working at Murphy’s Diner, Mrs. Horseman hadn’t missed a day. At first it had been fine; Mrs. Horseman was trying to be supportive of Alice’s need to work. But as the weeks went on and it became clearer that the older woman had an agenda, it had become awkward. Now it was just plain irritating. The final straw had come over the last few visits, when Mrs. Horseman had pulled her bible out of her purse. Alice did not need this woman preaching at her. That was when she started pulling her disappearing acts.

The beeping of the delivery truck woke her from her reverie. She grinned when she saw the bearded face of the driver through the cab window.

“Hey Bernie!” She waved. Bernie leaned out the window, one beefy arm resting on the opening.

“Hey yourself.” He swung down from the truck cab, stretching as he did. “Taking a break?”

Alice crossed her arms tightly and jerked her head in the direction of the restaurant. “Oh, that old biddy Horseman is in for lunch. I needed to escape for awhile.”

Bernie chuckled. “She’s trying to save your soul Alice.”

“Yah, well, I don’t need saving. Why doesn’t she go after Marshall? He’s the one who walked out.”

Bernie scratched his beard.

“Alice! Yoo-hoo, Alice!”

Good grief, it was Amber Dawn hollering from the back door of the café. Alice waved, “Be right there!”

Turning back to Bernie she pressed some money into his hand. “I gotta get back over there. Be a doll for me Bern and buy me a pack of Virginia Slims. Menthol.”

Before Bernie could protest Alice was gone.

Back inside the kitchen Alice met the stony glare of her boss. “Sorry Murph. I lost track of time.”

Murphy nodded towards the dining area. “Your presence is requested out yonder.”

“My presence...?” She whirled around to see Mrs. Horseman still at the counter. Her heart sank. “Lord, have mercy.” Mustering up her strength she squared her shoulders and marched through the swinging café doors.

Determined to be polite Alice forced a smile. “Hello Mrs. Horseman.”

“Oh there you are Alice. I was afraid you’d taken ill. I haven’t seen you for a few days.” Mrs. Horseman beamed. “I just wanted you to know our ladies circle is still praying for you. We wanted you to have this.” With a flourish she presented Alice with a book.

Alice read the title. “The Power of a Praying Wife.”


Woodenly she listened as Mrs. Horseman plowed on. “Our ladies circle did this book as a study last year and it was simply amazing! One can never underestimate the power of prayer my dear.”

Alice felt the heat returning around her collar. Her palms itched. She hoped Bernie showed up with those cigarettes and soon. “Thank you Mrs. Horseman but I don’t think--”

“Oh no need to thank me hon. just knowing you’ll be reading and praying is thanks enough.” Mrs. Horseman stood, sweeping her purse and bible from the counter, nearly knocking her dishes off in the process. Alice reached out to settle them and the book slipped out of her hand. As she bent to retrieve it the empty carton of Virginia Slims fell from her pocket.

She heard the gasp from Mrs. Horseman and didn’t need to look up to know how aghast the woman was. Alice contemplated her choices.

She scooped up the book and the crumpled cigarette carton and straightened. Facing Mrs. Horseman she took a deep breath.

“I appreciate your prayers and your concern, I really do. But I’m doing fine. I know Marshall’s decision to leave has been a shock to everyone but he’s not coming back. The sooner we all accept it the better. I’m making peace with it and I hope you will too. But” she pushed on, ignoring Mrs. Horseman’s’ sputtering.
“I can assure you, I have not turned my back on God. I just need some time to figure things out.”

“We—we’d love to see you in church again Alice.”

Alice sighed. “It’s not a good place for me right now. Surely you can understand that. ”

“I know it must feel awkward Alice, but we’re your family. Regardless of what Pastor Marshall has done…”

Alice held up her hand. “I need time. You need to respect that.”

Her eyes locked with Mrs. Horseman and for the first time since she’d started working at Murphy’s she sensed something other than sympathy coming from the older woman.

With a deep sigh, Alice dropped her hand and turned away. She felt Mrs. Horseman’s hand on her arm.

“Of course dear. You take all the time you need. And remember, we’re here for you. I’m here.”

Nodding, Alice retreated to the back room. Ignoring the looks from Murphy and the other waitresses, Alice pushed her way back outside. There on the milk cartoon she found a fresh carton of Virginia Slims and a chocolate bar. 

Bless that Bernie.

* written in response to the writing prompt of incorporating the following characters into a story: chain smoker, preacher's wife, delivery man. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pink and Perfumed

I put out the challenge to my women writers group this week to write a story that incorporated certain words in the text.Well, of course, I included myself in the challenge. The assigned words were: magazine, she froze for a moment then, clever, it doesn't matter

Spilling the mail on the floor as she tripped over the entry way rug, Margo cursed under her breath. She watched as the new home design magazine slid across the freshly polished mahogany floor. Flinched inwardly as it ended up against the closet door, cover flipped back, crinkled, and slightly torn.

“Well, aren't you the clever one.” She muttered crossly. “Dan’s bound to be unhappy about that one.” Stomping to the closet, she grabbed the magazine as one would grab an offensive child by his collar. She smoothed the pages down and shoved loose inserts back inside, kicking off her boots as she did so. 

Satisfied with her efforts to restore order to Dan’s precious periodical, she slapped it down on the side table along with her car keys. Shrugging out of her jacket she marched back to the door to gather the rest of the wayward mail. Having grabbed the mail from the outside box on her way up the walk, she’d not yet scanned the contents and now took the opportunity to do so. Flipping past utility bills and bank statements, she smelled it before she saw it. Pink and petite, addressed to Dan in a loopy feminine handwriting, the perfume wafted up and tickled her nose.

She froze for a moment, then using her thumb and forefinger extracted the letter carefully. She flipped it over. No return address. Her golden-green eyes narrowed to slits. What the heck? Margo tapped the letter against the palm of her hand contemplating her next move.

She could set it on the hallway table with the rest of the mail and watch Dan’s reaction when he came home and saw it. She’d be able to tell a lot by his face. Poker-face was not a word you would use to describe Dan by any means. Would she confront him then and demand to know what was going on?

Or she could open it, obviously, and find out just who this brazen woman was and know exactly what was going on. She wouldn’t need to wait for some limp excuse, or worse, something she wasn’t ready to face.

Carefully now she laid the letter down on the kitchen counter and put some water on for tea. Paced back and forth across the tile kitchen as she waited for the water to heat. Picked up the letter. Set it back down. Paced some more.

When the tea kettle began to emit its whistle, Margo snatched the letter back up. Holding the letter in one hand she moved the tea kettle off the burner. What if the seal of the letter just happened to be in the path of hot steam… what then?

Lips pursed, Margo allowed the envelope to dangle in front of the tea kettle. Eyes wide with fascination she watched as the envelope flap curled slightly. Forgetting the tea making, she slipped one perfectly manicured finger against the flap and slightly under. With just a little more pressure the seal would give and the letter would be opened.

Aware she was about to cross a line she forced herself to take a deep breath and reevaluate the situation. Was not her and Dan’s relationship built on trust? Did she really believe something less than honorable might be going on here?

Yes, she reasoned, she did trust Dan. It was the sender of the fragrant letter that she wasn’t sure about. She laid the card back on the counter and crossed her arms.  

Slowly she began ticking off all the reasons she could think of that someone would write to Dan using pink and perfumed wiles.

Perhaps it was a thank you note. Dan volunteered often with Habitat for Humanity. It could be from one of the office gals. Or maybe it was from an aunt. She couldn’t remember Dan mentioning an aunt but she was willing to give the benefit of the doubt here.

After that, Margo was stumped. Suddenly her face brightened. “Oh! I know! Maybe it’s a gift card for me and Dan wants to surprise me with it later!” Then, “But why would they send it looking all girly-girl and smelling like…” she took a closer whiff. “… Vanilla Musk”

She slapped her hand against her forehead. Of course. Vanilla Musk. Her favorite. Available only from the Secret Pantry, where she had added Dan’s name to their mailing list a few months ago to help him remember upcoming events. Like their anniversary.

Her cheeks flushed, she hastened to the hallway table and laid the letter carefully among the rest of the mail.

“And if I’m wrong, it doesn’t matter. I trust Dan.”

Her decision made, Margo returned to the kitchen for her forgotten cup of tea.