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Falling Apart

27 Jan

As the late afternoon sunlight filters through the kitchen window, it accents the dust floating in the air of this neglected house. She sits at the kitchen breakfast bar with a bottle of pills and a glass of wine. She knows it’s the easy way out, the coward’s way. She will cause those she loves more pain. But she doesn’t have the strength or willpower to pick herself up anymore. She cannot repeat her morning mantra for one more day – I’ll see him again someday. He’s in a better place. Someday, it will hurt less. Everything happens for a reason.

She stares at the makeshift shrine that has sat atop the counter for six months. The stack of prayer cards from his funeral mock her, in their dusty, haphazard stack. Her fists clench as she looks at the ugly angel pictures and sappy poems instructing her not to cry anymore or telling her that her loved one is “safely home.” A small vase holds three roses from his casket bouquet. The roses are dead and crispy, blackening around the edges. There is a stack of sympathy cards smeared with every trite and useless consolation people offer up when someone dies.

She raises her arm and with a scream knocks it all off the counter. She is comforted, for a moment, by the crash and breaking glass. For a moment, she is not the only thing falling apart.

She can’t face one more day of sitting in her empty house, looking at pictures and trying to conjure physical memories of him in a vain effort to preserve them – the tightness of his little fingers gripping hers, his smooth cheeks under her lips, his giggle. But her memories continue to float just out of reach, fading and softening around the edges.

They used to fall asleep together, tucked into a corner of the couch, his weight heavy on her chest. But pain is the only thing pressing against her breastbone now and she can no longer sleep. Her arms are empty, her soul hollowed out by grief like a pumpkin scraped clean of its insides.

She clutches the pill bottle. Shakes it. It’s almost full.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

This week we challenged you to try a piece using one of the writing tools you’d like to polish a bit. Some examples we talked about in our twitter chat were writing from a different point of view, engaging our characters in conflict, or improving descriptive writing.

There were no subject restrictions, but a photo was provided in case you needed a little push.

This is the first piece I wrote about Grace and I’ve been trying to polish it ever since. Today I tried to work on not using so much “telling” and a little more showing. I owe a big thank you to Angela who reviewed this piece for Write on Edge a few weeks ago.

A Picture Speaks

24 Jan

I was taken with a Nikon camera, at sunrise, against the backdrop of one of nature’s greatest miracles. I was snapped by a young man who had no idea that in six short days, the picture he was taking would be a beacon of hope to a whole family.

I was presented to them in a manila envelope on the worst day of their lives. They have copied me into 8x10s, into 5×7, into wallet-sized pictures to carry around with them all the time. I’ve been given as gifts, ensconsed in frames and hung on walls. I sit over fireplace mantles and in the center of living rooms.

He is their son, their brother, their father, their friend. He is standing in the far left of the frame, with his back to the camera. His figure is all blackness and shadow, so dark that you can’t see the color of his shirt or his hat. But the outline of his ears, the tilt of his head, and the breadth of his shoulders leave no doubt this is Nathan. His silhouette is outlined against the expanse of the Grand Canyon. It lies before him, with all its depth and peaks and valleys highlighted by the rising sun. The sun blazes, a white-hot ball radiating orange and yellow across the sky.

They picture him on that blinding ridge, a place where he can look out over everything and everyone he ever cared for, laying comforting hands on their souls when they need it most. I provide them with a visual, and they can imagine that he looked down from that place and saw that the love and peace and fun that surrounded him in life comforted all of them, even in his death.

They look at me to remind themselves that if such a thing as heaven exists, it looks like that. And he is there.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

Do objects have a memory? Does a rocking chair hold the essence of the snuggles it has witnessed? Does a pottery mug remember the comforting warmth it offered a struggling soul?

The dictionary defines personification as “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.”

This week, tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness.

400 words or less.

Tears

20 Jan

“So you’ve noticed some similarities between this pregnancy and your pregnancy with Liam?” Dr. Moore steepled his fingers and looked at Grace.

“No, I haven’t noticed some similarities,” she spat, mentally placing finger quotes around her words. “It’s exactly the same.”

“Grace.” Dr. Moore leaned forward in his seat. “You’ve experienced a terrible loss. You’re likely feeling like this pregnancy is a sort of redemption – a second chance, so to speak – to do it all over again. You’ve been thinking so much about Liam that it’s only natural you’re noticing some similarities between this pregnancy and Liam’s.”

“Dammnit! This isn’t something happening in my mind! I found out I was pregnant on April 20. The first time I heard his heartrate it was 163. The second time, 172. At the next appointment, it will be 170. At his first ultrasound, he was measuring 3 months, 6 days, which was three days ahead of where he should have been measuring, so they pushed my due date up from December 26 to December 23, but he is going to be born on Christmas Eve at 10:48 pm and I know this because it’s EXACTLY HOW IT HAPPENED WITH LIAM!”

Grace was shouting and she didn’t care.  She’d said the words out loud, said more than she ever had, even more than she’d admitted to Rob, who had only laughed off all of these “weird coincidences.”

Now they would probably lock her away. The tears came then, streaming down her face as she stood up. But rather than desperation, she felt – for the first time since she saw those two pink lines – strong. Laying it all out for the doctor had solidified the fact that she couldn’t possibly be fabricating all of this. She let the tears fall, knowing that they were tears of relief – relief that she could trust herself again.

“I am not crazy, Dr. Moore,” she said as she opened the office door and turned to leave. “I don’t know what any of this means, but I am not crazy.”

This post is inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

“The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”
~ Isak Dinesen, pseudonym of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

For your Creative Non-Fiction tell us about the last time that one of these three things “cured” you. If you are going with Fiction, have your character resolve a problem using one of the three (or all three!!!). There are so many ways you can use this prompt so be creative with it, don’t take us where we think you’ll go.

Word Limit is 300.

You can find the rest of Grace’s story here.

Flavor

13 Jan

“You aren’t going to believe that I made this. Seriously. I’ve outdone myself.”

“Oh really?” said Rob, setting down his phone on the counter. “You mean this is better than the burnt mac ‘n cheese and the flat-as-a-pancake chocolate chip cookies?”

“Shush. I know I’m not always a great cook, but sometimes I get it right. Taste this.”

Grace scooped up some sauce from the pot, cupped her hand under the spoon, and lifted it up to Rob’s mouth.

“Careful,” she said, as he took a bite, “it’s hot.”

“Mmmm … Wow. You were right. I’m impressed.”

“Ha! Told you! Chicken enchilada pasta! And wait until you taste the garlic cheese bread that’s in the oven. That is going to knock your socks off.”

“So what’s the special occasion?” Rob asked.

“Can’t I just make a delicious dinner for my husband?” Grace looked over her shoulder and flashed him a smile.

“What’s going on?” Rob asked suspiciously.

“Well. You haven’t even asked me about my ultrasound yet.”

“Oh, I totally forgot! It was just a regular check-up though, right? No big news expected today?”

“Well, it wasn’t expected. I’m a couple of weeks short of when you’re supposed to be able to find out the gender of the baby, but Dr. Martin saw it. I asked her to write it down and put it in an envelope so we could open it together.” Grace held up a plain white envelope with “Baby Dennison” written on the outside.

“You mean we get to find out today what flavor baby we’re getting?”

Grace laughed and kissed him on the cheek. “Our baby isn’t a flavor of ice cream, you know? When do you want to open it?”

Rob wrapped his arm around her waist and said “Let’s open it now!”

Grace took a deep breath and slid her finger under the sealed flap of the envelope. Inside was a folded ultrasound picture. As she unfolded it, Grace was amazed anew that something that just looked like a gray blob could be so beautiful.

She saw the outline of her baby’s feet and the rounded bump of its bottom. And there, above an arrow pointing downward, were the words “It’s a boy!”

Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked up at Rob who kissed her on the nose.

“Hi, Liam.” Grace whispered. “We love you already.”

You can read the rest of Grace’s story, in no particular order, here.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

Four hundred words or less, fiction or creative non-fiction, linked up on Friday morning’s post, based on one of the following definitions:

flavor |ˈflāvər| ( Brit. flavour)
noun
1 the distinctive quality of a particular food or drink as perceived by the taste buds and the sense of smell : the chips come in pizza and barbecue flavors.
• the general quality of taste in a food : no other cracker adds so much flavor to cheese or peanut butter.
• a substance used to alter or enhance the taste of food or drink; a flavoring : we use vanilla and almond flavors.
• [in sing.] figurative an indefinable distinctive quality of something : this year’s seminars have a European flavor.
• [in sing.] figurative an indication of the essential character of something : the extracts give a flavor of the content and tone of the conversation.

2012

5 Jan

Man, I was so proud of myself for seeing NaBloPoMo through. My stats were up! People were commenting! I was loving it! And then … BAM. I started working from home and oddly, spend less time blogging, annoying my dear Internet friends, and losing hours of my life to Twitter and Pinterest. And then the holidays came. Also my kids are home with me from 11:00 on and they are heathens. Heathens, I tell you.

Anyway! I started to do the obligatory year-end post but found that all of my answers started with “I quit my job!” or “I’m working from home!” or “I’m constantly worried about finding work (of which I’ve found NONE – YAY!) and money!” so I didn’t think that would be all that interesting to read. In fact, I know it wouldn’t be all that interesting to read, so I’ve spared you a lot of pain and heartache, Internet.

I’m trying to not make any solid resolutions this year, as I pretty much suck at follow-through. But my main goal in 2011 was to start working at home for myself, and I met that goal. So maybe I can follow-through with one thing for 2012. I suppose I’ll just call them goals and hope that I can pull one of them off.

1) Lose 25 pounds.

2) Build my clientele so I don’t have to constantly worry about money or feel guilty that I’m not working enough.

3) Read 50 books.

4) Write here. Get published somewhere for something.

And that’s it. Sounds manageable. I hope.

Anyway, I’ve found myself fervently hoping that the beginning of a year is not an indication of how the rest of the year is going to go.

Because sometimes your husband will get sick the day before Christmas Eve and will spend the rest of December and first week of January fighting it off.

Because sometimes your son will start puking the night before New Year’s Eve, when you’re supposed to get a massage with your husband and have a night out with friends.

Because sometimes your daughter will start puking two days later and there is just no easy way to handle a puking one year old who cannot yet aim for the bucket.

Because sometimes you your dog escapes when it’s 20 degrees outside and you spend an hour and a half driving around and then have to go to sleep because it’s midnight and you can’t find him. Then you have to wake up at 6:00 the next (after not sleeping much, anyway) to look again and call animal control and still not find him.

But your husband pulls it together enough so that we can pull this off and give our kids an amazing Christmas:

(And this doesn’t include the two bikes that were hiding on the back porch!)

And your awesome parents still agree to watch the kids in spite of the puking so that you can get your massage and go out with your friends and eat way too much sushi and drink way too much wine.

And your daughter, who is sick and miserable, looks up at you and says “I o-tay Mama,” and gives you a hug.

And as you’re driving through your neighborhood for the bazillionth time, looking for the dog, and you’re simulatneously on the phone with animal control, you see a cute little boy in his front yard with your dog on a leash and because they are kind, good people, your dog has been in their house all night, not freezing to death outside.

So I guess it wouldn’t be the worst thing if the rest of 2012 shaped up like this first week.

Countdown

16 Dec

“… three, two, one! Ok, Grace, take  a deep breath … aaaannnd … PUSH!”

Rob placed  a cool washcloth on Grace’s forehead as she started to push for what felt like the millionth time.

The epidural had taken the edge of the pain off, but the closer she got to actually delivering the baby, the more intense the pressure became and her body fought to take over, knowing exactly what it needed to do.

There wouldn’t be any surprises, anyway. Knowing how it would all turn out took the fear out of the equation and had made Grace oddly calm. Her nurses had all commented on how serene and unhurried she seemed. Even Rob was quiet, doing what he needed to do – holding her hand, smoothing her hair off her forehead, telling her how great she was doing.

As the contraction faded, Grace laid her head back on the pillow and snuck a look at the clock. 10:28 pm. Her baby would come into the world at 10:48. Twenty more minutes.

In six minutes, the baby’s heart rate would start dropping. The nurse will call Grace’s doctor in, who will be just down the hall with another patient. He will determine that the baby is having trouble progressing down the birth canal, and that he needs a little help. Her doctor will use a vacuum that attaches to the baby’s head to speed delivery. As he works, the doctor will explain everything that’s happening, and assure Grace and Rob that this sort of thing happens all the time and they will get the baby out with no trouble.

“He’s just comfortable in there and wants to stay,” he’ll say with a smile.

Three minutes later, Grace will be holding her baby. The only unknown tonight is which baby it will be.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

The countdown. We’ve all done it, whether it’s disciplining our kids, gathering up nerve, blasting off into space, or getting ready to pop champagne and scream “Happy New Year!”

This week, we’d like you to write a post – fiction or creative non-fiction – which begins with a countdown. “Three, two, one.” You pick what the countdown is for. The ideas above are just suggestions. Use your imagination and have fun with it!

You can find the rest of Grace’s story here.

The Doorbell

9 Dec

The doorbell rang. Grace’s head snapped up from the computer screen and her stomach tightened. No one knew she was here, tucked away in this little rented townhouse which looked the same as the other 25 nondescript townhouses on the street.

Please just let it be a neighbor. 

On tiptoe, she looked through the peephole. It was Rob.

As if he could sense her on the other side, he said “Grace, please let me in. Please.”

How did he find me?

She stood there, watching him stamp his feet in the cold, and said nothing.

“Grace. I believe you. Please let me in.”

Still she said nothing. Just because he said he believed her didn’t mean it wasn’t a ploy to get her to open the door. She looked out the side window to see if there were familiar cars or an ambulance parked on the street, holding the people just waiting for her to open the door so they could rush in and haul her away.

“Fine. I understand why you don’t trust me. But I believe you, Grace. Do you remember when you were pregnant with Liam, and I got in that accident on the day after Thanksgiving? When that girl in a brand-new Mustang rear-ended my car because she was texting her boyfriend? Well, today is the day after Thanksgiving, and I got rear-ended by that same girl, at the same intersection, in the same Mustang, because she was texting her boyfriend. It’s going to snow tonight, isn’t it, Grace? And this new baby is going to be born on Christmas Eve, isn’t he?”

Heart pounding, Grace unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door. Rob stepped in and wrapped his arms around her, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, baby. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you.”

Outside, the snow began to fall.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

This week we asked you to use the holiday season to inspire you to write a piece beginning with “The doorbell rang” and ending with “snow began to fall.”

 

Why I write

8 Dec

I wish I could say that I’m one of those people who has always been a writer – that I kept a diary as soon as I could hold a pen, that I have volumes of journals in which I recorded my teenage angst, that I’ve got drafts of ten novels sitting on my harddrive. But it’s not true. I’ve always been a reader – and I’ve always desperately wanted to be a writer. But every time I tried to write, even if it was just in a diary, I would be hyper-critical of every single word. I would inevitably tear it up and not try to write again for months.

So back in 2008 (I think??), when my amazing friend H started her blog, it planted an idea in my head. That maybe now that I was older, and had been through something really terrible and was having some serious trouble dealing with it, that I should try to write it out. It took me another year, but I started a blog and loved it immediately.

Every comment I received was a little ego boost. Every time I hit publish, especially on posts that were hard to write, I felt a little part of myself heal. Every time I wrote, I saw my writing improve and now it’s something I’m proud of.

But most importantly, I’ve made some very valuable connections through my writing. Some fellow bloggers have become friends. I read the words of others and wonder how they could have possibly gotten inside my head and wrote down exactly how I feel. As a parent, I read about other parents having the same struggles I do and I don’t feel like I’m failing my children miserably.

Navel gazing is an inherent part of blogging – you are, after all, creating an entire website with yourself as the subject. And I am not the kind of person who likes attention. So I always feel somewhat guilty when I write about some of the most personal aspects of my life. I worry that people feel like I’m writing it just to get comments, sympathy, or attention.

When I saw Write on Edge’s prompt for Tuesday, I knew exactly what would have to write. There was no other option for me. And I was worried it was melodramatic or indulgent. But I can promise you it was honest.

The response to that post blew me away. I started to respond to commenters individually but found myself unable to articulate what their comments meant to me. To write about the events of that day – which were traumatic and still incite a physical reaction in me when I think about them – and have such an outpouring of support and love by people who are (mostly) strangers … well. I was quite literally brought to tears.

So thank you. Thank you so very much to everyone who read or commented.

This is why I write. To connect, to hear other people’s stories, to know that there may just be something I’m good at after all. I have grand hopes (but no illusions) that I might some day be a “real” writer. But if it ever does happen, and I can reach just one person – if just one person is moved or changed by my words – I will consider that a success.

Crash

6 Dec

This is going to be heavy – sorry in advance. But this post is inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge and this is what came out of it.

Today we’re trying a little something different. Are you ready? Your word is below. Take the next ten minutes to write about the first single memory that word calls up. Focus on the emotions and the experience, spend ten minutes really exploring that memory. Then wrap it up, publish, and come back to link up.

RemembeRED, Write on Edge, Memoir writing prompt

The notes of my cell phone ring out and jolt me awake.

“Hello?” I answer groggily, wondering who the hell is calling me at 3:21 am on a Thursday night – or Friday morning, I suppose.

“Kristina?”

“Yes?”

“This is Officer Rick Batelle from the St. Louis County Police Department. I’m sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but no one is home at your parent’s house and I’m over at the neighbors. We got your number from you brother Kyle. I’m so sorry, but your brother Nathan was killed in a car accident tonight.”

Crash.

**********

Forty minutes later I exit the highway, headed to my parents’ house. I’m only about 1.5 miles away, but the road is blocked by a police car, with its silent flashing lights spinning color across the darkness. I cry out – an unintelligible sound that I didn’t consciously make.

The road is blocked because my brother is down that road – only a half a mile from home – but he’ll never make it. I have to go around. I have to go around the barricade that is there because my brother is dead.

Crash.

**********

Twenty minutes later I am in the kitchen of my parents’ neighbors’ house. I hear my husband’s truck pull up outside. I run out the front door. He is stepping out of his truck, and his whole body is sagging. Streaks of tears run down his face and I run. I run. He lifts me in a hug, each of us clinging desperately to the other.

Crash.

**********

Two hours later I’m still in my parents’ neighbors’ kitchen, surrounded by my husband, my aunt and my uncle, and Ron and Cindy – the neighbors who have watched me and my brothers grow up. We’re waiting for my parents, who are away on vacation and unreachable by phone, to find out that their son is gone.

My phone rings. It’s my dad.

“Daddy???” I haven’t called him that in a long time.

“Kristina???” His voice is wrenching, choking on his grief and shock. We seem to have a need to just hear each other’s voice, our names, to assure each other that we’re there.

Crash.

**********

Six hours later I want to see where it happened. We drive the half a mile to the crash site, where a cross has already been erected. Where debris still litters the ground. I see the pole that couldn’t withstand the impact of the speeding car. It is lying on the ground. Covered in something scarlet.

My knees buckle and I am caught by my cousin.

Crash.

**********

Ten minutes, one hour, two hours, five hours, twelve hours. As more neighbors, my cousins, friends, more family, and finally, my parents arrive at my parents’ house, it is a new rip in the wound, fresh pain to bear witness to.

Crash.

Crash.

Crash.

Crash.

Crash.

Chop

2 Dec

Snip. Snip.

Locks of her dark brown hair tumbled to the salon floor. She watched them fall, not making a sound as the pile grew.

It had always been her best feature – her hair. Thick and naturally wavy, it was easy to fix and she’d always kept it long. In light of her disagreeable skin and wider-than-she’d-like hips, she allowed herself a little vanity when it came to her hair.

Rob loved her hair. Liam had wrapped his tiny fingers in it while he nursed.

And now she was chopping it all off.

“So when are you due?”

The stylist’s voice startled her and the chatter and bustle of the salon washed over Grace.

“Oh, um, two months from now.”

“A Christmas baby! How exciting!”

“Yes. Thanks.” Grace smiled a tight-lipped smile at the stylist – Kim according to her nametag – in the mirror.

“You know, I had a cousin who was born on Christmas and …”

Grace let Kim talk, thankful that she seemed satisfied with the occasional “Mmm hmm” or “Oh, really?” from Grace.

Grace watched Kim’s hands in the mirror, deftly manuevering the scissors and comb. When Grace first sat down in her chair and Kim had asked her what she wanted, she had said “I want it short. And blonde.”

“That’s it?” said Kim.

“That’s it. I trust your judgment. Just something short.”

“Okay then! I think I know just the cut!” and Kim began chopping.

And as her hair fell around her, Grace felt herself letting go of any expectations she’d had – about this pregnancy, about her marriage, about how she thought her life would look at 34 years old. None of it had gone the way she’d hoped and here she was, changing the thing about herself she loved the most. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her.

So, she thought, it’s time to let go and find out.

This post was inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge:

This week we asked you to write about hair. So many of us have a love-hate relationship with it. For some of us, it’s our defining feature. Whatever it means to you – or to your characters – we want to know about it.

But we don’t want you to simply describe it. We want you to use it as a vehicle to tell us something about your character, a situation, you or your life. And you needed to keep it to 300 words.

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