Letter writing blues

I have a box stuffed full of unanswered letters. It sat on my desk for weeks, guiltily reminding me of my responsibility to respond. The weeks turned into a month, two months, and now it is approaching three months without a single response.

Officially, I am the worst pen pal in history.

The letters flew back and forth, at first. A real connection existed, made strong by carefully thought out reflections and responses, a sharing of lives and hopes and dreams. We invested time and postage in our exchanges. I felt a sense of duty to write back, as a courtesy for their trouble but moreover to keep the art of letter writing alive.  

Slowly the connection grew weaker, like a handful of fireflies trapped in a glass jar. Time passed and then too much of it to write an apology and start over or to jump back in and pretend nothing happened. So I did what any person driven by shame might do.

I locked the box into a dark drawer to let the final lights flicker out.

Vulnerable Positions

In a strange city and state, I had to get across town to my hotel. Instead of hoofing it to the metro or hailing a cab, I called for an Uber. There is comfort and perhaps an undeserving sense of trust placed in that which is familiar. Uber worked flawlessly at home, and it would work here in this foreign land of six lane roads and sidewalks full of well dressed professionals.

My countrified sensibilities remained in a state of awe as I waited for my ride. Even the people of the streets, pushing a shopping cart of bags or shaking a cup of change at tourists, looked like dressed down professionals in hand-me-down designer jeans and scuffed brand name tennis shoes. They eyed me suspiciously, recognizing an imposter in their city.

When a car with a U in the back window pulled up, I jumped in without hesitation. A sharp smell of body odor mingled with Mexican food. It shocked my senses but I was so relieved to be rescued from the street, it didn’t matter.

Bad smells can be a warning of trouble to come. Like smoke before a fire, an odor that offends or repels can be a wordless message of danger, especially if accompanied with an uneasy gut feeling. However, as a person conditioned not to be rude or inconvenience others, I closed the door behind me and it locked with a click.

I was alone, locked into the backseat of a stranger’s car with a dying cell phone. The man drove silently into traffic and I considered my options. He was either going to take me back to my hotel and drop me off, as requested, or off to a secluded location to kill me. Those were the only possible two scenarios: death or delivery.

A few miles miles later, the man drove past my hotel, and I grew hysterical.

“Let me out!” I demanded.

I took off my seatbelt and prepared to jump and roll at the next stop light. We were on a busy road, but I didn’t care. I desperately regretted my lack of discretion as it led to my current state of kidnap/abduction. My worst fears were in the process of happening.

The man fumbled with the gps on his phone and blanked out the screen. Now, no one knew where we were and my phone was seconds from dying. I hoped it would send out a final signal with our coordinates that the FBI could recover when retracing my steps.

Then the man pulled a u-turn, speaking for the first time to apologize, and dropped me off right in front of the hotel. And that was it, the end of what I thought was to be my last ride. It ended as quickly and unceremoniously as it began.

Could the little voice in my head have been wrong?

I have since returned to the Midwest and had time to reflect. My intuition was not wrong, it warned me that something was wrong. It helped to raise my adrenaline and put me on high alert. Perhaps, the outcome would have been different if I didn’t notice our missed turn or been ready to duck and roll. Road rash was to be a minor sacrifice for the continuation of my life.

The time to be assertive and brave is when that voice speaks. Put trust in that little voice, trust the feeling in your gut, most of all, trust yourself.

Fire doesn’t always have to follow smoke.

A day of resignation

She woke up early, excited and nervous to make it official. 

Her husband, on the other hand, was less excited and hoped that she had changed her mind overnight.

Yet, he knew, as fickle as she was, that she was set.

He scrounged around in the closet for a pair of socks. Hangers jangled against each other as he maneuvered his wide shoulders through the small space.  Clothes swished back and forth and the rod creaked. He settled for two singles, one blue and one black.

He didn’t complain, he was glad to have socks. A quick sniff, clean socks, even better.

A pair of dark eyes watched as he emerged, switching the light off behind him with the socks flopped over his hand.

“You give up the fight in there?”

“There never was a fight. It just is what it is,” he replied with a shrug. 

And so it goes…

Oldest guy on the crew

Wiry, white hair pokes out from underneath of his hardhat, like straw from a scarecrow. He walks with a limp and a stooped back, a half-step behind his coworkers.

Young people, he thinks about the forty-something-year-olds next to him, always in such a damned hurry.

They each wear bright yellow vests, unifying the team in safety.

The creases in his ironed khakis look sharp enough to cut through the soft and baggy jeans of his vested companions.

“Got a long day ahead of us, Bill.”

“Eh? What’s that?”

Bill is deep in thought and hard of hearing. He pulls out a tape measure from his pocket and starts taking measurements of something in the air.

His co-workers laugh, quietly and with as much respect as possible.

He is, after all, the oldest guy on the crew.


Lunchtime Madness

It’s 12:30pm. Lunchtime. My brother is camping out on the couch watching football highlights. It appears he has just consumed an entire bag of fancy nuts.

“What? It’s my lunch,” he explains and crumples the plastic bag in his hand.

He leans back and closes his eyes, “I’m on break now.”

It seems that he will be on break for the rest of the day.

As for me, it’s a peanut butter and honey sandwich kind of day, a variation from the normal PB and J. Maybe I will add in a apple and a cookie for good measure.

12:30 means the oldies are sipping their soup, taking their afternoon pills, and preparing for a nap. They might answer the phone but they won’t be happy at the interruption in their schedule.

It means the rest of the world is taking a break to woof down whatever they packed or grabbed from a nearby restaurant, catch up on banking or read a few pages from a book, walk around the block, and get back to work, that is what 12:30pm means.

A computer screen with names and numbers, diagnoses and concerns stares at me while a phone buzzes on the desk. There are notes scattered about, a coffee cup with old tea, and a stack of books. This is life now as a working adult.

I remember waiting for lunch in grade school. My stomach rumbling and gurgling as I stood in line. The lunch ladies really cooked then, patties and veggies, brownies and rolls.

There were so many options. White or chocolate milk. One slice of pizza or two.

The future was wide open then and it still is, sort of.

The chances of becoming a professional athlete or brain surgeon have narrowed at this point, but I can still have a different sandwich for lunch everyday if I want.

How is that for keeping the spice of life?



letting go

Does throwing out the empty boxes my husband stores with the intention of using someday make me a bad wife? Or donating his old t shirts, video games and unmatched socks? In my mind, it’s being tidy. At least, that is what I tell myself as I flip open the lid to the trash can.

Hoarding should come naturally to me. After all, I come from a long line of stackers, packers, fill the closet/cabinet/garage and shut the door tight. Plus, I think I was a squirrel or a mouse in a past life.

However, now I am the courageous defier of clutter, sworn to fight hoarding or die trying.

Woe to the fool who dares to meddle with the order of disorder.

Of course, Messy Boy thought it fitting to bring up my solemn vow when sorting through the contents of the closet. I held a black purse in my hand and a fanny pack in the other. Coats were strewn across the back of the couch. The cats were sneaking into position on the coats, targeting the black, wool one on which to shed their fur.

“It’s still a good purse,” I fretted.

He raised an eyebrow, with a questioning look that said, Really?

What if I need a mid-sized black purse? What if I lose my normal purse and need a backup right away? What if I go another year without using it?

I don’t want to end up in a house with stacks of boxes leaning against the walls, shelves of tiny teacups and a horde of porcelain cat statues, but I also don’t want to be a minimalist. By that, I mean I want to keep my husband and just a few cat statues.

So I am working on controlling my impulse to pitch what looks useless or dust covered especially if its not mine. Instead, I slowly move those of-concern things towards the door, little by little. Sometimes, they move into the trunk of my car for another chance to be noticed and rescued.

Then I think about how Messy Boy would miss his old baseball helmet or the extra cutting board, and how much he loves his old sweater. Maybe I could use that black purse?

And the junk/treasure moves back inside, and I realize that you can’t always fight what’s in your nature.

Wasting Time 

Listening to a training on a new computer system that breaks people down into statistical data

Reading an email asking for stories proving otherwise to make the company a tastier treat for a bigger, hungrier fish

Considering what to do with my life in a world driven by motivations that aren’t mine

Wondering how to get a job feeding orphan sloths in Costa Rica?

Sloth Fact Sheet:


Professional Avoider 

The phone lights up and vibrates next to you, taking on a life of its own. You knew it would at some point today, but didn’t expect it this soon. Or maybe it wasn’t soon enough. You wonder about the delay. Really, what took so long?

You have to face the music, or do you?

Don’t be a chicken-shit, you try to bully yourself into answering.

As much as you want to do the right thing, accept responsibility and talk things out mature adult style, you can’t bring yourself to hit the “accept” button. It’s not even a button, it’s just a glowing green circle on a screen.

Swallow hard and take a deep breath. The crisis dies with the unanswered call.

Now, you have time to form a game plan, a better game plan than you came up with thus far. However,you must admit, the whole don’t-give-any-answer-and-avoid-all-potential-conflict strategy worked perfectly at securing another few consequence free hours.

Another buzz disturbs your relieved thoughts.

You have a voicemail.

Nausea overwhelms your senses and you consider the possibility that you aren’t really a people person, after all.

Souvineer Shopping


FYI: Sweet, delicious and delicate cookies, called macaroons, do not travel in a suitcase on an airplane very well.

I suspected that one or two might be cracked or bruised from their hour and forty minute flight, but felt hopeful that a few would come through unscathed. I am working on maintaining a glass is half-full mindset.

However, as I watched the neon-yellow vested workers move the bags and suitcases from the luggage cart, I knew with absolute certainty the cookies would be more than merely bruised.

The madmen threw the baggage with all of their might onto the conveyor belt. I saw them heave each piece into the air and cringed at the thud of the forceful impact as the bags hit. Bottles of lotion exploded and hair spray detonated, and toothpaste oozed out, punctured by an errant nail file; I imagined the chaos with my X-ray vision. Woe to the fool who packed a precious framed photo wrapped in a sweater or brought along a favorite cologne, the glass would surely shatter into a million pieces and a wonderful fragrance would seep from an otherwise odorless bag.

My husband sat next to me in disbelief at the abuse of the luggage. Bag after bag endured the same treatment. We watched wordlessly until a green bag, similar to my own, passed through the hands of the men.

“Bye-bye macaroons,” my stoic partner commented sadly.

Unpacking later that day held no surprises, the contents of our suitcases were both well shaken and stirred. I rummaged through the clothes and pushed a pair of shoes to the side to extract a crumpled bag. Inside of the bag were two crushed, plastic boxes holding the hopelessly crumbled and unrecognizable remains of the macaroons.

Macaroons seemed like the most obvious souvenirs to bring back from our nation’s capital, at the time.

Now, I’m wondering, with only crumbs to show for our travels, if we should have gone with the matching t-shirts of the upcoming Papal visit?  Once again, hindsight is 20/20.

Heaven is an Apple Orchard

Heaven is an apple orchard in September on a cloudless day.

It is a moveable place of wonder kept safe by the confines of my memory.

With each fresh crunch of an apple, I return.


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