The Next FoodNetwork Star

Walking toward my car I heard voices.  I didn’t see anyone, but I know I heard talking.  The closer I got to my car the louder the voices became.  Then I heard…

“Shhh.  I think someone’s coming.”

Then silence.

I stopped and looked around.  I was alone.  Everyone had left for the day and I wasn’t far behind.

“That was a close one.”  A voice said from behind my car.

I tip-toed toward the driver’s side door, squatted, then duck-walked to the rear of my vehicle.  There they were.  Two cats enthralled in a conversation.  A medium gray and white short hair and a longer haired, sleek, black feline with a fluffy tail.

They were nose to nose conversing softly, sure they were alone.

“I’m not sure.”  The black one said.

“Oh, come on, don’t be chicken.  It’ll be fun.”  The gray and white said, convincingly.

“I have a boyfriend.” The apparent female retorted.

“Some boyfriend, he left you stranded here.  He’s nothing but a scraggly, homeless, tom-cat.”

“He’s in a band,” the black one said, trying her best to make him sound cool.

“Lemme guess, he’s in The Stray Cats.”  The gray and white laughed as he rolled onto his back, clutching his stomach.

My knees began to ache as I eavesdropped.  I shifted my position, and when I did, my knee popped.  Both of them turned in my direction.  They looked toward me, but not seeing me, they shrugged then turned back to each other.

“You’re hilarious.” The black one said as she turned and swished her tail under the gray and white’s nose then slithered through the weeds.

“Hey, where you going?  I was just joking.”  The gray and white asked, scampering after her, jumping through the tall grass.  “I know where to score some cat-nip.”

“Not interested.”  The black one said her nose in the air.

“Okay, not really.  I just didn’t want you to think I’m a square.”

“A square’s a shape.  I like shapes.”  She flirted.

“I have my library card; you wanna go check out some books about the solar system?”

“Negative.  Let’s get some books about exotic cuisine.  I’m going to be the next Food Network Star.  Besides, if rats can cook, so can I.  Speaking of rats, I’m hungry; let’s go see what the special is at the Chinese restaurant.”

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A Priceless Lesson

I had lunch with my best friend last week.  Since she lives in Florida, I considered it a treat.  Rarely do we get to sit and talk face to face, look each other’s expressions and know what’s really going on beneath the surface.  Like my mother, she knows when something is going on with me without my having to say a word.  The thing about people you know well, and vice versa, is they know whole truth about you and the fact that they love you anyway is priceless.    

Our talk drifted from the typical how are you’s and what’s been going on, to kids and family, then to the more everyday stuff.  Eventually we began talking about a circle of people we both know, but haven’t seen in years.  She asked me if I remembered a particular girl we went to high school with.  

“Of course,” I said. 

“When was the last time you saw her?”  She asked. 

“I don’t know, senior year, I guess.  Why?” 

She explained this girl friended her on Facebook.  I’m not on Facebook and those close to me know why.  The mention of this girls name, brought back memories of a nice, quiet, mannerly girl.  A cheerleader with full blond hair that hung past her shoulders, blue eyes and a perfect smile.  She was pretty it seemed on the inside and out.  I wasn’t especially close to her and I don’t remember much about her or her circle of friends and nothing really stands out to me about her, except she was nice.  She was, as it seemed, like everyone else, just wanting to graduate.  I had one class with her during high school.  I remember she kept her herself, did her work and like the rest of us, was uncomfortable when she had to get up in front of the class to give her speeches.  She gave me her senior year photo, which I still have. 

After taking a bite, my friend told me this girl was a dancer.  My mind began tumbling.  Dancer… ballerina, hip-hop, fly-girl, a Rockette?  Then it hit me.  I looked at my friend as soup dripped from my chin. 

“A stripper-dancer?”  I asked. 

She nodded giving me confirmation. 

Then the cynical me took over.  Judgment crept onto my face and overtook my mind.  Thoughtless words escaped my mouth.  I was in disbelief that this girl-next-door could be that.  

Then late that evening, I began thinking about her.  It occurred to me that I know nothing about the events of this girls life.  I know nothing of what happened to her after high school, as we grew from teenagers to adults.  I’m clueless as to the places life has or hasn’t taken her.  I felt ashamed for thinking badly of her.  Who am I?  I’m not exactly living my dream.  

Life is about choices and sometimes when we’re backed into a corner and we feel there is no way out, maybe we do things we ordinarily wouldn’t.  At the end of the day, all that matters is you feel you’ve done your best in whatever world you live in.  

It is unfair to hold others to my expectations.  I’m sure when she sits in the glow of those she knows best, she has that priceless feeling of being loved anyway.

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Kitchen Chaos

The machine choked and coughed as liquid poured out of it. The watery substance mixed with the rough granules crept over the machine. The appliance hissed and spit as the runny mess made its way onto the counter slowly creeping toward the screaming bananas; laughing its ominous laugh.
“We’re going to burn!” One of them shouted in fear.
“What the…this way, let’s go this way!” Another said, trying to pull the others as it closed its eyes, trembling.
The brown steamy fluid flowed toward the prescription drugs, finally overtaking them.
“Ah, dude, I don’t feel a thing,” one said.
“It’s like a hot-tub, man,” another announced. “Feels good.”
“I hate getting wet!” yet another yelled. Its cardboard body, losing its shape, as it began to warp.
The lava-like liquid continued and rolled under toaster. It giggled as the now cooling goo tickled its feet.
The cupcakes, tucked safely in a zip lock bag, squealed with delight as they flowed along the counter as if white water rafting; laughing and enjoying the ride.
I walked in the kitchen, turned on the light and nearly lost my mind. The coffee flowed out of the coffee maker and was everywhere. It poured between the counter and stove before I was able to mop it up. It was under the toaster, the fruit, the pill bottles, the cupcakes.
In my haste the night before, I neglected to place the carafe on the coffee pot, creating panic in the kitchen and a volcanic java spill the bananas and cupcakes will never forget. Until they’ve been eaten, of course. The prescription pills may have dissolved, giving the coffee a high of its own, without my rescue efforts
Still, the best part of waking up is Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in my cup. What’s in yours?

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Welcome Spring

Not long from now I’ll look out my sliding glass door and will no longer be able to see the forest floor blanketed with snow.   The barren trees will be but a memory as a thicket of leaves, full and lush will overcome the hillside.  The crisp, chilly air will be replaced with warm, subtle breezes smelling like sunshine and carrying along with it the faint scent of just cut grass.  Welcome Spring.

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Getting A Late Start

I finished college late, got married late, and had kids late; later than all of my then friends.  Maybe late isn’t the right word.  I guess Older is more appropriate.  I was older when I accomplished all of the aforementioned.  When I was single, all of my girlfriends were married and starting families.  When I finally got married, these girlfriends were no longer my friends and all of them were single mothers.

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was eight years old.  I didn’t know at eighteen, entering college.  At twenty-eight it struck me I knew what I wanted to be but I was already grown up.  I wanted to be a writer yet I did nothing about it.  I wanted to write a book, but suppressed the desire.  I went on about my life as a still-single, mortgage-paying, working-girl looking for the perfect job and perfect man.  These don’t exist by the way.  I found something close but close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The job was with a small company.  Seven employees total, including me.  I worked that job for six years, the longest I had ever been with a company.  I was able to move up and grow within the organization.  During this time, I gained a confidence I never knew I had.  I finally found a job where I could flourish and thrive.  It was at this job the book idea began growing again and where I started writing it.  I found I could suppress it no longer and when a thought struck me or an idea came to mind, I pulled out my flash drive, plugged it into my computer and started typing.  In no time I had two chapters.

The man came along too and we eventually married.  Looking back, I’m grateful for those single years and I wouldn’t change a thing.  That time helped shape and define who I am today: strong-minded, independent, capable, and able to care for myself without the help of a man.   My husband and I found each other when we were supposed to.  Our first daughter was born two years after we wed.  Almost two years after that our second daughter came along.

I went back to my job after the birth of my second child, knowing I’d be leaving my position.  The company I once loved was changing; a merger occurred and management went through an overhaul.  People were put into leadership positions without knowledge of company practices or policy.  Respected board members resigned along with several of the original staff, as did I.

I became a stay-at-home mom.  I took care of my two-year old and four month old daughters.  The first eighteen months were welcoming and restful, as crazy as it sounds.  I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm blaring in my ear or put up with silly office shenanigans, which weren’t much fun given the change in hierarchy.  Gone were the days of defending my work and jockeying for certain positions, proving myself.  Rather, I took naps with the kids and cooked meals I saw on the cooking channel.  All the while this book I had started clawed and scratched its way to the surface.

On a cold January morning, I got up before the sun and the kids to get the words down, without the help of that annoying alarm clock, amazing.  Soon I had four chapters.  Scrapped it and four new chapters flowed from my finger tips.  It took twenty-one months then bam, I finished.  Then the edits started and seemed to be unending.

I bought books on query letters, publishers and agents.  I subscribed to blogs

about the industry, feverishly read emails from editors and learned about platforms.  I created a publishing resource guide, devouring all the information I could find.  I met with others who have been successful in the business desperate to learn what they already knew. 

One thing I learned is publishing is ridiculously hard, opinions on the subject are across the board, it is elusive and ever changing sort of like trying to find that man or job, except it’s possible.  It exists.  Even though rejection is rampant, it’s out there. 

In this digital day and age, some say the book is dead.  It’s all about e-books and electronic media.  All say you must have thousands of followers on social media.  Social media is obscure and overrated.  I don’t like it and I don’t use it.  It is a deep well of mindless chatter, thoughts, and opinions.  Facebook is a digital ticker tape of bitching, bragging, bullying and the occasional bible verse.  It breeds some of the seven deadly’s.  Envy, lust and pride are the first to come to mind.  When I say mindless chatter, I mean this:  Do I really care why you are in the OBGYN office again?  That you were stopped by every red light on your way home from work?  What you’re having for dinner?  That, that pesky rash is back?  Or that you are once again contemplating a divorce but you don’t have the guts to go through with it?   No, not really.  I knew a girl who left a ten year marriage and two young children to be with a former lover she looked up on Facebook.  It’s the devil.

I learned the other day that publishers are looking for saleable books, not good books.  This means if you have thousands of followers on social media you will have a better chance at a publishing deal, you have what they call cred.  Well, just because you have six thousand friends on social media doesn’t mean you’ll sell six thousand books. 

I have a fan base; a list of hundreds of actual people that I actually know personally by building and sustaining real friendships.  These people are not an acquaintance that sent me a friend request because we have some person in common on social media. They aren’t people I haven’t seen in twenty years and stupidly call them friends.  I’m talking about real, true people that I am blessed to call real true friends.  That should mean something.  People that would buy my book simply because I wrote it and they want to support me.

Once again I feel like I’ve started and finished something too late.  Instead of writing my book at twenty-eight, when I first felt the gnawing, I wrote it twelve years later when all that matters is how many social media followers I don’t have.  I sometimes wonder if I have composed a saleable book and a good book.  Deep down I believe I have.

Had I started this journey at twenty-eight, I wouldn’t have had to worry about social media and e-books and friends that aren’t really friends leaving meaningless posts on my wall.

So that brings us back to the sixty-four million dollar question:  What happens when you get a late start?  Scrap it all or trudge forward trying to find a place? 

I don’t consider myself a quitter; my parents didn’t raise me that way.  I was taught to see things through, to finish.  That said; I know I’m only half finished with this project.  Some days I feel like quitting and giving up and walking away from it all; deleting all the chapters and all the edits, trashing all the books on the subject.  For me, the easy part was to write the novel.  The hard part towers before me, the mammoth monster known as publishing.  It is Goliath and I am David.  It is big and terrifying while I am small and meek. 

But today I have a renewed perspective.  I’ve decided to prepare my mind and my sling shot.  I will finalize what needs to be finalized and hurl my book into the monster’s hands and wait; again and again and again.  I have to or I’ll never know.  If I don’t I’ll always be sorry for not continuing to try; I’ll always wonder what if.

 I came across this quote the other day:  “Life is a choice.  Are you going to surf the wave or let it knock you down all day?”  For me publishing is that wave, pummeling me into the sand battering and beating me against the shore.  Yes, I’ve started everything in my life late, but at least I started.  Now I’m ready to finish.  I’ve got my board.  Surf’s up. 

           

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The Lost Son

“Everyone, thank you for the lovely gifts,” Grandpa said.  “I love you all, Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Dad,” my Mom told him getting up to hug him.  “Who wants coffee?”

“I do,” several said.

Grandpa stared into the fire, as if in a trance, a quietness enveloping him.

“You okay, Grandpa?”  I asked, climbing on his lap.

“Of course, sweetie, of course.”

“You miss Danny, don’t you?”

“I miss him most at Christmas; it was his favorite time of year.”

As we sat gazing into the fire, a shadowy figure appeared, Danny had made it after all.

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The Story of Flax: A Rescue

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One Tuesday morning as I backed out of the driveway and drove past the house, taking my daughters to school, my youngest daughter Lindsey yells, “There’s a dog in our chair.”

Naturally, I thought there was a stuffed animal left in one of the booster seats.

“Move it and sit down.” I said, in that or-else tone.

“No,” she said, “In our red chair on the porch, there’s a puppy.”

I stopped the car and backed up.  Sure enough a little, blonde terrier was snoozing in one of our red cushioned outdoor chairs.

“Can we keep it?” The cries started from behind me.

“I Doubt it.”  I said under my breath.

“Don’t let Daddy shoo it away.”  Lindsey said, as her brow creased the middle of her forehead.

“Daddy said no more pets, girls.  I’m sorry.”

“No fair,” the outspoken Lindsey fired back, her little hands balled up into fists; a deep frown tugged at her face.

The talk about the dog went on the entire six minute ride to school.

“Have a great day girls, I love you.  I’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Take care of the puppy, Momma.”  Lindsey whispered in my ear before getting out of the car.

I drove home thinking the dog would be gone.  I figured it just needed a place to crash for the night.  As I pulled into the driveway, the little blonde hair-ball was still in the same chair, unmoved.  I parked the car, got out, and it greeted me on the sidewalk.  She was dirty and mussed, skinny and skittish.  It was obvious she had been on the run for a while.  When I bent to touch her, she jumped across the mulch and into the wet grass.  I followed and just as quickly she jumped into the road and trotted down it a ways.  Okay, I thought, that’s that.  I came in the house, washed the breakfast dishes, and before heading upstairs, I looked out onto the porch and there she was again:  the sandy colored dog curled up in the red cushioned chair.

I went upstairs and told my husband, Derrick, to look out on the porch.  When he did, she turned her head toward us.  She got up, put her paws on the brick window sill and moved closer, her nose nearly touched the glass.  He stepped onto the porch to see his new friend and when he did, she bolted from the chair to the grass and finally the road, again.

We had errands to run.  We couldn’t spend the day coaxing a dog out of the road or chasing her around.  We went about our day all the while thoughts of the disheveled pooch hung in the front of our minds.  We worried she would get hit by a car.

Later, when we pulled onto our street, there was the little dog lying in the middle of it.  She got out of the way, but didn’t follow us home.  After a while, I peeked outside and there she was under my car.  I tried coaxing her out with a piece of cheese, which didn’t work.  Derrick tried the same thing without success.

Later that day when I went to pick the girls up from school, the conversation shifted from the puppy they saw that morning to what they did at school and surprisingly, the dog wasn’t even mentioned– knock me over with a feather.

We pulled up to the house and I told the girls to look on the porch.  They craned their necks to look out the window and saw the little, blonde, dirty mutt still curled up in the same chair she was in that morning.  They got out of the car, ran up the sidewalk and up to the dog.  Much to my surprise, the skittish, touch-me-not canine let my two daughters come right up to her and pet her.  She didn’t even flinch.  This time, when Derrick or I bent to pet her she didn’t run or jump away, but rather, she hunkered down  making herself as small as possible as if she were about to be pummeled.  She’d been abused, mistreated and now abandoned we guessed.

Derrick and I were unsure if we wanted to take on pet.  I had a dog for fourteen years.  She died three years ago along with the responsibility and expense of having a pet, so Derrick called the animal shelter.  A Humane Officer was scheduled to pick this dog up the next day.  Which he did, but not before I took her to the vet for a quick once over.  There was nothing wrong with the blonde bundle; the vet however, suspected she might be pregnant.  A-ha!  The reason she was abandoned finally surfaced.

I felt horrible when the Humane Officer took her away.  I felt like I had betrayed the trust of this animal that had seemingly been through hell and now I was handing her over to another unknown.   I struggled with what would happen to her if she weren’t adopted.  I pushed the thought to the back of my mind, deciding someone would adopt her.  Of course they would, she was young and cute.  I never imagined, though, that someone would be Derrick.  Unbeknownst to me, Derrick checked the humane society’s website, looking for her picture.  He called repeatedly asking if she had been claimed.  You have to know Derrick; this behavior is completely out of character.

At the end of the week and after grappling over do we or don’t we want another pet, we went to the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association, in our hometown, and adopted our four-legged daughter.  We did it, I think, mostly for our girls.

It’s been six weeks since her adoption and Flax is thriving.  She’s nurtured and loved.  She no longer cowers in fear when we bend to touch her and she seems happy.  She’s playful, fun, good with kids, and an all around good dog.  Plus, as an added bonus, she’s housebroken!  (That’s a load off)

The downside to this story is Flax was pregnant when we took her to have her Spayed.  The vet had to euthanize her puppies.   So please, if you have a pet or are thinking about getting a pet, be a responsible pet parent and spay or neuter your animals.  It cuts down on the pet population, unwanted pet pregnancies and it puts an end to abandonment due to pregnancy.  The way I see it, she crawled onto our porch on a chilly Monday night and into our hearts when we least expected it.  She found us.

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