Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

When You Sort of Want to Kill a Mockingbird

It was the end of the school year in a second floor high school classroom with the windows open. I was giving a final exam. The room was pin-drop quiet. So quiet, the sudden sound seemed amplified. The kids jerked their heads up and gave me questioning looks. I was thinking, “What the…?

It was the sound of a large number of young children laughing as if in play—just like the sound of a playground…but not. Something about it was slightly wrong. Off. Horror movie laughter, almost.

I mean besides the fact that it was right outside the window. The second-story, high school window.

Creepy? You betcha.

Last year I started hearing jungle noises blasting from the back of the landscaping section of a nearby Lowes store. At first I wondered if this was a recording. Then I realized no store would blast that noise on purpose. It had to be a mockingbird! I went home and looked it up, and sure enough, mockingbirds have been known to imitate car alarms, frogs, roosters, and even barking dogs. The one that had camped out among the wheelbarrows and shovels and paving stones sounded like it had spent time around peafowl.

The high school where I was working the day of the creepy laughter is just a football field away from a grade school. Why wouldn’t a mockingbird mock a sound it had to have heard most of the day five days a week?

Wish I had a recording, though. Move over, Edgar Allen Poe. This bird was WAY creepier than a crow. I hope I hear that sound Nevermore.

Have you ever heard a Mockingbird mock something weird?

Eat, drink, and be scary. ~Unknown

Monday, October 27, 2014

Succinctly Yours #188: The Neck Bone’s Not Connected

Thank you to Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours, the game in which we are challenged to use the picture to cut a story to the bare bones at 140 words or 140 characters or under. The bonus word this week was “cherish.”

Grandpa’s doctor was so slow, Grandpa used to say he would cherish a short wait because he might otherwise lose his head. Too bad that wasn’t all he lost. 126
While getting his horse shod, the Headless Horseman fell asleep in the waiting room. The farrier’s wife couldn’t believe what she found! She cherished pumpkin pie. 138
A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween. ~Erma Bombeck

Thursday, October 16, 2014

There is a Very Fine Tree

I love trees this time of year. As if there weren’t already an ancient part of my soul that worships them in the first place.

My grandmother had a magnificent one that dominated her front yard. It was an alpine wonder: a mountainous blue evergreen straight out of a fairy tale forest with ancient, droopy boughs and an air of wisdom and permanence. I once hazarded a hero’s quest through its prickly bowers with some of the kids from her block, and inside we found a hidden fort carpeted in old needles. That was the first time I realized magic sometimes hides right out in the open. All we have to do is know where to look.

There’s a tree near here—a rare old mimosa that changes drastically in every season and takes up most of a corner lot, but it’s so enormous and exotically shaped that it might as well be a lone tree on an African savanna. I don’t drive by it often, but when I do I always check to make sure it’s still there. Because life just wouldn’t be right without touches of the unexpected like that.

But the one I always think of this time of year was outstanding in more ways than one. It was a towering old sassafras that appeared suddenly after a curve. In fall it would go from being merely majestic to being majestic and red. When I rounded the corner, it would suddenly pop in all its startling cranberry-colored glory. When I slowed my car—as this tree invariably made me do—I could see those vibrant little mitten-leaves waving in the chilly air.

When they tore it down for the new highway, I mourned. That was several years ago, and I still mourn whenever I make that turn.

Do you have a tree you worship?

Mr. Darcy: There was one very fine tree [in Lambton] that I remember.
Mrs. Gardner: On the green! By the smithy!
Mr. Darcy: The very one.

~Pride and Prejudice, 1995 BBC version, adapted by Andrew Davies from the Jane Austen novel of the same name

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Succinctly Yours #186: Small Sports Facts

Thank you to Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours, the game in which we are challenged to use the picture to kick off a compact story of 140 words or 140 characters or under. The bonus word this week was “karate.”

The witch nixed the idea of a football team in Munchkinland because she distrusted sports. A disgruntled munchkin once tried to give her a karate chop to the knees.  136

Little known fact: three of the original ten dwarves had moved out before the Snow White story. Leapy and Tackly played pro football. Choppy became a karate master.  137

…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. ~Nelson Mandela

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who Says Cats Aren’t Useful

In the past year, I’ve been remembering what it’s like to have cats. I had them before I got married, but my husband repeatedly swore he was far too allergic to have cats and couldn’t ever take the shots. I like almost all animals, but since I’ve never really been a cat person, I married him anyway and lived without cats for many years. (Interesting side note: It sounds as if he has had a miraculous recovery since we divorced and has practically become a male cat lady. Hallelujah!)

Since adopting Catsby, I’ve been re-learning that kitties can be very sweet little companions who can not only run to greet you at the door when you get home (especially when getting home coincides with snack time, and you are, in fact, the resident hair net-less Lunch Lady), but they come in handy in many other ways as well. For example:

Snow cleanup required? Call in kitty snow removal to act as a catuum.

Doilies getting dirty? Armrest slipcovers getting a little worn? Try a furrier solution! 

Tired of the same old coffee table books and décor? Try arranging a caterpiece. Note the ability to double as a paperweight.

Vents too drafty? Stop those annoying breezes with an air catditioner cover!

 Good news! Not Your Mother's Book...On Cats came out yesterday!

I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world. ~Thomas A. Edison

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Succinctly Yours #185: Ten Things That Sort of Stink

Thank you to Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours, the game in which we are challenged to use the picture to kick off a story of 140 words or 140 characters or under. The bonus word this week was “scent.”

1.     “Spit it out,” the ref said. “You’re getting gum all over the new AstroTurf. And I can tell by the scent it’s you. No one else chews strawberry cupcake.”     125

2.     “Next time, wear a mouth guard,” said the ref. “They even come in colors and scents. In the meantime, put these under your pillow.”     108

3.     “To heck with the game! What do you think? Should I see a doctor for this? I think it looks icky and the scent is weird, too. Smell!”     102

4.     “…So the palm reader told me she caught the scent of true love in my future. And I’m like, ‘No way!’ and she’s like, ‘Yuh huh, WAY!’ So tell me what you think?”     130

5.     “I call him ‘Marconius,’ and his scent is like pancakes!”     51

6.      “The new Avon scent you ordered is in. Pay up.”     40

7.     “Pull my finger (giggle…snort), and get a surprise scent!”     52

8.     “Someone dropped an earring,” the ref said. “I thought the peridot stud was Kaminski’s, but then I thought I caught Tortelli’s signature scent, ‘Happy for Men.’”     138

9.     “That move you just made stinks. Fifty bucks will give it a new scent, if you catch my drift."  75

10.  “Coach’s new incentive program,” the ref said. “You earned a scratch-and-sniff sticker for that play! What scent do you want? Pepperoni pizza or gym locker?”     133

“Dude, if you lived in the ‘hood, you’d be so dead.” ~7th grader who’d just been ratted out for having gum