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, August 27, 2015

Ode to a Great Lady

 She was a stern looking woman for being only 30. She had severe black hair parted in the middle, and she looked down at those around her as if to say, “You disappoint me.”

Her picture hung over my grandmother’s fireplace for as long as I could remember. For a long time I assumed—as did most people—that she was a relative. My grandmother’s great-grandmother, perhaps.  It wasn’t until later that I found out she was no relation at all, but merely a painting my grandmother had liked. So when my dear grandmother died and my sisters and I went through her things, I chose Mrs. Maria Ogden.

I don’t know why. I think it was because I also got my grandmother’s piano, and Mrs. Maria Ogden seemed like she needed to preside over something grand. It wasn’t until I took the painting that I was able to read the back:

“Mrs. Maria Ogden,” it read. “Age 30.” I think that was it. I remember being surprised that she was a couple of years younger than I was at the time. There was also a date that was right around the time of the Civil War.

For a few years after Mrs. Maria Ogden moved in, I stood a little straighter when I passed her because she looked like she didn’t approve of slouching. I watched my mouth; I’m sure she didn’t approve of colloquialisms, let alone swear words, even mild ones. I’m certain Mrs. Maria Ogden believed that young ladies needed to conduct themselves with decorum even though I was quickly becoming a much older woman than she had been when her portrait was painted. “Be careful,” we whispered. “Mrs. Maria Ogden is watching.” And she was, of course; her eyes followed us.

Then one year when my life was falling apart, I wrapped up Mrs. Maria Ogden and put her in my car and drove her across town to the estate dealer, and I sold her. I cried behind my sunglasses on the way home. I have no idea who this woman was, but over the years she had nonetheless become a part of my roots. I missed her.

Mrs. Maria Ogden helped put my son through college. Now that I’m much older and wiser, I am certain she would not have been disappointed. In fact, I’m sure it’s what Mrs. Maria Ogden would have wanted all along.

Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly. ~Anne Lamott, Stitches

Monday, August 24, 2015

Succinctly Yours Week 232: Unveiling the Veiled

Many thanks to Grandma of Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours. Participants are invited to come up with a story of 140 words or 140 characters or fewer based on the photo. This week’s bonus word was “radar.” I tried.

When he traveled through the neighborhood in the fog wearing a hood, he thought he was off the radar. Really he drew attention and was nicknamed “Fog Creature.”  133

When someone photographed him on their phone, Fog Creature went viral. Suddenly he was on everyone’s radar.  120

London Fog approached him to be their new, hip spokesperson. Fog Creature hoods sold out in the first week. It was the hood on the non-hood from the hood.   129

Humanity does not ask us to be happy.  It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf.  ~Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Succinctly Yours Week 231: Alien Construction

Many thanks to Grandma of Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours. Participants are invited to construct a story of 140 words or 140 characters or fewer based on the photo. This week’s bonus word was “yawn.”

When I saw Uncle Larry take out the ladder and Grandpa take out the bike, I yawned. But when I saw the trick they performed, those two became my heroes.  124

For years, Larry and his dad spent weekends alien hunting outside the gates at Area 51. Their “equipment”—a bike and a camera on a ladder—made even the aliens yawn.  136

A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened. ~Albert Camus

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Adventure at the Wiener Crossing

The miniature dachshund was so small, it took a second for my brain to register that this was a dog. It jumped off the curb into a busy four-lane highway directly in the path of my car.

Luckily I had just enough time to be able to signal the car behind me and brake. I immediately regretted honking to scare it back onto the curb when it started and looked like it might dart into the lane next to me.


Fortunately that smart little dog listened. It wavered, looked worried, stopped guiltily, clearly wondering what it had done wrong. It had presumably been enjoying an unexpected adventure until I’d started making horrible noises at it. I waved an apology to the man behind me and dove out of my car. The man behind me signaled back, “Yes. Get the dog.” With a kind smile.

That was when I realized the thoughtful driver next to me had stopped as well, immobilizing the southbound lanes of rush hour traffic in order to help protect the little dog. The young man got out to help. “Whatdya do?” he asked me.

I didn’t know. If I’d been heading toward home, I would have put it in my car and checked for tags. Driven around. Asked people. But I had somewhere to go. Fortunately the little wiener dog finally understood that the direction it was heading was upsetting a whole lot of humans. It wheeled around and bounded for home in that determined, ear-trailing, stubby-legged gallop that only a dachshund can achieve. That was when I looked behind me and realized it had a partner in crime—a little brown dog several cars back attended by a group of women who were making sure it didn’t continue its little doggy-holiday alone.

It wasn’t until I turned back to my car that I was able to appreciate the rows and rows of traffic as far as I could see that had come to a halt for two little dogs on a spoiled adventure. All of the nearby drivers were out of their cars and actively engaged in a joint dog-herding venture. Not a single one was looking upset about anything but the fate of those pets.

We hear about people who are cruel to animals. I thought I would pass along what was for me a pleasant reminder that most are not. It took a whole lot of strangers gathered on the highway, united over their shared love of another species, to send me a nice message I needed: My own species has its moments as well.

What a paradox that we connect with God, with divinity, with our flesh and blood and time and space. We connect with God in our humanity. ~Anne Lamott, Stitches

Monday, August 10, 2015

Succinctly Yours Week 230: Them Pale City Folk

Thank you to Grandma of Grandma’s Goulash for hosting Succinctly Yours. Participants are invited to serve up a story of 140 words or 140 characters or fewer based on the photo. This week’s bonus word was “tingle.”

Prospecting for gold on the streets of Chicago took some getting used to, but they all felt a mighty tingle when three rings and a watch were dug from that can.   130

The police commissioner got a little tingle when he thought of it: The city needed cowboys to herd the people and keep them in line.   119

Though the street vendors’ authentic presentation made some tingle with its satirical nature, others felt their use of an old baked bean can was just gross.   131

The campout abruptly ended with the tingle of Whitey’s slap. All Slim had said was that he should roast the sushi over the fire rather than heat it in the baked bean can.   138

Don't you DARE take the name of Texas in vain. –Sandy in Spongebob Squarepants