Day 7 – Contrast

Day 7 – Contrast

The two brothers sat across from each other. A conference table between them. Neither looked the other in the eyes. All their lives, the brothers had disagreed as to the best way to achieve happiness. The older brother was a successful investor. He had worked hard all his life to get where he was today.

“Hard work will give you everything you want in life,” the older brother would say to anyone who would listen. “Look at me. I have a grand home, expensive cars, a beautiful wife, and accomplished children. My hard work has made all this possible.”

The younger brother, however, was a dreamer and an inventor. He worked at this or that, only long enough to make money to live on while he pursued his dreams. But his dreams had not netted him anything. He had no wife or children. He did not own his own home and the car he drove was barely street worthy. When he was not working on his numerous projects, he was hanging out with friends.

“You would think he was still in college,” said his older brother to anyone who would listen. “He has no ambition and will never amount to anything.”

The boy’s father was a wealthy man and philanthropist. He died six months earlier, leaving his fortune to his two sons. But there was a catch. In his will, he stipulated that the only way the brothers could collect the money was to agree on how to spend it. If they could not agree within six months, the money would go to a charity that the father had supported for many years. Today, the six months were up and the brothers had to decide.

The executor of the father’s estate was a long-time friend of the family who happened to be a lawyer. As he walked into the room, he saw the two brothers glaring at each other, Sadly, he thought back to the day when their father wrote his will. The friend had advised the father that he was making a big mistake. He had known the boys all his life and never once had they agreed on anything.

“Just split the money between the boys,” the friend said. “This will only drive a bigger wedge between them.”

The father was adamant that his sons should learn to get along.

“It is what I tried to teach them when I was alive,” said the father. “If they did not learn then, then maybe they will learn now that I am dead.”

The friend was not so sure. He shut the door behind him and sat at the head of the table. After a moment’s hesitation, he spoke.

“You understand the stipulations of your father’s will,” said the lawyer. His solemn look graced each boy. “You must make a decision today or you will not be able to keep the money.”

The oldest spoke first. “What my brother does not seem to understand is that this money could be invested in a new company I have found that will make us both millionaires. It will allow us to hire dedicated employees who will work hard to make sure our business is a success. In return, they will share in our good fortune, and my brother will have all the money he will ever need.”

The friend looked at the younger brother who seemed to be staring out the window. I wonder if he even heard what his brother said, he thought. But after a moment, the younger brother turned to his older brother and spoke.

“Brother, I love and respect you. I know you have worked hard all your life and you have much to show for your effort. But you do not have freedom. Your grand home is mortgaged to the hilt and your utilities and insurance add even more of burden to your budget. You may look grand driving in your fine car but does it take you any further mine? You have a beautiful wife but no time to enjoy her company because you work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. How lonely she must be. Are you not concerned with what she does during the day when you are away? As for your children, my niece and nephew are the best, but you want them to be like you. Did you know your daughter wants to be a dancer and your son a musician? Yet you prevent them from engaging in the activities they love. Do you think you can force your life style on them and they not learn to hate you?

The older brother could not believe the gall of his younger brother. His face turned the color of an overripe tomato and his voice shrilled.

“How dare you criticize the life I chose to lead? Look at where your dreams have gotten you. Tell me, what do you have that I don’t?

“Happiness, dear brother, happiness”.

The old clock on the wall ticked the seconds away. The silence hung over the room thick as fog. The friend thought he should say something, anything, but before the words could pass his lips the older brother spoke.

“I know no other way,” he said. “What can I do to be happy?”

The younger reached over, touched his older brother’s hand, and held it tight.

“If you love something you must let it go. Then you will be happy.”

“What do you mean,” said the older brother.

“Father named a wonderful charity in his will. Let us give the money to the charity and let it do good work. Helping others will make you happy.

“There must be another way.” But the oldest knew the answer. His brother would never agree to invest it and if they did not make a decision soon, the money would go to the charity anyway. He felt trapped and the clock was ticking. As he sat there thinking, his cell phone rang. He noticed the caller was his wife.

“Hello, my dear,” he said.

The wife’s words were nothing more than a mumbled buzz to the others in the room but the expression on the older brother’s face faded as she spoke. He tried to break in with “but…” and “you can’t be serious,” with an occasional “why,” but his wife was doing all the talking. He muttered the words, “I understand” and hung up.

“I will do whatever you ask,” the older said unexpectedly. “Where do I sign?”

The perplexed lawyer laid the papers in front of him and handed him a pen.
“Brother, what caused you to change your mind?”

“My wife says she is filing for divorce. You were right. She has found something to occupy herself while I am away. Or someone, I should say. Someone who has time for her. I may not be able to win her back, but I have to try. I need time. So I agree. Give the money to charity. I need to save my marriage.

And with that, both brothers, for the first time in their life, agreed.

The Lost Letter

The Lost Letter

The Sun-Val on Boulder Highway is your typical run-of-the-mill motel frequented by travelers looking for a cheap place to stay overnight and the temporary home to transient workers. I hesitated outside door #7. My trembling hand held a faded pink envelope, stamped with the words “Special Delivery.” It must have been important to spend the extra 20-cents in postage, I thought. I had found the letter stuffed in an old box, saved, but long forgotten. I have to admit that curiosity overtook any sense of privacy I might have felt, and shamefully I read it. The letter was written on pastel sheets of cheap stationary, the kind you might find at the five and dime. The sprawling red script told me a woman wrote the letter. Her signature told me her name was Rose. The address on the envelope told me I had come to the right place. Image

               “…was so happy to hear about Susie. I knew she would miss us some, “the letter began.

I derived from the letter that Rose and her husband Joey lived in the small hotel room before me, one that must have seemed ghastly big without Susie there to keep her company. Giving up Susie was only temporary and not by choice. The doctors assured her that there was only a 1 in 90 chance that she had cancer. Something she was grateful for, but not enough to prevent her nervousness over her upcoming operation. Had she had her way, Susie would have been there to keep her distracted. She must have known that was physically impossible. The pain was too much sometimes. 

I knocked on the door and waited. I had so many questions. How long did Joey’s job last? Rose wrote that she hoped they could stay for a couple of months. Enough time for her to recover her strength. Did she ever go to Hoover Dam? I hope so because there would no time later on.  

Footsteps approach the door. My breathing increases. The door opens and standing in front of me is young woman, a stranger yet so familiar. She smiles to see me, as if she knows.

I stretch out my hand, the one with the letter, and say, “Hello. I’m Susie.”

 

My Most Significant Songs

My Most Significant Songs

How does someone decide what the most important song is in their life? Is it the song playing in the background when you experienced your first kiss? Could it be song you and your partner danced to on your wedding day? Maybe it is the song playing on the radio as you start on a new life adventure. As I pondered this question,  I discovered that there is no one song that is more important or significant than any other. So many songs have touched me in a special way and left lasting impressions.

Some songs choke me up as soon as the first few barsare played.  I grew up during the Cold War, a time when the Pledge of Allegiance was said first thing every day at school and patriotic pageants were the norm. Over the years my political beliefs have changed but my throat still tightens when I hear The Star Spangled Banner. There are other songs, like Pomp and Circumstance played at graduations and The Wedding March, that invoke the same reaction. I found that it is not  the song itself that makes me weep, but the memories the song invokes.

My father died when I was 13 years old. I remember sitting in family section at the funeral parlor, waiting for the service to begin. A thin curtain protected the family’s privacy, shielding from concerned onlookers any display of emotion. I was strong for a 13 year old, that was until The Old Rugged Cross began. That song still triggers memories of how it felt to be 13 years old and losing my Daddy.

There are songs that just make me feel good, no matter how lousy a day I’ve had. I absolutely love Pharell Williams’s song, Happy. Let’s face it, how can anyone be in a bad mood after listing to that song? Once I listen to it, however,  it stays in my head for days. I guess that is the price I have to pay to be Happy.

Some songs make me want to get up and move. I admit I have two left feet but it doesn’t stop me from making a fool of myself as I join the dance line when The Electric Slide, The Macarena, and The Cha Cha Slide begin.

I feel empowered when I hear Gloria Gaynor sing  I Will Survive. It may be about getting over a lover’s rejection but her message of survival applies to any tough situation in life. Sometimes just a reminder that this too will pass is all I need. Another favorite power song is I am Woman by Helen Reddy. I grew up in the 70’s during the Women’s movement and this song taught me to be proud of being a strong and capable woman.

As you can see, there are many songs that I consider my most important. For me, song is powerful, thoughtful, happy, sad, uplifting and sometimes downright silly. As I sit outside, thinking about what I wrote, I notice small white clouds floating slowly across the sky and I think of Otis Redding, sitting by the dock in the bay. Sometimes we just need to waste a little time.

A Room with a View of the Ocean Floor

A Room with a View of the Ocean Floor

shore view

The captain yells “Hold on”, revs up the engine and we are off. The salty wind burns my face as we quickly race from shore. With each swell, the small boat violently bounces, like an old jalopy on a dirt road. I am nervous and excited all at the same time. It has been a long time since my last dive.

I watch the shore grow smaller in the distance, becoming nothing more than a speck on the horizon. After a quick ten-minute ride, the boat slows as it approaches the designated dive spot, then comes to a stop. The boat continues to bounce, making it hard to keep my balance as I assemble my gear. Another diver helps with me with my equipment and I return the favor. Before the dive begins, the master gives us some last-minute instructions, preparing us for what we will meet. I listen, but my mind drifts back to the day I received my advanced certification. It was my first deep dive, 80 feet. The dive master warned me that sometimes the change in depth has an intoxicating effect, called narcosis. We had gone down 50 or 60 feet when I started coughing. My breathing regulator was no longer in my mouth and I felt like I was drinking the entire lake. Noticing something was wrong, my instructor quickly placed the regulator back in my mouth and started our ascent to the surface. I kept thinking that I must be drowning, but at the same time I was aware that I was OK. Other than coughing up water the rest of the day, I was fine. But the fear of drowning grips me hard and I push through it.

Fish

 

The tepid water of the Caribbean warms me as I descend into the sea. My buoyancy control device, called a BCD, keeps me afloat as I clear my mask with spit and fit it to my face. Thumbs up and we are ready. I release the air from my BCD and the dive weights cause me to sink. The light dims but I look up to see the glare of bright sunlight at the surface. As I descend, the change in pressure clogs my ears. I hold my nose and blow, causing my ears to pop. The only sound I hear, however, is the rough sound of my breathing, amplified by the regulator. We do not touch bottom for fear of damaging the corals.  It’s hard to believe the reef is a living thing. I notice the life around me. Thin finger-like blades of sea grass grow through the fine white sand and dance in the gentle breeze of our passing. Vibrant colors of coral catch my eye. Rustic reds, bright yellows and pale browns cover the bottom. A lacy purple fan stands out from the rest and becomes my favorite.  Brightly colored parrot fish dart past me. I try to take a picture but they are much too quick. Reluctantly, I point and shoot, hoping that I get lucky.

 —–

Purple Sea Fan

I have never dived the Caribbean. The closest I have come to experiencing the perfect view of the ocean is snorkeling in Honduras. But that is only an appetizer, enough to wet my appetite for a grander feast.  

I don’t know why I am so fascinated with the sea. Being born under the sign of Aquarius might have something to do with. But the sea, the ocean, it is like an enchanted kingdom. There is a calmness under the water. Worries disappear and all that matters are right in front of your eyes. I hope one day to be lucky enough to experience it firsthand. 

This story was originally posted as part a writing assignment for WordPress Writing 101. 

 
Who Knew? Oklahoma – Discovering a Cobblestone Town

Who Knew? Oklahoma – Discovering a Cobblestone Town

 

My husband  once told me a story about a visit from his brother Charles’ and his family . Charles lived in California and although he was born and raised in Oklahoma, he must have forgotten to tell his children that Oklahoma had obtained Statehood many years before. The cousins were genuinely surprised by the lack of teepees dotting the landscape, or stagecoaches circling the women folk in case of a raid. Too many bad Hollywood westerns may have given them the wrong impression of this beautiful state. Visiting Oklahoma is not at the top of many people’s bucket list, unless you are like my friend Michael who wants to visit so he can say he has been to all 50 states. Yet there are hidden treasures that can be found, even for long-time residents like myself. Take for instance, Medicine Park.DSCF8461

 My husband and I first visited this quaint, cobblestoned town in the fall of 2011. And I do mean cobblestoned! Almost every building is constructed using red stones found in the nearby Wichita Mountains. Medicine Park is an old resort town, once popular among the affluent and known for its healing waters. I was struck by the rustic beauty of this quaint town. DSCF8452

A tree-line path hugs a stream that flows through town. Geese, ducks and large tortoises can be seen near the water’s edge. A small bridge crosses over to a diving platform, used by swimmers during the summer months. Back in the  1940’s this place bustled with activity, but that day there were few people to disturb the tranquil quiet. Who knew Southwest Oklahoma could boast of such a unique and beautiful place.

DSCF8442

 

 

Monday Morning Blues

Monday Morning Blues

Monday’s may not be anyone’s favorite day of the week, but I absolutely hate them. Monday should be a day I  gently slide back into the routine of real life, which for me is my job. I am the lead  business analyst of a large project with many problems. Our delivery date will not be met, yet no one will admit it. My team is inexperienced and needs lots of guidance. My boss  lives in some sort of fantasy world where I am Superwoman and I will save the day (so that mere mortals like herself can sleep well at night), so telling her things are bad doesn’t do much good. And countless project managers who cannot see past the end of their MS Project Plan. Instead of a gentle breeze, Monday blows in like a May tornado, hitting quick and hard, leaving  a trail of debris that needs to be cleaned up.   Between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, I will  have at least two meetings. My e-mail inbox  will include new items to be concerned about, take care of, or do myself. My task list grows longer each day and my inability to complete anything holds up other people from completing their tasks.  I am literally the clog at the bottom of the funnel.  And as I look ahead to the rest of the week, I see no hope of things improving. Monday has barely begun and I am defeated.

For anyone reading this, I’m sorry this is nothing more than a rant and a woe-is-me pity-party. It’s been a week since I last blogged (due to work travel) and I felt I needed to post something. This was all I could muster.  Feel free to add your own “I hate Monday” post. Misery loves company!

Off to my first meeting!

DAY 19 – Try a New Posting Style

DAY 19 – Try a New Posting Style

The following was an assignment from a writing class I took. It is a short fiction loosely based on my Grandmother Daisy and her brother George. I welcome all feedback .

Unexpected Messages
 

Daisy peeled potatoes and daydreamed about hats, or at least one in particular; a stylish black hat with a large feather plume that she saw in the window at Eaton’s Department Store on her day off. Daisy pictured herself wearing the hat as she strolled down King Street, dressed to the nines, with her head held high and her dainty nose in the air. Gentlemen would tip their Homburgs and say Good Morning, Miss Webb, while women draped in pearl would huff with jealousy. Image

Just as she was about to stick her tongue out at Mrs. Jenkins, a loud knock at the front door yanked Daisy back to the kitchen. Wiping her hands on her dirty white apron, Daisy hurried to the front of the stately house where she worked as a domestic servant. A cool morning breeze off Lake Ontario chilled Daisy as she opened the door. Should have grabbed my shawl, she thought.Image

A young boy, no more than 15 years old, stood on the front steps. In his dark wool uniform with brass buttons down the front, the boy could easily pass as a young soldier. Only the red bicycle at the foot of the stairs and the small pouch attached to his belt said otherwise. The telegram messenger, an omen of bad news, was an all-to-frequent visitor in the upscale Ontario neighborhood.

“Telegram for Miss Daisy Webb,” he said. His outstretched hand held a pale envelope, imprinted with a small red cross.

Uncertainty echoed in her voice. “I’m Daisy.” As she reached for the envelop she noticed a heaviness in the boy’s eyes. Although the Great War was less than a year old, Daisy suspected this boy had delivered many such messages.

 The envelope felt heavy in Daisy’s hand. Instinctively she already knew what it said. After 10 long years, Daisy had received another unexpected message late last summer from her brother George. In it, he told of his long search for her. The home in Peterborough had given him her current address, he wrote. He had wanted her to know he would soon go to France to fight in the war. Would she write to him, he asked? Once settled, he promised to send her his address.

George’s letter never mentioned their last day together. Daisy had been 10 years old, George 12, when authorities had abducted them from their grandmother’s London home. Grandmother could not care for them anymore, they said. The authorities had placed her in a school where she learned domestic skills. At 16, they sent her to Canada as an indentured servant until she was of age. Until the letter arrived, Daisy thought George was dead. Daisy understood. They were Home Children. Some things were best tucked away and forgotten.  

She never received George’s address and Daisy thought it just as well. Daisy lost her brother 10 years ago. The George who went to war was a stranger. 

Daisy gently folded the unopened envelope and placed it in the pocket of the dirty apron and went back to peeling potatoes.  Image

 
I am a Writer and So are You

I am a Writer and So are You

ImageI am a writer.  For most of us who have never been published or recognized in any way, those words are difficult to admit. What exactly qualifies someone as a writer? Everyone writes something; emails, Facebook posts, shopping lists, blogs. Does the act of writing make someone a writer? Maybe. Some people have very creative shopping lists. The key to calling yourself a writer hinges on the word “creative”. Writing is an act of creation. Maybe the title “Literary Artist” is more appropriate.  So, because I have created a story from nothing but my imagination, and have committed it to paper, I think that qualifies me as a writer.  Not necessarily a good one. Heaven knows I wouldn’t share what I wrote for NaNoWrimo with anyone. Its pretty hideous in its present state. But it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.  Drafting is just the first step.

For all the rest of you who participated in Camp NaNoWrimo this past month – congratulations. You are officially writers, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not.