Author Archives: kalipr

November 6 – Ode to My Gardening Gloves

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Alas, beautiful gardening gloves, I knew you well. I remember the early March day I opened the package and slipped you onto my hands. At first, you were a bit stiff and uncomfortable; but over time you softened and became my weekly companion, pulling weeds, cutting flowers, and guiding the nozzle on the water hose that allowed our foliage to flourish even during the hot summer months.

You’ve faded from our days together in the sun; the bubble grippers on your fingers are worn, and your fingers are tattered and torn and worse for the wear. I will surely miss you as I will miss the warm, languid summer days we shared together.

Sadly, I’ll soon cover my hands with my woolen mittens and furry gloves. But you’ll hold a special place in my heart as I stand on my front porch shivering and yearning for next spring’s arrival. And inside my desk drawer, I’ve placed my new pair of gardening gloves already purchased for next spring.

Each morning when I open my desk drawer, I’ll slip them onto my hands and say, “Spring’s coming. Spring’s coming.”

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

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October 31 – Happy Hallo-Wasp!

by Kali’ Rourke

I love Halloween.

When I was a child in Northwest Washington, it meant brisk mornings and cooler evenings with bright, colored leaves flying everywhere as my favorite holiday approached.

I spent hours deciding what persona I would let loose each year. My mother was my willing conspirator and her crafty skills and imagination created prize-winning costumes.

I dressed up for Halloween even after I moved to Texas as an adult, but it wasn’t quite the same. Embodying a Disney villainess in the heat and humidity of Austin’s 6th Street didn’t quite have that fall kick, but I adjusted, and my new town gave me my most frightening Halloween ever.

The weather turned cold very suddenly one Halloween weekend.

I realized that I needed to bring in my vulnerable plants or risk losing them. I hauled them in, hanging them in the kitchen, then I went to the front room and watched TV.

Bzzz…Something flashed by my head.

“What the heck?” I frantically searched for something to kill it. I didn’t know what it was, but it did not belong in my front room!

I cornered it at the window where it banged against the glass. It was an adult wasp.

Swack!…thud.

“That was exciting,” I muttered to the empty condo. I went back to the TV.

“Bzzz—Bzzz.” More wasps!

I hustled this time, starting to freak out. I realized that they were coming from the kitchen.

Bzzz… BZZZZ!

The kitchen was swarming. Wasps were flying in panic, hitting each other in their frenzy like a scene from a fifties horror movie!

I lunged for the patio door and threw it open, hoping they would exit, but cold air poured in and kept them inside.

I pulled on a scarf and cleaning gloves. I gingerly grabbed a can of Raid and a fly swatter. The wasps did not make it easy, but the cold air slowed them down, so I sprayed many of them in mid-air and then swatted and stomped them. The mess became immense.

I spotted one coming out of a plant I had brought in. It was a large plant, and I realized it must have a nest in it!

“Oh crud,” I thought, “What do I do now?  It has to go!”

I grabbed it with my Playtex pink, long-line gloved hands and ran as fast as I could toward the open sliding glass door. I slipped on smashed bodies of wasps on the floor, wobbling like a crazed skater. Lurching to the patio, I lobbed my precious plant into a corner!

As I slammed the door shut, wasps started to pour out of my broken plant, looking in vain for a new home in the cold. I watched in fairly unsympathetic silence since I was still shaking with adrenaline!

Later, I called my friend. told her my Halloween horror story and she laughed.

“Oh Girl,” she said, “I can just see you running around going ‘Rambo’ on wayward wasps!  And what was that get-up you were wearing again?”

It was pretty amusing, all right.. afterward.

Happy Hallo-wasp!

 

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, proud Seedling Mentor and a champion for children’s literacy through BookSpring. She blogs at Kali’s Musings where a longer version of this post appears, and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

 

October 26 – Memories and Ghosts

by Sara Etgen-Baker

In the two days since my arrival, Granddad and I exchanged only a few predictable, cursory words.

“Here’s your cereal; no milk, right?”

“Right, Granddad. Thanks.”

“You sleep okay?”

Although his silent house had kept me awake, I respectfully replied, “Yes sir. I did,” followed by, “How ‘bout you?”

Granddad Stainbrook

“I’m old: I never sleep well,” he grumbled.  “Just too many memories and ghosts.”The house became still as we struggled with what to say to one another. So we ate breakfast in silence; a silence so thick I could feel it drape around me like an old shawl. I pulled it against me as I plopped down into my grandmother’s chair suddenly aware of something else in the house, something different; a faint rustling, a soft presence of some sort. I didn’t know what it was.

Perhaps it was the lilt of Granny’s lavender perfume that lingered in the rich tapestry fabric, stirring memories of when I sat in her lap reading a book or sharing hot cocoa. Perhaps it was Granny herself. I closed my eyes and remembered that the house was full of noise and laughter when Granny was alive.

Now, though, the house seemed empty, lifeless, and unnervingly silent. I was young and impatient and needed to shatter the silence and to understand why Mother had sent me to visit my grandfather. I just couldn’t make any sense out of her cryptic parting words: “Remember, this visit isn’t about you.”

Granddad glanced up from reading his morning newspaper. “Your grandmother loved sitting in that chair and watching her grandchildren.”

“I loved sitting in Granny’s lap when she sat in this chair.” I watched his face. “It still smells like her.”

“Yes, it does.” He adjusted his glasses. “Her memory keeps me awake at night.”

“The silence at night frightens me and keeps me awake.” I choked back the tears.

He slowly raised one eyebrow and fumbled for words. “Why…uh…uh…why are you afraid of the silence?”

“Because the silence just makes me miss her more.”

Granny Helen Morain Stainbrook

“I miss her too.” He peered over his glasses. “In the silence, I hear her voice and feel her spirit rustling through the house. In that silence, I don’t miss her as much.” His chin trembled and his voice cracked. “I’m terribly afraid I’ll lose her forever if I don’t keep the house silent.” After another moment’s silence he mumbled, “Like memories and ghosts, she quietly lives in the silent shadows of both of our lives.”

“You’re right, Granddad,” were the only words I could muster.

We hugged one another; Granddad shuffled off to his bedroom. Nothing more need be said.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

October 23 – Mortality Check

by Ariela Zucker

Nine o’clock at night and all is quiet. I doze in my hospital bed when suddenly the monitor I am hooked to with many leads starts flashing an angry red.

Startled I look up at the heartbeat counter, it shows a big red 0. Before I manage to move, five people show in the room. They stand in front of my bed in a row, they look at the monitor then at me. I look back at them not sure what is going on but sensing that I play a key role in this bizarre scene I cannot resist the urgent need to say something meaningful.

“Zero heartbeats, does that mean that I am not alive? “this is the best that I can come up with being totally unprepared for playing the dying patient. No one smiles.

I feel a bit winded and light-headed like I did for the past week but my heart that for a few weeks now was beating and fluttering in my chest like a caged bird desperate to fly away feels strangely quiet. Maybe I am indeed dead.

I cast another look at my attentive audience. Two female nurses and three very young, attractive male nurses and I wonder if the abundance of male nurses in this hospital presents a subtle way to help female patients stay alive. It’s a funny thought, so I start to giggle while I toss in the bed in a try to get a better look at the alarming signs on the monitor. In that exact moment, the display flickers and my heartbeat start to climb up. I breathe in, breath out, smile an encouraging smile at the crowd in front of my bed.

“I guess I am still here,”

No one smiles back.

I nod my head to my unresponsive audience, rest it back on the pillow and close my eyes. I am tired. It’s been a long week and tomorrow they will fix whatever it is that does not work in my heart. The long words and explanations that were thrown at me had one thing in common; like a flawed machine my heart, the one I trusted until now has failed me, and someone needs to go in and fix it.

Tomorrow another piece of machinery, a pacemaker will assume the responsibility. The pacemaker will do an excellent job they assure me.
“You will be as good as new,” these words are like a mantra that supposed to make me feel good.

A specific model, a series number, battery life, all this detailed information is shared orally and in written documents. My signed consent is requested, and still, I feel that my presence in the process is not, I am not a heart mechanic I am only the carrier of this damaged piece of equipment. Only the carrier.

It’s a somber thought that I need to come to terms with. It makes me feel that in some ways the process of separating from my body had already begun.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. This post originally appeared on her blog at Paper Dragon.

October 1 – A Fading Memory

by Sara Etgen-Baker

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Veneratio

It was a perfect autumn day. Far enough from summer to have lost the heat and not close enough to winter to have that bite of cold. I slipped into a lightweight jacket and stepped outside, smelling the sweet air that was all around me. The rising sun had dyed the sky purple and gold; the rain had stopped, and the clouds had disappeared. But there was a chill in the post-dawn air reminding me that winter wasn’t far away. I walked down the street, and the crisp autumn breeze welcomed me like an old friend.

I could almost see the wind, for it seemed to move everything slightly like it was in control of the whole earth. Crisp copper leaves fell, and I watched them fall off the trees that gently swayed in the wind. Ahead of me, leaves tumbled from weary branches, twisting and rocking as they fell through the almost still air.

A single golden leaf caught my attention as it pirouetted down an invisible spiral breeze, spinning through the air as it let itself be carried down. It shook slightly as if it could’ve been whisked away any second by the grip of an icy wind. But it kept floating down the twirling course, blowing past my face and landing lightly on the ground. It was so delicate; I wanted to reach down and pick it up and hold it close to my heart, smoothing out any creases. But something told me that it belonged here, this corpse of what was once summer.

I meandered along the promenade, torn between keeping my eyes high to watch for falling leaves dancing their way to the carpeted ground or looking down to spy on the crunchy ones. Suddenly, the wind shifted to the north, and my hair whipped into my eyes carried by the now brisk autumn breeze. Wind like this amazes me with its chilly blend of cinnamon and warm spices, carried by whispers of comforting winter fires yet to come.

Leaves continued raining down; “lively blends of red and orange softened the hard edges of the coming cold season into a picturesque transition. Although the sun is still bright, still brilliant in the sky, it is cooler now even on the days that lack clouds. I shivered deep inside thinking about how autumn days fall by as fast as the leaves from the trees. The sun rises and sets as if on fast-forward as if there is some divine hurry to reach winter.

Soon every bough will be only brown, and the fiery colors they brought us will dim to a fading memory. But I will remember autumn, grateful that she showed me how beautiful it is to let things go.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

September 24 – Trauma’s Shadow is Rage

by V.J. Knutson

The author at the time of the incident.

“…he had always been popular and happy and things had always worked out.”
(Holly LeCraw, The Swimming Pool)

I close the book, feeling the rage shifting just below my sternum. It’s the second time this week that words have elicited this response. The first was an online post and the author had written something about how gently we come into this world; a man, of course, whose lack of birthing experience allowed him to think glibly about such beginnings – and, I know otherwise.

Flesh tears from flesh.

Pain builds and peaks and in a bloodied push of exasperation life emerges.

I’m not discrediting the miraculous. Birth is miraculous. And in time, joy overshadows the trauma, and we conceive again. This, too, is a miracle.

Maybe it is all this talk of he said/ she said dominating the news; women daring to call out their abusers. The ensuing backlash.

I named my assailant. Included his address, and full details of the abduction. Then buried the memory, and self, in a well so deep it wouldn’t emerge for fourteen years; knife-edged fragments butchering my complacency. Memory works that way.

No charges were laid, no subsequent trial; the judgment occurred on the spot the day that they found me, missing overnight, in a state of shock. I had asked for it; my clothes, the unfortunate choice to attend a bar underage, the willingness to get in a stranger’s car with friends. The defilement was my fault. How could I not bury it?

Happiness is desirable – no different for me – but I am also a realist/cynic; and life does not unfold in candy-wrapped sweetness. It stumbles along, meets with obstacles, and demands that we look within. To say that someone has lived an unmarred existence, as suggested in the quotation above, is just laziness on the part of the author. This is not truth, so why write it?

Life commands character.

Real life, that is.

The rage subsides. I’ve said my piece. I turn the page.

V.J.Knutson is a former educator, avid blogger, and grandmother. She and her husband are currently traveling cross-country in a 40-foot motor home. Originally from Ontario, Canada, V.J. hopes this journey will provide healing for her ME/CFS, or at the very least, inspire further creativity. Find her online at One Woman’s Quest.

September 13 – Photos Fade

by Martha SlavinI turned the pages of an old photo album that my mother had kept of our trip to England and France the summer after my dad died. The photos had faded so much that they almost look like watercolors. I remembered how the tour gave my mother a lift back into life after nine months of being closeted in grief.

It has been 36 years since my dad died, and 14 since my mother passed away. I don’t think about them every day, but feelings of affection swept through me as I look at my mother’s face in those old photos.

The photos had been kept in one of those awful albums with stripes of glue to hold the photos and plastic sheets to cover them. Thinking about painting some of them, I scanned the photos into the computer. As I worked with each one, I remembered walking through the vast room of the Alnwick Castle library, filled with comfortable chairs, thousands of books and its collections of Medieval manuscripts and a Shakespeare Folio. Alnwick Castle belongs to the Duke of Northumberland and was recently used in all of the Harry Potter films. It is now a big tourist attraction. Our tour, organized by a group from my dad’s alma mater and long before Harry Potter, stayed in the castle keep with its dorm-like rooms. For several days we savored being part of the quiet life of a country village.Our tours of castles and cathedrals scattered throughout England gave life to my college Humanities classes. I thought of Chaucer, the Magna Carte, Henry VIII, the Bronte sisters, Wordsworth, and William Blake as we traveled the narrow roads from London to Scotland and back south through Stratford-on-Avon to Windsor Castle.

At Lindisfarne, we looked across the sea to Scandinavia. In Edinburgh, we walked on a foggy day on the narrow cobblestone streets leading us past iron gates to the Museum of Childhood. As we came south, we stopped at a pub built of the honey-colored limestone of the Cotswolds and stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast near Windsor Castle.

My mom was in her late sixties on our trip. Very active, she continued to ice skate well into her 80s. I see myself in her face and her smile. She is of French and English ancestry, and so this trip was special for her. In Coventry, we found a grave with the name of Hart, her mother’s last name, and she wondered if they were related to us. In France, she compared my silhouette to a statue of Josephine Bonaparte and determined that we both had the same nose.

As I shepherded her throughout the tour, I began to feel the reversal of roles from mother to daughter, then to daughter mothering mother. It wasn’t ’till much later when she developed Alzheimer’s that my sisters and I became the mothers that our mother needed while she faded away from her memories and the people she knew.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.