Almost Everybody

I wrote this fun piece in response to Fandango’s one-word prompt for today: ALMOST. Check out his blog to see the other responses, or add your own.
I was especially prompted to write this tale by Frank Prem’s not-quite-haiku, Almost a Cockatoo. You’ll see the link to his blog, Seventeen Syllable Poetry, listed among the others.  🙂

ALMOST EVERYBODY HAS A PAIR

“Mom, I need new running shoes.”

“So what else is new?” was Dad’s comment.

“You just got new shoes back in spring, Brandi.” Mom reminded her.

“That’s right,” Dad agreed. “And as I recall, they cost me a wallet full of bills.”

“Mom, Dad. Listen to me! The shoes you got me back in spring were El-cheapos. Now they’re like, RAGS! They’re decomposing with every step. I’m gonna get gangrene if I keep wearing them. I REALLY need new shoes.” Brandi stuck out a foot to show the evidence and wrinkled her nose. “I need something a little higher quality.”

Dad jabbed a finger in her direction. “The way you and your sister go through shoes, all we can afford are El-Cheapo brands. Do I dare ask how much ‘a little higher quality’ is going to set me back?”

Brandi rolled her eyes. “Oh, Dad. All you think of is money! You don’t understand how…how…ostracized I feel wearing Excess-Economy brand when all the other kids are wearing these cool new TECH-tonic ‘Earthmovers’. Kids who have ‘em say they really grip the ground and…”

“And all your classmates are wearing these?” Mom asked.

Brandi’s sister Trena nodded in agreement. “I’ll need a new pair soon, too.”

“Even some of the poorest kids,” said Brandi. “And they’re, like, $220 a pair.”

Dad’s eyes popped open. “Two hundred and…” He whistled. “And everybody in your class has a pair? Except some of the poorest kids, of course — like you two.”

Brandi stuck out her chin.“Well, yeah. Do you want us to be scorned by the whole school? Mocked on Facebook because our shoes are rotting on our feet?”

Mom looked at Dad and raised her eyebrows. Dad looked at Mom and raised his eyebrows. Somehow they both managed to maintain a ‘bank-manager-considers-loan’ sobriety.

“We’ll see.” Mom said. “Now that I think of it, Carrie’s cousin volunteers at school Thursday mornings. I’ll ask her what she thinks of these news shoes everybody’s wearing. You called them Earthmovers?”

Brandi nodded, squirmed, and sent her sister a desperate glance. “Well, almost everybody. At least five kids in my class have a pair. But the rest are getting them as soon as…”

Dad grinned.  “As soon as they can talk their folks into saving them from mocking and scorn?” He winked at Mom.

Brandi and Trena gave each other a meaningful look and rolled their eyes as if to say, “Parents. They’re so…archaic!”

Those Old Autograph Books

“Lest old acquaintance be forgot…”

Writing my Nanowrimo story in November, the main character being a girl turning twelve and the setting being the summer of 1957, I was researching various interests and hobbies of the late 50s. One of these was autograph books, so I gave my main character one for her birthday.

I wonder how many of you readers remember the autograph books we passed around among our family and friends so we’d have a memory of them for our old age? I’m afraid this bit of social fun has been forgotten in this texting generation — though I’d be delighted to know I’m wrong and some children still have one.

I had one myself, and so did my husband, and I signed many a friend’s autograph book. The idea was to write some sort of good wish, verse, quote, bit of song, and then sign it.

Flowers poem

This poem was written by one of Mom’s siblings:
“How nice it is to have a friend
who always plays the game,
knows all the faults that you possess
and loves you just the same.”

This bit of wisdom, maybe a forerunner of the “How to eat an elephant” line, has often encouraged me when I feel overwhelmed by many To-Dos:
“Little and often makes a heap in time.”

This advice was given to Bob by his Dad:
“A little said, and truly said,
can deeper joys impart
than hosts of words that touch the head,
but never reach the heart.”

Here’s another encouragement my third-grade teacher wrote for me:
“May your life be like a snowflake;
leave a mark, but not a stain.”

Verses could be silly, like these written by two of my friends:
“I saw you in the ocean; I saw you in the sea;
I saw you in the bath-tub. Oops, pardon me!

“Two in a hammock waiting to kiss
all of a sudden they went like…”
The writer turned the book upside down to write “this…
She drew a little illustration to go with this, a hammock between two trees.

And someone was sure to turn to the last page and scribble these lines:
“By hook or by crook,
I’ll be the last one
to sign in this book.”

To write this article I went scrounging through my box of ancient papers, thinking I could find my or my husband’s autograph books — and didn’t. What I did come across was two sheets of notebook paper on which Bob’s mom copied all the writings in her autograph book, which she’d kept for years. Mom was born in 1908, so autograph books have been around a long time indeed!

Here are a few more from her book:
“There is a pale blow flower that grows
around the shepherd’s cot,
and in the silence of the night
it softly breathes ‘forget me not’.”

“May your life be like arithmetic—
friends added, joys multiplied,
sorrows subtracted, enemies divided.”

“When the golden sun is setting
and your mind from care is free,
when of others you are thinking
will you sometimes think of me?”

If you think of some autograph that’s stuck with you through the years, please share it in a comment.

Meadowlark + quote

Travel Tales from Exotic Places

BOOK REVIEW

Travel Tales from Exotic Places Like Salford

by Julian Worker

I received a copy from Story Cartel a few years back and posted this review on my blog, Christine Composes. I’ll reprint my thoughts for the benefit of new readers who may not have heard of this interesting book — which is still available on Amazon and Kobo.

You need to take your time with this book, savoring it like chocolate truffles, and it’s set up in sections so you can do that. Rather than using chronological order the writer divides his book geographically, describing spots tourists would most likely want to visit and giving directions on how to get there, as well as some encounters he’s had with the locals.

Mr Worker gives some historical background as well as thorough details of the area he’s writing about. By the time I was done reading about some of these places I was ready to pack my bags and go! His description of the soccer/football match had me cheering, too, though I have no interest in that sport. And his last few pages about his trials with customs inspectors and linguistic misunderstandings made me chuckle.

I found this book intelligently written, well crafted and well edited. The writer shows due respect and sensitivity to various cultures and customs. If you enjoy visiting other countries or reading about others’ travels, you will really enjoy this book.

I notice the author has done another travel book as well, titled Julian’s Journeys.

Enlightening Book On Depression

BOOK REVIEW:

How Hard It Really Is: A Short Honest Book About Depression
by J. S. Park

This book was written for folks who are seeking answers about this major problem. it’s for those wrestling with depression themselves and for those who want to understand what the sufferer is going through.

Pastor Park isn’t preachy; he offers no pat answers. No “Trust God, have more faith, count your blessings.” No “Think positive, just cheer up.”  No “This vitamin formula, yoga position, or new drug on the market will cure you in no time.” In fact, these pat answers make him angry because they tend to add yet more mental anguish to the sufferer. He knows. He’s been there.

“My hope here is to give a voice to those who have been depressed so they can share in their own words what they have found helpful and what they have definitely not.”

You’ll read about others — even doctors — who’ve been in, or are in, the same battle. Knowing you’re not alone can give you courage. Knowing that winning is possible is empowering. Seeing how others have climbed out of the darkness can give you courage to keep trying.

If you have a loved one who is dealing with this issue and you want a little better picture of the enemy, this book will definitely clarify some muddy waters.

The best thing we can offer each other is…our set of experiences, our voices, our ears, so that the tunnel is less intimidating and the light is not as distant as it was… It’s in sharing what we go through that we are empowered to make it through together.

The first few chapters contain a lot of basic facts; I found it rather heavy reading. This is where the writer discusses some theories behind depression, past and present, and different approaches that have been adopted in treating it.

I found the later chapters the most engaging, where he shares his own experience of being knocked for a loop, the treatments he tried, the help he found, the friends who stood beside him and made a difference, the way he finally managed to climb back out of the deep well he was in.

Sometimes there are obvious social and economic factors that trigger depression, but the writer also tells how suddenly it can hit a person:

“(It can be) …a simple punch in the face with no complex reasons, no social complexities, no biological build-up — just a sudden shock to the system. Depression can occur by a crisis event or situation and, like a face-punch, will spin you around and leave you surprised and reeling.”

He discusses the role culture plays in how we talk about and deal with this affliction. Is depression only “the white man’s disease” as some cultures say?

The section I’m Here gives some valuable tips on how we can reach out to a friend who’s struggling with depression. It’s a lot easier than you think. One thought that really impressed me: we don’t need to grab a microphone and make a rousing speech or say just the right thing to get this person through the darkness. Rather we need to give the depressed person the mike and listen. Let him share what he’s going through and how he feels. To be there is often the best gift a friend can give.

“Something powerful happens when we reach across the dark…
Fear starts to shrivel the moment it is exposed.”

The section, Who Am I Without You? deals with being so dependent on the approval of others that we crash at the smallest hint of rejection. The writer urges us to get to know ourselves, our own likes and wants. How necessary it is to stop being a people-pleaser — needing, clinging, then devastated when they feel suffocated and walk away. He tells how he learned to love others more and need them less.

In the last chapter, Elijah, By Bread and Water, he relates the account of the Biblical prophet Elijah, who had his greatest victory on Mount Carmel — followed by a vicious threat to his life that knocked him right into the cesspool of depression. Pastor Park shows us the gentle method God used to pick Elijah up and set him on his feet again, an inspiring story.

“(God) is bigger than your situation and closer than your deepest hurt. He’s not mad. He is cheering for you and rooting for you this very second. He’s okay about all the things before. He sent His Son for that very reason.”

The book’s Appendix lists different treatments for depression and hot-lines readers can call to get help or a listening ear when needed.

Amazon US Link

☆☆☆☆☆
5 stars from me.

The Look

Another Wednesday has come and with it the prompt for Friday Fictioneers, the rule of which is to gaze at the prompt until inspired, write our tales and trim them down to a bare-bones 100 words. Then participants shall post their stories and link our posts to all the others via InLinkz.

“Muchos gracias” to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this menagerie of writing talent, and today for also supplying the photo prompt. To read what others have written, or to add your own, you need to find and click on a blue frog. You’ll find one on Rochelle’s blog, but alas, I can’t get the things to survive on mine.

I like to write humor, but this morning’s picture made me think of something other. Since the basic facts here are true, I guess one would label this story Creative Non-fiction.

PHOTO © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

THE LOOK

Zanna stared into her mirror. “Lose another five pounds,” her photographer had said. “You can do it!”

This time she’d resisted. “Don’t men want women curvy?”

“Designers want spaghetti strands with a smile, sweetheart. Curves I can add digitally. Long and lean brings the best fashion shoots.”

At 5ft-11″ and 105 lbs Zanna could count every rib. I could start selling organs, she thought wryly, those that still work. She opted for skipping more lunches and jogging longer.

“She’s got the look.” The ad words struck her funny as she eyed her reflection. She laughed until she sobbed.

Winnie Plays Monopoly

Another tale of Winnie, our blog’s crotchety, opinionated senior. These days she hopes to alter her widow status by altar-ing Ernie Harris.

Casserole

When Ernie opened the door, Winnie gave him her most cheerful smile. “Brought you a casserole for lunch, Ernie. Thought you might like a little bit of good home cooking once in awhile.”

“Why, that’s right nice of you, Winnie. And your good food just hits the spot. I can’t cook to save my life, but at least I’ve learned how to heat things up in the mike. I haven’t mastered boiling water yet, though.”

“You just need someone to teach you these things.” Winnie paused, arranging her next thought. “Ernie, we’ve known each other a long time, so I’m not going to beat around the bush. Have you ever thought of getting married again?”

“Oh, yeah. I started thinking about it a couple of weeks after Barb passed and I’ve been thinking about it every day since. A fellow gets lonely, you know.”

Winnie’s cheeks turned a bit pink. “Well, maybe we…you and I…”

Ernie deftly derailed her train of thought. “But I know it’ll never happen. No woman would be fool enough to marry me. Not with all my bad habits. In fact, Barb often threatened to get an apartment downtown where she couldn’t hear me snoring every night. Nope. No one with any sense’d have me.”

Winnie shut her mouth and stared at him a moment. “Well, I’d better be getting along. Hope you enjoy the casserole.” She shoved the dish into his hands and hurried back down the sidewalk.

cooking-1363061_640Ernie took a deep breath. That was close one. He chuckled and carried the dish to the fridge, setting it beside the ones Agnes Jones and Phoebe Folden brought around last night. He chuckled as he took out the beef stew and lemon pie Francine Miller dropped off this morning. Sometimes it paid not to know how to cook.

“Still, Ernie,” he advised himself, “You’d better keep on your toes when these old chicks start bringing casseroles or you might end up being hen-pecked for the rest of your days.”

He was still chuckling about his quick wits half an hour later as he passed the gas bar and saw Abner Stilsbie getting his tank filled.

“What are you looking so happy about, Ernie?” Ab called. Ernie joined him by the pumps and the two men chatted awhile. He wasn’t going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, so he didn’t tell Ab exactly what transpired. But…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Winnie.” Abner Stilsbie tapped her on the shoulder in the grocery store later that day. “How’s life?”

“Oh, hi, Ab. Well, I can’t complain. My arthritis isn’t so bad today and I’m getting used to them new blood pressure pills the doctor gave me. I’ll sure be glad when the weather cools off a bit, though. I haven’t been able to take the heat so well since I hit fifty, but I take it easy on days like this.”

“I hear you’ve taken to playing games with Ernie Harris and you almost won.” He winked. “Did you buy Park Place and Boardwalk. Or maybe you bought up all the railroads?”

Winnie stared at him. “Abner Stilsbie, whatever are you talking about?”

“I saw Ernie just before dinner and he was looking like that cat that got the cream. I asked him what he was so happy about and he said he’d been playing Monopoly with you. He said for a moment it looked like he was headed for jail and bankruptcy, but at the last moment he pulled out a “Get out of jail free” card.”

Winnie gasped and her brows formed a deep frown.

“I supposed you must ‘a bought up some of them pricey digs and were charging high rents. Though honestly, I’d ‘a never took you for one to play Monopoly, Winnie.”

Winnie’s eyes narrowed. “So he was playing games, was he? Well from now on he can
live on baloney sandwiches.”

Ab’s eyes widened. “What’s Monopoly got to do with baloney sandwiches?”

“Ernie Harris can go boil in his own hot water.” Winnie grabbed a tin of coffee from the shelf. “And I hope it’s pickle brine.” She marched away in a fury.

Ab’s eyebrows shot up and he shook his head. “Talk about a sore loser. I’ll never understand women. Never!”

Monopoly

Photo-Tour of Dover

I’ve discovered another new blogger I’d like to introduce you to this morning. She blogs as Sojerden and has posted a pictorial Guide to several historic English cities. So if a quick tour of  Dover interests you this morning, hop on over to her latest post via Air Internet and see the sights with her.

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And now for a chuckle at the expense of some confused tourists:

All Hail Neil!

One day some years back a guide was leading a group of American tourists around the British Houses of Parliament and explaining this and that, when he saw the House Speaker crossing the corridor ahead of them, decked in his flowing robes.

The two men were friends so the tour guide called out, “Neil!” and they exchanged a friendly wave. Then the guide turned back to the American tourists — and found them all on their knees.

🙂