Bestowed with Blessings and Curses

I admit it! I am extremely blessed. The good Lord has bestowed upon me a great family, some awesome friends, and the opportunity to pursue my dream job. My brother and his fiancé even came to visit earlier this month, and we had an awesome time together. Being self-employed, I could take the time off to spend with them. And what a pleasure it was! I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. The downside is that my mom and I live so far away that visits with family are rare these days. Still, we love where we live and consider ourselves blessed that every day in Vegas is sunny and bright. Our daily mantra is, “another day in paradise”. What’s not to love?

As for the pursuit of my dream job… well, that is a work in progress. I am definitely not what I would call a success story—yet. Work has been pretty steady the last month or two, where in the past, it could be sporadic. That proves I am on the right track. Some weeks I have had so much work that I have found myself editing around the clock for days on end, which is why it has been so long since I’ve last written a blog. I’m not complaining. Quite honestly, I tend to stay up reading half the night anyway. It’s my escape, my joy, and the reason I am pursuing this job in the first place. The only negative is that I am still not making the money I would like, and my reserves are disappearing way too fast for my liking. Should I stress? Hmm, I’m not sure yet. I like to think, with the considerable growth I’ve seen lately, that my bank account will blossom once again. It is spring, right… the time for growth? I choose to be hopeful and optimistic.

There are other blessings I’ve been bestowed with at this stage of my life. Nearing fifty, I have acquired confidence, wisdom (I think), and a sense of peace. Age also comes with other benefits… and curses. I am beginning to think that I have been pierced by a double-edged sword. Said sword is not Excalibur… it’s Menopause, or at least the beginning of it. While it comes with the plus of seeing some unmentionables taper off, it has brought along a major challenge. I wonder… how in the world am I supposed to be able to focus and accomplish great things when I am being bombarded minute by minute with temperature fluctuations? I am literally freezing and pulling on a sweater one minute and on fire the next. I mean, really. Before I can even zip up my fleece jacket, I am peeling it off again. It’s so frustrating. This blessing is turning into the ultimate curse. I used to be the type to always wear socks. I couldn’t stand to feel the slightest breeze on my feet. Now, I give great thanks for the cool tiles on the floor. They have become my saving grace. I can’t sleep even when I have the opportunity. Pulling the covers up, then kicking them off. Turning the fan on, then turning it off. This has become my nightly ritual. My mom, of course, laughs as she witnesses my outbursts and tells me that payback is hell. Yes, I do remember, as a teenager, accusing her of making me live in a morgue. The air conditioning was always running, the fan was always on, and our house was so cold that my breath would fog the air. Well, that’s how I remember it at least. I can only hope that the good Lord will bless me once more and make this battle brief. And hopefully, there are no other unexpected curses waiting around the corner.

Daily Press Prompt: Bestow

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Facing Intimidation

It was not some faceless and unknown boogeyman wreaking havoc on my life. I knew who my stalker was, which on one hand made the situation easier to handle while on the other added a whole new element of fear. The man harassing me, leaving me nasty notes, walking my property at night, and entering my home uninvited was a neighbor. At one point, I had even considered him a family friend. Of course, it did take me a bit to figure that out. I mean . . . who wants to suspect a “friend” of turning your world upside down? Who wants to believe a “friend” is capable of turning on you that way, of scaring you? Though I was lucky to finally figure out who was terrorizing me, it was disconcerting to wonder how long it had been going on before I was even aware, of how I could have been so blind. What had I overlooked? Why hadn’t I been suspicious of his character all along? Even now, years later, I can’t answer those questions, and that makes me wonder if such a thing could happen again. I suppose that is just one more reason why I remain a tad reclusive. It was one more event in my life that proved to me there is danger in trusting others.

Though I have a solid respect for those who serve in roles of law enforcement, being the victim of stalking gave me conflicting opinions there too. I can’t say enough about the officers who showed up at my house time and time again to take statements and ensure that my mom and I were momentarily safe. It was comforting to be told they would patrol the neighborhood whenever they were in the area. Several times I came home to find a note on my door stating that they had been by, walked the property, and noted all seemed to be in order. The officers really went above and beyond to make me feel protected. The detective assigned to the case was a different story. Logically, I know his hands were somewhat tied, that he could only do so much. The department didn’t have the budget or manpower to run DNA tests and such, at least not quickly. His words were scary though. Perhaps he was too blunt when he told me that until I was raped or murdered, I was a low-priority case. Now, I know he wasn’t telling me that to be mean or rude; he was simply being honest. He didn’t want to give me false hope. He didn’t want me to let my guard down. He wanted me to know I was in for a long battle.

I was one of the fortunate ones. After a year of turmoil, my situation just simply disappeared. During that year, I had done everything in my power to seek justice. I contacted the National Center for Victims of Crime to seek help and resources. I called the police each time there was an incident. I regularly called the detective to keep him interested. I got legal representation. I remained hyper-vigilant and documented everything. I pushed for my stalker to be arrested, even though I knew there wasn’t enough concrete evidence to hold him just yet. I wanted him to know that I refused to be vulnerable or intimidated, that I would fight back. Eventually, he backed off. He even moved a few hours away. I’ve seen him twice since then. The first time I was walking my dog and saw him parked at the end of the street (which, of course, scared the crap out of me and once again made me question my safety). The other time we passed by each other at the mall, both of us with our families.

With time, the sense of fear and powerlessness faded, though I still remain extremely vigilant; I am always aware of my surroundings, always looking over my shoulder in public and such. For those of you going through similar situations, I hope your situations resolve sooner rather than later, and without significant harm coming to you. I urge you to get all of the assistance you can. Call the police for every incident, contact the National Center for Victims of Crime, get a victim’s advocate, take out protective orders, etc. It is hard enough to be a victim; at least, be one who fights back. I wish you all the best.

Daily Post Prompt: Faceless

 

Branches on the Tree of Humanity

When are we finally going to realize that we are all connected? Each of us is merely a branch on the tree of humanity. Some branches are more externally vibrant than others, full of green leaves and flowers, while other branches may appear to be barren or brown. Too often we try to sever those limbs for fear they are diseased; we are afraid they will infect us, bring us down, or make us look bad. But think for a moment. If we are all part of the same tree, isn’t it just as possible that we can pass our strength and nutrients to those in need? We all have the same roots. The same things lie under the bark of all the branches.

Let’s do what we can to save the whole tree, for if we keep cutting, we may one day find there isn’t much left. Stop trying to hack away the parts we don’t like. Stop fumigating and spreading insecticides and pesticides. Instead, let’s fertilize the entire tree with tolerance and kindness, so that as a whole we can reach toward the sun with invincible roots that no storm can shake.

Daily Post Prompt: Branch

Anything but Typical

I could be wrong, but I don’t think of myself as typical. Boring, yes. Typical, no. I am an introvert, and though I know I am not the only one to fall into that category, I believe I take it to the extreme. An old friend of mine used to call me a hermit; I much prefer to stay in my shell. Truly, I could be a recluse. Give me a good book or television show, and I see little reason to leave my safe cocoon of home. Give me sweat pants or comfy pajamas, even better. It’s not like I feel compelled to dress to impress.

My mom worries that should something happen to her, I would be all alone, devoid of friends because my reclusiveness eventually turns people away. People ask me to do things, and though no fault of theirs, I find it difficult to engage. If you are my friend and actually see me outside of the house on a semi-regular basis, consider yourself special. I rarely even venture out to see family. I know; it’s weird, right?

Lately though, when mom has managed to drag me out (usually to a restaurant or casino), I have been acting very atypically. I’ve found myself talking to strangers. I am not usually the one to strike up conversation, but I haven’t been shrugging it off either. Mom says I now talk to people more than she does, and she is a complete extrovert. I think this unusual phenomenon is due to the fact that I am talking to strangers; I know I can interact and perhaps experience some stimulating conversation and then walk away. These strangers will make no future commitment on my time. I actually like to talk when I’m interested in the topic and feel I have something to say. In fact, family and close friends sometimes find it difficult to shut me up. How is it that I can exhibit these two contradictory traits, being both a hermit and a chatterbox? I think the answer must lie in the fact that I always talk a lot. I just usually talk to myself.

So I ask: am I typical or atypical? I’ll let you be the judge.

Daily Post Prompt: Typical

Frisson of Doubt (short story)

As I have been struggling for what seems to be forever with writer’s block, I decided to use the Daily Post prompts from this week (above, restart, dim, premonition, imagination, and congregate) to consider my novel from an alternate perspective. Hopefully, this will re-engage me and I will be able to finish my manuscript in the relative near future. 

She sat on a bench overlooking the rows of headstones, trying to gain some perspective. Off to her right, mourners were congregating around a freshly dug grave. As she watched them, slightly intrigued, she wondered what those who might have observed Stanley’s service had thought about her and others in attendance. What revelations might they have gleaned? More importantly, what had the trained observer, Detective Freeman, been able to ascertain?

Though a slight breeze touched her skin, it couldn’t dim the stifling and smothering sensation she felt. The only question was whether it was the heat and humidity or her dark and depressing thoughts that left her struggling to breathe; more likely, it was a combination of both. Was it her imagination or was Detective Freeman specifically and intently focusing on her? Sure, he seemed to be pursuing leads in multiple directions, yet she could almost feel him breathing down her neck. In response to that notion, she automatically glanced over first one shoulder, then the other, but there was no one behind her.

She tilted her head to look at the canopy of tree limbs above her and took a deep, steadying breath. She inhaled and exhaled, slowly and deliberately, in an attempt to calm her nerves. There was no need to be concerned, no room for doubt. It was merely the unusual circumstances that had her unnerved.

Stanley had apparently had his share of secrets and if not enemies per se then certainly disgruntled or annoyed acquaintances. Still, he appeared overtly well-liked. His death, now known to be murder, was a shock to all. So what was to account for this tingling shivering that was trailing up her spine, the pervading premonition that she was caught in an intricate web, about to take the fall?

She once again scanned the crowd at the nearby funeral. She scrutinized them one by one, observing stance, body language, and expressions of grief. Were they all genuinely saddened or were some just putting on a show? She wondered at the decedent’s cause of death. Had it been from natural causes? If not, if he or she had been murdered, which of the mourners would she suspect? Whose actions appeared to reek of guilt?

As she watched them, she pondered her own behavior. From watching them, what could she learn about her own actions and the impression they gave? How should she behave in order to deflect Detective Freeman’s attention? She knew without a doubt that he would be back to question her again. He was thorough and dogged in his pursuit of the truth. She had been as truthful as she dared. Thinking back, she wondered if her responses might have been misconstrued. Had the truthfulness of her answers made her appear cold, calculated, or perhaps guilty? Just contemplating that made her breath quicken and caused the pounding in her temple restart.

She was no better off now than she’d been when she arrived at the cemetery today. So much for gaining a clearer perspective. With one last look toward the aggrieved, she peered toward Stanley’s grave. Then she rose from the bench and proceeded slowly down the path toward her car.

Daily Post Prompt: Above

 

Suspicious (A Valentine’s Short Story)

She was suspicious of his motives. Really, men just didn’t approach her. She wasn’t the type of girl who normally attracted the attention of the popular guys, the extraordinarily good-looking guys, or the athletic guys. On occasion, she would get asked out by the sweet yet awkward nerdy guys, but usually even if they noticed her, they were too shy to ask her out. It wasn’t that she was fat, ugly, or unintelligent. She wasn’t any of those things. Though she definitely wasn’t glamorous, she was pretty in a natural, earthy way. Fussing over makeup or designer clothes just wasn’t her thing; rather, she was more the fresh-scrubbed, girl-next-door type who was most comfortable in jeans, a t-shirt, and a ponytail. She never saw the need to draw attention to herself, yet socially inept didn’t quite describe her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t make small talk and interact in group settings; she just never really saw the point. Happiness to her was sitting on the sidelines observing others or spending time alone reading a good book, exploring nature, or experimenting in the kitchen. Those were solitary activities; maybe they didn’t have to be, but for her, they were. Solitude made her happy. She liked her own company and her own hobbies.

Now here was this smart, handsome, and out-going guy intruding on her solitude. What was she supposed to make of that? Sure, they had known each other for a while, but they were acquaintances, nothing more. There had never been any indication that they would ever be more than that; except, according to him, he had been interested in her from the start. He said he found her intriguing and elusive. The more she tried to blend into the scenery and avoid detection, the more he thought of her as a mystery, a puzzle he felt compelled to solve.

The most confusing and suspicious part of the whole thing was that he didn’t ask her out on an ordinary, run of the mill date. . . No, he asked her out for Valentine’s Day. Who does that? She was having trouble figuring out why he had asked her out at all, and he asks her out for Valentine’s Day. More than that, he refused to take no for an answer. He told her he had it all planned and wanted to alleviate her concerns. She didn’t have to dress up or make herself up into something she wasn’t. He wanted to go out with her, the girl he said he knew. All she had to do was say yes and be ready when he picked her up. He promised that she would have fun. He all but begged her to give him a chance. What was she supposed to do?

Since he swore he was showing up at her door no matter how many times she said no, she figured she had two options: she could let him show up to an empty house or she could give in. She decided to test his word. She was ready when he arrived, dressed in her standard jeans and a sweater. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she did not wear makeup. She dressed like she would for any other event outside of work. To her surprise, he was casually dressed as well. He didn’t take her anywhere fancy either. He said he wanted to prove to her that he had been paying attention and that he really did know the true her. He drove her to the nearby park and pulled a blanket and picnic basket out of the backseat of the car. Knowing that she liked to cook, he had wanted to fix her dinner: homemade pizza, pasta with pancetta and veggies, and a fruit salad. Because he knew she loved nature, he chose to eat in the park rather than intimidate her by inviting her to his home. They ate in a lovely spot overlooking the pond. After they ate, they strolled some of the paths and fed the ducks. Then he told her there was one more part to their date. He took her to the bookstore where they meandered through the shelves discussing their favorite books before sitting down to have coffee and dessert. He had managed to incorporate all of her favorite things, normally solitary things, into their date. He showed her that they had those things in common and that he really did like her for her. They talked more in that one night than all of their previous interactions combined, and she was suspicious no more.

Daily Post Prompt: Suspicious

Puzzling Results

Well, what do you know? It’s February. We’re a full month into 2018. By now most of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions. Be honest! Some of you don’t even remember your resolutions. Resolutions, what resolutions?

I actually made two. The first was to refocus on building my business. When I started it in mid-June, I hit the ground running. Being a tad obsessive-compulsive, I made list after list of all the things I needed to do and got busy checking things off. I was starting to see some progress too, but then I made a month long trip back east to visit family and attend a wedding and even though my business is mobile, the progress went screeching to a halt. Though I completed a few jobs during the trip, things definitely lost momentum. The month after I got home, I tried to recoup but nothing happened and I started to doubt the wisdom of my actions. I got depressed and even considered that I might have to give up my dream. With my savings quickly depleting and 2018 getting ready to start, I made the resolution to reenergize my efforts. That must have been some burst of energy because my business definitely experienced significant growth. January was my strongest month yet! It certainly makes me eager to see what February has in store.

My other resolution was typical for most. Last year, I gained almost thirty pounds. That too had me feeling helpless as the new year rolled in. It seemed that no matter what I did, I was destined to keep gaining. Blame it on my age, I guess. That is just one perk of being a female in my late forties. I wonder, is there a male equivalent for menopause? I mean, really, why do women get all the bad luck? Anyway, I resolved to make one last attempt to lose weight. For the last month, I have eaten mostly fruits and vegetables with some lean proteins. I gave up sodas, desserts, and most carbs. I even started going to the gym once or twice a week. I know, that isn’t near as often as I should, but it is more than I was doing before. Now, I find myself puzzled on several accounts. One, I’m puzzled as to how I have managed to stick with it for the last thirty-three days. Two, I am puzzled that while I lost almost eight pounds within the first two weeks, I have gained back two or three pounds in the last week even though I am still exercising and watching what I eat. What the hell! Should I throw in the towel? Maybe. Yet, I’m not ready to just yet.

You could say that both of my resolutions, though showing some success, still need some earnest and continued effort. Perhaps, I’ll just take things month by month.

Daily Post Prompt: Puzzled

My Ever-changing Silhouette

kindergarten silhouette

Hiding tucked away in a closet, framed but not displayed, sits my silhouette from kindergarten. I was such a cute, dainty little thing back then and my trademark feature was the golden ponytail sprouting from the top of my head. Though I rarely remember that the silhouette resides in the closet, I have never been able to dispose of it. It is a reminder of innocence, of simple and happy times. There is joy in the memory of making this replica of myself, of my teachers taking the time to trace my image, of taking it home to share with my mom. It was the first time I paid attention to the contrast of light and dark, of black and white. It prompted me to pay attention to shadows, especially my shadow. I remember the wonder of seeing my shadow following me on a sunny day and laughing as we hopped and skipped in unison. Even now it brings a smile to my face and makes me think of Peter Pan and his search to find his shadow. We tend to lose hold of those simple pleasures as we grow.

That being said though, I am not so sure that I would appreciate having silhouettes from other ages lurking around my house. I can only imagine the stark differences I would note. The one from age sixteen might show a chubby facade with glasses and a perm. I suppose one from my twenties would be acceptable; I had once again thinned out and had taken to wearing contacts and long, loose curls. Yes, that girl I might like to remember. Sadly, there is absolutely no way I would want a current silhouette. Now that I am in my late forties, I have foregone the contacts and reverted to glasses once more (trifocals, no less), and I typically wear my hair in a haphazard bun/ponytail on the top of my head, which isn’t near as cute as my former one. Should the silhouette capture more than just my head, it would probably look like I posed while wearing a swimming tube around my waist. Ugh! That isn’t an image I hope to retain. The only good thing about a black and white image of my current self is that it wouldn’t show that my hair is now a collage of dark brown, light brown, gray, and white. It drives my mom crazy that I refuse to color it, and she lovingly refers to me as “the old lady”.

So while I have no desire to dispose of my framed silhouette, let’s just call it “one and done”. Regardless of the joy it evokes, I have no desire to relive the experience. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Daily Post Prompt: Silhouette

 

 

Two prisoners laughing (a short story)

This story was inspired by my phone’s autocorrect and the Daily Post prompt.  Instead of merely using today’s word, I incorporated all of the prompts for the week into one story.  I used to do similar stories for my students using their vocabulary words, so I thought what the heck.

The two prisoners sat in the holding cell laughing. What else could they do but laugh? For two rather intelligent guys, sometimes they were just plain dumb. You see, not two weeks ago, they were just two ordinary guys. Neither of them had a criminal record, at least not then. They were actually college graduates with fairly high GPAs and the loans to prove it, but neither had found full-time employment in the six months since they had earned their degrees. Neither could make the loan payments and they were starting to get stressed. Their lives appeared to be static, going absolutely nowhere. They needed to find a loophole, some way to make a quick buck so they could buy some time, time to find better jobs and pay their debts in the meantime.

Jimmy was the one to first entertain the idea of a bank robbery. It started as a joke, but Billy took him seriously, and Billy always could egg him on. Every crazy thing he had ever done was a result of Billy either daring him to try it or convincing him that it was a great opportunity. This was no different. Still, Jimmy didn’t hold Billy responsible for the trouble he was now in; he could have said no. If he had truly given adequate thought to what they were doing, he could have anticipated this exact scenario. It wasn’t that they hadn’t come up with a great plan, more that they were the ones putting it into action. To be honest, they just didn’t have the skills needed to pull it off. In retrospect, the fact that they had been caught really wasn’t a shock to either of them.

Yes, they had done their homework. They considered a number of banks before they made their choice. Not only did they study blueprints, they watched the routines of the security guard, determined what time there would be fewer customers, and tested how easy or difficult it was to get in and out of the parking lot. They hacked into the security cameras to turn off the live feed, so that the cops couldn’t use video to hunt them down. They even created disguises. Surely they had thought of everything, everything needed to succeed in this crazy scheme and make a clean getaway. Really, it was a beautiful plan.

That morning, they approached the bank with confidence. A lady with a baby unwittingly aided their endeavor when the baby momentarily distracted the security guard. Jimmy was able to disarm the guard and handcuff him before anyone was the wiser. Billy approached the counter and made his demands to the tellers while Jimmy kept his eyes on the manager and the customers. Everything seemed to be going so smoothly, all according to plan, but that all changed in the blink of an eye. Just as they were turning to leave, adrenaline coursing through their veins, a cop car coincidentally pulled into the parking lot. In disbelief, Billy spun around so fast that he lost his balance causing Jimmy to trip and collide with a table. They fell in a heap on the floor just as the cops came in to make a withdrawal. The tellers immediately screamed, “Robbers!” alerting the officers who were quick to draw their weapons and make the arrests.

Now sitting in their cell, all Jimmy and Billy could do was laugh. They had thought of everything except the obvious. Though extremely intelligent, neither was athletic or quick on his feet. They had always thought that having brains was superior to having athleticism, and yet it turned out that their lack of agility had been their downfall. When they thought of how they must have looked as they went tumbling down, they almost wished there had been video footage. Just imagining such video sent them into hysterics. What a hoot!

Daily Post Prompt: blink

Flirting with Romance

This is a far cry from my usual humorous personal anecdotes, my heartfelt pleas for humanity, or even my murder mystery novel, so readers, please be kind. I have never before written anything remotely in the realm of fictional romance. Trust me! It is fictional! Consider it a side effect from all the Christmas Hallmark movies and the romance novels I have been reading the past few weeks. Damn Stephanie Laurens! Here goes nothing:

He evoked a myriad of emotions she had never thought she would, or even wanted to, feel again. After all, her last foray into such things had resulted in sheer disaster. The mere thought of subjecting herself to that possibility once again made her whole body quiver in trepidation. And yet, he had the ability to make her quiver in a much more elemental, undeniable way. She felt trapped and defeated . . . by him, by her traitorous desires, by her irrational heart . . . and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. She couldn’t prevent it; the battle was already being waged. She couldn’t run from it either, no matter how much her brain screamed at her to do so. And now, it was quite apparent that she couldn’t deny it.

Still, she didn’t trust him. She hadn’t trusted anyone, other than herself, in years. Recent events certainly prove that she can no longer trust herself either. She never meant for things to go so far. She couldn’t imagine how he had managed to breach her walls. As skilled as she was at avoidance, at keeping others (especially men) at arm’s length, how had he weaseled his way in and caused her to lower her defenses? True, he was incredibly handsome, but he definitely wasn’t the only handsome man to have crossed her path. She thought back to the beginning, to how she had ignored him, and suddenly it struck her that she hadn’t ignored him at all. She might have avoided talking to him, might have stayed on the opposite side of the room from him, but she had watched him, had followed his every move and held her breath. She hadn’t been able to ignore him at all. She had simply been fooling herself.

Daily Post Prompt: Evoke