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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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

A Slippery Slope

 

Over the weekend, many parts of the United States experienced the first snowstorm of the season, which prompted me to reminisce about my one and only attempt at snow skiing.  It was an adventure that I (and sadly, a few innocent bystanders) will likely never forget.

It was the winter of 1992 or 1993, and I was in my early twenties.  The office that my mom worked for was sponsoring a day-long bus trip to the Wintergreen Ski Resort, and though my mom did not plan to go, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and give skiing a try.  I’m not sure what possessed me; I absolutely hate the cold, and I am not exactly what you would consider athletic.  What is it they say?  There is safety in numbers? That must have been part of my rationale.  It was a group outing.  There would be children among us.  Certainly, I could keep up with the kids without looking foolish.  There was absolutely no need to feel self-conscious.

I attached myself to my mom’s coworker Ray and her nine-year old son Eric.  On the bus ride to the resort, we made our plans.  We would all take ski lessons and see how things went.  After that, we would stick to the bunny slope or head inside to enjoy hot cocoa and snacks.  Whatever happened, the three of us would stay together.

Our lessons went well.  We learned how to use our poles to push ourselves off and how to form a pizza slice with our skis in order to stop.  Over and over again, we went down the modest slope of the training hill.  It was a huge boost to my ego that I didn’t fall down even once.  Ray and Eric were getting the hang of it too, and we eventually moved out of the training area and onto the bunny slope.  Again, we impressed ourselves with our newly acquired skills and made multiple runs down the hill without incident. When it started to lightly rain, we finally ventured inside for that hot cocoa.  But Ray and I didn’t stay inside long.

Since it was about a four hour bus trip each way, we knew our time was limited, and Ray wanted to make the most of it.  She urged me to go back on the slopes with her for one last run.  This time, though, she wanted to attempt the intermediate slope.  She really thought we could handle it.  A few hours on the bunny slope without any falls had proved to her that we were expert skiers.  I should have asked her what was in her cocoa; it surely must have been spiked.  Her sense of logic was flawed.  Then again, I was following her lead.  Where had my logic gone?

Neither one of us had bothered to consider the fact that the rain, though light and brief, had made the snow icy.  If there had been music playing for this scene, it would have been suggesting imminent doom.  We left the building and headed on level ground towards the intermediate slope.  I took the lead.  All was well . . . for about a minute.  Then I heard shrill screaming coming from behind me and glanced over my shoulder to look for Ray.  The screaming was coming from Ray.  Have I mentioned that Ray reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg? The scene I was witnessing brought back memories of Whoopi in the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash. “Help! I’m a little black woman in a big silver box.”

Anyway, there was Ray screaming her lungs out, arms flailing,  I don’t know what happened to her poles, but she apparently didn’t need them to propel herself forward. There was absolutely no elegance in her actions. I could see people in her path scattering like flies.  I couldn’t help myself.  I veered off to the side and fell down in the snow to watch.  She was picking up speed and other people were now screaming right along with her.  And then it happened!  A young boy, about 5, fell down in her path.  Ray didn’t slow or swerve.  Nope, she went right over top of that poor kid and proceeded to take him downhill with her.  He was trapped, his head firmly clamped between her legs.  There is no telling how far they would have traveled like that if it hadn’t been for the fact that they smacked into a thick wooden post attached to netting meant to prevent skiers from going past that point.  They crumbled.  Ray finally went silent.  The kid was crying uncontrollably.  What I presume was his mother came running.  And I lay in the snow laughing.  I felt so bad for that boy and I hoped that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but the sight of the two of them racing downhill as one had me hysterical.

I honestly don’t know how Ray managed to make it back to where I was or how we were able to collect Eric and make it to the bus, but I will never forget the view from my spot at the top of the hill.  It was one of those things that seemed to take place in slow motion allowing me to replay it over and over again.  It was sad, shocking, and hysterically funny all at once, but it was nothing if not memorable.

As I said, I have never been skiing again.  There simply is no need to do so.  After all, what could possibly top that first excursion?

Daily Post Prompt: Elegance

You Never Forget Your First . . . Car, That Is

I remember it like it was yesterday; I mean really, 1989 wasn’t that long ago!  With a red exterior and beige interior, I thought it was absolutely perfect.  It didn’t matter that until then I had never even heard of a Renault Alliance.  My mom and I had compromised.  My first year of college was a nightmare.  I had been so homesick and without a car that 135 miles might have well been 1000.  In order to convince me to go back, my mom scraped together enough cash to buy this car from someone we knew from church.  My sister still laughs at me each time I say, “I loved that car!”  She compared it to Fred Flintstone’s car.  Maybe I can see the resemblance, but I still love that car!  After all, it was my first, and it gave me the opportunity to come home from school whenever I wanted.

So why does my sister laugh at me?  What was wrong with the car?  Well, I admit there were a lot of things wrong with it, but driving it was always an adventure.

It was quite innocuous at the start.  The first thing I noticed was that the rewind button on the cassette player (I did say it was 1989) would fly into the backseat if you didn’t hold your hand there to stop it.  This resulted in either fishing around the floor of the back seat for it while trying to keep your eyes on the road or bloodying your finger on the sharp metal prong that was now left exposed should you feel the need to rewind the tape once more.  No big deal, just a small quirk.  Everyone has them.

The next thing I noticed was that the car had a mind of its own when it came to speed of travel.  The route I took from home to college was by no means mountainous, but it wasn’t flat either.  My car decided that it would only be willing to go 35mph uphill and 55 down.  That certainly extended the drive, but when you have your collection of cassette tapes with you, who really cares.  The other stipulation regarding speed was that if it was raining, I could go ahead and press that pedal to the floor.  I was only traveling 5mph.  My car did not appreciate moisture. It didn’t matter if it was pouring or slightly sprinkling.  Like the dog who refuses to step a foot outside to potty if the ground is wet, my car revolted.  The message was clear: I should avoid driving in wet conditions at all costs.  Just in case the speed factor wasn’t enough to deter me, the car eventually decided to turn things up a notch. On a rare early Monday morning trip back to school for my 8:30am class, my car decided to give me a wakeup call.  Have I mentioned that I am not a morning person? Well, things were uneventful until the last five miles.  I entered town and slowed for a red light.  It wasn’t even raining, but I guess it had rained overnight.  The second I hit my brake, my car responded by doing a complete 360.  As if that wasn’t an eye-opening experience, what shocked me even more was that everyone else at the light appeared to be in collusion with my car.  They completely ignored what had just happened and continued to drive right past.  Perhaps I should have dropped out of college to become a stunt driver because after that particular morning, my car decided to make it a habit. In fact, my sister witnessed one such occasion.  I was following her home one afternoon (to her house in the middle of nowhere) and she was taking a route with which I was unfamiliar.  She made a sharp left turn and then made an immediate stop for a stop sign.  Unsuspecting, I was forced to slam on brakes sending my car into a spin.  Once stationary, I looked up only to find my sister watching me in her rearview mirror, laughing, and giving me a thumbs up.  She apparently had no concern for the fact that I could have rammed her Mustang or gone into a rather deep ditch on the right side of the road.  She thought it was hysterically funny.  Perhaps the sibling rivalry went deeper than I had previously thought.

There are so many other tales to tell.  My radiator started acting up requiring me to stop halfway between home and school to add water to the tank.  Once, when my roommate came home with me, I happened to mention that her cigarette appeared to be generating a lot of smoke.  She replied by saying she had put her cigarette out five minutes earlier.  My car had decided to take up smoking.  My friend, Jen, always had the bad luck of being with me when my car obnoxiously refused to budge an inch.  Of course, since I was rather petite back then, it was only logical that Jen would be the one to get out and push while I steered us out of traffic.  She was with me, along with some of her other friends, the night my transmission gave up the ghost.  The car had been running fine.  We went to McDonald’s and were on our way back to her house when we had to stop for a light.  One of the boys in the backseat decided to be funny, reaching forward to shift the car into neutral.  When the light changed and I hit the gas, my car said, “Nope, not budging!” So many memories! Sigh, I told you it was always an adventure.

Even the last hurrah went off in grand style.  I had been at the Navy base visiting my boyfriend and was traveling home via the interstate at two in the morning when my car decided to simply coast to the embankment on the side of the road and die.  In the absence of cell phones, this required me to put my life in jeopardy by walking a mile to the next exit and then an additional mile to Frank’s Truck Stop in order to call my mom.  In fear that I would be carted off by a truck driver and never seen again, I called Jen from the payphone and demanded she stay on the line until my mom arrived.  Though we had the car towed home, it was unable to be revived.  The timing belt had snapped and subsequently resulted in engine failure.

Man, I LOVED that car!!