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ART

Do I want to write

or create art?

Something the human soul will respond to

say “that touches me”

because it captures life’s experience.

Never took an art class, worried about GPA

“What if you aren’t any good?”

Does it matter?

Why should I care how others see my work?

Maybe the only soul I should worry about being touched is mine.

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Story spine: Under Construction

Once upon a time

And every day

Until one day

And because of that

And because of that

And because of that Jenna’s trainer quit on her, telling her she was on a suicide mission and he wanted no part of it.

Until finally, Jenna got it. Everyone who truly cared for her was telling her it was time to quit riding the bull.

And ever since that day, Jenna’s life wasn’t perfect, or even happily ever after, but she loved herself enough to treat herself right and quit the bull.

Looking in the Mirror

I look in the mirror, and just below my chin I see something I don’t like.

“Excuse me. What are you doing here? No one invited you.”

The once smooth, supple skin is gone. In its place sit deep, horizontal lines that cut my neck in thirds. When I gently pinch the skin here it stays in place even after my fingers no longer hold it together, revealing fine, tiny lines.

“You don’t belong here!”

In my head I’m at times a 12-year-old, jumping on the bed trying to engage my friends in a pillow fight. Or 22, still traipsing across a university campus excited about my future that lies ahead. OK. Maybe even 30ish. A little wiser on the cusp of my fourth decade of life. But in reality, I’m past middle age.

Still, I don’t like these wrinkles on my neck. Not one bit.

I tighten my neck muscles and deliberately frown in an attempt to erase the signs of age. But a small voice – somewhere in my head, a place that knows I’m not a teenager but a full-grown adult with an ever expanding midriff – says, “That’s not going to work, you know. In fact, it’s just going to get worse.”

Ugh.

“Who asked you?”

Eventually, the youthful voice relents, accepting the truth.

I’m getting older. No matter how I young I might feel and even act, this body is aging. Ugh!

Until one day, my sister-in-law and I sit with a rep from a home healthcare agency looking for a way for my mother-in-law, who recently had a stroke, to stay in her home.

“Tell me about her,” says the rep.

“She’s very easy to get along with,” my sister-in-law claims.

“Wait a minute,” I interrupt. “I’m sure that’s what everyone says, but I’m her daughter-in-law, and this is what I can tell you: She’s very patient and forgiving. And, yes, she is easy to get along with.”

“Wow!” the rep replies. “It’s not often you hear that from a daughter-in-law.”

I haven’t always felt that way. When my kids were little, I was annoyed by her parenting suggestions. And there have been plenty of things we didn’t see eye-to-eye on and power struggles around holidays as we executed family celebrations. Over the past 15 years we’ve each lived in three different homes. My kitchens have always been larger than hers. Yet somehow, her kitchen is always big enough for the two of us and mine isn’t. Hmm, I wonder what that could mean? In the last few years as I’ve gone with her to doctor appointments and experienced her unconditional love – for her son, grandchildren and me – the annoyance and power struggles have subsided. The differences in opinion have been opportunities for growth.

While I disdain the aged look on my neck – not to mention my crow’s feet and gray hair I vainly cover with highlights, lowlights and touch-ups every six weeks – it’s more than just a representation of how many years I accumulated in this life. A stereotypically sour relationship has grown sweet. Filled with love and mutual respect. And those babies I was once insecure about mothering are finding their passions and excelling as high school and middle school students.

True, I’m plumper and saggier than I’d like. But with each wrinkle and gray hair, growth, maturity and accomplishment have come.  Instead of fighting the cycle of life, I can embrace it!

gray hair verse

Love My Mom (Three-word Story)

Carmen Rod at rehab

Knock, knock, knock.

“Are you home?”

No one answers.

“Open the door!”

No one answers.

Mom lives alone. She won’t answer.

Get extra key. Open the door. She’s on bed. She can’t talk. She can’t move. I can’t panic. Have to act. Hospital is close. Carry mom downstairs. Drive her there. Faster than 9-1-1. At ER now.

“Help Mom, please! She needs help!”

“She can’t talk. She can’t walk. Help her now. She needs help!”

Nurses take her. I am waiting.

“She had stroke.” Doctor tells me. “How long ago?” he asks me.

“I don’t know.” I tell him. “Found her now.”

“Can’t give medicine. Too much time. Won’t help now.” He tells me. “Was devastating stroke. Maybe never independent.”

no, No, NO!

ICU one week. Telemetry the next. Rehab week 3.

She’s better now. She can walk. She can talk.

Needs 24/7 care.

“You keep her.” They tell me.

How can I? I have family. I work full-time. Who will help?

Have no choice. She’s my mom. I love her. Want to help. Don’t know how.

“It will work. We can help.” My wife says.

“How, how, how?” I ask her.

“I don’t know. We will help. It will work. What families do.” She tells me.

I hope so.

I love Mom.

30 Days of Finishing Explained

I start a lot of things. Stories, blogs, businesses. Sometimes in real life – pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard – but mostly in my head. Some might say it’s a lack of discipline that keeps me from finishing. I agree. It’s also fear. Not a fear of failure, but a paralyzing panic because I don’t know how to do whatever it is that started as an idea in my gray matter. Crazy that a lack of knowledge impedes my progress in this digital age where Google has an answer for everything and you can learn how to tango, crochet or make soufflé on YouTube.  But it does. So I bit the bullet and took an Improv Writing class over the summer. Learned some principles of story crafting and was forced to employ them RIGHT NOW (hence, improv). Never finished a story in that class. But I learned that much of my failure to finish the myriad story beginnings wandering around in my head was because I didn’t know how to finish. Thanks to story spine, I now have tools to finish.

Last year I found out about 31 Days on day 5. I started – well, kind of (more about that another day) – but never finished. This year, I learned that many 31 Day writers begin and finish before October even arrives. Oh, so that’s how they do it? Well, not me. I started working on my 31 Days at the beginning of September but didn’t finish. Hmmm, imagine that. So as the days of September passed by, I started thinking that I wasn’t going to follow through on the challenge.  Then it hit me – Just because one way to do the challenge is to finish writing before October begins doesn’t mean I have to throw in the towel because I didn’t do it that way. So here it is October 2, 2015, and I’m doing my first post now. Oh well.

Here goes. 30 Days of Finishing. Stories, ideas, projects, poems (maybe, because at this writing I really don’t know how to write a poem) – whatever starts in my head. Going to finish.

The end

Welcome

Welcome hands

Welcome.

It’s what you want to be. What I want. Everyone wants to be welcome, right?

Accepted with pleasure.

From my natural gray highlights to the stray hair I sometimes forget to pluck off the mole on the side of my face. Rolls of blubber from too many cookies and not enough exercise.

I don’t want any of that to matter to you, but it does. Maybe it’s too much to ask, anyway. To be welcome, always – no matter what.

Really, who could blame you?

I pick my nose when I think no one is looking. My farts can really stink, and I sometimes wear the same pair of socks several days in a row.

Would I welcome you without hesitation and no disgust if I caught you in these acts? Maybe, probably not.

But You. You welcome me, accept me with pleasure, always no matter what – even when I try to convince You that You shouldn’t.

But no, You keep Your promises. Never forsake me, ever, for anything.

When I ate a dozen cookies followed by uncountable gummis, You used it for good. The aching constipation necessitated tests that exposed a cyst.

Only You would, could turn my over-indulging into something useful.

Why You do it, I don’t know. It’s just what You do.

Always. Forever.

Welcome me.

– First Friday Five Minute Post of 2015