Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Trail



Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Grandma

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dark Shadows

"Grandma, your house is so old and creepy. Do evil spirits live here?"

Jenny tried to sound nonchalant, but her voice trembled. Her younger brother, Will, was quick to join in.

"I don't want to sleep overnight, Grandma. I'm scared."

"This is an old house and sometimes it makes a lot of strange sounds. But nothing evil has ever happened here, children. Grampa and I had a lot of fun here over the years though. Did you ever eat popcorn made in a fireplace?"

"Can we Grandma?"

Grandma breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Their parents were out of town, so going home was not an option. Turn on some cartoons, feed them some popcorn and distract those vivid imaginations. Soon they'd be relaxed and ready for bed.

"Grandma! Something is crawling up the wall."

"That's just a shadow, Will. See the plant that's hanging over there? It's casting it's shadow on the wall. Watch, we can make shadows too."

"Your fingers are making a rabbit, Grandma. Look at it's wiggly ears."

"Come on, Grandma. Show us how to make them."

"My dog is better than your giraffe, Jenny."

"I don't thing so, Will. Ooh Grandma. That person's awesome. How do you make it swing the ax?

"I didn't make . . ."
Grandma


Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called This week's theme is Dark Shadows. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grandma Tidbits #4

How do you feel about couples that share an email address?
I really hadn't thought about it before. I can't imagine saying anything that both halves of a couple couldn't read. Or that they would share an address if it were an issue.

How open about your life are you in the various online arenas?
I'm fairly open about my life. I talk about my health, my family and my passions. I'm pretty closed about my identity. I reveal that I'm a female senior citizen from the Memphis area, but not much more. Grandma may be a bit senile, but she ain't crazy. Click here for my real name, home address and social security number.  What?  You say that link's not working?

On average, how many hours a week do you spend online? Do you think it's too much?
That's rather like asking how much time I spend eating dairy products. I could estimate the time I spend eating, but I don't break it down into food groups. I spend at least 10 hours a day on the computer and frequently more. I blog, I write tutorials, I play with virtual pets and I chat with friends on a couple of boards. Some of these activities are online, some aren't.  Sometimes I do more than one at the same time.

I think it's a lot of time, but I don't think it's too much. I live with a number of physical restrictions, so much of my time is spent sitting. I'm happiest when I'm sitting at my computer.

Grandma


Check out Manic Monday for more answers to these questions. Or join in the fun and add your own answers

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Convictions - Installment #11




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index.
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

Two young lovers sat under a blossoming apple tree, oblivious to approaching doom. Suddenly the space aliens descended in a cloud of purple smoke. When the cloud lifted, only a small withered tree remained.

Skyla and Beth giggled nervously from their front row seats as the aliens moved on towards an unsuspecting city. Rick and his buddy, Jeff, assumed brave faces, although they had been as startled as the girls.

“Let's go get some more candy, Jeff.”

“Just trying to get away from the aliens”, Skyla whispered to Beth as the boys headed off. “We're lots braver than they are.”



Beth nodded, but kept her eyes on the screen.

“Beth. Look. Harry's over there. I think he's looking at me. Do you think he is?”

“Probably, Skyla.”

“Beth, what is wrong with you? He is so good looking. You'd rather watch the movie than look at Harry?”

Beth grinned.

“Yup. But I can tell that you wouldn't.”

Skyla got the message and Beth continued to watch the movie.


Lucy was sitting at the kitchen table when Amanda appeared in the doorway.

“Where's Beth?”

“It's Skyla's birthday. Her mother dropped them at the movies. Then they're going to her house for cake and ice cream.”

“Good. We need to talk and I don't want Beth to hear this.”

Amanda turned and headed towards the study. Ten months had passed since she'd returned from her emergency business trip. Soon after, Lucy became aware of a change. Amanda had always seemed confident, sometimes even arrogant. The confidence had eroded. Amanda seemed nervous and distracted. As if she were looking over her shoulder, waiting for something to appear.

Lucy followed her to the study. Amanda pointed at a chair and motioned for her to sit. She closed the doors to the study, but remained standing and began to slowly pace around the room.

“Greg and I had our wills updated a couple months ago. The lawyer noted that we had not designated a guardian for Beth. Someone to care for her if we both died.”

“That seems unlikely.”

“Yes. But it does happen. Car accidents, for example. He said it was important to choose someone.”

“I know you've both lost your parents. Are there other relatives?”

“Greg's mother died when he was an infant. He lost his father when he was a college freshman. My parents are still alive.”

“But I thought they had died.“

“That's what we told Beth. She doesn't know about them and they don't know about her.”

“Why, Amanda?”

“It's what they chose. What my father chose. He has a very rigid belief system. My life was an affront to him.”

“And your mother?”

“Bethany is named for her. I know she would have loved her. I know that she loved me. But she couldn't say no to my father and Jacques Cantreau made my life a living hell.”

Lucy waited, but Amanda did not say more. Finally she sat and looked directly at Lucy.

“I know how much you love Beth. And she loves you far more than she loves us.”

She waived away the protest.

“It's true. That's why I'm asking you. If anything happens to us, would you take care of Beth?”

“Of course. I pray that never happens. But I would gladly care for her. I can't even imagine life without her.”

She thought a moment. “Do you think that her grandparents would fight for custody?”

“It's possible. But I don't think so. Anyway, the lawyer says the parents' choice would hold a lot of weight.”

“And Greg agrees with this?”

“Greg doesn't care. Surely you've seen the way he is with Beth. He never wanted a child. I'd hoped that might change.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"He said he'd agree to any decision I made.”

“When Beth is older, when she has graduated from high school, I want her to know about her grandparents. Then she can decided what she wants to do.”

She handed Lucy a thick packet.

“My parents' address is on top. The rest is my story. It's my parents' story too. At least what I know of it. Please give it to Beth after graduation.”

She spoke as if the worst had already happened. Lucy struggled to find words, but none came. They sat in silence. Perhaps there was nothing more to say. Lucy started to rise, but Amanda held up a hand.

“Wait. There are things I need to tell you. And something I need to show you."

It was another hour before they emerged from the study and headed up the stairs. Lucy returned a few minutes later and headed back to the kitchen. Amanda followed shortly with a suitcase in her hand.

“I'll be back on Thursday. Greg should be coming home then too.”

Lucy nodded.

For the first time in almost a year, Amanda stood tall. A weight had been lifted. Now it sat on Lucy's shoulders. She had vowed to always be honest with Beth. Now she must break that vow. There are things that no child should know.


Skyla and Beth sat in the kitchen savoring a second piece of birthday cake.

“I wish Harry was my boyfriend. Now that would be a real birthday present.”

“Come on Skyla, we're too young for boyfriends.”

“What are you talking about? You have Rick.”

Beth could not believe her ears.

“Rick? He's just my friend, Skyla. We've been friends forever.”

“So you say. But I bet the two of you will be married some day.”

Beth pretended to vomit.
“Don't be disgusting, Skyla. I'm never getting married.”

“Don't you want to be happy Beth?”

“Yes. And that's why I'm never getting married. It certainly doesn't make my parents happy.“

“Eat your cake, Skyla. Chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. That's happiness.”


Want to read more?   Check back next Saturday for a new installment.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.

Convictions Index

Grandma

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Name That Character

Already my readers are helping to shape Convictions.

I thought I had planted enough information in earlier chapters to clarify the characters in last week's story. Evidently not. So I'm making some changes to this week's installment.

Changes take time, so I won't be able to post the installment today. It will be posted early tomorrow. Hopefully, with enough information to identify the characters. Please come back to check it out. And as always, I am most grateful for your feedback.

Grandma

Friday, March 26, 2010

On A Clear Day

Medicine has it's wonders and I guess that pharmaceuticals are one of them. But sometimes I question it. If the diuretics are reduced, my legs double in size and I can barely draw a breath. Increase them and I'm too dizzy to stand for more than a few minutes. There's more of these wonder drugs, but let's skip the details. Suffice to say that it's a rare day when everything equalizes and I have both the oxygen and the stability to do more than sit.

Today wasn't 100%, but it was close enough for me. How to spend it? Like a kid at the candy store, I checked out my options. Grab the canes and head outside to enjoy some sun. Get Calico to take me out to lunch or for a ride around the town. Stay inside and tackle a project.

Today, the project won. My bedroom hasn't felt truly organized since we've moved in. Being the largest bedroom, it's become the designated dropping spot for items that haven't found a home. So I started weeding, discarding some and finding a home for others. There's still some work to be done, but I'm happy with the progress and celebrating the difference.
Grandma

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Totally Obsessed

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore
Yesterday I wrote about my obsession with virtual pets. It's not my first obsession, of course. Here's 13 more.
  1. Reading. "Put down that book and go outside to play." was my mother's mantra from the time I was 7 years old. I learned how to sneak a book out of the house and read it while sitting on a swing or perched on a tree branch.
  2. Baking. Probably fueled by my love of sweets. In fourth grade, I won my first blue ribbon at the local fair.
  3. Cryptograms. As a kid, I loved secret codes and was always devising a new one. When our newspaper started presenting a daily cryptogram, I was hooked. Now I have cryptogram software on my computer.
  4. Algebra. Yes, you heard correctly. I was addicted from the first day of class. "If a train leaves Station A traveling at 60mph..." Each solution was a logical triumph, rivaling any runner crossing the finish line. I still use algebra to solve everyday problems.
  5. Needlework. I enjoyed sewing, knitting, crewel and cross stitch from an early age. Interesting,since my mother didn't enjoy any of these. I gained most of my skills from her mother. Guess it must have skipped a generation.
  6. Camping. Not the summer camp kind. I hated all that organized activity. But in adulthood I began camping and hiking in the quietest natural spots I could find. My family did not share this obsession. Occasionally, I'd go with a friend, but most of the time I camped alone. Many people were shocked, but I loved the break from the noise and stress of the everyday world.
  7. Computers. The affair began when I met my first one at a college science fair. It has lasted a lifetime. I love solving problems and writing code. How fortunate to spend my career being paid to play.
  8. Computer Games. Not too surprising, I trust. I fondly recall typing Basic into my home computer to create my first virtual game. Time has not dimmed my enthusiasm. Solitaire, QBz and Penguin Diner are some of my favorites.
  9. Soap Operas. Thankfully, I'm no longer obsessed with these, but at the height of my obsession, I would schedule my activities around my favorite ones.
  10. Graphics. Added since retirement. I can loose myself for hours while creating a graphic image. I have never done well with real life art media, but have much better results with the virtual. I worship the Undo button.
  11. Walking. I hated sports and going to the gym. Exercise was evil incarnate. Then I discovered walking and it became part of my daily life. I did it because I loved it. Weight loss was an unexpected bonus.
  12. TV Medical Shows. This is another retirement interest. I don't get much enjoyment in focusing on my own health problems, but I do love all the medical dramas. House, Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy. All are far more exciting than real life ailments.
  13. Trips to the movie theater were rare events in my youth. I overcompensated as an adult. A daily visit was not unusual. On weekends, I would happily attend both a matinee and an evening show.

And, of course, there are the virtual pets. Hope you'll excuse me now, they're waiting to be fed.

Grandma



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Virtually Obsessed



My goulash contains a large portion of virtual pet obsession. If you love cute little critters, beware of Superpoke Pets. It is so addictive. I keep repeating "They aren't real. They aren't real." Then I race out to make sure that all my pets have been properly cared for, have plenty of friends and possess all the latest items from the Pet Shop.

Pets have gardens too. They can keep the items they grow or recycle them for coins. Then, of course, the coins are used to buy more goodies at the Pet Shop. I'll admit this loses something in the translation. Only those who have experienced this virtual mania can truly understand.

Today, some of my favorite seeds were discontinued at the Pet Shop. What should I do? To answer the question, I created a spreadsheet of crops and their potential recycle values. I'm even including a link here for my SPP addicted friends.
SPP Crop Values

Yes, I can see a bunch of you shaking your heads in disbelief. But Grandma doesn't care. She's off to play with her pets.


Grandma



For more pics, hop on over to Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost In Space

Where could it be? Not behind the daybed nor in the storage area beneath. Not anywhere on the high bookshelves. Two small kitchen cabinets yield nothing but dishes. The tiny studio's single closet is the only remaining possibility. Trembling with apprehension, she approaches the narrow door. Tentatively, she touches the door handle, then quickly pulls back. She has heard stories. And she believes them. Struggling to control her terror, she approaches again and flings it open.

How silly! There's nothing to fear here. Just floor to ceiling shelves, filled with the accumulation of ten years. The search might take a bit, but nothing to fear at all. Be methodical. Start at the bottom and work up. Begin with that large box. Stuck. Try again. Ah, here it comes.

Avalanche. Tottering shelves hurl their contents. A large brass trophy jettisons from the pinnacle towards her head.

Blackness. Endless blackness. It's what they'd predicted, but it's not frightening. Years of constricting city crowds. Years of claustrophobic living quarters. Gone. She relaxes and drifts away, blissfully lost in the endless space.


Grandma


Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called Tales on Tuesday. This week's theme is Lost in Space. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grandma Tidbits #3

What do you value most in other people?
Honesty, loyalty and a sense of humor. And close behind these three are creativity and intelligence. Don't want much, do I?

If you could only see black and white except for one color, what color would you choose to see?
Lilac is my favorite color and I love many shades of pink. But I'd choose green in all it's variations, if I could see just one.  Perpetual spring.  But everything pales next to reality.  Glad that I can see them all.





You have a 10 minute speech to give at a high school, what is it about?

Accepting and appreciating yourself. Don't waste time trying to imitate others.Don't focus on "fixing" them either. Embrace your passions and find some humor in your flaws.You'll enjoy life more. And so will the people around you.

Grandma


Check out Manic Monday for more answers to these questions. Or join in the fun and add your own answers

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lend Me Your Ears

Anyone who has hung around the goulash pot for very long, knows that Grandma is an American Idol fan. But the show has raised a question for me. What do people hear?

Not the judges. Sometimes their critiques make me wonder if we've listened to the same performance, but I'm not talking about that.. Nor about the public vote, which sent Lacey Brown home, while providing Tim Urban another opportunity to impersonate Tiny Tim. It's the auditions that puzzle me.

Some of the participants can really sing. Some shouldn't give up their day jobs, but they're not all that hard on the ears. Some are outrageously bad and know it, happy with their few minutes of fame. And then there are those who are just as bad, but remain oblivious. They are genuinely surprised and frequently devastated, when they are turned away.

That's puzzling. Why do they perceive their sound as great, rather than grating? Surely they must hear something different. Is it the auditory version of color blindness? Or some form of hallucination? Does an internal translator in the pathways of their brain convert demented cow to divine diva? Is it a more severe form of the common malady that makes your voice sound better in the shower?

As yet, there are no answers. But I ponder.
Grandma

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Convictions - Installment #10




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 
“Come on, Annie, we'll be late.”

Jake Cantreaux straddled his motorcycle and prepared to yell again.

“Let him come to the door like a proper gentleman”, her mother admonished.

Annie flew out the door without a comment. Jake didn't need to be proper. He just needed to be there. He'd always dated the popular girls. Annie had never had a date. On the first day of their senior year, he'd entered the bookkeeping class and sat at the desk next to her's. He smiled at her, then winked. Nothing more. The second day was a repeat of the first. On the third, he asked her to join him for lunch. Annie did not say no. What girl would?


“Late for what?”

“Can't say. You'll have to wait and see.”

She hopped on and put her arms around his waist. Jake was always surprising her. He had from the start. He looked like a rich kid, but lived in a deteriorating bungalow with his alcoholic father. He worked for the clothes on his back and the bike that he'd lovingly restored. She'd known he was a star athlete, but not that he was an A student. She expected him to win an athletic scholarship and he'd had a couple of offers. But Jake planned on being a CPA and hoped for an academic scholarship. He played the piano and the saxophone. She played the clarinet. Neither had wanted to join the school band, but enjoyed hours of making music together. They enjoyed quiet times. They sat together reading books or strolled along wooded paths without the need to say a word. She hadn't expected the relationship to last. But it had. Of course, it was going to end. Graduation was just two months away. Soon she'd be looking for her first job and he'd be leaving for college. He'd had several offers, but hadn't made a decision. All were hours away from this little town.

She wondered where they were going. They passed the town boundaries and headed into the countryside. The only thing in this direction was their river spot. Yes, that was it. Late for the river? Jake was such a tease. But Annie didn't care, she loved to be alone with him. He turned off the road onto a narrow path that led into the woods. He slowed the cycle, carefully negotiating obstacles along the pathway. Finally it opened into the clearing. He helped her off and took her hand, heading towards the large flat rock that overlooked the river. They sat for a few moments in silence. Annie began to worry. Was he going to end it here? Say goodbye before college forced the issue? She struggled to stay calm.

Jake pulled an envelope out of his pocket, removed a letter and handed it to her.

Dear Mr. Cantreau:
Cloughton University is pleased to offer you a position in it's freshman class with a full academic scholarship . . .

“Oh Jake, that's wonderful. Your first choice.”

She was truly pleased for him and she didn't let her smile falter. But the joy left her eyes as she thought about him leaving.

“It's what I'd hoped for. At least part of what I'd hoped for.”

He paused a moment then hung his head, looking uncharacteristically shy.

“It's so far away, Annie, and I don't want to leave you. You're the one I want to spend my life with.”

He pulled a small box from his pocket. “I wish it could be more. Marry me, Annie. I'll make you proud. I'll work hard for you. Someday I'll give you all the things you deserve.”

The diamond was tiny, but to Annie there was none more beautiful. Words stuck in her throat. She nodded her head and thew her arms around his neck.

Her parents said they were far too young. If this was love, they reasoned, it would last while Jake was away at college. Annie turned a deaf ear to their pleas. They graduated in June and were married in July, a few days after Annie's eighteenth birthday. By August, they were living in a tiny apartment near the university. They didn't need much space. An air mattress substituted for a bed. A plastic deck table and chairs with a huge end-of-season discount had been purchased to create a dining/study area. Annie found an entry level bookkeeping position. Jake secured a part time delivery job at a local pizza parlor. Their new life was busy, but they cherished the moments spent together. They restored the sadly neglected apartment and gradually expanded its furnishings. Four years flew by. A month before graduation, Jake was hired by a local accounting firm. In two years he would be eligible to take the CPA certification exam.

With two incomes, Annie was hopeful that they would move to a larger apartment.

“If we get a bigger apartment, we'll spend more money. If we stay here, we could save my income. By the time I pass the CPA, we could have a home. Just think of it, Annie, a permanent place for us. One where we can raise our children.”

Any temptation to argue vanished. Annie had never aspired to a career. She had only wanted to be a wife and mother.

Jake began to make changes. One Saturday evening, he announced that they would attend services at Cloughton Baptist the following day. A couple of partners at the firm were members and Jake wanted to join. He explained that it was part of the image he needed to project. A CPA should be seen as an honest and upstanding citizen. Participation in a local church was a great way to achieve this.

“Don't worry, he grinned. There will still be time for our usual Sunday morning activities.”

The comment brought a blush to her cheek, but helped assure her that nothing had really changed.

Jake started introducing himself as Jacques and asked her to use it as well. He began calling her Bethany. Annie had always been his special nickname for her. She mourned the loss, but chided herself at the same time. He wanted to succeed in his career and she would support him.

Jacques passed his certification exam on the first try. At last they would have a home of their own. But none of the ones in their price range satisfied him.

“We need to consider my image. If we save for one more year, we can afford a home in a better neighborhood.”

It had taken two years, but they finally got the house. Jacques had risen in the firm, recognized for his genius in estate planning. Three other members of the firm lived on the same street. Annie liked the house, although she would have been happy with a more modest dwelling. Still, it would be a wonderful place to raise their children.


Five years later, Bethany Cantreaux stood at the window looking out at the backyard. A spacious patio was surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns and flowers. No toys or small footprints marred it's glorious perfection. Bethany and Jacques had conscientiously practiced birth control from the day that they were married. When they had moved into their home, they agreed that it was time to start their family. They tried unsuccessfully for over two years. Her OB/GYN recommended a complete fertility workup, but Jacques had refused.

“If the Lord wills it, Bethany, we will have a child.”

Bethany had enjoyed the church services, but Jacques had not stopped there. He attended religious classes in the evening and joined several committees. Within two years, he became a church deacon. He no longer spoke of his image. He quoted Biblical verses and advised her of the Lord's will. As if she needed a translator. What she needed was her husband and something to fill her days. Jacques had asked her to stop working and Beth hadn't minded. She'd spent hours planting and tending flowers. Jacques had not like the riotous variety and hired a gardener. She spent time cleaning and decorating the large house. Jacques hired a maid and a designer. She took gourmet cooking classes and prepared exquisite meals. Jacques added a cook to their staff. He did not want his wife performing servile labor, he explained. Bored and unhappy, she searched for a way to fill her days.

Finally, she'd found it. That evening she shared the news with Jacques. Their first child would be born in seven months. With a tenderness she thought he had forgotten, Jacques held her close. “Oh, Annie. How wonderful.” A single tear trickled down his cheek. Her heart raced. This child was going to be the answer. A baby would restore joy and purpose to her life. And, hopefully, it would soften the righteousness that threatened to encase her father.

The pregnancy was easy and an ultrasound predicted a healthy baby girl. Jacques had even let her choose their little girl's name. She spent hours perusing baby name books. She made a choice, but didn't share it. A few months later, the child performed her first act of defiance and appeared a month early. “Perfectly healthy”, the doctor assured them. Bethany was overjoyed. Jacques' happiness matched her own.

“Oh Annie, I love her so much.”

She hugged the baby close and looked up at Jacques.

“Loveable. That's what her name means, Jake. Our little girl's name is Amanda."


Want to help shape the story? Read this.

Want to read more?   Check back next Saturday for a new installment.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.
Grandma

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Skies #4



Grandma
Want to see more sky photos?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The One That Got Away

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

On St. Patrick's Eve, my granddaughter made a leprechaun trap.
This is the fourth year she's tried and once again the little
guy has escaped, leaving a trail of gold glitter and green candy.
Undaunted, she has already begun planning a new and improved
trap for next year.

Her adventures have provided the inspiration for today's list.

Things that can be lost or hard to catch:

time,
breath,
temper,
friends,
thoughts,
money,
interest,
health,
perspective,
respect,
a break,
keys
and as my granddaughter would tell you, a leprechaun.

Grandma



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Day For Green



Grandma

For more pics, hop on over to Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Character

Since beginning Convictions, I've learned how easily characters take on a life of their own. Cassandra, for example, was never intended to appear in more than one chapter. I envisioned her as a pretty bad character, perhaps even running a drug operation from Redemption House. Turns out she's a bit naughty, but has a good heart.

There are a number of minor characters in the book. Some could be seen once and disappear. Some could be developed more. I thought it would be fun to let readers give some input on a few of these characters. So I'm going to start posting a story character once a week and ask for your thoughts.

What, if anything, would you like to know about this character?

What type of person do you think they are?

What kind of interactions should they have with the main characters?


Today's character is Beth's parole officer, Jane Watkins. She has only appeared once – in Installment #7. Beth has weekly parole visits. Should we see more of Officer Watkins? Does she have a story we'd like to hear?

Let me know your thoughts. Sorry, no prizes. But if I use your idea, I will give you credit at the end of a Convictions installment. Here's your chance to shape the story.

Grandma

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grandma Tidbits #2

How did you decide to live where you do?

I moved south to Atlanta thirteen years ago. I was tired of cold weather and Atlanta seemed perfect. It has four distinct seasons, but much less of the cooler weather. The Olympics had spawned a lot of new technical jobs and employers competed to hire technically competent employees. It was the perfect combination. Last summer, we moved to Memphis. It's still a warm climate, with better air quality and a lower cost of living. We're enjoying the smaller city and a lot less traffic.

Do you like risks, or do you avoid them? What major risks have you taken in your life?
Depends on the type of risk.    You wouldn't catch me playing russian roulette or investing in high risk stocks.  I prefer a calculated risk where my own efforts will strongly influence the outcome.

 I've made three major relocations in my life, one as the single parent of a small child. It takes a fair amount of courage to pick up and move 400 miles away from family and friends. My career success made the risk worthwhile.

Currently, I am nine chapters into writing my first novel, Convictions. I post a chapter each week. So, I risk a bit of egg on my face, if I don't finish writing it. But I don't plan to let that happen..

If you had to choose, which could you live without: TV, the internet, a telephone or friends?
Easy, I'd dump the TV. I can still watch shows from my computer. I'd even ditch the telephone. I'd rather communicate via e-mail than on the phone.

Grandma


Check out Manic Monday for more answers to these questions. Or join in the fun and add your own answers

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Un-a-mused

 How difficult can it be to write a few words in a blog?  Most days, it's not difficult at all. But sometimes I struggle a bit.  Then there's today. I've struggled a lot.  And still nothing inspires me.  How can that happen  in a world filled with so many interesting things?  If I had any theories, I'd write them here and call it a day.  Alas, I have none.    I've hoped for a muse.  Where is she?  Perhaps tomorrow.  For now I remain un-a-mused.

Grandma

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Convictions - Installment #9




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

After supper, Beth had cleared the dining tables and filled the sink with glasses, letting them soak while she began her preparations for the next day. Grabbing a trash bag, she'd hurried to the storeroom where she identified and discarded the rotting potatoes. Returning to the kitchen, she'd removed the spoiled vegetables from the refrigerator and added them to the trash bag. She gave the interior a quick wipe. No time for anything more thorough, but it was an improvement Back in the storage room, she sorted the remaining potatoes by size. Larger ones could be baked for another meal. The smallest would become home fries for tomorrow's breakfast. She took them to the kitchen along with several large cans of chunk tuna.
. . .

Over the next two hours, she alternated between cleaning and food preparation, refusing to acknowledge the exhaustion that was threatening to overtake her. She had planned a breakfast of scrambled eggs, home fries and french toast. Gran had always used older bread to make french toast, explaining that it's dryness helped absorb liquids better than fresh. Beth planned to use that trick with the last loaves of stale bread, saving the fresh for sandwiches.  She added white sugar, cinnamon and the small box of brown sugar to a pot, filled it with water and set it on a back burner to simmer. It would make an inexpensive, but tasty, syrup for the french toast. She combined staples from the storeroom with the chocolate pudding and drink mix to create a rich brownie batter. She filled pans and set them in the oven to bake. Tuna salad was next. The tuna was packed in heavy oil and looked more like flakes than chunks. Beth drained and rinsed it, assessing the quantity. Not as much as she'd hoped for and she'd used every can in the storeroom. Still, mixed with finely chopped veggies and stacked on the remaining greens, it would make an adequate sandwich.

“Hey, girl. I brought your things. It's almost time for lights out. I thought ...”

Cassandra stopped and looked around. To the left of the sink, a pile of clean dishes sat air drying. More filled the sink and others waited on the counter at the right. The scent of chocolate filled the room and steam drifted from a pot on the stove. Beth sat at a work table, chopping onions and celery.

“Didn't they finish the dishes?”

“They?”

“Margaret didn't assign anyone to clean?“

“No. And she said that Dorinda wasn't here anymore.”

“Girl has no sense. Smoking a joint on the first day out. What kind of fool is she?”

“A fool that could have been helping me clean.”

“Someone should be helping. I've got to leave for lights out. But as soon as folks are sleeping, I'll be back.”

Exhausted, Beth could barely nod her thanks.

She picked up the crate and headed to the door that Cassandra had pointed out earlier. It opened into a narrow hallway with three doors. The first held two faded green chairs, separated by an end table. A small TV sat in one corner on an overturned crate. A bathroom came next. Cramped, but private. The third room was the largest and held a twin bed, bureau, desk and empty bookcase. A porthole style window gave a glimpse of the outside. It didn't fit with the long, slender panes that covered the rest of the building. She wondered about it's origin, but had no complaint. Unlike the others, it did not have a single bar. A small clock radio sat on the stand. Probably added to help the cook awake early. Still, it would provide a source for music. She'd have to find a station later. A slender closet was more than adequate for her scant belongings. Though tired, the quick tour had lifted her spirits. She envisioned spending time alone there, then grimly reflected that she was apt to have little spare time. Jolted back to reality, she returned to the kitchen.

She finished the tuna salad and had started prepping the home fries, when Cassandra returned with three other residents. She assigned one to the dishes and sent the others to clean and prepare the dining room for the morning's service.

“Tell me what to do.”

“Find lunch bags and set forty-one of them on the counter over there. Get the apples we bought. Wash them and put one in each bag. Then come back and help me with these potatoes.

Beth removed the brownies from the oven and left them to cool. The syrup had thickened and she turned off the flame beneath it. Cassandra joined her in preparing the potatoes. Soon the dishes were washed and the dining area was ready for the morning. Beth thanked her helpers and Cassandra cautioned them to be very quiet when returning to the living area. Cassandra stayed and helped Beth make small packs of carrot sticks for the lunch bags. Beth cut the cooled brownies and together they wrapped enough to fill the lunch bags. Cassandra eyed them longingly.

“Are you going to use the rest of those brownies for our lunch?”

“Yes, but there seem to be a few extras.”

Beth offered one to Cassandra and took one for herself. They sat for a minute, quietly enjoying the treat. When Cassandra left, Beth took a quick shower and headed to bed.

She lay back in bed and watched light streaming through her window. She was tired, but wanted to savor the moment. For the first time in over fifteen years, she would sleep in privacy.

Five hours of sleep was not nearly enough, but Beth was energized by her plans for the day. She started coffee, assembled sandwiches and put french toast into the oven to bake. Soon the home fries were sizzling and brown. When she heard voices in the dining room, she started the eggs. Before the service had ended, Cassandra arrived to help.

It occurred to Beth that Cassandra had missed the previous evening's service.

“Won't you get in trouble?”

“Don't you worry about that, I'm covered.”

There was no time to say more.

This time the meal was not greeted with silence. Oohs of appreciation filled the room as the steaming platters were placed on the tables. Beth was grateful for an opportunity to sit. There was lots to do today. And the kitchen and dining area would need to be cleaned before she began. She finished her breakfast and left for the kitchen. Cassandra also rose and Beth saw her head to the table where Margaret and Pastor Bob sat. Soon residents came in for their lunches and she was pleasantly surprised to see many carrying trays of emptied dishes. She chatted with residents as she distributed the lunches. Their outpouring of appreciation gave her renewed energy.

A sudden chill came over the room. She looked up to see Lord's Servant Margaret's icy stare.

“Kelly and Judith have been assigned to cleanup duties. It has also been decided that Judith will work with you as a full time assistant. Lord's Servant Cassandra will be supervising you.”

Her tone made it clear that she did not approve of this decision. Beth dared do no more than nod before Margaret turned and left. She had no desire to fuel Margaret's hostility.

Cassandra brought an envelope from Pastor Bob with the day's budget. They agreed to meet in an hour. Beth wanted to visit the food distribution center before heading to the grocery store. While the kitchen was cleaned, she made enough  dough for a dozen loaves of bread. She had found both whole wheat and rye flours in the storeroom. If she could get a steady supply from the food distribution center, it could help to stretch her budget and provide better quality bread. She left the bread to rise and gave Judith instructions to clean the storage room.

The sun was shining as they headed towards the distribution center and Beth's spirits were high. Still, there was a nagging question.

“How did you manage it?”

“Manage what?”

“Manage to get me the job. And a full time assistant too.”

"I reasoned with Pastor Bob."

"You reasoned?"

“Pastor Bob is just a man, honey. And men have big appetites. Now Pastor Bob has a real fondness for brown sugar.  I just helped him see how he could satisfy that appetite.”

She paused and smiled coquettishly. “If you know what I mean.”

Beth knew. She stopped walking.

“Oh no, Cassandra. I never wanted you to do that.”

“It's not the first time. Anyway, it's no big deal. Hardly took any time at all.“

She gave a mischievous grin, winked and resumed walking. Beth remained where she stood, experiencing a mixture of surprise, dismay and amusement.

This time, she had to call for Cassandra to wait.


Want to read more?   Check back next Saturday for a new installment.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.

Grandma

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Skies #3

Not eggs-actly what you were expecting? I've being working on an Easter Egg tutorial for a graphics group that I belong to. I played with some different ways of coloring eggs, including some sky photos. I like seeing these side-by-side. It certainly emphasizes the differences in blue skies.


Grandma
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Flaws

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Longing for spring? You're not alone. It's easy to be lured by green grass and budding flowers. But spring has it's flaws. Thirteen of them by my count.

  1. Spring lifts your spirits with blue skies and warm weather. Right before it buries you beneath a late snow storm or encases you in freezing rain.

  2. Stop looking at those little green shoots for a minute and you'll see rotting leaves, broken twigs, and garbage from wind-capsized trash cans.

  3. Spring brings rain and it's dear friend, mud. It won't take long before pets and children share this outside delight with your home's interior.

  4. Spring is synonymous with spring cleaning. Grandma's not pretending that she participates in this ritual, but she certainly feels the guilty weight of avoiding it.

  5. Grass begins a new growth spurt, weeds compete to dominate the yard, bushes need trimming and the garden must be prepared for planting. If it were winter, you could be reading a good book by a toasty fireplace.

  6. Everyone knows you gain a little weight in winter. And a healthful walk could turn into a health hazard on icy streets. Winter provides excuses. Spring banishes them.

  7. New grass, budding leaves, blossoming flowers and plugged sinus cavities.

  8. Green stuff seems to proliferate in spring. So do ants, flies and mosquitoes.

  9. Whether they're selling security systems or religion, the door-to-door crowd is back. Not to mention their pint-sized counterparts, hawking candy for their sports team or summer camp.

  10. Unless you have exceptionally large closets, you'll have to pack away the winter duds and bring out the warm weather apparel. It's more than the time. More than discovering that clothes have shrunk. When the exchange is complete, you know that the temperature is guaranteed to drop by twenty degrees.

  11. Just when you're beginning to enjoy a little early morning light, the spring phenomenon known as Daylight Savings arrives and plunges you back into darkness.

  12. Spring distracts children from chores and schoolwork. Even when their bodies are inside, you know their minds have already headed out.

  13. Children are not the only ones distracted by spring temptations. Why just the . . .

What was I saying? Never mind, it's time for Grandma to go outside and play.

Grandma


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crib Envy



He climbed in to retrieve his ball. He barely made it and was too frightened to try and get out. We rescued him, but not before my daughter took this shot. Happily, he never tried it again.
Grandma

For more pics, hop on over to Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Outside the Box

We have a lot of boxes left from last summer's move to Memphis. Most of them have been disassembled and stored in the attic. Hopefully, they will not have to be retrieved any time soon. But some have been left available for other uses. My granddaughter is the largest consumer. She has cut, colored and pasted to create doll houses, cars and hideouts. It's not for lack of toys. At least a dozen crates of age appropriate toys can be found in her bedroom and play area. But the boxes remain a favorite.

The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY has inducted the cardboard box into it's National Toy Hall of Fame. The list of inductees heavily favors creative toys: Legos, marbles, the ball, the Hula Hoop, kites, teddy bears and Play-Doh join the box on this list.

It's a good argument for skipping many of the pricey electronic toys that are on the market today. A bit ironical that the cardboard box can be so instrumental in teaching a child to think outside the box!

Grandma

Today's post was inspired by Heads Or Tails where today we got to choose a theme from the past.  I selected Box, a theme from September 2008.  Go check out some other themes.  Why not join in the fun.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Signs

The temperature soared into the seventies today. It looks like spring, but there may be some cold days ahead. Still the day held promise. Along with daffodils and forsythia, it's a sign that spring is almost here. Everything seemed more alive and the sound of children's voices rang throughout the neighborhood. And of all the signs, that one is my favorite.

Grandma

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Squeaky Clean

and posing for his picture.



Grandma

Check out more great animal pics at Camera Critters

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Convictions - Installment #8




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 
Beth hurried to the kitchen. She needed to make a plan and do it quickly. Hopefully, there was something that could be used for the evening meal. While cleaning, she had noticed that the kitchen held two double ovens, a gas range and two refrigerators with small freezing compartments. The freezers were empty. The refrigerators held several large blocks of hardening cheese and a generous supply of decomposing vegetables.

. . .
A small ice-maker sat in one corner and appeared to be in working order. A quick perusal of the cupboards revealed baking powder, baking soda and a generous supply of dried spices. Beth doubted that the previous cook had ever touched them. More likely, she had favored chocolate. Several small boxes of chocolate pudding and a half used box of chocolate drink mix were the only other foods that occupied the cupboards.

A small storeroom produced better results. The shelves on one side held restaurant-sized cans containing fruits, vegetables and pickles. A few cans held whole chickens in broth. The other side held containers of oil, vinegar, powdered eggs, pasta, coffee, tea, creamer, powdered milk and drink mixes. Large bags of rice, flour, cornmeal, sugar and oatmeal sat on the floor. Unopened. She guessed that most of the storeroom supplies had come from the distribution center. A rolling cart held more stale bread. The supplies appeared in good condition, but the smell of decay filled the air. She looked further and found several bags of potatoes tucked under a shelf. Most of the contents appeared okay, but it was definitely the source of the odor. She'd have to go through them soon, but there was no time for that now.

Menus began to take form in her head as she hurried to find Cassandra. She nearly knocked her over as she raced out the door. Cassandra grinned.

“Looking for someone?”

“I'm looking for you. We've got to shop. Now.”

“You're welcome.”

“Okay. I really appreciate it, Cassandra, but there's no time to spare. Not if you want me to be your cook for more than one meal.”

“Gotcha.”

Fortunately, the grocery store was nearby and carried a fair selection. Beth had not shopped for food in over 15 years. She'd read newspapers regularly and even scanned the enclosed flyers. The pricing knowledge proved helpful. Still, the small budget and time constraints presented a challenge.

She stopped in the produce section first. Apples were in season. She found four bags of small ones in good condition. They met her need, but consumed almost twelve dollars of the food budget. She spent nineteen more before she left produce, procuring a variety of greens, a 5 lb bag of carrots, 3 large bunches of celery, a bag of onions and a couple of lemons. Five dozen eggs and three pounds of generic margarine added eight dollars in the dairy section. She checked the bread section and cringed as she chose seven large loaves of the cheapest white bread. There was not enough money for anything else. At least it wasn't stale. Several packages of yeast and a small box of brown sugar completed her purchases. The total was $50.62. Beth dug into her own wallet for the change. She had plans for all of the purchases and time was ticking. She handed two bags to Cassandra, grabbed the rest and hurried out. She didn't look back when Cassandra called for her to slow down.

Cassandra placed her groceries on the kitchen counter.

“See you at supper.”

“No.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you are not going anywhere. You got me into this, you're going to help me out.”

Cassandra gave her a thoughtful look and then a smile.

“Okay, boss.”

She had Cassandra fill two cookie sheets with slices of stale bread, while she opened a large can of pitted cherries. She drained the fruit, then added flour and sugar to the liquid. While Cassandra stirred the heating juice mixture, Beth sprinkled oil and seasonings on the bread and placed the sheets in an oven. She created a crumbly mix of shortening, sugar, flour, oatmeal and cinnamon. When the cherry liquid had thickened, she added the fruit and divided the contents between seven square pans. She sprinkled the mix over the fruit, gently patted it down and placed the pans in another oven. She showed Cassandra how to wash and prepare the greens. Oil, vinegar, lemon and seasonings were combined to create a dressing. She retrieved the toasted bread and set it on a counter too cool. She opened a can of chicken and removed skin and bones. It yielded far less meat than she had hoped for and the consistency was a bit too soft and damp. Thinking quickly, she opened several more cans and emptied the broth into a large pan along with flour, sage and rosemary. While Cassandra stirred, she hurriedly removed meat from the other chickens. She became aware of voices in the dining room and glanced at the clock. Only 45 minutes until dinner.

Beth started a large pot of rice and returned to the chicken. She dredged the pieces in seasoned flour and added them to a pan containing a small amount of heated oil. Soon the outsides were crispy and a pleasing shade of brown. A quick taste test indicated that the process had helped to provide a bit more texture as well. She grated a couple of carrots and mixed them with the greens. Cassandra divided the greens into bowls while Beth began to warm a large can of peas and make iced tea from some mix she'd found in the supply closet. She poured it into several ice-filled pitchers. She quickly cubed the toasted bread to create croutons and sprinkled them over the bowls of salad. As Pastor Bob began the closing prayer, she heaped rice onto platters and surrounded the mounds with pieces of fried chicken. She could hear tables being set up as she drained the peas and placed them in serving  bowls. Cassandra located some glass measuring cups that could substitute as gravy boats and began to fill them.

Beth grabbed serving trays. A platter of chicken and rice, a bowl of peas and a pan of cherry crisp went on one. A pitcher of ice tea, a plate of fresh bread, a bowl of salad, a stick of margarine and a small cruet of the salad dressing filled the second. She repeated the process 6 more times. It suddenly occurred to her that the tables were not set. Did the waiters do that? Evidently they did now. Cassandra had directed them to the cupboards and instructed them to bring plates, glasses and silver to their tables. It only took a minute before they returned for the trays.

Beth checked that the ovens and range were turned off, then followed Cassandra into the dining area to join the other residents at their table. She sat for a moment trying to catch her breath. With more time, she could have done much better.  She hoped that it would be sufficient to satisfy Pastor Bob.  Cassandra lost no time and began to fill her plate. Suddenly Beth realized how quiet the room was. Not a single voice. Looking around, she saw that everyone was too busy eating to talk.  She began to relax and enjoy her own meal.

When the meal ended, Pastor Bob rose and gave a special prayer thanking the Lord for the bountiful meal and for blessing Redemption House with a new cook.

Many of the residents stopped to thank Beth before heading back to the living quarters. Beth gave her own heartfelt thanks to Cassandra before she left. In a minute, she would go and check out her new sleeping area. Cassandra had pointed to the door, but there had been no chance for Beth to look. She sank into a chair,  realizing just how tired she was.

“Surely you haven't forgotten that you are responsible for cleaning up?”

She looked up at Lord's Servant Margaret's icy stare.

“Where's Dorinda?”

“Dorinda is no longer with us.”

As she turned to leave, Beth saw the hint of a smirk.

“Stay below the radar, girl. Just stay below the radar.”

Why had she forgotten Hannah's advice? There was always a price for attracting attention.

Margaret intended to see that it was paid.


Want to read more?   Check back next Saturday for a new installment.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.

Grandma

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Skies #2



Grandma


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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Three Plus Ten

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Ever worked especially hard on a post and been rewarded with no comments? I've had more than one of those days and they sure can be discouraging. So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I received three blog awards in the space of two days. I'd like to acknowledge the bloggers who sent these awards and pass them on to ten new recipients. 'Cause three plus ten is ?

I'm not much into rules, regulations and fine print. But if you're interested, just click the award image to get more details.

Queen Bug has been a faithful supporter of my blog and in particular of my budding novel, Convictions. She has her own lovely blog, The Dysfunction of Motherhood. Her tales of everyday life with her two young daughters are very real and very captivating. Thanks for the One Lovely Blog Award, Queen Bug. I'll try to write the novel a little faster.


One Lovely Blog Recipients:

  1. Dallas Miao'd Like an old recipe, it has a pinch of this and a tad of that. It's an interesting mixture and I keep coming back for another taste.

  2. Julie's blogs are rich with written and photographic stories. I couldn't pick my favorite. Can you?
    Hither & thither
    Dolwendee
    Riff
    Sydney Eye
    Plumbing The Deeps




If you've ever been to Holiday Haven, you know why Jessa Irene received the Sunshine Blog award. I'm so pleased that she has included me as a recipient. More on her in just a bit.


Sunshine Award Recipients:

  1. Mom's can be biased, but you should really check out Calico's site. Beautiful photos, fun crafts, homeschooling information, book reviews and music, including coverage of the current American Idol season. I'm still exploring the depths of Calico Contemplations.

  2. Forgetfulone is a charming potpourri that is sure to bring a smile. It certainly adds sunshine to my day.

  3. Beyond The Blog is Anthony North's wonderful weekly magazine. His fine writing and delightful wit keep me coming back for more.

  4. I'm still thanking Thursday Thirteen for introducing me to I Blog The Body Electric. Dane Bramage has some wonderful lists. If you missed his "13 Fun Facts About Walking" you have to go back and check it out. I haven't stopped laughing since I read it.



Alice Audrey is a recently published author and I'm honored that she's sent the Kreativ Blogger award to me. If you've never been to Alice's site, you should start now. There's plenty of wonderful reading. For a very special treat, check out Suzie's House while you are there.


Kreativ Award Recipients:

  1. I'm not a scrapbooker (yet), but I love to visit Expressive Papers It's images are crisp and pretty. Sure, you can purchase Jan's lovely products, but don't stop there. The site is a treasure of inspiration for color and layout.

  2. Holiday Haven isn't just for holidays. Jessa's site contains many fun and inexpensive ways to celebrate family events as well as holidays. I really enjoy the pictures of crafts, as well as the narrative.

  3. There is no place like home Kelli's site features beautiful photos of food, crafts and home. She includes the recipes too. I could spend hours there, but eventually all those beautiful food pics send me to the kitchen!



Congratulations to all. All nine of you, that is. Hmm, Grandma had planned on ten. Sorry, Guess I owe you one!

Grandma


Grandma is delighted to be a participant in the Thursday Thirteen meme. You should check it out.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants