Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Do It?

Do you ever sit down and analyze yourself?

I do.

Maybe not as frequently or as deeply as I should, but I do.

Usually it takes a 'life event' to make me look more closely at my motives for doing things. But lately, I'm asking myself if the thing I like to do in my spare time - my hobby, my pasttime, my passion - is worth the time I spend. And I wonder if there is value in hiding away, typing like my life depends on it. Some days I struggle to get words on the page, mostly on the days when I feel less than positive or feel a great deal of stress from the other aspects of my life. I mean, let's be realistic here, I'm married, I have four kids - three of whom still live at home, I have a fairly demanding full-time job, kids' activities, a home to take care of, and on and on and on.

And I end up asking myself, is it worth it? Am I any good at this? Am I neglecting other things in order to do it?

Why am I doing this?

So here's where I'm at right now.

My life is 'safe'. I have a good job. I'm still head-over-heals for my husband of 25 years. My kids are becoming young adults, and are doing pretty well so far. There are daily struggles, sure, but overall, things are good. In fact, if you ask my mother, I'm 'the stable one' of her five children (a topic for which many blog posts could be written).

My life is all earthtones. Like my living room.

Don't get me wrong. I love earth tones. I'm comfortable in earth tones. In some ways, I AM earth tones. (Terms like solid, dependable, detail-oriented come to mind - but I call myself OCD).

I like to be safe. I like to feel secure. And I want my kids to feel safe and secure, something I lacked at times growing up.

But there is a streak of bright crimson that runs through me, and I NEED to allow myself to let it out of my carefully protected self. I CRAVE the catharsis of writing words on a page, of telling a story, expressing my inner being in a way that I usually don't. I WANT other people to feel deep emotions when they read something I've written. I DESIRE a way to move others' souls.

Truth is, I want to create an impact like those I experience when I watch a deeply meaningful dance routine, listen to a beautifully phrased song, or look at a painting that touches a chord in my heart.

Singing is out of the question, and I gave up dancing a while back (other than for my own, or my family's amusement). John is the more artistic of the two of us, though he doesn't draw often.

Words are my creative outlet.

Writing is my release, my deep breath, if you will.

And I'm at the point where I realize that I will continue to write, whether I'm writing for myself, for my family, or for a broader audience some day.

I can't promise that I'll spend as much time each day as I have been. I've realized that in a few years my kids will be grown, they'll leave my carefully constructed nest. John and I will have much more time to ourselves, and I'm sure that I'll be able to write while he watches his favorite sports (which means I'll have a lot of time).

I'll never stop putting pen to paper - or more accurately, fingers to keyboard.

My season to pursue writing more furiously will come. In the meantime, I'll continue doing what I do - all of it, shifting focus to the adult  market, rather than YA. It's more fitting for my voice, I know. (Teens aren't earth tones.)

Because it's impossible for me to give up the feeling of visualizing something and striving to translate it into words.

It would be folly to think I wouldn't burst if I never put another thought down on paper.

Writing is a part of me. A part I'm unwilling to give up.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is It Okay To Be Pretty When I Grow Up?

I read a blog a couple of weeks ago that was linked to my friend's Facebook account, and I've been stewing ever since.

See, in this blog a woman talked about how she helped her sons cull their Facebook friends - a process that was based on the 'seductive bra-less pajama pictures' young women posted (the harlots! - gasp).

I won't even start to talk about the fact that her rather judgmental post was littered with pictures of her teenage sons, shirtless. I doubt she saw the hypocrisy of adding those 'family fun' pictures to this particular post.

What I really want to address is the fact that she is extremely biased against young women, something that she learned from the culture around her.

Let me back up for a minute here and tell you what I mean.

My 17-year-old daughter dances on her high school drill team. They dress in costumes that, well, aren't always extremely modest. There are people who judge her for that - but that isn't where I'm going with this. Thankfully, she knows who she is, and their judgment, though unwarranted, will not harm her self-esteem (I hope).

So last week the Excaliburs (her drill team) had a Mini-Excalibur Camp. They taught nearly 70 younger girls a dance over three days, which was performed at the halftime of the high school football game. And it was so much fun to watch.

Baelee is a senior, and in the previous two years, she has worked with the youngest group of girls, three to six. This year, however, Baelee worked with the oldest group, those who were twelve to sixteen.

She complained to me that it wasn't as much fun as the last two years.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because the little girls are just there to have fun. They dance. They laugh. They don't care if they make a mistake. Every minute is joyful for them. The older girls are so worried about how they look, how other people will judge them, that they aren't enjoying themselves as much."

And then she added, "Why can't we just be happy and enjoy what we do? Why does society take that away from us as we grow up?"

What followed was a wonderful conversation with my daughter about how the way people treat us can lead to insecurities and fears, and the fact that self-esteem is too linked to what other people think. I'm glad she talked to me about this. And I truly wish every girl could talk to a parent about things like this.

See moms and dads, our daughters are growing up in a culture that sends mixed messages at them. Constantly.

You're lazy if you weigh too much.
You're a diva if you're proud of your body.

It's a bad thing to have acne or a uni-brow.
You'll look easy if you wear too much make-up to cover up flaws or pluck too much.

You're likely to 'get in trouble' if you date just one boy.
You'll be considered a 'slut' if you date too many boys.

You're an outcast if you wear the wrong type of clothing.
You'll be raped (and deserve it) if you wear popular clothing that's more revealing.

You're smart, you should be in college.
You're supposed to be a mom, not a productive worker in society, so don't expect to make as much as your male counterparts.
And if you're a mom and a worker outside the home, you can't do it well enough. Your kids will suffer.

You're too fat. You're too thin. You're too young. You're too old. You're too smart. You aren't smart enough. You don't wear the right clothes. You don't hang with the right crowd. That color looks bad on you. Your hair isn't cut right. Your hair would look better straight/curly/short/long - whatever it isn't. How horrible that you're pierced or tattooed, or both. Get a life, you're a goody-two shoes.

And I'll promise you that our girls HEAR these things. They REMEMBER these things.

 Negative, packed on negative, packed on negative. You just can't win.

The compliments they get won't undo the sharp jabs that come at them from every side. (And we've trained them to shrug off compliments, anyway.)

And then maybe, just maybe, your daughter goes to school one day and a friend approaches her.

"Hey, didn't that Hall boy unfriend you on Facebook?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, his mom wrote a blog about how she makes her boys unfollow trampy girls."


Some girls might spill an expletive. Some girls might cry. Some girls might not say anything, but will internalize the insult. Some might even ask themselves if they've ever acted in an inappropriate way around the Hall boy.

Way to go Hall mom.

You've just knocked a teenage girl's self-esteem down. You win.

Or how about the girl who hits the 'like' button on a Facebook post. Something simple like 'hey, can't you respect your friend's house?', only to be attacked by a group of other girls on Twitter.

"Who do you think you are?"
 "Why do you think you're better than us?"
"You're just a (fill in the blank with the meanest word you can think of)."

It's really easy to say hurtful things when you don't have to see the reaction. And we wonder why bullying is such a problem.

Or worse, how about a young girl who makes a bad decision to drink at a party and is raped by the boys in attendance, only to be told by many people that she 'deserved it'? And to add insult to injury, people post pictures of the assault on social media?

She ends up moving because the people in town are upset the football players got in trouble. After all, she's the 'sleazy' girl who got drunk and was wearing seductive clothing. The boys had absolutely no control over their own behavior, right?

And if you don't think all the previous negatives and a post by a kinda well-meaning mom contribute to the problem of rape culture that we're facing, well, you need to think again.

We are constantly telling girls that their bodies are sexual things, that boys will be boys - and if they aren't careful, boys will assault them. Then we tell them that sex is bad. That good girls wait. Good girls don't have feelings of sexual attraction. And all the while they are hitting puberty, hormones raging.

And their self-esteem takes another hit.

'I must be a bad person because I feel sexually attracted to someone.'
'I'm bad because I'm curious about sex.'
'I'm not a good girl because I like to see boys without their shirts on.'

Is there some unwritten rule that says we can't teach our girls that attraction is normal and natural? Can't we teach them (and their male counterparts) that they have the ability to choose a course that is right and healthy for themselves? That no boy has the right to choose for them? That waiting is healthy? That choosing not to wait is a decision best made when taking responsibility for safety? (Yes, I know that parents want their children to choose based on their moral guidelines, but shouldn't they be prepared for any situation?)

Why do we do this to our girls? Our children?

Why do grown women set an example of gossip and judgment for their kids?

Why do we tell our daughters that whatever it is they are is not right?

What do we have against being happy with ourselves?

To my daughters and sons, I say, "You are amazing people. I love who you are becoming. Keep your chins up. You have great worth, no matter what you hear from the world."

To the world I say,  "To hell with 'dancing like noone can see you. Dance like the world is watching, and you're proud to be yourself."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

What scares you?

I mean really, really takes you down, makes your cheeks flush as an icy cold tremor runs down the length of your spine and your hands get sweaty, makes your muscles freeze up and your stomach clench with a sick feeling that immobilizes you, makes you have nightmares for a week. That kind of fear.

When I was young, it was spiders. After a particularly high fever and hallucinations of spiders crawling up my favorite spotted blanket, I couldn't stand to look at them. I can remember a day when I screamed for my mom to come and save me from a black widow. It was on the driveway, and there was no way on Earth I was going to walk past it with bare feet. My mother rescued me, rolling her eyes. "It's just a spider. You should have killed it."

I get that now. Moms can't afford to be afraid of spiders -- we're too busy saving our children from them. (Bring on my shining armor already.) I may shudder in revulsion after squashing one, but I do it anyway.

Heights still paralyze me.

Not that I've let it stop me from enjoying life (mostly - I'll never have the thrill of jumping from an airplane or throwing myself off a bridge at the mercy of a bungee cord). I've hiked through Arches National Park - and yes, I did crawl back from Delicate Arch to the trailhead, but I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down from under the Arch, and it was glorious. Until I started to feel dizzy.

I went to the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and rode the Big Shot. Three times! And roller coasters, well just try and stop me from going on every one I can.

But I still can't look when my husband climbs on the roof of our house.

Most people say speaking in public is one of their greatest fears. I used to agree with them. That was before I had to speak in front of about a thousand people (yes, literally a thousand). And I survived. Intact, even.

If you ever sit behind me when I speak to a large group, you'll see my feet shuffling, my ankles rolling from side to side, and possibly my knees knocking a little. At first. Once I get going, you'll be lucky to shut me up (I like to talk, I mean really, really like to talk).

I will never be accused of being agoraphobic. Bring on the crowds.

The greatest fear I have these days is for my children.

I was in the waiting room of the dentist's office when the first reports of Oklahoma City broke, and I sat with the receptionist, gaping at the television, in disbelief that anyone would choose to cause such destruction.

I watched as children were rushed out of Columbine High School, and I cried with a young man who was our neighbor. Neither of us could understand what would cause teens to do something like that.

And I'll never forget watching planes fly into the World Trade Center, and wondering what the world would be like as my children grew. The sick feeling from that event lasted for days as I watched people looking for their loved ones, posting picture after picture on the wall. I hugged my kids a lot during that time, grateful they were close to me.

The news is full of the worst possible scenarios. Horrified, I watched reports of kidnapped young women and prayed for their safe return. And I was stunned to hear there was a man who held three young ladies captive in his home for a decade. Aghast that a teenager was shot by an adult while walking home from getting junk food. Car accidents caused by texting while driving. Alcohol poisoning on college campuses.  Mothers and fathers who would never see their children grow up. The list of possible dangers is endless and could leave a parent unable to breathe.

And those are the things I have no control over.

I also fear that my kids aren't prepared for life. That I haven't done enough to teach them.

Parenthood, right? sigh

Sometimes I think my kids are fearless (except for spiders, which we've already established). But there are quiet evenings when they'll lie down next to me and tell me their worries, share their fears with me. I hurt for them, with them. And I do everything in my power to help them. I tell them they have no boundaries - they can be who they want to be, do what they want to do. And I encourage them, as every mother would.

But all I can really say is to never let fear stop them from accomplishing the things they want to accomplish.

It's great advice my mother gave me.

I'm still working on getting it right.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Am...

My family - June 2013. I'm the short one.
Lately, I've thought a lot about my writing, and what I hope to accomplish with it. I've listened to other writers, watched agents' twitter and blog accounts for a clue to what they want, and tried to pay attention to what is being published.

And I'll be honest, there's a part of me that wants to write what 'they' want.

But that wouldn't be me, being true to myself.

At times I wonder, would some agents be more interested if I were a different person? You know, if I wrote extremely explicit sex scenes (which I don't), if I wrote cheesy romance (don't have it in me), or if I wrote contemporary YA fiction (not my thing). 

Reality is this, I'm a mom, and that definitely impacts what I write. Anything I put on paper should be something I would be proud to allow my children to read - if not today, then in the future. That doesn't mean I'll only write easy, feel-good, PG stories. In fact, I feel like my kids need to understand the 'real' world. I've never been one to hide reality from them or shelter them too much. 

And maybe more than that, if I try to force myself to write things that aren't intrinsically 'me', they won't be well written. My voice needs to be my own. My stories need to be what I want to write - not an attempt to please people I've never even met.

Does this mean that I'll never find an agent I connect with who loves my work? I don't know the answer to that question. What I wouldn't give for a crystal ball right now! 
I do know this - I carry a lot of experience into my writing. It may not be your experience, but isn't that what books are about, carrying us to places we don't typically go?  I also know that I'll continue to write (and get more accomplished now that I'm determined to shake off my worries about everyone else), and I'll press forward in an effort to one day be published.  

I am a writer. I am a wife and mother. I work every day, outside my home and in it. I have amazing children, and my family is the most important thing in my world. I'm determined to keep doing what I love - all of it.
I AM Tina. 

And I rock at being me.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013


When I was nine, my friends and I saw a UFO.

We were having a sleep out in my neighbor's back yard the first time we saw it. The night was dark, and we were whispering, trying to avoid being shushed by the parents inside. Jani spotted it, pointing it out to the rest of us with a 'wow, look at that'. Of course we doubted her at first - she tended to tease and was a huge practical joker.

But when we looked to where she indicated, there it was, a round object floating over our neighborhood, lights flashing around the body as it moved - red, yellow, white, green, blue.

Sleeping bags were tossed aside and all thoughts of being quiet forgotten, as we leapt to our feet and followed its progress in the sky. When our parents had finally calmed us down, we retreated back to the sleeping bags and stargazed for the rest of the night, waiting for it to return.

We didn't see it again that night, but over the course of the summer, we'd spot it flying over our neighborhood at least once a week.

And we were certain it was an alien spacecraft.

Imagine our disappointment when the local news reported that it was merely a small airplane, preparing to land at the tiny municipal airport a few miles from where we lived. The pilot was a joker.  He'd strung Christmas lights on wire around the body of his plane. He kept his plane at Airport #2, and would take off during daylight hours, returning with his 'spacecraft' after dark.

I was devastated. I wanted it to be a UFO. I wanted to meet aliens, to watch a spaceship land in our street, to take off and explore another universe.

That wasn't going to happen.

But on the shelves in our house, there were books where it did.

The improbable is possible in a book.

Spaceships land. People travel through time or live on deserted islands. The good guy/girl always wins - and if they don't, there's a good reason why they didn't. The average girl gets the 'hot' guy. Cancer is cured. Wars are won. Governments overthrown. Children solve mysteries. Mermaids walk on the land.

Anything is possible within the pages of a good book.

And that, well that is why I write. To make the improbable my probable - if only for a little while. I live the story while I write. Eat it, breathe it, dream it.

If I'm lucky - write the right thing at the right time, query the right agent, sell to the right publisher - maybe someday I can share my improbables with others and help them escape from reality for a little while.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Will Always Remember You

This Memorial weekend we won't be visiting cemeteries. We'll be spending time at home, with our kids. So instead of buying bouquets for graves, I've decided to honor those who have passed with words and memories.


Darren left this world far too early. He was eight when he was riding a dirt bike with an older neighbor.  They hit a fence that had been erected across a path they frequently used.  Darren struck his head, and he never awoke. I was twelve at the time, my brother eight. I'll never forget the impact of losing someone we were close to - and I'll never forget the haunted look on the faces of the adults in our lives.

See, Darren was a dark-haired, blue-eyed, dimpled ball of energy. He was the boy who climbed the pine tree in their back yard, intending to jump from the highest branches like Steve Austin, the Six-Million Dollar Man. But upon reaching the top (which was much higher than their home), he realized he was afraid of heights, and froze. My uncle, who was no less afraid of heights, climbed the tree and retrieved his son, guiding him safely back to the ground.

Darren was loved by all who knew him. When we visited, he would wave at every neighbor as we walked to the park to play. His smile would grow and his dimples deepen when he talked about the next thing he planned to do. He was fun. He was full of life. He was lovely. Too lovely, apparently, for this world. 

At the time of his death, Darren had set himself and his older brother the task of raking the dry needles from beneath the huge pine tree to improve his 'fort' under the lower branches. He was building a large pile of needles and leaves, a pile he intended to burn like a volcano when he finished. He never got the chance.  My uncle sobbed after the funeral as he lit the pyre and watched it burn. 


Grandpa Mark and Grandma Nona lived on a small dirt lane on the north end of Logan. Their neighbors were few and far between, and they had horses in their pasture. There was always a treat waiting when we visited. As the years moved on, the quiet neighborhood became crowded. A hospital was built across the street, asphalt replaced dirt, and stores, condos and homes intruded.

Mark lived to 82, longer than the work horses that he loved, longer than many of his family members and friends. For years, his picture hung in the rest stop near Willard Bay, which thrilled him beyond words. There he was immortalized, leading his work horses around a field. It hung for a long time, but last time I looked, they had replaced it with newer pictures. He and his work horses were a relic from an age far gone.

Nona outlived him physically, but her mind failed her long before Grandpa was gone. She was the grandparent that sent me 'Teeny Tiny Teena' for a birthday, and she never spelled my name with an 'i'. She walked everywhere, until the day she couldn't remember how to get home. At Grandpa Mark's funeral, she didn't remember me, she didn't remember him, and she was lost in a world where she was still a very young lady, but nobody around her looked familiar.

When we visit Logan, I look for that lane, knowing I won't find it. I know where their house stood, and I still picture it in my mind as I look at the buildings that have replaced it.


Grandpa Yeates was the first grandparent I lost. I was nineteen when he passed, in the hospital on a street that used to be a dirt lane. When I think of him, I can still hear his gravelly voice, "Hello, Tina". His presence was warm, his eyes distorted by the thick glasses he always wore, his thin lips spread in a smile. Grandpa owned a service station on the edge of Logan, and when we would stop to see him on our way out of town, he always had candy to give us. Black licorice - the better to make messy kids, he'd say.

I'll never forget the last birthday party we had for him - 75 years old, a landmark. It was the last time I saw him conscious. He knew his heart was failing, and that he wouldn't be with us much longer, and he sat me by his side to impart a few words of wisdom.  His last requests of me were things he wanted for me, for my benefit. I've done pretty well at keeping the promises I made that day, but I'm still working on a few things. I think he knows I've tried, and I continue to try to live like he wanted me to.


Grandma Yeates was my last living grandparent. She'd tell anyone who would listen that she was too stubborn to die. It's true. She'd lasted through several bouts of cancer, fought disease and loss, and always emerged the victor. I believed her when she said she'd live to be 100. She gave up a little before then, telling us she was tired.

Grandma was a hard lady to know, a scary and imposing figure when I was a child. The more I learned about her life, the more I understood her need to keep people at arms length. She lost her mother when she was eight, her father drifted in and out of their lives. She was raised by her grandparents, and it wasn't a pleasant environment - they had hated her father, and she paid the price for her mother's choice to marry him.

Leona - that was her name - was a flapper in the 1920's. My favorite picture of her is from that era, her hair bobbed, her dress flashy. Her sister joined a traveling Vaudeville show. Leona stayed home and married my grandfather. But she sang at every opportunity - including more than 2000 funerals (even her own).

I'm grateful that she spent the last few years of her life close to our home, that I had a chance to know her, to appreciate her. And I'll never forget standing in her room on her 97th birthday as she breathed her last, the feeling of calm and peace as she slipped from this life into the arms of her family waiting on the other side.


Grandpa Vene was a favorite of the grandchildren. He had a loud, booming voice, and wasn't above telling scary stories at bedtime - full of owls hooting and wolves howling. We would taunt, and he would chase. As rough as he seemed, he loved us, and we always knew it.

Grandpa had a big garden, I think about 1/4 of an acre. He'd move the hose and chase the water down the rows, hoe in hand to clear obstructions. He'd grumble at us to 'get out of the garden', but I believe he loved it when we helped him. The vegetables from his garden were some of the best I've eaten in my life, and I miss strolling through the rows with him as he'd show me what he was harvesting.

One of Grandpa Euvene's (Vene for short) happiest moments was the day of his 80th birthday, when my first son was born. When we'd visit him in the hospital, he'd show Carson off, bragging about the grandson born on his birthday. We lost him not long after that. First to dementia, then to death.


Grandma Martha was - and always will be - one of my favorite people in the world. She never earned a degree, she wasn't a scholar or the head of a company, but she was the best teacher of compassion I've ever met. She shared her wisdom in quiet ways, in private moments. At her elbow, I learned to make a white sauce, and listened as she told me how much she appreciated how I helped my mom. In her front yard, I learned to quilt, and heard her talk about making good choices and working hard. The summer days spent at her home were some of the best days of my childhood. Root beer floats at the drug store, softball games in the park, and the best homemade cookies and cinnamon rolls in the world. Best of all, she gave me my mom, and taught her everything she knew.

When asked what item I would like from her home after she died, I requested her cookie jar. It sits on a cabinet in my kitchen, a constant reminder that there are people in this world who love me, and who always had time and a cookie for a little girl.

Her passing was hard, but she visits me still - in my dreams, and in quiet moments when I need her advice, I feel her loving presence, and I know all things will work out.


Smitty entered my life when I was fourteen - and angry. I didn't want my mother to remarry, especially not a man we barely knew, and who had issues from his past to tackle. But he did tackle them, and he was a good partner to my mother for 25 years.

There were many times when my brain (and mouth) took issue with Smitty's ideas. He was a staunch Republican, and grew up in an era when discrimination was normal. We'd spar, arguing over the 'rightness' of an issue or the qualifications of a politician. And I like to believe we both learned from each other.

He was far from perfect, but then, so am I. He loved us, and we learned to love him back. His family added a new element to ours, and though we never 'blended' perfectly, we are bound by our parents.

When Smitty passed, my children lost an amazing grandfather. He was there for them from birth, bringing 'cold bread' (ice cream) when they were sick, teaching them guitar, and singing for them. We all miss those moments.


There are so many others who have touched my life, who I owe a debt of gratitude.
  Bruce - a favorite cousin. He struggled to be who he was, moved to another city, and died young. AIDS took him from us. I miss his smile.

   Greg - John's cousin. A concert pianist, he played all night at our wedding reception. He, too, was taken by the dreadful disease that many call a curse for 'choosing a lifestyle'. He was a beautiful person.

   John, Jani, and Sheri Martin - close friends and neighbors. Each lost in a separate time and manner, but each tied to the tragic moment when Sheri was taken from them.

   Uncle Gary, a victim of smoking and leaded gasoline in a time before garages were vented. His manner was gruff, but he tried to impart how important health was before he left us.

   Aunt Dora, her fingers forever playing the organ or a piano.

  Uncle Clyde and his big-bellied laugh.

There are others, friends, children of friends and family members, acquaintances, neighbors, each of them leaving an imprint in my life. Their lives touched mine, and I was shaped by them, in part.

Though they are gone, they will never be forgotten.

{I invite any who read this to mention someone who touched their own life - in memory of them - in the comments.}

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Original Nook

I had a nook when I was a kid.  And it wasn't electronic.

I found my nook the summer after I turned twelve. That summer was a tough one.

My dad had gotten himself in trouble, and with it came financial and legal issues. Our family was a mess. Mom had gone back to work. One big brother was in Italy, serving a mission for our church, and the other was as far from home as he could be as a teenager. My sister got married and moved. My younger brother managed to get into all kinds of trouble. Friends were no longer allowed to 'play with those kids'. And the house was cloaked in tension and sadness.

In an effort to help, I took on as much responsibility as I could. During the day I'd clean, do laundry, take care of my younger brother, and start dinner.

But evenings were all mine, and I had a bike. And a library card.

The local library wasn't very big, but it had a pretty good selection of books. I started with the entire Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, and worked my way up to and through every Ray Bradbury novel. I even learned to love Shakespeare that summer. And I'd stay, looking through the stacks for hours, finding my next adventure.

Then one day I found my nook.

It was at the edge of the library, nestled between two windows, hidden by the shelves of magazines. A small padded seat, deep enough to curl up and read, big enough for a couple of people. But it was mine alone that summer.

It was the launching pad of dreams, the gateway to imagination, and the best friend a bookworm could have.

I spent hours there, reading the books I loved, away from the stress and turmoil of  my home life. I'd try new authors, choose books I thought I might like and take a small taste before checking them out, and exist in wonderful worlds outside of my own. I consumed the books, and they consumed me.

I'd ride my bike home with several books each time, only to return for more within a few days.

The librarians would smile and wave when I walked in. They knew I'd be there for a while.

But the summer couldn't last forever, and school took priority over the nook. I'd still stop and get books on my way home from junior high school, but I couldn't stay. The early darkness of winter made it impossible.

I introduced some friends to the nook during those years. Had a few sweet kisses there. Studied there when I could.

And as life got easier at home, and I moved on to high school, I lost touch with my secret hide-away.

I didn't need the quiet and peace of the nook anymore.

But I've never forgotten the feeling of having a place of my own in the library. I've never lost the love of the books that carried me away from my troubled mind. I've never stopped enjoying the feel of the pages in my hands, the smell of the paper.

And now when I hear someone talk about reading on their Nook, I smile.

I had a nook long before they ever did.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


This is my entry in a short-short story writing contest (1500 words or less). Unfortunately, I didn't beat out the other 7000 entrants.  So, I'm sharing it here. Enjoy!  

I find her lying on the floor in her office.

Her skin is grey, her lips an alarming color of blue, her eyes glazed over and dull. The laptop she loves is open in her grip, her fingers wrapped around the bottom, unyielding as I tug. The screen is lit, and I hope this means I found her quickly enough.

The only indication she’s alive is the slight rise and fall of her chest and the faint beating of her heart as I press my ear over it.

She is cold to the touch.

Grabbing the phone, I dial 9-1-1, and take a deep breath to gather myself so I can speak to the operator, who answers with a glib, “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“My wife,” I say.  “She’s not responding to me. She’s grey.”

The woman gets serious, verifying who I am and where we are. Then she asks, “Is she breathing?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Can you see anything in the room that could have caused an injury?”

Frantic, I look around, noting that there is nothing in the vicinity except her office chair.

“She may have fallen,” I surmise.

“How far?”

“Just out of her chair. She was working. Writing. She’s a writer.”

Soon, a knock at the front door signals the arrival of the EMTs, and the operator allows me to hang up so I can answer their questions amidst the rush of activity.

They examine her, looking for trauma. There is none.

They listen to her heart, check her vitals, and try to remove the N-SLV laptop from her grasp.

She doesn’t let go.

The screen is still glowing.

Giving up, they load her on the gurney – laptop bouncing against her stomach as they move her - and I follow them to the back doors of their rig. They allow me to ride along, and I watch as they treat her.
She doesn’t look different as they attach oxygen below her nose and start an IV on top of her wrist. I wait for improvement.

Agonizing, I think over the last few weeks.

I knew this would happen. Her hours were too long, her incessant writing too much for her. The dark circles aren’t new. The pallor is normal. The weight loss expected.

But she swore she was writing another best-seller. The third in her series. So I bit my tongue. And she promised to take care of herself.

The ambulance stops with a jerk, and I nearly fall.

An EMT slaps my shoulder, steadying me.

“Let’s get her inside,” he says. “She’ll be in good hands here.”

I nod and move out of the way, following the gurney through the automatic doors.

A nurse points to the Trauma Room. “Dr. Belus will be right down. Fill us in on her vitals.”

One EMT explains the situation, using terms that are unfamiliar. The nurse nods, and makes notes on the chart.

Stepping into a corner, I notice the screen of the laptop. It’s dimmer. Fading.

Dr. Belus, I assume, walks in. He holds the chart, scanning top to bottom as he looks at my wife. I hear a hum and a tsk. Finally, he places the chart at the end of the gurney and examines her.

His expression gives nothing away.

He shines a light into her eyes, and the laptop dims further.  The heart monitor makes a shrill noise.

“She’s crashing,” he says, and the team jumps into action.

They pull the laptop from her grasp and the screen goes black. The monitor flat lines. An alarm is screaming.

I think I am, too.

They push me into the hall, and shove the N-SLV into my chest.

I’m in shock.  This can’t be happening.

Not to her.

She finally found the success she was working for with her writing. The Lost Soul series is everything she said it could be.

I look at the laptop in my hands, remembering.

“He said it will make my dreams come true,” she said, smiling. The salesman had promised. She believed.

It was just months after she bought it that she received an offer of representation. Eight months after that, her first book hit the shelves – an unheard of turnaround, according to her agent.

The second was written by then, and they offered big money and a contract for two more.

She’d never been happier.

And now, a doctor bounces over her body, doing chest compressions.

Time stills. It’s forever and no time at all.

My eyes do not shift, so I see when he steps away, shaking his head.

I shake mine in response.

He turns and sees me, and I watch as he says something to the nurse. She nods.

As he opens the door, he addresses me, “Mr. Ames?”

“Yes,” I whisper.

His fingers wrap around my elbow, and he directs me into a small waiting room. I sit, and he finds a chair directly in front of me, pulling it closer.

“I’m really sorry Mr. Ames, but your wife’s heart stopped, and we weren’t able to get it going again. I’m afraid she’s dead.”

I look down, staring at the laptop in my hands. I hate it.

He asks, “Did she have any health issues?”

“No,” I say.

“Has she been to a doctor lately?”


He continues to question, and I mumble responses. I hear the words autopsy and investigation, and the tears start.

This can’t be real.

An officer steps into the room, and the questions begin again. Just to find out what happened, they assure me over and over.

“She was just tired,” I explain.

 He looks at me sadly and pats my hand.

“You should go home,” he says, and I agree.

As I stand, I realize I’m dizzy. My fingers are wrapped around the laptop. They’re numb.

So am I.


Two weeks after the funeral, I give in and pick up the phone when her agent calls.

“Have you checked to see if the book was complete?” she asks without greeting me.

I sigh. “No. I haven’t even opened her laptop. I don’t know if I can.”

I want to. It’s calling to me, the red letters that spell out N-SLV flashing each time I walk past.

“The publisher is anxious. They gave her an advance. I don’t want them to cause you trouble,” she says.

I know it’s more than that – she doesn’t want to lose her commission. The Lost Soul series had promised to make her wealthy and well-known.

“I’ll call you back,” I say, and hang up without waiting for an answer.

The laptop is right where I left it that day.

I approach it cautiously, lifting the lid. It can’t have any battery life. I watched it fade in the ER, and I can’t find the cord.

But when I hit the power button, the screen glows bright, and the story she was writing appears.

Scrolling to the beginning, I read. Hours pass, but I’m engrossed in the tale she was weaving.

I realize that she was near the end when she – when it happened - and I’m disappointed. I need to call her agent and tell her it’s not complete.

But as I move the computer back to her desk, I hit a key, and words start to form on the screen.

My fingers tingle as I stroke the keyboard. More words appear.  I type a few letters, and the page fills.

My heart stutters slightly.

“Morgan?” I call out. Is it her?

The computer pulls me in again, and I realize it isn’t.

I give a little as I type a word or two, and the N-SLV gives a lot, finishing the next page. I’m tired, but can’t stop.

It’s dark when the words ‘The End’ appear, and I’m drained.

Before I call her agent, I need to test something.  Her outlines are on the desk. I open a new file, type a few words, and Book Four appears at the top of the screen.

Her agent is thrilled to hear there are more books.

When I close the laptop, I flinch.

The large, red letters have changed.

It now says N-SLV2.


The host of the morning show asks me questions, and I answer. As her widower, I’m doing the book tour for Searching for Heaven.

“I hear this won’t be the last book,” he says.

“Morgan was a very prolific writer, and there are a few more books to be published,” I lie. “She gave everything to this series.” That part is true.

 I shudder, and he consoles me as we go to commercial.

Later, as I get into the car that will take me back to my hotel, I reach into my bag for the laptop. 

I don’t understand how it works, but I need to finish her series.

I’m strong enough.

My fingers touch the keys, and I give another piece of my soul to the story – and the N-SLV2.