Elephant Lake

Gabriel said it was like this: it was cold and dark and you would feel as if you had nowhere left to go.  Then something would happen – you would be pushed by a sudden burst of warm air and you would find yourself tumbling backwards.  Then without warning, when you least expected it, you would stop.

Air bubbles would pop and burst around you. This would be followed by a quietness that descended on you as if you had gazed up to a calm black sky in the early morning and were transfixed by a thousand stars that pulsed at you. In that space, you wouldn’t hear buses that squealed to a sudden stop; or notice early-morning-risers that slammed their doors and clicked the locks behind them as they trudged off to commuter stops that would carry them to their jobs.

Charity told Gab he was a liar.

Charity had thought about Gabriel more than once and what had happened to her, and more importantly, to him. But she hadn’t gone there for some time and preferred the version of “truth” her brother told others as if he were handing out licorice or smarties to friends at a party.

You were pulled from Elephant Lake, Dexter said over and over again. How could you forget that? he asked Charity as he shook his head. But it wasn’t only his head that wobbled to the right and left; his hands and legs shook with something between pity and rage. Charity couldn’t tell which emotion was more dominant as his eyebrows drooped, and long lines crisscrossed his face that occasionally caused his forehead to twitch. Sometimes his eye would also involuntarily bounce as if it were a wayward basketball after a player lost control of it on the court.

You drank too much that night, Dexter told the party-goers.

Gabriel is missing.

When you see Elephant Lake from a plane in the sky, it resembles the African and Asian mammal that has always been known for their physical attributes of flapping ears, long trunks, and to their detriment – tusks, that will sometimes result in their slaughter by poachers.  Charity considers the more recent characteristics that science has proven exist in these massive creatures: they are social in nature, self-aware, and have long memories.

A few years ago sandbags were littered around the homes that border Elephant Lake. The area had never flooded before in the close to 175 years since their town was settled. But that year it changed. Forty-five homes were gobbled up by the Elephant and in the aftermath a birth happened: a baby elephant was born.

In an ironic twist of fate, where the baby elephant was born, there were no homes. When the water finally receded, the calf remained. And now when you fly above, you see not only the outline of the mother, but also of her baby.

Charity was pulled from the part of the lake where the calf exists.

Dexter’s right. She drank too much that night. That’s why she never argues with him. But he also said that Gabriel did too, and she doesn’t remember that part of it. Then again, she was in the habit of mixing beer and vodka. Sometimes to shake things up, she would throw in a cosmopolitan. But in the five years she’d known Gabriel he’d have one Stella. After last call, he would pack her into his car, drive her home, help her in, and if he was worried by the amount of booze she had consumed – Gabriel would sleep on her couch in case she needed him.

Charity is there again.

This night it’s just her and the calf. Charity stares down at her right hand and then flips it over to reveal her wrist. In daylight you can’t see them. It’s only in darkness that they are revealed. It’s something she received when she lost Gabriel that night: the outline of two sparkling doves drift across the veins of her wrist as if they are in flight.

The winged birds etched on top of Charity’s skin that hide her veins look as if they are a diamond tattoo: a message from the new born elephant of life and peace.

Book Trailers?

I scrunched my face at the screen. Movie trailers, yes, of course. But – Book Trailers? I’d never heard of such a thing before. When I purchased Sophie Kinsella’s, Twenties Girl, I didn’t see a Book Trailer when I bought it.  And when I stumbled my way into Chapters and bought Neil Pasricha’s, The Book of Awesome, there was no five minute YouTube video where snippets from the book were flashed across my computer screen of the wonderful day-to-day moments that the book would highlight.

No. For me, I made my decisions by thumbing through the pages and thought: Hmmm, this looks interesting?  Shortly thereafter: ***Giggles***

That’s how I choose my books 9 times out of 10.

“I won’t do it.” I announced to my monitor screen as my top molars bit down on my back molars and worked to reduce the height of them a little more.  My jaw locked. I scowled.

Then the insecure side of my brain, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me, asked: Why, not?

Why, not? You’ve got to be kidding me?”  I retorted. “How would that happen? Oh my god, who would do the acting? The filming? How would I even put the thing together?”

You, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me announced.

“Me? I don’t know how to do it!”

Of course, you do, Lesser-Than-I-Think-Of-Me answered. You’ve done all those videos of picture collages that are put to music for birthday videos and for your other blog, Pushing Boundaries. You can do it. 

Arrogant-Me stood strong. You need to make her go away, she stated matter-of-factly.  You have other writing things to focus on. Don’t waste your time with a Book Trailer.

So, we did what we do best. We closed the browser and walked away because Arrogant-Me was on my side, and I knew it. If people are going to buy my book, they’ll buy it based on what’s written. I held my head up as I walked down the stairs proudly and said, “I won’t do it. What a waste of time that will be.”

***

Over the next days and weeks, my fingers clicked on the Google search button and I typed, “Book Trailers” and I  saw some videos put together beautifully with acting, music, and words that were meant to intrigue a potential reader into buying the book.

It’s marketing, Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me said.

“I know,” I said as I slumped down at my desk.

You don’t tend to do a lot of marketing. How will people know about the book if they don’t see it?

“How am I going to do that? I can’t act. I’m not multi-talented. I can’t do everything!” I exclaimed to Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me. My eyebrows scrunched together as my heart played that game it does of jump rope causing me to break into a sweat.

Oh, Lesser-Than-I-Think-of-Me said. Any chance you’re afraid of marketing your work? Maybe, you feel you’re not good enough?

***

Arrogant-Me: You can’t hire a well-known actor to play Wyndham for the book trailer.  They’ll never come to Ottawa in December because there’s too much snow and it’s FREEZING here.  Also, you have two more problems:

1) You don’t know any well-known actors.  

2) You can’t pay them.   

“Arrogant-Me, I thought you were on my side? You’re the part of me that should convince me I can do anything.”

Pause.

“Aren’t you?”

***

Music, words, and the cover of the book…and I’ve loaded it on Goodreads and YouTube.

I’ve decided I can’t be only ¼ brave anymore with my writing. Both of my feet need to be in this game and I need to jump, and no matter what happens – I know I’ve done everything I can to fly.

Zigzag

I hate winter. Why won’t it go away? Can we get any more snow this year? Oh goody! That’s a good two inches of marshmallow snow on my car. Excellent! Where’s my brush for the car? Oh there it is! Backseat! Why is this snow so heavy? Good enough. Must get to grocery store.

Keys in the ignition and let’s, let the car warm up a bit. Apparently wise men say it’s good for the engine – or something like that.

What was I getting again? Milk, eggs….there was something else? What was it? There were three things that we needed. Bread? Was it bread? No, I just bought a whole loaf a couple of days ago. It was only three things. Come on brain! I should have written a list.

Zzzzz…

“Arggh. Who’s that now?”

Text from Denise: Can we meet on Saturday at 2 PM? I need to discuss the renovations for your bathroom with you and Greg. There’s a problem with the electrical.

Electrical? Shit. What does that mean? Is that a hint that it’s going to cost us thousands of dollars to bring the electrical up to code so we can finish the bathroom? Why would Denise send me a text message about that? Betchya she’s seeing dollar signs.

Me: Hey Denise. 2 PM is fine. Any chance….

This might be more of a phone call thing. I’ll call her later.

Me: Hey Denise. 2 PM is fine. Any chance….

Off to the store!

***

Did I signal when I turned right? Ugh. Can’t remember. I hate that. I’m going to be one of those old people that will leave my signal light on for 2 KM after I already turned; or worse yet, one of those people who incorrectly signals the wrong direction they’re going.

Wait. I didn’t do that, did I? Shit. Why is my left signal light on?  Oh no, I am one of those people already!

I have to remember to put a load of laundry on tonight. I’m almost out of pants.

Seriously, what was the third thing I needed from the grocery store?

Renovations. Why did we even start?

Work. Right. Must remember to get in early tomorrow morning. Meeting with the boss to discuss that proposal. Am I ready? I think so. Mostly.

Now what? I don’t have time to be stuck in traffic?

Police. Firefighters.  Ambulance. Oh my god. There’s nothing left of that car. I hope those people are alright.

Zzzzz……

That can wait.

And never mind about the third thing. If I can’t remember, I’ll get it tomorrow. And there’s no point panicking about the renovations until we talk to Denise.

Big breath in.

I hope those people are alright.

 

What I’ve learned from this guy…

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Listen, you…
  1. The best accompaniment with wine is cheese. ALWAYS. More importantly, double cream Brie is a winner on two fronts: because it’s extra fat and it smells like dirty socks. (The stinkier the cheese, the tastier.) When we don’t have cheese? The only acceptable substitute is homemade bread that’s still steaming from the oven.
  2. Bounce towards people with the same energy as Tigger whenever you greet them. One of two things will happen: a) They’ll laugh when you knock them over. b) You’ll laugh when you knock them over. Quietly of course, because puppies can’t laugh. But they can smile.
  3. Go for walks either on city sidewalks or on snow-covered nature trails. Breathe. Stare at the cascading waterfall or dribbling stream. Stick your face in the snow.   Feel, smell, and touch everything. I promise you—you’ll love it.
  4. Don’t swear. It upsets everyone, even when you mutter it under your breath. It doesn’t take long for everyone to know that you’re having a bad day. And it doesn’t matter how you say the word because just by saying the word, we know you’re upset.
  5. Smell the snow bank. Or the flowers. Or the puddle. Whatever. Inhale.
  6. Sit around and look cute. Smile at people and make eye contact. People will come over and talk to you. Of course, it helps to have soft fur and be handsome. But what it really comes down to is the smile.
  7. Sleep. SLEEP MOMMY.
  8. Take time to notice if someone is sad or having a bad day.
  9. Be compassionate when people are in pain whether that is physical pain or emotional pain. Offer them your hand. Or your paw. Everyone needs to feel connected and know that they matter.
  10. No matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, when you lose someone or something, you must always open your front door and take a step forward. You never know if you’ll bump into an old friend, or meet a new friend. Or, what great things will happen to you next. Adventure awaits you—even when it hurts to move.

When Grief Strikes

I’m waiting. Patiently.

Then again, perhaps not so patiently because if I were, that would mean my shoulders would be rolled back and I would be happily staring at a wall.

But I can’t seem to do that. Ever. While seated in the waiting room area of the doctor’s office I’ve already read about shootings, stabbings and earthquakes. I click on another article about an elderly couple who were victims of fraud and lost over $100,000 of their retirement savings. My mood begins to trudge dangerously close to despair. I realize I need to change gears. I rummage through my purse and pull out my paperback book and a few moments later, I giggle a little.

Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, is a good distraction from the world’s misery but it still can’t hold my attention completely. When the door chimes, my eyes bounce up to see a woman who’s pulled the front door open and carries an infant slung to one side of her hip. Behind her, two small hand-holding girls follow them. One of the girls is probably five or six-years-old and she continues to hold her sister’s hand. The little one wobbles in her boots: obviously, new to the walking thing.

The six-year-old is Deputy Mom.  I smile.

Mom switches sides with the infant while she simultaneously fumbles to get her wallet out in search of her Health Card.  The woman glances over at the older child, wearily sighs, and says, “Mandy, can you take Julie and sit down over there?” Her head bobs in the direction of the clustered chairs.

I glance up briefly to see the older sister slowly guide her unsteady little sister to a chair. A second later, I notice the older girl unzips her sister’s coat, tugs her hat off, and places them on the chair next to her now seated sibling.

I stare down at my book. Deputy Mom clearly takes her roll very seriously. I continue to smile at the beauty of it all. Big Sister takes care of Little Sister. After all, Mom’s hands are full.  Big Sis is ever watchful, always guiding – forever there.

I continue to force a smile. It’s hard though. Something is tugging at me and is bubbling its way to the surface. I push the emotion back down by taking big breaths in and try my best to focus on Bossypants. I can’t sob in the middle of the doctor’s office. There’s no clear reason. People will wonder about me.

I miss him, a voice quietly whispers in my head.

Falling Down

“It hurts,” Kara says while tightening and releasing her hand. A few moments later, she stares down at her bleeding elbow.

“Suck it up, Buttercup,” her mother responds while washing the pots from last night’s dinner. She reaches for a towel and moves on to drying as the dishwasher hums in the background.

“Where did that saying come from? The Princess Bride?”

“Don’t know. But it seems appropriate given the level of whining you’re doing about it. Everyone falls. Get over it. Brush yourself off and move on. That’s what everyone else does.”

“Do they Mom? Does everyone? Because it seems like if the fall is too hard, and you hit your head or something, sometimes people don’t get up.”

Her mother blinks wildly as her hand stops wiping the speckles of water off the pot. “Are we still talking about the fall?”

Kara takes a deep breath in. Should she go down this road with Optimistic Momma to Buttercup? Sighing she says, “Sort of.”

“Listen Kara, everyone falls. Whether that’s literally, or figuratively. Just get back on the horse, or the bike. Or whatever, they say nowadays.”

“Really, Mom,” Kara responds. “What happens if I don’t want to? What happens if I’m tired of constantly falling down by tripping on a curb, slipping on ice, or someone, or something knocking me over.”

Her mother throws her towel in the dish drainer and places her hand on her hip. Lips twitching she says, “Lots of people have it worse than you, Kara. And everyone has their problems. They don’t act like you do.”

“How do you know? Did you ask them? Maybe they do complain, but no one’s listening!” Kara exclaims in a fit of exasperation. Her neck is stiff. Head throbs.  Muscles all over her body ache from the jarring that she felt when she slipped on the icy driveway.

Quietness settles between them. “I think it’s ridiculous, Mom. There are all these books and movies out now that celebrate people being different. But what we still say is each person’s experience is the same. So, we say everyone has the same life. They don’t. They simply don’t. Some people live on the streets. Yeah, I know there are people that have it worse than me.” She stares at her mother for a few seconds, pauses and says, “But some people live in wealth their whole lives, stay married to the same person for fifty years, and die two days apart, as well! Everyone has different lives. And how they translate those life experiences are different too.”

“Well,” mom says with a huff.  “What do you want me to say, Kara? That it’s terrible that you had a miscarriage, your husband left you shortly after, you lost your job because you had too many doctor’s appointments after, and your friend died at the same time?”

Kara blinks back the tears. Her mouth trembles.

Quietly, her mother says, “Boxers get back up whenever they get knocked down.”

“Not always. Too many hits can be fatal. They hit the right part of the body, and their life is over.” It’s a statement of fact. But there’s honesty there too.

Mom shifts uncomfortably. Eyes well up with water. She hesitates and nods at her only daughter saying, “I don’t want that to happen to you, Kara.”

Through tears, Kara says, “Me, neither Mom. I just need some time to heal.” There’s a pause and then she says, “And yes, it does help when you acknowledge I’ve had a shit time of it,” she says giggling.

Mom smiles through the tears, nods, and stretches out her hands while saying, “We didn’t do that in my day. I’m sorry. Come, here,” she says as she hugs her daughter.

Dear Mr. Winterman

Dear Mr. Winterman,

We’ve had a blast when you dusted my world with white fluffy snowballs and drenched the trees with snow capes. You’ve brightened a dark world in the longest and coldest days of the year.  During this time, I’ve considered engaging in winter time festivities such as skating on the canal or snowshoeing. I did not do that. Instead, I chose to sit by the fireplace with a post-activity drink to those considered fun events that consisted of hot chocolate laced with booze.

But now at last, I am done with you.

It may seem an abrupt departure from what was a fairly cordial friendship up till now. But I am tired of your ways: you offer truckloads of snow (I’m not joking, there have been tons of trucks moving snow! But you knew that.) and when you are done, I must shovel my driveway  for a minimum of one hour. Post removal of snow from my laneway, I then work to clear the car off. And then, I must shovel again.

Your cold ways give me nose bleeds, burn my lungs, chafe my legs, and I frequently lose the feeling in my face, fingers and toes. I do not want to go outside. I am trapped in my house dreaming of the days when -10 degrees Celsius will be a reprieve when I can walk around outdoors and it will take 30 minutes before I get cold.

You are cruel, Mr. Winterman, because we both know that when the temperature goes up you’ll hurtle icy spears at us causing hour-long congestion on roads and leaving me trapped again: but this time in my car because of ice-caked roads. When I’m finally given the chance to exit the car, I’ll slip and smack my head on my vehicle because roads and sidewalks have become skating rinks.

You think you are funny. But you are not. I am done with you. Leave now, or we will be forever done.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s probably true. So if you leave now, I’m sure I’ll welcome you with open arms again on December 24th, 2019.

Your friend (but soon to be enemy),

P.S.

Flatline

“Grandma, Grandma? When are we going to bake those chocolate chip cookies?” five-year-old Jessica says.

“Come on, Grandma!” the little girl shouts. “You’ve slept enough!” with that she reaches over to shake nana’s arm. Instinctively, she pulls away with a sudden snap of her hand as if she’s touched a hot stove. But, it’s the opposite of that. Instead it’s as if Jesse, as her grandmother liked to call her, has placed her hand on ice that cuts.

“Grandma?” Jessica whispers.

***

“What the hell, man? Just cut me off like that!” Brian’s hand makes a fist at the driver now ahead of him.

Shaking his head, he says, “Jesus. People are driving like we’re in the middle of a heat wave here! Look at the roads people: that’s black ice on the road, mixed in with a whole lotta snow!”

Brian’s eyes flick up to his rear view mirror. He’s not certain the reason at first. But then he catches sight of the Nissan Pathfinder that’s barreling down behind him as it pushes snow off the road and onto the sidewalk. The driver still isn’t slowing down.

There’s nothing he can do. There’s a crunching sound as the SUV hits the breaks. The truck’s wheels lock on the brown, salted, icy, snow-covered road as it begins to slide slowly at first, and then swings around and charges into the driver’s side of Brian’s car.

The SUV doesn’t stop. Medal twists. Glass smashes.

***

 “Hey, you!” Carmen shouts at the red coat-wearing woman she hasn’t spoken to in almost six months. It’s not because the ladies had a fight. The reason is a simple and a common explanation: lack of time because of too many other obligations; and because at the end of the week they’re too damn knackered.

“Hey! Oh my goodness! I haven’t seen you in ages! How’s everything?” Dana enquires.

“Good, good. Jobs great. Kids, are getting big. Oh, Brent and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary on Saturday!”

“Has it been that long?”

“Yup,” Carmen says with her chin raised proudly.

“Geez, that’s fantastic! Congratulations. Are you guys doing anything special?”

“Yeah, we’re having a party with friends and family. You should come!”

“When is it again?”

“This Saturday.”

“Are you guys still living at 185 Wimbledon Lane?”

“Yeah, still there,” Carmen says chuckling. “Now, you have no excuse NOT to come! Okay, well, I’ve got to dash as I need to pick the kids up from their music lessons. Shit. Didn’t even ask though, how are things with you?”

“Good, good,” Dana says. “We’ll catch up on Saturday. Go!”

“You’ll come then?”

“Absolutely!”

“Great. See you on Saturday!” Carmen says as she turns and continues to jog in the direction of her car.

(Later that day)

“We admitted her into the hospital today. She was complaining of indigestion: felt some nausea coupled with chest pain. We gave her some aspirin as a precautionary measure. She was in her mid-40’s and on observation, was well within her normal weight range. Unfortunately….”

Ms. Kangaroo Pouch

“Are you going to wear that?” Bailey’s eyes skim over me once, and then pass over me a second time. Her eyes are focussed on my stomach as she waits for me to answer.

“Errr,” I eloquently answer. Bailey’s one of my closest friends. I’ve known her since kindergarten when we would tell each other secrets and then, pinky swear we’d never tell anyone else.

Bailey appeared to be in a particularly foul mood today when she arrived at my house. She threw her purse on the couch and flopped down beside it. I know it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but if you knew Bailey, you’d know she’s never like that. She’s poised and gentle and always in control of every situation. It’s one of the reasons I admire her so much.

I don’t really understand the reason why she’s so upset. After all, it’s a let’s-have-lunch-and-then-shop-day versus a 9-to-5-why-is-the-copier-jamming-AGAIN?-day.

“Yes,” I finally say after locating my verbal skills. “Why?”

Bailey peers at me with an “inspector’s look” as if I were a cow that was about to be sold at market. She says, “I wouldn’t if I were you. You’ve got a kangaroo’s momma’s pouch going on there!” she points at my belly and tosses her head back in laughter.

I place a protective hand over my swollen tummy. Okay, maybe granola for breakfast was a bad idea. Or, maybe I just eat too much. I shift uncomfortably and keep my hand on my stomach, trying to block her view of it.

Bailey gives me a half smile. Silence hangs heavily in the air between us. A few seconds later she says, “We have time. You could change.”

“Okay,” I answer as I blink back tears that sting my eyes.  I take the stairs two at a time while taking a deep breath in.

Bailey’s never like that. I must look really terrible if she felt like she needed to say something. When I arrive in my bedroom I stare at myself. In horror, I realize she’s right: Oh god! I look like I’m pregnant – with twins!

I’ve been upstairs for nearly ten minutes. Pulling on a pink dress, control top pantyhose, and matching Gucci shoes, I take a peek at myself in the mirror. I don’t want Bailey to see me if I don’t look perfect. Turning sideways, it’s still there.

Why don’t I own any loose fitting dresses?

I yank the shoes off, slide out of the pantyhose, and wiggle the dress off over my head.  There’s a mountain of clothes that I’ve thrown across my bed. I stare at the heap and pull one of my bulky grey winter sweaters out of the pile with a baggy pair of jeans. It’s a little warm for it, but not by much. The forecast is ten degrees, not twenty-five degrees. I won’t look like I’m hiding something. It’s springtime, I argue with myself. You can still wear sweaters in the spring.

“Hey, Mackenzie, are you almost ready?” Bailey bellows from downstairs. We need to leave now, if we’re going to make our reservation!” her voice booms from the family room.

I emerge from my bedroom still pulling the sweater over my head. But it’s just me and Bailey here, so there’s no chance someone else will see my pink flabby skin. Charging down the stairs, I race down the steps with too much speed. I misjudge with the last two stairs where one step starts, and the other ends, and my heel slips and I skid to the bottom of the foyer.  The only thing that saved me was that for the first time in my life, I had my hand on the railing.

Bailey’s seated on the couch and is flipping through my National Geographic Traveller magazines.

I mumble, “Sorry,” as I enter the room. She tosses the magazine aside when she sees me, stands up and says, “That’s better,” as she nods her head with approval.

Then she raises a finger to my eye and brushes it while saying, “You just have a smudge of eyeliner there. It kind of makes you look like a racoon,” she says with a snort.

I scrunch my face at her as heat rises in me.  “Maybe we should go to the farm,” I retort with bitterness that seeps through me.

“Sorry,” Bailey says while taking her hands off my face and backing up.

“Maybe, we should go to the farm. After all, you’ve already called me a kangaroo and a racoon.”

“Listen,” she says. “I’m just trying to help you. Would you really want to go out looking like you did?”

I shrug my shoulders at her. No. But I don’t say that. As a matter of fact, I got nothing. So I stand there stupidly. And everyone knows the problem with silence, is that if you can’t come up with a snappy come-back, it automatically implies the other person’s right, and you’re wrong.

“And seriously, your eyeliner was all smudged. You could make more of an effort!”

I rub my eye. “It probably smudged when I was trying on clothes,” I say grabbing my purse. “Are you ready to go?” I ask turning around to face her.

“Yeah,” Bailey huffs as her heels hit the floor and she clip-clops towards the front entrance.

As I stick my key in the door and begin to pull it closed, Mrs. Chrystenson walks up the front path.

“Dearie,” she says carrying a plant up my walkway.  “Here’s one of the ferns from my garden. I just pulled it out right away after we talked this morning. So, I wouldn’t forget. Oh…” her voice trails off, “what happened to the lovely blue dress you were wearing this morning?”

“Oh,” I glance at Bailey and answer, “it was a little tight.”

“Where?” Mrs. Chrystenson asks. Her face is the lovely smoothness of calm that woman of a certain age get when they’ve seen it all. She genuinely looks like she has no idea. It’s not that “look” people give you when they know, and they’re just being nice; or they’re secretly trying to get you to say how terrible you looked, so that way they can quietly snicker at you.

Bailey hangs onto her purse and leans against the stone wall of my house. Breathing out, she announces, “in the tummy.”

Embarrassed, my cheeks turn pink, and I drop my head. I wish I were somewhere else.

“Oh,” Mrs. Chrystenson says. I raise my eyes and notice my neighbour’s lips purse together at Bailey. “Did you tell her that?” she asks Bailey.

Bailey stands up straight as her shoulders square off towards Mrs. Chrystenson. “Yes,” Bailey answers, “I’m trying to live more honestly. So, I’m going to say what I think from now on.”

“Huh, well… I’ve always found that there are versions of honesty. Depending on who’s giving the version of the truth, it’s peppered by things that have happened in their own lives.”

I blink at Bailey and watch her jaw tighten and tears fill her eyes. She’s a good friend. I need to defend her. “No, she was right. The dress made me look like I was at the end of my first trimester with twins. I didn’t notice it at first, until she pointed it out.”

“Oh yes, well…” she says as she continues walking up the path and places the fern down on my front porch.

She glances over at Bailey and me, and nods.

“Well, you have a very astute friend. Good of her to look out for you. Have a nice day,” she says as she walks down the pathway.

“You too,” I say. I glance down at the fern and add, “And, thank you for the plant.”

“Quite welcome, my dear,” she says turning to me as she pulls her flowered gardening gloves off. “You know, it’s interesting what people see.  My son had a motorcycle accident years ago.  Terrible things. They should ban them!” she says shaking her head. “Anyways, he broke his helmet and he had a three inch scar down the side of his face. He was lucky to be alive. After the accident, he didn’t want to date. Thought that he looked too hideous. But I would make him go to the grocery store and get my groceries after my husband died. He met a beautiful young woman there who happened to be the whole package as well.” She turns and begins to walk down the pathway.

I hate it when old people do that. Don’t finish a story. Just leaving you hanging… It’s like they feel like you should know. But we want to know, for certain, how the darn thing ends.

I’ve been baited, and I know it. Reluctantly, I sigh and say, “And?”

Laughing she says, “She never saw the scar until he pointed it out. It had faded with time. But for him, it was as big as the day it was when the Doctor stitched it up. They’re happily married now. Baby number two is on the way. It will be my fourth grandchild.”

“Congratulations,” I beam at Mrs. Chrystenson.

“Thank you,” she says. For a second she pauses, and then says, “in the name of honesty, I didn’t notice. I thought the dress looked lovely on you.” With a shrug of her shoulders, a gentle smile, she then turns, and walks away.

The Thief

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I’m standing in the middle of a winter storm with northerly winds that kick icy flakes into my face scratching my cheeks and stinging my eyes.  Twirling snow dances across the pavement. In the air, the snowflakes link hands together creating white-out conditions. It’s terrifying – because when I’m brave enough to raise my eyes and face the assault of icy air again, I can’t see a thing in front of me. The road has disappeared. There’s nothing in front of me, or behind me. The world has vanished.

I’m waiting for it to stop: that moment when the sun will slide through a cloud and like a flashlight illuminate the faint outlines of buildings and reveal snow covered draped trees to me again. Even for the briefest of moments, would make all the difference in the world: it would be a reassurance that this storm will end.

I’ve been asked what I would do when this happened to me: the moment when writer’s block sets in, and like a thief that’s tip-toed through my home when I wasn’t there stole my dictionary, thesaurus, and in a final assault on my creativity – walked off with my computer in the middle of the night. The bandit has stolen everything I could use to put words together, whether it is on paper, or in a blog post.

In all honesty, I can’t remember the answer I gave to this problem. But I suspect knowing me, I would have used my running experience and said something such as, “I would write over it. Keep writing, no matter what! And then hope, that someday the words would come easier again.”

The experience of running has taught me that sometimes, I need to push on and over, the most difficult days. Not every training day will offer sunny skies, seventy degree Celsius temperatures, and tank top and short-wearing weather.  Some days will be minus thirty-five degree Celsius temperatures, layered clothing, steamed glasses, and ice buildup on my eyebrows, hair and lashes. But those are the days I know I need to get out the door and do the best I can, with the conditions I’m given.

But I don’t always keep running in a race. Sometimes I’ll slow down, walk it out, and wait for the pain in my calf to subside (ditto for nausea). I know this to be true: sometimes I need a little break so that I can return to my 10 KM run, half-marathon, or marathon race stronger than I was a few moments ago. Ultimately, for me at least, what matters most is crossing the finish line.

Writer’s block haunts me. It slithers in the shadows and reappears in the most terrifying and most unexpected times.  It waits for me. Sometimes when I’m at my strongest mentally; and sometimes when I’m at my weakest. It’s stalked me so many times: inching it’s way closer when I wasn’t watching, forcing me to keep my eyes open longer resulting in too many late nights and scrambled thoughts. Then before I even knew what was happening, my ideas and ability to weave stories together had vanished.

In this community I won’t lie to you, there are times I’m scared I may never be able to write another story again. (To those on the outside, I’ll say something different.) Those are the moments I reach for the switch in a room and attempt to illuminate the darkness. When my fingertips hit the light switch and I hear the “click” I’m slightly relieved – relieved, until nothing happens. Because now I know, I’m in the middle of a power outage.

After scrambling around trying to find the one lighter I own in my house, I light a candle and watch the glow because nothing else works. I can’t make toast or coffee, there’s no TV or radio, and if the power outage lasts long enough, I’ll run out of hot water.   Now I know there are some things I should do during a power outage: buy bottled water, batteries, and flashlights; and keep the fridge door closed to prevent food from spoiling. Other than that, I need to wait.

I’ve faced writer’s block before: sleep-deprivation, viruses, injuries, and personal life upheaval have been some of my enemies. With all these factors, when my mind struggles to take care of day-to-day tasks it saps my creativity. My brain busy building to-do lists, for to-do lists, has no room to build heroes and plotlines.

But I continue to move forward as much as I can through it. In those moments when I find I can’t create something new, I’ll work on something old, revise my manuscript, or work on marketing material. Above all else, I keep working, no matter what. My fear is this: If I stop working too long, the ever-present negative naysayer in me will grow louder and my writing adventure might be over.

Eventually, I know the winter storm will stop and I’ll hear the hum of the fridge starting again. With this sign, I’ll flick the switch and the darkness will end with light. Normally when the power returns, the thief shows up on my front step with my dictionary and thesaurus, and good guy that he is, he’ll even help me set my computer up again.  With my coffee pot percolating, and my toaster toasting, I watch as new and old characters walk through my door and my world-building begins once more.