Category Archives: Words on a page

Things about books, stories, authors found here.

Insomnia


moonlit windowI listen to the sound of dark
While everyone is sleeping
Nebulous tones most won’t hear
Are why awake, I’m keeping.
My brain synapses must be afraid
Of what they may be missing

I check the time, yet again
To see how much is passing
Time slows down to a crawl
When it’s sleep, that I’m not getting
Please, dear body, tell my brain
Of the dreams they now are missing.

Human Remains


potluck-connect-westheights-orgIt was over. The last person to offer comfort was finally departing down the gravel driveway to head home. Mama had long ago pleaded exhaustion and was lying down in the second bedroom, and I was dismayed with size of the mess. Grumpily, I started picking up the Styrofoam cups that had found their way to every flat surface in Gram’s living room. I carried the first load to the sink and dumped out the half-drunk contents before throwing the empty cups into the trash. Then I went back for more.

As I straightened up the room, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the day. It had been a long one with phone calls beginning at 6 a.m., followed shortly after by the first visitor to Gram’s house. Mama had decided her mother’s house would work as the place for people to gather. It offered more space and better parking than Mama’s condo. The fellowship hall at the Holly Ridge UMC, Gram and Mama’s church was undergoing renovations so it was unavailable. Somehow my grandmother’s little 1200 square foot home on Bluebell Lane had ended up with enough room for everyone. But I suspected it was thanks to her large yard that made it possible.

Despite what they say, the dead can’t wait, at least for a better time to deal with the task of burying them. We discovered, while sitting at the funeral home to finalize preparations for the funeral that Gram’s pastor was out of the country.

“He’s on his honeymoon, Isn’t it just the sweetest thing? They eloped” said Mr. White, the funeral home rep.

“Honeymoon?” Mama asked, “Isn’t Pastor Miller about my mother’s age?”

“He’s 79. He and his bride are in Aruba and won’t be back till next week.” The rep, who’s comb-over dated back to the Nixon era, crossed his hands on the folder that contained the paperwork for the funeral. “Now you can certainly choose to wait till he returns, and if so we can discuss the holding fee..”

“Isn’t there another option?” I asked.

“Well, we do have a list of pastors who rotate on an on call basis for those times then a dearly departed’s regular minister is unable to provide the necessary service.”

I looked over at Mama. She looked utterly worn out. I doubt she had slept 8 hours since leaving the hospital three days ago. She closed her eyes a moment, then said, “Alright. You have our denominational preferences, and I know she would have preferred someone a lot like Pastor Miller.”

Mr. White looked at a sheet of paper on his desk. “Ah, Pastor Eckhart is on call this week. He will perform a wonderful service for your mother,” He opened the folder and pushed some papers over to Mama. “Now if you will sign here, we’ll get everything taken care of just as you asked.”

Mama and I met Pastor Eckhart about fifteen minutes before the funeral. He was at least as old as Pastor Miller and I couldn’t help noticing that most of the hair that had once graced his scalp was instead growing thickly out of his ears. The elderly pastor had been quite soft-spoken as he introduced himself with fifteen minutes to spare before the start of the service. I stood awkwardly by the casket as people I barely knew continued to pay their respects. Friends of my grandmother, relatives I hadn’t seen in many years, and some I didn’t remember hugged me tightly and commented on how much I’d grown while Mama and the pastor stood off to one side speaking. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d long since mastered the growing up part, and didn’t even need permission to stay out late any more. I thought it best to keep my sarcasm tightly reigned, even thought I had inherited that trait from the woman currently in the casket beside me.

“I had to strain to just hear the man speak.” Mama whispered to me as we finally sat down in the front row. The opening measures of It Is Well With My Soul, began to play. “I hope those who have them put fresh batteries in their hearing aids.”

So it was a bit of a shock to the friends and family, most of whom were Methodist and expecting Pastor Miller’s usual gentle words words of comfort to sit through Pastor Eckhart’s funeral service. Instead of a gentle homily, the people packed into the funeral home chapel found themselves subjected to the exuberant style of the fire brand preacher from the First Apostolic Holiness Lighthouse Church.

“At least no one is sleeping through this service.” I had thought as I could feel half the room jump behind me every time Pastor Eckhart banged his bible down onto the pulpit. Sometimes someone would let out a surprised squeak as well. Mama was mortified. She had wanted a quiet service with little fuss. Between the cavalcade of relatives who’d been calling non-stop since getting word Gram’s passing, some of whom had asked at this morning’s viewing for Mama or I to arrange for a place to “lay their heads”, a mix up with which coffin was actually hers and a very enthusiastic preacher, quiet was hardly what Gram’s send off to heaven could be described as. I watched as Mama sat there, hands clasped so tightly together they were white, as she fought back the tears that had been threatening all day.

“Just think Mama,” I whispered to her, leaning so I could be close to her ear. “This will be over soon. Besides, just imagine Gram’s conniption fit over this spectacle. I bet it is taking a whole host of angels having to hold her back so she don’t come right down here and haunt the lot of us. Why, what she’s probably planning for Mr. White is likely giving St. Peter fits.” The pastor stopped in mid-sentence and scowled right at us, as Mama fought to get her laughter under control. He then got over his outrage and continued on about the wages of sin, as my mother took my arm and linked it to hers. She only let go long enough to get in and out of the car for the graveside portion of the service.

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Welcome back sweatpants.


Every once in awhile, a nice surprise comes your way from an unexpected corner. That is what happened to me a few days ago.

As I have mentioned before, I am a part of the group Unfundamentalist Christians,  and have been since the project started. The group, the brainchild of blogger turned author John Shore,  started out as a facebook page, with us adding original content, or content of others we’ve seen, or had been sent to us. For all of us, its been a labor of love. Several months ago, we launched a blog/article space on Patheos.

We cover a lot of topic that impact religion, and society, and often the discussions in our comments section gets lively. Its educational in so many ways. We see how others approach the topics, we hear some amazing, and sometimes heart wrenching stories, and mostly we approach faith in unconventional ways.

Not too long ago, John, posted something about yoga pants on his own blog page at Patheos. The piece was essentially a retelling of a short conversation between John and his very witty wife. For some reason it reminded me of something I had written here, and I posted a link in the comments along with a brief statement.

Shortly afterwards, John contacted me about using it on our UC page at Patheos. He liked my piece, and felt it a good fit, as well as something that would add depth, and a change of pace, following a run of more serious topics. Of course I said YES.  The original piece in question was titled “Dont Cry for me Argentina Pants”  John worked a little editing magic  Happily for me, he felt the need to change little, and this morning my work got a larger audience, along with a photo of Gary and I taken during a recent vacation, sitting behind  a huge platter of some of the best Fajita fixings east of El Paso.  The piece now has a second home here.

Who knew that a little tale about oversize, horrendously horrific loungewear could help my writing obtain a little recognition. I write because I love it, I share, because, I do hope that others will like what I write and relate to it. And I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t want to have milestones of success.

The Perfect Woman


windshield-wiper-blades-last-1This is a story I wrote a few years ago, and was unsuccessful finding someone to publish it. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Jack crushed his cigarette into the ashtray then reached for another from the pack that was sitting on the dashboard of his car. Absently, he lit the new cigarette, his second of the two he allowed himself each day, as he stared through the rain washed windshield and into the coffee shop across the street.

Lisa was in there. He’d seen her enter the shop just as he had pulled into his parking slot. She hadn’t seen his car, but then she wasn’t looking for him. As he smoked, he watched her order something from the counter, then walk to one of the tables and sit facing towards the door. She then reached into the satchel she had set on the floor beside her and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

For several minutes, nothing happened. Lisa sat quietly drinking from her cup, as she looked over the papers, pen in hand which she used every so often. It began to rain harder, so Jack turned his ignition to auxiliary so he could turn on his windshield wipers. In between the back and forth movement of the wiper blades, the glare of headlights from passing cars made visibility more difficult.  Jack considered getting out of his car for a better view, but he didn’t want to risk being seen by anyone, at least not yet.

Cars passing by on the street caused Jack to remember when he first saw Lisa, on a rainy night much like this one. It had been a fairly quiet evening at the auto parts store where Jack worked. Jack was putting the last remnants of a shipment away, carefully lining up boxes of fuel filters when she entered.

“Can you help me?” She said as she approached the counter.

“What do you need?” Jack replied as he put the last box in place and walked towards her.

“I think I need new windshield wiper blades. The ones I have now are just pushing the rain drops around. I can’t see a thing when it’s raining hard.”

Jack led her to the wiper display. He could see her blue Nissan parked right outside. It was the only one in the lot besides his and his manager’s who was somewhere in the back of the store.

“These should do nicely for you.” He said, picking a package up off the display and handing it to her to look at. He then noticed how short she was, barely coming to his shoulder. Her petite, fragile looking features made her look almost child-like. Only the obvious curves gave clues as to her real age.

“Oh, good. I’ll take them.” She said taking the package from Jack.

She walked with him to the checkout. As he rang her purchase up, she asked him to help put the new blades on her car, admitting a complete lack of skill in that realm.  Jack had taken off the old blades and replaced them with the new ones as she stood beside him holding an umbrella over them both. Jack still remembered the smell of her perfume, a light flowery scent that he later learned was of jasmine.

“Thanks so much for all your help.” She had said, climbing into her car.

“Anytime, and come again soon.” It was the standard statement he made to customers every day, but for her he meant it. The scent of her perfume lingered in the store for a few minutes  after she left but it stayed in his memory long after she drove off.

Jack had the same wiper blades on his own car and he watched them for a moment as they went back and forth, slowly, consistently stripping the water away to the sides of his windshield. They were worth the premium price you paid for them. He put the cigarette package into the glove compartment, and then took out a container of handi-wipes which he used to remove the last traces of nicotine from his fingers.

Lisa reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone, looked at it for a moment then set it down on the table. Jack looked at his watch to see what time it actually was. 8:03 the watch read.

“I’m late.” She had said, as she stood on the other side of the gas pump from him. “I’m supposed to be at my friend’s wedding in fifteen minutes and silly me forgot that I needed gas”

“Well you look nice.” Jack had told her from his own side of the pump.

“That’s real sweet, but celery green is not my color.”

Jack didn’t agree. He thought that Lisa’s dress was perfect and displayed her soft curls wonderfully. He loved her hair up with the tendrils hanging down along her face. He wanted to tell her that, but instead said. “I hope you have a great time and pass along my well wishes to the bride and groom.”

“Thanks. I will.” She put the gas nozzle back onto its slot. “I sure hope Gretchen doesn’t mind the smell of gasoline, because I feel that I reek of it.”

“I have some hand wipes that may help.” Jack said quickly.

“Really? Oh that would be wonderful. Can I have one?”

Jack opened his door, reached into glove compartment and got a wipe out for Lisa. She used it on her hands and then started to walk to the nearby trashcan to throw out.

“Oh I’ll throw that away for you.” Jack had said. “You’re late for a wedding remember?”

“Yes I am. Thanks again.”

Too soon, Lisa climbed into hers and drove off, with a hand waving goodbye through the window. Jack had folded the used sanitation wipe Lisa handed to him, and put it into his pocket. Continue reading

Close Up


My dad is a fantastic amateur photographer. He’s got a knack for capturing images of people or of scenery in a way that is very appealing. My oldest brother Alan, also has wonderful skill with a camera. I have a few photos that he took of my granddaughter Helene’ a few years ago, and they are stunning.

I’ve always wanted to take good photos, but have never really mastered the art. Partially, its because I’ve not really had that great a camera to work with. I’ve either had very basic models that did little in functionality, and much in blur. Cell phones have advanced their camera options significantly over the years, but their shutter speeds suck. I’ve missed so many great opportunities. Actually i’ve taken lots of photos, of average to poor quality, with a few good ones scattered therein.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the mountains for a family gathering. My dad noticed me trying to take  cell phone photos of a favorite local waterfall, and of an unusual mushroom I saw along the trail. He asked if I had a decent camera. I didn’t, of course A few weeks later, I was sent a wonderful entry level digital he’d had lying around. Its far and above what I’ve ever used before.

So far, I’ve taken a few  photos of some of the grandkids, three of Gary trying to cook dinner on his grill, and photos of some flowers in my back yard. Its the flower photos I’m the most pleased with.

I love nature, and trying to capture its beauty can be a challenge. Prose and poetry is a medium I’m familiar with, and I’m not giving it up anytime soon. I just want to expand my creative horizons a bit.  I am looking forward to getting photos of animals, leaves, and flowers,  I see around me. like this one.

Backyard Clover

Backyard Clover

Yes, its clover. Isn’t that cool? You can see the details of a tiny patch of yard, and its beautiful.  The bee of course was faster than I. She was about 18 inches off camera by the time I snapped the photo.

The very first photo I took with my new camera had to be of a cat. Miko gladly posed for this. That she is sitting on me determined that.

Miko's close up.

Of course I’m gorgeous, as you can plainly see.

I will enjoy my new toy, and the opportunities to capture, life, family and nature. With the camera digital, I can quickly delete all the blurry shots.

 

Words on the Page


typingSeven years ago, in a blog format far away, I started a project named Sylvie is a Blogger. It at first was an experiment to see if I could get back into writing, something I had found that found rewarding a few years prior,when given the opportunity to write for a small local print publications in the Western North Carolina mountains. That little experiment led me to a solid three year run writing a weekly column called Miss Mom, first for The Spartanburg Spark, then Flying Oskar, both web community sites. I learned so much as a writer, and what I enjoyed about the art of putting thoughts into words.

I’ve written pretty much whatever has sparked into my brain and has held me captive until I had to sit down at my desk and open up my word processing software. After taking a few quality courses on writing styles and format, I tried my hand at poetry, as well as fiction and essay styles. Fiction proved more difficult than I thought, although I am pleased with my few finished stories, two of which I’ve posted here. A third is featured at a literary website. The fourth is slated for a future date here. yet undetermined.

My favorite topics revolve around my life. I discovered I can tell a story about an event that has happened to me and make it funny enough that others laugh. I also have written about the more emotional, less happy times in my life, partially because its cheaper than therapy, and also in the hopes that others won’t feel alone in their troubles. Poetry is something I continue to experiment in sporadically. With each poem I write, I try something new in style or format.

And then I do the serious stuff. I keep returning over and over to the same topics, some of which I wish I didn’t have to, but am compelled to be a voice that tells anyone who listens that “this must stop. Don’t forget, Please let’s work together to change things.” When it comes to the treatment of others, the need for real social change for the disenfranchised, the abused, the hated, I just cannot be silent. That they are also the topics suite for both the political and religious spectrums I find quite interesting, especially, at least in the US, the line between the two too often becomes blurred.

I have begun the long overdue task of putting years of blog posts into categories. It is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, but lacked the time, and the know how. Who’d’ve thought it was as easy as it has been? Doing the cataloging has allowed me to go back and review things I wrote years ago. I’ve seen how my writing has improved over time, and I’ve been surprised at how many times I’ve felt compelled to cover topics, topics mentioned in the paragraph before this one, topics I know I will be still writing about a year from now.

Its good to stop and see where you’ve been, to process it, to see where you’ve improved, and where you haven’t. Looking back at the history of Sylvie is a Blogger, now dubbed Its  Mis-fit has been illuminating. I’ve seen that I have yet to settle on just one type of writing, or topic or theme, but try them all. That of all the things I write, I enjoy humor based the most, but get the most satisfaction writing the serious social posts. Poetry has a way of keeping me up at night making sure each word, each line, and the placement of both is to an exacting standard that I’m never satisfied with. Yet I am always delighted when the first line of my next poem reveals its compelling self to me.

In the next few months, I hope to continue the task of improving the blog site. I have a free account and minimal skills in formatting. So any suggestions or tips are welcome. I’m not really satisfied with just putting things into categories or how one finds older topical posts, so I will be exploring options. I also hope to share two of the hardest pieces I’ve ever written. One is a longer short story about a man named Jack. Jack kept me up for three solid weeks before I was finished with his tale. The other is an  short memoir in a style that weaves several different topics together. I’ve only done that style once, for a creative  non-fiction writing course, and one day I’d like to try again. It too is lengthy. Both will likely be broken up into more easily digested parts. So stay tuned.

 

Bon Apetite’


            I have a curious memory from when I was very small. My brother Alan and I are sitting at the kitchen bar at our house and are staring at the bowls sitting in front of us. Inside the bowls is a curious green liquid that my mother tells us is leek soup. The leeks, grown in our backyard garden, were something not commonly grown in the foothills of North East Tennessee, at least not in the mid-60’s, but somehow my mother had found some seeds and grown them for the purpose of bringing just a little bit more of her French culture to us. The color of the soup was just odd enough that I was not quite sure that it was actually edible. I would have preferred a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but soup was what was on the menu. My mother urged us to eat, telling us how delicious leek soup was, demonstrating the deliciousness of the concoction by eating from her bowl placed on her side of the bar as she stood in our small kitchen.

            My mother was originally from France and had come to the US with the company she had been working for. Within a year she had met my father and nine months later I was born. One of my brothers followed 15 months later. She threw herself into trying to be the best wife and mother she could for us. She also tried to educate us in French culture, even though we were firmly on American soil. She taught my brother and me French until my Dad complained that he couldn’t understand what his own children were saying. Another one of the ways she tried to instill French culture was through food. I don’t remember too many foods that she actually served us other then the leek soup and the Quiche Lorraine that she made almost every weekend, but according to my father, she often introduced things to the evening meal that were new and exotic, especially to my Dad, who was born and bred in Jacksonville, Florida.

He tells of the time that she served him mussels, and snails. To this day he is not quite certain where she found those French delicacies in a small southern town hours from the nearest ocean or edible snail habitat. Somehow she did so that she could introduce my dad to something she happened to be fond of. My dad, being willing to try anything once, ate what was served him, but never requested a repeat of shellfish cuisine. Shellfish and rabbit stew were about the only things that my father mentions that he didn’t like about her cooking. Once, while at work, my father noticed a group of secretaries staring at him. It was something that he had noticed off and on for several weeks. His ego and his curiosity getting the better of him, he asked the women why they kept staring at him during lunch.

“Oh we’re not staring at you.” one of them replied. “We were staring at your lunch and were wondering if we could tackle you so we could steal it.”

Smiling at my dad, she added, “Every day you bring the most wonderful looking lunches.” My dad, his ego slightly deflated as he realized that he was not the source of the secretaries’ admiration, explained that his wife made lunch for him every day, and thanked the women for the compliments to the cook.

My mother was also an organic cook, long before it became in vogue here in the U.S. My parents grew their own vegetables, and my dad made his own compost for fertilizing the vegetables. They got eggs and unpasteurized milk from a local farmer, from which my mother would make butter and a soft cheese from the cream and the whey she skimmed off the milk. She also made all our bread, nutty, brown and absolutely delicious. The only time I had store bought bread was when I found myself at someone else’s house. I didn’t really like the store bought bread. I found the flavor and texture far inferior then the sliced goodness my mother produced on a weekly basis.

I am not exactly sure why she went through all the trouble she did to prepare our food herself, or make most of her own clothes as well as mine and my two brothers, but she did. Maybe it was because of her own childhood, growing up in occupied France during World War II. She lived in a time of hardship and uncertainty during the occupation, made worse by the German soldiers keeping people from moving about freely as well as the Allied bombing of nearby factories and rail lines in hopes of keeping those facilities out of German hands. Her family, like most of the families in her town, often ate their suppers in bomb shelters while airplanes dropped munitions from several thousand feet above them. Even in the years following the end of the war, things must have been difficult while communities began to rebuild what had been lost because of the war. It is quite possible that skills learned by my mother ended up serving her well when she moved to the states and a completely different culture.

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