32 Going On 17

schoolbooksI am doing in my thirties what I should have done in my twenties, and that is finishing college.  I have made about twenty trips to Pensacola State College over the summer (sometimes from Building 2 to 5 and back again in the same day), and my funding, schedule, et cetera, is finally in place.

I say I am doing now what I should have done then, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do then.  All I ever knew I wanted to do was write.  I had thought I wanted to be a chef, just because I liked to cook.  I would have been miserable in that field.

I look at my schedule now, fifteen years later, and see Intermediate Algebra (which I am already stressing about, and is the reason I will only be taking nine credit hours instead of twelve; I will be making up the remaining three in the summer–I will have to concentrate on the math); I will also be taking Health Care Law and Medical Terminology.  I see these courses and wonder if I am trying to be something I am not, but then the scene in “Legally Blonde” comes to mind when Luke Wilson tells Reese Witherspoon that just maybe, she is trying to be something she is.  For years, I have believed that although I am talented on the creative end, I am not all that smart, and have allowed my belief that I cannot pass algebra at the college level keep me from reaching my full potential.

The medical field is a practical choice; I can do my writing anywhere.  An English degree would have been more fun, but maybe on my own dime…someday.

I am excited to begin this new chapter of my life.  Because I am trying, I am gaining confidence in my abilities; giving up (or giving in to one’s insecurities) inspires none.  I know self-confidence comes from inside us, but this degree will give me that when I go career searching (not job hunting).  Though I was brought up to believe that if you’re good, you needn’t toot your own horn, I have come to realize it helps to toot a bit softly, and with humility (you just have to be able to back it up).  I can do that with confidence now.


The Gifting Tree



A tree in all its forms, do I love–
living trees that give us air to breathe,
food that fills and nourishes,
and cooling, soothing shade.

But a tree’s life can go on,
once it’s been hewn,
for it can take many forms—
items grand or picayune.

The paper on which I write my letters—
the desk on which I write.

The violin on which I play “Greensleeves”,
the piano on which my mother plays.

The hope chest in which I place my linens and silver,
the hutch in which my grandmother’s Wedgwood china I place.

The cutting board on which I serve fruit and cheese,
the wooden spoon which, as a youngster, served me well.

The blocks of letters my son plays with to stack and learn,
the Scrabble letters I use to craft and play.

The puzzles my daughter puts together with learning hands,
the rocking horse and chair my husband put together.

A tree, like that of the human family’s,
dies not because its branches have broken,
but lives on as something of beauty.

!@#$ Customers Say (or Ask or Do)


  1. Saying you’re ready to order, then proceed to choose your sides like it’s the biggest decision of your life.
  2. Ordering black coffee.  (Uh, that’s why there’s cream and sugar on the table.)
  3. Making your own lemonade with extra lemons and the sugar on the table.
  4. Saying, “We shouldn’t have to pay for an extra (insert sauce, dressing, etc., here).”  (Do you think extra sides of ranch grow on trees?)
  5. Assuming that your waitress thinks you can’t afford to pay for your meal when she informs you of an extra charge if you order an extra dressing.  (Knock that chip off your shoulder!  I hate to have a surprise charge on my check, because the choice to resist and not be charged was robbed from me.)
  6. Saying your food is fine when the waitress asks, but then complain about it later to the manager, so we get the business (as Wally Cleaver would say) about not following up on our tables.
  7. Eating all the meat out of your meal and then saying it was bad and asking for a refund.
  8. Asking for something extra and then wasting it.
  9. Asking your waitress to bring something, and then asking them to bring something else when they come back.
  10. Asking if we have any gluten-free items.  (No, this is the South–we serve unhealthy food.)
  11. Ordering something not on the menu.
  12. Saying you ordered one thing, when you ordered another.  (Love it when their table mates stick up for the waitress.)
  13. Coming in for dessert and leaving a dollar, even though you saw the server make your shakes and ice cream sundaes (which are a pain in the kazoo).
  14. Telling your waitress how bad the food and/or service was last time.
  15. Asking, “Are you new?”, because the waitress doesn’t know the answer to some obscure question.
  16. Acting like a brand-new waitress is supposed to know you, because you are a regular.
  17. Asking what the soup of the day is, and then making a face when the waitress tells you.
  18. Continue talking to the people at your table when the waitress approaches to take your order.
  19. Sitting at a table for twenty minutes before saying you haven’t been waited on.  (This is why restaurants have hostesses.  No way in Hades would I wait more than a few minutes before saying something.)
  20. Fighting over the check so the waitress basically has to toss it in the center of the table and let everyone fight over it.
  21. Arguing with the people at your table while your waitress is trying to take your order.
  22. Asking your waitress if another waitress has a boyfriend.
  23. Getting pissed if your waitress asks you to repeat something, and then proceed to do so, very loudly.
  24. Asking your waitress about what’s good and then when she suggests something, ordering the opposite.
  25. Asking your waitress if they’ve tried such and such, and then, if she tells you she hasn’t, saying they should.  (I will NEVER eat an oyster, and I should not just to suit you.)
  26. Trying to order off the kids’ menu.  (Don’t be a cheapskate.  Restaurants don’t make any money off kids’ menus.)
  27. Letting your kids make a horrendous mess and then leaving it (and what’s more, letting them destroy/open up all the sugar packets).
  28. Not hardly drinking your beverage halfway through the meal, and then sucking it down in a minute flat and shaking your empty glass of ice like a maraca.
  29. Making fun of how your waitress pronounces mayonnaise, even though it is the grammatically correct way.
  30. Making a deal about your burger having mayo on it, when it says it comes with mayo on the menu.
  31. Stealing your waitress’s pen.  (That’s why you only get crappy pens.)

5-Minute Memoir to Writer’s Digest (former submission)


The Writer’s Mind—A Literary Vitamix

I love blends. I don’t like pure cotton, because it shrinks. I don’t like plain chocolate–I like to have some nuts thrown in there (I don’t like pudding for the same reason, I like assorted flavors and textures). I love the new Coca Cola machines I see in fast food restaurants because I like Coca Cola and I like cherry, and I don’t want to have to choose.

I’m the same when it comes my writing, which makes it hard for me to pigeonhole whatever it is I’m working on (besides the broad category of novel, poem or short story). Me, I’m “V.C. Andrews meets Mormonism”, or “Fractured Fairy Tales” twisted with Biblical allegories. I even came up with a Shaggy God story told from a grown-up Alice (of Wonderland fame).

Blending genres starts off as an art (like cooking) and ends up being a science (like baking). You not only have to have the raw materials, you must make sure they’ll work together. If writing is painting with words, my palette is the Crayola 64-count.

What helps me most with novel writing is to make a full outline (and back story, though you must be careful with this—a reader is supposed to get to know the characters as they would a real person, a little bit at a time), and make sure something happens in each chapter. Each of my chapters is like a mini-short story, instead of just a continuation of the previous. That keeps me on track, and it’s also helpful if you want to have a cache of short stories on hand for contests (before the book is being considered by an agent).

Though it’s still a challenge to convert chapters of a book into stand-alone short stories, this way makes it easier.

If you have imagination, you can find the extraordinary in the ordinary. You won’t even need to look, because writers see what non-writers see. When I see an apple, I don’t just see a red, green or yellow (or candied) apple, I see Eve’s curiosity, the legend of William Tell, the story of Johnny Appleseed…

Sometimes just one word can be an inspiration. Think acrostic poetry.

Other times, a person, no matter how small, can be one of our greatest inspirations. Before my child was even born, I wrote her a nursery rhyme, which inspired me to write forty-nine more for a collection. Rather than putting my fifty eggs in one basket, I’ve been trying to publish them individually (while seeking a publisher who would consider publishing them as a book). That inspiration led to writing personalized nursery rhymes for my friends, who have been having babies.

Building up and then breaking down (whether it be books into chapters, or collections into individual short stories or poems), that’s what I do. You must be flexible that way. I’ve had novel chapters that make better short stories.

Like poetry, I used to think short stories were waste of time (at least commercially), but then I read an article where many big movies had been made from short stories. Even if no one else reads them, Hollywood does. Look what Tinseltown has done for Nicholas Sparks.

As a writer, I go through phases—I went through a Harlequin romance phase, then a creative nonfiction phase, and now I’m going through a poetry phase. I love having lots of different projects going on at once, which is ironic, as I can only read one book at a time.

Though many authors are known for one genre, I must stay versatile, or I get bored with my own writing, and if you’re bored writing it, “they” will be bored reading it.



Note to Sadie, Aged Twenty-Three: one of three homages to Emily Dickinson

Reflections, Saint Patrick's Day

Note to Sadie, Aged Twenty-Three

If I could tell my younger self but one thing,
it would be to marry him at twenty-three.
So much heartache I would have never known,
and I would not have reaped what I have sown.

A better place would I now be,
better than I had dreamed at twenty-three–
a home with room to grow,
riding high, rather than laying low.

Years, I have lost and let go,
toiling with nothing for it to show;
had I known then what I know now,
I would have taken that vow.

A Timely Presence: one of three homages to Emily Dickinson


A Timely Presence

The past is summers come and gone,
sweet, ripening, and brightly shining;
the future is springs yet to be,
resplendent with hope for all things;
the present is winter—
stark and unromantic,
softened not by time and memory.

The past is black and white in sepia,
carved in stone, its edges starting to turn;
the future is colorful, but mottled,
like raindrops on a windshield,
for it is constantly changing,
because of the decisions we make today.
The present is somewhere in between—
its edges crisp and clean,
precious as a snowflake,
for it lasts but a second,
and then it melts away.

I run from the past,
only to run into the future,
past all the wonders of today–
wonders more real than tomorrow’s or yesterday’s.

As our past gets longer,
our future gets shorter,
but the present is always there—
meeting the future,
fleeing the past,
but never quite able to,
for it follows one everywhere.

Life is not a line,
but a circle,
life and death connecting–
no doors,
only walls of mirrors reflecting.