Fly Away

flyFor this week’s Finish the Sentence Friday post, I’m supposed to talk about my greatest fear.

Well, that’s awkward. 

Guys, I’m a mess. I’m claustrophobic.  I’m afraid to drive after dark or go outside on windy days. Maple trees terrify me. Big dogs, little rodents, unidentifiable noises when I’m alone. Basements. Bridges over large bodies of water. Thunderstorms. Car washes.

But here’s the thing about fears:

We all have them.

If you want to tell me that you are fearless, that nothing frightens you, go ahead. I will look you in the eye and call you a liar. Then I will turn and run like hell, because I just happen to be really afraid of confrontations.

Fear makes people do stupid things. When I see a snake, fear makes me pee.

When my boss glides up silently behind me and starts talking just a few inches from my ear, fear makes me spin around and shout, “For the love of God, woman, would you PLEASE wear a bell or something?!”

There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fearless. I went to scary movies and convinced a group of my friends to sneak into an empty “haunted” house in my neighborhood. I even spent a few nights in a local graveyard where it was rumored that Al Capone’s mistress was buried. Local legend said that Flora liked to rise from her grave and dance at midnight, but she never seemed to feel much like dancing on the nights I was there. I never saw anything but a few bats and some people who were as gullible as I was.

I was a bit of a risk-taker. I went to a college in another state where I knew no one; I tried parasailing and rock climbing. I went on blind dates and fix-ups, and I took chances that make me want to go back in time and slap my younger self.

But I wasn’t really fearless when it came right down to it. I had one big fear that I just couldn’t face.

As long as I talked about my book without ever writing it, I never had to face the fear that maybe I couldn’t write a book. If I never let anyone read my work, no one could tell me to give up because I lacked talent As long as I never actually finished writing anything, I never had to face the fear that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t really a writer. 

I spent years talking about writing, learning to write, planning to write. I was dedicated to my dream, or so I told myself. I can look back now and see that the only thing I was dedicated to was my fear of failure.

And then life dropped a tree on my head.

So, now I’m afraid of maple trees and thunderstorms and sometimes the color blue if it’s the exact shade of the tarp they threw over my face during the rescue. I can have a panic attack every time I see a treetop bending in the wind. I’m terrified every time my kids leave the house because I understand now that all it takes is one second, one instant, one fluke of nature to take a life. I’m a neurotic mess who is pretty much afraid of everything.

And you know what all that fear has taught me over the last five years?

Life is short. There are no guarantees. “See you tomorrow” isn’t always a promise; sometimes, it’s a lie. All it takes is one mistake, one accident, one horrifying diagnosis, and guess what? Maybe you don’t get that tomorrow.

Do you have a dream that you’ve been putting off? Well, what are you waiting for? Whether you dream of writing a book or learning to paint or driving cross-country in a Winnebago, stop putting it off.

Try it.

Take a risk.

Don’t let fear tell you to put it off until tomorrow, because you never know when tomorrow just might drop a maple tree on your head. 

 

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

 

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “One of my biggest fears I ever had to face…”

Hosts are Kristi from http://www.findingninee.com  and Michelle Grewe of  http://crumpetsandbollocks.com/

You’ve Got This

Today’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is a bit different, and it was a difficult one for me to write. I had to write a letter to myself — past, present, or future. I chose to write to myself at a point in my mid-twenties, when I had everything all figured out.

At least, that’s what I told myself back then.

21051_106829239328180_4225937_n

Dear 20-something Me:

Right now, you see yourself as being so daring, so willing to take a risk. You think you’re brave because you’ve been parasailing and you’ve gone to Europe and you want to try skydiving. You talk about taking a year off and driving cross country with an old pop-up camper so you can write, write, write.

But face the fact, Kiddo: you’re never going to do it because deep down inside, you’re afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to take a risk, afraid of failing. You’re terrified of city driving, of getting lost, of dealing with a flat tire by yourself in the middle of nowhere.

It’s not just the cross-country trip that’s got you in a cold sweat. You put on a good show that fools a lot of people, but you’re afraid of everything. It’s just so easy to talk about your dreams and make your plans without ever following through; if you never actually try, you’ll never have to deal with failure. You’ll never have to accept defeat.

Stop letting yourself be guided by fear. You’re going to miss out on so much in life because you’re afraid to fail, afraid of making mistakes, afraid of being hurt.

Here’s the thing: You are going to fail, you are going to make mistakes, and you are going to get hurt. And you know what else you’re going to do? You’re going to survive.

Sure, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life. But a lot of things are going to go right, too.

So go on the date with the guy that you’re about to turn down because you think he’s out of your league. Okay, maybe you’re right and he’s setting you up as a joke, but maybe he thinks you’re out of his league. Take that chance.

Apply for that dream job instead of missing the opportunity because you think you’re not organized enough or smart enough. You’ll never know your limits if you don’t push them once in a while.

Finish writing something — anything!– instead of throwing it away at the halfway point because you worry that it’s no good. Stop worrying about rejection letters that you’ve never received because you’ve never had the courage to finish your work.

And Kiddo, I want you to listen to me on this one: in a few years, Depression is going to hit, and it’s going to hit hard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure.

Understand that fear is okay. Letting fear control you is not.

You’re stronger than you know, and a lot more resilient. You’re going to survive the failures and the mistakes and the hurts, and you’re going to have a pretty good life with a lot of amazing people and breathtaking moments. It’s all going to work out if you just step back once in a while and take a minute or two to believe in yourself.

You’ve got this.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “Dear Me…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and Michelle of Crumpets and Bollocks.

The Window

One of the high points of this past week was discovering that one of my all-time favorite bloggers has come out of hiding and started blogging again! If you’re not familiar with 23thorns, please take a few minutes to go check out his most recent post. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that you’re back, let’s get on with things. Reading his post about irrational childhood fears made me start thinking about my own childhood and some of the strange things I was afraid of. And thinking about that reminded me of what was pretty much the only good line in the Three Investigators movie that came out a few years ago:

“Why aren’t you afraid of the things you’re supposed to be afraid of?”

You see, I had these four aunts that I’ve mentioned a few times here in my blog. They had some pretty strange ideas of what was and was not appropriate for children. They thought nothing of waking my sisters and me in the middle of the night to take us out to the pier so we could watch the Coast Guard bring in a dead body. They also told us awful stories about ghosts that they swore they had actually seen; I don’t remember much about those stories, other than the fact that one ghost had an “Uncle Sam beard” and glowing eyes.

In short, I was never scared of ghosts or dead bodies. I had no fear of monsters or ghoulies or any of the things children with normal relatives are afraid of.

I was afraid of a window in the aunts’ basement. Terrified.

When we stayed with our aunts at their house in town, we all slept in the guest room in their basement. It was actually a very nice little guest room in a finished basement that included a formal sitting room with a fireplace. In retrospect, I’d have to say that their basement was nicer than the upstairs portion of any house I’ve ever lived in since.

Nothing scary about their basement.

Except for that window.

The guest room was in the farthest corner of the basement, and one had to cross the laundry room to get there. The bedroom was simply furnished, with a big double bed against the outside wall and a rollaway bed folded up beside it. When we were little, Aunt Marian would sleep down there with us, and we developed a complicated system to determine who got to sleep where. Marian slept in the middle of the big bed. The child who slept on Marian’s right was on “the new side” while the child on her left was on “the old side” and the child who got the rollaway was “out.”

My problems started on the nights when it was my turn to be on “the old side” because that’s where the window was.

My aunts had made the unusual decorating choice of hanging a full-length curtain covering the whole wall. Side-to-side, top-to-bottom, the entire wall was covered by curtains. There was nothing scary about the curtains themselves.

To my way of thinking, however, curtains covered windows. There was simply no other reason for a curtain to exist. It didn’t matter how many times my aunts tried to convince me that the only window on that wall was a tiny casement window near the ceiling; I remained firmly convinced that the whole surface behind that giant curtain was made of glass.

Still not so scary, you say? Oh, I beg to differ. (Or as Aunt Marian used to say: “I beg to diffy.” But that’s a subject for another day.)

Think about what would be on the other side of a window that made up an entire wall. A basement wall. I imagined worms and moles and underground beasties that would have no problem breaking the glass and snatching a sleeping child who was dumb enough to fall asleep when it was her turn to be on “the old side.”

Later, when we were big enough to sleep alone downstairs, we added a whole new level of terror to the basement bedroom. It was an older house, and there was no light switch at the bottom of the stairs. That meant turning off the light at the top of the stairs and making our way down the steps, across the laundry room, and into the bedroom in the dark.

In the basement.

A dark basement.

With a big, scary window.

I am the youngest, and probably still the most gullible of the three of us. I think it goes without saying that I was usually the loser at any kind of rock-paper-scissors or what-number-am-I-thinking or even eenie-meenie-miney-mo challenge to see who was going to be left alone at the top of the stairs to turn off the light after the other two made it safely into the bedroom.

It was me. It was always me. My big sisters would holler up at me when they had made it to the bedroom, and then it was my turn.

Let me just say for the record that we are not stupid women. None of us. So it escapes me now why it never occurred to any of us to just turn on the bedroom light for the poor, unfortunate sap stuck at the top of the stairs.

Which, in case you missed it, was me.

I would flip the switch and let out a bellow and take off, screaming all the way down the stairs and across the laundry room. As soon as my toes hit the threshold of the bedroom, I would launch myself through the air in the general direction of the bed — because apparently I assumed the basement creatures couldn’t get me if I never touched the carpeting.

Since my sisters were usually in the bed by that point, and because I’ve always better at launching than landing, my landings usually resulted in a bit of bruising and a lot of swearing. Which then led to one of the aunts flicking on the light and hollering down at us to settle down and watch our language.

Really, I swear we are not dumb people in my family. I promise.

We just do really dumb things.

For example, my oldest sister came home from college one weekend and rearranged the furniture in that basement bedroom. My aunts never rearranged furniture. Ever. Nothing ever changed in their home. Ever.

So it was completely logical for me to assume during my next stay with the aunts that the bedroom was arranged exactly the same as it had always been. Furniture simply did not move at my aunts’ house. Ever.

Even though I was in high school and staying at their house without my sisters on that particular weekend, I still followed the same bedtime routine I had always followed: turn off the light at the top of the stairs, sprint down them and across the laundry room, and go airborne into the nice, big bed that had always been there.

And which was now not there.

As I recall, I did a magnificent Berber face-plant and went into a long, slow skid toward the curtained wall. At that moment, I didn’t care about the rug burns on my face. All I could think of was Don’t break the window!

So, here I am, nearly fifty years old, and I have a lot of fears in my life. I’m afraid of my children being hurt, I’m afraid of thunderstorms, and I have a weird love-hate attitude toward maple trees. I still hate basements and would rather go up in a tornado than take shelter in a Michigan half-cellar. But nothing in life will ever terrify me as much as the window in my aunts’ basement.

What about you? What were you most afraid of as a child?

 

Decisions, Decisions

IWSG

The idea of self-publishing used to terrify me, but not for the reason one might expect. It had nothing to do with a fear of failure; as an overweight, divorced, bankrupt and often-unemployed woman nearing her fiftieth birthday, I pretty much deal with failure on a daily basis. Believe me, I could write a long and detailed blog post about all of the areas in my life where I have failed.

I fail at a lot of things, and I usually do so spectacularly.

I am not afraid of failure.

But I was afraid to be a self-published author.  You see, I heard all the horror stories. I read the warnings when I haunted the writing forums to learn what the self-published authors were talking about. I learned terms like “carpet bombing” and “Goodreads bullies” and “trolls” and I almost bailed without ever trying.

It was intimidating. No, it was terrifying to think that years of hard work and effort could all be washed down the drain for reasons that had nothing to do with writing skills — or lack thereof. I was afraid to self-publish because I was worried about ending up on the wrong side of the wrong people. I was scared of pissing off someone who might take revenge on my book, because, hey, I read about it happening all the time.

But I have never been able to resist a challenge, so I swallowed my fear and self-published Her House Divided in February of 2014. I made a lot of mistakes and I realized that I had a huge learning curve ahead of me, but it’s been a great ride. A bumpy ride, but still a  thrilling one.

And the people I was warned about? Yep, they exist. Trolls and Bullies and Whackadoodles, oh my!

But I’ve learned that those guys are the minority. A noisy minority, to be sure, but a minority nonetheless. For the most part, the world of self-publishing has turned out to be filled with helpful, supportive, and productive people who really do seem to look out for each other. I have been so warmly welcomed into the community by writers in every genre, at every different stage in their writing careers.

It’s a matter of finding the supportive people and walking away from the destructive ones.

Easier said than done, right?

Here’s how I see it. I can go to the writing forums and spend my time with the people who want to look for the negative in everything. I can argue with every writer who swears Amazon is stealing their money or lying about their sales, and I can end up embroiled in unproductive arguments about every aspect of writing and publishing. In the end, it would be sort of like arguing with a rattlesnake to convince it that it’s a garter snake — it’s an argument I can’t win, and I’ll just end up filled with venom.

Or . . . . I can surround myself with the kind of professionals who understand that we are all part of the same community.That’s been the “bumpy” part of the learning process I referred to earlier. I’ve wasted far too many hours over the past year and a half, spent far too much time around the kind of folks who are more concerned with dragging down than raising up.  

For every author who spends their time mocking a particular genre or writer, there are authors like Marysol James and Mae Martini, who are always ready to offer honest feedback and practical suggestions of what works for them.  There’s an M. Lauryl Lewis  standing by to chit-chat about marketing strategies and share her ideas.

For every author who takes delight in the poor sales of a competitor, there is a Nancy Gideon offering words of encouragement instead.  There’s a Jasinda Wilder reaching out to say “Don’t be jealous of me honey! … Just keep writing. Get the next book out because that is more room on the shelf. I’m rooting for you.”

For every angry blogger posting insults and criticisms aimed at their fellow writers, there are bloggers like Ryan Lanz, Chris McMullen and Kristen Lamb, who use their blogs to offer guidance and support to their fellow writers.  And let’s not forget that Kristen Lamb is also responsible for creating the “MyWANA” hashtag, which is there to remind us all that we are not alone.

We are not alone. That’s what Alex Cavanaugh and his Insecure Writers Support Group are all about. We share our insecurities, and our fellow writers swoop in to offer advice or encouragement, or sometimes just a bit of virtual online hand-holding when needed.

If you go into self-publishing expecting trolls and whackadoodles, chances are good that you’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for. So why not look for something better? Be something better. Surround yourself with those who lift each other up, and try to do a little lifting yourself when you can.

In the week ahead, I want to challenge all of you to step out of your comfort zone and do something nice for another writer. Share a link to someone else’s book. Leave a comment on a blog you’ve never visited before. Reach out and offer a word of encouragement to an author who’s dealing with slow sales or a bad review.

Make a choice. What kind of writer do you want to be?

This has been my monthly post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. If you are a writer struggling with insecurities or just in need of a little support, please check out this FABULOUS group of wonderful people!  http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Ice, Ice Baby

One of the most challenging aspects of adapting to life with my new physical limitations has been learning to deal with fear.  Of course, I’ve got the kinds of fear that are to be expected after the type of accident I went through; nobody can blame me for freaking out during thunderstorms or losing control in confined spaces.  People understand when I tell them about the big fears.  It’s the little fears that make folks think I’ve lost my mind.

When the doctor took off that brace, he warned me about all of the activities I would have to avoid for the rest of my life. Horseback riding? Well, the horses of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief on that one. Speedboats? Not a problem, except when the Big Guy got carried away with the fishing boat.  Sledding, bumper cars, carnival rides?  Slight tremor there; I always liked that sort of thing.  Diving? Okay, I’m going to miss that one.

Then came the kicker.  “You’re going to have to be really careful about falling,” he told me.

Oh, Lord.  My then-husband dropped his face in his hands and groaned.

Here’s the problem:  I’m a klutz.  Always have been, always will be.  I have not ounce of physical grace or coordination.  You’ve heard the saying about people having “two left feet”?  Well, I’ve got three of them.  I’m forever stepping into holes or rolling an ankle, stumbling over nonexistent things, tumbling down hills.

I’ve lost count of the times I would fall into holes or down hills while walking with my husband, only to catch up to him as he stood there with a mystified look on his face, muttering “ . . . the hell did she go?”

So my heart sank when the doctor told me to be careful about falling.  Because of the location and sheer amount of damage done to my neck, I have to avoid anything that might have any kind of impact on my spine.  A simple slip on the ice or on stairs, for example, with a hard landing on my derriere, could do irreparable harm.

My first big fall happened about six months later.  I was rushing out the back door for something or other, tripped over the dog, and launched myself face-first into a snowbank.  I lay there on my belly for the longest time doing a mental inventory.

Can I move? Check.

Does my neck hurt? Nope.

Am I dead? Don’t think so.

Then why the hell am I laying in the snow? Umm. . . Dunno.

I got up rather sheepishly and headed back inside, feeling a thousand pounds lighter at the realization that a fall wasn’t going to kill me.  I lost a lot of my fear that day, but I still catch myself walking like I’m constantly on ice.  I stare at the ground and take tiny steps, avoid uneven ground, clutch at handrails as though my life depends upon it.

I move like an old lady.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a vow to myself that at least once a week, I am going to do something that scares me.  Something that may seem small to others but represents a huge step for me, like posting a selfie online, or asking a very handsome man to meet me for a drink.  The selfie went well, Mr. Handsome said no, and I survived both.  (For the record, Mr. Handsome was very kind about it, so my feelings weren’t hurt at all.)

So last week, I faced my fear of walking on dangerous surfaces.  I walked to and from work every day.  Granted, it’s only about two blocks, and I should be embarrassed about all the times I was lazy enough to drive that far, but we’re not going to talk about that.  Not right now, anyway.  No, I walked on the slippery ice and uneven ground, through deep snow and bumpy driveways, and it didn’t hurt.  I skidded and stumbled a few times, but no biggie.

I made it over the big hurdle.  It’s the little ones that always seem to get me.

I got up early Saturday morning to make my trademark peanut butter no-bakes for a fundraiser that afternoon.  Of course, I was out of milk, so I bustled outside to shovel out my car, which I hadn’t had to bother with since I’d been walking to and from work.

I had a flat tire.

A quick text message to the ex and an even quicker prayer of thanks that I can still call on him for help, but there was still the matter of the milk for the cookies.  Well, I thought, I’d walked back and forth from the school for five days; why not a quick jaunt to the store?   Temps had climbed from sub-zero to mid-40’s, so it would be safer than it had been all week.

Or so one would assume.

I hit that patch of ice on the way home while stepping around a nasty-looking, slushy drain.  It must have been the only piece of ice that was still fully frozen.  I didn’t even have time to holler; feet went up and butt came down and I hit hard, right on the tailbone.  I felt that impact all the way up into my skull.  Exactly the kind of fall the doctor had warned me about.

Let me tell you, I sat in the middle of that road for a long time.   It hurt, but I was so surprised that I really couldn’t tell how much it hurt.  I just sat there doing the same mental inventory I had done before.

Can I move? Check.

Does my neck hurt? Well, yeah.

Am I dead? Don’t think so.

Hot damn.

I finally crawled over to the curb and hauled my slushy self upright so I could walk home.  I made my cookies, called in a few apologies to the people who were expecting me to work the fundraiser, and sat down to wait for the pain to kick in.  Which it did.

So today has been a slow day involving lots of ibuprofen and hot tea.  I ache in ways I can’t even describe; everything from the waist up is on fire.  But . . .

I fell.

I fell in the worst way possible.

And I’m still here.

Those little fears?  Getting smaller every day.

IMG_20110703_112225
Obviously I’ve never been afraid to accessorize.

Counting Down the Days

I thought it would get easier.

I always believed that all I had to do was write that first book.  Get the first one done, and the next one would be easier.  Less fear each time, less details to worry about, more fun once I knew what to expect. Sort of like losing my virginity, only without any cheesy Michael Bolton ballads playing in the background.

That’s not how it’s working out for me.  His Heart Aflame has been a bit of a bear to write.  I feel like a kid throwing homework excuses at the teacher, but here’s why I’ve struggled with my second book:

  • I’ve learned so much from self-publishing my first book. I can see things that I did wrong with Her House Divided, and I don’t want to make those same mistakes this time.
  • Along those same lines, I realize that my first book was pretty simple. I want this one to be more complex, with a couple of subplots and more well-defined characters.  Threw in a couple of burning buildings and an extremely energetic sex scene on the beach, just to spice things up a tad.  I’m scared I’m not up to challenge.
  • My first book was drawn from my own experiences, created out of a bunch of “what ifs” as I recovered from a broken neck. It was a work of fiction, but it was also a huge part of my healing process.   My second book is drawn completely from my imagination.  Made from scratch, you could say.
  • I designed my own cover the first time around, and it sucked. The amazing and incredibly talented Jessica Richardson took pity on me and provided a much better cover.  I hired her this time (and will for every book I write in the future as well), which meant I had to take the time to select a cover, work with her, and stress about whether I could afford her or not.  This time around, the e-book and paperback will have the same cover, thanks to Jessica.
  • For a long time, I just didn’t like my heroine, Maggie. I wanted her to be sort of clumsy and hapless and unlucky, but I felt like I wasn’t getting to “know” her well enough to write about her.  Then my sister suggested the name “Maeve” for Maggie’s alter-ego in the subplot, and everything fell into place.
  • I wrote my first romance novel as a married woman. Sure, I knew my marriage was going through a rough patch; I just didn’t realize it was ending.  I’ve written this second romance novel as a middle-aged divorcee who has lost her faith in Happily Ever After.  I keep wanting to re-write the ending to send Sean and Maggie off in separate ways with a handshake and an agreement to behave like adults.
  • I didn’t tell anyone I was going to self-publish my first book. I just sort of threw it at the world and ran the other direction.  If I failed, I failed.  I’ve got to be honest – I never really thought anyone outside of my friends and family would buy it.  Now, people are waiting for the sequel.  Asking about it.  Looking forward to it.  Good Lord, I’m an author now, not just an unemployed hairdresser tapping away at the keyboard.   That’s scary as hell.
  • I’m at a different place in my life from a religious standpoint. This one is a biggie.  God has always been so important to me, but I have really felt His hand guiding me in recent months.  I find myself questioning whether or not I’m okay including sex scenes in my books, or if I need to take a shot at writing something more “squeaky clean.”  Maybe it’s time to write something more spiritual.  I’m so confused.

Despite the excuses difficulties, I have finally finished His Heart Aflame.  Three days after I reached this point with my first book, my husband and I decided to get a divorce.  After that, I couldn’t stand to look at the book again, and I rushed into self-publishing without any further edits.  And it showed.

I won’t make that mistake this time.  My second book is going out later this week to two trusted friends – trusted friends who are both smart and brutally honest.   My final round of edits will take place after I get their feedback, so I’m hoping to release His Heart Aflame some time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  I wish I could narrow down the exact date, but I just don’t want to promise anything that I may not deliver.

In the meantime, I plan on sharing the first chapter here in my blog, just to build some excitement.    I’ve temporarily dropped my price on Her House Divided to get it out into more hands.  And now, just because I can, I’m also going to do a little cover reveal.

His Heart Aflame 1
Well? Hot enough for ya?

In The Woods

I don’t talk about my husband in my blog very often, other than the occasional mention of him as just a part of a story or commentary.  He is a very private individual who is uncomfortable with some of the things that I talk about here, so I respect his wishes and try not to shine the spotlight on him.  Besides, most of the times that I really want to talk about him are times when I really shouldn’t say the things I am thinking.  Especially not in writing.

However, we had an experience yesterday that I really feel the need to share because it shows a side of the man that people don’t usually see.

It started with a Trail Cam. This is a motion-activated camera that he got for Christmas a few years ago, ostensibly for use in identifying the best hunting spots on our forty wooded acres.  In theory, he is supposed to hang it in different places on our property for several days at a time so that he can get pictures of deer traffic, day or night.

I say “in theory” because he has used it for so much more.  He set it up to find out what kind of animal was messing with our bird feeders (raccoons) and put it near the mailbox to see who was disturbing our mail.  He has also had far too much fun hiding it in random spots around the house and then showing me pictures of myself in all kinds of unflattering nose-picking or butt-scratching shots.

Yeah, think about that for a moment.  Think about the things you do when you’re alone in your house, and let your mind wander about what kinds of pictures a hidden Trail Cam might get of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Creepy, right?

Yesterday, he sent me an interesting email from work.  Apparently, he took the camera’s memory card into work with him and was looking at the pictures on his lunch hour, and he found some pictures that he thought I should see.

I brought my trail cam card to work to look at pictures. There are some crazy things that go on in our woods at night.

Picture one made me go, “well, all right.”  Nice to know there’s at least one nice-looking buck out there.

PICT0132

Then I looked at picture two.

PICT0133

You know those little tiny hairs on the back of the neck?  Mine stood straight on end. Goosebumps started popping up all over the place.

Then I looked at picture three and immediately felt a very strong urge to pee my pants.

PICT0134

That poor baby! Was my first thought.  Was she still out there?  There had been a news story the previous night about a missing two year-old child in Grand Rapids; I wondered if she had somehow been transported to our area.

Then I looked at the date and time on the pictures:  August 22, 4:02 a.m.

My goose bumps gave birth to goose bumps.  My lungs went on strike and utterly refused to take in one more breath.  My eyes started watering.  My teeth chattered.

There is absolutely no way a little girl like that was roaming free in our woods at four in the morning two months ago.  We live in the middle of nowhere and there are coyotes and other wild animals out there that would not have left her unharmed.

Our nearest neighbor is close to a half-mile away.  They are weekend neighbors from Chicago, what the locals refer to as FIPs, and most FIPs are generally too busy looking down their noses at the locals to actually mingle with us.  It is highly doubtful that people of their elevated social status and self-importance would ever allow a child to wander in our dirty woods, day or night.

That left one other option, and my mind absolutely refused to wrap itself around it.

You see, we have a ghost in our house.  This house belonged to her aunt and uncle, and she spent a great deal of time here when she was growing up. Her brief and troubled life was torn apart by drug use and bad relationships, and local rumor says that she had four children taken away from her by Protective Services shortly before she died of an overdose.

I have seen the ghost several times, usually during my pregnancies or when one of my kids has been sick.  She stands over my husband’s side of the bed and gives me a sad smile before she vanishes.  Sometimes, she randomly turns on lights or the TV or some other such mischief.  She never does any harm.  She is just very, very sad and I think she stays at our house because she was happy here during her lifetime.

Looking at the pictures of that tiny girl in our woods, I just knew it was a childhood incarnation of our ghost.  Or perhaps it was one of her children that is no longer among the living, doomed to forever search our woods at night, looking for her mommy.

I was terrified.  Mind-numbing, pants-pissing, teeth-chattering terrified.  There it was, visual confirmation that we have more than one ghost.  After all, the times when I have seen the ghost in our bedroom have been times when I was just waking up, just coming out of a deep sleep; there is always a tiny possibility that those sightings are just very realistic dreams.  But an actual digital photograph of a ghostly little girl was just too much to comprehend.

I sent the pictures to my big sister and to one of my best friends.  And I started feeling less fear and more sadness for that poor baby.  That poor, tiny, lost soul, wandering our woods. I found myself wiping away a few tears as I thought about her.

Hubby and I continued to exchange emails as the day went on.  We exchanged theories about her identity and tried to find ways to explain who she could be and how she could have ended up in the woods, but we always came back to the fact that she just couldn’t have been a real flesh-and-blood little girl.

Near the end of the work day, I asked

You think the FIPs and their kids wander the woods at night, or do you really think it’s a ghost?

His answer?

I think those were tampered with pictures and I am messing with you.  LOL.

I don’t usually like being scared.  I have enough fear in my life, fear of really, really stupid things.  I hate slasher flicks and gore.  Even though the movies are about fictional people, I end up feeling so sad about the lives ending so suddenly at the hands of Freddy or Jason or whoever.

But I have a secret:  I love a good supernatural scare.    I adore movies that make me jump and scream.  I don’t want to watch “The Conjuring” or “Amityville Horror”, but sit down at a Ouija Board with me and just watch me shiver.  I’m talking about that delicious kind of shiver that starts at my gray roots and picks up speed on its way to my toes, only to meet itself coming back up.

I love the kind of scare that can truly be described as the “heebie-jeebies” because I am unable to utter anything other than noises that sound like “heebie” and “jeebie”.

You know, the kind of noises I made yesterday while looking at those pictures and pissing myself.

The best/worst part of this is knowing that my husband got me.  He pranked me good, and I fell for it.  Beneath the flannel and Carrharts, buried deeply under the aw-shucks country boy exterior and let’s-take-care-of-business attitude toward work, there lurks the heart of the world’s best prankster.

He reigns undefeated.

I want revenge.  I want to get back at him.  But really, let’s be honest here. I can’t top this one.  He wins.

Again.

Damn it.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/daily-prompt-frightening/

Seconds

It’s coming.

The sun came up an hour ago, and I went outside in the watery morning light to open up the chicken coop and let the chickens out.  It looked and felt like rain; even the morning weather girl on WWMT News seemed decidedly un-chipper when she warned of big storms with “potentially damaging winds”.

It’s coming.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and it’s as dark as it was at 5:30.  Through a crack in the living room curtains, I can see the trees swaying as those “potentially damaging winds” get closer.   The breeze coming through the window is surprisingly cool, and it brings with it a smell of wet grass, of dirt, of outside.

I just heard the first crack of thunder.  Looking out the back door, I can see dark, swirling clouds in a sky that has taken on a greenish-yellow tinge.

It’s here.

It’s perfectly normal to be a little bit afraid of some of the powerful storms here in Michigan.  I still crawled in bed with my mother during storms until I was in middle school.   I have childhood memories of watching storms come in off the Lake that were so strong that rain was driven through the walls of our cottage, around the window frames and under the door.  I was fourteen years old when an F4 tornado ripped through the downtown area, killing five people and leaving a trail of devastation that the town is still recovering from.

I will never forget the sight of the mannequins from Gilmore’s Department Store, strewn throughout the wreckage.

We thought they were bodies.

It’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive when these storms move in.   I have children sleeping upstairs, a husband on his way to work, loved ones out driving to and from work in this weather.  I have a dog and three cats who are currently freaking out, trying to hide under my couch and cuddle with me while simultaneously trying to avoid each other.  Any person would feel that little flicker of concern for their safety in threatening weather.

But what I am feeling is not normal.

It’s not fear or apprehension.

It’s stark, unreasoning terror.  It is the certain knowledge that I will die in this storm.   That these are the last moments of my life.  My heart is pounding; I can’t catch my breath.  I am ice-cold and boiling hot at the same time.  Menopausal hot flashes are nothing compared to the heat radiating from my body at this moment, while icy waves of numbing chills keep washing over me. My eyes burn with tears that I am too scared to shed.

It is not a matter of wondering if the storm will turn deadly.  I just know it will. Period.

Logic says otherwise.  After all, I have survived hundreds –no, thousands– of thunderstorms in my lifetime.  And really, what are the odds?   They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice.  By that reasoning, I should be the safest person on Earth.  Think about it:  how likely was it that one lonely tree on that stretch of road was going to fall over at the precise moment when I happened to be driving under it, at just the right speed, at just the right second?  One or two seconds earlier or later, to the right or to the left, and it could have missed me completely.

Or it could have killed me instantly.

So many random factors, all adding up to that one unpredictable, unstoppable instant.  That split second of “are you freaking kidding me?!”  when I heard it and saw it and knew it was going to crush me.  That infinitesimal moment that lasted forever but happened so fast that there was no time to do anything but watch.

Watch and know, beyond a doubt, that it was going to hit and it was going to hurt and that I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

It’s not what people think.  When storms hit, I am not re-living the entrapment, the extrication, the pain.  I’m not seeing what came after.  No, I am back in my van, in that one second.  Over and over.  Seeing the tree, knowing I had nowhere to go, no way to escape.  Smelling the rain, feeling the wind gusts rock my van, and not being able to do anything.

That’s the part I can’t move past.

That’s why I hate thunderstorms.   It’s not the storms themselves.  It’s that one tree, in that one second, that just won’t stop falling on me.

State of the Year

Today’s Daily Prompt was to write up a mid-year “State of My Year” post, and I have to say that I really liked this one.  I’m not very good at patting myelf on the back for my accomlishments, and I absolutely stink at setting realistic, concrete goals.  So it was nice to have a chance to do both today.

The first part of my year has definitely been productive, both in my personal life and with my writing.  I have accomplished the following:

  • Finished first rough draft of “Her House Divided”
  • Had my blog chosen for Freshly Pressed
  • Faced some fears (swimming, driving the Expedition)
  • Entered Writer’s Digest Contest
  • Joined Twitter
  • Joined RWA
  • Completed three RWA classes
  • Started writing poetry again
  • Lost 16 pounds
  • Acknowledged Depression and sought treatment

Goals for the second half of the year

  • Finish revisions on “Her House Divided”
  • Lose another 20 pounds
  • Complete three or  more RWA classes
  • Blog on a schedule
  • Reach 400 followers on  my blog
  • Get Freshly Pressed again
  • Sell a short story or poem
  • Have more fun

 

http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/beasties-bcks-and-bullshit-detectors/

http://suzie81.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/now/

http://geekergosum.com/2013/07/29/state-of-geek-ergo-sum-address/

http://likereadingontrains.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-tri-state-area-daily-prompt-state-of-your-year/

http://alanaab.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/daily-prompt-state-of-your-year/

http://skillcode.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/2013-state-of-my-year-so-far/

http://huntressayin10.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/this-is-my-year-daily-prompt-state-of-your-year/

http://jruthjones.com/2013/07/29/chaos-panic-and-disorder/

http://georgeandnigel.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/daily-prompt-state-of-your-year/

http://whatisonsecond.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/aprons-and-kerchiefs-and-brooms-oh-my/

http://booksmusicandmovies.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/dp-now/

http://jitterygt.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-state-of-me-is-better-than-the-state-of-you-know-what/

http://indacampo.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/daily-prompt-state-of-your-year-now-in-the-campo/

 

Jump Out or Garden, Craven Fool

Daily PromptTurn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.

Since I am home alone most of the day, I had to ask for input for the Daily Prompt from my friends on Facebook, and I realized just how eclectic, smart and delightfully twisted my friends are.  Not only did I get words like “craven”, I also got what is perhaps the greatest Facebook comment ever made.  Ever:

I asked my staff to help. I said give me an adjective to describe yourself.  From them I got “Jittery” (Obviously too much coffee) “Bloated” (Didn’t ask) and “Flatulent”. I have since decided to leave early for court . . .

Bless your heart.  I had no idea lawyers were so funny.

Back to business.  The word craven immediately made me think of Lord Archibald Craven in “The Secret Garden”. But since it’s used here as an adjective and not a great character in literature, I had to look it up.

It means “cowardly”.

Good word.

It really does describe Lord Craven.  He is a coward, trapped by his own fears in a cold and lonely world of his own creation.  He is so afraid of having a crippled son that his fear turns the boy into an invalid; he is so afraid of losing another loved one that he won’t allow himself to love anyone at all.   He is distant and terribly alone, all because of his fears.

If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s the story of Mary, a young orphaned girl who is forced to move from her luxurious home in India to her uncle’s lonely manor in England.  Like her uncle, Lord Craven, she is withdrawn and cold, starved for any kind of affection.  She “adopts” an old, abandoned garden and as the plants grow and blossom, so does Mary—and so does everyone around her.

It’s a story of growth and healing, of the strength of the human spirit if only it is properly tended.

Every year, when I planted my garden, I thought of Mary asking, “Please, sir, may I have a bit of Earth?” And I’d smile and tell myself that I read too much, and to shut up and water the damn plants.

Two years ago, I didn’t get my garden planted because of my car accident.  I was in the hospital when I should have been turning the soil, in a brace when I should have been weeding, feeling sorry for myself when I should have been harvesting.    I didn’t get it done last year, either;  the physical work was just too hard.  Too overwhelming.

Too scary.

I’ve been a craven fool, a coward, so afraid of pain that I’ve given up.  I stopped gardening, swimming, walking the KalHaven Trail, playing outside with my kids.  I let my fear of getting hurt again stop  my healing.  I’ve let my spirit die alongside my garden.

My little garden sits there, untended, overgrown, abandoned.  Just like Mary’s garden when she first discovered it.

IMG_20130502_123956

The Big Guy says we don’t need  to plant the garden this year.  We can buy our tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans without all of the back-breaking work.  He knows I’m scared, and he knows the work will be hard, and he wants to keep me safe.

But he never read “The Secret Garden.”

He doesn’t understand that gardening isn’t about the harvest.  It’s about the growth.