Sometimes it’s not about the writing…

The Last Sunday Writer’s Blog is about celebrating our writing and our writing successes, about trying out new things, giving kudos where kudos is needed.  On one day last week, November 3, kudos could be found in droves for three of our writers, Rossana D’Antonio, Laura Hoopes and Lisa De Long.

Rossana organizes and hosts the Power Works Women’s Leadership Conference held annually in Montebello. The theme this year was the Power of You.  There were over six hundred attendees, eleven speakers, tons of sponsors, and delicious food.  It was a celebration of women – the strengths and passions that lead to leadership.

Laura L. Mays Hoopes, Ph.D, Halstead-Bent Professor of Biology, Department of Biology, Pomona College spoke about her memoir Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling – leadership through passion and perseverance.  Lisa DeLong, author of “Blood Brothers” and activist in the fight against Leukemia, spoke on her journey of leadership through adversity.    Congratulations to our TLS writers!  And a shout out to Rob Daly, video/sound system/computer guru extraordinaire – we await the video presentation of our writers speaking!

Here are some photos showing our writers in the throngs of fans!

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Marcy

Written by Barbara Straus

For the first time in years I don’t hear the TV blaring as I approach the door of her apartment.   I use the key she gave me when she started spending less time outside and more time in her high back Ethan Allen chair watching TV, reading large print mysteries, and doing crossword puzzles.   Marcy’s worn SAS walking shoes, once taking her miles to the bus stop then to Hollywood park for an afternoon at the races, rest side by side next to her chair.

The stillness hangs heavy in the air like a black cloud weighted with rain.  Stepping inside, I wonder if this section of floor — right here by the door– is where she’d fallen.  Or was it over there, just below the coffee table, where a dark streak of something unthinkable stains the tan carpet?  Had she cried out when she realized she couldn’t get up?  Were her yells for help directed towards the dozens of photographs of me and my family scattered around her tiny studio apartment?  Did her voice carry above and beyond the drone of the Lifetime movies?  Oh the phone, just out of reach, up on the kitchen counter.  Did she count how many days turned into nights and back into days until the fire department finally broke down her door?

Every chair and square inch of the couch contains a handmade needlepoint pillow designed from photos of my childhood pets.  I pile them in a huge moving box, sure that one day I’ll un-stuff them and sew them together into a quilt. Over the 30 years she worked at my parents’ house, whenever homegrown chaos ensued, Marcy was in the next room dusting furniture.  Or cleaning windows.  Bringing order.  Bearing witness.

On this day I approach the filing cabinet in the middle of her closet with trepidation, having no clue what I’ll find. Unlocking the top drawer I see impeccably organized files — bank statements, receipts, social security card, birth certificate, bills.  Evidence of her life.  Of her death.  Insignificant pieces of paper. My ears throb from the quiet.

I yank sweat suits and nightgowns from their pink plastic hangers and quickly toss them into the box with underwear, bras, heating pads, sheets and blankets.  The faster I work, the less I notice.  Salvation.  Army.  Then I come across her red Pea coat.  Marcy used to take the bus across town for an afternoon of games and deli sandwiches with me and the children.  From blocks away, I could see the tiny dot of her bright red pea coat grow as she’d steadily make the uphill trek to my house.  When she arrived, the first thing she’d do was hang up that coat, sweep the children into her arms, then sit on the sofa and brush my daughter’s long brown hair into spun gold, just as she used to mine.

After Marcy became homebound I’d regularly bring her pictures of family and school events.  She had no one else. While enjoying cheeseburger happy meals and diet cokes we’d take our time removing the old ones from her extra large corkboard, and tacking up the new.  My guilt over leaving was ameliorated by knowing that her next few hours would be filled with transferring the loose photos into albums.  Towers of red, pink and blue albums, (that’s where she’d put them) line the perimeter of her closet.

The tiny studio apartment glows golden with afternoon sun, an unfamiliar sight since family dinner would always call me home by this hour. I missed dinner today in order to pack Marcy’s life into labeled moving boxes bound for a homeless shelter and black trash bags forced down the chute.  Her cherished furniture enthusiastically offered in high resolution photos on Craig’s list. Excellent Condition.  Like New!

I open a window.  Sounds of the street 4 floors below pour in like ocean waves, diluting the ivory soap scent of Marcy and the parts of me she held for safekeeping.

Home

written by Liz Eisen

The conversation goes like this.

Michael:  “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?”

Me: “Paris! I’d love to go to Paris. Everybody we know has gone to Paris this year.”

Michael: “You do know our anniversary is in six weeks.”

Me: “Yep, the date’s been tattooed into my brain for only about 25 years.”

Michael: “That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan Paris. What about Hawaii?”

Me: “Italy?”

Michael: “I’m going to do some research online.”

So, we’ve had only about 25 years to figure out where we want to go for our Silver Anniversary. And, to be fair, most of those years have been busy with the beautiful milestones we have shared as husband and wife. The birth of three children, buying and selling three different homes, me graduating from college, Michael starting a business. Not to mention all the bumps and bruises that come with almost 25 years of marriage kids and life itself.

So, planning this trip should have been a priority within, say, the last year, or even six months. And, we have tried. We have talked about, and subsequently dismissed: Paris, the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, Costa Rica, Tuscany, the Willamette Valley, Kona, Maui, Boston, Manhattan and a “Fall Foliage” cruise along the east coast.

Another conversation goes like this.

Me: “I was reading online about this great yarn store in Washington. It’s on Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. It’s a yarn and tea shop, is that perfect for me or what?”

Michael: “Do you want to go to Seattle for our anniversary? I could drop you off at the yarn store and then go fishing.”

Me: “Perfect, let’s spend our anniversary doing two different things…what about Paris?”

Michael: “What about Napa?”

Napa is our idea of heaven. The lush valley, the hills lined with perfectly formed rows of vines growing, yellow carpets of wild mustard, thousands of pastel tulips hidden in a meadow off Zinfandel Lane, the aromas of garlic and grapes permeating the air.

We’ve gone to Napa twice already for anniversaries and more recently for short trips when we’re already in Northern California taking or picking up Adam at college. The last time we were in the valley, we stopped and gathered “For Sale” fliers at a realtor’s office. Napa is where we plan to move when our nest is empty.

We’ve met some wonderful people in Napa. Derek and Roxanne, the British ex-pat and his wife the nurse, who own the B&B where we like to stay. Vito and Judy, the hairdresser and his beautiful lady, almost twenty years older than us and on vacation from Long Island who became dear travel friends in just a few short days. Justin, the adorable local young man who sat with us one afternoon talking about his recent vacation in Jamaica and how he couldn’t wait to get home to the valley. The sweet young girl pouring bubbly wine on the Mumm patio who told us she came to Napa for a friend’s wedding and never left. Roger, who was happy to drive a motor home across the country with his wife when her bank transferred to a new job in Sonoma. The couples from Pennsylvania, Texas and New York who chat like you’re old friends.

So maybe Napa is the reason that we haven’t booked a flight abroad or across the Pacific. The first 25 years have been a celebration of the past and present. Perhaps this vacation is supposed to be the jumping off point of the future.

Here’s how I think tonight’s conversation will go.

Me: “Napa is where I want to go for our anniversary.”

Michael: “Are you sure? I found this great website to make last-minute vacation plans. We might be able to work out Paris.”

Me: “I’m sure. Paris sounds amazing and we’ll go there sometime soon. But, I want to go to Napa. I can’t wait to go home.”

To A New Ex-Husband

written by Mary Rose Betten

In harsh Spring wind I rush
to the mailbox. There in full bloom
the rose you planted. White, edged in red.
 
Each Spring you announced
the name with pride.
I don’t remember its name.
This rose you birthed.
 
Yet I recall Burn’s poem
His love like a red, red rose.
Our passion now corpse white
fringed in blood from unattended
lop-eared needs.
 
Two indeed now one.
No longer yours alone.
One instead with splitting root
and weed-sown wind.

As Bread Loves Salt, A Fairy Tale From Greece

written by Laura Beasley

There was once a king, more clever than kind, who had three daughters.

This king was constantly asking pointless, unnecessary, and unreasonable questions.   One day, while sitting on his throne and staring at the princesses, he began to wonder how they felt about him, to question their affection. The king blurted out, “Tell me; how much do you love me?”

The three young women looked away.  They knew their father insisted that his every whim be satisfied.  His oldest daughter gazed at her emerald and ruby ring avoiding his demanding eyes.  Her father tapped her shoulder, repeating his inquiry, “Tell me, how much do you love me?”

The eldest princess twirled her ring, twisted her gold bracelet and fingered the heavy gold pendant on her chest.  As she turned to meet his gaze, her long gold earrings tapped  her slender neck.  She answered in a rush, “Oh Father, I love you more than gold and jewels and silver and gems.”

“Good,” said the king.

His second child had pulled her chair up next to the window.  She ignored her father, absorbed in the action in the courtyard below.  The young knights and squires sparred with each other on horseback and on foot.  Armed with swords or lances, they were engaged in mock fighting. She could not decide who was the most handsome. Her father’s demand interrupted her reverie, “Tell me daughter, how much do you love me?”

“Oh, Father, I love you more than all my boyfriends and sweethearts and beaux.”

“Good,” said the king.

The king neared his youngest daughter, his dearest and sweetest child.  She pushed thread in and out and through cloth secured by her embroidery hoop.  Looking  down at her work, she hoped the question would not be repeated.  Her father knelt down at her side and gazed up into her face. With her, his demand became a plea, “Tell me, how much do you love me?”

“This is not the sort of question that a daughter should answer to her father.”

“Nevertheless, I demand an answer. How much do you love me?”

“I love you, Father, as bread loves salt.”

“As bread loves…” he sputtered. “ That doesn’t… Bread’s not salty!  That doesn’t even make sense!”  Grabbing the youngest princess by the elbow, he yanked her to her feet.  The embroidery hoop, needle and thimble tumbled to the floor as he pulled her from the throne room and down the steps into the courtyard.  The king dragged the princess through the castle gates and onto the public roadway.  The dusty road swarmed with people traveling this way and that. These were people usually unseen by princesses in castles: common folk walking with ox-carts, pushing hand-carts, and carrying bundles. The king scanned the crowd.  Which of the many desperate, filthy people should he choose?  The king gestured to the dirtiest man he could find.  As the poor man knelt, the king insisted, “You will marry my daughter, the princess.”

The poor man answered, “Your majesty, great are the stories of your greatness and renowned are the tales of all that you have done.  Why have you chosen me to marry your daughter?”

“I need explain nothing; you will marry her now.”  The priest was summoned to perform the ceremony on the public road.  The princess went off to live with the poor man and his widowed mother in a one-room hut outside the city.  Being a true princess, she made the best of her meager circumstances.  She worked hard, scrubbing, cleaning, preparing meals, and lovingly caring for her husband and mother-in-law.  Her husband suffered because, married to a princess, he couldn’t begin to provide the sorts of things that he thought she wanted.

For the next few months, the poor man found some work as a porter carrying packages in the marketplace.  One day, after meeting with a group of men, he returned home with something important to tell his family.  The princess was anxious to share some news of her own as well.  Being a respectful wife, she let her husband speak first.  He told them, “I’ve decided to go on a long journey.  There is a group of merchants who will be traveling in a caravan.  They need a servant, so I will accompany them. In time,  I may be able to make some money.  If I am ever able to send home money or food, I will.  I cannot make enough money in this busy city to be able to support you.  I have no idea when I will return.”

The princess knew there was nothing she could say to change his mind.  She silently kissed him farewell, sad that her husband was leaving. Understanding his decision to leave, she could not share her news with him.

After walking with heavy bundles each day, his work continued every night.  The poor man set up the tents, prepared the meal and carried water from wherever he could find it.  The merchants traveled many miles for long hours, waiting until evening to make camp.  One night, when the poor man went alone to find water, green noxious smoke rose up from the well.  He blinked as his eyes watered.  Floating above the surface of the water was a horrible green water-demon.  The terrified man bowed his head sputtering, “G-g-goood evening, sir.”

“Because you have spoken kindly to me, I will not kill you the way I have killed the others who have taken my water.  Instead I will give you a gift, but I advise you to open it only when you are alone.” said the water-demon.  With that final word, the monster dissipated into a cloud of smoke.  The man squinted as the smoke sucked back deep into the water.  When he opened his eyes, he found three pomegranates on the edge of the well.  He put the fruit in his leather shoulder-bag and carried the bucket of water back to camp.  The next morning, the poor man met a stranger who was traveling in the opposite direction. After describing where his mother and wife lived, he asked the stranger to take one of the pomegranates to his family.  The stranger was an honest man who located the small home and gave the fruit to the old widow.  In gratitude, the princess fed him bread and soup.  After he had left, the old woman said, “Let’s cut open the pomegranate and share the fruit, daughter.”

As the princess struggled to slice the fruit in half, she thought that the seeds may have hardened inside.  She was amazed when dozens of exquisite diamonds spilled out.  Now they could live in comfort and happiness.  They sold the gems and they had a palace built on the same spot as their poor cottage.  They built a magnificent fountain with clear water providing an oasis for lonely travelers to drink and bathe.  Many poor and desperate strangers appreciated the comfort received at the fountain.

After more than a decade, the poor man was ready to come home.  Carrying his modest earnings, he was astonished when he returned to the city of his birth and found a palace on the very spot where he had lived with his family.  Perplexed and confused, he looked through the window and recognized an elegant woman. “It is my wife!  She’s years older, but still so beautiful,” the astonished man blurted out.

As he continued to spy, the husband realized his wife was not alone.  She was joined by a young man.  She reached out, touching him on the shoulder and then embracing the youth.  In fury, the poor man gripped the knife in his pocket, ready to burst through the door and punish this betrayal.  He paused long enough to remember the many years he had been gone.   Although he had tried to send money and food, he had no idea if they had received any of it.  Maybe his wife thought herself a widow.  Maybe she’d married this rich young man to survive.  They should be left to their happiness.  He turned to walk away.

However, before leaving, the poor man changed his mind again.  Without knowing why, he followed a sudden impulse to push the door open.  His wife shouted in joy, “Husband, you’re home!  Look son, it’s your father!  Mother, come quickly!”

Before he knew it, the poor man was being hugged by his wife, his son, and his mother who had survived these many years.  They were delighted to be reunited as a family.  Confused, he asked them, “I don’t understand; why are you living in a palace?”

His wife explained, “But, you sent us that pomegranate full of diamonds!”

“Pomegranate?”  He began to remember what had happened so many years before.  Being a hardworking servant who never had a moment to himself, he had not sliced them open.  Having assumed the fruit had spoiled and dried up long ago, he had forgotten about them.  With his family watching, he opened his leather pouch and found the other two pieces of fruit.   When he cut them open, he saw that these pomegranates were full of diamonds as well.  Since the family already had a beautiful home, they used their new wealth to provide for the poor, desperate, and needy.  People came from far around to seek aid and support.

News of this generous and charitable family spread far and wide, even to the royal castle.  The curious king made it his business to meet wealthy strangers.  He sent word that he would visit them the next week.  The princess made plans to provide a feast to honor the king.  She instructed her cook, “There will be several courses, naturally.  All of the sorts of food you prepare will be wonderful.  But I have some specific instructions regarding the first course.  The first course should include bread and meats.  These need to be prepared with absolutely no salt.”

“But, mistress, this is not a good idea.  The meat will taste so bland.  But, the bread!  The bread will be even worse.  Bread without salt will crumble and collapse.  It will look horrible and taste strange,” said her cook.

“Nevertheless, this is what I want,” said the princess.  The feast was prepared, and the first course was served.  The king sat with his vizier at the head table.  The princess, wearing a veil, attended to her guests.  She inquired of her guest of honor, “How do you like the food, your Majesty?”

“It’s quite unusual,” replied the king.  “I don’t think I have ever had food exactly like this before.”

The hostess reached into her pocket and took out a little sack full of salt.  “That’s because everything in this first course, even the bread, was made without salt.  You do not notice the taste of salt in most bread, but even a little bit…”  She pinched some of the salt between her fingers and let it fall through the air.  “Even a teaspoon of salt in a loaf of bread will change it so much.  The salt helps stop the yeast from overgrowing so that the bread will rise but not spill all over the oven. The loaf becomes strong, sturdy, and shapely.  Without any salt at all, the bread will be crumbly and taste sour.  Every good cook knows that bread loves…”

The king interrupted, “Wait!  That bread loves salt.  When someone told me that years ago, I didn’t know what she meant.  She was my youngest daughter, the daughter that I lost because of my stubborn foolishness.”

The hostess lifted her veil, “Father, I am not lost.”

Daughter and father embraced because she still loved her father as bread loves salt.

Writing

A poem written by Barb Force

Last Sunday Writers are writing poetry!
I procrastinate.
Perfectionism– procrastination–paralysis

Yes, that is me.

I jot down thoughts.
They are all jumbled.
Thoughts race at the dog park.
Words careen as I drive.
Ideas soar and dance at the symphony.
Thoughts move to the rhythm at water aerobics.
Subjects change lanes on the freeway.
Words swirl around in my dreams,
But when I wake, they are gone.
And the paper: empty.

I set aside time.

The insistent telephone interrupts.
The lawyer-we need to talk.
The tenant-the refrigerator isn’t working.
The broker-about the re-fi.
The nurse-Mom hurt her hand.
My cousin- Aunt Terri went on hospice.
Constant drip drip – need new water heater.

Am I supposed to write?

National Poetry Month 2011 – In culmination of a month well read!

In culmination of a month well versed in poetry, our two poets today are Laura L Mays Hoopes and Laura Beasley

Driving Down the Mountains at Sunset

written by Laura L Mays Hoopes

And so the edge of night approaches
Lines the south side of peaks with golden glow
Draws a red line where the sun just disappeared
Along the mountains’ thrusts and plunges.

The blue on blue of peak beyond peak
No human lights to pull the eye from deepest violet
A white stone outcrop like a ship with sails
Spread wide to winds that whip the roadside weeds.

Cars and trucks turn on their lights,
Making chains of gold and red
That spiral around the valleys
Like necklaces and bracelets.

The sky inks over and loses its glow
And now the mountains are just shoulders
Blocking a few stars, a no-color, no-light place
Where grass and sage waft perfumes to moths.

‘Til Cancer Comes for You or You Need to Finish Your Story

written by Laura Beasley

So, why did you write a poem about cancer?
First they squeezed and scanned, so they could find the lump.
Oh, I see.  I know exactly what you are going through.
First they squeezed and scanned, so they could find the lump.
Then they cut my neck, so they could biopsy.

Oh, thanks for telling me.

First they squeezed and scanned, so they could find the lump.
Then they cut my neck, so they could biopsy.
Then they poisoned me with chemotherapy!

Oh, now you’ve told me more than I need to know

Let me finish my story!
First they squeezed and scanned, so they could find the lump.
Then they cut my neck, so they could biopsy.
Then they poisoned me with chemotherapy!
Then they sapped my strength, they left me all fatigued.

Or maybe you’re just depressed!

No, No, you’ve got to let me finish my story!
Now I have to start from the beginning again!
First they squeezed and scanned, so they could find the lump.
Then they cut my neck, so they could biopsy.
Then they poisoned me with chemotherapy!
Then they sapped my strength, they left me all fatigued.
And then they squeezed and scanned
and now the cancer is all gone!  THE END.

Now I’ve heard all about you, I’ve heard all about cancer.

But wait…., you have to finish your story!
Just wait…., ‘til cancer comes for you! 2/11/01