Do You Hear the People Sing?

As mentioned before, the three of us zoom each week to not only discuss marketing, but to write on a prompt we take turns providing. I decided to share ours for yesterday. You just never know where it will take your writing.

Les Miserables

Sally’s Prompt: Pick one of your favorite stanzas, lyrics or chorus from a song, write it out and continue with a short story, poem, or why it means so much to you.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

—- Les Misérables Musical

I first heard Les Misérables years ago, when it was still new as a Broadway play. Cortney, Chad, and I were driving from Minnesota to Frisco, Colorado during that summer to stay at a condominium a friend had loaned us. Danny and Stacey had gone earlier for reasons I can’t remember. A result of age? Cortney put in a CD, Les Miserable. Though I’d never heard it before, I was instantly mesmerized. It was the writing, the meaning, the poetic style of Les Misérables that grabbed me. The words and music, beautiful.

I listen to the album often and I can’t help but think those words are a metaphor for the Ukrainians. They are in a battle they refuse to back down from, one at high cost for the people, for the country. It becomes so apparent when any of the people are interviewed. They love, truly love their country, their way of life, and most importantly, their freedom. I watch them in unbelievable awe. Ukraine’s citizens and soldiers have been tortured, deprived of food, heat, and water with their homes demolished to the ground—homes they built, schools where they sent their children. I cannot fathom their courage and have wondered more than once, Would I fight that hard, be that willing to die for my freedom? Would I stay in a country where I know there’s a strong possibility I would be tortured, brutally killed?


Still, Ukrainians stay and continue to fight for their freedom. I’ve never had to face having it taken away. I was born into freedom; I live in it. I know it is a basic human right and due to pure luck being born in America, I haven’t had to worry if I’ll have enough food, heat, water, and shelter. I haven’t had to worry if my children or grandchildren are safe from a war never asked for. I haven’t had to bury those I love in a shelled piece of ground full of craters, far from any cemetery, stripped of dignity.

This stanza reminds me that oppression of people, of countries, is never accepted by the human soul. One only hopes that all the death and devastation contributed to a war will free the Ukrainians. Until then, they keep on fighting.

A Piece of Bread

I am not one to watch any kind of daily television, not because I’m on a soap box here, but because I just like doing other things. However, in the evening after the five o’clock news, my husband and I nightly become the television series experts of all time, watching one after the other. “Which one should we watch tonight?” he says. I grab a written list on the coffee table next to me, choose one, and away we go! Anyhow, two days ago, I decided I was going to watch CBS Sunday Morning my husband records for me since he doesn’t care to watch it. I have no idea why I decided to, but it caught my attention immediately.

The show opened with a segment on “happiness.” It showed four women potters from New York city who had taken classes together for years, the oldest and first member in 1971, the newest since 1995. They told of their connection and defined it as a “nearly intangible bond.” All four were clear on the benefit received being together…a sense of belonging, security, intimacy, creativity, and shared experience. I perked up and thought, That’s us, that’s our writing group! Ours are the same reasons. Then came the ache.

Yesterday, our writing group chef, Sally, texted me a picture of a garlic and herbal swirl bread she’d made to accompany her homemade southwest chicken soup. Yumm. She then wrote, “Wish it was for the ‘ol writing group…sure do miss each hosting, promoting and writing.” I texted back, “Such a loss. I didn’t realize it would evolve into that but guess that is just life.” 

It began with me. I moved to Colorado. That left the three in Tucson and the meetings weren’t as regular. Next, the pandemic stopped Linda, Diana and Sally from meeting at all. Finally, Linda decided her life was moving onto a different path when it came to the book. We tried to stay in touch regularly, but the book with all its zooms, took a great amount of time. The book is finished and published and yes, Sally, Diana and I zoom almost weekly, but as Sally implied, “Wish we were together.” I understand. It’s just not the same when you can’t sit around a table and write, eat and share your life together. Life constantly changes and this is a big one. Sal, can you send me a slice of that bread?  

Thursday Prompt 1. 11. 2023

I once read that even when a writer doesn’t have a pen in hand or a keyboard to use, he or she is creating sentences in their head, observing life around them, such as an argument in a grocery store, two young lovers kissing in the most unusual settings, or the recent and controversial interviews with Prince Harry. A story is being formed. The author says, “All is fodder.” Every situation you experience can begin in your mind, then released to become your next writing. What fodder grabs you—conversations, walking a country road, a Broadway play? Write about it. You might be surprised.

A SIMPLE DESK

Just a short note: Rusty, in his usual chair, is my co-author while I’m writing at my desk. 

In my mid-fifties, I decided I wanted a desk built by my father. He was skilled at wood working and he made beautiful pieces—bookshelves, afghan racks for quilt displays, chairs, and small doll benches for his grandchildren. For years, I had wanted him to make a writing desk for me. Finally, he agreed. “Really simple Dad,” I said as I roughly sketched my idea at their kitchen table. I didn’t want anything more than four legs, one drawer, and an average-sized top. I dreamed of placing it in front of a window, gazing outside as I wrote.

It was a few months before the desk was complete. My mother told me over the phone it was finished. “It’s beautiful,” she said.  Living in Arizona with them in Nebraska, I couldn’t wait until my visit the next month to see it. My parents and sister, who was also visiting them, were sitting at the kitchen table when I entered. My mother excitedly said, “It’s in the sunroom,” as if there had been a new baby in the family. We three went into the sunroom, my father following. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was incredible. Made of oak, it had scalloped lines, four small drawers on top, one on both sides and a large one in the middle. A curved foot rest was added. It had been repeatedly varnished and shone like a newly waxed kitchen floor. 

And then, my chest tightened, and tears started, soon to become sobbing. My sister and mother had tears, also. “Thank you, Dad,” I repeated over and over. He never directly looked at me and I knew not to hug him, he didn’t like it. I also knew it was his hindered way of attempting to mend the painful, long-lasting relationship we’d had since I was a child; that he could not, nor would he, do anymore to address it. 

It was all I could expect of him and it somehow healed a deep wound inside. Once in a great while, I find myself disappointed he didn’t listen to what I wanted, not a fancy one, just a simple desk. He overrode me, but that’s how our relationship was. He had final say. He didn’t know me at all. Still, I am grateful for the desk. It’s a reminder he tried and I was able to forgive. Isn’t that what we all want? To forgive and be forgiven.

Handwritten

I love the written word and of course, what author doesn’t? That is what we do–write. It’s clearly our joy and at times, our job. We record the signs of our times—our families; all the events that make us smile, all the tragedies that bring us to our knees, emails or Facebook with friends, editorials, and last but not least, support for issues that stir us into action. 

But here’s the thing. Let me start with Christmas cards. Once upon a time I hung them on our living room doorsill. They ran up one side and down the other and consistently included a few lines to say hello, here we are in life now. My favorite were the letters that reviewed the year for the family, pictures included as an extra bonus. I didn’t realize then it would be the word inked in one’s handwriting that I took for granted. At that time, fifteen to twenty years ago, the cards started whittling down; this year receiving five. However, this year and the past, I still flip through my address book, sending twenty at least. I just can’t give up the tradition, the handwriting them. Could it be because I dread seeing this personal connection fade or is it simply because I am a writer and love personal writing? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both.

What I do know is I miss grabbing a personal envelope out of the mailbox, often irritatingly hidden by unwanted advertising cards. I happily read the return address, then walk past a few houses to my home. Sometimes I wait a few hours before I sit down to read it in a quiet place. I do the same with great books—read them slowly. I’ve never read a book at one sitting. It’s like a peanut butter cup, something to be savored. I read a few pages or a chapter at bedtime. A card or letter is the same and deserves quiet and thoughtfulness. 

I know, I know, using emails, Facebook and others expand our world and take much less time to relay messages.  Don’t get me wrong, I use them too—a lot. We all can type a few lines, maybe more and the message will speed anywhere quickly. However, I still write letters or fill a card with news. Luckily, I have two longtime friends who do the same and I love it. We don’t write weekly or anything, but when I do hear from them through handwritten communication, I’m delighted. I just don’t want to give up that written word to communicate. Like I said, maybe it’s the writer in me.    

Remember Saturday?

Last Saturday, our daughter and family, my visiting niece and hers, and my husband and I traveled to Breckenridge to have some fun— at a snow tubing facility. I didn’t participate due to the fact I was in physical therapy. Nothing major, but I seem to find excuses for not doing my exercises and didn’t want to take any chances making physical therapy last longer. While they sped down the slick runs of packed snow, I sat in the lodge at the last available table we luckily grabbed. The tall brick fireplace with its radiating fire, combined with a cup of coffee and people gazing, made for a delightful time while the others zoomed down the snowy hill. They were too far away for me to watch, but the lodge’s floor to ceiling windows and brick fireplace made for a cozy wait while drinking coffee. Once they returned from sledding, their cheeks and noses flushed, they bought hot chocolate and recounted their rides with plenty of belly laughter as they did. Their stories were infectious, and we chattered happily traveling down mountain to return home. This was clearly a day to be journaled.

However, I didn’t. In fact, I haven’t journaled since we began preparing our book for publication, which has been some time. Diana journals daily in the mornings and Sally often, too. I’ve wondered why I’ve not. The only answer I surmise is I am on a sabbatical of some sort. I had no idea writing was that intense and yes, draining at times. Yikes. As our book relays, the three of us met every week on zoom, at least once, often twice, and sometimes more. We allowed nothing to deter us. 

I’m glad we each write for our blog site weekly and continue to zoom once a week to discuss our marketing strategies. During that time, we still read our personal writings on a prompt we take turns providing. I’ll return to journaling. Recording a day like last Saturday is a great memory to capture for myself and more importantly for others. As previously shown in Sally’s blog regarding her great-grandmother’s journal, capturing past memories in one’s own perspective links us to each other in a personal way.    

Your Coffee House

A couple days ago, my daughter had an appointment in Arvada, an older suburb of Denver. The “Old Town” is charming with renovations morphing into coffee houses, boutiques, and restaurants. I rode along with her since she’d suggested there was a fun coffee house located there. “You can write while you wait,” she said. “Then, we have to go into the shop next door. Their Christmas items are so pretty.” She knows I’m a sucker for Christmas decorations. She also knows I can’t turn down a visit to a great coffee shop. Combine a latte with a new Christmas item and I’m in, all the way.

            She left for her hour appointment a block away and I ordered my almond milk, sugar-free flavored latte and settled at a small round wooden table by a large window framing the street outside lined with lamps. Christmas lights were wrapped around fresh greenery and finished off with red plaid bows, the perfect touch. I set my computer on the table, drank my latte, and wrote. I can’t begin to tell you who walked through the door or what they wore or even said. A coffee shop is my “happy place” for writing. All else fades.  

            I’ve always been intrigued as to where writers prefer to write, where they do their best creating. There are so many places I’ve heard or read about. A bedroom turned into one’s private writing nest, an office with computer and printer sitting on a desk, a conference table in a worker’s lounge used during breaks, a cozy chair facing a window with nature just outside or even a patio table on a deck. That’s just a few. The important thing is that wherever one writes, there’s a good chance that just like my coffee house, the rest of the world is shut out and the words become the only noticeable activity. 

Shoestrings and Rescues

A friend and I had searched for a dog rescue where we’d like to volunteer. Heaven knows, there’s plenty of them encircling just our area. Through a small community paper article, we discovered one that rescues mainly puppies and their mothers—strays, mostly emaciated, feeding five or six young puppies. The owners work with a woman on one of the New Mexico reservations to help rescue as many dogs as possible. The rescue also pairs up with the humane society to adopt them. The puppies are adopted quickly, the mothers not so much. It’s heartbreaking and one just hopes they also are taken into a loving, caring home. 

We currently volunteer one day a week and it’s such delight to socialize the little ones with cuddling and belly rubs. Today, two fuzzy polar bear-looking puppies played tug of war with my shoestrings. Their little growls are delightful. The others come over, scrambling over each other in their clumsiness to reach us. How can you not laugh?

Currently, there are two mothers and three sets of puppies (the youngest set are still bottle fed since their mother was never found). We walked the mothers down a country road where the rescue is located. At times, they were skittish and stopped to stare at the prairie fields beside us. We never figured out what they were looking at, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t see or smell something far off. One can almost intuit their former life and the vigilance necessary to survive. Once we turned around to head home, the two dogs nearly pulled us over, tugging at their leashes, in a rush to check on their babies. Animals are teachers. We just need to notice.

During this season of giving, please consider donating to any rescue of your choice—cats, dogs, mustangs, or anything else. It would be a wonderful Christmas gift. Maybe give some shoestrings?

One Festive Moment

“Twas four weeks before Christmas, when all through the house, flour was sitting…” and so on. I love Christmas and all the festivities accompanying it. However, I diligently wait until December 1st to begin with music, decorating and cards (yes, I still write them). So, two nights ago I cheated. I decided to make chicken rice soup while listening to Christmas music. I was tra-la-la singing along with Hallelujah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The soup called for flour to thicken the broth. Still singing loudly (I was alone in the house), I opened the pantry door and grabbed the flour stored in a large, square plastic Oxo container secured with its awesome push-down lock lid. Before you could wink an eye, as I turned around to leave, the lid gave way in my hands. At least half of the full container of unbleached flour soared into the air like confetti tossed on the bride and groom as they exit the church. 

After considerable cussing, I surveyed the area. Our wooden floor, the stove-top and oven door, the entire bottom half of the cupboards, the counters, the garbage can, the Keurig coffee machine on the counter, the pottery Keurig cup container and my sweatshirt, sweatpants and wool socks were covered in a flour mist. A rather thick one. 

I took off my sweatshirt, pants and socks, leaving footprints across the laundry room. Tossing them in the washer, I grabbed a broom. Bad idea. It doesn’t work. Just then, our dog Rusty came trotting around the kitchen counter to check out the situation. After walking through the floured floor to check on me, he happily pranced down the hallway to go to sit in his favorite chair, leaving white dog prints the entire length. Taking a very deep breath, I set the broom outside on the deck rather forcefully and watched as the bristles made a cloud of flour softly sift into the air like angel dust.

I didn’t want to use our vacuum, so filled the kitchen sink with warm water and a little dish soap. Using two sponges, a rag, and my hands and knees, I wiped it all. Over and over. I locked Rusty in my room and wiped up his canine trail. The entire chore lasted nearly an hour. I no longer wanted to hear Christmas music. Instead, I fixed the lid on the Oxo container and still maintained enough composure to thicken the soup. When my husband came home, I casually remarked, “Guess what happened?” I knew he wouldn’t be surprised. He knows me. And by the way, today I found traces of flour under the dining room table and oven.