Tag Archives: writing prompts

Tuesday Temptations – A Piece of My Heart

Spring is in the air although the temperature belies the season. Central heat stills warms the house rather than the warm sun. Near the beach, the wind is still cool, the air crisp with promise that make kites dance and sun worshippers shiver. Walks along the water’s edge still chills bare feet and shell seekers find sand dollars among the whelks and clam shells soon to be discovered by vacationers. A few intrepid souls try surfing, wet suits zipped tightly to the neck.

Safe at Home

Safe at Home

I love the beach in any season, the endless rolling waves, the cries of gulls and serene flight of a squadron of pelicans make each visit a reminder of the constancy of the ocean and its shore. Anne Morrow Lindbergh recovered at the shore, walking miles along the sand, listening to similar sounds. She wrote in Gift from the Sea, “Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”  A walk along the beach provides the solitude to reflect and pursue the dreams coursing within. I seek the peace the shoreline offers, the bright hope of the constant sand and the creative direction as well.

These past winter months have opened new doors to friendships and jobs, new opportunities to develop.  The months of spring hold hope for change. I am changed each year in Spring, renewed faith that growth is possible and probable. The shoreline changes and yet is the same. The sand dunes rise and are swept to sea, the water washes out a sand bar, replacing it further along the coast. The birds continue to seek their dinner along the edge of the waves and nest far inland away from salt spray. A constancy of change is remembered each time I walk along the shore.

Wrightsville Beach Kite Festival

Wrightsville Beach Kite Festival

Kites fly above the dune, secured to railings and beach chairs. Vivid colors of the rainbow splash the clouds above. The few that fall nose dive to earth and rise again to sail across the horizon. Who can resist the temptation of a kite? The urge to run and tug the line sending the colors up to dance in any breeze. The solitude continues but beckons all who wish to try.

I seek the beach, I seek the restorative solitude and the crowds, the calls of the gulls and the sight of kites high above the dune, dancing.

 

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Monday Memories – School Days

The continued chronicle of a young American teenager living in Europe during the mid 1960′s.

Out the door, into the elevator and down the walk to the gold tipped iron gate at the street, we raced to be on time. My brother and I were to ride the bus to school, a great army green hulk of a bus, a relic of the post war years. There were no bus routes in my small American town, we walked the few blocks to and from school.  Our new home in St. Germain was miles from the American school provided by the military for dependents. The bus would wind through the narrow local streets, drive over the motorway and deposit us at the sprawling campus of Paris American High School. The sound of grinding gears preceded the bus as it rounded the corner and stopped at our gate. I hoped I’d remember the seat hierarchy outlined by my new friend, Carmen. Elementary up front, junior high behind them and the last four rows for the high school students. Bus seats were as important as the lunch table chosen in the cafeteria. New to bus rides, I found the fifth seat from the rear and grabbed the “chicken bar” as the driver roared away to the next stop. We stopped countless times, sometimes waiting for several minutes for the latecomers to race onto the bus with toast, books, and jackets flying around them.

The ride to school was 45 minutes from our gate and would be reversed at the end of the day. No late buses for sports or after school clubs, there was one bus for our area and everybody would start school at the same time. We arrived at the campus, entering through the gate with guards standing at attention and barbed wire surrounding the complex. There were so many buildings, the elementary school, the three-story high school with its junior high wing and the sports center behind. Two gated entrances were guarded by MP’s who ensured our safety in the middle of Paris. The students were “Army Brats”,  kids of NATO members, civilians with military clearance and the children of diplomats assigned to SHAPE headquarters. We all rode the same army green buses, all felt the first day jitters and all entered the typical American brick building for the start of the school year. No segregation due to rank, race or culture, we were American dependents continuing our education.

I was the new kid in class yet most there were new to the area. Military families moved often and starting at a new school was common. My school in the US was small compared to the multi level, spidering hallway building I entered. There was the challenge of finding the room, the locker, the gym and especially, the cafeteria. I was amazed to survive that first few days, amazed to find the gym locker rooms where I changed clothes from mini skirt to midi blouse and bloomer shorts, amazed to find the cafeteria with the trays and food lines and hundreds of kids. I had walked home at lunchtime throughout my early school days, but now encountered lunch lines, cafeteria food and keeping lunch money; I learned a whole new way of life. It was a full day of new experiences without opening a book.

At day’s end, the process reversed and we swarmed the buses lined along the sidewalk. No stenciled numbers, rather the overhead sign illuminated the bus routes. I searched for familiar faces and assured myself I would find the correct bus. I sank thankfully into my appropriate seat across from the other bewildered students and watched carefully for my brother and his friends. Fortunately there was a stop at the army base before my town, I could always stop there and wait for a general transport bus if I had boarded the wrong bus. The ride home was loud with daily recaps of schedules, mistaken classrooms and late notices and the singing from the front seats. Our driver, a seemingly ancient Algerian, smoked Gauloise cigarettes and winked at the girls, he would mutter in French as we neared each stop. Later in the fall, he would make a quick pit stop before my stop and relieve himself on the rear wheel of the bus before continuing on to my gate. The afternoon ride was comedy in action with the personalities involved.

I was a Paris Pirate for 5 short months. The lessons learned were varied and basic, more learning of life than academics. Memories of French bubblegum chewed secretively in gym class, the long lockers crammed with coats, sneakers and texts, the smell of the cafeteria on spaghetti Friday and the posters for Prom at the Eiffel Tower revolve in my mind. Those memories provided confidence for every job and school change when being the “newbie” could never be quite as terrifying as that first day, that first bus ride to a sprawling school campus dropped in the middle of Paris.

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Dinner Out

The continued chronicle of a young American teenager living in Europe during the mid 1960′s.

I left the small suburban town in America and moved to Paris at age 13. Our family had shared many happy family meals around the small oak table in our home yet I had yet to experience a restaurant like the Officer’s Club in Paris. The night was magical, the setting from a movie set. Red velvet draperies, crisp white linen tablecloths, silver table settings and a young girl set on living a dream.

My father had been living in Paris for several months before the family joined him. His daily routine had included many evenings at the Officer’s Club, with colleagues from his office, sharing a meal, ending a workday and our arrival did nothing to change that. We were going “out to dinner.” For some, this is a usual event, nothing special, yet for me, it was a magical night complete with a display of Paris couturier finery and a drive along the Seine.

The room was in an old pre-war building with high ceilings and long windows open to the summer evening. The maitre ‘d met us at the entrance and escorted us to the table. Silver service sparkled on the table, the linen napkins crisply folded at each seat. We were seated at a round table on the edge of the dance floor. My eyes were wide with anticipation, I had never been in a restaurant like this, there was a dance floor, four piece band and the lights of Paris outside our window. Seating us, the maitre ‘d snapped our napkins open and spread them on our laps. My father’s eyes twinkled with amusement and anticipation of sharing this experience with us. My mother leaned in and whispered her excitement.

We had dressed for dinner in our “best” clothes, a simple habit from my father’s youth. My lace dress seemed too drab for the elegance surrounding us, there were officer’s wives in evening gowns. Seated at our table we peered out at the room. Soft conversation surrounded us, the drapes absorbing the sounds of the diners. The tuxedoed waiters brought a basket of fresh French bread to the table. Oh glorious, it smelled like heaven, yeasty and crisp, the crust mad e crumbs on the tablecloth. My father reached across the table to show me how to rest the broken bread on my knife after buttering each bite. Such a small thing to remember all these years later.

We ordered the filet, a delicacy I had never experienced. Filet mignon, served with new potatoes and French string beans. A simple American dish, prepared by a French chef for newly relocated Americans. I’d never heard of the dish let alone had it prepared to my instructions. The waiter filled water glasses, scraped crumbs from the tablecloth and hovered attentively at the edge of the room. I absorbed every detail of the evening, from the taste of the food, the service of the wait staff and the sounds of the small band playing for the dancers. My parents left me at the table and headed toward the dance floor in between courses. Where had they learned to dance so effortlessly? When had they learned the etiquette of an elegant evening? I was learning every moment.

The evening wound on, the meal was complete with an eclair, served with powdered sugar on a lace doily. I wasn’t in New Jersey anymore. The wine, the sounds of other diners and the lateness of the hour had me nodding at my place. And then with some excitement, the room came alive as rack after rack of clothes were wheeled  on the square dance floor on display for the women in attendance. The waiters hovered expectantly as the wives rose and perused the offerings. Coats, jackets and gowns were offered to the women, all Paris originals and dazzling to my eyes. I asked my father, “Does this happen all the  time or is this a special occasion?” “It happens every night,” he replied. Oh my, Paris originals at my fingertips. First, filet mignon, now designer clothing. Would the evening have any more magic?

I learned to expect the Officer’s Club on Thursday nights. I learned the magic could include a moonlit drive along the Seine, a soft summer walk along the banks. I learned we had begun a new life in Paris that would change my way of looking at life and I would never forget that first restaurant experience. Designer clothes, crisp linens and a hovering wait staff serving a meal I couldn’t have imagined. Magic could happen, it was up to me to decide if it could last.

 

 

 

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Still Family

Today is my sister-in-law’s birthday. At least, she was my sister-in-law for many years until they divorced. Does that make her my “ex” sister-in-law or does she just become another person from the past?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with my was-band prior to our divorce. We had been married for twenty years, had two great children and shared extended family during that time. Now we were separating and I planned a trip with the kids to his parent’s home. During our discussion, he told me to “leave his family alone and get my own.” What a surprise to discover the people who I’d entertained after our children’s births, visited in hospitals, shared holiday meals with and attended funerals beside were no longer “my” family. Twenty years shared do not make them family? How was that possible? When did the line break, the in-law become outlaw for me?

I recently hosted a dinner honoring our son and his fiancée. They were the guests of honor and chose the people to attend. They wanted their family to attend and so the invitations went to all those in-laws of mine from long ago. They are still my children’s’ aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, although no longer my in-laws. Strange to make the separation.

It was a lovely dinner, with all those in-laws (and the was-band and his current amour) and I was glad to share the occasion with “my family.” Divorce cuts ties with spouses, not with family and that is the lesson we’ve shared with our children.

Happy birthday, sister-in-law, wherever you are, I hope it is a happy occasion and you are surrounded with love. You are still family.

'Ohana means family - no one gets left behind, and no one is ever forgotten.  ~ Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois


‘Ohana means family – no one gets left behind, and no one is ever forgotten. ~ Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois

 

 

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Cutting Your Losses or Giving Up

Life is the sum of all your choices.  ~ Albert Camus

Do you follow through regardless of the project’s difficulties or do you know when to say ‘enough is enough’? Do you finish every race regardless of how fast or slow you are? Do you overcome every obstacle vowing to finish or can you accept some projects are best left incomplete?

I am raising children, teaching problem solving and working on personal projects. I tend to be agreeable and accepting and strive to keep everybody happy. And that isn’t always the best thing for me. Selfish or self-preservation? A quitter or a sense of self-worth?

I didn’t want to be considered a quitter, and yet, the project seemed to suck all creativity from my bones. I was paralyzed by the simple tasks and the interpersonal struggle. Complete the tasks and pat my back or let go and move on? It is a matter of perspective and yes, there are personal feelings of self-worth involved. Character issues also, as I was raised to complete the project, regardless of outcome. You signed on so you must finish, disregard all sense of accomplishment or value.

I wonder what lesson is taught when the project consumes the creator yet is finished, completed, and done? My children watch and learn to persevere, to subdue anxiety in favor of checking a project off the list. No longer a creative endeavor, the project becomes a To-Do list entry to be scratched off and put to rest. What if I walked away from the project entirely, would that be teaching the kids to give up?

My dilemma is the emphasis put on walking away. Positive or negative? Walk away and be a quitter or walk away and cut your losses? Either way, a sacrifice, either way, you must face yourself in the mirror. Head held high or hung in shame. A dilemma either way.

What do you think?

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My Mentors, I Thank You

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  ~  Voltaire

“Thank you” seems inadequate to express my appreciation and gratitude to a number of women who have lifted me, supported me, guided me, encouraged me, and yes, rescued me during my life.  A dedication page in a book would continue for several pages, these women are so numerous. The following are a few of the reasons I say, “Thank you” to  my mentors in my career, family, and life.

1. Encouragement.

2. Creative prompts.

3. Financial advice.

4. Listening skills (X’s 10)

5. Belief in me.

6. Broad shoulders

7. Packing ability

8. Great sense of humor.

9. Soft shoes for the kick in the pants.

10. A great example of success.

What have your mentors given to you?

Thank You, Mentors

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