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Friday, December 20, 2013

Naughty or Nice

Naughty or Nice

GBE 2: Blog On  Week #135

Flopping down onto the bed, she lay on her back.  The ceiling seemed to hold her thoughts and floating between herself and the ceiling lay memories.  Floating as dust mites, wafting and waiting for recollection.

The last time she felt this wound up, this exuberant, this on edge, she had to sleep for days afterwards in recuperation.  Older and wiser, she understood the consequences of acting on this “feeling”. Plucking that memory from the air she turned onto her side and smiled.  Mona Lisa couldn't give a more mischievous smile.

“Naughty!” She heard that often while running down the hallway after chewing on the spare roll of toilet paper her human kept hidden in the cabinet.  “Naughty!” After biting the toothpaste tube and eating that glorious minty gel, then throwing it all up in the middle of the couch.  “Naughty!” When her human’s friend walked past and she grabbed a leg to trip them up.  “Naughty!” The litter box was full so she had to resort to using her human’s clothing which was strewn on the floor.  “Naughty!”  As she put her paw into her human’s drink container to have a little taste.  “Naughty!” The dead mouse got the best reaction.

Laughing, she licked her paw.  There is much to be said for Naughty! Naughty definitely gets attention.  But, then, again….there is “Nice.”

Nice is lying here on the human’s bed, breathing in the wisp of dreams left behind.  Insinuating her own so they might intertwine for tonight.  Nice is curled on the human’s lap watching “Animal Planet”, when it’s Big Cat week! Nice is being scratched in all those places she just can’t reach herself.  Nice is a shared treat from the kitchen.  Nice is sitting together on the deck in the Spring sun. 

There is much good to be said about nice. Nice gets another kind of attention.  After all, isn't that the real question?  How will you demand your attention?  Naughty or Nice?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Anti-Bucket List

Anti-Bucket List

Week # 134 GBE 2: Blog On

Pulling my shawl a little closer around my shoulders, I hunched against the smooth cold earthen wall.  The weather simply had not let up in days.  While we had supplies for a week, two if we really stretched the water, we needed to get out of the cramped safety hull.  Jimmie had been laying stretched out next to me, I picked his feet up and slid them into my lap under my heavy shawl. 

This season of dust storms started blowing during the coldest winter on record.  The dust is so fine, it penetrates everything it comes into contact with.  With wind gusts up to 70 mph, you cannot help but breath it in.  Like breathing on the end of a sand blasting hose, it tears up your lungs.

The children have it the hardest.  Some little ones have only ever know the harsh weather patterns we now have.  I am old enough to have a vague memory of still star filled nights and hot moist afternoons laying in the grass staring at the same cloud for what seemed like hours.

Initially, GreatGran would tell stories of the dust bowl days of her youth.  The Great Depression, the dust storms, and hunger across the nation.  She would tell us how they found that Mother Earth needs her grasses to hold the soil.  She needs the prairie dog to enrich the soil.  Once again, corporate greed ignored the lessons learned by past generations.  The wind gusts, dust pounds on the outer most boards protecting the seals.  The dust pounds trying to take revenge on those of us who have persevered and lived this long. 

This is a worse drought/famine than in GreatGran’s time.  This time China, Russia and the United States have ignored the needs of our planet…all three of the “great nations” have extreme drought.  There isn't going to be a “hero” this time.  Everyone is hungry.
“It sounds like the worst of the storm is overhead now.  It should be soon and we’ll be able to go forage.” I sound far more confident that I am. “Let’s play the game.  Angela, you go first.”

We each in turn told one another of dreams we've had, whether they were night dreams or days dreams it didn't matter.  What mattered was that we talked.  We couldn't forget to talk to one another, then we would simply become objects to one another and risk our very humanity. 

When it came my turn I spoke of my memories; sun drenched days basking in the tall grass at the edge of the garden as we plucked the sweet baby corn from their stalks, still moon swept nights with the windows open watching the curtains for that first slow whisper of a breeze, lying in bed listening to the birds soft morning songs rousing the world from sleep.  I told many more stories that night than I had in the past few years, I guess I was a bit nostalgic. Coughing, I dragged on.  I wanted them all to know. 

One little cherub turned her face to me, “Why do you call this game the Anti-Bucket List?” 

I smiled and touched her face.  “It is my list for life.  My reason to fight on.  It is not the things I want to do before I die…it is my celebration of why I plan to wake up in the morning.  My Anti-Bucket List.”


Tuesday, November 26, 2013



GBE 2: Blog On
Week #132 (11-24-13 – 11-30-13)

I am inspired by people who do things without regard to the “heroic” accolade.

I am inspired by love in the atmosphere.

I am inspired by kindness.

I am inspired by goodwill towards ALL mankind, not just those you know personally, not just those in your immediate sphere of influence.  ALL MANKIND.

“Mom…don’t nag.  I know, I know, I should visit with Dad more.  But, our relationship is half his responsibility too!”  I could see my daughter was upset.  Visibly her eyes flashed and audibly her voice was beginning to crack.  We had, once again, touched upon the tender topic of her father.

He is currently in remission from lung cancer, stage four. 

Their relationship began tenuously.  When I confirmed I was pregnant at the age of 26, with five years of marriage under our belts, he told me he was too young to be a parent.  I became the overbearing, over protective, over indulgent Mamma Bear.  Her father became the aloof, had to work out of town, wouldn’t take her with him to the ice-cream store unless his good friend also was relegated baby-sitting his son who was the same age.  (Thanks Randy)

Disconnected, we cohabitated for many years. Holding small grudges against one another, disdain quickly permeated the household. 

The divorce was ugly.  We won’t go into that now, for this essay is about inspirations. 

My daughter was thirteen and wanted to join in a function through school.  Since those practices were to be held on the same day as her “mid-week” visit with her father, I told her we would have to make certain to get his approval.  He didn’t approve.  She couldn't participate.

She wanted desperately to be a cheerleader.  After deciding she just had to try and making the “cut”, that particular squad’s coach quit.  I volunteered to be a stand-in until they found someone.  (three years later, they found someone)  Upon meeting my diverse squad, I realized very quickly that accommodations had to be made for the emotional growth of these beautiful girls. 
My daughter’s biological father came to a few of the games she cheered at.  We encouraged her to go with him to dinner after the games.  We encouraged her to interact with him.  We felt a good relationship would be good for her emotional growth. 

In the public school my daughter attended, nearly every child on that cheer squad came from a broken home.  Many didn’t know one or the other of their parents.  Some wished they didn’t know the parent they lived with, coming in with bruises.  All needed loving attention.  (I was given that large family I had wanted in my youth!)  Shortly after accepting this temporary position, that paid me a whopping $68.45 per month, my daughter was moved up to the next level of cheerleaders and off my squad.

As a public school team, we used the uniforms on hand. (they were about 20 years old) Of the sixteen young ladies on the squad, two were not afraid to ask their parents for the money to buy new white tennis shoes.  My wonderful husband never said a word when I happened to buy a “few extra” pairs of shoes.  He helped me wash and alter uniforms for children we may or may not ever see again.  He cooked dinner for our gaggle of geese; sixteen Black, Hispanic, and Asian girls often spent the night with their blond haired, blue eyed coach and her equally white husband.  The girls would often play with my hair and tease me telling me I had “old white lady hair”.

My daughter now lives in her own home about a half an hour away from me.  She and her significant other have often invited her father over, to which he has declined every time.  My daughter works two jobs and her beau often works out of town.  They have a spare bedroom and have invited her biological father to spend the weekend.  He has always declined.  He has never met her beau and to the outside observer, it appears he does not want to.  He is in remission from cancer and does not want to reach out to his (to my knowledge) only child. How sadly selfish.

But, this essay isn’t about me….I was purely selfish in my indulgence.  Working with those wonderful young ladies was something I wanted to do.  They kept me young, laughing, and “in the know” about the local gossip. I was more excited to work with them than they were to have “made the squad”!

My inspiration was the quiet man who attended the games of his stepdaughter and whenever he knew about them his biological daughters, called his daughters diligently, sent money to his daughters so they could buy “themselves” something, paid his child support on time without complaint, went “without” so children he didn't know could eat the snack he provided before every game (we usually bought a peck of apples and a box of graham crackers for the players and the cheer squad to share), the man who urged me to spend time with my sister as she succumbed to cancer, the man who became more involved with his sister’s children when they lost their mother, the man who make certain I take care of myself so he will have someone to pester.  I am inspired by the man who tries to make the world a little bit less harried for those around him no matter the hardship to himself.  


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Three Five-Sentence Stories

GBE 2: Blog On


"Eat that pickle or I’m gonna turn the football game on”. Grampa peered at his five year old granddaughter over his glasses, watching for her reaction.  Entranced, she lovingly gazed at the television set as My Little Pony pranced across the screen. Brows knit together, lips pursed she eyeballed Grampa with determination. Her resolve put to the test, she quickly downed the pickle.


“I grew up around farms, that little Shetland pony will be good to have for the kids”.  Standing in the middle of the dirt road, the two men were surrounded by every neighborhood kid over the age of three and younger than 20.  “That pony is strong, he can carry me,” Dad hopped onto the back of Tonka, the pony looked around at us kids and proceeded to buck.  Dad when end over teakettle onto his back, sputtering he attempted again with the same results.  I always respected that pony.


Sitting in the rocking chair, television blasting a cartoon, Grampa was being “taught” how to play her games on his i-pad.  He rocked back and forth as the six year old rambled on, taking in every instruction with earnest and deliberate care.  Sipping his coffee, he smelled her hair again and drank in the joy of her presence.  “Grampa, I love you”.  The day was complete. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013


GBE 2: Blog On
Week # 125


He bent over the fallen deer and thanked it for sacrificing itself for his family.  Deftly, he pulled his knife from its sheath and began the process of cleaning the venison before taking it back to his family.  Swiftly, he pulled the heart and took a bite.  The blood ran down his arm.  He grimaced.

Flaring Star did not care for eating the heart immediately, but it was expected of him.  He felt it was too soon after the animals death.  He felt to truly respect the animal, one should wait until its soul had completely left the body and even the area.  But, tradition/religion/past practice dictated that he should eat the heart immediately for all to see. The rest of the hunting party soon encircled him as he hunkered over the felled stag. They too were starving.  The sight of meat began a stomach rumbling heard throughout the thicket.  The venison was loaded onto the makeshift cart with the other carcasses; squirrels, rabbits, ducks and blue jays.

At the camp, the women divvied the meat among the families.  Times had become difficult with an early harsh winter.  Many of the hunters had come back to the camp with only tree bark of the birch to feed the tribe.  Many children and the elderly had become sickly.  The tribe’s women took care to divide what little they had among all the families.  The cook pot over the fire was mostly warm water and herbs.  Foraging daily for roots and vegetables, the women took care to stay away from the hibernating bear caves, respecting the ire they may encounter should a sow be awakened by their chatter. 

Honoring one another.  Caring enough to be grateful.  Thoughtful of others well-being.  



Friday, October 4, 2013


GBE 2: Blog On
Week #124  

Standing at the back of the room.  Arms folded and leaning against the wall.  I wear a smile on my face to hide the emotions which have begun to roil in my torso.  My stomach churns, my heart beats a little more quickly and my palms have begun to sweat.  My mind takes me back to that fateful day. 

One of the children squealed returning me to the “here and now”.  Gala decorations adorned nearly every once empty space on the walls and ceiling.  Bright colored ribbons and wrapping paper whispered hints as to the contents they held hidden.

Children gathered around the table, expectant looks upon their faces as they turned towards the door leading into the kitchen.  Someone dimmed the lights.  The glow of the candle festooned cake as it was slowly presented to the room, lit every child’s face.  All eyes widened.  All smiles became full.  And nearly all licked their lips in anticipation.

Me, I was taken back. I was one of the children at the table that day.  I had widened my eyes and licked my lips.  I had wished.  I had squeezed my eyes shut and wished the wish. “Please let me have a thousand more birthdays”.  I said it over and over to myself.  If I had been older, or perhaps at least thought through just what I was wishing for.  I never would have put it so simplistically.  It was a simply wish with great complications. 

After eating my piece of cake a couple of my buddies and I decided to get out our skateboards and roll, at least until it was time to open presents.  I could tell my Mom was certainly ready for some of us to burn up some sugar powered energy for a few minutes and let her clean up. 

Reggie and I were best friends. He lived three houses down and across the street.  He had a fenced back yard and a dog.  I don’t know why I didn't wish for a dog, I suppose because I could play with Reggie’s dog anytime I wanted. And I sure loved his dog. 

My skateboard was yellow and green swirls.  Reggie’s was blue and gold.  We were fiercely competitive on our skateboards. Down the sidewalk, jumping broken pieces, dodging the old lady walkers, smiling with our mouths shut to keep from swallowing too many bugs. 

To say that we egged each other on would be an understatement.  Maneuvering our boards to the top of the hill, we grinned at one another in a silent challenge.  We had already been severely chastised for racing down the hill.  Reggie had been “grounded” from playing with me for a week.  I was spanked and sent to my room.  But, this was a special day which in our minds required a special celebratory challenge.   Down the hill, through the neighbor’s drive, jump the broken sidewalk near the squirrel filled oak tree and back into my house without detection. 

First to fly down the hill…first to be hit by the car.  That pain was now over 400 years ago.  The doctors operated for hours on us.  I got to keep most of my usable parts, however, there weren't many.  I’m 410 years old now.  I’m lonely for people who get my jokes. 

It’s difficult keeping abreast of all the changes, and yet, if I do not I fear I will have 600 years of greater isolation and depression.  These beautiful children are guarded by loving parents.  They have their friends nearby and a good life expectancy of around one hundred.  The medical community disbanded the experiments I underwent.  They have long passed on and out of the memory of the general public.  I don’t stay anywhere for very long, lest I create a panic at my longevity.  Wherever I am I do caution those with birthday wishes, “be careful what you wish for, as it just may come true.”


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


GBE 2: Blog On

Recently I read where our state, along with several others, want to demand that anyone on financial subsidy from the state will do volunteer work.  So…this is MY take on things…you, society, demanded my lovely granddaughter not be aborted when we found out she would need special care 24/7 making it impossible for my daughter to work so she is working within the state funded support system.  Now you want to demand she leave my precious cargo with a paid for care taker to go do volunteer work?  There is a law, being pushed by the Tea Party here in Michigan, to demand anyone on State Subsidy must work at businesses which typically utilize volunteers.  

“She’s beautiful”…..”Aww, she has her mother’s eyes”…..”So small and delicate, a lotus flower”……

When my beautiful Number Two Granddaughter was born, these words flew out of the mouths of anyone fortunate enough to behold her and witness her aura. 

She emanated the colors of the rainbow.  She glowed with red determination, for she was born with a serious heart defect.  The effort she expended to live past the anticipated “one month at best” was heart breaking to watch.  When she looked into your eyes, the bubble gum pink of love filled the room, for as we all know; Down Syndrome people are filled with angelic love for all. 

Beautiful Number Two Granddaughter is now just over a year and has begun to pull herself along the floor, perhaps by the time she reaches two she will be crawling.  I am so proud of her mother.  My daughter takes wonderful care of our precious little one. 

Number Two has two doctor appointments per week as well as three physical therapy sessions per week.  She must be on an oxygen tank respirator when she sleeps and it must be monitored as she tends to pull it off her face.  Her herniated belly makes dressing her nearly as difficult as strapping her into her high chair.  Even more precarious is the strapping into a car seat!  The buckles hit right on her little tummy. 

You don’t get to tell young girls to give birth to children who are going to need extensive care, demanding they stay home to deliver this care and then tell them they don’t deserve our help.  You, the Moral Minority do NOT get to make those judgments. Because she may run to the grocery store while the little one is at physical therapy, you don’t get to pass judgment because you cannot see the disability.  She is usually doing that for YOUR benefit as much as hers…since it accosts your fragile sensibilities to see such a person as one with a disability.  

This is just one example of why this bill should be vetoed.  We live in an imperfect world with an imperfect government ruling over imperfect people.  Yes, there will always be that 1% who abuse the system….but why would you reprimand the other 99% rather than find that 1% and do something about them.  Most of the people who utilize our State/National Funded Assistance programs are doing the best they can with the little we as a society offer them. 

If my sister, who was on disability and food stamps during the last few months of her life while battling cancer had to go do volunteer work?!  She had difficulty getting to the bathroom much less doing any type of work. 

This bill strips society of our empathy.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Heritage 2 : Born an Isles in Scotland

Heritage 2
Born an Isles in Scotland

The afternoon had slipped into evening.  I slipped out of my revere to notice the smaller children had been washed and were now wearing their pajamas.  One cried that his super hero pajama’s weren’t the “right” superhero.  I leaned back into the plush pillows of the rocker I had been sitting in for hours.  Listening to the hum of family life, I smiled contentedly to myself.  Normally, my ankles would be aching and my knees throbbing.  I had been so wrapped up in the story pouring from my mouth, I had forgotten to hurt. 

“Now where was I?”  I began, looking around at the rosy cheeks and light eyes.  I am proud of their attentiveness, proud of my family clan.  Reaching for the freshly brewed cup of tea being handed to me, I wink at my daughter.  She knows I’m in my glory telling stories.  She knows I just need to wet my whistle, and off on another adventure we all will go!

“ Ye’d be wise to keep a respectful eye to ye girl!”  The man was vaguely familiar, but the woman…The woman was like nothing or nobody the girl had ever seen.  The woman’s smooth dark skin and black oval eyes were enough to make any highland girl stop and stare.  The child spun on her heals running back into the one room hut. 

Huddling behind her mother, the young girl’s dusty red curls peeked around an apron string.   Mary Ann Isles slowly turned to face the man at her door.  With a rush nearly knocking the child down, Mary Ann had squealed her school-girl squeal and was in the man’s arms.  “Angus, you’ve come home.”  After a whirl around by her arm-pits, Mary Ann gently stood up and smoothed the front of her hair.  “Angus, you’ve come home.  We are so pleased.  And you have a companion?”  The last was issued as a question, knowing full well it was actually a demand of where he had been and who was this person with him.

“We need ta talk, sister.  We need ta be makin’ some decisions.  We need ta call a gathering.”  The smile had fallen from his sea-salt leathered face.  Looking back to his companion, he spoke softly in French.  Telling her to move inside and out of sight.  “Helena speaks five languages but canna master the Gaelic tongue.” 

Word was sent to the clan.  A gathering.  A gathering could only mean more bad news.  Perhaps another member of the clan forcibly deported, a member’s passing, or worst of all a child passing or miscarriage.  The years had been hard on the highlands clan, their numbers dwindled for many reasons, not the least of which was starvation.  Slowly, quietly the few family members left filed into the largest building on the meager farm.  The barn held their few sheep and scrawny cow.  They were not the worst off of clans, but nowhere near the best off either.  They survived, so far.

Weather, being as temperamental as it had been, had made the growing of hay and straw meager.  James Scott surveyed the little they had left from the harsh winter and shook  his head.  With his brother, back from who knows where, they would have to slaughter an animal anyhow.  Perhaps if he chose which one wisely enough, the others could live until they could be turned out into the pasture.

Mary Ann had demanded the rickety wooden table and stools from the house be hauled to the barn.  She understood the gravity in her brother’s voice.  She knew there would be no ale consumed this night, lest anyone be caught by the Gangsmen or worse the Kingsmen. 

They sat speaking for nearly two hours.  The barn was overcrowded with clansmen of all ages.  All crowded around the red-bearded sailor.  All crowded to hear his words.

“I’ve come to take you to Canada.  Away from this harsh land to another.  Away from certain starvation to a land of possible salvation.  I’ve come to take you with me when I leave.”  Those were his opening words.  For hours they discussed the pros and cons of leaving Scotland.  For hours they voiced their fears and concerns.  Uncleared land, savage animals, savage weather, savages!  All dangers were discussed, openly to the best of Angus’ knowledge. 

Finally someone asked, “Where did you hear of our plight?  How did you come to know, from across the oceans, how the world of Scotland fared?” 

“I’ve not set foot on the Canadian lands.  I’ve not seen the prairies that have been promised.  I have heard of the torment those who are still alive in Scotland endure on a daily basis.  No food for your babies.  No fuel for cooking, even if there were something to put in the pot.  I see no chickens.  I see no work horse to pull your plows.  I see only rags draping skeletal frames.  I see age set upon the young far too soon.  I see a family that needs to leave this God forsaken land in order to begin to live again.”  Angus had stood up and was pacing.  He implored each adult with his eyes as he passed them.  “I have sailed the seas with Captain Black for many years.  We have worked for the Spanish and plundered the English ships.  We worked for the English and plundered Spanish ships.  The money I have, shall we say,  ‘earned’ will buy passage.”

The barn door burst open.  Running, falling, gasping for air, Millie the oldest stumbled into the barn.  “The Kingsmen are fast on my heals!”

“We are to be married in a fortnight!  That settles it, Helena and I will host a great feast right here in the village and all will attend.”  Angus spoke especially loud and all raised their mugs in a salute, as the Kingsmen burst through the doors. 

James was the first to his feet.  “Gentlemen, how kind of you to escort my daughter home.”  He glanced at Millie, her hair was disheveled and she had yet to catch her breath.  It was apparent she had been running, full out, for some distance. 

The three Kingsmen wore the banner of the King across the front of their tunics. They, too, seemed breathless as though they had been pursuing this young lass for the full distance.  Not just stumbling onto the gathering by happenstance. 

With some amount of pomp, one of the guards began, “Her Ladyship has decreed Millie Isles shall no longer be welcome within the hall.  Her Ladyship has decreed if Millie Isles steps foot on the Lordships lands she is to be arrested and jailed for prostitution.” 

James Scott turned to his daughter.  Both their cheeks were flushed.  His with anger…..  “Papa, you know that isn't true.  Papa, you know we love each other.  Papa….Papa”  Millie began to weep.  

Turning his back on Millie, James Scott mustered the appropriate amount of consideration. “Thank you gentlemen, for your delivery of both my daughter and this news. Now, if you don’t mind we have an wedding to plan.  And only a fortnight to prepare!”  James Scott began ushering the Kings-men out the door trying to hide his emotions.  As he did, he flashed warning eyes at all who could see him.  Women clutched their children close, hushing them from blurting anything.  All eyes narrowed as they watched the Kings-men leave the smallish barn.  The door was closed behind the last Kings-man.  Mary Anne strode to the center of the room.  She hoisted her small wooden cup, and gave a loud toast to the newly betrothed.  Her clansmen understood and guffawed along with her.  The noise and the din, covered the serious atmosphere.  Both men and women continued singing long after the Kings-men should be gone, simply for insurance. 

James Scott turned to his eldest daughter.  His love child.  Her beseeching eyes peering up at him under her carrot orange hair made a lump catch in his throat.  She had always been able to wrap him around her little finger.  Now she was in real trouble.  This situation made his mind up.  It had always been his dream to make a fresh start in the Americas.  Dreams being what they are, reality gave him a real and physical jolt. If they stayed, his family was in real danger.  If they left, along with danger there may be a future.

“There has always been a James, a Scott and a James Scott.  There will always be a James or a Scott or a James Scott Isles!  Do you hear me?  By my word.”  Angus winked at John who had been helping the men clear a small track of land.  Hauling the rocks and boulders to the pile, if they were to stay the pile would then be moved to the house or barn or privy. 

“Angus James Scott Isles is a fine name for any bairn.  He’ll grow to be a fine strapping farmer, just smart enough to buy magic beans.” Angus slapped John on the back as the two had to stop working to finish their laughter. 

“Uncle, tell me about the seas.  Tell me about Captain Jack.”  John begged for more stories.  He had joined the men in the field today, hoping he could learn more of the ways of seafaring. 

“Lad, you know I canna tell ya another story without the others.  If I tell you more, they will run me off!”  Tousling John’s hair, he smiled at the lad.  “You know, you’ll be meetin’ Captain Black soon enough.   ‘Tis his ship I’ll be sailing on, soon enough.  Upon his arrival, you’ll be hearing stories enough!” 

“We’ve only two weeks left until your weddin’.  Every turnip or potato Ma can get her hands on, have been stashed away.  She mutters under her breath “for the weddin’”, but she don’t seem too happy about it.  I asked, I asked if she didn’t like Helena.  She looked at me as though I had just appeared out of thin air and shooed me away.  Were ya betrothed before ya took to the sea, Uncle?”  John was digging around a large boulder.  His words came out forcefully as he struggled. 

Angus stood for a moment searching the horizon with his eyes.  Not facing his nephew, John, he only smiled to himself.  Wanting to hear about his uncles times on the waves and not about matrimony, John put his back into the boulder rolling it out of its nestled rut.  

As the night of the “celebration” approached, every hovel called home was bustling with activity.  Meats cured, assets sold or bartered for vegetables, and positions secured for those remaining behind.  The countryside was abuzz with activity. 

Helena was a mystery to the women of the Isles clan.  Tall, dark and lean, she held herself with a poise these Scottish women had only dreamed of carrying.  No stranger to hard work, she could carry on a conversation with all and not miss a step in the work.  Those who could speak French questioned her, then passed her story on to others.  Born into slavery on an island in the Caribbean Sea, she was the product of her French born master/father and her house slave mother.  A gift to her father’s legitimate daughter at the age of five, she was her half sister’s companion and therefore endowed with the same education.  As her sister’s wedding approached, family friends and relatives began to arrive at their sugar cane plantation.  The two girls were giddy with delight as so much company.  They were under the mistaken impression that one of the available men would become a suitor for Helena.  One hot steamy night, when a drunken old sot burst into the bedchamber the girls shared, reality was revealed.  Their father had sold her to help pay his debts and seal the union of her half-sister.

Helena had paid her father’s debt by stabbing the old sot with his own saber.  Fleeing the sugar cane plantation that night, she had learned quickly how to defend herself.  She had learned quickly that the “self” inside is what sustains life as much as the outward body.  Raised to believe she was an equal to all but her father, life had played a cruel joke on Helena.  Life outside of the plantation was difficult and vastly different.  Her only salvation was her quick wit and keen mind, until she met Angus.  Angus William Isles. 

The clan had unanimously decided to keep the emigration quiet.  They had heard the stories.  Everyone knew what the Kings-men or the Gangs-men did to travelers who might have the funds to immigrate on their own; they were slaughtered and plundered.  Seldom did open emigration transpire without the local thugs taking a portion of the fare and supplies.  If they survived the trek to the port they might endure the weeks of agony aboard a grimy vessel.  Or they may have their women folk raped and slaughtered, and the men inducted into the English Navy.  Announcing their leave could only prove to be disastrous for everyone involved.

The night of the gala celebration brought clans from as far away as Kirriemuir  and Aberdeenshire.  Every highlander wanted to see Helena.  They wanted to be able to tell the story of the tall black woman or to see her and verify the stories that such a being existed.  A black skinned person was simply something out of one’s imagination, or stories from the pub, not unlike Faeries or elves. 

James Scott leaned towards Mary Ann, “Feathers?  I did not know her tribe wore feathers.” 

“First of all, she is NOT part of a tribe.  Secondly, it is designed to draw attention.  I think it a stroke of genius if I do say so myself. No one has noticed all the missing family.  Not one whisper… so far.”

“Myself included.  Who can take their eyes from her?  A vision Queen Maude would be proud of. The women and small children should be nearly to Forfar by now.  By morning we shall be as well.”

Meanwhile, in a small affair not far from the wedding festivities, another small service was being performed.  Father Michael, recently traveling from Ireland, had agreed to wed Millie Isles and Walter Strathclair in their own private ceremony.  Glowing with joy, the two young lovers gathered up their own belongings to begin the trek to the seashore;  two pregnant Herefords and a bull, two Blackfaced ewes and his beloved sheepdog, Tess.  Millie and Walter held the determination of the Highlands.  Quietly and without fanfare, they began the long trek from the Mountainous region south of Braemar to join the rest of the clan in Forfar.  Then onward to fulfill their destiny! 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Heritage - Born an Isles in Scotland

Heritage 1
Born an Isles in Scotland

“Well, my dear, it was a day not unlike this.”  The children had crowed around the fireplace, roasting marshmallows for S’Mores.  Lighting more than a few on fire to watch the sugary confection first turn brown then black and melt onto the logs or be eaten completely by the flames.  Sticky, gooey marshmallow oozed from the sides of the fireplace where someone’s spear got too close and the mass globbed off the spear tip and onto the side of the fireplace.

Four generations had gathered together.  We were there for the holiday weekend.  It turned out to be rather coolish and drizzly.  Uncomfortable to be outside and cramped with people inside.  With two more days of the holiday weekend to go. 

“We were bored, it was cold and rainy, too many kids around to actually clean, and the snacks were nearly gone.  My younger brother asked a question, I don’t recall exactly what it was at this moment, but it got all the adults trading stories.  We children learned a lot that day.  Quite a bit about our history, why we are all here and hopes for the future.”  I folded my weathered hands on my lap and smiled at the youngster asking questions.  At the moment, I honestly couldn’t remember who’s kid she was.  She was a pretty young teen though and the earnest plea in her eyes told me she wouldn’t go back to play until she had heard at least one story.

“They came from entirely different backgrounds, as most star crossed lovers do.  During the “Great Scottish Exodus”.  Scotland’s government had backed the removal of individuals from Scotland in an effort to reduce the population and avoid mass starvation.  Initially the whole process behind the relocation of Scotland’s population was indeed to help the populous.  However the gangs scouring the countryside with bully clubs to forcefully remove family members were not looked upon favorably by the highlanders.  The highlanders were naturally sought out first, as they tended to be the hardiest of the countrymen.  Or at least it was their hardiness which was touted, it was also because of their inherent ability to rouse people to a cause.  Rabble-rouser was a word oft used to describe those first chosen to leave the country.

John Isles had only eyes for his childhood sweet-heart.  Hiring himself out to anyone who would pay for his strong arms and solid back; he picked rocks from fields adding to the stone fences of the crofts and creating new, sheered flocks and flocks of sheep, felled and hauled the few sparse trees left on the land, and he even toted shale for the artisans.  No task too difficult or too lowly, for he was saving to wed the love of his life one Miss Moira Edward. 

Once a month, he would wash his face don a clean shirt and walk the miles to the home of Miss Moira Edward.  All the while whistling a fancy uplifting song to travel by.  He envisioned the smile on her lips as she watched him swagger the last few hundred yards to her stoop.  He could see the laughter in her eyes as he presented her with flowers he had picked along the way.  He could smell the lavender she dabbed behind her ears.  She was shapely in a time when there was little to eat.  Her healthy body quickly turned all food into clear skin and wavy raven hair. Her quick wit and easy laughter endeared her to him. 

You can imagine his shock upon learning the gangs men had been to their village impounding personnel into passage to Canada.  Moira was gone.  The small hut they called home was empty.  Remnants of the small morning fire, for brewing what passed for tea, was smoldering on the hearth. Cups were broken, chairs tipped over and the night’s bedding was strewn across the floor.  Moira and her parents had put up a struggle but obviously were overwhelmed.  Falling to his knees, he cried out to the heavens above.  He ran searching every out building.  He ran to the neighbor’s, who knew nothing.  He ran to their secret spot, hoping she had found her way to where she would know he would find her.  Only emptiness greeted him. 

It was later, upon his trudge homeward that he learned the truth.  She and her family were gone.  The ship had sailed that very day. The gangs-men had captured them.  They had been sent to “emigration”.  Letters of inquiry were quickly written.  Investigation into the family’s destination was begun.

More determined than ever, John set his cap at earning money enough to travel to Canada and purchase land once he found his Moira.  Laboring from dawn to dusk seven days a week.  Finally, months later, the letter arrived!

News! News of their passage and where they had landed.  His beloved Moira’s family had landed safely in Canada after sailing through the dreaded St Lawrence, entering Canada through the New York region. However, and his heart dropped.  However, and he couldn't breathe.  However, Moira did not survive the passage.  His world stopped spinning.

Dipping into the cups, John’s life whirled out of control.  He got into fights at the pub.  He didn't show up for work he had promised to complete.  He was lost without the hope in his heart.  His long red hair, normally tied neatly behind his head, was scraggly and filled with dirt.  His finest kilt, worn with pride on his walks to meet with Moira, was now tattered and frayed. Often to be found laying in the street or in the blacksmiths hayloft.  

Tsking loudly, she stood over him with hands on her hips.  Scolding him with her tongue, wagging a blame-filled finger at him, she stood with her back to the sun so he could only see the outline of her.  He felt as though he had been struck by lightning.  While his vision may have been blurred with ale, she was a pinpoint of clarity.  The sharp contrast making her stand out from the rest of the world.  This must be an angel, was his thought. "Months of inebriation and I've actually been allowed into Heaven." His thoughts darted in every direction possible. 

He didn't hear a word she said.  He could only watch as her beautiful red lips mouthed words at him.  Those flashing eyes held is inner being. Her hair must be spun gold, he thought.  For a moment, he thought he had died, then realized the rest of the village looked the same.  Barbara Small stood on the rock pathway chastising the handsome man who had obviously had too many pints.  Hadn't anyone ever told him to mind his p’s and q’s?   

She knew who he was, his reputation both before and after the sailing of the ship.  It was a smallish town and gossip flowed over tea and ale as easily and quickly as the wind blew.  Why she stopped to speak to him, she wasn't quite certain.  She only knew that their meeting was destiny.  She could feel it in her very bones.

With a hitch in his step and a whistle on his lips, John knew he was one of the fortunate ones.  He had been smiled upon twice in his life, and was smart enough to be grateful. Bending his back into the task at hand, he and his bride tried to coax more from the lackluster ground.  Even his lovely Barbara was beginning to show the early signs of starvation. The blight was beginning to take it's toll, even in the hearty High Lands.  They had been blessed with three healthy children, but with no rain, and little water, who knew how long the little ones could last.  Onion soup (most days minus the onions) was not a diet made for growing children.

John and Barbara had been saving as much money as they could. But, trying to sell to people who had no money either was a nearly futile endeavor. What little money they did have, mostly went to pay rents and sustain their lives.  

James, the eldest child, was nearly a grown man and needed to eat like one.  He literally pulled a plow for his lordship on more than one occasion.  The horses and mules, like the people, had been to starving too.  Many animals had simply died in their harness in the middle of the field.  Most were dressed, by the butcher, where they lay. The meat, however, was not distributed among the hands. It was taken directly to the Lordship's larder. 

Bearing children and breast feeding had taken a toll on Barbara’s health.  Most of her teeth had long ago fallen out.  Her eyes still sparkled when she looked at her family, but the hard years of highland life were acutely visible.  Where she was once round and curvaceous, she was now angular and sharp.  Still quick to smile, her once full lips were now a jagged slash across her face.  Too often she had to squint into the sun while hanging the lordship’s wash on the line creating a permanent furrow between her brows. 

For the sake of their children and any future generations of their family, they agreed they would forgo waiting to have enough funds to purchase passage to America.  They reached out to a Salvation Army post.  They had been stationed to assist those emigrants to Canada.  The Canadian government was subsidizing passage and granting land in the great prairie lands of Canada. Understanding there would be no berth, they would share the hold with perhaps a thousand others, they determined to cast off the shackles of abject poverty for the promise of the New World.   The ship would sail in three months time.

Three months was not enough time for lovely Barbara.  She was never to see the New World.  She was never to see her beautiful children grown.  Consumption ran rampant among the emaciated highlanders.  Nearly half the village was taken that winter.  Nearly a third of the nation’s remaining population.  John could not leave his beloved Barbara.  He could not leave Scotland. 

James Scott Isles was determined not to live the life his father had.  With an eye to the New World and the promise of the government, he was not going to allow Scotland to take his life as it had so many around him.  He would take his wife, Mary Ann Allison, and their six children to carve a better place.  They would harvest the dream his parents had planted.   Mary Ann’s sister worked in the kitchen for his lordship.  Smuggling food from her sister, James and Mary Ann’s children never had the glass eyed, pot bellies of the starving. 

The two sisters had experienced more than one close call.  His lordship’s man kept a watchful eye out for all the clothing Mary Ann hung out after washing, and the head cook kept a keen eye out for any scraps of food.  It was dangerous, but then living had become dangerous.” 

Monday, April 29, 2013

How to …. (explain a process)

Week #102        GBE 2: Blog On    Elizabeth Grace!

How to ….  (explain a process)

While working in Human Resources at UPS, one of my tasks was to teach new supervisors the difference between a Job Description and Work Instructions.  The Job Description tells you who does a specific job.  The Work instructions tell you how to accomplish the task.  As an example, after dropping a cardigan sweater onto the floor, one of the new supervisors had to talk me through putting the sweater back on.  Needless to say, I didn’t divert an inch from the vague initial instructions given, and often wore my sweater either on the top of my head or as pants!

Explaining a task teaches several lessons.  Are you a detail person?  Do you expect others to “read” into your explanation?  How do you react when your instructions aren’t followed as you anticipated?   Do you expect others to have the background knowledge that you have in order to understand your instructions? Teaching others, teaches us about ourselves.

Back to the sweater laying on the floor.  Proper instructions to a reasonable adult are as follows;

Look at the sweater to ascertain where the collar is located.  With your right hand, reach out and grasp the sweater by the collar section.  Pick the sweater up to determine which way it may need to be turned to don.  With the sweater in your right hand, if the label is facing you slowly raise your left hand and glide it into the arm hole on the right hand side of the garment tag. Pushing your hand all the way through the sleeve until your hand is visible past the cuff.  Slide your right hand approximately four inches to the right of your current hand hold so that the sweater drapes around your back and across your shoulders.  Hunch your right shoulder to accommodate comfort.  Double your right hand up, raise your fist to shoulder height and slowly move your hand into the sleeve, pushing past the cuff.  Your cardigan sweater should either button or zip in the front.

I hope you have a warm and comfortable spring!


Z - can it be for anything other than ZOMBIE?!

I have joined the group  "Blogging from A to Z.  This is a  a month long challenge to write a short story everyday and each day corresponding to the letter of the alphabet.  I have linked up the site - simply click on the name so that you might read any sort of short story from the huge line-up available.  The stories are supposed to be short so that many can be read, quickly.  Simply a titillation of talent.  Happy reading, and thank you for joining me.  

Z is the ultimate…the last…the last gasp…Z is for Zombie

I felt so guilty, once I learned the truth.  I had not been “there” for my family.  I had been on a holiday with my girl friends.  Thankfully, my husband stayed home.  His quick mind pulled things together long before the government keyed anyone in. 

Our first night on a seven day hiatus, we sat sipping martinis while lounging at the outdoor patio.  My friends and I giggled and laughed and had a wonderful time.  Pointing, we “oohed and aahed” over the bright green color illuminating the sky momentarily as the meteor raced overhead.  Turning to one another we remarked that it was a good omen for us to go on our casino trip the next day. 

Tanned and tired we hustled through the Pittsburgh terminal to catch our connecting flight home.  For me, home is in Michigan.  The mitten state, lower peninsula surrounded by water and the upper mitten, nearly surrounded.  Isolated and yet connected.  That has always been the nature of the mitten inhabitants, as well. 

Hustling to the monitors, we stop to check the flight information.  Ready to be on our way, to see our loved ones, and just be in our own homes, we want verification that any return trip wrinkles have be smoothed out.  Cancelled.  All flights to Michigan, cancelled. 
Trying to avoid paying the extra roaming cell phone fees, we had all turned our telephones off.  We had experienced a week of “disconnect to reconnect”.  It had been blissful!  Now, as we remembered to turn the electronic tethers back on, we found messages too numerous to count.  Nearly all of them flagged as urgent!  Each stepping away from the group to listen. 

Staggering back to one another, sobbing we hug each other.  “I need a drink” was the collective consensus.  Not certain what to do, we stumble to the nearest airport restaurant/bar trying to convince ourselves it can’t be true.

There is one television and all eyes are glued to it.  It’s true then.  The state of Michigan has been cut off from all traffic.  None in and especially none out.  The entire state is rimmed with every available military personnel. The unimaginable has actually happened.  Zombies.  People in Michigan have become zombies.  Lurching, red eyed, flesh hungering zombies. 

The calls on my phone are from my husband and daughter.  The stories blurted into my headpiece have my head spinning.  The beautiful meteor my friends and I saw light up the sky brought to Earth an ominous virus.  A virus which at first blush appeared to be affecting the brown eyed population.  However, with each day and more infections, the virus was moving through the population not just via the airborne route but through the vicious biting attacks. 

My husband, my daughter, a few blue eyed friends had all camped together.  They were defending one another.  The stand they had taken included fire arms.  The stand they have taken is honorable and morally defensible.  They have requested no incoming phone calls, fearful the ringtone will arouse notice. 

No one knows how long this virus will last, or if it will ever be eradicated. Speculation among television pundits has only confused everyone.  I know my family isn't watching television, fearful of the noise.  Urban life isn't safe.  Only this type of looter isn't looking for your computer or television set.

I wish and hope they know the signs to look for among one another.  We are told, via the television set, before the hunger set in, before the nearly inhuman strength comes about, the infected person’s eyes turn red.

I only pray that this horrific virus stays among humans.