Attention Older Readers: I Need Your Advice

Okay, so it’s happened: I looked up and realized my kids have grown up. Yes, okay, so Sarah IS 29, Liz 26 and Rachael 20, but you don’t understand, I’ve been a Mother with a capital M for the past almost 30 years. And Ray has been a Father with the same focused interest.

Alas, last night we looked at each other and said, “Sure is quiet around here.”

Yes, it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled my children are up and out and doing well. I couldn’t be happier. And grandchildren are not in the picture for now. They will be, I know, at some point, but not for a while.

So…this is where you, my older friends, come in. What have you done to not look at the next 30 years of your life and go, “Oh, boy…”

I am completely serious. I truly do want to know. A second career? Hobbies? Volunteer work? Basket weaving? I mean really….what is a healthy way to approach my 60’s and the years that will hopefully come after? I happen to know many of you are happy, healthy and living vital lives, so what are the secrets? Obviously, sitting and staring at television for long periods of time is not one of them…unless you’re tired from doing other things.

Keep in mind, I am not retired. Will not be retiring soon unless that money from the lottery shows up and, oops, I’ll need to start buying tickets for that to happen. But my work is settled. That seems to be the problem. Everything is settled. Has been in a routine that has run on high gear for a long time. I like high gear. Okay, maybe not HIGH gear, but I like to strike a pace. So, please don’t tell me it’s time to settle in and wait to die. Not that any of you will because none of you have.

So, with that, I will await your wisdom. Please do respond. I am dead serious. Guidance is needed. The crickets are chirping around here and while I normally like that sound, not when it’s so loud I can’t quite hear the television.

With that, I’m sitting here waiting. So, please tell me something!

Thanks in advance.


Flash Essay Prompt: Leonard Cohen, Brother George, and Recovery

As Leonard Cohen writes in his song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack – a crack – in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I just read a fellow blogger’s heartfelt account of the bumps on her road to recovery from alcohol abuse. She spoke of her sister and asking amends for the breach in trust her drinking brought, and I couldn’t help but think of my dear brother George, who battled this disease and beat the hell out of it before he died of cancer at 54.

George was the world’s best drunk. I mean a serious, no-nonsense, let’s just get down and dirty drunk. He started drinking heavily in his mid-teens, and went literally from being a teen representative for the Episcopal Church as a missionary in the Phillapines to a high school drop-out in a record year and a half. There was nothing gradual about George’s shift from drinker to alcoholic. It was if the minute he tasted the magic of booze, he was hooked. Like I say, down and dirty and drunk with nothing much in between.

As his little sister, all I saw was the shift from being my smart, sweet, and handsome big brother to someone who no longer had time for me. He was gone emotional shortly after the heavy drinking began, and I found myself with a hole in my heart where my beloved brother had been. Gone. Even when he was around. Not present in the way that I could trust. Still, I loved him fiercely. Couldn’t not love him. And when he was sober, there he’d be. At least until he reached for that next beer.

Fast forward twenty years – he was then 37 years old and I was 34. He was about to lose his second wife and second child to alcohol and he hadn’t crawled out of the ditch from losing the first ones. Intervention time and a miracle. George went into treatment and began his road to recovery. The thought of repeating what had already broken his heart profoundly – losing his relationship with his first child due to his drinking – propelled him up through the murky waters and toward the light of a new life.

And he made it to the top. He never drank again. He worked those AA steps with honesty and effort, accepting that a higher power provided the only road he could find back to a life that he’d lost. And he came back to all who he had loved and asked amends, me being one of those people. And everyone – especially me – pulled him close and never let him go, though cancer had its ugly way with him a few short years back now and sent him to another place where he’s no doubt sitting at a sidewalk café enjoying a beer and not having one bit of trouble handling it.

Yes, Leonard Cohen got it right.

Our cracks – that truly is how the light gets in.

Prompt: Describe a Favorite Piece of Furniture – My Favorite Rocker

The bent wood rocker is brown with age, and the thin arms are lighter than the rest of the wood where human arms have rested upon them. The back has five wooden rungs that are attached to two long round pieces of wood that stretch three inches above the highest rung and all the way down to below the curved pieces of wood on the bottom of the chair that are the rockers. The round pieces of wood do not go into the rockers, but rather are on the sides of each, fitted to them with half-moon cut-outs in the rocking pieces. The seat is rush and is in four triangular sections that meet in the center. There are two rungs below the seat on all four sides to sturdy the old chair.

The chair is not heavy at all, but neither is it extremely light. It’s sturdy enough to hold a full-grown man though the width of the seat could not accommodate anyone who was very overweight. The weight looks like it is around a foot and a half across, so no over eating if you want to linger in that chair.

The chair sits near the fireplace and is a favorite place to sit, especially if a fire has been lit. The rocking action is good. Not to shallow and not too deep. Just the right amount of push to rock back, and the equal forward motion to propel back. The chair is not too tall, so it’s perfect for me, a not very tall woman.

There is a comfort to this chair. It is not expensively made and yet it’s also not cheap. Just right in its construction to satisfy the person who needs to rest, to sit a while, to rock away troubles or to rock with contemplation. This is the chair of choice for me on any morning when I feel a need for a little comfort or at night when I might want a little relaxation. A comfort chair, this is what this rocker is. For me now, for someone in the past, most certainly, and, hopefully, for someone in the future.

Flash Essay Prompt: A Stolen Cross and the Lesson that Comes with It

Jesus is hanging on a metal cross. This cross is part of a stand so it is freestanding rather than designed to hang on the wall. The metal is silver and Jesus is silver and the nails that are attaching him to the cross are silver. The cross and stand are about a foot and a half tall and the base is round. The cross is not just two straight pieces of metal in the shape of a T, but rather the T has scalloped edges on both sides and on top. The element that makes this crucifix different from others that I’ve seen is that around the base and up through the T of the cross, there are intricate mosaic pictures. For example, right behind Jesus’s head is a white dove with its wings spread on a blue background. The dove has a halo around its head and the mosaic work is so fine that you can see individual pieces that have been placed to show the feathers on the dove’s body and on its wings. The dove’s beak is yellow and its one eye is black, but you can also see the white of its eye next to the black pupil. On each of the three points of the T there are buildings created in tiny pieces of mosaic tiles. The top one has three domes and suggests it might be St. Petersburg, where the Russian Orthodox church resides. All the buildings are public buildings, not churches, and they all have columns out front and many steps leading up to their wide porches and each has a tower on top. This is quite an accomplishment in tiny pieces of mosaic, and the time it must have taken to construct these scenes, which surely were hand done, must have been considerable. I can imagine a dark headed man leaned over a work table, carefully selecting each tiny piece of tile to form the varying shades of blue sky that serve as the backdrop to these buildings. That man would have to possess such patience to undertake this sort of art work, creating pictures one tiny piece at a time.

This crucifix has another story, as well. It came to us from our old friend Bud, who was a Catholic monk for a few short years, along with his old friend, Carl, who actually owned this crucifix. Or rather, as Bud told us, probably stole it from the monastery where they were living. Carl had a bad habit of stealing things: money from the collection plate, along with swigging down the wine after the mass, and taking anything else that suited him. He didn’t linger at the monastery for obvious reasons, and he carried his habit of pilfering with him throughout his life. When he died, we happened to be there for his estate sale, and neighbors came by to see if Carl had that stray piece of silver that went missing after one of his visits to their homes. No one held any malice towards him for his petty thievery – he was a charming sort of man – but his exploits did not go unnoticed. And this crucifix holds a special place in our home primarily because of the irony of its procurement: a man in the house of the Lord, presumably working hard to be better, lifting it one night simply because he couldn’t help himself. A regular kleptomaniac, I think would be the best way to describe Carl. He didn’t want to sell this crucifix. He just had to steal it for some reason or other. An act that propelled him forward in life: one petty theft after another until his home upon his death was a veritable treasure trove of objects waiting to be retrieved by their rightful owners. I don’t know the monastery where Bud and Carl were. I’m not sure I would feel a need to return the crucifix even if I knew. There’s something satisfying about having this object in my life. It reminds me that we’re all fallible, each in our own way.

Prose Poem Prompt: Elusive Truth

She didn’t understand him. She had never understood him. She wondered why she loved him. He was elusive. He was foreign in his differentness. And yet. He pulled her. Yanked at her with his allure. Kept her aching for him in his absence. She knew they were no good together. They were mountain and plain. And yet. He roamed in her thoughts incessantly. Showing up when he shouldn’t. When he ought to be safely tucked away behind duty or honor. Until the day she stopped fighting. Found him and said, “Enough, let’s do this.” And he pulled her so close she could smell his minty breath. Then he excused himself. She waited, checked her watch, waited longer. Finally, she realized that he was not there. Wouldn’t ever be there. Perhaps had never really been there. She ordered a steak dinner and ate in relish. A celebration of their time whatever. Strawberries and cream commemorated her release. She left the restaurant. Sad. Relieved. Satisfied.

Prose Poem Prompt: Hamster Wheel

Today is one of those days when I want to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Go sit out in the sun and just let its rays wash over me. Warm these cold feet of mine. Fill me with power from somewhere other than myself. I get tired of the need for constant self-initiative. When you are self-employed, this is what is called for every day. What can I do today to help keep moving me forward? No external machine that churns with you or without you. Only a little hamster wheel with you as the hamster. Not that I’m complaining. Hamsters get to decide when they’ll run and when they’ll sleep. They don’t have a big official boss hamster saying, “Get on there, lazy bones.” On the other hand, they don’t get the luxury of sitting back and watching the wheel move without them – others taking their turn. No, this is the drawback of self-employment. If you don’t do it, nobody else will. Yes, a day to sit and let the sun soak through this body would suit me just fine. Though I best go get a blanket for my feet since the sun is hours out from being that warm. Besides, I have a wheel that needs to start spinning.

Flash Essay Prompt: The Word “Other”

Other? What does that mean? Other means not us. Someone different. Someone who does not share common traits or beliefs or locations or even species. Other is a word that comes up a lot when people want to judge someone harshly. He has other beliefs. She has other interests. Not ours. Against us. Not with us. These are the connotations associated with the word other.

Other also has a different meaning. It can mean not this, but something different. Something that is not the usual, the mundane, the status quo. Something other than the way we always do things or say things or see things. Another alternative.

Other, by its very nature, is controversial. It encourages choice and conscious thought versus settling for the same. This makes many people nervous, this concept of pushing past the typical way life is lived and exploring other options. This makes some people nervous, indeed.

The other way to think of the word other is as more or additional. “There are other people who can do this work,” you might say to a boss. Meaning there are additional people to draw from. “We could use other ingredients along with our usual recipe,” a chef might say to his/her assistant. Other in this case means to add to – to supplement – what is already there. This is not displacement – it’s not either/or, but both – what we have plus other additions as well. This has a positive connotation because it’s inclusive.

Other is a word that makes some people nervous and other people happy. It depends on how they see the connotation behind the word. I think other makes life much more lively. Other means we have choices and help and options that make everything more colorful.

Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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