Magical Thinking


Writing 101 – Assignment.

Tell the tale of your most prized possession. Use as many words as it takes.




My red scrapbook is old, musty and bulging with a lifetime of love letters, keepsakes and photographs. It is where I keep the Apollo 17 pin that I wore while watching the last rocket (that would ever land on the moon) launch from the white sands of Cocoa Beach in December of 1972. Nestled among the yellowing pages are my blue and gold embroidered Presidential Physical Fitness patch, and my nickel-plated Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet; the very bracelet that I wore religiously for months until it broke in half. I secretly worried that the breaking of that bracelet meant my soldier might never return home.

When you’re thirteen years old, you can get carried away with magical thinking.

But the very first page of my scrapbook, the one with my baby pictures, is where my heart lives. There are four black corner stickers hugging my most prized possession in the world – a photograph of me and my daddy. The caption reads: “Vanessa 9 months, with Daddy”. My childhood scrapbook is not neat, organized, color-coordinated or of archival quality. But it’s mine, and mama’s handwriting under that fading photograph is proof we were once a family. Continue reading

Here Comes The Bride

Writing 101 – Assignment.

Free Writing. Write at least 400 words and once you start typing, don’t stop.


A few short days after announcing her engagement, I had already bought a dress and the perfect shoes. As mother of the bride, I wasn’t going to waste a single moment. At first the happy couple was planning on a fall wedding, after the heat of the summer has released its death grip on us and allowed that first northern to blow in with its promise of lasting relief. But after visiting several wedding venues, a sense of urgency developed. Some venues were astonished that the bride was inquiring about a date for this year and not next. “Oh, you’re talking October, 2014? That might be a problem.” Imagine my surprise when this call came: “Mom! We found a venue and set the date! We’re getting married outside in July!!!” July had plenty of dates available at a great venue, and a discounted price. Not their first choice, but we’ll make it work. We’re not going to let a little Texas heat in the middle of July scare us away. Continue reading

Trucker’s Knot

Writing 101 – Assignment.

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in the first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.


It was a couple a weeks ago – bout supper time. I was out on the porch here. The sweat kept runnin in my eyes, and I had ‘ta use the bottom of my shirt ‘ta mop it up. I was practicin my Trucker’s Knot with a piece of rope Gramps give me last time we was visitin him at the old folks home. Gramps always has a present for ya but not many words. I already have my merit badge for tyin knots but I want to get good at the Trucker’s Knot cause my daddy’s a trucker and next time he’s home I’m gonna supprise him!

After about the millionth time tryin the Trucker’s Knot is when the cop car showed up. Usually when one a them comes ‘round, the lights are flashin and the sirens are a wailin, but not this time. It pulled up nice and quiet and didn’t make no ruckus.

Two men got out and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door. While they waited for her to answer, they turned an saw me on my porch. We’ve lived across the street from the Pauley’s since before I was borned. The Deputy waved but Mr. Grimley didn’t. Mama calls Mr. Grimley a slumlord – whatever that is. All I know is nobody likes him and when things get broke he takes his sweet time a fixin ‘em. Continue reading

Dear Mr. Hitchhiker

Writing 101 – Assignment.

Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. Write the post in the form of a letter.

Note: The nearest book was mine, More Than Everything. On page 29, I introduce the hitchhiker and that’s the word that jumped off the page.

Dear Mr. Hitchhiker:

You saved my life.

After you stole our truck and left us stranded on the side of the road at that rest stop, I thought my life was over. Part of me wanted to lie down in the gravel and die. You took all that was left of our lives and drove away. You left us with nothing but the clothes we were wearing – and our survival instincts.

If it hadn’t been for you and your thieving ways, we would not have been forced to stick out our own thumbs begging for a ride. We would not have been picked up by a good man who gave us jobs at his cattle ranch. There would have been no angels helping me cook meals in that log cabin; I would not have learned how to make rhubarb pie, bake bread, nor would I have been able to take the long walks in the forest that washed my soul clean.

I would not have had this story to tell if you had been a good guy. I would not have written my book, including this passage: Continue reading




Writing 101 – Write about finding something.


My parents divorced when I was eight years old after years of drinking, fighting and gnashing of teeth. I cannot conjure a memory of them being happy together during my entire childhood. Smiles and laughter rarely found their way into the fabric of our days.

Daddy has been gone now for over 25 years, mama is remarried again and the past seems like a bad dream – a tragic play with unskilled actors flailing through their poorly-written scripts.

Last fall, while visiting our aunt, two of my sisters and I set up camp on her living room floor and rifled through box after box of old family photographs. We looked at vacation photos taken at Six Flags, faded, creased pictures of unidentified relatives, and shots of tombstones of those long gone.  There were the obligatory “say cheese” group snapshots at holiday gatherings and K-12 school photos of almost everyone.

And then, as I grabbed yet another pile to sift through, a gift fell into my lap. A wallet-sized, black and white picture of my parents that I had never seen before. Nestled dangerously close to each other, they are sitting on one end of a couch, daddy’s arm around mama, a huge smile on her face and the perfect look of peace and contentment in his eyes. They are so young, so beautiful, and so obviously in love.

In that photograph that now sits framed on my nightstand, I can see their love – see back to a time when it made sense for them to be together. In that photograph, I found home.

Puppy Love


Writing 101 – Write about the house you lived in when you were twelve. Use varying sentence lengths.

Our house on Patrick Air Force Base, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, sits on a narrow stretch of land between the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Banana River, both within blocks of each other. There are too many adventures waiting to be had outside – I couldn’t even tell you what color the curtains are if my life depended on it.

I’m twelve years old.

We’ve just moved here and already I have a crush on a boy named Steve who lives down the block. We are both so shy it hurts, but I can tell he likes me because he teases me when the baseball bounces out of my glove, or when we’re riding bikes and he’s faster than me. I gobble down my lunch on Saturdays so I can get back outside and be with him. Continue reading

Just Breathe


Writing 101 Assignment. Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind. Don’t use any adverbs.


She blasts past me on the sidewalk leading to the yoga studio – in her perfectly purple Lululemon ensemble, opens the door and rushes in – the glass panel slamming in my face. Anger and irritation threaten to bubble in my veins as I reach for the handle, but I take a deep breath and remind myself why I’m here.

Whoosh. A blanket of suffocating heat washes over me, stealing my calming breath. ‘Ugh…it’s sooooo hot in here.’ The tired, whiney little girl in me has been looking forward to a cool, easy, yin class. I quickly check the schedule and realize I’ve just entered a 90 minute hot power-yoga session. ‘I’ll die in here. I should probably just leave.’

“So good to see you today,” the instructor chirps, flashing a bright smile my way. I call her toothy smile and raise her a double-eyebrow lift. Continue reading


Writing 101 Assignment – Write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014.

Note: This actually happened a few years ago, but as I tried to think of someone more recent to write about for this post, Tulia kept coming to mind, so I felt it was time to tell this story.

We followed the GPS instructions along the winding roads of a sleepy neighborhood tucked into a forgotten corner of town. I’ve lived here for more than 30 years and didn’t know those houses were back there, nestled along the banks of Mary’s Creek. It was early summer – not yet sweltering hot, late in the afternoon – and we drove slowly, with the windows down, searching for the house where Jim lived. Jim’s ad on Craig’s List indicated that he had for sale a wine refrigerator that might fit exactly into the space we had in our new kitchen.

A soft breeze kissed our legs as we exited the car after parking at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Light danced in the leaves of the trees and the low sun stretched shadows long and lean across the yard.

Before we got to the front door to ring the bell, she was there, behind us. I turned and found myself looking down at a young, barefoot girl with yellow hair wearing a light blue Laura Ingalls smock dress. There was a blue jay perched on the index finger of her right hand and a small goat standing beside her. Continue reading

Keep Your Head Down

Writing 101 Assignment: You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Write about this encounter. Be as brief as possible.

Walking by the scary house, I keep my head down. Had I been brave enough to check out the broken shutters and chipping paint I would not have seen the word HELP on the envelope at my feet. I would not have picked it up and read the letter inside. I would not have called the police. I would not have seen myself on the nightly news, heralded as a hero. She would still be locked inside the scary house against her will had I not kept my head down.