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Is This Shirt Yours?

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Nate is the kid at the top of the photo in navy.

A few days ago, as my family and I sat in front of the television and folded laundry, I came across a shirt I didn’t recognize. It was black rayon with long sleeves and a scoop neck and according to its label was from the Women’s Daisy Fuentes collection—from where I have no idea.

“Whose shirt is this?” I asked.

“Yours, isn’t it?” they replied.

I’d never seen it before, and it wasn’t in my size. We talked about where the foreign blouse could have come from everything ranging from a friend of my daughter or son to a burglar who didn’t quite understand how to burgle. We discussed its origins for a few minutes until it occurred to us that we accidentally stole it.

Over the weekend, my son was competing at a Track and Field meet at Taylorsville High School that was hosting over five different schools in the Salt Lake Valley. It was bitter cold that morning, and my husband and I brought blankets. We sat in the stands watching the events among other spectators and competitors waiting for their event to start—most everyone sat shrouded in blankets.

After several hours, the sun came out and burned across the stadium seats making blankets and layers unbearable. People began peeling off anything extra and discarding items at their feet.

When my son’s events were over, my husband, daughter, and I piled up our gear and headed to the car. In doing so, we must have inadvertently picked up an audience member’s spare shirt.

I don’t know what to do with this shirt. I have no idea to whom it belonged or how to go about returning it. So if you know someone who is missing a shirt, let him or her know I may have it! Or if you want a new shirt, I may have what you’re looking for—Mother’s Day is coming, and the shirt is clean.

Later this afternoon, my son has another track meet, only on a smaller scale. My goal is to leave with the exact amount of objects I bring. Wish me luck!

 

Ice, Ice, Baby!

a drink and a smile
Close-up of woman’s smiling mouth and soft drink

Yay! I can have ice, again. I sit at my kitchen table and to my left is a glass of Strawberry sparkling water floating in ice! It sounds silly over triumphant, I know. I’ve been off ice for close to a decade—not because I was addicted to the stuff and not because I’m a European enthusiast—I am, but not when it comes to ice—the issue was the blunt pain that radiated through my weak enamel and hammered at my gums whenever ice cream or an icy cola entered my mouth.

I was told of my sensitivity condition when I went to a dentist—one who was highly recommended by, I suspected later, people who hated me—to fix a filling in a tooth. I must state, that I have a brother who is also a dentist, a good one at that, however, he lives one hundred miles away from me, and so, I decided to try someone local. As the new guy used a water pick infused with what seemed to be liquid nitrogen squirting my gum line, I howled.

“You have sensitive teeth,” he told me.

I’m always fascinated with two abilities dentists all seem to have—the capacity to understand a patient with tools, cotton balls, and a vacuum jammed in his or her mouth and still manage to carry on a conversation, and how dentists always state the obvious.

“Looks like you have a cavity.”

Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m here.

“I haven’t seen you in a while.”

That’s because you’re a dentist and next to nose-diving towards the earth in a fiery plane, dentists are the next most terrifying things there is—that and sharks.

Besides my mouth, what’s there to talk about with a dentist anyway? Does anyone just hang out with his or her dentist, I mean if they’re not related to you?

While Mr. DDS was testing his theory of whether or not I felt pain, spraying my mouth with cold and the hot water—me, wincing and jumping—he insulted me.

“You know, you should start buying Sensodyne toothpaste.”

Sensodyne—as in old people toothpaste?

“Aren’t I too young for that?” I garbled.

“No, you’re close to forty, right?” He stepped back and assessed me.

“No!” I wasn’t yet, thirty-five!

“Oh, well, your teeth think you are.”

Nice.

Then, the appointment got worse. As the man was dismantling an old filling, he accidentally punctured my root with one of his miniature diamond pickaxes. I saw blinding white for thirty-three seconds before I tasted rusted pennies on my tongue.

“Oops. Sorry.”

FYI, oops and sorry should never be uttered during any procedure—ever!

He went on to tell me that he wasn’t qualified to perform a root canal, but had a buddy whom he’d call, and request an emergency appointment. Root canal? Emergency appointment? My teeth think I’m forty-years-old? He left.

After a few minutes, the dentist returned.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but my buddy can’t see you for two hours. So what I’m going to do is numb you up real good, and then you can see him this afternoon.”

I have no idea how much Lidocaine the man shot into my gums and cheek, but it was enough to make the whole right side of my face lie immovable.

Killing a couple of hours, I decided to head to a nearby Barnes and Noble. Along with books they also have a place to order a sandwich.

When I got in my car, I checked out my face in the rearview mirror. I was poufy but looked fine—until I smiled. An invisible line seemed to wall off one side of my face from the smiling side. I looked like I had had a major stroke and recently.

I had two choices; I could drive all the way home to wait for my appointment watching daytime television—ugh! And then drive all the way back a few hours later, or I could suck up what I looked like and go to church—aka Barnes and Noble. I reasoned I rarely had the opportunity to do nothing but read in the afternoon, so I chose option B and drove to the bookstore.

At a corner section of B and N, was Starbucks and I scanned the menu items above the barista. As I opened my mouth to order a sandwich and a drink, a thick string of slobber spilled from the sagging right side of my face and puddled onto the counter.

Horrified I snatched a handful of napkins from a dispenser and sopped up my juices. I tried saying sorry, which led to more drool and pitying looks from “Becca” behind the cash register.

“That’s a grilled ham and cheese and a diet coke without ice, right?” she asked, enunciating each word. I nodded and handed her my credit card.

“I’ll bring it out to you,” Becca said, producing a damp yellow rag and mopping up my saliva.

I tried convincing myself to stay, fighting the adrenaline spike prompting me to run out of the building, to my car, and drive somewhere dark—somewhere in the shadows to hide.

To my surprise, I didn’t run. I found a book. I found a table, and I sat down. This is good I kept telling myself, this is a social experiment—what it’s like to be at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble with partial facial paralysis.

After a few minutes, someone other than Becca brought me my order. I popped a corner of sandwich into my mouth and tried chewing off a piece. I bit my cheek instead. I ripped off a section by hand and shoved it passed my lips. The bread slipped out of the right side of my mouth and landed on the table in a wet mess.

Not Becca was watching me from the counter. I felt his stare boring into the side of my broken face. I pretended not to care. I tried taking a long drag on my straw, picturing the dark liquid shooting through the tube like my own stubbornness, but this too just poured out the side of my mouth and splashed onto the tabletop.

Becca and Not Becca hurried to me, holding handfuls of napkins and a damp yellow cloth. I couldn’t handle it. I packed up my things and hurried out to my car vowing never to go to any dentist other than my brother and that maybe I should start using Sensodyne toothpaste?

Today, I sit sipping sparkling water on ice—though it has nothing to do with using old person toothpaste—that stuff doesn’t really work. Recently, I found a toothpaste containing fluoride, and within a week, here I am with an icy drink! Miracles do happen!

 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: Book Review

The Year of Magical Thinking Book CoverCheck out this Book Bite! A truly delicious Main Course!

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

In 2003, Joan Didion had been married to her husband, writer, John Gregory Dunne for nearly forty years. They had just returned from visiting their daughter, Quintana’s hospital bed. Quintana was sick and in a coma. Whether she would live or die was up in the air.

Joan and John go home. Joan is in the kitchen making dinner. John is in the other room and is suddenly silent. John suffers a fatal heart attack. Joan spends the next year and the recovery and then the second hospitalization of Quintana, in a state of dreaming, reliving her live with John and discovering what a life without him will mean.

Beautiful and haunting, Didion writes raw emotion like a master painting welding a paintbrush. This book is a magnificent look into Didion as she seeks poignant answers to what it means to have her husband die and what it means to survive it.

 

 

Even Steven? Not Quite

 

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When it comes to equality, it’s easy to think we are moving forward—even if that forward momentum is glacial—still, the hope of balance between the sexes is on the horizon, and then something happens to thrust you right back to square one.

I was at the gym today huffing and puffing with free weights. This in itself is an accomplishment because that area of the gym, of any gym, is an intimidating space, a paradise of chiseled abs, rolling hills of biceps, flab-less triceps and an entire mirrored wall to watch and admire oneself. Here, is where gym rats live.

Even at 12:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, the gym was full, and weight lifting benches were few. I scouted out one and took it. It was one of those adjustable seats where one side can be raised to a specified degree and has funny looking bumpers attached. The idea of it, I think, is to slide your feet between bumpers, put the bench at an incline, and do sit-ups while holding weights. That was not what I had in mind.

I raised one end thirty degrees and then laid my head beneath the feet restraints. From here I did chest presses—a delicate dance in which each arm lifts fifteen-pound dumb bells over the chest and then retracts and repeats. It worked at an incline. In fact, I liked it a lot and will probably do it again!

After three sets of chest exercises, I moved on to biceps. I had my backpack that held my phone, in which my earbuds snaked out of the front pocket and up to my ears. I had my notebook and pen inside to write which exercises I was doing and to keep track of repetitions. Two dumb bells sat on the floor, and my thirty-two-ounce drink stood next to the pack. I was set up, ready to be in that section for a while.

I began doing bicep curls and had the opposite knee resting on the inclined seat when a man stood in front of me and waved. I’d never seen him before. He had a wiry beard, wore an oversized black t-shirt, and looked to be in his late thirties.
I paused my music and pulled out an earbud.

“Hey, hi,” he said. “If you’re not using this bench, can I have it? I mean, you’re using it, but not in the right way—“
I looked around. He was right. I wasn’t using the bench correctly, and I could do bicep curls from anywhere.

He stood smiling at me as I gathered up my stuff and moved, backpack slung over one shoulder, drink dangling underneath one of the fifteen-pound weights.
I scanned the area for another place to crash and found one on the far side of the wall mirror. I noticed a second reclining bench, also not being used “properly.” Why hadn’t the man asked for this bench? The difference was that it was occupied by a man—a I’m-here-everyday-eight days-a-week kind of man. Interesting.

Perhaps the eight-days-a-week guy had just gotten there? Maybe, the bearded man hadn’t noticed a second bench or had and asked to use it but was turned down? What I suspect however is that out of the two people misusing the seat, I was the least intimidating. In less than ten minutes, after I had finished my bicep exercises and packed up, the bearded guy found me a second time.

“I’m finished. That bench is all yours,” he said. It was an odd thing to say. Why would it be okay to stop someone’s workout, take his or her bench, and then give it back ten minutes later? Sure, it was a quick interruption, so why couldn’t he have waited until I was done? What’s worse, why had I complied?
See? One step forward in equality, and a giant slide backward. When will we learn?

 

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson, Book Review

Rosemary- The Hidden Kennedy Daughter book coverWarning: Spoiler Alert!

Very little is known about the first daughter of the Kennedy royalty. For most of her life, Rose Marie Kennedy was kept hidden from the world. Rose Marie Kennedy, aka Rosemary, was the third child born to Joe Sr. and Rose Kennedy, sixteen-months after her famous brother, John F. Kennedy, in 1918. It was probably due to the antics of the obstetrical nurse as Rosemary was crowning, that caused her physical and mental damage rendering her “slow.”

In the early 1900’s, any form of disability was shaming to the entire family. Once Rosemary’s disability was realized, she was sent to private schools in hopes of being “cured” through an education. Although she learned to read and write, her developmental abilities stunted her at a fourth-grade level which terribly embarrassed the family.

As Rosemary aged, her mental condition worsened, she threw fits and punches and got to the point where her parents couldn’t control her anymore. Worried about the effect his defective child would inadvertently and inevitably do to his sons’ political careers, Joe. Sr. chose to try a new and radical procedure; a lobotomy for Rosemary.

Before the surgery, Rosemary looked entirely “normal.” Considered a beauty, she was even presented to the Royal Court in England and was a favorite among the journalists. After the lobotomy, she could no longer walk on her own, use half of her body, or speak with clarity. She was sent to a Saint Coletta School, in Jefferson, Wisconsin where she received around the clock care by nuns. The Kennedy’s didn’t see or talk about Rosemary very often after that.

However, Karma has a way of balancing injustices, and Joe Sr. had a stroke leaving him paralyzed and unable to communicate for eight years.

It was because of Rosemary that the Kennedy’s started doing something positive with their fortune and notoriety. JFK signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation bill in October 1963. Eunice Kennedy, Rosemary’s younger sister, and Maria Shriver’s grandmother, started the Special Olympics.

Rosemary is a sad story about humanity and its struggles, and secrets held. It’s about injustices and forgotten children with disabilities. One of the most poignant aspects of this story is the author’s dedication:

“To those struggling with disabilities and mental illness, and the families who love them.”

Well written and full of in depth history about the Kennedy’s, this book is one that will make you cherish the life and abilities you have.

 

 

Writing Prompt in a Flash

 

IMG_0102Last night, I attended a meeting that included a presentation about writing Flash Fiction. For reference, Flash Fiction is a story with between 200-1500 words. At the end, everyone was asked to write a story within twenty minutes using six prompts. The idea of having limited time and using prompts is to react and explore ideas that don’t always naturally go together. My biggest issue was that when I write, I sequester myself and need absolute silence. So in a room full of people, clacking away at their keyboards, it was a challenge.
Here are the prompts:
1) Genre-Horror
2) Protagonist-an inanimate object
3) Plot Arc-person meets person/object meets object
4) Tone-Grim and Gritty
5) Setting-Real Outer space.

And here’s what I came up with. Keep in mind that there isn’t time to edit as you go, so it’s rough and not tweaked in any way. However, I enjoyed the exercise immensely!

“The Last One Left”

There are three people to my left and two to my right. No one has eaten his or her insta-pork chops and mashed potatoes. Outside the windows are black with distant stars denting the atmospheric fabric.
“I don’t want to do this,” the woman with long silver hair says. She’s older than me, but just by a little.
“You don’t have a choice, Gloria,” the man next to her says. He touches the top of her hand.
“Sinkholes. Why does it have to be sinkholes?” the younger man with blue eyes asks no one in particular. I heard he had incurable cancer of some kind. “Did anyone know sinkholes were in Outer space?”
“They aren’t literal sinkholes,” I say, “anyway, we weren’t told about any of this.” My five table companions turn and look at me. “We wouldn’t have agreed if they had.”
Gloria starts to cry. “It’s like the people in India—sending out their old to be eaten by tigers.”
“It’s okay, Gloria,” the man next to her says. “If your name comes up, I’ll go in your place.”
“That’s not fair!” the lady with short green hair pounds her fist. The water glasses jump. “Not all of us have stand-ins!”
“He’s not my stand-in,” Gloria says, “He’s my husband, Tom.”
I like how she says his name. Tom. It’s as if in the lilt of her voice I can see their entire life together; picnics on a grassy hill. Their first kiss. Skinny dipping in some perfectly calm lake, surrounded by trees and night. The only sound is laughter skipping across the water’s surface—and probably crickets. I miss the sound of crickets. They used to make me feel lonely and deserted, now they remind me of home.
A clock starts up. The ticking begins. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6…
The high-pitched squeal of the vacuum seal releases. Tom and Gloria grasp hands. Clicks and groans of gears shift. A whoosh. Tom drops from the table. Gloria screams as his hand slips out of hers. He’s gone—somewhere in Outer space.
He was the first. We wait to see who’s next.

(word count: 358)

Another Two-for: Book Reviews

Footsteps in the snow book coverFootsteps in the Snow by Charles Lachman: Book Review

The book, Footsteps in the Snow, is a true crime story centered on the longest cold case in U.S. history. On Dec.3, 1957, seven-year-old Maria Ridulph went outside to play with her friend Kathy in the snow. A man appeared, told him his name, Johnny, and asked if either of them wanted a piggyback ride? Maria agreed to two rides. The first was without incident. The second ride happened while Kathy ran home to grab a pair of mittens. When she returned, Maria and the man were gone. Four months later, Maria’s body was found. Fifty-five years later, her killer was brought to justice.

I got this book based on the summary on the back cover. It talked about a girl’s kidnapping, her murder, and a deathbed confession that ripped apart two families and led to the killer. It sounded intriguing, though technically these things happened, and in that order, it didn’t play out in the story the same way. Johnny wasn’t a surprise. The deathbed confessional didn’t result in discovery nor did it rip two families apart. And although the killer received a Life in Prison sentence, the reader feels no sense of closure to the case. I give it two stars.

 

Girl with no name book cover

The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised By Monkeys

By Marina Chapman with Vanessa James and Lynn Barrett-Lee

In 1954, a little girl was abandoned somewhere in the jungles of South America. She was four-years-old and alone. Within days a troop of Capuchin Monkeys allowed her to be among them and she stayed with them for years. Several years pass and the girl is found. After that, life just got worse.

This was a hard story for me in that there was so much opportunity for a great tale and it didn’t deliver. Told in the point of view of the girl, now a woman, Marina, the story within this book becomes too hard to swallow.

Here’s how the story goes: Not only was Marina raised by monkeys but she was found and sold to a brothel. Then she became a street gang leader. Then she worked for a Crime family. Then she was almost blown up with a bomb. Then she was in a Convent with mean Nuns…

Although I believe that some, perhaps all of these things happened, they are told in such a fantastical way it’s hard not to think that creative liberties were in play. By way of fact verification, is a grouping of photos showing various places in Columbia and pictures of Marina as an adult. I guess I just wanted more concrete information. The story also ends very unsatisfactorily, with Marina as a child, and seemingly, in mid-sentence.