2:18 AM – A Blog Flashback

A blog flashback from 2/27/07:

Insomnia possibly was one of my worst childhood problems. Classmates couldn’t grasp how I read Gone With The Wind on a regular basis. When you can’t sleep, there’s only so much to do through the hours. My mother would quite often wake up at five in the morning and lecture me on how I need to sleep like a regular person. I wouldn’t. Years went on and I would continue to read and write until all hours of the night.

And, the sleepless beast has suddenly attacked again.

It’s quite horrible, sitting in complete silence and darkness with a plethora of words roaming through your head. My other childhood problem. The desire to tell stories. The desire to write. The desire to put things on paper and the need for those to understand. The need for those to appreciate what I have to say.

I get up out of bed.

I don’t even know where to begin. I run my hand across my first novel. It was a joke to start. I wasn’t going to write more than the first chapter. Then my mind and my fingers took over. until the novel itself took over. I lived and breathed for it when I was writing Letters To Young Chong. I would get home from work, crack open a Corona and go to town. I poured my soul out on those pages and set possibly a world record. A four hundred page novel in less than a year. It was everything I was. It was nearly like giving birth. It, to me, was my legacy. My creation. My words. My story.

And I have let it down. The dust on the binder says so. I analyze the dust particles on my fingers. They scream at me that I am a failure to it. If I really cared, if I really wanted people to feel the way I felt, I would try harder.

Then I think about the death of my second novel.

At least one hundred and sixty pages. Gone. My own stupidity. My own belief that it would be there for me forever. Gone. Mysteriously whisked away from my computer when I removed Norton AntiChrist, I’m sorry, AntiVirus.

All those chapters. All those stories. Stories that I probably will never be able to tell the same again. Stories that those who I dare let in to read the new makings swore it was ten times better than the first novel. Gone. I would of likely felt the same if I woke up one morning with no legs.

I’m left not knowing where to go. To restart? To give up? To finally heed to all those years of people saying, “Writing, that’s nice. What are you going to do for a real job though?” (And that sad realization, that most writers have to go on with real jobs forever. Few people get to just be a writer ‘when they grow up.’)

For now, I will likely just waste away the dark hours of the day and read another’s tales until I either feel tired or until the day begins. (Truth and Beauty, great book, but I think it has contributed to this feeling of writer’s awe.) And now I ponder, how is it possible to give up when the river of words in my head will never stop flowing?

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Fruitfulness: A Blog Flashback

Blog Flashback:  September 8, 2007

My friends are prolific. Look around me… there are babies here or babies coming. They are everywhere and I can appreciate it on some levels.

Really, even I can appreciate it.

There is truly is something beautiful about pregnancy. Even I am prone to rub the belly of a pregnant woman. There is something truly attractive about the curvature. Pregnant women are beautiful. I still remember the first pregnant woman who I touched. I think it shocked me as much as it did her. She snuck up on me and somewhere deep in my system, I reached over and I rubbed Tara’s belly. I’ll never forget it and I’m glad that a primal instinct took over.  Tara has been dead now for several years and when I think of her, it’s always one of the first memories to bubble up. 

Me? Pregnant? Only once I thought I could have been diagnosed with this condition. It was 2003. I had screwed up on my birth control. Looking back, I’m sure that it was my alcoholic party all night never sleep lifestyle that truly interrupted my natural system. But, birth control screwed up. I was a week and a half late. The inflicting fellow? He had been out of town for two weeks and who knew if he would even return.  

I remember I was laying in my uncomfortable bed in Parksley. The horrible wallpaper. Matching bedspread. Buried underneath my red sheets. My blonde hair wrapped my body all the way to my waist. I laid tucked underneath bedspread, sheets, and hair naked. Both hands placed on my abdomen. Scared to death I was going to be my mother. Scared to death if I should tell him or just walk away. Comforted in the thought that if he knew he would care for us financially. Financially? Is that all we needed? A paycheck?

I rolled to my side and pulled back all the bedding and stared at my flat stomach. I touched my belly button as if it was a route of communication. “I really don’t know if you are there, but if you are… I don’t know if you want to be here. I’m a drunk as I’m sure as you know. And your paternal figure… I’m not sure if he’ll if recognize you as his. He gave me this speech once about how my people were inferior to his. I don’t know how he’ll feel about you. I barely know how he feels about me. I’m real sorry that I’ve screwed up in such a way.”

It was a week later that my body produced the physical proof that I wasn’t pregnant. At least anymore and I was glad. Glad for whatever was listening to me that day as I laid in bed naked, that it knew I could not provide for it what it truly needed.

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Barefooted In Potatoes : A Blog Flashback

Blog flashback from May 22, 2006:

Even I can’t deny my life has been stressful these days.

I set out bare foot to walk the dusty edge of the potato field. The plants slightly wilt in the evening sun, even they are weary of their daily life. Waiting desperately for the sun to go away so they can relax in the darkness. I run my hands across the tops of them as I walk along, in an act of sympathy.

The packed dried soil is scattered with tractor tire impressions. Like the traces of my smile these days. I wonder if the deep frown under my happy expressions are as faint as the tire marks. Or is it just the opposite, is it my smile that is unrecognizable lately?

The path veers north between a cornfield. The sun warms my skin and even feels like it seeps into my soul that has turned so cold over time. If it was only easy as the return of the heated months. I fear it’s not the answer though.

I make it to the end of the field and stop. Stop and close my eyes and try to let go of myself. To remember who I was. How things were when my life followed a smoother rhythm. When the answer to every question was found in my daily life. There was no question that I couldn’t find the answer to right there.

My thoughts go silent.

I breath in. I breath out. I breath in. I breath out.

A pair of Canada Geese fly overhead speaking in a language I don’t understand. What do their honks mean?

I need to remember what I love. The things I have forgotten exist.

I love Canada Geese. I love honeysuckle. I love ladybugs. I love the smell of rain. I love shooting stars. I love the way sand feels. I love the way salt water smells. Even the way it taste. I love the way the sky looks when you are looking up from underwater. I love the smell of a bonfire. I love climbing trees. I love walking through mud puddles. I love watching robins look for bugs. I love watching fish swim near the shallow banks in ponds. I love the way tadpoles grow. I love finding blackberries growing along the woods. I love reading old tombstones. I love seeing my breath in the winter. I love eating icicles. I love tiger lilies and daffodils. I love the smell of a tomato plant’s leaves. I love listening to frogs sing late at night.

I love taking deep breaths and taking a minute to remember I am alive and I am human.

I love. I am not as dead on the inside as other’s think. Not even as much as I think. I am alive. I love. There are still simple things that make me happy. I refuse to be complex. I refuse to look over the little things that make my daily life incredible. I refuse to let myself die on the inside.

I am alive. I love.

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Swim (Where Did It Go?) – A Blogging Flashback

Blog Flashback from 2008:

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I’ve promised myself that this year I will be embellished in as much sand and saltwater as possible. Being raised near and have raided all the private beaches in lower Northampton County, it’s in my blood to want to hear the ocean (or bay) in my ears and not in the conk shell to the ear way. As a child from Cape Charles, I spent every night and day of the summer at the beach. It’s even hereditary. I’m half Eastern Shore and a quarter Outer Banks. My family was practically born in saltwater and sand.

That being said, I’m buying the biggest tub of 300 SPF sun block I can get, a giant umbrella, a hat created for Gone With The Wind and really dark sunglasses. (Hereditary issues again, I must obey the will of the Irish skin. The older I get the faster I fry.) I am going to buy a slue of books that will make me laugh. I am going to the beach more regularly this summer.

Of course, this takes us to apparel. The older I get, the more troubles I have here. In my teenage years I was quite a bit daintier. And let’s be honest, when you are younger you just have more leniency in what you wear. Plus on top of that, we never did wear our bathing suit everyday of our life. We’d generally have the roasting heat of summer smother us and then just jump in, clothes and all.

Then there was a two year course in which I wasn’t allowed to go to the beach at all. That’s a here nor there story, but all the same I didn’t have to worry about a bathing suit if I wasn’t allowed to go.

2001 came and I was emancipated from my relationship from hell. The first thing I did? I went to A&N and bought three bathing suits. It was at this time I learned that I had became a ’LARGE’ girl. I don’t get this. Not to be rude, but I’m strictly made of boobs and ass. I mean, what do people who are made of more wear if I’m a large? Don’t get offended… but seriously? I went with the flow though and was constantly chewed out by people who would say, “you’re so skinny. You don’t wear a large.” Measure up the rear and the cleavage people. It’s true. I wear a large.

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The summers to follow, I found that the patterns and designs offered in our local stores just weren’t for me. I didn’t fit in the major swimsuit categories of

A.) HOTTIE or SPOILED ON THE ASS. And for you who wear SPOILED on your ass… I hope the P comes off in the wash one day.

B.) THE BELT. A belt? On a bathing suit? What’s next suspenders? A bow tie?

C.) THE SKIRT. It’s not like it’s hiding your ass. It’s only two inches long. Maybe it’s a tutu. That’s what it is, water ballet swimsuits. How did I not see that?

D.) THE THONG +/- NIPPLE STICKERS. I mean really, if you are going to wear that 150ct. neon pink thread between the cheeks you might as well just put Pokemon stickers over your nipples.

E.) THE VICTORIA’S SECRET FIT. I tried this. An X-LARGE did not fit me. I might as well have gone with Option D above. It’s was about the same fit.

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Where does a girl go with such disdain for her options? Is a one piece the only thing that’s left for me? Could there be bathing suits out there for women who are almost 30 but not ready to swim like she’s getting there?

You’ll know the answer this summer. Look for the girl in the wet suit and white watermen’s boots and you’ll know the answer.

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Self-Intervention

I whispered to myself, “I think it’s time for an intervention.”  I couldn’t argue with that statement.  It was indeed time to cleanse the soul and start new.

And because of that, starting on August 1st – I’m going on a social media sabbatical.  No Facebook, No Twitter (which makes me jump up and down for joy … I try so hard but I can’t find myself loving Twitter), no Pinterest (sorry mom!  I know you love Pinterest), no Google + and no blogging.  I will return on September 1st, unless this causes me to turn into some form of a wild animal, roaming the woods naked and living on snails.  It’s hard to tell.  I can’t remember who we were before we had social media.  We may have very well been climbing trees bare bottomed and wiping our asses with leaves.  I’ll let you know what I find on the other side.

There’s been lots going on this summer.  I’ve been raising baby mockingbirds.

Chuck Wee, seen in the video, is the oldest of my two baby mockingbirds.  For ten days, he sported a bandaged leg in the hopes that his broken ankle would heal.  His fracture did fuse together and he dodged an amputation  He has finally ‘flown the coop’.  When he started staying outside, he’d come in for four meals a day, then three, then two, then one… and then he was gone.  Today marks a week since the last time Chuck Wee stopped by. In eight days, he’d completed his ‘soft release’ and was a real bird.

Then there is Axel, who we mostly call Wee Little or Baby Wee.  He’s finally starting to spend time outside.  A bird that seemed so incredibly healthy and possessed such a strong will to live from the moment I saw him.  I agreed to take him in because I already had one and apparently mockingbirds are like potato chips, you just can’t have one.

A week in and I woke up one morning to find Wee Little paralyzed.  I dug deep into my pigeon notes and found a disease that demonstrated many of the same symptoms.  Two antibiotics and ten days later, our Baby Wee was back to his usual self.  It was ugly, it was emotional, but it was worth it to see him pull through.  He’s been spending his days this past week on our screened in porch.  He seems to enjoy bird watching :)

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This past Thursday, our tiny peninsula made national news.  We are no strangers to hurricanes here, but tornadoes are something that is rarely experienced on the Shore.  A mile north of my hometown of Cape Charles you’ll find Cherrystone Campground.  We heard ambulance after ambulance scream by our work that cloudy morning and thought there must have been a really bad accident.  We had no idea a tornado had ran an eight mile path coming from the Chesapeake Bay and almost making it to the Atlantic Ocean.  There were 1,328 adults and children at the campground and 40 staff members working at the time.


The high school I graduated from was set up as a shelter for the campers.  Word started trickling in that there were lots of dogs and several cats with the campers.  My animal hospital loaded everything we could spare in my Blazer and we headed to the shelter.  Over two hundred pounds of dog food, forty pounds of cat food, twenty pounds of litter and bowls.  After we unloaded our donation we offered to speak to anyone who was concerned about their pets.  I know nothing can change what happened to those people that morning, but I am so proud to see what our small community was able to pull together.  The donations were pouring in.  Local restaurants were donating hot meals.  There were tables set up with clothes, toiletries, non-perishable foods, infant formula and baby food.  Over and over again, campers reported how amazing the emergency response and local support had been.

10391418_10152528153409463_3851509568187498805_nThis Saturday, we hosted a bake sale and raffle at our animal hospital to help raise funds and awareness for Shore WIldlife Rehab.  This dynamic duo of Kathy Cummings and Gay Frazee care for the sick and injured wildlife of our area.  We provide free medical care for the wildlife at our animal hospital, but the operation of wildlife rehabilitation is still costly.  They receive a few donations here and there, but most of the money comes from their own pockets.  I crossed my fingers and began organizing this small fundraising event.  Gay began talking to local businesses and several of them donated gift certificates for raffle.  The morning of the raffle we had a ton of baked goods and lots of beverages including coffee donated to us by Eastern Shore Coast Roasting Company.  The event brought in $1559.50 + donated items!  I still can’t believe it as I type out the sum.  I was hoping to get at least a hundred dollars for my wildlife ladies, two or three hundred would have made me extremely happy.  Two hours in the event and two more hours to go, Gay whispered to me, “I think we are over a thousand.”  I was sure that I had made the discovery that Gay couldn’t count.  There was no way our little event had brought in over a thousand, but it did.  Here they are, Gay on your left and Kathy on your right.

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I’m going to spend the next week getting some blog posts scheduledd to keep things lively on this site.  Please don’t be offended when I don’t respond to comments.  I promise to address each and every one of them when I return.  They say most social media users spend 28 hours a month on those sites.  I need that 28 hours back.  I want to enjoy my summer.  I want to get things accomplished.  I’d like to finish writing Mosquito Fog at some point.

Farewell my blog followers, I’ll see you in September :)

Posted in Humor, Mel's Sappy Side | 2 Comments

You Bought It, You Read It: The Tenderness Of Wolves

As I pulled this book off my shelf, I wondered how long I had owned. The answer appeared almost immediately as I opened it and a Barnes and Noble receipt drifted out.  2008.  This poor book, along with the next one on my list have been patiently waiting to be enjoyed for six long years.  I’m so sorry book.  So sorry.

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The Tenderness Of Wolves by Stef Penney

The Overview:  

The year is 1867. Winter has just tightened its grip on Dove River, a tiny isolated settlement in the Northern Territory, when a man is brutally murdered. Laurent Jammett had been a voyageur for the Hudson Bay Company before an accident lamed him four years earlier. The same accident afforded him the little parcel of land in Dove River, land that the locals called unlucky due to the untimely death of the previous owner. 

A local woman, Mrs. Ross, stumbles upon the crime scene and sees the tracks leading from the dead man’s cabin north toward the forest and the tundra beyond. It is Mrs. Ross’s knock on the door of the largest house in Caulfield that launches the investigation. Within hours she will regret that knock with a mother’s love — for soon she makes another discovery: her seventeen-year-old son Francis has disappeared and is now considered a prime suspect. 

In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the crime and to the township — Andrew Knox, Dove River’s elder statesman; Thomas Sturrock, a wily American itinerant trader; Donald Moody, the clumsy young Company representative; William Parker, a half-breed Native American and trapper who was briefly detained for Jammett’s murder before becoming Mrs. Ross’s guide. But the question remains: do these men want to solve the crime or exploit it? 

One by one, the searchers set out from Dove River following the tracks across a desolate landscape — home to only wild animals, madmen, and fugitives — variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for seventeen years, and a forgotten Native American culture before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good. 

In an astonishingly assured debut, Stef Penney deftly weaves adventure, suspense, revelation, and humor into an exhilarating thriller; a panoramic historical romance; a gripping murder mystery; and, ultimately, with the sheer scope and quality of her storytelling, an epic for the ages.

My Review:

I should have read this book the minute it arrived. 

The Tenderness Of Wolves is a book that I became absorbed in immediately.  There’s a gigantic cast of characters who will intrigue you and drive you to finish the book as soon as possible.  You NEED to know how this is all going to turn out in the end.

Mrs. Ross is the lead character and most of the book is written from her first person perspective.  Some reviewers seemed a little overwhelmed by the flip-flopping between her first person accounts and the author’s narrative.  I hung in there just fine and found it to be agreeable with the flow of the story.  Those people who seemed perturbed by this also had a hard time with the multiple characters and all of the side stories being woven in as you go.  Again, I found this to add to the mystery of the book.  I flipped each page trying to figure out how every detail tied in to the tale.  At times, you may scratch your head and think, is this fact relevant?  Oh, you wait.  It’s all going to tie together by the end.  

That being said, there are some cliff hangers.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again … a good fictional book with leave you a chance to ponder your own closing scenarios.  (Exception:  Gone With The Wind, if you think Rhett doesn’t go back to Scarlett… then you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.)

It was a wonderful book and I’m quite sad that I had put it off this long.  Once my challenge is over, I may get myself a copy of Stef Penney’s other book, The Invisible Ones.  I hope it will be just as amazing.

Learn more about the author on her website.  

Next on You Bought It, You Read It:  Lottery by Patricia Wood

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DIY SUNDAY: New Kitchen Table

This will be more of a show and tell kind of blog.  I’ll show you why I’m too tired to tell you about it.

I have this amazingly talented coworker who can paint your socks off, or on, she could probably paint socks on you as well.  Her sister is talented, her grandma is talented, everyone in that family is talented.  We are talking the kind of talented that makes you hope and pray that they don’t want to break out a game of hangman, because you know your stick figure is going to embarrass himself in front of their stick figures.

The idea to paint objects on furniture comes from Emmy and her family.  They magically make furniture look like a gallery display.  I was envious.  I was a little crazy.  I was a bit brave.

I decided I wanted to try this myself.

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 For years, I’ve had this piece of paper hanging on my fridge.  In 2001, I was at a family friend’s house in Florida and she had a table that was painted with quotes around the edges.  I really liked the table, but couldn’t figure out how I would get it out of her house and on to a plane with no one noticing.  All I had was a memory.

I want to reemphasize that I have no artistic talents.  Out of my group of siblings, Oktoberfresh is where it’s at when it comes to talent.  Check my sister’s page out and you’ll know why I was afraid I was going to put myself to a horrible shame this weekend.

Hello Farmhouse Table!

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I had been scrolling through our local Trash and Treasures Facebook page looking desperately for a table to either make into a miracle or mess up horribly.  Everything I found was thought by its owner to be an antique and they priced them as such.  Finally, in an act of desperation I posted that I was looking for a dining room table for a DIY project. In no time, a woman named Nancy responded.  She had a farmhouse table she’d sell me for twenty-five dollars.  I near about fainted on the spot!

Days later, I was in her garage pulling out cash.  “You said you wanted twenty-five dollars?”

“Do you think it’s even worth that?”

I could have hugged her.  I wish I had an extra five dollars on me to give her.  This table would be perfect!

Back home on the ranch…

Sunday came quickly.  Holidays always throw me off and this one made my schedule particularly wacky with an upcoming AAHA inspection and the threats of Hurricane Arthur.  There wasn’t a lot of time to create a masterpiece (or even a childish painting, the likely product of this mission).

SAND HER AND PRIME HER UP…

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I’m a cheap-ass and I will admit it any day of the week.  Why buy something brand new when you can make something you have laying around the house work just as well.  The beau hooked me up with his power sander and some 150 grit sandpaper.  After sanding, I used some old paint I’d been hanging on to for touch ups.  A few years ago I painted the spare bedroom a light sky blue.  When buying the paint, I chose the sort that has built-in primer because the previous tenants of my house had painted that room an obnoxious and haunting shade of purple.  It never wanted to go away.  How convenient for me!  I needed primer and I needed to paint the sky.  TADA!  A miracle has occurred!

JUST GET JIGGY WITH IT….

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I am going to make a confession.  I have never really tried to paint anything.  The last thing I remember painting was one of those spiffy coloring books where you get your brush wet and just rub it on the picture in the coloring book and it turned all the right colors for you.  It was probably called “Painting For Your Talentless Child”.  I did what anyone else would do.  I YouTube’d it.  From what I understood that with my base coat, I should keep dipping my brush in the main color and occasionally in another color … plus dip it in a jar of water on and off.  Then, get jiggy with it … and that’s what I did.  I splished and splashed and danced like a mad person.

As I was stepping back to admire my base coat, the beau pulled up.  I looked at our dog and said, “Cody, this is when your father is going to laugh at me.”  He didn’t, but when I asked him what he thought he said, “You know, I can’t see the vision in your head.  I won’t really know until you are finished what it’s supposed to look like.”  Mmmm.. that seemed suspiciously like, “What in the hell has she done?”

GROWING THE GRASS…

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Oh, I’m sure my neighbors could tell that I was doing something with grass out in my front yard.  They were probably certain I was smoking it.

As the video demonstrated, I started off with the large blades of grass first… which looked completely ridiculous.  So ridiculous all by itself that I didn’t even bother taking a picture of that because I was sure I was going to sand this baby back down and paint the whole thing black.  Then I started working on the  blended grass and it really anchored things down.  I took a deep breath to reassure myself and moved on.

POPPIES WILL MAKE THEM SLEEPY…

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Following the video guidelines, I painted my poppies before the stems.  I tried doing the yellow highlights in the flowers, but I got a bit heavy-handed.  I went back over them with some red and it seemed to balance it out.  I proceeded from that and did the stems and black centers.

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Let The Taping Begin…

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Painting The Black Borders…

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The finished product…

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