A Place of Her Own

I was sitting in my recliner last night, feet propped up with two blankets on. I had my laptop, Kindle Fire, phone, and good intentions for a manuscript for a novel all in my lap when Iris happened. Remember that cute little gray girl cat I have? Well, I still have her and she still likes laps.

I had just finished a bowl of soup and she decided she wanted a place of her own…on my lap. She hopped up into the chair with me and circled around all the stuff in my lap. She decided there was too much clutter and it needed to go.

First, as she was circling to find the perfect spot, her tail swept several sheets of my manuscript onto the floor. Next, she started “making biscuits” meaning she was paw-pawing the blanket. Her paws scooped up a binder clip that had held my manuscript together and knocked that on the floor followed by my phone.

I took the hint. I moved everything off my lap and made room for her. Then she left. Cats!

Note: She came back about ten minutes later and curled up. Ridiculous little girl!

Fruit Killer

Have you ever cut open a pomegranate before? I did this for the first time the other day, desperate for something fruity. My husband had brought a few over from a client’s house. They had tried them and didn’t like them. I didn’t even know how to begin to gut one, so I called my mother, knowing she had done it before.

 She told me to cut it whichever way—vertically or horizontally—and scoop the seeds out. Allen had said something about soaking it. I tried both. Mom had said she usually halved it like she would an orange, so I cut it horizontally. She told me there would be some seeds lost in the cutting.

 Intent on what I was doing I paid little attention to anything else. I made the cut, grabbed a spoon and started scooping seeds out into a bowl, imagining them popping open between my teeth, allowing their juice to gush across my tongue. Noting that some of the pith had come out with the seeds, I also decided to soak the seeds to separate out the pith. The scooping was not easy work. Those seeds are packed inside pretty tightly and I had juice running down my left hand as I scooped. At long last the seeds were out, soaked, and the pith skimmed off. I went into another room, determined to enjoy first and clean up later.

 When I went back into the kitchen, I allowed myself to look at the scene of the fruit murder for the first time. It really did look like the scene of a violent crime. There was juice everywhere! It had gotten on the cutting board, spurted onto the counter, splashed onto the wall behind the counter, seeped over to the stove, and even painted the roll of paper towels.

 That section of the kitchen was awash in purple pomegranate blood. As I stepped up to the counter to wipe it down, my toe got wet. Not surprisingly, there droplets on the floor as well. I hadn’t made that big of a mess in that short of a span of time for quite awhile. Not wanting the juice to stain anything, I worked quickly, even though I was starting to do a potty dance.

 Once the kitchen was clean, I allowed myself time in the bathroom. When I stood before the mirror, washing my hands, I noticed that the kitchen was not the only place that looked like the scene of a violent murder. I looked the part of a killer! I had spatters of juice on my face and left arm. As I stepped back from the mirror a bit so I could see more, I realized my shirt, too, bore witness to my fruit victim’s blood.

 The shirt was spattered purple and looked like a Jackson Pollack painting. I was an absolute mess. Fortunately it was just an old t-shirt I was wearing around the house, not something I liked to wear out. I made a note to myself: never open a pomegranate without a paint shirt on.

 The purple will probably not come out of the shirt. There wasn’t enough Shout in the world to get all the spatters. The wall is lightly stained in a couple of places, but so faint you have to know it is there in order to see it. I have decided that maybe cutting open pomegranates isn’t for me, especially since my knives are right-handed and I am not. If I do ever murder another one, I might have to set a large bowl over it to catch the mess as I slice into it’s flesh.

 Lesson learned: fruit murder doesn’t pay. But the seeds sure tasted good!

Want Fries With That?

The title of my blog is now a little misleading. I am no longer a TOTAL lady of leisure. I have acquired a part-time job at the local library, and with that job comes stories. Today was no different.

During customary checkout procedure I take a patron’s card, scan it, and then scan the items being taken home while making sure to unlock any media items and demagnetize almost everything. A woman approached the counter with a young boy who was probably no older than 11.

Now, we all know that kids this age know everything and will continue to know everything until they are about 30. This boy was no different. He thought nothing of placing his mouth on the edge of the chest-high portion of the counter while waiting for his mother.

Mom, on the other hand, thought something of that. Upon glancing over and seeing her son lip-locked with the counter’s edge, she immediately told him not to do that. Of course the boy removed his lips, waited for his mother to turn away, and then placed them back on the smooth surface. I have no idea what tasted so good to him.

Now, I couldn’t let an opportunity to teach the young lad a lesson go to waste. However, boys this age don’t get scared and don’t get grossed out. Ever. I mean, what would their friends think? Still, I felt he needed to know something important about that counter top. Donning my sternest librarian face and keeping my expression deadpan and serious, I asked, “Do you know how many people put their hands there after picking their noses?”

Beep, beep. I continued scanning, glancing up long enough to see him look at me to see if I was joking. Keeping my face locked in a serious expression, I saw the horror spread over his face slowly. It was a lot like the opening scene of the semi-recent phantom of the opera movie when the screen goes from black and white cobwebs to a full color, gas lit opera house.

“Betcha didn’t think about that,” his mother said, seeming to play into my hands. The horrified expression remained on his face until he turned to walk towards the door. “Have a nice day,” I called after him. I wanted to add, “Want fries with that?”

Crying Over Spilt Ink

I wrote my first poem in 5th grade about a snowflake. That is all I can remember about it and I wish I had kept it. I took it up to my teacher to read and she said, “That’s nice.”
Unlike many kids I enjoyed school and liked many of my teachers. In fact, I found it easier to get along with the teachers than the students. I knew I was a nerd of sorts because I got great grades most of the time and other kids would sometimes call me one when I did better than them on a test or assignment. It made me proud, but not particularly special. Most of the kids got pretty decent grades in parochial school so I never saw myself as above average in any way.
Then I walked into the public school system in eighth grade. I had been around a few goof-offs before, just not so many. Because I was from parochial school I was put into the classes for average kids. By the end of the first semester, the teachers recognized I was above average and petitioned to get me into honors math and English.
There was one teacher in particular who encouraged the other teachers to agree I was not just average, who saw me as someone who had special gifts even. That was my English teacher, Barb Duncan. When I showed her my writing, she encouraged me to enter an essay contest, in which I took third place and for that I got my picture and essay in the local paper.
She told me I was a strong writer who had a lot of potential. She inspired me to keep writing. When I wrote my first short play a few years later for a high school project, I dedicated it to her during the performance.
My parents never discouraged my writing or my interest in any of the arts and even seemed adequately proud when I wrote an essay at age 16 that won me a trip to Washington DC for a week. But they never inspired me and coached me the way Mrs. Duncan did, probably because they didn’t really know what to do with a child interested in the fine arts other than to just let her do her thing.
Mrs. Duncan pushed me, wanting to see more out of me. I’ll never forget her—she was very petite, probably almost a foot shorter than I am. She had a long, dark braid down her back and totally didn’t look like the type of woman to ride a Harley, but she had a wild passion in her for the open road apparently.
I wish now that I knew how to connect with her again. I haven’t seen her since probably just after college. What she would think of me now, I wonder. My pen was dormant for so long. Do I still have the talent and promise she saw so long ago?
I sometimes wish I still had some of those early teen musings to look back upon. Would I see what she did? I once had a folder full of writing that I did when I was young, but I can’t find it now. I would like to see some of it. Though much of it is silly romance or angst I think I am now in a good place for looking back, for now I can recognize how far I have come.
I sometimes wonder if I would have taken as great an interest in writing and the English major in general if it wasn’t for Harley Duncan, as the students called her. I couldn’t stop writing once I was told I was good at it.
However in college, my writing professor told me my scope was limited and the amount of writing I did diminished steadily until all I did was journal. I didn’t take any more creative writing classes after that. All I wrote about was the pain I experienced and I showed almost no one my writing.
My husband rekindled my interest in the written word when we were dating by saying he liked the way I wrote my letters to him (we lived in different towns). In grad school a few years later, I took another creative writing class as a requirement. I was very nervous about presenting my short story to the class to critique but received so much good feedback that I was once again encouraged to write a little.
However, it took nearly a decade before I would take up my pen on a regular basis again. I not only had to gain self-confidence, but I also had to feel I had something worthwhile to say. Ink is still not filling a notebook a month—not yet anyway. But ink is spilling forth gradually. It may not happen every day, but it does happen usually at least once a week. I haven’t worked out an adequate way to reward myself for daily writing to get myself into the habit. There are still a lot of gaps between entries. However, I am writing more than I was just three months ago and I must relish and reward that achievement.
There is no sense in crying over the days I didn’t write because they are in the past. I can write today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. I must write until my current notebook is full, no matter how bad the writing is. After I reward myself, I must then begin again with another notebook. I must just take things one line at a time.
Barb Duncan only began to fan the writing flame in me. Other writers and bloggers are now tending to it. It might have nearly gone out once or twice, but it has never been snuffed completely. Now I have a passion for sharing what I have learned. It is no longer a single flame flickering, but a roaring fireplace providing me with the hot, burning desire to write, to create something useful and worthwhile.
This blog was inspired by a writing prompt that asks the writer to recreate a change of mind. It is from Write Starts by Hal Zina Bennett, which is a great little book of prompts I use for exercises. This prompt is spelled out on pg. 39-40. The title is my husband, Allen Posz’s, brainchild and I thought it went well with the piece.
Has someone ever inspired you to want to improve your skills? Has that memory stuck with you? What kinds of stories would you like to see me tell in this blog? Fiction? Nonfiction? A particular genre? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what direction you would like to see me go, as well as sharing something you remember about someone who gave you direction in your life.

The Proof Is In the Way He Holds A Doll

To be a judge for the Great Stork, you have to really know your stuff. You have to know what little boys like, what little girls like, what they expect out of a sibling of the same sex, what they expect out of a sibling of the opposite sex, and so on. I have recently been reviewing applications for boys who say they want a little sister and giving my reports from their auditions to the Great Stork. In the end, it is the Great Stork’s decision who gets a sister and who gets a brother, but I make the recommendations based on what I observe during the auditions.
Recently, I went to the home of a little boy who was getting his first younger sibling. Taking the form of a fly, I sat quietly on the wall as his friend, who had brought along a little sister, engaged him in play. Now, if a little boy wants to be the big brother of a little girl, he must be very special. He must be patient and kind and willing to play by her rules. This little boy started off fairly well. He fed the doll in its high chair gently. However, when he went to pick the doll up out of the chair, he grabbed her by the head. Big mistake! Dolls must always be treated like babies—with great care and gentleness. I recommended that this little boy get a brother.
A few blocks down, another little boy was having a tea party with a neighbor girl about his age. She asked him to pour, and I knew this would be a great test. He held the teapot over the cup, but lingered too long, and she told him he had spilled tea all over the table. Worse still? It didn’t seem to bother him and he didn’t offer to clean it up. He, too, will probably get a little brother. Little brothers don’t mind messes. In fact, they rather enjoy making them.
Then I came across young Garrett who was visiting his aunts, uncles and grandparents at his Aunt Brenda’s house where his young cousin Adelyn lives. Now since Garrett wasn’t at his own house, he didn’t have his usual toys, which meant he would be playing with Adelyn, an interaction I just couldn’t miss.
Again, I sat on the wall in the form of a fly and observed. I’m surprised his Aunt Brenda didn’t find and swat me. At first, Garrett and Adelyn played the gender neutral game of balloons. He gave her first choice of colors between green and purple rather than just claiming the green one, so he passed that test. She chose purple anyway. They bopped the balloons into the air, Garrett taking great pride in getting his to hit the vaulted ceiling, a very boy thing to do but not anti-girl. Then Brenda suggested to Adelyn that she show Garrett her room, which he seemed genuinely excited to see.
Moments later, Garrett pranced out of her room pushing a small, pink umbrella stroller with a doll in it. He didn’t look sheepish or embarrassed, so he passed that test with flying colors. He even had a big smile on his face. Adelyn followed behind with more dolls in a tiny pink wagon. Garrett asked her what the doll in his stroller’s name was and she answered, “Shelley.” Score 3 for Garrett!
Garrett parked the stroller next to the couch and took the doll out of it, holding it gently like a baby which seemed to please Adelyn. He rocked it, fed it, and put it to bed saying, “Goodnight, Shelley.” Garrett didn’t balk about pretending he and Adelyn were a couple. He stretched out next to her on a small sofa that unfolded. It was bright pink with fairy princesses on it. When the dolly cried, he got up and took care of it. Kudos to Garrett!
After a while, they went back to playing balloons again. I observed closely and watched as Garrett smacked Adelyn in the face with his green balloon. Shame on him! But I couldn’t grade him too harshly because he did pass all the tests involving playing with dolls and it was just a balloon. She didn’t even bat an eyelash and, in fact, she smacked him back.
I have decided to recommend that Garrett get a little sister. His younger brother Grant, on the other hand, will probably fail the tests, but he wasn’t available for an audition Sunday due to illness. I still hold out hope since Garrett is the oldest. If any 6-year-old boy deserves a sister, it is Garrett. I have given my report to the Great Stork, who will ultimately have the final say. I guess we will all find out when the baby is born in May.
Do the people in your family find out the sex of their babies? Do you know of a little boy who tenderly plays with his little sister or a big sister who plays rough and tumble with her little brother? Please leave your answers in the comment section below.

Introducing Psyched to Write

I know I just posted yesterday and I usually only post once per week, but I just had to share with my followers that yesterday’s post inspired me to create a new blog about writing, psychology, and overcoming obstacles to creativity, particularly for people who have mental illness. This is my launch into the world of being a writer and I just had to share it with you, my loyal readers. Yesterday’s post from here was posted in the new blog, which will have regular posts of it’s own each Tuesday beginning March 5, 2013. I am very excited about this new blog and I hope you will be, too.

The blog is called Psyched to Write and the URL is http://www.psychedtowrite.wordpress.com so go over and check out the “What It’s About” tab to learn more. My posts here in “A Lady’s Tales” will continue each Thursday as scheduled. Spread the word to all your writer or creative-type friends. Who knows? You might be next to enter the blogosphere! Be psyched to write, and write on!

Marsha Holtgrewe-Posz