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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!

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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!

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.

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

Never Empty

Rather than use a prompt, I used part of a verse from scripture to write this after church one Sunday.  It is more of a devotional than a story, but it is based on the story of Elijah asking a widow for food.  She and her son are desperately poor and she was planning to take the last of her oil and flour, make a final meal, lie down and die.  Elijah speaks to her and gives her the following assurance.  Read on.

The jar will never be empty; the jug will never fail.

We seemed to be destined to live on hard times.  We were at poverty level according to state guidelines due to the fact that I couldn’t work and Allen was in a low paying job.  It was not payday yet, and the cupboards were getting bare.  I was desperate for ingredients to fix a meal.  I opened the pantry, scanning its contents carefully.  Was there more flour in my container than there was yesterday?  I couldn’t remember, but it seemed like there was.  I looked for other ingredients and found I could at least make pancakes, which was about all I had the energy for anyway.  Wait a minute—here are some canned vegetables.  I don’t remember having those in here.  Where did they come from?  Were they expired?  Nope.  They were still perfectly good.  That gave me a start for the next meal and then at long last it would be payday.  I wasn’t sure how my pantry still had these things in it.  I scratched my head, wondering if this was the work of my in-laws.  Then I remembered an Old Testament lesson: The jar will never be empty; the jug will never fail.

This lesson always speaks to me.  There have been several other times in my life when I have sworn my cupboard only had food in it due to a miracle on God’s part.  He always makes sure I have enough.  I know that fearing to lose something earthly is like tempting God to take it, but if he does, it is returned tenfold.  This doesn’t just apply to food in our cupboards.  It applies to everything he gives us.  Even the greatest loss of a life dear to you leaves something or someone in its wake.  But I digress.  Allen and I suffered a significant financial loss in October that had us pinching pennies for two months.  Though I was more worried before the loss than after, this lesson was a comfort.  Even if all I had to cook was pancakes, it was food and it was more than some others have.  But I don’t just have to have faith.  I remember that my jar has never been empty and my jug has never failed.  I have had evidence that this is true in my life.

God gave me a wonderful partner to get through these times with.  I used to live in terror of losing him, able to visualize the whole thing.  I would spend afternoons in tears over the loss I felt sure was coming.  I know that day may still come, but I am comforted by Elijah’s words to this widow.  I just need to continue to believe that the same will always be true no matter what.  God always gets me out of places where I feel I will make my last meal, lay down and die.  But I am reminded by this passage that I will always have plenty, whether I see it as plenty or not.

Have you ever wondered how you were going to get your next meal or make ends meet?  Has God rescued you in these times with a full jar and jug?  Talk about your story in the comments section.