I measure my life
through the span
Each one here
Time slows to a purr
accelerates with a snarl.
Snatches of my life gone
Disappearing with the curl of a tail.
I measure my life
through the span
Each one here
Time slows to a purr
accelerates with a snarl.
Snatches of my life gone
Disappearing with the curl of a tail.
Drake didn’t recognize the man who stared back at him from the mirror. His eye was bruised and swollen from the man’s fists, and the back of his head ached. His skin was pale and he felt cold and clammy. He probably had a concussion. Slowly, he worked the soap back and forth over his hands and watched the bloody suds pool at the bottom of the sink. Someone else’s blood. He was washing someone else’s blood off his hands. He’d always thought that when push came to shove, he would be a brave man, that he would be able to sacrifice his life to save someone else, but he had learned that wasn’t the case. When that bastard had pointed his knife in his hand, his insides turned to jelly and he had pissed his pants, and then he had done whatever the man told him to do.
The cabin was out in the woods, far from the highway and from neighbors. No one had heard the old couple scream as they’d been tormented in their last few minutes alive. And they hadn’t been screaming at the monster who held him captive, they had been screaming at him as he drew the sharp hunting knife the monster had given him first across the poor old lady’s neck and then across the screaming old man’s neck. The knife had slid across their skin as if he were cutting silk and, then blood had sprayed across his face. Their screams cut short by his knife, their lives trickled away with the rivers of blood that leaked from the slits in their throats.
Going numb, he had slipped to his knees the knife clutched limply in his right hand. As the monster gently removed the knife from his hand, he realized belatedly that the monster had given him a lethal weapon, and instead of turning it on the monster or, even himself, he had meekly cut the throats of the innocent people before him. Now, he stood in the bathroom preparing to take a shower and wash the incriminating blood away. Using the old couple’s battered old Jeep, the monster had driven further into the wood. They had found this cabin which was deserted. Perhaps, it was someone’s hunting cabin. Drake breathed a sigh of release when the monster forced the door open and they found the cabin empty. Drake couldn’t watch another person die.
Making the water as hot as he could stand, he stepped into the shower and let the hot water stream down his face and body. The heat of the water made the wound on his head sting and revealed scrapes and cuts he didn’t know he had. He grabbed the old piece of soap from the soap dish in the shower and scrubbed his hair and face. He scrubbed until the water ran cold, and then stepped out of the shower. He grabbed an old ratty towel hanging on the towel rack and hastily dried himself off. He hated to put on the clothes the monster had stolen, but he had no choice. The monster had taken his clothes. Sniffling, Drake pulled on the dead old man’s faded blue jeans and fraying sweater.
Even if he managed to get out of this alive, he would have to face the consequences of what he had done. He had made a conscious choice—his life or the old couples. He had chosen his own life. He jumped when the monster pounded on the bathroom door.
“You’ve been in there long enough.”
Quickly, he opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom. Drake was a tall man, but the monster met him eye to eye. He also had a good 50 pounds on Drake, but he wasn’t fat. He was hard with muscle. His pecs stretched out the black t-shirt he wore and Drake had felt the impact of those bulging biceps. His eyes were so dark they were almost black. And they were cold, dead. He’d never seen such old eyes in another human being. He braced himself for another blow, but the monster just motioned towards the kitchen.
“Dinner’s on the table.”
The last thing Drake wanted to was eat, but he made himself go into the small kitchen and sit at the battered wooden kitchen table. The monster had found some canned stew. Drake picked at the gelatinous mass thinking of the homemade stew he liked to make for Madison in the winter. The monster saw him picking at his food.
“You better eat.”
Drake began eating the tasteless stew. He felt like spewing it all over the monster’s face, but he continued to choke it down. Even now, when he’d lost everything, he was afraid to act, afraid of the pain the monster could inflict, both physical and emotional.
He watched Drake carefully. When he’d handed Drake the hunting knife, he’d just wanted to see what kind of man he was dealing with. He was ready for Drake to turn the knife on him. He wasn’t nervous. He knew how to defend himself and how to disarm an assailant. He’d expected Drake to at least bargain with him, but Drake had calmly slit the old couple’s throats. For a moment, he had dropped his guard. If Drake had turned on him then, he would have had the upper hand, but he didn’t turn on him. Drake had dropped to his knees. He had been able to take the knife from Drake. He had placed the bloody knife and Drake’s bloody clothes in a Ziploc bag he had found in the kitchen here. He packaged them up carefully like the police would. His own prints were on the knife as well, but he didn’t worry about that. He never worried about leaving evidence behind, because his evidence couldn’t be tracked. He was a ghost.
When they finished eating, he had Drake wash up the dishes while he went to examine the gun he had lifted from the old guy. As a rule, he didn’t like weapons, but he needed a little more insurance than his own fists could offer. The gun was clean, well cared for, a double action pistol. It wasn’t as good as what the police probably carried, but it would do for his purposes. He needed it to keep Drake in line and to show the Sheriff that he meant business. When he was satisfied that the gun worked well, he slid it into the back of his jeans, and covered it with the tail of his shirt. He picked up the knife and began polishing it with a rag.
When Drake entered the living room, he motioned to him with the knife to sit on the brown plaid couch under the window. He could tell Drake was at the end of his stamina. He needed rest. He didn’t have the stamina or the strength of character to withstand what he had gone through. He knew Drake like men well. Drake was as tall as he was, but not strong. While he looked like he hit the gym every now and then, he wasn’t muscular and he wasn’t strong. He was one of those men who liked the appearance of being strong, but he lacked inner strength.
He watched Drake slowly begin to doze off on the couch. He let him sleep. He would need his energy for what was to come. It wouldn’t be long until the Sheriff followed the signal from Drake’s phone to the other cabin. He had turned the phone back on just before they left. He had left Drake’s car in front of the cabin and they had taken the couple’s old Jeep. His burner phone was charging. As soon as it was finished, he would call the Sheriff and set the last part of his plan in motion.
At 52 years old, I think a lot about the past. Things that I could have done differently. What if I had pursued psychology instead of teaching? What if I had focused on my writing instead of putting it off?
When I find myself starting to regret the past that is gone, I stop myself and focus on today. The choices I have made for myself have shaped who I am today and the life I have. While I am not always happy with how things are, I have a lot of things in my life for which I am grateful.
Watching my son grow up reminds me of all the possibilities that still await me. In his eyes, all things are new. When I experience things through his perspective, I remember that I still have something to offer the world and the world still holds promise for me.
I have a job teaching community college that I love. When I catch myself dwelling on losing my job teaching middle school or not being able to find another one, I remember that I am valued at the college where I teach. After leaving for a semester, they welcomed me back with open arms. That’s much more than any of the public schools I worked for ever did.
My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. When I am frustrated with him, I remind myself that he has been my partner for over half my life. We are very different people, but we meet our challenges together.
Sometimes, I beat myself up for not writing. I don’t always blog or work on my novel, but writing is always a part of my life. When I have a problem, I always write about it. It has been the one constant in my life. I have been writing since the third grade. Even if I never get published, I will always be a writer.
Regret can sap my energy and my hope. It’s like a sweet poison. It is so easy to slip into the past and rewrite my life, but when I slip away, I miss the blessings that are right in front of me.
“Forgive me, Father. for I have sinned. It has been 25 days since my last post.”
I am not Catholic, so I do not answer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but my writing has its own trinity: the Dissertation, the Novel, and the Blog.
This month, I have written 30 pages of my dissertation. After wading through countless research studies on the Response-to-Intervention model and research-based instructional practices and then dissecting them for my dissertation, I find that I don’t have much left for either the novel or the blog. I have an outline for my novel, so even if I am not inspired, I can sit down and write. My idea is developing, so I can figure out something to write about, but so far, I have only written seven pages.
Unfortunately, once I am finished working on my dissertation and my novel, I don’t seem to have much left to say in my blog. I struggled at the beginning of this month with my blogging identity. I can’t seem to figure out what my niche should be. I am not writing about fashion, or living on a farm, or pop culture. I am not sure I want to have a niche, even though I know that would increase my followers. I quit working on the blog entirely, because of this conundrum. What is my blogging identity?
I kept coming back to the title of my blog–“Beginning Again.” When I started my blog, the title defined this era of my life. I was at the end of my teaching job and wondering about changing careers. I was at a turning point in my life. I thought about all the things I like to do and writing is one of my favorite things to do. I began to work on developing my identity as a writer. Writing is the one thing I come back to again and again. I can be away from it for years, but I always pick it up again. So, I am a year into this exploration of writing. Can I still say I am beginning again?
Then, I thought that we’re all beginning again every day. Every day, we wake up and we begin again. We have new choices to make and consequences to face. Our lives are always changing. Every day, I wake up and tell myself, “Today I will write.” And I do. Maybe, it’s not on my blog, but I am writing something–my journal, my dissertation, my novel. But I begin every day with that commitment to myself. In other areas of my life, I wake up and make a similar commitment to myself. My commitment is not for tomorrow or next year or ten years from now. It is for today. “Today, I will…”
My other title for my blog is “Writing from the Heart.” When I thought about this subtitle, I realized that, perhaps, this is my niche, my writing identity. When I write on my blog, I will write from my heart. I will be honest with myself and my readers. I will have the courage to admit my faults and failures and the confidence to celebrate my strengths and my successes. And, then, it hit me. That is my niche.
To write honestly and maybe forge connections with other people who might struggle with the same issues as I do.
So, instead of chastising myself because I haven’t posted on my blog. I can be honest about my struggle to post. I can celebrate the fact that I am posting today. Instead of flagellating myself because I have only written 7 pages on my novel, I can celebrate the fact that I have started.
This month, I have written 30 pages on my dissertation, seven pages of my novel, and published six posts on my blog. Perhaps, I do not need forgiveness after all.
The self-help industry makes $9.9 billion a year to improve our self-image, increase our confidence, boost our physical fitness, and promote our mental health. A plethora of gurus stand ready to take our money and assure us that if we just think this certain way or live that way or eat this particular way, our lives will be perfect. We will be at peace with ourselves, become positive thinkers, and finally find our ideal weight.
I have to admit that I have contributed my fair share to that $9.9 billion figure. I have many negative qualities I would like to cure. I procrastinate. I’m a negative thinker. I’m overweight. My house is a mess. I own too much stuff. I worry about how my problems might influence my son. And, for each of these problems that plague me, there is a corresponding book: books that tell me how to tweak my to-do list so I can get more done; books that tell me how to eat or how not to eat; books that tell me it’s okay to be overweight as long as I’m healthy; books that will make me a more resilient person if I just rewrite my negative scripts.
Right now, I am reading a book that will help me transform into a warrior goddess. In ten easy lessons, I will learn to embrace my true self and become the woman I am meant to be. Through meditation and self-reflection, I will become a beautiful, compassionate, all-powerful, all-knowing being–a warrior goddess. And did I mention, for a small fee, I can meet the author of this book and walk on a hot bed of coals?
For $495, I can sit and meditate with complete strangers. I can attend a bonfire and walk on hot coals. I can do yoga (which I hate). I can learn to “commit to myself” and “align with life.” But first I have to “purify my vessel.” Yikes! That last one sounds uncomfortable! Maybe, that’s what the hot coals are for.
I saw a picture of a circle of women at this retreat. As I looked at the picture, I realized that while one or two of the women were smiling joyously, most of the women looked discomfited. With their arms around total strangers, their faces were turned away from the circle and they were not smiling. Another picture shows a group of women sitting on a pile of rocks, their arms reaching to the sky. They look like they are in rapture, but I kept wondering, how comfortable can they be sitting on that pile of rocks? There is even a picture of women walking across hot coals. Again, some of the women look transported, but most of them look afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid? They are being peer-pressured into walking on hot coals.
Unfortunately, after all the self-help books I’ve bought (I haven’t read a lot of them I purchased because of that habit of procrastination I have!), I am still the same insecure, messy person. Recently, I have begun to make some changes in my life, but they don’t arise from a book, but from my own determination. I am starting to realize that change has to be internal rather than external. It has to be one step at a time. I have to make my changes on my own terms. And I don’t need to spend $9.95 for a book or $495 for a retreat to do it.
Maybe, that could be the title of my self-help book: Change on Your Own Terms Without Spending Any Money (except for the $9.95 you will pay for this book). I could market a companion workbook and a retreat. I could become a motivational speaker. I could travel the world, bringing my message of change to people everywhere. But where do I start?…..Hmmm….Maybe, there’s a book on that.
I just finished reading Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson. In the novel, the main character, Ursula, dies and repeats the same life over again. In one life, she lives only one second as she is strangled by her umbilical cord. In the next life, she is saved by the timely arrival of the doctor who was absent during her first birth. In each lifetime, she lives a little longer. Each time she returns, she brings back impressions from her previous lives that allow her to avoid the deaths she has experienced in her previous lives.
This novel made me think. What would I do if I repeated my life? If a genie appeared before me right now and offered me the chance to relive my life, would I take it? I know there are mistakes I have made and things I have done that I would like to change or erase, but would changing these things alter my fundamental sense of self? What would I change? Would changing one thing change the course of my life? What if I never met my husband or never had my son? The risk of not having them in my life would be too great to contemplate.
Of course, my life is as it stands. No genie is going to appear, so my mistakes are safe from correction. Everything I have done in my life, good or bad, has led me to this time or place. Every mistake has offered me an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person. Each one, no matter how mortifying, has made me who I am.
One thing I am trying to remember in my 52nd year is that fretting about everything won’t make anything better. Last year, I spent endless days worrying about my job which I ended up losing anyway. All those tears and the sadness that darkened my days didn’t change things and ruined my time when I wasn’t at work.
I am trying to learn to be a “glass is half full” kind of person, rather than looking at everything that is wrong all the time. Maybe, I can’t find a teaching job, but, on the bright side, I don’t have to deal with bratty kids or kids who don’t want to learn. I don’t have to go to work every day and face disrespect.
Each day is mine to fill as I wish and I am trying to make the most of it-to fill my days with writing and to revel in finally being able to stay home with my son.
I hate the word, “triggered.” It seems that everyone, whether they have suffered trauma or not, has something that triggers them. As much as I hate the word, it is the only word I can use to describe my reaction to Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Feast is Howard’s memoir about her undergraduate years and her battle with body image and eating disorders. As she described her feelings of inadequacy and shame about her body, I couldn’t help but think about my own life-long struggles with these same issues.
My stomach churning, I went to bed and almost cried. I thought of all the decisions in my life. The times I thought I should have turned left, but instead turned right. Then, I heard my son, Hunter, laugh. He and my husband like to stay up late, so I was in bed before they were. Hearing him laugh shook me out of my misery. I realized that all my decisions have lead me to this place, with my son and my husband. My life isn’t perfect and my career didn’t turn out as I thought it would, but I can still be proud of everything I accomplished.
I wanted to quit reading Feast, but I made myself finish it. By the end of the memoir, Howard learned to deal with her issues and to become a powerful advocate. I felt, if she could do it, as young as she is, I could do it, too, with all the experiences of my 52 years behind me. That is what I am trying to do. Always moving forward, never backward, like a shark, carving through the water of my present and my future.
I have been reading this series by Lillianna Blake called Single Wide Female. In the series, the main character, Samantha, has a bucket list of things she promised herself she would do when she lost weight. After losing 80 pounds, she finally decides that she is tired of waiting to explore the items on her bucket list. She is still working on weight loss, but she is tired of putting her life on hold until she is thin enough to live it.
I found this series at the right moment in my life. Something just clicked for me in my 52nd year. I finally felt ready to lose the weight that has plagued me my adult life. I started exercising a couple of weeks ago. I ignored all the little nagging doubts (and the pain in my hip) and just started. I lost five pounds. It doesn’t seem like a lot but that is the first weight I have lost in over a year. Last week, I joined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. This time around, I was ready for the structure. I don’t view my diet as a limitation any more but as a stepping stone to a healthier life. I have now lost seven pounds.
Another dream I have always yearned for is to become a writer. Like my weight loss, I started slow. I started writing in my journal. I found a book that would help me tackle the idea I have been thinking about. I started to write more regularly, maybe not every day, but enough to keep the flow of my writing going.
While I don’t have a bucket list that compels me to skydive or walk across hot coals, I am feeling like I want to move out of my comfort zone. I want to see what is out there for me.
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