Selma’s Story Time – 7/24/14

As she drove to Mount Vernon on Monday afternoon, she was excited to see her Grandma and have a home cooked dinner. Pulling into the driveway, she saw the two story red brick house with dark green shutters. It felt like she was home. Shelby got out of the car and saw Oxford standing by the fence surrounding the Tinkers’ backyard. He was looking at her with his head titled to one side. When she arrived at the fence, he greeted her with a wet tongue on her hand. Shaking her hand to dry it off, Shelby smiled at the big dog and he wagged his tail.
 
“Hi honey. He’s a sweet dog, isn’t he?” Her Grandma asked as she walked up to meet her.
“Just like you say he is,” she replied.
 
They hugged each other for awhile, then Mrs. Stockton said, “let’s go in the house. Dinner is almost ready.”
 
They walked into the house and the aroma of fresh baked apple pie filled the air.
 
“You always out do yourself, Grandma.”
“Since your Grandpa passed away, I need someone to take care of.”
“Thank you. But someone should be taking care of you,” Shelby said, “how about you sit down and I’ll serve the wonderful dinner you made for us.”
“That would be nice Shelby, but I can do it.”
“I know you can, but let me this time,” she said and pulled a chair out from the table for her to sit down.
“So tell me about your project,” Shelby said as she pulled two plates out of the cupboard.
“I want you to help me find someone.”
“Yes, someone who bullied you on the bus when you were a kid. Why do you want to find him?”
“He has something of mine that I want back. He made me give it to him so he would stop picking on me.”
“What is it?” Shelby asked.
 
Mrs. Stockton didn’t know whether she could tell her Granddaughter that information. It was still pretty hard for her to admit to herself how much it has bothered her all this time. What she gave away that day wound up being a lot harder to deal with over the years than the teasing was at the time.
“It was a pocket watch that would now be a six generation heirloom. It was made of gold and was a gift that was received for your Great-Great-Great Grandfather’s years of service on the railroad.”
“How did Johnny get it from you?”
“I brought the watch to school for show and tell. After we got off of the bus, he was following me home, teasing me about being short. I turned around to tell him stop and the watch flew out of my pocket. Until then, he had no idea I even had it.”
“Why did he want it?” Shelby asked.
“It meant something to me. He told me he would stop teasing me if I gave it to him.”
“What did your parents say?”
“They didn’t know that I took it to school. A while after that, they couldn’t find it. My Dad was pretty upset about it, but they decided it must have just got lost.”
 
They finished up dinner talking about Shelby and what was going on at Columbia. After dessert, they cleaned up the dishes and headed to the porch with some tea. Mrs. Stockton was getting anxious as it became time to start the search for Johnny.

Selma’s Story Time – 7/23/14

Mrs. Stockton had grown up in Frankton, a small town in upstate New York. She and her husband moved from there to Mount Vernon, NY when he was offered a teaching position at Columbia. Shelby would come to visit her Grandparents every summer and Grandpa would take her to work with him. His love for the campus made her fall in love with it. When it came time to make the choice of colleges to attend, she already made her choice. Shelby was sad that he wasn’t there when she became an enrolled student, but she felt him by her side everyday in the memories they shared.
While studying at the library, Shelby saw her Grandma’s e-mail about dinner on Monday. Oh she did love the Mac and Cheese, and her Grandma knew how to make it. Baked in the oven, not made on the stove top. Shelby was also excited because her Grandma would send her home with leftovers. Perfect meal for the starving college student.
 
She was getting concerned about her Grandma wanting to find this Johnny Kidler. Why did she want to? Did she want to make peace with what happened on the bus? Or was she just curious about who he had become? They knew nothing about this guy, except that she knew who he was many years ago. The whole project seemed a little bit on the risky side. What if he was a bad man? What if he didn’t even remember her? Hopefully he wasn’t a mean or violent person. She would hate for her Grandma to come up against that when she was trying to understand what happened to him.
When her Grandma got something in her head, she always needed to find out the information or resolve the issue to be at peace. That is probably half the reason why she is doing this.
 
Shelby wondered if her Grandma had any reservations about pursuing this project. She guessed that she would find out on Monday.

Selma’s Story Time – 7/22/14

On Thursday morning, Mrs. Stockton poured the hot water over her mint tea bag and went to the computer desk on the three season porch. That was the spot she went to every morning, it  gave her a nice view of the Tinkers’ backyard and their dog Oxford. Oxford was a Foxhound, who was bred as hunting dog and ultimately wound up trained as a family pet. Has a pretty big bark, but wouldn’t hurt a thing. Mrs. Tinker let him out about a half hour ago when she went for her daily run. She was usually gone about an hour.
 
Mrs. Stockton watched Oxford sniff around the yard as she took in the smell of freshly mowed grass from her neighbor’s yard behind her. Then she saw the squirrel making his way through the yard with a peanut in his mouth. She named him Monte. He was going to the tree in the middle of the yard, where the nest was, because that is what he does every day. Oxford had made his way up by the back of the house, waiting for Mrs. Tinker to come home and open the door.
 
She watched the squirrel just hop around calmly towards the tree and climbed right on up when it got there. Mrs. Stockton would have to watch tomorrow to see if Oxford could make things more interesting.
 
Shaking her head at what just happened, she turned the computer on to see if she got a message from Shelby. As her email opened up on the screen, she saw the mail box flag up, indicating that she had mail. She clicked on the mail box on the screen and saw a message from her Granddaughter. She read it and responded…

My dearest Shelby,


Yes, Monday would work fine for me. Let’s plan on 5:30 PM. I’ll make the baked Mac and Cheese, your favorite. Looking forward to seeing you honey.


                                                                                Love you very much,


                                                                                          Grandma

She knew it would be so hard to have to wait until then, but she didn’t want to put any additional pressure on Shelby. She had worked very hard to get a scholarship to go to Columbia University, which was her first choice. Mrs. Stockton felt very lucky that the school was near her house so Shelby could stop over. As she clicked on the icon to take her to the morning news, Mrs. Stockton knew would have to find something to keep herself busy until Monday.

Selma’s Story Time – 7/21/14

Shelby saw the e-mail from her Grandma. It started off the usual way…

Hi honey! How are you? How is school? I am so proud of you!

After the opening line, she would tell her all about what was going on in her neighborhood. Starting with what the new neighbors, the Tinkers, were up to. They had a dog named Oxford, which Grandma loved to watch chase squirrels in the backyard, because the squirrels always seem to outsmart him. Then it would go into what happened with the church ladies at Sunday service that week. Shelby enjoyed the e-mails, it was like getting updates on a continuing saga whenever she received one.
This time the e-mail was different. Her Grandma wanted her to come over for dinner some night soon and help her to find someone from her past. A kid that had bullied her on the bus. Shelby thought the idea was interesting, but also a little strange. Why would her Grandma want to bring up all of the sad feelings she must have had about it. Shelby was curious what happened to bring all of this up again. Her Grandma had not given her much information, she wanted to talk to her about it in person.
Shelby wrote a reply e-mail…
Dear Grandma,
     
     I would love to come over for dinner and help you with your project. I have a pretty heavy load for homework and papers due this week. How about next Monday? I know you typically have dinner at 5:30 PM, so just let me know if the date works.

                                                                                          Love you,

                                                                                                    Shelby

Selma’s Story Time – 7/19/14

It had been a long time since Mrs. Stockton thought about Johnny, so she was surprised that he came to mind now. She wondered what has happened to him since the good ole school days. He was three years older than her, so she never saw him at school reunions. How would she be able to find out?

Back in her day, it would start with looking through information at the library, old yearbooks, newspaper articles archived on microfische, and phone books. Most everything in her time was driven off of physical addresses and telephone numbers to contact people. Once those changed and if one didn’t get the new information, a person would lose track of people. Now with social media and people keeping their cell phone numbers when they move, people are able to stay connected. 
She watched many TV shows about reunions of people who have found each other after years of not seeing them. Even her Granddaughter, Shelby, talked about how her friend’s Mom had found her long lost sister by using the internet. Last Mother’s Day, her son, Greg, had gotten her a computer, and Mrs. Stockton had gotten pretty good at using it by sending e-mails to her Grandchildren.
Walking over to the desk where the computer was set up, she decided to fire it up and start her search. Greg had preset the computer to just click on icons to get to what she wanted to do, but she wasn’t sure where to start. Should she call her son to have him help her? She wasn’t sure that she wanted to share her project with him. She decided to click on the e-mail icon and sent an e-mail to Shelby to find out what she has been up to. 
 

7/17/14

Kids Giving Back – Mitch’s umping his first game last night

The baseball association the kids play in offers an opportunity for the players to be the umpire for the younger kids games. It’s a great way for them to give back to the organization and make a little money along the way. The kids have to be at least 13 to be involved in the program. Max started last year and has worked 6 games to date. 

Mitch was scheduled to work three other games throughout the season. Due to our rainy weather this summer, he had rescheduled games for his team and his required attendance at a choir concert for school (his grade depended on it), that kept him from being able to do it.  Because Max ended up having a practice for his state tournament come up, he was unable to work one of his scheduled games, so last night became Mitch’s first experience. Finally, he was able to get one in. 
He was pretty anxious before the game. We had to drop Max off, but Mitch just wanted to get to his field across town and didn’t want to be late. The teams playing in this game were in the minor league division, 4th and 5th graders, light blue and red. We happened to know two of the kids on the light blue team, one is the younger brother of one of the players on Max’s team and the other one is the son of a friend of Sam’s. I wonder if knowing a couple of the players made Mitch feel more comfortable or more nervous. I will have to ask him.
I noticed that his confidence kept building while we watched the game. He was calling out the balls and strikes louder and standing more solid behind the catcher. Between innings, one of the players asked him how old he was. He said “I am 13.” The player looked up at him and said “wow” like it was a really neat thing. The end result of the game was that the light blue team won to go undefeated for the season and Mitch completed his first game as an umpire. When I asked him how things went and how would he feel about doing it again, he said that it was good and he had fun. And he would love to do it again.
There are many lessons learned by the kids who take this challenge on, and the coaches understand they are learning them on the job. Most of them center around how hard the umpire’s job is. Actually having the opportunity to do it gives them more appreciation for what the umpire goes through in a game.  Max said that he had a better appreciation of the umpire’s job after his first time doing it, and tries not to be too hard on them because of it.They also learn more about the game, seeing it from behind home plate. Mitch commented on one of the kids playing center field was messing around with his hat and not paying attention to the game. When the player looked up, a ball was coming at him and sailed right over his head and he had to leave his hat on the ground to chase the ball down. Mitch had to bring himself back to the fact that there are a lot of other things happening on the field that he also has to keep track of as the umpire.  
What a great experience it was for Sam and I to be there to support him through a first time event in his life. Having the anxiety before the game, and being there to watch him work himself into the game and become comfortable to do the job at hand. The fact that the players (younger kids) look up to him as a role model, added to building his confidence. He did a great job last night, and I am glad it was such a good experience for him.

7/16/14

A different moment in time

Looking out my open bedroom window, I am enjoying the cool and crisp morning air. The sounds of birds chirping is all that can be heard. I have always been amazed at how quiet it is around my house, even though I live in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area. I moved here 11 years ago, leaving an apartment and getting into the first place I’ve ever owned.

When I was house hunting, my wish list included having an actual washer and dryer in my own place and being closer to work. I found a condo which is in a very residential part of town and across the street from a park reserve.  I love the fact that I’m not looking out my window at fast food restaurants or gas stations, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the comfort of my own home.

There’s a big evergreen tree outside my window. Lots of birds have made their homes there over the years. For a while it was a morning dove, who every morning at 5:00 or so would start cooing. When Molly was a puppy, at first she would almost growl under her breath at it to let her know she was there. But, after a while, she would just listen to it, accepting the fact that it really wasn’t a threat to her or me, it was just welcoming the morning from its home in the tree.
For a while, it was just me living here as a single woman and her dog. Then along came Sam and the boys and now we have turned it into a full house with a lot of activity. The peace and quiet is not here as much as it used to be, but that allows me to have moments like now, before everyone is up to appreciate them. With all of us in the house, those moments along with our day to day life are what has become very special to me.
Be sure to recognize and appreciate these moments in time, whether you are with the ones you love or by yourself. Take that deep breath every once in a while to enjoy those special moments that life has to offer us.

7/15/14

One moment in time

As I was giving Molly a treat after our walk this morning, I saw the remains of last night’s project. It brought a smile to my face…
After Max’s team lost their first play off game 16-6 and Mitch had practice last night, we all gathered back at home to watch the All Star Game home run derby. Talk about a baseball family, we definitely are one! Max needed to have Sam, my fiancee, tighten up the laces of his fielder and catcher’s gloves. As they get used and broken in, the leather loosens up. After getting those two gloves fixed and having watched Sam fix their gloves many times before, they took on a project themselves. We have a bin with the gloves that the kids and Sam have gone through in their baseball careers. Sam played baseball growing up and a little bit in college, we have his first baseball glove in that bin. Each of the kids have outgrown a couple and have each had that special one to them actually sustain a blow out, one from a loose lace and the other one actually has a hole in the webbing.
So, they each took out their own old broken glove and went to work to make it usable again. Working with a pair of needle nose pliers and a heavy duty project needle, they were able to bring these treasured items back to life.
It was one of those moments in life that I was proud to be a part of. They are growing into young men who are capable of doing some amazing things on their own. They are both good ball players and have a great passion for the game. It shows when each one of them takes the field for their respective teams. They are not perfect, but they go out there wanting to play and do their best. That’s all that can be asked of them. 
Be sure to take notice of these moments of time that you are privileged to be a part of, either as a part of everyday life or the big milestone moments that ultimately make kids into the adults they are going to become someday.

7/14/14

With the beautiful weather we had yesterday, I took the day off to get some much needed relaxation. Kept on reading Mercy Falls out on the deck with Molly, while she laid out there and watched people and cars go by. The book is a good one, just like the previous four in the Cork O’Connor mystery series.
 
I thought about when I first got interested in creative writing. I remember writing in diaries when I was a girl, in the small leather bound books with the locks on them. They had one year and five year varieties. I have them put away with the other things I  saved from my childhood. I even have the keys on a key ring in my jewelry box. Made a point to keep them hidden from my brother, so he couldn’t read the secrets I wrote about. Then it moved on to writing and telling silly stories. I have one of them on loose leaf notebook paper that I wrote in high school in my filing cabinet.  It is written in the form of a play. The characters were all based on members of our high school marching band and it was set in a Little House on the Prairie scene and story line. Some of the logistics of the story were way out there, but it was fun and made sense to where my writing was at then.
As goofy as it is, there may be some material in it that could actually work for a story. I think in any creative writing we do there are some good ideas, which may may not be obvious at the time. Sometimes creative writing can lead us on a journey to a place that you never expected to arrive at, like a reader gets out of reading a book. In some of the writing that I have done, it has gone exactly this way. I created a novel years ago that started in one direction and as I rode the creative process, the story ended differently than what I set out to do. I was surprised, but when I thought about it, that was where the story was supposed to end. That journey had a surprise ending, like many life journeys that each of us are on. 
Be patient and have faith that the journey you may be on will work out the way it is supposed to, even if it doesn’t end up where we believe it should.

7/12/14

Our dog, Molly, started moving around and making noise to get us out of bed this morning ready to start her day. She decided that 8:00 would be the best time for that to happen, which I will admit is better than the normal 5:30 wake up time we have during the week. After seeing my fiancee out the door for his morning pick up, I took Molly for her walk around the neighborhood. It’s a warm, humid and foggy morning. Will be a good day to be inside and get some home projects done.

Upon our return, I made a cup of chai, planning to sit down and read for a little bit before embarking on the massive cleaning of our house. I just started Mercy Falls, by William Kent Krueger, last night. I had the opportunity to meet him in person when I attended the Bloomington Art Center Writers’ Festival and Book Fair in March of 2009 where he was the key note speaker, and taught a seminar on the Importance of Narrative in Your Writing.
I like his writing style, and the fact that his stories are set in Northern Minnesota, make them feel very familiar to me. To us Minnesotans, that area is considered Cabin country. When we say we are “going up north” that’s where we are going. Lots of wooded area and lakes for relaxing, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day life in the city. 


Krueger is a Minnesota author who has been known to do a lot of his writing at the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul. I have often thought that I do my most productive writing away from home. Coffee shops, up at the cabin, and on vacations are places where I seem to get my best work done. However, the idea for The Hard Way was conceived during a vacation at home in April of 2013. I think it may have more to do with when you feel comfortable enough to let the writing just come out, good or bad. Some days that seem the least productive towards the goals of the main project, lead to ideas for other projects. That has it good points and it’s bad points. It keeps the creative juices flowing, but it takes discipline to continue to get the goals of the main writing project done.

I have learned that writing is a process that probably won’t be started and completed in one sitting. Learning how to ride the process, by taking the good ideas and putting them into my creative writing, is one of the most gratifying parts of being a writer.