The Earth Without the Moon

I am a writer.

I am also a mother.

Sometimes these two soulful, vast and difficult trades I have chosen for myself seem to be symbiotic; one job perfectly complements the other, lending strength and metaphorical beauty to each experience.

Other times, not so much.

The constant struggle for time, the slow, painful growing of patience, monotony’s strain on creativity, the constant fight to finish tasks and reach goals (i.e. finding self realization) seems to pit one purpose against the other almost indefinitely, and I am left wondering why on Earth any human would ever choose to be both.

And then one night, having driven myself crazy, and (literally….. I drove myself literally) far away from both of these trades, I figured out why.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

No, never mind, I don’t have time to go back to the beginning, I’m a mother. Let me summarize.

As a mother, there are certain days when it seems everything points to the fact that you just aren’t enough. You’re falling short. Not stacking up. You can’t be what anyone needs. Between your children’s constantly growing, changing list of needs and your own exhausted, (though well-intended) inability to possibly meet them all, sometimes a mother asks herself, inevitably:

“What is the point?”

This phenomenon is not unlike being a writer in many ways, but I’m going to leave it to you to draw your own parallels there. Let’s just say for all intents and purposes, I was having one of those days, in both regards. Whenever I have a day like that, whether it’s parenting-related, crazy-writer self-talk or both, I tend to naturally want to give myself some distance from the situation; an instinctive need for Perspective.

So I got in my car and I just drove. I passed the outlying farms and suburban communities, I passed the adjacent towns. I kept driving. I passed the further towns and suburbs and cities. I nearly took an exit, but I still didn’t really have answers or peace of mind, so I kept driving. Eventually I ended up nearly 50 miles from home, in the city. I took an exit and simply followed the path of least resistance, which led me up to a mountainside community of quaint, historic homes. It seemed to me like I had driven a thousand miles; the quiet neighborhoods a different realm.

I was beckoned to exist inside of it. I wanted to live there, if only for a couple hours. I pulled into a church parking lot and took out walking.

The annoying voice in my head was confused.

Why? You should be home tucking your kids into bed or folding laundry. You should be cranking out that new scene, or finishing up that review, or submitting that article. What do you think you’re doing, walking around in the city at night, so far away from your chosen responsibilities? 

I kept walking. The luminescent yellow glow of kitchen lights and living room lamps cast a lovely peach-colored light out onto the sidewalk, and a bone-colored Gibbous moon hung like a rounded spotlight in the early evening sky.

The moon.

I sat down on a patch of grass in a common area to consider it.

A hummingbird buzzed across my peripheral, pausing in mid-air to consider me.

hummingbirdA few weeks ago my daughters and I, faced with the long weeks of summer vacation ahead, decided to pick four subjects to learn about, every other week over the course of June and July. It gave us something to do together, some things to gather and plan, and a few activities and outings to look forward to. For our first subject, we chose to learn about the moon. In the days leading up to my strange excursion, we had learned together about the moon’s surface, how it was (theoretically) formed, its phases, and how it affects the ocean tides.

As I sat there gazing at it through a clearing in the tall trees lining the street, somewhere in the confines of my writerly, motherly heart, a strange connection was made.

I was the moon.

Mothers, everywhere are the moon.

We are quiet, radiating forces orbiting around these strange and precious spheres of life, we are transformations of other forces from long ago, held there by a strange gravitational pull. (Did you know scientists recently discovered both ice and evidence of volcanic activity on the moon? Yes, we did in fact exist as other forces before we were mothers.)

We have our influences over these strange slightly off-spinning entities. We illuminate their darkest nights. We bring forth life onto their shores and then quietly recede. We are a powerful, glowing force for our strange, beautiful, violent and perfect little globes.

The moon brings to Earth a quiet, powerful presence that the sun simply cannot.

And yet, we are limited in our affects on that which we orbit. Other things come into their atmospheres over which we have no control. For certain events, we can only hang stationary in their peripheral and offer our light when the darkness comes.

We are often frustrated because we can simply not meet all of our children’s needs.

But you see, sometimes, we simply aren’t meant to.

Thanks once again to my weirdly innate metaphorical thinking, I began to feel slightly better about my mothering ability. And then I thought about my other job. Why was I given (cursed with?) the strange, gravitational pull to write?

Earlier that week, before my feeling inadequate, before my literal drive for perspective, I knew there was something I wanted us to learn: What would the Earth be like without the moon?

Here’s what I found:

The moon helps keep the Earth balanced in a stable rotation. Without it, our axis would vary tremendously, sometimes wobbling in instability.

The ocean tides would rise and fall less than half of what they currently do. Much of tidepool life would likely cease to exist.

Days would be shorter.

Nights would be longer.

The sky would be darker.

Technically, one could exist without the other. But at what cost?

I could stay in this strange neighborhood and begin living out another life entirely. My children would survive, evolve even, without me in their orbit. But who would hold them steady in their axis? Who would bring strange and beauty onto their shores? Who would cast a soft light into their darkest nights?

I could also abandon writing for motherhood.

But then, what strange symbiotic presence would lead me back home on my darkest nights?

What other outside force would make me stop to consider my purpose, To ask of me what I can bring into my children’s world, simply by being what I am?

What gravitational pull would keep their orbit (and mine) in balance?

 

Earth and MoonThe Earth without the Moon. A strange and fascinating premise.

But I think I’ll keep them both.

 

Till next time,

-C

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Just Wait

Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing something? Pressed for time, stressed, frustrated and wish you could just summon the muse and order up an idea?

The following is kind of a follow up to a piece of flash fiction I wrote awhile back, Conversations With a Muse. This post spurred a train of thought that led to many things, but mostly the idea of what it would be like to have a muse to chat with, and after writing that one I had some distinct ideas about what mine would be like.

A few days ago I got stuck writing a critical turning point of my book, so I started thinking about what my muse would say if I tried to order up an idea. It went something like this…

***

“What good is hopen window snowaving a muse if inspiration is only ever random?” I wonder out loud, staring at the snow-capped row of houses in the distance. I’ve been sitting at my desk, not writing for an hour. The wintry air coming through the half-open window has turned my fingers to ice (I often write with the window open, even in winter. I have a theory that stale air leads to stale thoughts) and now typing at the keyboard is literally, physically painful.

I’m stuck in a critical scene of the book I’m working on. I know something crucial happens at this point, my main character sees a ghost- or something akin to a ghost, and those are the only details I know for certain. I seem to be missing the serendipitous knowing of details that will make the scene flow into the story. I’ve been listening to ethereal violin music and reading Poe and chapters from ghost stories all morning, no luck. It’s obvious this solution is not currently firing somewhere in the synapses inside my brain.

I need a muse.

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” a musical voice says, seeming to come from above and below and behind. “You don’t just call us up, order up an idea and that’s it. If that’s what you want go ask a human.”

“Christopher, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you only showed up at night. Where are you anyway?”

“I show up when I want to show up. I’m seen when I want to be seen.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “I know. But since you’re here maybe you could give it a whirl.”

“I’m not an accountant. You don’t just call me up, I provide the service you want and then we both go on our way.” I can’t see him but I can hear that his words are soaked in a smirk.

“Why not?”

“Well, if you want to get technical, if we…do business like humans do, you’d have to pay me. And believe me honey, you couldn’t afford it.”

“Yes, you’re very valuable. Also hilarious.” I try to mirror his sarcasm but mine only comes out half as effective. “So…if you can’t help me why are you here?”

“Listen. Art is born of inspiration. And inspiration can’t become art unless it’s pure.”

“Wait. What? What does that even mean?”

“Gaaahh, you humans can be so thick. Alright because I know there’s talent in that head of yours…somewhere, I’ll spell it out.” He clears his throat. “If you don’t have the answer yet, it’s for a reason.”

“But— I only have so much time to write. I have kids, remember?”

“Just be quiet. For an hour. For a day. A week even. Just be still and patient and wait. And hey, here’s something innovative: Listen.

“That’s it? That’s your answer? Just wait?”

“That’s it. Brilliant, no?”

The voice fades to a whisper and the room is quiet again. The only sound is the swooshing of an occasional car maneuvering the slush-soaked road behind my house. I sigh, close my laptop, climb into bed and close my eyes.

And I wait.

Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

Fruit Flies…and An Announcement

Yep. You read that right. This post is about fruit flies.

It does, after all, follow Lori’s tomato sandwich story. And what comes after fresh produce inevitably? Fruit flies.

Our group resides in Northern Utah and this time of year is known as harvest season. So many wonderful fruits and veggies for the taking! In early autumn I become kind of a fruit-stand spaz and try to hit every one of the local farmers stands within 20 miles of my house. I’m a serial produce buyer.

Needless to say over the past six weeks I’ve been collecting (and consuming) fresh peaches, apples, pears, onions and garlic from a variety of different micro climates in my area. Not to mention harvesting the tomatoes, peppers and raspberries from my own garden.

And with all the lovely, delectable foods come the fruit flies. Hundreds of them. Some are the usual, tiny gray variety, others are fat and darker in color. We found a sort of striped-looking brown one in the pantry the other day and I wondered if I had inadvertently discovered a new species.

The fruit flies at my house are ethnically diverse and rich in background and history, because they have hitchhiked on the journeys of produce from a hundred different farms. They have found refuge in the warmth and plentiful fruit of my kitchen.

I’m like Nelson Mandela for gnats.

For awhile I tried to be cool about it, shrugged and said that bugs are part of life. Had the live and let live philosophy, don’t sweat the small stuff, exist in my natural environment sort of mindset. Because I’m cool and green and open like that.

Except that I’m not.

Right around the time I found a fruit fly hovering around my toothbrush, just after flicking one off the rim of my coffee cup, the cool and green and open Cindy went far, far away. The anxiety-ridden, control-freakish germaphob manifested in her place and I went:

“Eeeeeeeew! THERE ARE A THOUSAND BUGS LIVING AROUND ME.“

That night my husband agreed that the ethnically diverse fruit flies had become like the 28 year old chain-smoking gaming-fanatic that won’t leave his parents’ basement.

It was time for them to go. He went to the almighty Google for answers.

“Trick them with yogurt or apple cider vinegar in a cup,” it said. “Create a funnel with paper around the cup. They can crawl through the hole but they can’t find their way out. Collect the fruit flies and simply throw the cup away.”

He went to work on finding the ingredients and designing the funnel. He, being the mechanically minded perfectionist that he is spent so long designing and re-designing the funnel that I (watching Parenthood, drinking an apple ale and trying to forget that vagrant bugs were in every room) became annoyed and said,

“Seriously, they are fruit flies! How complicated does it need to be?”

Proving me both stupid and wrong.

BoromirWe set out the cups of yogurt and apple cider vinegar. The fruit flies did not climb into the funnel, the colonies did not disappear. Some flies did not even leave the refuge of tomatoes and peaches, ripening on the kitchen counter. They “simply” gathered around the rim, as to enjoy the wonderful new smell. They seemed more relaxed than ever before.

You don’t think fruit flies can get more relaxed? Well, I’m here to tell you they can.

So now not only is my home a safe haven from frost for refugee fruit flies from many lands, I’m providing them with aromatherapy. Hell, next I’ll probably open a fruit-fly gluten-free bakery and yoga studio.

Probably the colonies at the local fruit stands have created mythical stories about a ginormic bug saint who arrives with reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags and exalts the faithful to a land of warmth and manna.

I got to thinking about their hanging out around the veritable hot tub of aromas. The fruit flies didn’t know we were trying to trap them, and frankly I don’t think they cared. The cup smelled nice and rotten and yeasty and so they went there. They didn’t go: “Wait! What if this is the wrong choice? What if following these horrible, wonderful and enchanting smells will eventually lead to our demise?”

They just DID it. And for the fruit flies that landed at my house, it worked out pretty well.

Even if I had kept my mouth shut and my husband had designed the Ultimate Fruit Fly Snare of Death and they had ended up at death’s door, I’m pretty sure they would have been okay with that too, because even death is an inevitable part of the fruit fly version of Who Are We Supposed to Be and What We Are Supposed to Do.

At this point you might be asking yourself what fruit flies has to do with writing. (Or maybe you don’t care, either of which is okay. We accept all kinds here at WTF.) The answer is nothing, (other than the fact that I’ve swatted like seven of them away while writing this post.)

The answer is also everything.

After a year of getting in my own way and a summer spent deliberating what the point was to my life, I decided I was just going to stop taking everything so seriously, just be who I am and start writing the novel I’ve always wanted to write.

And yeah, it might not turn out in my favor. I may drive myself insane trying to figure out the three different timelines I’ve created. I may waste an enormous amount of time and then decide to move on to bigger and better things.I may die in utter euphoria, in a pool of warm yogurt.

But you know what? Maybe it will turn out in my favor.

And for that reason alone I have to try. To put all other unnecessary things aside and do the thing I was born to do. To write the #*$(&! book!

I’m at a point in my life I truly have no choice other than move forward purely on instinct. Kind of like the fruit flies. (There goes one now.)

*sigh*

Alright, fruit flies. I owe you for one epiphany. You can hang around until I find a better place to ripen my peaches. But if I see you giving one another massages, so help me I’m calling the exterminator.

Till next time,

~Cindy

Mistaken Identity

Hello Fire Fans,

This is a piece which I started so long ago that I barely remember writing it. This is really in a Fragment Friday vein, but I’m part owner of this blog so I’ll go ahead and do what I want.

I like the characters in this piece and I think I’m going to continue on with it one day.

Your writing prompt for today is this. Go through your old folders, find something you wrote, either one that you like and want to continue, or one that you despise that needs adjustment.  Add something, a description, dialogue, a whole scene…anything. Your old pieces deserve attention too.

Mistaken Identitybookstore

Sharon heard a woman’s voice calling “Ann, Ann!” She continued to look through the pages of a novel, killing time until she could pick up her daughter from dance class. “Ann! Ann!” the woman continued to call.

I wonder why Ann doesn’t answer, she thought to herself.

Sharon felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to find at a tiny woman wearing a tattered brown coat over a baggy purple T-shirt and faded jeans.

“Ann, I’ve been calling you and calling you. You always get so wrapped up in your books. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. How have you been?”

Shocked and embarrassed, Sharon opened her mouth to tell her that she must be mistaken, but before she could utter a word, the short, ragged looking woman continued.

“I’ve waited for your phone call. I thought I had done something to make you angry. You know, ever since Hank died it seems I spend a lot of time waiting for that old phone to ring.”

heart coffeeThe woman nervously pulled on her coat, conscious that it was out of style, worn and dirty. She laughed anxiously and said, “What are you doing right now? There’s a coffee shop right here in the store, would you like a cup?”

Shaking her head, Sharon intended, again, to tell her that she was not Ann. She looked into the woman’s gray eyes and was stunned by absolute loneliness. In that moment, she became lost in a stranger’s sorrow.

“I think you bought the coffee last time.” Sharon said, “Why don’t you let me buy this cup?”

 

Fragment Friday: The Song That Set Her Free

As you may recall, Natalie and I participated in a community project to help support the arts in our local schools.

Natalie has shared her play with you, and I thought that I would share part of mine for Fragment Friday. There are a lot of things that I want to change in this 10 minute play. I see a lot of holes, character flaws and it may be a little over dramatic.

But it’s mine.

I took my writing and put it on display for strangers to see. I do that weekly with this blog. However, it is one thing to imagine readers sitting at their computer screen, it is quite another to have your words, actions, and ideas put on display in front of a living, breathing audience.

I sat in anonymity watching the play unfold before the spectators. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The actors were outstanding. The director got to the heart of the matter in the play. And I? I felt as if there were a flashing light above my head, and yet, at the same time, completely invisible as I sat there with a group of people who did not know, that I was the playwright. I saw open, raw reaction. Looking back, I’m still amazed that I did it.

The play was taken from a piece of flash fiction which I wrote for the blog. I’ve since removed the piece because I’d like to work on it without having it…out. (Writers sometimes have strange relationships with their work.)

As always, comments, ideas, and feedback are welcome.

Now, on with the show….

The Song That Set Her Free

By Lori King

Leah: A traditional housewife and mother

Marty: A husband, an up and coming Lawyer

Jessica: Leah and Marty’s oldest daughter (age 11)

Patrick: Their second child (age 6)

Mary: Their third child (age 3)

Anne: Leah’s best friend

The Song That Set Her Free

(Leah, dressed in a full skirt and heels, is standing stage right, at a stove in a modest kitchen, flipping pancakes in the early morning. There is a table center stage fully set for breakfast. Five chairs surround the table. There is a laundry hamper, ironing board and some shelves stage right, down stage from the stove. A notebook and pen sit on the shelf among some other books. There is a sink upstage from the table and a box of laundry detergent sits next to it. Stage left and down stage sits a wooden rocking chair and a bar stool.)

MARTY:

(Enters stage right in a bathrobe and slippers. A towel is draped over his arm. His hair is messy. He yawns.)

Good morning. Are the kids still in bed?

LEAH:

I was just about to call them.

MARTY:

I have to get to work early today. We have a client first thing. Maybe I should just eat…

LEAH:

Marty, we don’t get very much family time because you’re so busy…

MARTY:

Okay, okay….but I’ve got to leave early so you’d better get them up.

(Marty exits stage left and the sound of a shower is heard. He begins to sing.)

LEAH:

Jessica? Jessica? It’s time to get up. Can you get your brother and sister dressed?

JESSICA:

(Enters stage right fully dressed.)

Yeah, mom.

I was already awake. I’ve been reading. Have you ever read Jane Eyre?

LEAH:

Yes! I loved it when I was your age!

JESSICA:

I love it! But Mr. Rochester seems mean.

LEAH:

Just keep reading. You’ll end up loving him. Now, please hurry and get the other kids up. Can you have them wash their face and hands? Daddy will be out of the shower in a minute and we’re going to sit down to breakfast.

JESSICA:

Sure Mom.

(Jessica exits stage right)

LEAH:

(Leah quickly finishes preparing for breakfast and begins to set out all of the food on the table.)

MARTY:

(Enters stage left, clean cut and shaved, dressed in a business suit.)

What’s for breakfast?

LEAH:

Pancakes, eggs, bacon and some fresh berries.

MARTY:

The pancakes are going to be cold before we eat. You should have gotten the kids up earlier.

LEAH:

(Sighs)

 I know. They’ll be here in a minute.

(She pours milk into glasses as they wait for the children to join them.)

(The children enter stage right noisily arguing about where to sit. A glass of milk gets spilled as they sit.)

MARTY:

Leah…

(He gestures to the mess on the table in disgust.)

LEAH:

(Hurries to wipe up the mess and calmly gets the children seated and the children begin to eat.)

MARTY:

Can I get some coffee?

(He shakes a coffee cup in Leah’s direction.)

LEAH:

(Hurries to fill the coffee cup, and speaks to the children periodically. Coaxing them to eat, to stay clean, to mind their manners as she cuts pancakes into bite size pieces for her youngest.)

Do you know what time you’ll be home from work?

MARTY:

Leah. It just depends on how long it takes. If I have a client come in late, I’ll be home late.

LEAH:

Will you call if you’re going to be late?

MARTY:

I will if I remember.

LEAH:

Does Kathleen stay with you when you stay late?

MARTY:

Of course she does, she’s my assistant.

LEAH:

I don’t like the way she talks to you.

MARTY:

This again, Leah? It’s nothing. It’s just the way she IS. She’s like that with everyone.

LEAH:

Well, ‘everyone’ isn’t my husband. You are.

MARTY:

What do you want me to do? She’s a valuable asset to the firm. I’m not going to fire her. You worry too much. We’re a busy firm; we need an assistant. That’s all there is to it. Speaking of, I’d better get out the door. I need to get to work.

(He wipes his mouth on a napkin, kisses the kids and begins to walk stage right. Before he exits he turns back.)

Tomorrow I’m going bowling with Hank. Can you make sure my bowling shirt is clean?

LEAH:

I’ll wash it right after breakfast.

MARTY:

Don’t forget. Last week I smelled like old socks.

(He grins at her and exits stage right.)

LEAH: (sighs) Okay kiddos. Let’s get breakfast cleaned up so that we can get to the park, okay?

(The children begin to assemble their dishes and carry them to the kitchen sink. Leah takes a shirt from the hamper, goes to the sink and begins to scrub laundry detergent into a stain.)

 THE SCENE ENDS

(Leah is sitting at the table with her best friend Anne. Two cups of coffee sit on the table. Several children play quietly stage left.)

LEAH:

I don’t know Anne. It’s just a feeling I get. He’ll never support me doing anything outside the house.

ANNE:

Leah, you put him through school, you gave him three kids, you fix his meals, you clean his clothes. He will be alright if you take some time to yourself. He can take care of the kids for one or two nights a week.

LEAH:

But he’s never done it before and he has such a short temper with the younger ones. He’ll put a lot of pressure on Jessica if I’m gone.

ANNE:

Give him a chance. Just tell him what you want.

LEAH:

I don’t think he’ll care.

ANNE:

Why don’t you tell me what you want? Maybe it will help you clarify it with Marty.

LEAH:

(takes a deep breath)

When I was in high school, Mr. Hammond, my English teacher, told me I should write. He loved my stories and encouraged me to submit some of my work to magazines. I published a few short stories and won a few competitions. It felt wonderful! When I was writing, I felt like I was fulfilling a purpose, like I was communicating from my soul. I want to do it again. I want to start writing!

ANNE:

Leah, you deserve to do this! When you tell Marty, he’s going to ask you how you’re going to do it because you’re both so busy.

LEAH:

If he can watch the kids for two nights a week, I’d be able to get a lot of writing done. I could get dinner on the table and then go to the library for a couple hours. It wouldn’t take long before I had a few stories to send in, or even a book. I just need two nights a week.

ANNE:

That doesn’t sound like a lot to ask.

LEAH:

He’d have to clean up dinner.

ANNE:

It wouldn’t hurt him. He’s a grown man. He can clean up after himself and his children a couple of nights a week.

LEAH:

But what about Jessica?

ANNE:

She’ll be okay. Just make sure Marty knows that HE needs to be the one who takes care of things. He can’t just sit and read his paper. He needs to help her. If you set up a schedule, the rest of the family can pitch in to help.

LEAH:

I don’t know. It’s time for my children to begin to pursue their dreams. The time to pursue mine has already passed. Jessica loves to sing. I want her to keep doing that if her heart tells her she should. The time for me to make the decision to write a novel was made when I said ‘I do’ to Marty. He will never support me in this. Some decisions we make are permanent.

ANNE:

(thinks for a moment and then replies)

Leah, how are you going to teach your children to go after their dreams if you don’t go after yours?

LEAH:

(Looking over at the children as they play.)

I can’t, can I.

ANNE:

Just tell him. He’ll hear you out.

LEAH:

I hope so.

END SCENE

Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.