Liver makes me Shiver!

 Picky Tongues:You have to choose one flavor that your sense of taste will no longer be able to distinguish. Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami, spicy (not a taste per se, but we’re generous): which one do you choose to lose?


Whatever category liver falls into, that’s the one I’d choose to lose. (BTW, have you ever wondered who decided about the spelling of those two words:  choose and lose?  I mean, why isn’t it chose [chews?] if it’s lose, or loose if it’s choose?) Anyway, back to liver.

There were very few things that  literally made me gag when I was a kid. I didn’t like gravy. Go figure. Love it now. Didn’t like the bread stuffing in our Thanksgiving turkey. Another acquired taste, I guess.  Couldn’t stand boiled hot dogs served up with a side of sauerkraut.  Still can’t.  Of course, the sauerkraut was canned. My dad loved it. Blech. The only really good sauerkraut I’ve ever tasted was homemade by my friend Margie. Now, that was something else.

The only other thing I really had a hard time getting down was liver. Remember, this was back in the day when your parents told you to be thankful for whatever was on your plate, because just think of the poor starving Korean orphans. I never could make the connection. I would have been most happy to send my liver portion to Korea, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen, so what was the point?  Anyway, there was no option. You didn’t say you’d rather have peanut butter.  Your mom didn’t fix you something else. You ate the nasty liver and tried not to let it come back up, because there would be dire consequences if that happened. A strong distaste for any food was considered a form of rebellion in my house. No quarter given. Ever.

So I learned to get it down. A small bite of liver, a bite of mashed potatoes, a sip of milk, a bite of bread and butter, anything to push it down my resisting throat and get it overwith.

When I got married, my husband disclosed that he loved liver.  I considered getting an annulment. Tell you what–I’ll eat the onions, you eat the liver. Blech. Really, really blech.

I tried cooking it a lot less than my mom had, because Terry told me the way my mom did it, because my dad liked it that way, reminded him of a hockey puck.  Undercooking didn’t help. It was still liver, only squishy. Gag.

Then, oh frabjous day, I read somewhere that liver isn’t good for your cholesterol count.  Haven’t cooked it since.

Think about it. What does liver do in your body?  Did you ever look it up? Here’s an appetizing picture of this delightful piece of equipment.Image, I know I need to have a liver to be healthy, but I don’t need to eat liver to be healthy.  I can take iron tablets or chew on a rusty pipe if I need iron.

Honestly, the taste is truly abominable to me.  I have no idea why anyone enjoys the stuff. I know they do, but I can’t understand it.  I’m sure someone out there has studied why things taste like ambrosia to some and like filth and foul to others.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for it. I just don’t really care very much, as long as I never have to touch, cook, smell, or taste the stuff EVER AGAIN as long as I live.

And that includes scrapple, by the way.  For the uninitiated, scrapple is a favorite Pennsylvania Dutch treat, a mush made of pork trimmings and cornmeal that congeals into a loaf that you slice and fry. Those trimmings include organ meats. Liver. You can’t disguise it. People out here either love it or hate it, and I’m in the latter group. When we first moved here, we were offered this rare treat several times. I tried. I really did. “Oh, have it with molasses!  It’s wonderful!  Eat it with eggs!  You’ll love it!  Ketchup!  Syrup!  Fried in lard/butter/bacon drippings!  My grandpa’s recipe! My secret family tradition!”

Nope. Tried it all. Liver. You can’t fool me. It’s in there, and I will never, ever try it again. Don’t offer it to me, because I’ll hurt your feelings.

Some things just never change. The taste of liver is one of them.



How We Got our Organ

(Writing 101, Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure
For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.)


I  was recovering from a major surgery that had sapped my energy.  I hadn’t been out of the house for most of a month.  I was starting to feel a little better, and was becoming restless.  Terry had some business to take care of in Minneapolis, so  we decided to make a day of it.

The weather was wonderful as we headed south from our house in the country near Brainerd. Spring was coming on in its full glory, and the tender green of newly-budded trees against the mild blue of the sky  kept me entertained for several miles.  I really didn’t need to talk.  Just to be out enjoying the countryside and the fresh air was a complete delight.  I still grew tired easily, and I fell asleep somewhere south of St. Cloud.  I remember waking up just as we neared the Twin Cities, hardly believing the time had gone so fast.

Terry quickly found the place he needed, and it didn’t take long for him to finish his business.  We had planned to find a place to enjoy lunch, so that was next on the agenda. As we ate, we talked about whether or not I had the energy to do anything else.  I didn’t think so.  I was amazed at how the energy just seemed to leak out of me, as if someone had pulled a plug.  So we finished our meal, walked back to the car, and headed north.

As we reached the outskirts of the city, Terry said, “Linda, there’s Schmitt’s Music.  The big warehouse, where they have pianos and organs. Do you want to stop and look?”

“Well, sure, I love looking at instruments, but we can’t take too long.”

“Did you see they’re having their semi-annual  sale?  Maybe we can find you an organ.”

“Oh, sure.  One of those little chord organs that only has one keyboard would be about what we could afford!”

The warehouse was vast. Pianos of every size crowded the first showroom. I drooled over the concert grands, the baby grands, the uprights and the spinets.  Pianos are such beautiful instruments. Schmitt’s had nothing but the best. It was a pleasure just to press down a key or run a quick scale. The touch and the tone were outstanding.

Terry had wandered ahead of me into the organ showrooms.  I’d had to sit down for a few minutes, and before I got up again he came back and said, “Come on, there’s something I want to show you.”

He took me to the middle of the showroom. The organ standing there was a Wurlitzer Concert, a digital organ, It had three keyboards, one of which was a synthesizer. There were other settings for rhythms, chords, and accompaniments, but the organ could also sound just like a pipe organ. Well, of course I had to sit down and play around. There were headphones I could plug in so no one else had to listen to me play. The pedals created a wonderful resonant bass, and I let out all the stops, so to speak. I think I fell in love right there.  

Of course a salesman was standing by. He was nice, not pushy. He told us the organ was a floor model that had been used as a teaching instrument, and he could give us a really good price, which he then named. He stood there beaming at us, waiting for us to jump at the bargain. But we couldn’t. The price he quoted was indeed reasonable for the instrument, but not for our bank account. Terry made a counter-offer, though, much to my surprise. I couldn’t imagine he’d be able to bargain the price down to our range.

We talked for a while longer, and regretted that we just couldn’t come up with the money. We were quiet as we got back into the car, quiet as we headed up the road. Then Terry said, “Linda, I think the Lord wants you to have that organ.  When we get home, I’m going to call the guy and make him another offer.”  He told me how much he thought we could afford to spend, and he said he knew it wasn’t anywhere near what the organ was worth, but he just felt strongly that he was supposed to try.

So he did. He got on the phone the minute we got into the house, explained who he was, and said, “I’ve thought about it, prayed about it, and I believe God wants my wife to have that organ. I’m willing to offer you $—–, and that’s as high as I can go. I’ll understand if you refuse, but I want you to at least consider it.”

The salesman laughed. He said, “Well, I have to admire your determination.  I’ll tell you what.  We have another couple who are looking at it.  If they decided against it, I’ll talk to my boss and get back to you.”  It sounded like your typical sale’s pitch, right?

After he got off the phone, Terry called the family into the living room. He explained to our kids what was going on, and how strongly he felt the Lord urging him to get this organ for me.  We spent some prayer time there, each one of us adding our own petition that we would see this prayer answered. And then, all we could do was wait.

By this time I was too tired for words.  Terry helped me back to the bedroom, and I don’t remember another thing until morning.

The next day, Sunday afternoon, the phone rang. Terry picked up, and looked at me as he spoke. “Hello, this is Terry. . . .yes, we’re the ones who called last night. . . .yes, we’re still willing to make that offer. . . .really?  Well, sure!  That’s terrific!  What. . . .you’ll deliver it up here?  Wow, we didn’t expect that. . . .no extra charge?  Sure can’t turn that down!   Okay, yes, my wife will be home. . . .  . . .right, she’ll be here. Tuesday afternoon will be just fine.  Yes, Thank you.  Thank you very much!  We’ll look forward to seeing you!”

I was crying. I’m not sure if it was because I was so excited, or that I was just amazed at the way God answered a prayer that was for something we didn’t need,  but that He took pleasure in giving us. Terry, of course, acted as if it were no big deal.  After all, hadn’t he felt prompted by God in the whole situation?

Tuesday came, and the truck pulled in just as they promised. They brought in this beautiful organ. They brought in the bench. They brought in the manual and the instructions, and they brought in a box chock full of sheet music created specifically for that organ, all included in the price. They set it up for me, dusted it off, undid the protective bubble wrap from the legs of the organ and the bench, and left me alone with my wonderful new gift. The kids wouldn’t be home from school for an hour or so, and I spent the whole time learning all the bells and whistles.

It’s been 25 years, and I still love my organ.  It came across the country with us to Pennsylvania, and it had to have some work after that, but it still sounds as good as new. Every time I sit down to play, I remember my husband’s heart and the heart of God, both taking joy in gifting me with something I would treasure for years.

I am thankful.


Two Little Girls on a City Bus

(Writing 101, Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’
On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.” Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.)


(I chose to write this from my mother’s point of view. It’s a true story)

One of the scariest, most  stressful days of my life was the day I had planned for my girls to come downtown to meet me at the bank. I had made dental appointments for them both, because the school required it. We didn’t really have the money, but rules were rules. I found a dentist who would agree to a payment plan. Back in those days, I don’t even know if anyone had insurance to go see a dentist. It’s been a long time ago now–62 years!  I can’t believe it.  Sandy was seven, and Linda was five.

I planned so carefully.  I didn’t leave any detail  uncovered, and  I had dependable people to help them got on the bus. We lived in Minneapolis.  It was 1952, which seems like a very innocent age, looking back.  That didn’t mean you didn’t need to be careful, though, and I worried all day about my little girls being on that bus, alone, in such a big city.  I just didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t drive, and their dad couldn’t leave his job if he wanted his next paycheck. We agreed together to my plan, and today was the day.

That morning, we had gone over the plans again. “Now, you girls know what to say to the bus driver, don’t you?  Mrs. Taylor will help you get on the bus, and when you get on and pay the driver, you say–“

“We need to get off at the corner of the Northwestern National Bank!”  we chorused, right on cue.

“That’s right, and be sure to tell the driver–“

“Don’t drive away until you see we’re with our mom.  She’ll be waiting RIGHT THERE on the CORNER!”

“Okay,” I sighed, not feeling confident at all.  I had butterfles in my stomach, and I knew it would be hard to focus on my work that day. The hours crept by, leaving my poor stomach in knots.  I felt terrible about this whole situation.  My girls were way too little to be alone like this.  But I’d called the bus lines, and they told me that little kids ride alone all the time, that the drivers are trained to watch for them, and that I didn’t need to worry about a thing.  Oh, sure.  Not a thing!

My friend Mrs. Taylor was glad to help the girls get on the right bus.  I knew that end of it would be fine.  The girls thought it was a wonderful adventure to do something so grown-up all on their own.  They had no idea of all the dangers that lurked in my imagination, and I didn’t tell them.

When they got on the bus, they did exactly what I had told them to do. They thought it was great fun to put the money in the slot and hear the chink as it hit the bottom of the tiller.  Then the bus door wheezed shut, and they quickly found a place that had two empty seats. And they did tell the driver where to let them off. Twice.

I knew what time they would get on the bus, and I knew when the bus was scheduled to get to my corner. As each bus lumbered up to the stop, my heart was in my throat.  It should be the next one.  It was exactly the right time, and the right number was on the bus down the block.  What scared me is that the bus didn’t slow down as it neared my corner!  There were no passengers waiting to get on, and that big old bus just kept right on rolling!  I couldn’t get a glimpse inside to see if the girls were on the bus, but at that moment I really thought I was going to pass out, I felt so frightened and helpless.

We didn’t have cell phones back then.  I frantically searched my purse for a dime so I could use the public phone booth in the bank lobby, but then I worried that if the girls were on the next bus, I would miss them if I were inside the bank.  Oh, no, what would I do?

Right about then, a couple of my coworkers came out of the building. They waved at me, and I practically screamed at them to help me. They high-tailed it right to me, and with tears pouring down my face I explained what was happening.

“All right, Junie. We just need to call the bus line, and they’ll take care of it. Here, give me the dime and I’ll go make the call for you,” said my best friend at work. Her name was Sniff.  Don’t ask.  Long story.

While Sniff was inside, my other friend and I continued to watch as the buses  stopped, loaded and unloaded, and went on.  Still no sign of my girls, and it was way past time for them to be there.  I was frantic, pacing and crying, my friend trying to comfort me.  Sniff came back out and told me she’d reported the situation, told them the girls’ names and ages; the manager at the depot promised to be on the lookout. He knew which bus, and he promised he’d take the girls and put them on a bus doing the route from the other direction. He said it would be less than an hour.

An HOUR!  Oh, my poor heart.  My poor stomach.  I needed to call the dentist.  I needed to call Johnny.  But all I could do was stand there and cry.  My friends promised to stay with me until my girls were safe, and one of them went to make the calls for me.  I don’t know what I would have done without them.

On the bus, the one that didn’t stop–the ONLY one that didn’t stop– my little girls were becoming  very certain that something was wrong. They’d been downtown often enough to know that they’d probably gone past the bank where I worked.  They didn’t know if they should approach the driver or just wait for him to tell them what to do.  After all, he was a grown-up, and he’d promised to let them off at the bank. You can trust grown-ups, right? Huh!

The bus stopped a few more times, but always in neighborhoods my girls didn’t recognize. They sat very still, watching the street lights begin to blink on, watching the glow of sunset colors begin to decorate the sky, and knowing that something was very wrong. Would they be in trouble?  Had they forgotten something?  Should they go up front and ask the driver?

Just as they were ready to get up, the driver glanced up in his rearview mirror. Linda was watching, and she saw his eyes grow very big and his face grow very red.  He slowed down and pulled over by a school building. Once the bus had stopped, he walked back and stood there looking funny.

“Did you girls forget to get off at the bank?”

“You were supposed to tell us,” Sandy answered.  “You didn’t tell us!  You’re gonna be in trouble!”

“Okay, okay, look, don’t worry. We’ll get you back there, but I have to go to the terminal first. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Come up front and sit right behind me.”

At the terminal, several men were standing there waiting.  They went up to the bus right away, hustled my daughters off and put them on a different bus that was empty. Again, they sat right behind the driver, and he told them his name was Bob, and he was going to take them home.

“NO!  No, we can’t go home! We have to meet our mom at the Northwestern National Bank!”

“Right.  Got it.  You’ll be back with your mom in just a few minutes.  Here, have a stick of gum.  Have a comic book. Just don’t worry, and don’t cry. You’ll be fine.”

By this time, a policeman on his beat had noticed the to-do I was creating, and he’d stopped to see if he could help.  He went to a call box on a street light and I guess he called his precinct office. When he came back he patted my shoulder and told me not to worry, everything would be fine.  I was getting pretty tired of hearing that!

When I spotted a bus coming from the other direction, my heart climbed right up into my throat.  I started to run across the street, but horns blared and brakes squealed. The policeman grabbed me and pulled me back, and told me to stay right where I was. HE would go across the street.  If my girls were on the bus, he would get them safely across.

And they were. Oh, thank God, they were on that bus!  The officer told me that both of them had the biggest eyes he’d ever seen as they came down the steps from the bus. They must have thought they were in an awful lot of trouble, to be met by a policeman!

He had one on each side of him, and he shepherded them across that busy street as if they were more valuable than gold.

They were.

Mrs. Pauley

(Writing 101, Day Eighteen: Hone Your Point of View
Craft a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old observing it all. For your twist, focus on specific character qualities, drawing from elements we’ve worked on in this course, like voice and dialogue.)

(The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.)


“Poor old Mrs. Pauley.  Like, what did she ever do to deserve, you know, getting evicted?  I mean, I had to ask my mom what that means!  I never even heard of it before!  I guess she’s lived there for like 40 years or longer.  Really, it should BE  her very own house by this time. Like, she’s been paying rent for all those years–shouldn’t that be, like, a mortgage or something?

“Anyway, I guess today’s the day. From where I sit on my front steps, it looks like something you’d see on a CSI program, or Law and Order or something.  I feel so bad for her. I mean, she’s always been–well, you know–not like overly friendly or anything, but nice. Like, she never yells if we lose a ball in her yard, and she’ll help us look for it.  She never says anything if we play right in front of her house. Crabby old Mr. B across the street yells like a nut if there’s any noise on the street after 8 p.m.  Really?  Really? Like, we’re supposed to go to bed at 8 on a summer night? Seriously.

“So, this big fancy car just drove up, and this old guy in a baggy suit gets out of the back seat. He’s wearing this really old-school hat, just like the bad guys in the old black and white movies. I hope he doesn’t have a machine gun or something in his brief case!  He’s walking up to the house, and he just stopped to look around at the yard and, I guess, the neighborhood. He’s got these squinty eyes and he needs to shave. It’s so NOT sexy for old guys to not shave. Yuk.  Oh no!  He just saw me, and he like winked at me!  I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit!  Gross! Now he’s waving, but I’m not waving back. Gross!

“And here comes another car, a police car. No lights or sirens or anything. A man gets out of the driver’s side. He’s got a big belly, and his belt is full of all his stuff.  Looks like a nice guy.  I bet he really hates having to do this stuff.  I mean, kicking little old ladies out of their houses?  Really stinks, you know?

“A lady cop just got out of the car. She’s wearing a belt with all that stuff on it too, and she looks really sad. She and the other cop are talking, and she keeps shaking her head. It’s like soo,  soooooo sad, what they’re doing.

“What I really don’t get is that Mrs. P has like six sons, and none of them are here to help her.  I mean, what’s WRONG with them?  I’d help my mom!  Seriously, I’d pay her rent or take her to live with me or something.  It’s only been three months since old Mr. Pauley died. You’d think they could help her out until she finds a smaller place to live. I mean, she doesn’t need all those bedrooms any more, or that huge attic, and I guess there’s a cellar, too.  Kind of creepy when you think about all the stuff that must be stored there. I wonder if she’ll get to take any of it with her  I wonder where she’ll go.  I wonder a lot of things, I guess.

“Oh, wait, here comes a big old police van. Yikes!  I never saw that before in the neighborhood.  Four big men in cop uniforms just got out, and they’re talking to Officer Big Belly.  They all look pretty serious.  I wonder what’s going on. . . .

“Wait!  The lady cop just came out with Mrs. Pauley, and Mrs. Pauley is crying and shaking her head and saying NOOOOO!  I’ve done nothing!  It’s not true!”  But the lady cop has her in handcuffs. Wow, I mean, this looks really serious!  This is getting scary, like way scary! The lady cop is taking Mrs. P to the squad car, and she puts her in the back seat just like they do on TV, with her hand on top of Mrs. P’s head!

“While all that is going on, the four big guys from the van are going in and out of the house. They’re carrying boxes of stuff, I can’t tell what, and putting the boxes in the back of the van. Wait–something just fell out of a box–I think–oh man, what IS that?  It looks like a doll cradle, but it’s kind of big–more like for a real baby!

“Then one of the van guys comes up the sidewalk to me and he says, ‘Young lady, you’d best go inside. You don’t need to see any more.  Is your mom home?’

“I just stare at him, and I nod my head yes.  My mom is home.  And she’s not going to BELIEVE what I have to tell her. Like, seriously, she won’t believe me. Because what I saw in that cradle looked just like a real baby. . . only not moving. . .not crying. . .  .just lying there. . .

“I stood up and turned to go inside when my mom came to the door. She didn’t look surprised to see everything that was happening at Mrs. P’s. She put her arm around me and pulled me inside and put me on the sofa.  She sat down beside me, and put her arms around me. She took a big breath, and she said, ‘Honey, there’s something I have to tell you about Mrs. P.  Something really bad. There’s a reason her sons won’t help her. . . .'”

I’ll Tell You Everything!

( 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page
What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.)

When I opened my eyes, and the cloud of drugs had dissipated, I saw something suspended directly over my head. It was semi-dark in the room, and I couldn’t make it out at first.  Then, slowly, the reality became clear.

A huge net was indeed suspended from the ceiling. It bulged out in some place, was concave in others. Those places changed every few seconds, and I began to realize that there was something alive in the net. Something alive and trying to find a way out.

As I watched in growing horror and fascination,  I realized other things as well.  I was bound hand and foot, my arms and legs spread out in opposite directions.  My head was also restrained, clamped by some evil tool that kept me from moving anything save my eyes.  I had a raging thirst. My throat was on fire, and I was desperate to work up just a little saliva to moisten my lips and throat.  I was cold; I wondered how my throat could be so hot and dry while the rest of my body was bathed in clammy sweat. I was covered with goose bumps, and shivering hard against the restraints. I realized that I was naked. Completely.

My concern, though, was that net above my head. It was the size of a small sofa, as far as I could see. What terrified me was that I thought I knew what was contained in the mesh, and the horror of it was making my misery excruciating.

Training my eyes and ears on the net, I was sure I could see separate bodies.  Writhing, wriggling, sinuous, slithering bodies. Sibilant sounds came now and then, causing the cold sweat to run freely off my body.  And then, suddenly and clearly, I saw the unmistakable reddish glare of eyes that were staring staight into my own terrified eyes!  Those eyes seemed to emit hatred toward me, and a determination to do me harm. I was mesmerized. I was horrified. I almost fainted with fear.

And then I heard the voice.  Calm, soothing and reasonable, the voice spoke my name. “Well, Mr.  Blakesly.  It seems you’re in something of a predicament.  You know, my friend, I’d be glad to help you out of your situation. Of course, you know that means you would owe me something in return. Do you care to bargain with me?  If not, all I have to do is release the cord, and you will be smothered in poisonous, angry serpents. You won’t last long. Ten minutes at most, but what an enjoyable ten minutes–for me–it will be.”

I could hear the the insinuating sneer in his voice, almost see the satisfied smugness on his face.  Finally, after chasing each other across oceans and continents, my archenemy had me completely in his power.  Little fragments of the events of the previous day began to flash through my mind, but I couldn’t hope to follow those flashes.  At the moment, all I could think of was finding some way out.

“What do you want?”  I croaked.

“Come, come. You know exactly what I want. I want everything that resides in that magnificent brain of yours. Every contact, every password, every code, every plot. And I believe I will have them, won’t I?”

A small noise above my head had me straining to see. I realized that the net was closer by maybe an inch.  A stench issued from the net. Snakes have a foul odor.

“Let me go, and I’ll give you what you’re asking.”

“Oh, no.  Oh, my, no.  That would be most foolish of me, wouldn’t it?  You’ll empty your head to me right where you are, and THEN I will consider setting you free.”

“I can’t think straight with that horror hanging above me!”

“Well, then, let’s bring it a little closer so you can see exactly what you’re looking forward to.”

And the net came down again, hanging barely six inches above my head and chest.  Individual snakes were clear now, huge ones and smaller ones, all of them ugly and evil.  My worst nightmare.  How did he know?  How could he possibly know?

“All right. All right, I’ll tell you everything. But I have to have some water. Whatever you used to put me out is making me thirsty. Please, water, and then I’ll talk.”

“Oh, Mr. B., you disappoint me.  I thought you’d hold out a little longer, so I could toy with you just a little more. Well, if you’re ready to talk, then of course you may have some water. After that, we’ll chat–just you and I and our slithery friends. If I doubt any word that comes out of your mouth–well, I think you know what will happen.”

I heard a metallic click, and the screech of an unoiled hinge. A little more light  came into my dungeon, enough to show me the true horror of what hung so close above me. As the man who entered helped me drink from a bottle, through a straw, I watched my nightmare.

“Thanks,” I said to the guard. “Don’t go away.  I’m going to need lots more water.  There’s a lot to tell.”

Lost and Found: Part Three

(Writing 101, Day Sixteen: Serial Killer III
Today, imagine you work in a place where you manage lost or forgotten items. What might you find in the pile? For those participating in our serial challenge, reflect on the theme of “lost and found,” too.)

Go here for Part I and here for Part II, or this post won’t make a whole lot of sense 🙂

This has to be the absolute worst job I’ve ever had!  All day, every day, sorting out lost stuff, labeling it with time and date, who brought it in, where it was found, and trying to find room for it all.

You’d think people would come and pick up their stuff, wouldn’t you?  I mean, there’s a TON of money’s worth of junk just sitting here gathering dust.  What do people do?  Just go out and buy a replacement?  Boy.  When I was growing up, if you lost it you just got along without it.

“Maybe if you have to do without, you’ll be more careful next time.”  That statement may have made a lot of sense to my parents, but it just gave me a sinking sensation.  What if I lost my coat?  My boots, or gloves?  Winter was brutal where I grew up. Maybe just the threat of having to do without made me cautious, because I don’t remember losing any of those things.

But the stuff here at my job–good grief!  Eyeglasses, sunglasses, ear muffes, the hair doodads you just wouldn’t believe! Hats, scarves, gloves, purses, wallets–some with lots of money in them–tops and pants and skirts and leggings and shoes, slippers, boots,!  To say othing of electronics.  Radios, iPods, iPads, sometimes a laptop.  Like, how could anyone lose a laptop?  Really!  Jewelry by the gross. Lottery tickets. Store receipts,  Honestly, it’s just endless.

But there’s one thing that’s really a mystery. I can’t figure it out at all, and it’s creepy, too. There’s one room devoted completely to this stuff. They mystery is that it grows, then shrinks; growshrinkgrowshrinkgrowshrink ALL the livelong day!Sometimes the room is so full the stuff comes oozing out from under the door, no matter how I try to stop it. Then, all of a sudden, it just kind of gets sucked right back in and there’s nothing against the door any more.

What is it, you ask? Well, get ready to be completely grossed out. It’s fat. Great, huge, icky yellow gobs of fat!  I HATE having to take a new package of the stuff in there, and I usually wait until I can see that there’s nothing coming out from under the door.  Then, I open the door just wide enough to toss in the bundle, and I slam it as fast as I can before the stuff engulfs me and everything in its path.

Somebody loses a whole bunch of fat;  sooner or later, someone else finds it.  Gah.  Yech.

Personally, I’d rather sort unmatched socks!

We’re Moving

(Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You
You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. For your twist, read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours!)

I knew in my heart that it was coming, but hope was still alive that somehow that little church in southern Minnesota would vote not to call my dad to be their new pastor. I felt bad about hoping so, because I knew he wanted it. And Mom wanted nothing more than to go back to Minnesota where there were close friends and even some family members.

I had been only 10 when we moved from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon.  We hadn’t lived in any one house long enough for me to become attached, and I was very excited to be living near both the mountains and the ocean. For this midwestern flatlander, that  was a dream come true.

Now I was fifteen. I’d nearly finished my freshman year of high school at one of the biggest schools in the city. I loved it there. I’d made friends and was looking forward to being a sophomore.  I dreamed of being in the choir, and in the drama program. I loved my Spanish class, and wasn’t sure at all that there would be such a class in the little farm town where my folks wanted to take us.

There were other things I loved.  Above all, I loved being near the ocean. It has still never lost its magical appeal for me.  I’ve never gotten over my wonder at the size of these immense bodies of water that circle and nourish our land masses. I loved the rare ocassions when we could watch a storm over the ocean from the safety of a high cliff.

I loved Mt. Hood. Every day, it stood sentinel over the city of Portland and treated us to the majestic view of its snowcapped shoulders and peak.

I loved the roses.  I’d never seen so many roses in one place.  Every spring, the city chose a Rose Princess from among its dozen or so high schools. The lovely winner in that contest got to ride on the official Rose Parade float, along with her court of princesses. It was a major event, and one I would never see again.

The Rose Gardens were wonderful. I never got bored with strolling through the vines, bushes, and trellises overflowing with roses of every imaginable color and size. Such an abundance of beauty and perfume. And I would very likely never see it again.

Jantzen Beach was an amusement park that we enjoyed in the summer.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t as big as it is in my memory. It was a great place for a youth activity or a casual date.  I don’t even know if it’s still there.

The Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet in Portland. We had friends who had a boat, and they took us out on the river often enough that I became almost as entranced by the water there as I was by the ocean. Almost.  River water doesn’t always smell too good near the city.

And, of course, there was my boyfriend.  My first real crush.  I know, I know. I was only 15 (almost) and what did I know about real love?  I knew as much as any 15-year-old could know.  I loved him as much as my age, personality, and experience allowed me to love, and I was heartbroken over leaving him.  I can’t even tell you how awful it was to say goodbye. I was sure there would never be anyone else, and I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life.

So.  The packing up process, one I was very familiar with, began. Lots of stuff got thrown away or given away, and as we pared down our household I said goodbye to some things I knew I would never miss. Still, it was hard. Those years between 10 and 15 include the whole process of emerging from “little girl” to “young woman,”  There were mementos that I struggled with emotionally, things I wanted to keep but knew I would never even look at again, in reality.

And finally, the day came. The church my dad pastored had given us a farewell, lots of hugs and tears and “promise me you’ll write.” I’d said goodbye to my friends at school. We still had six weeks of the school year, and I was dreading having to do it in a new place where friendships were already established, and the other kids had known each other all their lives. But time goes on, and soon we were on the road, heading to a new life and leaving everything I loved behind us.

I thought I would never be happy again.

I was wrong.

From Chepstow Castle

(Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern
Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.)

(The book sitting right beside me is The Gecko and Sticky, by Stephen Gilpin. It is a book aimed at junior/junior high boys. It’s hilarious. The sentence I took from it will be in bold italics.)

Dearest Uncle Alwon,

I am  of all women the most unhappy!  Please, if there is any mercy in your heart for me, rescue me from this dreadful place! Why you ever thought I could be happy here I will never understand!

Let me tell you about Chepstow Castle. It is immense. It is dark, and damp, and full of wind and foul odors. The walls have the grime of 200 years ago, and none of the walls are graced with the beautiful tapestries of your castle, my home. The lord of the castle is cheap and stingy. He doles out coal for personal fires as if each piece were pure diamond.  He is my husband, or at least he soon will be, and I am terrified of the day when I will say my voiws with him. He is as cold and as bleak as his castle, with nothing of beauty to make him attractive to me –or to anyone else!

The other day, Dear Uncle, I was in need of the privy.  I am not allowed a pot in my chamber; I am required to use the nook carved out of the castle wall that sits high above the river.  Uncle, it is very cold here. The wind is unrelenting. There is nothing of warmth or comfort in that dreadful closet, and I was ill. I needed it almost constantly that day,

It is difficult for me to speak of such personal matters, but I want you to understand how difficult my life is here. It is as if my lord wants to see how I will tolerate hardship. He is as relentless as the wind. When I went to beg him a pot for my chamber, he gazed at me unspeaking for several moments. Then he said, “If I allow you a pot, you will be responsible to empty it yourself whenever you use it. I cannot spare a maid for such work when the privy is available.”

So I used the privy. As I walked in, facing the seats, I could see that the dark, lazy river that ran through the countryside was a collection of many things, but mostly water and waste. All the villages upriver used it for cleaning, cooking, watering their animals, and emptying their night waste. At this point,nearing the end of its journey to the sea, it was murky, full of tree limbs, a bloated animal carcas here and there, and many other pieces of flotsam. I shivered, thinking  how the castle made use of the very same water for cooking and drinking.

No wonder I am so often ill.

Uncle, I beg you. Send your men for me, take me home, save me from this wretched place. It may be the biggest castle in this country, but it has no welcome for such as I. I fear that once I produce a male heir, I will die.

In dire need, I remain

Your respectful Niece,


Gains? Oh, Yeah.

(Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II
Earlier in the course, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something. For your twist, view day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.)

To see the first post in this series, please go here.

So, what I have gained by losing my size 8 body?  Hoo boy.  You sure you really want to know?

Gain number one:  Fat cells.  Lots and lots of the little buggers, and they may shrink and expand a zillion times, but they never go away and they’re always hungry. Always.

Gain number two: A closet that has had to evolve into an accordian file. Grow. Shrink. Grow. Shrink. It’s pitiful.  Finally I just accepted that the size 8-10’s I wore before and shortly after I got married are so far out of style people would think I was dressing for Halloween or a retro party. They’re gone. So that’s a loss, I guess.  But then there are the 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and for a short time there 22’s.  I gained a multi-size wardrobe over the years that has definitely given me something to shrink back into. When I lose weight, I can go shopping in my closet. So I guess I’ve gained some money, too.

Gain number three:  Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome. It’s so depressing, I won’t even go into detail.  You can read about it here  if you like. What it boils down to is that I’ve gained a pernament New Year’s Resolution.

Gain number four:  Diabetes Type II, part of Metabolic Syndrom.  Along with it, I’ve gained Metformin, a twice daily pill. I’ve also gained the necessity of keeping a closer watch on my eye health, and my feet, along with quarterly A1C tests and yearly heart checks. Did you know that a diabetic is automatically a heart patient?  Yay.  Now, this is all life-style related, so theoretically I can  get rid of these particular gains IF I learn to consider salad  the only food group I can enjoy with no limits.  Well, it’s not really that bad, but sometimes it feels like that.

Of course, there’s salad:

And then there’s SALAD!

Can’t think of any other gains, really, except stretch marks. Yeah, those are really attractive 🙂


(Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon
Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.)

When I went downstairs to greet my next clients, the husband stepped in front of his wife. Holding her right arm with his right hand, he introduced himself before I even got my mouth open. Then he brought her up beside him and said, “And this is my wife.” He did not let go of her arm; he did not tell me her name.

As I always do, I extended my right hand for a handshake and introduced myself. My eyes locked onto his, and his were hard to move away from. They were bright blue with a dark black center, the pupils dilated enough to be noticeable. He released his wife’s arm long enough to shake my hand. I released his hand right away and offered my hand to his wife. Again, his right arm went up across her body.

“She doesn’t shake hands. It’s a germ phobia.”

She hadn’t looked at me yet. If I’d had to describe her at that point, I could have told you about the part in her dark brown hair. I could have described her clothing and her purse. Not her face.

“That’s fine.  I understand. At this time of year, it’s wise to avoid touching someone else’s hand, isn’t it?  Let’s go upstairs, then, and we’ll talk.”

I’ll talk. My wife is very shy with strangers.”

The door to my office was already open.  It’s a pleasant room, warm and welcoming. I have several items hanging on my walls that are handmade. One, a counted cross-stitch piece picturing a teapot, cup, saucer, flowers on a lace cloth, is one of the last ones my mom completed. Another is a wonderful piece of calligraphy done by my son Ken, featuring the words “Be ye kind one to another.” I like my office.  It’s comfortable.

I gestured to the sofa and invited them to sit. He pointed to the far corner of the sofa and waited for her to sit. Then he sat right beside her, placing his arm across her body and resting his hand on her far knee.

“So, I just want you to know that I will be the one controlling this meeting,” he said. “I tried to get a male counselor, but you’re the only one who takes our insurance so I had to settle for you. You need to understand that I don’t take orders from any woman, ever. We’re here because my wife needs help. I want you to help her understand what the Bible teaches about marriage and men and women. Our pastor suggested we come here, so we’re here. We probably won’t be coming back, so make this as clear as you can. What are your credentials?”

I paused, waiting for my temper and my fast mouth to settle down before I spoke.  Gazing again into his intense eyes, I told him my credentials; I also told him about my strong faith in God, my belief that every word in the Bible is truth, and my lifelong experience of learning and teaching God’s Word.  Just to sort of level the playing field.

“Good.  Then you know the Bible says the man is the head of the home, and the leader in the church. This isn’t a church, so I guess it’s ok for you to speak even though I’m here. Just don’t be upset if I have to correct you.”

I lowered my eyes. My husband tells me that even if my face is blank, my eyes give me away every time. If this man saw the distaste and anger I felt toward him, there would be no point in our going any farther.  By this time, my heart was heavy for the poor woman sitting caged behind his arm.  I still hadn’t heard a peep from her.

“Well,” I said, looking directly at her, “I see on your intake sheet that your name is Susan. It’s nice to meet you, Susan, and I hope you’ll feel free to contribute to the conversation as we move along.”

“She’ll speak if I think she needs to. You’ll address all your questions or comments to me.”

This time I looked directly at him, making no effort to conceal my rising dislike. “You, Mr. B, need to get a couple of things straight. One, you are not and will not be in control of me. You may say whatever you think you need to say, but you will say it with the same respect I’ve given you so far. Two, you and I already don’t agree on whether or not Susan needs to speak. I would request that when I address her, you allow her to respond to me.  I will never be able to help you if I can’t hear from Susan in her own voice, her own words.”

“One more outburst like that and I’m leaving. We’re leaving.  I will not expose my wife to a woman who has no understanding of male authority.  I thought this was a Christian office!”

“It is. I imagine that makes you feel pretty uncomfortable.”  Turning away from his slowly growing outrage, I spoke directly to her. “Susan, I want you to know that there are places you can go to for help and shelter.  I see no evidence that Mr. B has physically abused you, but I’m almost certain he has. If you have children, they also need to be protected. I can help you find a place that will shelter you.”

As I spoke, tears pooled and broke, pouring from her eyes in a flood.  She finally looked up at me, dark brown eyes drowning in tears and hopelessness. She shook her head. Her fingers plucked at the sleeve of her husband’s shirt. Her body trembled.

“That’s enough!  I’m leaving, and we won’t be back!  No woman is going to interfere in my marriage or make my wife think of disobeying me! My wife is perfectly happy as long as she’s obedient. You are a Jezebel!”

He dragged his wife up by her arm, pushed her in front of him, opened the door and shoved her through. He turned for a parting shot: “You must have married a weak, spineless man!”

You, Mr. B., are a weak and spineless man.  I married a godly man.”


I don’t know how this couple turned out.  I did call the police in their township, explaining my fears for her safety. They promised to follow up, but I never heard back from any of them.