memoir

All posts tagged memoir

A Chicken in Every Plot

Published September 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By mazaletel (Flickr: the ladies) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During Labor Day weekend, my husband decided to build a chicken tractor.  What is a chicken tractor and why did he want to build one? Simple answer – someone at work talked him into it.

“It’s a mobile home for chickens,” he explained, “a coop and a run on wheels.  The chickens will perform magic by changing a patch of ground into fertile garden space within a few weeks.  We’ll move it so the chickens will make lots of garden plots.  By spring, the plots will be ready for planting,” he told me. “What do you think?”

“Go chickens!” I said. “Let’s do it.”

“Great.  I’ll take some time off work.  We can build it this week.”

The fact that we didn’t know a cluck about raising chickens didn’t deter our enthusiasm.  How hard could it be to build for chickens?  After all, we’ve been building from scratch for years.

We researched building plans, inventoried our own stock of scrap materials, and foraged in hardware stores for materials we needed.  Within a few days, we were ready to start building.

When my husband and I build together, my job is “the holder and go-fer”.  This means I hold off the distractions (kids, phone calls, and visitors) and get necessities (food, beverages, and music to maintain the work rhythm).  Occasionally, I’d hold a board in place for my husband to nail, but usually someone else does the heavy lifting (a daughter’s unwitting boyfriend trying to make a favorable impression).

Sadly, after years of observing my husband, none of his skills has transferred to me.  I can’t even swing a hammer.  Unfortunately,  all other conscripts have flown away leaving me holding the screws and everything else.  My poor husband has no idea how limited I am regarding basic carpentry skills.

“Hand me the square. It’s on my workbench.”

His workbench is not my domain. It is littered with tools, boxes of screws, deely-bop-its, and buckets of nails –  a Home Depot garage sale on clearance.  I needed a hint. “What color is it?”

“Yellow.”

Ah, that’s better. It’s easy to spot yellow in a grey area.

He placed the square on a piece of wood to mark a line.  His pencil broke.  He cussed.  “Get me a pencil. No. Get me a pen.”

What were my chances of finding a pen on his workbench?   I scrambled into the house to retrieve a box of pens on my desk.

The pens didn’t write on the damp wood.  He cussed again.  “I can’t figure out the angle for these rafters. Get me the angle guide.”

I handed him a metal object shaped like a triangle. “No, not that,” he said.  Eggs-asperated by my lack of  nomenclature knowledge, he huffed, “I should have said the ‘adjustable’ angle guide.”

By now my husband thinks I’m a wing nut.  His instructions become more explicit.

“Go get me a half-inch socket. Tool case. Third drawer. Round objects – calipers on the side.”

During the next few days, I handed him screws, nails, boards, held up things, plugged in power tools, and picked up things he dropped.  I cheered when pieces fit together and cussed when they didn’t.  I cracked chicken jokes and made him laugh.

More than a few days later, we managed to build the basic frame.  Our next step is making it mobile.  I have a feeling we’ll nail this thing hens down.

Okay, no more fowl jokes.

For now, we’re thinking of names. Yes, we’re going to name our coop.  Any suggestions?

By VanTucky (Own work) [CC-BY-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for stopping by!

Advertisements

Poetry Lessons Missed

Published August 28, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Lately I’ve been reminiscing about my days as a teacher. I miss watching children enjoy learning by trying the activities I created for them.  One activity we did together was as much fun for me as it was for them.  I’d like to share it with you today.

It’s called “Copycat”.  Think of a poem you know and like.  Now copy the style of the poem using your own theme or idea.

Here’s one from Sylvia Plath’s Mirror.

Computer

I am sleek and black.  I have no thoughts of my own
Whatever you type, I save immediately
Just as you typed it, unedited or revised
I am not a critic, only a device —
The batch of nanoes, four-cornered
Most of the time I’m booted, clicking on a desk
It is hard, cluttered with paper.  I have stayed on it so long
I think it is part of my hard drive.  But I flicker.
Sleep mode and blank screens separate us over and over.

Now I’m a tablet.  A woman bends over me
Searching the internet for what she  wants
She turns to those search engines, google and yahoo
I show her favorites and posts on face book
She rewards me with giggles and tapping fingers
I am important to her. She opens and closes me.
With me she has news feeds and weather apps, and with me she
Shuts off the TV, like an ugly lamp.

 

Have fun writing today.  And thanks for stopping in.

(I would love to see a new Robert Frost in the comments.)

When the Wind Blows

Published August 27, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf, I am reminded of the devastating effects of nature.  There’s something feral about hurricane winds.  Your animal side responds to its howl.  Can you outwit nature? Subdue it? Do you really have dominion?

“Mom, can we stay with you tonight?” It was Rachel.  She, her husband, and their infant son lived in a mobile home surrounded by trees. “We’re supposed to evacuate on account of the hurricane.  Mike’s on his way home from work, now.  I’m scared, Mom. ”

“You have time.  But please, honey, come as soon as you can.  We’re getting ready for it.   Bring everything you’ll need for the next several days just in case….” I said.

That night after the wind knocked out the power, we listened to news on a battery operated radio.  My daughters, all of them, huddled in the living room and clung to every word of the emergency broadcast…A loud crash broke the concentration.

Armed with flashlights and rope, my husband and son-in-law left the house to investigate.  The girls held hands and prayed.  As I watched the men though the window, their flashlights illuminated blurs of their movement – the struggle to tie rope to the posts and tether themselves, their blown faces like distorted images in a fun house, the rain slamming them sideways.

When they returned, the girls threw questions at them.  What happened? Did you see the barn? Are the horses okay? What was that noise?

“The sycamore, the one by the driveway, toppled over,” Mike reported.

“It’s okay,” my husband said, “it didn’t hit the propane tank.”

At this point, most of us were exhausted.  We were tired of listening to the wind, the tinny radio voices, and the pelting rain.  I blew out the candles and brought out blankets and pillows.  We dosed.

In the light of dawn, the brightest light I had ever seen, we stumbled awake and gathered outside. I heard a scream.

In the blink of an eye, our yard had become a strange landscape.  Toppled trees and branches obscured the view of the street, the barn, and the pond.  A large oak lay across the front field.  The top of  an old cedar had hurled like a spear into Marie’s ragtop.  She was still screaming.  She loved that car.

We comforted each other and checked on our neighbors.   All the people on our street were without electricity too, but no one was hurt.  For the next several days, I would bond with my neighbors in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.  We held grilling parties to share thawing food, passed around generators for our well pumps, and took turns with chain saws to clear the road of fallen trees.  A friend fixed Marie’s car.

Within a few weeks, our lives returned to normal, but we would never be the same.  We learned about the power of people and the power of nature.  United in humanity, we do have dominion.

Higher Education

Published August 23, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

Nerner Moore White (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in over fifty years, I’m not preparing to enter a school building. When I stopped teaching and started writing full-time, I didn’t anticipate the feelings I’d have at the start of this school year.  I feel like a blood hound sniffing for a lost scent.  For Heaven’s sake, where are my crayons and wheat paste?

When you think about it, school consumes a large chunk of your life.  You might be a student, a teacher, or a parent of a school-age child; sooner or later you’ll march through the doors of a school building.  For many of you, that time is now.

As you poke through your school memories, you’ll find moments of truth.  If you’d like, share them in a comment.

Have a great year and thanks for stopping by!

 

The Wizard and Blueberries for 3WW

Published August 8, 2012 by Ms. Nine

CC Wikimedia

3WW  prompt: crumble, uneasy, drawn

“Hey, do you know where the Wizard’s Cauldron is?” Faith asked the driver across from us.

We had an address but couldn’t get a handle on the pick-your-own blueberry farm. I rode shot-gun and navigated.

“It’s that-a-way,” the driver shouted, pointing toward Route 158.

The light changed and Faith U-turned. “Didn’t we already drive this way?” she asked. The familiar landmarks, a liquor store, an empty shack, and a set of run-down mobile homes, made me feel uneasy.  Then again, we had driven by so many streets; any one of them could have evoked a déjà vu.

“Okay, now watch for a sign,” she said.

“I’ve seen it.”

“What? Where?”

I looked at her. “In the haunted forest right before the witch’s castle.  It said I’d turn back if I were you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. We’re not going back empty-handed. Carol told me to look for a small sign next to a warehouse.  Is that a warehouse?” She pointed to a row of garages clumped together like bad teeth.

“Yeah, could be,” I said.

She lifted her foot off the gas without ramming the brake pedal, an improvement in her driving I could only attribute to magic.  To me, this was proof of our proximity to the Wizard’s Whatever.

“Look! There it is!” she squealed, wrenching a hard right.  I never noticed the sign as my head hit the roof when she ignored the curb. She stopped her new Ford Focus behind the ramshackle warehouse.  Another sign propped against the wall was harder to miss.   I read the primary-grade print in purple letters.

Pick your own. $1.00 a pint. Leave money in jar. Use honor system.

I twitched.  A pint? How many blueberries are in a pint? Can you pick a half-pint? What if we didn’t have the exact amount of money? Who makes change? I’d never experienced self-service like this. It felt strange, but I followed Faith down a path between the wind break.

Hidden from the road, acres of blueberry shrubs dotted an open field. I could spot the blueberries from yards away. They hung like mini-ornaments in splendid clusters.  They glistened with the promise of blueberry crumble and all else that is holy.

Within thirty minutes, we had drawn a gallon of berries from the Wizard’s Cauldron, stuffed two bills in the jar, and flitted..

During the drive back to town, Faith described the recipes she would use, who she would make them for, when she’d make them, and why.  “I’m going to make Bobby a pie.  I’m old fashioned.  I think if he tastes my cooking, he’ll love me even more.  Isn’t that a ridiculous sentiment?” She turned to me for what, reassurance? Too bad she didn’t see the bakery truck barreling down the wrong side of a country road.

“Faith! Look out!” I grabbed the wheel. She kicked the brake pedal and screamed.

I’m sure a scenic road becomes a kaleidoscope of pretty colors when viewed from the widows of a spinning car.  I can’t say.  My eyelids and cheek bones instinctively formed a seal, protecting me from all visuals, beautiful or otherwise.  My ears, however, were blasted with the audio of Faith’s screams.

Like a windup toy, the car lost its energy and stopped.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded. “Are you?”

“I’m a mess. That truck! Where did it go?” Faith fumed.

“Drove away.”

“We’re lucky no one got hurt. Hell, we’re lucky to be alive!” she turned to look in the back. “Look, the blueberries didn’t spill.”

Faith thought it best if I drove the rest of the way. I looked in the rear view mirror at the peculiar black circles staining the road. I shrugged, shifted to drive, and punched it.

I was sorely in need of to-die-for blueberry crumble.

Don’t you love 3WW…Thanks for stopping by!

The Art of Losing

Published August 7, 2012 by Ms. Nine

PD-US

“Diana, look. The potato sack race is starting. Get in line, quick!” her mother urged.

Too shy, Diana wilted at the thought of joining in anything, especially competitive activities.

“Go on, you can do it. You could win, you know. You’re tall and long-legged,” she coaxed.

“Mom, do I have to?”

“I want you to try. Yes, you have to.”

Her mother’s trump card played, Diana had no choice but to comply.

The contestants lined up at the starting line, ears pinned for the ready-set-pop of a cap gun-go.

She heard the crowd cheering the contestants on, her mother’s voice louder than the rest, “Come on! Come on! Jump, Diana, keep jumping!”

Hey, Mom’s right! Look at me! I’m ahead! Gripping the potato sack and bouncing to mid field, she glanced back at the others.  I’m far ahead!

Diana, transfixed by the finish line in front of her, tripped and fell, her face inches away from the red tape taut on the field.

“Get up! Get up! You can win!” her mother screamed.

Diana stared at the tape. If she stuck out her tongue, she could lick it. She imagined it would taste like a strawberry lollipop. Unfortunately, her feet, not her tongue had to cross that line.  She couldn’t move them until the announcer shouted, “And the winner is….”

Not her.

I’m this close to finishing my wip.  Why can’t I reach the finish line?

Thanks for stopping by!

 I would never…

Published July 26, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I would never post anything my kids shouldn’t read. In fact, my writer’s soul wants them to read my posts. I want to share my words with them like I did every day when they were little.  Now that they’ve grown, that desire persists.

“Thelma, did you read my post today?”

She chortles. “I didn’t have time today, sorry.”

“Sandy, what did you think of the post today?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t read it. Yet. I’ll read it later. I promise.”

“Marie, did you like my post today?”

“What post?”

I shrug off their indifference. I stop asking. You see, it doesn’t matter whether they read it or not, the story is alive. Permanently.

Today, the phone rings.

“Mom, I called to tell you I laughed when I read your blog story.”

And that, my friends, is why I write.

Thanks for stopping by! And keep your stories alive.

Light as a Feather

Published July 23, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

Just when I think I’m a goose feather in the wind, I wake up and discover that I’ve become the down in someone’s pillow.  I have no idea how this happens, but somehow my writing drifts in the wind and lands on somebody’s head.  Luckily, it’s light as a feather.

Thanks to Vikki for nominating me for the Illuminating Blogger Award.  I enjoy visiting her blog and  her perspective on writing.

The rules for acceptance are:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you 

2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back 

3. Share a random thing about yourself

4. Select five or more nominees and notify them on their blogs.

Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.


Here’s my random thing:  Once I taught mathematics to students in a psychiatric hospital.

Please visit these worthy blogs for inspiration and enlightenment:

Susan

Cyronette

Brian

Chris 

C. A. Husted

                                        

                                                   photo by kat@1bydesign.com

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Going Home

Published June 19, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I visited my hometown, a place I haven’t seen in years, to attend a wedding.  A day before the wedding, my feelings of nostalgia led me to the old neighborhood where I grew up.   How differerent it looked from the days of my youth!  It took days to untangle my emotions and wrap them up in words.

Here’s what I told myself:

What did you expect?  When you walked away thirty years ago, did you think you were the only one who would leave?  You thought home would always be there, didn’t you?  Well, things change.

Where you once lived, the new owners have installed wrought iron stairs leading to your old room on the second floor.  At the top of the stairs is a door instead of a window.  Two familites live there now.

As you walk the streets of your childhood memories, you notice the sidewalks where you learned to ride a bicycle are less shady.  You can’t recall their exact location, but you know there are trees missing.  Wasn’t there a willow tree here?

The neighborhood has changed, too.    Houses now occupy the fields where you played hide and seek.  You’re bewildered.  You remember slinging your ice skates over your shoulder to join a dozen others on a frozen pond.  Where’s the pond?  That too, has morphed into an unrecognizable cluster of track houses.

You wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you.    Back yards that once blended in congenial fraternity are now partitioned in stockade fencing.  You’re saddened by the thought that your idea of “neighborhood” is as obsolete as a game of jacks.

Is there a constant in the universe of your memory, a single element that grounds you to the place you called home?   You yearn for the elusive anchor that will moor you to the past, if only for a moment.  If you don’t find a familiar marker, you’re certain your heart will float away, adrift and alone.

Then you remember the poultry farm and its garage style store  where your brothers earned their first paychecks.   Even though you haven’t seen it yet, you know it’s still there, right around the corner.   You approach on foot and notice that the gravel parking lot is now paved and larger than you remembered.  Inside, the gleaming glass cases stock the same stuff, only there’s more of it – chicken pot pie, chicken salad, chicken croquettes, eggs – just like you remembered.   You buy the chicken salad and taste it.

Suddenly, for one tangy and sweet moment you’re back home.

Thanks for stopping by!

Next post: research in the Adirondacks on June 21st.

%d bloggers like this: