New Year Update

January 2012 update: Welcome to a new year and some new posts! I hope to reward my readers with regular updates now that the holidays are over. Keep reading and enjoy! Please leave a comment or two, if you feel inspired ;o)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Freewrite (The Beggining of Emmy's Tale) When the Willow Whispers - Page 1

    Emmy sat at her desk looking at the clock tick the hours away. She found herself wondering where the time had gone. Not just for the day, but the last few years of her life. A decade almost. She reminisced about the dreams she had had when she was younger. Life had seemed so full of possibilities then. As she sat there, lost in her revelry, more time past. When she refocused on her desk she noticed a small box that she was sure had not been there five minutes ago. Though she had been adrift in her thoughts, she was pretty sure that no one had passed by her desk since lunch time, which was three hours ago. She picked up the box. It was light. She turned it over in her hand. It was the size of a box that may hold earrings and it was wrapped with the most beautiful wrapping paper she had ever seen, complete with an elegantly tied emerald green bow. No card.
    Now, if Emmy had a boyfriend she would expect the box to be sent by him. Emmy did not have a boyfriend. If she had an office romance, she might expect it to be from her coworker. Emmy did not work with any men on this floor. As far as Emmy knew, there was no one there who even had their eye on her, though she wished that the green eyed, dark haired man on the fifth floor, who she stood next to everyday in the elevator would look her way. From what she could tell though, he never even glanced in her direction during the thirty second ride up in the elevator, at the end of which the doors would open and she would mentally curse the fact that she had to continue up to the eighteenth floor while he walked out through the doors and onto the fifth floor. One day she was walking up to wait next to him at the elevator, when she tripped and accidentally spilled coffee across the floor. He barely turned his head in her direction. That was how not-noticeable she was. Not that she wanted to be known for being a klutz, but sometimes she thought any notice at all, might be a good thing.
    Well the box was definitely not from him. It wasn't her birthday, or any special day that she was aware of so she couldn't figure out why one of the girls would have given her a gift. She set the box back where she'd found it, and looked away. When she looked back, it was still there. She didn't know what she had been expecting. For it to sprout legs and walk away, perhaps? She grabbed the box back up, and tugged at the emerald ribbon. It fell open easily, and the wrapping gave way as she carefully picked the tape holding it at one end. She hated to waste such beautiful paper. Maybe that was all the box was. A lovely wrapped box with nothing in it. It was awfully light after all. Someone's idea of a joke. She slowly lifted the lid and thought she heard faint music. She closed the lid and looked around for the source of the sound. The music stopped.
    Just then Lisa walked up to her desk. "Oooh. Someone got some jewelry! Who's it from?"
    "I don't know", Emmy said. "There's no card. And I haven't opened it yet. I don't think it's jewelry though. Who would randomly give me jewelry. Today's no special occasion"
    Lisa contemplated this for a moment. "Maybe you have a secret admirer? Go on, open it. I want to see what it is."
    Emmy couldn't explain it, but she didn't feel like opening her gift with an audience. This moment seemed like it should be private....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Night was Dark and Stormy

    The other night I was left home alone, while my boyfriend was at a "slumber party". Who knew boys could have slumber parties, but there it is. Apparently they are much like girls' slumber parties in that they pig out on junk food and stay up late watching movies. Of course, no male gathering would be complete without the obligatory playing of video games and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

    My boyfriend had told me the previous night that he would be going to said slumber party, and left that morning at 7am for work. I had been gearing myself up all day for my night home alone. I spent the day at work laughing with the girls about the boys having a slumber party. None of us could get it through our heads that those existed. Or that grown men would ever admit to attending one. I was very excited to have the house to myself all night. It was a dreary day, and by the end of the work day all I could think about was going home, cooking dinner, putting the kettle on for a warm cup of tea, and relaxing with my feet up without interruptions. Not to mention having the bathroom to myself so I could shower at anytime I felt like, instead of having to rush in before the boyfriend to make sure I get first dibs at the warm water.

    Upon arriving home after work, I pull up to a dark house. I had a closing shift that day, and forgot to leave the porch light on in consideration of getting home in the dark that evening. That's alright, I've come home in the dark before. There's a street light at the end of our block which throws enough light you can see by. I walk in the door and immediately get bombarded by my Lhasa Apso. He can't stop jumping up and down and spinning in circles. I know that this is his way of communicating how much he has missed me throughout the day. That, or he just really has to pee. I head to the kitchen to let my other dog, a Cairn Terrier, out of his kennel, and let them both outside. While they're out, I start my kettle and my dinner cooking, I feed them, the cats, and the bunny, let the dogs back in, and pop in the shower. So much for not rushing to the shower right away.

    I try to let my evening alone sink in. I should mention that the sinking had started before the shower because I went to both the front and back door to check that the deadbolt and lock on the knob were locked before heading for the bathroom. Twice. Then I closed the hall door to discourage the bad guys in case they broke in through the deadbolt only to see the hall door closed. Surely at that point they would think, "The hall door is closed. Bugger! She's on to us. This is getting too complicated. Let's leave."

    I finish my shower, start the tea, dish up dinner, and plop down in front of the TV. I'm enjoying the silence. I don't have someone trying to chatter to me while my program is on. I'm enjoying having the couch to myself to stretch out on. It's getting later and soon I will have to go to bed, as I have work early the next morning. I start thinking about how I'll have the bed all to myself. Then I start thinking about how I've never spent the whole night alone in this house. On this side of town. The bad part of town. With the park next door, where I haven't ever seen them, but I'm sure drug dealers and murderous cretins congregate late at night. This house, where the very first night I spent here I was woken up by police lights flashing in my window and drunken shouting from across the street. This side of town where the news always mentions shootings while displaying their darling little map with the pin pointing to a  street conveniently located in my neighborhood. 

    To make my evening more ominous, it must be mentioned at this point, the boyfriend neglected to check in with me for an entire 38 hour period, which had me slightly worried. I don't mean to be his keeper, but we do live together and this was our first night apart in four years, aside from when I visit my parents out of state. I thought a quick drunken, "Hi! Things are great here. We're having fun kicking ass at video games. See you tomorrow!" would have been nice. But alas, I sit at home alone on the internet, and watching TV, without a single peep from my telephone. 

    As I barely pull myself together to drag myself to bed, I head to the back door to let my dogs out. Of course by now I'm convinced that every time I open the door I'm going to see a mad man lying in wait on the other side. And it doesn't matter if it's the back door or the front door. Even if I ran really fast between the two and opened them he would run around the house and be there too. 

    What I have failed to mention so far is that my Cairn Terrier is food aggressive. I can see where it looks as though I may be getting side tracked from my story, but bare with me. He is food aggressive and currently my dogs are going through a -"feed me feed me feed me! now I will sit here and stare at my food all night" - stage. So, the food aggressive terrier has not eaten a kernel of his food. What does a food aggressive dog do when there is food around? Why he guards it of course!

    If you get too close, or god forbid try to reach for him or his dish he WILL bite you. Hard. With puncture marks for a souvenir. We have discovered a trick to getting his food away from him when he's like this. We grab a blanket from off the couch, throw it over his head like a net, and grab the food dish away. Once the food dish is gone he's back to the happy-go-lucky if slightly neurotic terrier we all know and love. Unfortunately for us, he has learned our technique, studied it, and is currently attempting to find fault with it. When he first associated the blanket with us taking his food he would growl when we would come near him with it. More recently he has taken to growling and snapping as soon as we have grabbed it from the couch even though we are still 10 feet away.

   On this night, though, of all nights. The night when I am alone and expecting robbers, and murderers, and general drunken nuisances to bust through my door. This is the night when as soon as I grab the blanket I become a matador and he becomes an angry bull. As I call to him to go outside for "nighttime potties" he gets closer to his food dish and hovers his head over it. A sure sign he's in guard mode. I try to coax him away at first, but he just scoots closer (if this is even possible given his already close proximity). I approach him and he wrinkles his lip at me. I know what I have to do. I go to the couch and grab the blanket. He immediately starts barking and growling and charging in my general direction. As I approach him with the blanket he leaps two and a half feet in the air and flies into the blanket, teeth snapping, going for blood. My calm terrified little terrier has become the vicious attack dog from Hades! He doesn't even need the other two heads. He's frightening enough with just the one. 

    We play a frightful game of tug-o-war with the blanket, me all the while trying to keep the blanket strategically placed between my skin and his teeth. In the end I manage to cover him with it, and as he growls and writhes beneath it turning himself into the blanket monster from hell, I fumble to pull his food dish away before he finds his way out. Terrified and shaking, I pull the blanket away. As he starts to realize his food is no longer available to him, he starts to snap out of his insane rampage. I manage to get him and the other dog, who has been watching the proceedings with a weary eye, outside with him grumbling all the way out the door. 

    I flop down on the couch exhausted and shaking from my emotional trauma. As the fear of my own dog subsides, the fear of being alone returns and I am once more reminded that when I open the door for the dogs to come back in some serial killer on a rampage will be standing there waiting for me. I'm starting to fear for my dogs safety, being out there all alone in the dark, when the dogs bark to come back in. I check out the peep hole before opening the door. Of course this doesn't matter, as the serial killer is surely crouching over out of view of the peep hole. As the deck seems to be clear I open the door and the dogs come rushing back into the house, the terrier running straight to where his food was just to make sure it really has been taken away, and I start to turn off the lights. 

    By now I'm really wishing the boyfriend had called, so I could be sure he was staying out all night before I chain the doors, but he hasn't. We haven't chained the doors since our first month in this house over two years ago, but this night, all alone, I set the chains. I put the dogs in the bedroom, check on the cats and the bunny, and check the chains again. I get a glass of water, go to the bedroom, get into bed, get back out of bed, go to the front and back door and check the chains a third time. I crawl back into bed, arrange the pillows just so, and try to enjoy my big bed to myself for one night.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Pets Taught Me How To Read

     I remember being three years old and sitting in my bed made up with my favorite Strawberry Shortcake sheets, propped up against mountains of pillows, along with Buttermilk the rabbit, Blue the cat, Mama and Baby koala bears, and many other precious stuffed animals. All of my stuffed animals had to be facing out so that they could all breathe and see everything that was going on. 

     “What book are we going to be reading tonight?” my father would ask.

     “This one!” I would respond, as I would climb off my bed, run across the room to my little three shelf bookcase already full of books, grab The Dark Crystal, and run back to shove the book into my daddy’s hands before clambering onto the bed and settling back into my pillows. This was the regular nighttime ritual. Usually storytime was with my dad, but sometimes with my mom instead. I loved story time with both my mother and father, although it was not always the same. With my mother, sometimes, we would skip the book and she would make up stories off the top of her head about fairies and unicorns and all sorts of mythical creatures. As I got older, I would have to plead with her to do this. I enjoyed story time with my father because I loved looking at the pictures, and, as I learned to read, I loved to help him read the story.
The reading ritual would start out ordinary enough, with my father reading the words and me and my stuffed animals looking at the pictures. Then as weeks, or maybe months, went by he’d start to follow the words with his finger so that, if I was paying attention, I might start to follow along. Pretty soon I picked up that reading involved moving your finger along the page. So, I would help my dad read by moving my finger along the page for him. Eventually, he picked out easy words for me to read until I was reading full sentences. This was how I first learned to read.

     Once I learned to read, I would read all the time. I read at school on the playground while the other kids played. I read in class while I should have been doing school work. I read in the car on the way to school or the supermarket or even Disneyland. I checked out book after book at the school and public libraries. No one could stop me from staying up ‘til early morning hours with a flashlight under the covers, or in a makeshift tent depending on how old I was, reading chapter after chapter until I was too tired to keep my eyes opened. 

     I get my love of books from my mother. My mother was, and still is, an avid reader, who buys books anywhere and everywhere. Books line the walls at our house and spill out our ears. Today, the first words out of my mother’s mouth whenever I meet a new fella are always, “Does he read?” and “What does he read?”

When I was in first grade or second grade -- I can’t be sure -- I would sit up against the bolster in my bed. I had two bolsters. One ran along the side of my bed against the wall to provide stadium seating for Buttermilk and the gang. The other at the foot of the bed to prop up the foot of my lean-to tent which was made from: One – king-size white sheet with pink flowers all over it that I nicked from my mom’s bed linen, One – white shelf filled with yet more stuffed animals above the head of my bed, and One – afore mentioned green and blue bolster to keep the bottom of the tent off my feet by propping it a few inches off my twin size bed. With my stuffed animals all sitting on top of the bolster behind me so that they could look over my shoulder and my cat on the bed next to me, I would read out loud to my cat. For hours, I would keep Faline enthralled in one book after another of the Sweet Valley Twins series. I think at one point I even tried to teach the cat to read.
Once more, when I was in first grade I made up my mind to teach my dog, Mickey, how to write. I would put the pen or pencil in between her toes, and write things for her, and then show these miracle writings to my mother. 

“Look! Mickey knows how to write her name! I told you I could teach her how to write!”

My mother placates, “That’s very nice dear.”

Mickey was very adept with a crayon as well. “Mommy, Mommy! Look what Mickey drew!”

“Yes, Honey. That’s lovely.” And so this lasted for probably a couple, maybe as much as four, weeks. 

Through my second, third, and fourth grade years I started slowly writing my childhood novel The Fox and the Rabbit. It was a story about a fox and rabbit that were friends based on some trauma from when they were babies. These magical creatures could talk, and belonged to a little girl who would talk to them and take care of them. She was the only human they would talk to, or who even knew the animals could talk. It was very good, but sadly unfinished. I have since lost the full paper copies. I find a few pages here and there sometimes. Sadly, computers no longer have those huge floppy disk drives for the huge floppy disk on which my novel is saved in some archaic DOS program called Ability +.

As an adult I am lucky enough to be able to go home for Christmas every year. Every Christmas Eve I slyly approach my father, “Daddy, I’m going to bed now…can you read me Night Before Christmas?”…

When I was 23, I spent Christmas with my boyfriend’s family in England. On Christmas Eve I called my father at home in the States. “Happy Christmas Eve, Daddy! We’re about to go to sleep over here…. Can you read me The Night Before Christmas?”

My dad chuckles, “You want me to read it over the phone? But it’s not Christmas Eve yet.”

“It is for me!”

“Oh, yeah. Hold on. Let me have your mother find the book.”

I am now 27 years old. I still plan to go home every Christmas. And Every Christmas Eve I will slyly approach my dad after I’ve gotten ready for bed and ask, “Daddy, are you ready to read Night Before Christmas?”

My dad always chuckles and says, “Yep. Hold on. Where is it?” And every year we go on a mad search all over the house for this tiny book. After we ask my mother were she “hid” it, and blame every living being in the house for not being able to find it, we finally find it on my book shelf in my old room -- Although, now that I’m moved out, I think we actually keep it in the living room by the fire place. -- I curl up in my comforter, snuggle into mountains of pillows, and hug Simba, my current “grown-up” stuffed animal, to me while my father finds a seat on the edge of my bed. As he reads the book, it slowly tilts further and further out of my sight, so that he can read it easier. I look up at my father with the best “daddy’s little girl” pout I can muster and exclaim, “I can’t see the pictures daddy!”

“But you’ve seen them a thousand times.”

“So!? I like looking at the pictures. It makes me feel like a little kid.”

My father laughs at me. “All right.” as he turns the book back towards me. I no longer help my father read by moving my finger along the page. I just cuddle up in my blankets and enjoy the pictures that I’ve seen for 26 Christmas Eves while my father finishes the story and we say goodnight.
(Footnote: This is taken from an essay I wrote in college one year. Sadly, I am no longer 27 years old and I no longer get home for Christmas, but I still call Dad up on the phone and listen to him read The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dear Burger King Employee

Dear Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee,

   Today, at lunchtime, I decided to forgo my usual sandwich from one of the two sandwich shops near work. Upon exiting the front doors of my building, I could smell the enticing aroma of Burger King hamburgers wafting in my direction. The fast food joint called to me. It said, "Kat, why indulge in a healthy sandwich when you can enjoy a questionable beef hamburger with processed cheese, a side of deep fried onion rings, and a carbonated chemical liquid to wash it all down?" To be fair, I had put off my lunch for so long that at this point I was famished and an old stale piece of toast could have persuaded me with the promise of a smudge of jam on top, but this just smelled so much better.

    I hopped in my car and drove over to the Burger King drive-thru. I have to commend you at this point Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee. You were very prompt with answering the speaker box and asking for my order. When you repeated the order back to me, you had everything correct!...

    This is were the praise for you ends. Presently, I proceeded to pull forward, as you requested. You had stated that my meal today was going to cost me $3.49, so I diligently collected the necessary funds to hand over for my fast-food feast. Now, at this time I have far too many pennies, and not much of anything else, in fact the only other coins I have are two quarters. I gather together three dollar bills, my two quarters, and the nine required pennies. I'm ecstatic! I finally get to rid myself of some pennies and add a new coin to my repertoire. For all you following along so far, this is a dime. My very own.

    The predicament begins... I pull up to the payment window and wait. And wait...and wait...and wait. All the while I'm having an internal conflict going on in my head. On the one hand I don't like to be kept waiting without a "Hi. I'll be right with you." or a "One moment please" or any number of platitudes. I think it's very poor customer service. Especially at a fast food drive-thru. I'm teetering on the brink of just driving away and going somewhere else. On the other hand, I am absolutely starving. If I leave now, I have to think of somewhere else to go, drive there, wait through the ordering process again, and then get my oh so precious food. Of course, if I'm forced to wait here any longer, I'm beginning to think it may take longer than the aforementioned driving-somewhere-else scheme.

    Just as I made my mind up to drive off, and was cursing you for wasting my time, you came to the window and peeped your head out. It was like a hallelujah light shining down from heaven...only out of a small Burger King drive-up window. I was so weakend by my starvation that I can't remember if you asked politely for my money or just stuck your hand out at me like a beggar, but considering the deterioration of this transaction, I fear it was the latter. Upon handing my money over to you I made sure to state that I was handing $3.59 to you. See, I've tried this trick before, and have not received my change. They assume you are giving them the correct change instead of trying to downsize the amount of coin in your purse by over paying and getting one nickle/dime/quarter back instead of up to four more pennies. Doesn't anyone else do this anymore??

    Anyway, your confusion at seeing my money in your hands almost outweighed your stupidity, for you looked at your hand, you looked at me, then looked back at your hand, pushed the coins around to double check your count, and then looked back at me, confounded. I didn't understand the problem, so I reiterated that no, it was not a mistake. I had given you $3.59.

    "I counted correctly, right? That is $3.59, isn't it?"

    You then proceeded to stick your hand, with my change in it, out to me. You said, "You could just give me the 50¢ and I can give you a penny change." I think what you didn't say but was implied was, "Take your pennies back you dumbass."

    "I don't want a penny change. I would like a dime back, thank you." Is this really a difficult math equation to grasp?

    Thank god you did not push the point further. You deposited my change into the 'til and presented me with my much awaited dime. Then Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee, you walked away from the window. So I waited. And waited some more. This time it was not as long a wait as when I first pulled up to the window, waiting to be greeted and acknowledged for my patronage, but I feel an "I'll have your food in a moment" might have been appreciated. Your rudeness does not end there though, does it? Nope. Once you had my food bagged and ready to hand to me, you thrust your arm out to your side, jabbing my bag of food at me while looking...I don't know. At the car behind me? At your register?

    To top off my bad experience, I had to practically jump out of my car and through the drive-thru window, to stop you shutting it, before I could ask for my ketchup which you dumped a handful of unceremoniously into my bag.

    I'm sorry to say Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee, but I will no longer be taking my patronage to your location. You have sullied the name of Burger King, with your ineptness and rude behavior. In future, if I desire a "char-broiled" cheeseburger and onion rings, I will have to drive out of my way to the other Burger King down the road.


P.S. Please extend my gratitude to your cooks this day. My cheeseburger and onion rings were both delicious.