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My pens have gotten me through some times–happy, sad, moody, angry. Through the years, keeping a diary or journal, as well as writing fiction, has kept me semi-sane.

Here on Penz-O-Paula you’ll find blog posts, short stories and such by me. You’ll also find writing by others that I want to share with you.

Not everything here is sunshine and roses, but I don’t know of anyplace that is, do you?

I hope you’ll visit often, leave comments and follow me!

Goodbyes

I have always been a theater fan, and I love musicals. I’m kind of an little old lady now, so as you can imagine, I have seen quite a few of them over the years.

Fiddler of the Roof has remained my absolute favorite, even after all the time that has passed since the first time I saw it.

I never have gotten to see it on Broadway–I have never even been to New York City. My first encounter with it was the movie, which came out when I was in Junior High. I was enchanted.

I still am.

Years later, my then-husband had knee surgery in Jackson, Wyoming, and while he was recuperating we went to see a local production of the play. He had never seen a musical on stage, and he, too was enchanted.

It’s that sort of story, the one that hits you right in the feels. Children growing up, falling in love, leaving home. Strife in the community. Strife in the world. This one never gets old or loses relevance.

And, oh! The music!

The magic of video streaming means I can watch this whenever I want, and I watch it all the time. Every song is a delight. A couple are tear-jerkers.

This one always gets me, though. “Far From the Home I Love” has struck me in different ways over the years.

As a kid, the first time I heard this song, I swore I would never put my father through the pain of saying goodbye to me.

Of course, I did. I didn’t stay home forever. Every move took me further and further away.

As a parent, every time one of my own children moved away, this song came to mind. I would remind myself that they had their own lives, their own loves and that going away might be best for them, no matter how I felt about it.

Saying goodbye is hard. Staying “home” isn’t always possible. I think we all have gone through the feeling of wanting to stay and wanting to go at the same time. It is not easy.

Right now, I spend most of my time with my parents. When I go home, saying goodbye is especially hard. Although my plan is always a week away at most, I do have to face the fact that they are in their 80s, and there is a chance I won’t see them again. For that matter, I could disappear from this life myself and they could live into their 100s.

For whatever reason, when I say goodbye to them, this is the song playing in my head. When I say goodbye to a child or grandchild, I hear this song.

I always have hope in the words, “There, with my love, I’m home.”

Have a listen. Have hope.

Far From the Home I Love

Do I Have To?

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Today, I saw this meme on Facebook, and it made me giggle. It was also instantly recognizably me.

People who know me probably wouldn’t describe me as an introvert, because I have gotten really good at disguising it.

Most of the time.

There are many, many days when it is impossible for me to even imagine leaving the house. I’m not afraid to leave. I just… I don’t want to. I can’t think of any reason why I should. I have everything I need right where I am.

Now, when I do go out, I am fine. Mostly fine. Usually. Okay, sometimes.

There are things I like to do. Things I really enjoy and want to do, like going out for a day at a comic convention or to a concert. I psyche myself up for those things for weeks in advance, just to push myself out the front door, because once I go, I am going to have to engage.

But, before I do, I always find myself asking, “Do I have to?”

Concerts are easiest, especially if I go alone. I’m in the crowd, and part of the crowd, but I don’t have to speak to anyone. It’s loud; that’s a great excuse not to talk. Even if I’ve gone with someone, they will be someone I love and can speak to without being stressed about it.

Conventions are harder. As much as I love them, and as excited as I get over meeting people I admire (ALICE COOPER!!!), it is stressful. So, I push myself. Like, “Hey, girl! You’re going to get to meet Alice Cooper!! Get dressed! Open the door! Step outside! Go!”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes! The tickets are non-refundable! You promised the kids! Get a move on!”

Oh, the people. So many people. So much talking. Babies and small children crying. It’s like the grocery store times 100.

Except it’s so much better because Alice Cooper. Or, whoever else it might be next time I go. And I will go. I will push myself out the door and venture forth, I will talk to strangers and I will have a good time.

It’s so much better than the grocery store.

Look, I have been known to run out of everything before going to the grocery store. I hate shopping. Too many people. I don’t care if I’m in Denver or in small town Wyoming, there are always too many people in the store, unless you go at midnight or something. Plus, you never, ever run into Alice Cooper, so where’s the appeal?

Oh, yeah. Food. Soap. Toothpaste.

Whatever.

In 2017 we had a class reunion. It was wonderful.

I changed my mind about going about ten times. “I could skip it, who’d even notice?”

“No, I really want to see everyone.”

“Yes, but, what about…something or other that might or might not happen at home while I’m gone?”

“No, I really want to see everyone! Stop that!”

I’m really happy I went.

First night we met up in a local bar. That was really hard. Bars are awful for me. People get too close to you in bars, mostly by accident because there’s never enough room. But sometimes they do it on purpose. I was able to make myself do it because I already personally knew the people who were going to be there. Plus, I invited my sister to go along, which was great. Everything went well, but my stomach was in knots.

The next day was a pot luck in the park, and that was better for me, because there was so much more space.

Now, these are people I have known for years, some since first grade, and I was very happy to see them all and visit with them.

I was also happy to go home.

I am always happy to go home. Lock myself in the bathroom for half an hour and hyperventilate. Congratulate myself on having gone out.

What I like is when people come to me. Come over to my house, hang out. I will feed you. I will talk with you. If you are little, I will play with you. And I don’t have to go anywhere. Cool!

I will be really happy to see you, and really happy to spend time with you. But when you go home, I will breath a sigh of relief and go lie down for a few minutes to re-group.

And if you stay too long, I may lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes of hyperventilation. No offence.

I wonder sometimes if anyone really knows what a big deal it has been for me to leave my own home and live most of the time with my parents. I have carved out my corners, but this isn’t my house, and I don’t precisely feel at home here.

I also don’t feel precisely at home in my home anymore. It really has become my son’s home and just the place I go when I’m not here.

Life is weird.

I lived in this house for a little over five years when I was a teenager, and returned to it in my 50s. I sleep in the same bedroom I slept in as a teen, although now it is furnished with grownup furniture.

Almost nothing in there is mine.

Like I said, weird.

I don’t go out much, and sometimes when the opportunity to do so comes up, I still have to hype myself into getting out the door. This, even when I really want to go do things! It is not fun being this way.

But no one who knows me would think of me being this way, because when I am out, I am out all the way. I talk, I smile, I laugh. I engage.

And I do have fun. I do!

But first…I have to get out the door. And that is hard.

I saw this meme, and it spoke to me.

That is all.

 

 

 

 

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields: 1942

Considering the times we are living in, I found this story soul-chilling.

Writers Unite!

Welcome toWrite the Story!Each monthWriters Unite!will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone.WU!wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.Pleasecheck out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require

1942

By Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

When Sylvia uttered, “Hail Mary full of Grace…,” she saw Sister Honorina. With her white veil, blue eyes and round face, she resembled the paintings of the Blessed Virgin with Baby Jesus hanging on the wall of the dormitory Sylvia shared with seven other girls.

After praying the Rosary with Sylvia in her gentle Viennese-accented voice, Sister Honorina added the shema. “I promised to your…

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Writing: The Early Days

I made my first venture into the land of self-publishing at around the age of eight.

I can’t remember who taught me how to make a chapbook, but I believe it was my maternal grandmother.  Write your story on individual pages, front and back. Illustrate, of course. Make sure the pages are clearly numbered. Punch holes in the margins and sew the pages together. Make a colorful cover and sew that on as well.

Looking back, those were some seriously ugly little constructs, but I was so proud of them. I hand wrote each page, carefully printing each word. I checked my spelling and punctuation. I drew my own illustrations. My first cover was my favorite drawing, and try as I might, I wasn’t able to duplicate it. That book and cover became my first “author’s copy”.

Do I remember the story? I do not. Do I still have a copy somewhere? I do not. Darn it.

I made about a dozen copies. Sadly enough, I chose black thread to sew my books together. In retrospect, I should have chosen colors to match my illustrated cover, but… I was eight. Or seven. Maybe even nine. Who knows? My logic: black matches everything.

Once the books were put together and looking oh, so beautiful, I marched out into the neighborhood to pedal my wares.

Hey, it was hard work, making a book. I figured I should get a dollar, at least, just for the labor behind it all. But I wasn’t crazy; I knew no one was going to pay a dollar for an unknown writer, especially when anyone could go to the library and check out a book for free.

Still, I did work hard. I settled on charging a quarter.

It was tough. People smiled and patted my head and complimented me on my nice artwork and sent me on my way–penniless.

Finally, someone bought a book. She was probably in a rush to make dinner and get her kids cleaned up, and she snagged the little book, said, “Uh huh, pretty. Pretty.” She handed me a quarter and shut the door in my face.

I’ll never know if she read the story to her kids, gave it to a toddler to tear up or tossed in into the bin. All I knew was–MY FIRST SALE!!

It took me a few days to sell my books, and dinnertime seemed to be magic hour. I guess moms just take pity on a kid. That, or they’re too busy to argue and just want to get rid of you quickly so they can finish their work. Yeah, that was probably the kicker, right there.

One neighborhood woman invited me inside for tea and cookies and a personal reading. She was a family friend and my first fan. I read her a lot of stories after that. No charge, just cookies and tea and her treasured company.

I was a little kid, so I didn’t know there was an ordinance in my hometown outlawing door-to-door sales. I was lucky enough not to discover this law until I was trying to unload the very last book.

Naturally, I chose the house of the man who yelled at all the neighborhood kids to keep off his lawn, stay out of his yard, don’t pick his flowers. He didn’t live close to us, so how was I to know?

Anyway, he laid down the law to me, in no uncertain terms. No door to door sales allowed in this town. The cops would get me. I would go to jail. Plus, I would have to turn over all the money I had earned for my book.

I ran all the way home. I gave the book to my little sister. I counted my quarters and hid them away for a rainy day.

I never made another chapbook.

Oddly enough, I was reminded of all this when I ran across a YouTube video about how to make a chapbook. I had forgotten that I was a little self-published author in grade school, and that little clip brought all those memories back to me.

Of course, the video chapbook was a lot more sophisticated than my little hand-written, hand-drawn and hand-sewn story books, but what would you expect? I was proud of my books. If I had run across them again a few years later, no doubt they would have caused me to cringe, but I was proud, by golly.

I wonder if getting scared silly by a grumpy old man was what made me afraid to try self-publishing for so many years? (Ha ha!)

What was your first self-publishing experience?

 

Getting to “The End” (Writing Conundrums)

I don’t know that my recent lack of motivation to finish my book could accurately be termed “writer’s block”, since I have, in the meantime, written several other things.

I have the ending plotted out in my head, and I’ve made copious notes in my notebook working out the “how to get there from here” logistics.

I am at that point in writing where I always seem to land as a project nears the end–I don’t want to be done with the story, so I stall.

Logically, I know I won’t be finished. Far from it. I will be reading and re-reading, looking for spelling errors, plot holes, continuity.

In my process, a lot of the above editing will get addressed before I actually write the finale. It all has to knit together, and sometimes beginning to end doesn’t mesh on the first try.

I dislike re-writing endings. Since I don’t always know the ending when I begin–I am a “seat of the pants” writer, for the most part, especially with stories that exceed 50,000 words– I often have to address the beginning and middle of my story before I can complete it.

So, I am reading. Brushing things up. Changing whole scenes. Adding and subtracting. Re-doing research, just to make sure I have any historical references correct.

This is important–I once published a work with a very tiny scene referencing a baseball game between the Yankees and the Braves, who don’t even play in the same league! Embarrassing! Of course, I corrected it, but oh! My credibility!

Sure, I could claim alternate universe, but…lie, lie, lie. I goofed! I learned a valuable lesson. Check, re-check and check again.

This doesn’t insure I will never goof again–undoubtedly, I will. I am not perfect, or even close.

Having confessed my Achilles heel– reluctance to reach “The End”–I’m curious: Do any of you writers here have the same writing issue? I’d love to read your comments!

Sharing is Caring

I am giving a New Year’s shout out to a website that has become very important to me in the past year.

https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/

Writers Unite! is a platform for writers to share their experiences with the writing process, and their blog site is a wonderful place full of stories by many different writers.

“Write the Story”, one of their features, has given me the opportunity to share several stories in 2019 that almost certainly never would have been written if not for the clever prompts they share with followers each month.

Please, do yourself a favor and visit the blog. You can also follow them on Facebook, here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/

Enjoy!

Staying in Motion

Ended 2019 with another trip. If my two homes weren’t so close to each other, I would really be wracking up those miles. As it is, train to plane is a good plan for me. Or plane to train, as the case may be.

In 2020, I already have two trips planned. I never traveled so much earlier in my life. I don’t know why that has had to change, but it is necessary, so I do it.

Safe travels to all on the road or in the sky this year!

His Room With a View

Daddy chose the room with the smallest window in the house as his personal “spot”.

No amount of reasoning would change his mind. He insisted the best view of the yard and the street beyond was from that window, and that was where he wanted to be.

The window was in the small room we had used for storage for years. The walls were lined with Rubbermaid tubs of various sizes, filled with decades worth of photographs, decorations, tools and all the odds and ends that get stored away instead of discarded over a long lifetime.

I recruited my brother and sister and together we began the process of cleaning out the room for Daddy to use.

“Jeez,” June cried. “How did he even get to the window to look out and assess the view?”

Joe laughed. “It’s not that crowded in here, Junie.”

I sneezed. I confess, I didn’t go into the room often, and certainly didn’t make dusting in there a priority. June and Joe looked at me, and pointed to the door. “Face masks! Stat!” Joe ordered, and I went downstairs to get a few.

We are an allergy prone bunch.

Mamma had given up trying to talk Daddy out of taking the room over as his own, and supervised us as we moved the many containers to a corner in the basement. They probably should have been there all along, but it seemed like a mistake this late in the game. Neither of our parents were any good at negotiating the stairs. They were in their eighties.

“I need a solemn promise from both of you,” I said, “that you will call one of us if you need anything out of the basement.” I used my most demanding tone and shook a finger at them to emphasize the seriousness of my command.

Mamma laughed at me. “Don’t be bossy, Jean.”

I sighed in exasperation. “Just promise me, Mamma.”

They both promised.

We called it a basement, but it was probably more accurate to call it a cellar. It housed the furnace and water heater. There was a finished bathroom down there, and a small spare bedroom, and not much else. Joe had used it as a little apartment during his college years, which was the only reason the bed and bath had been completed. There was plenty of room for the containers, well away from the furnace.

Once the room was cleared out, Daddy’s chair was placed beside the window, strategically angled for the best view. He refused to let us put either curtains or shades on it. Joe offered to replace the glass; it was scratched and old. “No, no,” Daddy said. “I like it. It has character.”

The house is old, and we always supposed the room’s original use was as a nursery, since it was right next to the master bedroom. It’s a tiny space, really, about six feet by eight feet, and has a little closet in one corner. Joe used that space to install a small television and stereo. We brought in a rocking chair for Mamma, so she could join him there at least part of the time.

Daddy’s plan was isolation, really. But we couldn’t allow him to just drift away from us. Yes, we enabled his move into the room, but we refused to let him spend all his time alone in there.

“I just want to look out the window,” he told us, his voice plaintive, almost too low to hear.

We gave him alone time in the morning. He would sit, sipping his first cup of coffee, watching the squirrels and birds in the trees outside. Mamma would join him for his second cup while I cooked breakfast, drinking her only cup while they watched the morning news together and remarked upon the sad state of the world.

As time progressed it get harder and harder to coax Daddy out for breakfast, but I flat refused to serve him in that room, and I won that daily battle through bribery. “I have grapes,” I told him.

Daddy loved grapes. We never ran out of grapes.

After breakfast–which I worked hard to stretch into at least an hour of conversation and laughter–we all took a short walk with the little Yorkie, Fred. This, too, became a chore. Daddy wanted to go to his “spot”.  Reminding him that Fred needed his exercise to stay healthy would eventually persuade him that getting out of the house for some fresh air was a good idea for all of us, but he often tried to get Mamma and I to go without him.

Daddy called it his room with a view. It was his refuge. He was relaxed there. When he was out and about, he was visibly agitated. “I want to go home,” he would whine, mere steps out the front gate. “Is it time to go home?”

“Almost,” I would tell him, and urge him on to the end of the street, where we turned and headed back. Daddy’s mood would shift then to anticipation, because he could see the house getting nearer with each step.

Fred was less enthusiastic, but soon learned that I would take him on a second, longer walk once Daddy was settled back into his chair.

Mamma started to crochet again, a hobby she had abandoned several years before. We would let Daddy sit and look out the window while his favorite music played, and she would fashion pretty doilies and afghans and try to engage him in conversation.

Over time, Daddy talked less and less. Mamma would chatter on and on, getting grunts in response. Finally, one day Mamma became completely exasperated with him and demanded, “What do you see out there, anyway?”

“The Johnsons are having a yard sale,” Daddy replied. “They have a purple sofa. It must be ten feet long.”

“What?” Mamma got up and peered through the little window. The Johnson’s house was on the other side of the street, not remotely visible from that angle. It was February; no one in their right mind would be having a yard sale. The day was grey and cold, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.

Mamma turned and looked at me.

I had just come in with a platter of crackers and cold cuts and mugs of green tea. I put them down on the little table between their chairs and went to look out the window as Mamma returned to her chair. “What else do they have, Daddy?”

“Well, the sofa is just ridiculous, Jean,” he replied. “But there’s a nice book case. Haven’t you been looking for one for your room?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m about to go get the mail and take Freddie for a romp. I’ll check it out.” I gave Mamma a look, and she nodded understanding.

They say “Don’t argue. Agree.” Well, what’s the harm in that? He could see what he could see, and there was no point in telling him it wasn’t really there.

Over the next few months we all came to agree that the room was good for him. He engaged with us, regaling us with stories of the scenes he viewed through this magical window.

The Millers had a spectacular fight one snowy afternoon. (It was July, but who cares?) They slid and fell in glorious slow motion, and Mrs. Miller impressed Daddy with her amazing triple axel spin lead-in to the knockout punch that left Mr. Miller covered in three feet of freezing snow. Daddy invited us to call and report the abuse, and June faked a 911 call from the kitchen to save poor Mr. Miller from freezing to death.

The Andersons got a new puppy, one of Marmaduke proportions, sometime in May. The gigantic fellow made friends with tiny Yorkie Fred and visited often.

The Johnsons repeatedly tried to unload that ten foot long purple sofa. I bought the bookshelf. (I ordered one from a catalog and Joe put it together before I moved it to my room and showed it off to Daddy.) Then they added a pink and purple leopard-print easy chair that Daddy threatened to buy for Mamma. She laughed long and hard over that.

“I thought you liked purple,” Daddy teased.

“Not on easy chairs!”

“You’d look so cute sitting in that chair. I better go make an offer before it gets sold.”

“Jim, don’t you dare!” Mamma giggled.

Daddy looked at me. “Don’t you think your mother would look cute in that chair?”

“My mother looks cute in everything,” I agreed. “But that chair wouldn’t match anything in this house.”

“We could buy the purple sofa,” Daddy suggested, grinning.

“It’s too big,” I reasoned.

“Bummer.”

We never knew what we were going to get when we asked what Daddy was looking at. Sometimes there were scenes from the past: a wedding; a family reunion; a fishing trip.

Mostly it was our neighbors, acting silly.

It became my habit to sit with him for that first cup of coffee, and then go out to fix breakfast when Mamma joined him for the morning news. He was most “with” us during those early hours of the day, but drifting by the time we returned from our little walks.

His gait had begun to falter, and as summer faded into autumn, I was beginning to accept that he’d be unable to join us for walks once winter set in. He fell often. I called a home health service for physical therapy, hoping to build him up. I fed him numerous times a day, even breaking my own rule about breakfast in his sanctuary on those days when it became too much of a fight to get him to the kitchen.

He was losing weight, mostly muscle. My Daddy was shrinking.

He spent most of his time in the room now, and we no longer insisted it was too long. He was clearly most comfortable there. He had music and his magical window. He had company most of the day and evening. June and Joe and their families visited most days, and Mamma and I took turns sitting with him, as well.

He didn’t make much eye contact with us anymore, but instead told us what was going on outside and shared anecdotes of the past in between. “Oh, look, Jill!” he cried one evening. “A Studebaker. Looks just like the one your grandpappy drove.”

Mamma obligingly looked out and exclaimed over the antique car. “Is it the same color?” she asked. “The light’s not good.”

Daddy squinted. “Nah, it looks like a lighter brown,” he said. “I wonder who it belongs to.”

“I don’t know.”

I was standing in the doorway, praying he wouldn’t see my mother’s grandfather get out of the car.

Luckily, the car drove away then, and Daddy never saw the driver.

One morning we saw the first flakes of snow. Winter had arrived, earlier than any of us cared to see it. Daddy remarked on it when I brought him his first cup of coffee. “Jeannie, it’s gonna be a rough one,” he said. “That’s a heavy snow, and the leaves haven’t dropped yet. Not a good sign.”

“Hmm,” I said, watching sadly as the snow piled on supple branches and caused them to sag under the weight. There would be no gradual turning of the leaves this fall; by morning they would be black and dead. Ugly. It was depressing. “I think I’ll make us some cinnamon rolls,” I announced. “That should cheer us up.”

“Sounds good to me,” Daddy said.

I could hear Mamma in the shower as I prepared the rolls and got them in the oven. She was getting dressed when I went back to Daddy’s room to ask if he was ready for a second cup of coffee.

At first, I thought he was sleeping, which was unusual for him at this time of day. His chin rested on his chest, his eyes were closed. His hands were neatly folded in his lap.

His coffee mug was on the window sill. The coffee in it was still warm enough to steam the windowpane into near opacity.

“Daddy?”

Nothing.

“Daddy?” I could feel my mother behind me. I could hear her sharp intake of breath. Still, I repeated for the third time: “Daddy?”

Daddy was gone.

He was right–the winter was a rough one, and in so many different ways. There were freakishly cold temperatures and much more than average snowfall.

We all go in the room from time to time, and sit in Daddy’s chair. We look out the window. We can see the trees in the yard and the road out front. We can barely see the Anderson’s front lawn where it meets the sidewalk. We can see a small patch of the Miller’s yard next door, and we can’t see the Johnson’s place at all.

But Daddy saw everything. A giant puppy. A purple sofa. A Studebaker. A triple-axel knockout snow fight. He saw it all from his room with a view, and all of us long to see it, too, through his eyes and his story-telling.

Mamma wouldn’t let me move the coffee mug. It sat there for days, near the cold, cold glass. It sat there through the viewings and the services and the endless visits from friends and neighbors and family.

Finally, fearing a moldy mess, I snuck into the room after she was asleep one night and emptied the liquid from it, washed it and returned it to the spot Daddy had left it in.

It is still there.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Christmas book recommendations

Some great reading recommendations. Thank you, Val Portelli!

Voinks

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for the turkey curry, turkey sandwiches, and left over nibbles before normality resumes. 

Turkey Christmas 15.12.19.pngWhen we feel we can’t eat another thing, our minds turn to those not so fortunate, who don’t know when their next meal might be. As a change from my short stories, today’s blog will be a suggestion for books you might enjoy, and a way of supporting charity and perhaps, authors new to you.   

First up is ‘When Stars will Shine,‘ an anthology of short stories with a Christmas theme. All royalties go to the charity ‘Help for Heroes,’ and it’s a fantastic collection covering various genres, and featuring a range of authors.

When Stars will shine new cover 28.11.19

Links:
When Stars will shine UK
When Stars will shine USA

Summer Changes, Winter Tears,
Next, I’d like to mention my own book, Summer Changes, Winter Tears,’ which…

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