This week I’m reading a book that my husband gave me, one that he picked up in an airport book shop and finished on a round trip flight: David Mitchell’s Slade House. I’m about halfway through it, and, so far, it’s been a fun, quick read, and it’s proper scary – just in time for Halloween. By coincidence, I just finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is also satisfyingly creepy. Reading these two books back to back has inspired me to fill my October with a healthy dose of hair-raising, spine-tingling stories. I have a stack of Stephen King books that are begging to be read. Personally, I think Stephen King is appropriate any time of year, but especially leading up to Halloween. And, I recently purchased a thick anthology of H.P. Lovecraft stories, a perfect (albeit staggeringly long) read for the Halloween season. While I’m not a big fan of horror movies, I do love horror fiction, and this is as good an excuse as any to plow through a list of macabre reads. Is it possible to overdose on scary stories? I’m willing to risk it as I try to finish as many as I can by the end of October. Cue the creaking floorboards, haunting music and eerie, maniacal laughter.
Winner! 2016 Jacksonville Magazine Fiction Writing Contest
My short story, The Bench at the End of the Dock, is the winning entry in the 2016 Jacksonville Magazine Fiction Writing Contest. It is featured in the October 2016 issue of Jacksonville Magazine. You can read it here!
I think my answer to this question has changed over time. During my school years, staying up late was fairly easy. Getting up early was less so. When I was a practicing attorney, I had to do both – get up early and stay up late. At that time, I didn’t have much choice in the matter, so I just did it (not without complaint, if I’m honest). Today, I seem to struggle with both. Getting up really early is challenging and unpleasant, unless it’s done with copious amounts of coffee. Staying up late is easy enough to do once in a while, but it’s not a sustainable routine for me. If I had to choose, I’d prefer to get up early – not because it’s painless, but because I feel like I can get more done during the day than I can at night. Given that I am increasingly fond of getting a full night’s sleep (does that mean I’m getting smarter or just older?), I try not to stay up too late or get up too early. And so, I’m left wondering if it is possible for me to be neither an early bird nor a night owl. I don’t think I naturally prefer either one, and neither is feasible as a long-term routine. It does make me look forward to retirement (many years from now), however, when I plan on sleeping as little or as much as I want and keeping whatever hours I please.
I must confess that I am obsessing about food at the moment. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a minor stomach ailment. It has meant medication and a very limited menu. After weeks of nothing but easy-to-digest foods such as rice and applesauce, I have been craving all my favorite foods. But, could I pick only one of those foods to eat at every meal for two weeks? It didn’t take me long to get sick of rice and applesauce, but something yummy like pizza or chocolate cake? That might be a different story. Regardless of how much I love a particular food, I think I would probably get tired of eating it every day for every meal. However, I’d be willing to test that theory with ice cream. I am always in the mood for ice cream, but that may be because I don’t actually eat it very often. I’ve never eaten ice cream for breakfast, but I’m sure I could get used to it. And, it would have to be a simple flavor, like vanilla. Anything too fancy or complicated would get old fast. It would be a fun experiment to run, if only I could suspend the effects of all the sugar, fat and calories.
One of my least-favorite childhood memories is closely tied to the favorite childhood memory I wrote about last week. Ferdinand the Donkey, my favorite stuffed animal, had pride of place on my bed when I was growing up. Over the years, he became worn (well-loved) and bald in patches, but he was still my favorite toy. When I was about 10 years old and my brother was 3 (about the same age I was when I was given Ferdinand), I caught him playing with Ferdinand. More specifically, he was covering the poor donkey’s face with lipstick – bubble-gum pink lipstick. I guess the donkey’s sweet face was too much to resist, and my brother must have thought that it would look even better with lipstick. I don’t think my brother meant to do any harm, but I was devastated. My favorite toy was ruined. I mourned for weeks, if not months. Maybe even years. Eventually I got over it, and Ferdinand continued to have pride of place on my bed until I went away to college. I also forgave my brother, begrudgingly and not right away, of course, but I’m happy to report that we can laugh about the “incident” today. I still have Ferdinand. He’s in a box in storage – his sweet face undiminished by time, love and bubble-gum pink lipstick.
One of my favorite memories from childhood is the day I received a special present from my grandparents. When I was about 3 years old (or was it 4?), my grandparents came for a visit and brought with them a stuffed animal wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with a huge bow (yellow, I think). The stuffed animal was a donkey with an oversized head on a little body and large ears that stuck straight up from the top of its head. It was seated, with its back legs curled around its front legs, and it had large, brown eyes and the sweetest face I’d ever seen. I fell in love immediately and named him Ferdinand. When my grandparents arrived, I’d been reading The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. (To be honest, either my mom was reading it to me or I was reciting it to myself, since I knew it by heart. I can’t remember which.) The Story of Ferdinand, my favorite book at the time, is the story of a bull who wanted to sit and smell the flowers rather than fight in the bullring. Why not name my new favorite stuffed animal after my favorite storybook character? I knew that donkeys and bulls weren’t the same thing, but this little donkey’s ears sticking straight up off the top of its head looked a little bit like a bull’s horns – so close enough. After writing a draft of this post, I purchased a copy of The Story of Ferdinand and read it again for the first time in (many, many) years. It’s still a great story.
I thought this would be an easy question to answer, and then I tried to answer it. First, limiting the answer to three words is tricky, given how many wonderful words there are in the world. Second, I wasn’t sure what I wanted “best” day to mean – an actual, specific day or just a really good day in general. (For this blog entry, I decided to think of a few specific days that stand out in my memory, ones in which I felt fully alive and everything seemed to go my way.) And, third, there are a lot of words I would love to use to describe myself, but they wouldn’t really be accurate – even to describe me on my best day. Therefore, limited by word count, specific memories and honesty, I’d have to choose: creative, focused and energized. When I am all of these things on the same day, the result is usually a very happy and satisfied me by bedtime. Those days are great days, and I feel like I am the best version of myself.
I thought we’d stick with the “new school year” theme and give some thought and praise to teachers this week. As for naming my favorite teacher, this is a difficult one for me to answer. I had a lot of very good teachers, and even a few great ones. But, the teacher I always tend to think of first when I remember the teachers I’ve had over the years is Mr. Gantner in elementary school. He was such a nice man, engaging and quick-witted, and always encouraged us to think creatively. His class was challenging and a bit unconventional, and it kept me on my toes. I also remember most, if not all, of my fellow classmates from Mr. Gantner’s class. That’s not the case with any other class or school year. His class was memorable, and that was due solely and wholly to his effectiveness as a teacher. Not every one gets an opportunity to have a teacher like Mr. Gantner, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
If you have read Sycamore Lane (and hopefully you have!), you know that Anastasia and Tallulah communicate with each other by writing notes on the blackboard wall. I thought it would be fun to do something similar on my blog. Each week, I’ll post a new question (just something fun, nothing too serious) written in chalk on a blackboard. I’ll provide my own answer, and I invite you to post an answer, too. We’ll keep it light and entertaining. To that end, please be respectful of others when posting. Thank you -- and I look forward to reading your answers.
Hands down, my favorite thing about starting a new school year was getting new school supplies. There is nothing better than brand new notebooks, folders, paper, pens, pencils, erasers, and so on. I used to love walking into school on that first day, carrying my book bag filled with all those new supplies just begging to be used. I still love a new notebook, clean and unmarked and just waiting to be filled with anything from brilliant ideas to complete nonsense.
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