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Tell us all about yourself and how writing fits into your life. Are you published? Is it just a hobby? Is it your profession? Is it just a therapeutic release? I want to know! If you have been published, tell us how it happened. Of course, we want the details. What type of writing do you prefer? edit: Please tag me so I can be notified. As more and more post, I'm finding that I am missing some precious posts and I want to read them all.
Written by Sooz in portal Nonfiction

Writing is my distillery

Writing without a predetermined outcome is my favourite way to learn. It teaches me about my topic and about myself. Writing is my distillery. It's the place I go to sort through a thousand thoughts, writing and deleting until only the most important points remain. 

That's how the process goes when it works. On the flip side of the coin I have spent innumerable hours writing clunkers that don't deserve to see the light of day.

I've been an active blogger since 2009. Most of my articles are about recruitment, the workplace, and online branding for job seekers and employers. I especially love writing articles that help people with their job search as I have a lot of 'insider information' to share from nearly 20 years in the staffing industry. My readership is small but the blog continues to get me paid writing assignments.

Fiction was the farthest thing from my mind before joining Prose. The challenges looked like such fun I had to try my hand and I'm so glad I did. I have 2 short stories in the works that will show up soon. Don't ask me why but spending a few hours writing fiction helps me produce better business articles. 

The genre that completely eludes me is poetry. I'm in awe of writers who need only a few short lines of text to convey a vivid story. Poets are master distillers. 

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Tell us all about yourself and how writing fits into your life. Are you published? Is it just a hobby? Is it your profession? Is it just a therapeutic release? I want to know! If you have been published, tell us how it happened. Of course, we want the details. What type of writing do you prefer? edit: Please tag me so I can be notified. As more and more post, I'm finding that I am missing some precious posts and I want to read them all.
Written by Sooz in portal Nonfiction
Writing is my distillery
Writing without a predetermined outcome is my favourite way to learn. It teaches me about my topic and about myself. Writing is my distillery. It's the place I go to sort through a thousand thoughts, writing and deleting until only the most important points remain. 

That's how the process goes when it works. On the flip side of the coin I have spent innumerable hours writing clunkers that don't deserve to see the light of day.

I've been an active blogger since 2009. Most of my articles are about recruitment, the workplace, and online branding for job seekers and employers. I especially love writing articles that help people with their job search as I have a lot of 'insider information' to share from nearly 20 years in the staffing industry. My readership is small but the blog continues to get me paid writing assignments.

Fiction was the farthest thing from my mind before joining Prose. The challenges looked like such fun I had to try my hand and I'm so glad I did. I have 2 short stories in the works that will show up soon. Don't ask me why but spending a few hours writing fiction helps me produce better business articles. 

The genre that completely eludes me is poetry. I'm in awe of writers who need only a few short lines of text to convey a vivid story. Poets are master distillers. 
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Written by Sooz in portal Education

Getting the most out of online forums

Have you ever asked for help on an online forum but got no answer? It happens. Unless you’re a regular visitor, it can be difficult to figure out how to get what you need. So here’s the skinny on working with forums and user groups.

- Read the forum rules first.

- Look for your answer in the existing questions and answers before adding yours.

- Choose your subject line carefully.

- Manners count.

- Don’t feed the trolls.

On to the details... and a bonus section at the bottom.

READ THE FORUM RULES FIRST

Boring, I know, but here's why you want to do this. Most groups are particular about what can be posted and where you should post. The guidelines are usually easy to find. Just look for a heading that says ‘read me first’ or ‘posting guidelines.’ Advertising your services is almost never allowed, so watch out for that. If questions are separated by category, you’ll want to read through each heading to see where you belong.

LOOK FOR YOUR ANSWER IN THE EXISTING Q & A BEFORE ADDING YOURS

It’s likely that someone has already asked your question. That’s great news because you may find several people have contributed answers which you can read through right now. To do this, look for a search box and do your best to think of words others would use to describe your problem. It’s considered rude to post your question without first looking to see if it has already been answered and cross-posting the same question in multiple categories can get you banned for forum spamming.

CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT LINE CAREFULLY

Problems with the subject line are the #1 reason why messages go unanswered — and here’s why. Forum boards rely on volunteers. Most of us will scan subject lines quickly to look for the ones we’re qualified to comment on. If a volunteer has only 20 minutes to contribute, vague messages will be ignored in favour of messages that clearly identify what's needed. This means your subject line should never be ‘Help’ or ‘Quick question’ or ‘What does this mean.’ Instead, be specific. Try something like ‘Gmail spam problem on Chrome’ or ‘Microsoft Outlook 2010 question on multiple calendars.’ 

See the bonus section at the end for the top 10 worst subject lines ever (according to me).

MANNERS COUNT

Be careful about sounding demanding or sarcastic. Forum board volunteers and users are there to help and to learn. They may make mistakes or they may not be knowledgeable on your particular matter, but everyone deserves respect.

DON’T FEED THE TROLLS

Yes, it’s true. There are trolls on forums. They thrive on arguments. Fortunately, they can’t live without these and that makes them very easy to starve. Just stop feeding them and most will go away.

Forums are a great place to increase your knowledge and solve problems. You'll get a lot more out of them if you invest 5 minutes to poke around on the site before posting your question.

-----------------------------------------

Bonus Section: Top 10 Worst Subject Lines Ever

1. Newbie question

2. This needs to be fixed now

3. HELP!!! 

4. Why doesn't this work? 

5. Question 

6. Does this look right?

7. Email me

8. This site sucks 

9. Urgent

10. How do I do this?

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Written by Sooz in portal Education
Getting the most out of online forums
Have you ever asked for help on an online forum but got no answer? It happens. Unless you’re a regular visitor, it can be difficult to figure out how to get what you need. So here’s the skinny on working with forums and user groups.

- Read the forum rules first.

- Look for your answer in the existing questions and answers before adding yours.

- Choose your subject line carefully.

- Manners count.

- Don’t feed the trolls.


On to the details... and a bonus section at the bottom.

READ THE FORUM RULES FIRST
Boring, I know, but here's why you want to do this. Most groups are particular about what can be posted and where you should post. The guidelines are usually easy to find. Just look for a heading that says ‘read me first’ or ‘posting guidelines.’ Advertising your services is almost never allowed, so watch out for that. If questions are separated by category, you’ll want to read through each heading to see where you belong.

LOOK FOR YOUR ANSWER IN THE EXISTING Q & A BEFORE ADDING YOURS
It’s likely that someone has already asked your question. That’s great news because you may find several people have contributed answers which you can read through right now. To do this, look for a search box and do your best to think of words others would use to describe your problem. It’s considered rude to post your question without first looking to see if it has already been answered and cross-posting the same question in multiple categories can get you banned for forum spamming.

CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT LINE CAREFULLY
Problems with the subject line are the #1 reason why messages go unanswered — and here’s why. Forum boards rely on volunteers. Most of us will scan subject lines quickly to look for the ones we’re qualified to comment on. If a volunteer has only 20 minutes to contribute, vague messages will be ignored in favour of messages that clearly identify what's needed. This means your subject line should never be ‘Help’ or ‘Quick question’ or ‘What does this mean.’ Instead, be specific. Try something like ‘Gmail spam problem on Chrome’ or ‘Microsoft Outlook 2010 question on multiple calendars.’ 

See the bonus section at the end for the top 10 worst subject lines ever (according to me).

MANNERS COUNT
Be careful about sounding demanding or sarcastic. Forum board volunteers and users are there to help and to learn. They may make mistakes or they may not be knowledgeable on your particular matter, but everyone deserves respect.

DON’T FEED THE TROLLS
Yes, it’s true. There are trolls on forums. They thrive on arguments. Fortunately, they can’t live without these and that makes them very easy to starve. Just stop feeding them and most will go away.

Forums are a great place to increase your knowledge and solve problems. You'll get a lot more out of them if you invest 5 minutes to poke around on the site before posting your question.
-----------------------------------------

Bonus Section: Top 10 Worst Subject Lines Ever
1. Newbie question
2. This needs to be fixed now
3. HELP!!! 
4. Why doesn't this work? 
5. Question 
6. Does this look right?
7. Email me
8. This site sucks 
9. Urgent
10. How do I do this?
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Written by Sooz in portal Flash Fiction

Mourning coffee

The sound of coffee sloshing into the empty mug plunges her into a reverie. It’s that day. The last day she ever placed two mugs on the kitchen counter, side by side. Morning sunbeams bounce off glassware in the china cabinet throwing diamond reflections on the wall. The table is set for breakfast and he’s asking where his socks are. Asking? Bellowing, really, from their upstairs bedroom. She watches her former self roll her eyes and call out: “They’re in your top drawer, dear,” with an inflection on the word ‘dear’ meant to convey irritation. According to their well-established ritual, she should hear him plod down the stairs and plunk into the kitchen chair facing the big window. Instead she hears a thud. A panicked call to 911 brought people with bags and equipment who seemed to know what they were doing yet couldn’t tell her what had happened or when he was going to wake up. The rest is a blur of activity that leads to beeping equipment in a hospital room where she sat with tunnel vision, oblivious to other people, intent on watching his eyelids. Her only goal was to be there when he opened his eyes, so he could see her there, right next to him, just as she had been for the last 46 years. But he never did.

Hot liquid spilling onto her hand pulls her back into the kitchen and her single mug of coffee. She flings open cabinets, pushing aside boxes of rice and brown sugar in search of his favourite mug. She had hidden it in an attempt to dull the longing, the missing. She finds it stashed behind the silly egg cups he insisted they buy. Placing his mug next to hers, she fills it and admires the two cups sitting side by side. The clink of the glass coffee pot sliding back into place on the drip coffee maker completes the morning rhythm. 

Hands on her shoulders pull her away from the kitchen counter, away from the two mugs and the memories of a lifelong companion she misses every day. 

“Nancy, I thought you were going to wait for me in your bedroom. You don’t even have your slippers on. You must be freezing,” the dark-haired lady said. Then she turned her head and yelled: “Anita girl, where you at? Nancy’s out again!” 

“Sorry,” said the younger one, running toward them from the hallway. “I only left for a minute. I don’t understand why we can’t just tie her to the bed. I’m getting tired of cleaning up her messes in the coffee room.” 

“Girl, one day that big ole karma bus is gonna come and run down your ass. When it happens, I hope to God I’m drivin’ it.” She turned back to Nancy and said in a softer voice, “I sure wish you could tell us what it is you want. For now, let’s work on getting you back to bed, Miss Nancy.” 

Without fully understanding where they were going, Nancy followed. “This lady is nice,” she thought. “But this sure is a strange place.”

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Written by Sooz in portal Flash Fiction
Mourning coffee
The sound of coffee sloshing into the empty mug plunges her into a reverie. It’s that day. The last day she ever placed two mugs on the kitchen counter, side by side. Morning sunbeams bounce off glassware in the china cabinet throwing diamond reflections on the wall. The table is set for breakfast and he’s asking where his socks are. Asking? Bellowing, really, from their upstairs bedroom. She watches her former self roll her eyes and call out: “They’re in your top drawer, dear,” with an inflection on the word ‘dear’ meant to convey irritation. According to their well-established ritual, she should hear him plod down the stairs and plunk into the kitchen chair facing the big window. Instead she hears a thud. A panicked call to 911 brought people with bags and equipment who seemed to know what they were doing yet couldn’t tell her what had happened or when he was going to wake up. The rest is a blur of activity that leads to beeping equipment in a hospital room where she sat with tunnel vision, oblivious to other people, intent on watching his eyelids. Her only goal was to be there when he opened his eyes, so he could see her there, right next to him, just as she had been for the last 46 years. But he never did.

Hot liquid spilling onto her hand pulls her back into the kitchen and her single mug of coffee. She flings open cabinets, pushing aside boxes of rice and brown sugar in search of his favourite mug. She had hidden it in an attempt to dull the longing, the missing. She finds it stashed behind the silly egg cups he insisted they buy. Placing his mug next to hers, she fills it and admires the two cups sitting side by side. The clink of the glass coffee pot sliding back into place on the drip coffee maker completes the morning rhythm. 

Hands on her shoulders pull her away from the kitchen counter, away from the two mugs and the memories of a lifelong companion she misses every day. 

“Nancy, I thought you were going to wait for me in your bedroom. You don’t even have your slippers on. You must be freezing,” the dark-haired lady said. Then she turned her head and yelled: “Anita girl, where you at? Nancy’s out again!” 

“Sorry,” said the younger one, running toward them from the hallway. “I only left for a minute. I don’t understand why we can’t just tie her to the bed. I’m getting tired of cleaning up her messes in the coffee room.” 

“Girl, one day that big ole karma bus is gonna come and run down your ass. When it happens, I hope to God I’m drivin’ it.” She turned back to Nancy and said in a softer voice, “I sure wish you could tell us what it is you want. For now, let’s work on getting you back to bed, Miss Nancy.” 

Without fully understanding where they were going, Nancy followed. “This lady is nice,” she thought. “But this sure is a strange place.”
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To write a Lipogram using only one vowel in words throughout the entire poem. You can choose the vowel. The winner will receive a postcard full of mindless ditherings from myself in Sydney, Australia (so yes you will have to PM me your postal address if you choose when you win.) You can find an example of a Lipogram here: https://theprose.com/post/35698/man-makes-mistakes
Written by Sooz in portal Poetry & Free Verse

“Ah” - A Lipogram in A

Tall man

tan pants

Walmart cart.

Stands at wall

asks cash.

Attacks land hard

“Vagrant!”

“Scram, asshat!”

“What a scam.”

Acts calm and walks away.

Alan can’t stand barbs

can’t spar back

can’t fall apart.

Draws bandana, dabs at angst.

“Harsh past?” man asks.

“War flashbacks, PTSD. And bad grass.”

“Ah, wack ganja.”

Grabs Alan’s hand and palms a saw.

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To write a Lipogram using only one vowel in words throughout the entire poem. You can choose the vowel. The winner will receive a postcard full of mindless ditherings from myself in Sydney, Australia (so yes you will have to PM me your postal address if you choose when you win.) You can find an example of a Lipogram here: https://theprose.com/post/35698/man-makes-mistakes
Written by Sooz in portal Poetry & Free Verse
“Ah” - A Lipogram in A
Tall man
tan pants
Walmart cart.

Stands at wall
asks cash.

Attacks land hard
“Vagrant!”
“Scram, asshat!”
“What a scam.”
Acts calm and walks away.

Alan can’t stand barbs
can’t spar back
can’t fall apart.
Draws bandana, dabs at angst.

“Harsh past?” man asks.
“War flashbacks, PTSD. And bad grass.”
“Ah, wack ganja.”
Grabs Alan’s hand and palms a saw.
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Prose Challenge of the Week #9: Write a 20 word story about heartbreak. The winner will be chosen by Prose based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. Winner will receive $100.
Written by Sooz

The shunning

"This one is rejected."

Cold shoulder.

Deaf ear.

Invisibility.

You wail into a vacuum — unloved, uncomforted. 

Welcome to your shunning.

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Prose Challenge of the Week #9: Write a 20 word story about heartbreak. The winner will be chosen by Prose based on a number of criteria, this includes: fire, form, and creative edge. Number of reads, bookmarks, and shares will also be taken into consideration. Winner will receive $100.
Written by Sooz
The shunning
"This one is rejected."

Cold shoulder.
Deaf ear.
Invisibility.
You wail into a vacuum — unloved, uncomforted. 

Welcome to your shunning.
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You just invented writing. Write about it.
Written by Sooz in portal History

Writing. Née 2016

Precious words

let them not be lost; 

used once

and left to die on the breath.

Falling sweetly upon the ear

they begged for capture

and rebirth.

Syllabic necklace

laid upon the page.

I made these marks

that words may live.

Fine fingered rosary

may it serve.

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You just invented writing. Write about it.
Written by Sooz in portal History
Writing. Née 2016
Precious words
let them not be lost; 
used once
and left to die on the breath.

Falling sweetly upon the ear
they begged for capture
and rebirth.

Syllabic necklace
laid upon the page.
I made these marks
that words may live.
Fine fingered rosary
may it serve.
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a six-word story on existence
Written by Sooz

Life in 6 words

We need less than we think.

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a six-word story on existence
Written by Sooz
Life in 6 words
We need less than we think.
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Written by Sooz

In praise of #fuckery and other dark prose

Someone talented said this to me today: I wrote something but didn't have the guts to post it. It was too raw and dark. People like uplifting. 

The opportunity to introduce this person to the world of Prose, where writing doesn't have to be light and pretty to be embraced, made me absolutely gleeful. T_E_Trueman, JeffStewart, rh, paintingskies, RioRamirez... these are just a few of the Prosers who tell a good tale without trying to make things appear nicer than they are.

Here are 5 posts that popped into my head tonight: I'm recommending them to @Lane to demonstrate that we love to read everything here — sometimes the darker the better, hence the hashtag #fuckery.  

hell's half acre and blacksmith - both by @rh

Big City Nights by JeffStewart

Pitch and roll, baby by RioRamirez 

I must mention my all-time favourite: Sheehan by T_E_Trueman. Watch out. This one will rip your heart out but you'll want to read it more than once.

Please follow @Lane as encouragement to see some of that "raw and dark" stuff that's in hiding. 

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Written by Sooz
In praise of #fuckery and other dark prose
Someone talented said this to me today: I wrote something but didn't have the guts to post it. It was too raw and dark. People like uplifting. 

The opportunity to introduce this person to the world of Prose, where writing doesn't have to be light and pretty to be embraced, made me absolutely gleeful. T_E_Trueman, JeffStewart, rh, paintingskies, RioRamirez... these are just a few of the Prosers who tell a good tale without trying to make things appear nicer than they are.

Here are 5 posts that popped into my head tonight: I'm recommending them to @Lane to demonstrate that we love to read everything here — sometimes the darker the better, hence the hashtag #fuckery.  

hell's half acre and blacksmith - both by @rh
Big City Nights by JeffStewart
Pitch and roll, baby by RioRamirez 

I must mention my all-time favourite: Sheehan by T_E_Trueman. Watch out. This one will rip your heart out but you'll want to read it more than once.

Please follow @Lane as encouragement to see some of that "raw and dark" stuff that's in hiding. 
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Written by Sooz in portal Stream of Consciousness

Happy Birthday January Babies

Does your birthday get you thinking about life — why stuff has happened, what’s in your future, and what you might wish for? It does me. Today is my 56th anniversary on planet Earth and I’m in full musing mode.

Numbers keep popping into my thoughts — for instance, my weight (birthday posts are allowed to border on narcissistic - I call it). Recording my weight each birthday was a good habit that got away from me for several years. In witness of that, 3 years ago I was carrying an additional 50 pounds on my little frame. That’s 10 bags of sugar. Or 5 average house cats. Or 2.5 car tires.

I didn’t set out to intentionally lose weight. While enjoying coffee and a treat one sunny autumn day, Hubby wondered out loud if our diet could stand some improvement. I suspect his comment was triggered by the 7 empty cookie cartons waiting to be taken to the recycle bin. We agreed to cut down on sweets and eat more protein and fibre. We called it an un-diet and swore not to make it about weight loss (as if that were an evil goal). This was supposed to be about feeling better, not counting pounds. I didn’t realize how quickly they were melting away until I sneezed one day and my pants fell down.

That was all the encouragement I needed to amp up my exercise. Don’t laugh, but my favourite way to burn calories is to walk up and down the 15 flights of stairs in my high rise. The journey from overweight couch potato — which I generously refer to as my ‘cerebral’ years — to somewhat-fit-50-something was not easy. For my first trek, I decided to walk up as many flights as I could, then take the elevator down. At the end of 7 flights I was panting. Beyond panting, really. There was coughing. And eye watering. As soon as the elevator doors opened I realized my mistake. Several people clad in winter coats and scarves stared at my inappropriate shorts and shockingly white legs and then quickly looked away. I nodded to my neighbours and got in.

Did you know it’s almost impossible to stop yourself from gulping air after unusually brisk exercise? Or that heavy breathing reverberates rudely in the confines of a small elevator? Willing myself to stop gasping just long enough to reach the lobby, I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen.

I got good at the climb after a while. No surprise to me. My sister Delaney and I have often said we were born with ‘potato field plowing legs’ in deference to our ability to lift or pull many times our own weight by virtue of extra sturdy gams. Small recompense for muscular calves that will never fit into high fashion boots.

If 2014 was about losing weight, 2015 was the year of shedding unnecessary encumbrances, the biggest of which was my car. I used to view owning a car as the ultimate freedom but it became something other than that when I began using it so infrequently the battery required a trickle charge each time we wanted to drive somewhere. Picture me pulling a battery-laden granny cart to the nearest garage. Multiple times. Worse than that, we were driving places just to keep everything functioning properly. We finally decided doing errands on foot to keep our bodies healthy was a better investment than driving around to keep the car in good shape. So Betsy left us in April.

I rid myself of a few other habits that failed the why-am-I-doing-this test, such as a compunction for never leaving the house without wearing makeup. Chalk that one up to hubris. I’m sure noone even notices whether I’m wearing mascara or not. Geesh - all the hours and money I wasted.

So I’m walking into this year lighter for having ditched some things that were no longer working for me and with a bit more spring in my step from working hard at cultivating gratitude.

Gotta go now. There’s a Belgian waffle with my name on it waiting to become a chocolate-covered vehicle of birthday decadence.

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Written by Sooz in portal Stream of Consciousness
Happy Birthday January Babies
Does your birthday get you thinking about life — why stuff has happened, what’s in your future, and what you might wish for? It does me. Today is my 56th anniversary on planet Earth and I’m in full musing mode.

Numbers keep popping into my thoughts — for instance, my weight (birthday posts are allowed to border on narcissistic - I call it). Recording my weight each birthday was a good habit that got away from me for several years. In witness of that, 3 years ago I was carrying an additional 50 pounds on my little frame. That’s 10 bags of sugar. Or 5 average house cats. Or 2.5 car tires.

I didn’t set out to intentionally lose weight. While enjoying coffee and a treat one sunny autumn day, Hubby wondered out loud if our diet could stand some improvement. I suspect his comment was triggered by the 7 empty cookie cartons waiting to be taken to the recycle bin. We agreed to cut down on sweets and eat more protein and fibre. We called it an un-diet and swore not to make it about weight loss (as if that were an evil goal). This was supposed to be about feeling better, not counting pounds. I didn’t realize how quickly they were melting away until I sneezed one day and my pants fell down.

That was all the encouragement I needed to amp up my exercise. Don’t laugh, but my favourite way to burn calories is to walk up and down the 15 flights of stairs in my high rise. The journey from overweight couch potato — which I generously refer to as my ‘cerebral’ years — to somewhat-fit-50-something was not easy. For my first trek, I decided to walk up as many flights as I could, then take the elevator down. At the end of 7 flights I was panting. Beyond panting, really. There was coughing. And eye watering. As soon as the elevator doors opened I realized my mistake. Several people clad in winter coats and scarves stared at my inappropriate shorts and shockingly white legs and then quickly looked away. I nodded to my neighbours and got in.

Did you know it’s almost impossible to stop yourself from gulping air after unusually brisk exercise? Or that heavy breathing reverberates rudely in the confines of a small elevator? Willing myself to stop gasping just long enough to reach the lobby, I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen.

I got good at the climb after a while. No surprise to me. My sister Delaney and I have often said we were born with ‘potato field plowing legs’ in deference to our ability to lift or pull many times our own weight by virtue of extra sturdy gams. Small recompense for muscular calves that will never fit into high fashion boots.

If 2014 was about losing weight, 2015 was the year of shedding unnecessary encumbrances, the biggest of which was my car. I used to view owning a car as the ultimate freedom but it became something other than that when I began using it so infrequently the battery required a trickle charge each time we wanted to drive somewhere. Picture me pulling a battery-laden granny cart to the nearest garage. Multiple times. Worse than that, we were driving places just to keep everything functioning properly. We finally decided doing errands on foot to keep our bodies healthy was a better investment than driving around to keep the car in good shape. So Betsy left us in April.

I rid myself of a few other habits that failed the why-am-I-doing-this test, such as a compunction for never leaving the house without wearing makeup. Chalk that one up to hubris. I’m sure noone even notices whether I’m wearing mascara or not. Geesh - all the hours and money I wasted.

So I’m walking into this year lighter for having ditched some things that were no longer working for me and with a bit more spring in my step from working hard at cultivating gratitude.

Gotta go now. There’s a Belgian waffle with my name on it waiting to become a chocolate-covered vehicle of birthday decadence.
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Epiphany.
Written by Sooz in portal Stream of Consciousness

Getting at death

We were making our way down the stairs and toward the back door after Sunday church. I could see sunlight streaming through the panes of glass over the door, promising an afternoon of exploring and wandering. The slow pace of our descent was torture for a seven year old. I wanted us to move quickly. Didn’t everyone know we were just a few feet away from opening that door and running into a warm summer day?

All I could think about were the daisies I’d seen in the field on the way in. I was determined to pick some before getting into Grandma’s car. Hopefully the flower petals would reveal a few aphids to help occupy my mind while I ignored the inevitable scriptural admonitions on the drive home. Those thoughts sustained me through the service as I sat with an open bible on my lap, every now and then turning my head to pull in a whiff of summer through the open windows. Grandma saw me fidgeting and gave me a white peppermint Lifesaver. I tried to make it last but ended up crunching it, enjoying the hot-cold rush.

Now, finally over, instead of racing down the stairs and out the door I was hemmed in by a swarm of dainty old ladies. Why had everyone stopped? Didn’t they know the rest of the day was waiting? Then I heard the whispers. Cancer. They were looking at a man named Pepé. The ladies had caught up with him halfway down the stairs and wouldn’t let him leave until each one had said something helpful to him. I heard: “Keep your faith.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “You need vitamins. Have you been taking vitamins?” “Which nature foods store do you go to? You do buy your food at the nature foods store, don’t you? You should, you know.”

I was just a little kid but I could see Pepé wasn’t listening. I saw him look up the stairs, and down the stairs, and then at all the women who were surrounding him with their advice. He looked down at me, the only child in a sea of little old ladies in pillbox hats, handbags crooked on elbows. He looked like he wanted a way out, like me. Except he looked tired. I wasn’t tired; my legs wanted to run.

My attention captured, I began watching the scene play out. I eventually concluded the women weren’t comforting him so much as they were comforting themselves. I believe Pepé knew it, too. He smiled at me and held my gaze for several moments while the ladies were nattering away. Although he gave me a smile, I felt his sadness and his questions. He looked tired. He looked like he wanted to leave. He looked just a bit defeated. Had he shrugged his shoulders I wouldn’t have been surprised, but he didn’t. He stood there, halfway up, halfway down the stairs, until each one had had her say.

A couple of months later I heard he died — except that’s not how they said it. They said he had finished his earthly course. I didn’t understand the words individually at the time. As a child, it always sounded like a single word: finishedhisearthlycourse. It could have been a normal phrase like ‘he ran’ or ‘he ate’ but it always signaled the end of conversation as soon as someone said it.

Years later I found myself in a similar situation while attending the funeral of a colleague’s son who had died in a car crash. In the lineup, making my way toward the bereaved parents, I realized I had no idea what to say. What in the world do you say to someone who just lost a child? To my horror, what came out of my mouth was every bit as inane and useless as the women who had mobbed Pepé with their ‘helpful’ comments twenty years earlier. Apparently I was savvy enough as a kid to realize the futility of those words but not smart enough as an adult to stop myself from saying them. With that thought came the realization I’d been shielding myself from death with trite phrases about loved ones falling asleep in death and I couldn’t reconcile that at the funeral of a university student whose life was cut short by something way more sudden and violent than falling sleep. And so began years of pondering.

What I’m about to say is not meant to sound morbid: I think about death a lot. It has taken me years to formulate my own ideas about afterlife and collective consciousness and to finally get some degree of comfort with the whole life/death cycle. I don’t want to be placated by the vision of a loved one smiling down at me from heaven or consoled by the hope of physical resurrection. Accepting mortality makes each day important. Today counts. Big time.

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Epiphany.
Written by Sooz in portal Stream of Consciousness
Getting at death
We were making our way down the stairs and toward the back door after Sunday church. I could see sunlight streaming through the panes of glass over the door, promising an afternoon of exploring and wandering. The slow pace of our descent was torture for a seven year old. I wanted us to move quickly. Didn’t everyone know we were just a few feet away from opening that door and running into a warm summer day?

All I could think about were the daisies I’d seen in the field on the way in. I was determined to pick some before getting into Grandma’s car. Hopefully the flower petals would reveal a few aphids to help occupy my mind while I ignored the inevitable scriptural admonitions on the drive home. Those thoughts sustained me through the service as I sat with an open bible on my lap, every now and then turning my head to pull in a whiff of summer through the open windows. Grandma saw me fidgeting and gave me a white peppermint Lifesaver. I tried to make it last but ended up crunching it, enjoying the hot-cold rush.

Now, finally over, instead of racing down the stairs and out the door I was hemmed in by a swarm of dainty old ladies. Why had everyone stopped? Didn’t they know the rest of the day was waiting? Then I heard the whispers. Cancer. They were looking at a man named Pepé. The ladies had caught up with him halfway down the stairs and wouldn’t let him leave until each one had said something helpful to him. I heard: “Keep your faith.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “You need vitamins. Have you been taking vitamins?” “Which nature foods store do you go to? You do buy your food at the nature foods store, don’t you? You should, you know.”

I was just a little kid but I could see Pepé wasn’t listening. I saw him look up the stairs, and down the stairs, and then at all the women who were surrounding him with their advice. He looked down at me, the only child in a sea of little old ladies in pillbox hats, handbags crooked on elbows. He looked like he wanted a way out, like me. Except he looked tired. I wasn’t tired; my legs wanted to run.

My attention captured, I began watching the scene play out. I eventually concluded the women weren’t comforting him so much as they were comforting themselves. I believe Pepé knew it, too. He smiled at me and held my gaze for several moments while the ladies were nattering away. Although he gave me a smile, I felt his sadness and his questions. He looked tired. He looked like he wanted to leave. He looked just a bit defeated. Had he shrugged his shoulders I wouldn’t have been surprised, but he didn’t. He stood there, halfway up, halfway down the stairs, until each one had had her say.

A couple of months later I heard he died — except that’s not how they said it. They said he had finished his earthly course. I didn’t understand the words individually at the time. As a child, it always sounded like a single word: finishedhisearthlycourse. It could have been a normal phrase like ‘he ran’ or ‘he ate’ but it always signaled the end of conversation as soon as someone said it.

Years later I found myself in a similar situation while attending the funeral of a colleague’s son who had died in a car crash. In the lineup, making my way toward the bereaved parents, I realized I had no idea what to say. What in the world do you say to someone who just lost a child? To my horror, what came out of my mouth was every bit as inane and useless as the women who had mobbed Pepé with their ‘helpful’ comments twenty years earlier. Apparently I was savvy enough as a kid to realize the futility of those words but not smart enough as an adult to stop myself from saying them. With that thought came the realization I’d been shielding myself from death with trite phrases about loved ones falling asleep in death and I couldn’t reconcile that at the funeral of a university student whose life was cut short by something way more sudden and violent than falling sleep. And so began years of pondering.

What I’m about to say is not meant to sound morbid: I think about death a lot. It has taken me years to formulate my own ideas about afterlife and collective consciousness and to finally get some degree of comfort with the whole life/death cycle. I don’t want to be placated by the vision of a loved one smiling down at me from heaven or consoled by the hope of physical resurrection. Accepting mortality makes each day important. Today counts. Big time.
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Juice
238 reads
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