Tag Archives: Guilt


Cant WriteI want to write, but I don’t write.

Or maybe it’s that I won’t write?

No. For sure it’s that I can’t write.

Last night I vowed, as I do every night, that come morning, I would sit down in front of my computer for twenty minutes even if I don’t put any words on the paper.

While I’m brushing my teeth this morning I decide to prepare to fill my vow. I Google “Writing Prompts” on my IPhone. I read dozens of them and not one prompts me to write.

So, I scroll through Facebook . Nothing there prompts me to write either.

I toss the phone on the counter and my new puppy barks. I realize she should go outside. I stand by the back door, like an idiot, hoping Puppy figures out how to ring the Go Outside Bell.

She’s so excited to see that she might get to go out, she wags her tail, which hits the Go Outside Bell.

Does That Count“That doesn’t count,” I say.

My words excite her even more. Her body wriggling with anticipation, she slams into the bell. It goes off like a high holy day at church.

I wrench open the door and the two of us, anxious to get away from the awful Go Outside Bell, fall through to the other side.

I wait for Puppy to do her business and look up at a giant picture window. I see a beautiful scene, right out of some writing movie. A sleek black desk, with a trendy light and a robust green plant, fills the frame. “If I had that,” I think, “I wouldn’t need any stinking writing prompts. I’d just sit down and write.”


I do have that because…that’s my picture window.

I march inside and renew my vow to sit in front of my computer for twenty minutes even if I don’t write a word.   This is how well I fulfill my vow.

# I flip open the screen and see that it’s so covered in dust it would be impossible for me to write.

# I search for a special screen-cleaning cloth. No luck. I wipe the screen down with a damp paper towel. Visibility is now in worse shape than before.

# I search harder for special screen-cleaning cloth. Discover one the size of a postage stamp and spend ten minutes scrubbing computer screen.

# I am ready to write now. Nothing can hold me back.

# I pause to pat myself on the back for carving out such a great place to write.

# I notice sound of a tiny bell.

# I close laptop

# I follow noise to my IPhone, which is about to lose its charge. I walk to the car to retrieve the one IPhone charger I possess and when I open the car door, remember — from the stink that hits my face — I forgot to empty my car of bonfire smoked coats and empty gas cans – leftovers from weekend work at farm and ancient tractor.

# I discover hooded sweatshirt coated in stick-tights. I spend a futile thirty-minutes plucking at pointy seeds.

# I return to computer and open it. I stare at blinking cursor for what seems like hours, but in reality is two minutes.

# I think Puppy has been too quiet. I look across the room and see that she is rolling something small around the inside of her mouth.

# I close computer and get down on the floor, pry her mouth open and find nothing.

# I open laptop.

# I glance over and Puppy has resumed chewing small object, which pops out of her mouth and lands on the white carpet.

# I close laptop.

# I gag slightly and pick up tiny bloody tooth.

# I clean carpet.

# I open laptop

# I hear a ding from the charging IPhone.

# I close laptop.

# I watch text of grandson hitting a home run. I watch it twelve more times.

# I open laptop.

# I take sip of tea, which has turned cold.

# I close laptop.

# I reheat tea.

# I open laptop

# I immediately become aware of rumbling in stomach.

# I close laptop.

# I stand in front of open fridge searching for healthy snack that tastes like a chocolate chip cookie. I give up.

# I open laptop.

Outside Bell# I hear wiggly-jumping Puppy ring the Go Outside Bell. I take her outside and walk around back yard while Puppy sits and stares at me.

# I return inside to sound of the doorbell ringing.

# I listen to sales pitch from Boy Scout. Get purse and write check.

# I hear a ding come from other side of house. Follow it to dryer, telling me load is done. I move dry laundry to bedroom.

# I chase Puppy to retrieve stolen sock. I fold laundry, except for the sheets. I decide it is easier to change sheets on bed than fold clean sheets. I do that.

# I pick up slippers from bedroom floor and put away in closet.

# I organize entire shoe collection by color, then season, and then heel height.

# I follow faint beeping noise to the open laptop. I look at screen. Battery dead.

I want to write, but I don’t write.

Or maybe it’s that I won’t?

No. For sure it’s that I can’t.

Cant Write



Math is Hard [insert whining voice]

This One is Too Small

This One is Too Small

After several horrible months in our teeny-tiny apartment, we have finally purchased a home.

Because I’m not confident of my ability to make any logical decisions right now — for example; I took the inheritance I received from my father and purchased a black hole of problems in a vintage camper — I hired a design company to help me with the remodel.

Even though, I’m pretty confident I could have made this


Into this:
And this:
Into this:
I could never go any further with the plan.

Not only does the design team supervise the demo and construction, they also help with the decorating.

To assist them with their plan, I had the contents of one of our storage units, (the one that held all our furniture) delivered to the new house. I instructed the moving crew to line my items up in such a way that the design team could view all of my precious possessions  — like the coffee table made from an old wooden hardware cabinet or the eight foot tall antique secretary given to me by my mother-in-law — and then they could decide what was worth keeping and what should be relegated to the basement.

Turns out, none of my junk worldly goods are going to fit into the new hip, modern, design. Really? Not even the rusted head of a broken sledge hammer I kept in our living room? So much for the tiny thread of hope I held that I had good taste.

The one thing the design team loved and said they planned to put over the mantle in the hearth room, is this painting – which they called. Portrait of a Man.

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a Man

I love Portrait of a Man, because it was painted by our son (my step-son) and  because it is a picture of our other son (my birth son). However, I don’t display this picture in a place of prominence because, our two daughters (my step-daughters) might be offended by a large exhibition of “my” son.

So, for years, Portrait of a Man has lived in my basement  because of all the agitation it could cause in our blended family.

Being a step-parent is a delicate operation and I work hard to balance our out-of-balance family.  Photos around the house are counted and re-counted. A picture of Husband with his son should be balanced out with a picture of Husband with my son.  A picture of me with step-daughter’s kids should be balanced out with a picture of me with my son’s child.  Christmas is a mathematical nightmare.  Do I use the number of presents as an equalizer? Or is it the amount spent on the present?

If I apply my blended family calculations to Portrait of a Man, and with the following givens:

(a) = painted by step-son

(b) = picture of my birth son

(c) = does not include step-daughters

(d) = no good will come from this

Then, (a + b) might equal zero. But, I’m pretty certain (a + b) – (c) =  (d)

Explaining these calculations to my friend, Kerry, she posed a question I’d never asked myself. “Do you really think your grown kids give a damn?”

Is that (f) in the equation?  Dang. Math is hard.

Does Love Mean, Having to Say I’ll Kill You?

As I’ve written here before, my Grandmother Nellie was a tough old bird.  Things went her way or else.  This worked fine as far as where her furniture was placed or what to have for dinner, but it didn’t work so well with the people in her life.

In high school she dated Lawrence for several weeks, until he was late to pick her up.  Then she dumped him.  Lawrence’s younger brother Walter asked her out and learning his lesson from Lawrence, did everything demanded of him — for the rest of his life.

I imagine things went pretty smoothly for Grandmother, until my mother was born. Children are notorious for not following our plans for them.  Instead of marrying for money as demanded by Grandmother, she married for love; a poor farmer and a Catholic one at that. She then proceeded to have way more kids than proper society (or Grandmother) accepted.

Mom battled her weight her entire life with Grandmother berating her at every turn. When Mom was diagnosed with cancer and told her chemo treatments would be harsh Grandmother sent a get well card. She’d written inside “At least now you’ll be able to lose that extra weight you’ve been carrying around.”

She probably did love my mother and she tolerated her husband. But she adored her pets – at least, as long as they behaved.  One week she’d mention that Fluffy had a cold.  The next time we talked she’d tell me how cute Tabby was.

“Tabby?  I thought your cat’s name was Fluffy.”

“Oh.  I put Fluffy down.”

When Tabby jumped up on a shelf and broke one of Grandmother’s precious knickknacks, the cat disappeared.

A dog she’d had for years that peed on her rug?  Gone.

My dad used to joke that he was afraid to sneeze around Nellie in case she decided to put him down.

Now I’m in the position of having to make that terrible choice with our dog, Lola.  Not because she’s a nuisance, but because she’s in pain and can’t get around.

We met with our vet this week and he says it’s close to time and explains how lucky animals are that we have the power to put them out of their misery.  I’ve always agreed with that philosophy but have never had to put it into practice.

The power, I’ve discovered, is now a curse that haunts me as I look into Lola’s brown eyes and I beg her to tell me if she’s ready to go.  I do love her.  In fact, I love her enough to kill her

I pride myself on being nothing like my Grandmother Nellie, but I wonder.  Am I really?

Missed Manners

I found this note, in my mother’s handwriting, as I was digging through a box that belonged to my grandmother. I swear, that woman can still make me feel guilty.

My grandmother, “Don’t you dare call me Grandma,” Nellie, had one goal in life — to teach her wild grandchildren to have good manners. As a child, I sat through hours of angst-ridden instructions on the proper handling of silverware and napkins. A lesson on how to hold your glass properly so as not to end up with a milk mustache seemed particularly useless. My only concern at home on the farm with my sister and brothers was how to obtain the actual milk before they did.

One Thanksgiving dinner Grandmother Nellie assigned me the chair to her right to “control Teresa’s fidgeting,” as she said. She spent the meal correcting my every move. “Pass the food from left to right. Don’t gulp your water, sip it. Quit fidgeting!” Toward the end of the meal she whispered between gritted teeth, “Get your elbows off the table..now!”

I yanked my arms away and slid my elbows through the slats in the back of the chair, where they promptly got stuck. I sat quietly through the rest of the meal. My arms were tucked tight against my sides, my elbows held firmly from behind by the hateful chair slats. I politely declined any extra food offered to me and although Grandmother expressed her unhappiness at the food left on my plate, she did praise me for sitting so upright and proper.

People began to notice something was wrong when I left the dessert, angel food cake (my favorite) untouched on my plate. Grandmother immediately demanded that I remove my elbows from the chair but I could not get them free. I’m not sure when the tears started, probably when my older brother suggested we cut off my arms.

Disgusted with the entire scene, Grandmother marched into her bedroom and returned with her face cream. She slathered up each of my elbows and they finally slid free. She hurried to the kitchen and returned with a soft dishtowel. Grandmother knelt down and murmured, “Oh dear, I hope there’s no damage,” as she gently wiped the greasy face cream from the slats of her chair.

Thanks to Grandmother Nellie, I am comfortable at any formal gathering. I know how to use the proper fork and which direction to pass the food. I can even drink a foamy latte without getting a milk mustache. And my elbows? They’re right where they belong. Safely resting on the table.