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Thursday, April 02, 2020

Who Loves You


I always felt like an ugly duckling. Added to that, I was shy as a youngster. By the time I got to high school, I was very self-conscious. I didn’t have the right clothes or the right shoes. My chin stuck out. My lips were too thin. I really didn’t need a bra. 

Other girls had boyfriends. I didn’t. 

At home, I frequently moaned, “Nobody loves me.” That really wasn’t true. I knew my parents loved me and my siblings loved me—sort of—I think. My grandparents loved me and my aunts and uncles loved me. But boys didn’t give me a second glance—except for the boys I didn’t want to be seen with. Those guys were scary!

My mother got tired of listening to my rant. One day, she handed me the small statue pictured above. That ended my whining. Mom was right. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Contemplating


I love this photo. Just looking at it makes me calmer--a bit. That's my father in 1985 at the bridge on the grounds of Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill Cottage. My mother took the photo. My parents did quite a bit of traveling after my father retired. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of my mother's heroines--as was Amelia Earhart. My mother loved Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage. I have yet to see it. Hubby and I took our daughters to Hyde Park to see the Roosevelts' home when they were young but we didn't go to Val-Kill Cottage. We could only drag the kids around so much before all of us were exhausted and cranky.

Maybe after this current plague is over, hubby and I should make plans to see the Val-Kill Cottage.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Promises


The leaves on the rose bush are opening. Tender, delicate shoots emerge as the warm sunshine tempts them to unfold and grow. Soon buds will form and then burst into the scented blooms I love. Spring is here--arriving as it always does and returning the dull brown earth into a rich green garden.

This spring, though, is different. This year a silent invader, the virus labeled Covid-19, has swept across the globe and there is nothing to stop it. No vaccine or antibiotic is capable of destroying it. Our natural immunity to disease can crush the intruder in our bodies, but there are many of us living with compromised immune systems and for us this virus could be deadly.

In a last ditch effort to delay the spread of the virus, everyone has been instructed to use social distancing. Everything is cancelled. Children are being schooled at home. Churches have closed their doors. Workers who can telecommute are doing so. But doubt and unease are constant companions as the number of victims increase.

Hubby and I spend our days enjoying our hobbies and doing our usual chores. On sunny days, we sit outside and enjoy the bright rays of spring while the bright yellow daffodils wave in the breeze and the hyacinths perfume the air. We keep in touch with our loved ones by email, phone, text, or video chats. It's a slower pace than usual for us, which is rather refreshing.

But the enemy continues to march onward. So, we pray and trust in the Lord's promises.

May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:22 (NAB)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dreamers


Here's an old photo taken probably in 1952 of the Abraham Lincoln Statue in Lincoln Park in Jersey city. I'm sitting at Abe's right foot. My brother is sitting at Abe's left foot. A bunch of dreamers!


Thursday, March 05, 2020

The Irish In Me



My last name is Marzec because I married a man from Brooklyn whose parents came from Poland. So while he is definitely an American, he grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn—which is a lot like being in Poland. He went to a Catholic bilingual school (English and Polish). Marzec translates into the month of March in Polish. You can find it on a Polish calendar. 

I’m not Polish. On my mother’s side I’m Czech and Slovak. Those countries are close enough to Poland so that some of the words are similar. At the time my mother’s parents left their home country it was part of the Austrian Empire. However, my grandfather said he lived near Prague. Thanks to Ancestry, I know the name of the town where my grandmother was baptized and that she came to the United States when she was three years old. She and my grandfather met in this country and had seven children. My mother was Daughter #2.  

My paternal grandparents were Irish and German. This makes me a mere one quarter Irish, but as luck would have it, I resemble the Irish side of the family—except for my height which undoubtedly came from the German genes because my father’s relatives were all rather slight leprechauns.

With the exception of my German grandmother, all my predecessors were Catholic. Unfortunately, my Irish Catholic grandfather could not marry my German Protestant grandmother in the church. They were married in the vestibule. (That was a long time ago. Catholics can now marry non-Catholics in the church.) My Irish Catholic great aunts were responsible for making sure my father and his siblings received the sacraments.

Genetically, I’m a mongrel. My daughters are even more homogenized since they are half Polish.

Yet, somehow it is the Irish part of me that I feel most at home with—the Irish wit, songs, legends, and myths. That’s why I’ve written three books with Irish themes, Irons in the Fire, Prince of the Mist, and Kiss of Blarney. 

Hubby asked me to marry him on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Daughter #3’s birthday comes close to St. Patrick’s Day. 

Good reasons to celebrate! That’s why we always enjoy corned beef and soda bread at this time of year, but no kielbasi. :-)




Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Excerpt from SEA OF HOPE

Sea of Hope won EPIC's eBook Award for Best Inspirational Novel! If you get hooked and want to read more, there are links at the bottom of the page.

Excerpt from SEA OF HOPE:


Doria hummed an old sea chantey as she stirred the sauce on the stove. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt like singing. Evidently, her conscious effort to leave all her problems on the dock in Port Harbor had worked.
“So tell us about Ted,” George asked as he and Chad played rummy at the table.
The question didn’t bother her. Not at all. Ted could never reach her here.
“Ted is a cad,” Doria replied. “His veneer makes him appear to be a gentleman, but once you get to know him better, you find out he is nothing more than an ordinary, verbally abusive control freak.”
“Gee, now I feel bad about leaving Port Harbor,” Chad complained.
“Yeah, we could have dumped a load of nice, cold dead fish on him.” George smiled as he laid down a row of aces.
In her mind, Doria pictured the suave, debonair Ted surrounded by a mountain of fish. Ted, who could be obsessive about cleanliness, would go nuts. Doria smiled.
“Now you know it wouldn’t be right to do that,” Chad added soberly.
“Why not?” George asked.
Chad pulled a card from the top of the deck.
“They wouldn’t be just cold and dead. They would also be smelly—a few days old, perhaps,” Chad mused. “Maybe a week old.”
Doria laughed. The men joined her. The simple camaraderie warmed her.
Chad stopped laughing and laid down a king, queen, and jack. “Rummy,” he called with delight.
“I hate it when you do that,” George grumbled.
“Sorry.” Chad grinned. “But you know, this is my favorite part of the trip. Playing cards with you and winning.”
George shuffled the cards with a certain amount of vengeance and dealt them out. “I’ll get you this time,” he promised.
Doria turned back to her humming and stirring. She had forgotten how cozy and comfortable the Merrichase was. Brightly lit and clean, it had always been the best ship out of Port Harbor. A heavy feeling of regret seeped into her, crowding out the wonderful sense of freedom that had given her a brief respite of peace. She would never go out on the Merrichase again. This would be her last trip.
The timer on the stove startled her from her reflections. She had made a tangy orange cake that would taste like sunshine. As she removed the pans from the oven and set them on a rack on the counter top to cool, she sniffed the fragrant layers. Her mother had taught her this recipe a long, long time ago. A tear eked out of the corner of her eye.
“That smells great,” Chad commented.
“It isn’t anybody’s birthday,” George said. “Is it?”
“I thought we’d celebrate Murray’s first trip out as full-fledged captain of the Merrichase.” Doria hastily dashed away the tear before anyone could see.
“Let’s just eat the cake,” George muttered. “And skip the celebration part.”
“Why?” Doria asked. She intended to draw a ship’s wheel on the cake with mocha frosting.
Chad put his cards down on the table and rubbed his eyes. “George is right. It wouldn’t go over well with Murray.”
Doria frowned. “Because Dad died?”
“Murray’s been acting captain for about three months,” Chad answered.
“Three and a half months,” George corrected as he laid down a row of tens. “Your father spent a couple weeks in the hospital. From that point on, he stayed in his cabin a lot. Unless it was nice outside. Then we’d set him up on deck in a chair. He liked that.”
Chad picked up his cards again. “He ate better those days.”
Doria held on to the counter top. She suddenly felt sick. Worse than sick. Guilt pressed down on her. Her father had needed her and she hadn’t been there for him. The memory of her father’s last few hours haunted her. That day, she had driven into Port Harbor unannounced. She had found her father in bed in his cabin with Murray standing guard. She had called an ambulance. Murray had yelled at her. Her father had begged her to let him die on his boat. He had died in the hospital.
She shoved the nightmare away and took a deep breath.
“Well, all right. We could celebrate the fact that Murray owns the Merrichase now.” Her tone took on a hard edge but neither Chad nor George seemed to notice the rancor in her voice. They didn’t look up from their game.
George shrugged. “He’ll probably put it up for sale in a few weeks.”
“He doesn’t have much time before the trial,” Chad said.
“What trial?” Doria wrinkled up her nose.
The two men lifted their heads and gave her puzzled frowns.
“Don’t you know?” George asked.
A cold shiver ran up her spine. “What?”
“Murray’s been accused of murder,” Chad explained. “His trial is on January 6th.”
Doria stared at them as her mouth went dry. She was out in the middle of the ocean with a murderer. “W-who did he kill?”
“He didn’t do it,” Chad informed her.
“Who?” her voice rose.
“He was set up,” George stated.
“Who died?” Doria pounded the counter top for emphasis.
“A former fiancée of Murray, Kelly Morris,” Chad said quietly. “Didn’t you read about it?”
Doria shook her head.
“It was in all the papers,” George said. “On the television news, too.”
She drew her arms around her body. “Somebody broke into my apartment and stole the TV.”
“It happened at the hospital,” Chad stated softly. “Murray is accused of injecting Kelly Morris with the wrong medication. After breaking her engagement to Murray, Kelly became engaged to a man named Alex Kuhlman. She wound up in the ER after a supposed fall in her home.”
Doria could barely breathe. “A murderer? And he took care of my father?” Her lips started to tremble as she remembered how Murray had yelled at her when she called the ambulance for her father. Then she looked down at the bandage covering her burn and her body started to shake.
“He didn’t do it.” Chad got up from the table.
Doria ran to her cabin, slammed the door, and locked it.
Chad knocked.
“You can’t possibly believe Murray would commit murder,” his voice sounded muffled over the constant rumble of the engine. “His only mistake was leaving Kelly alone for a few minutes. He suspected that she had not fallen down the steps but had been pushed instead after Kuhlman battered her first.”
“Hey, what do I do with this sauce stuff?” George pounded on the door. “It’s boiling over.”
Doria reached for the doorknob but stopped herself before she opened it. “Turn the heat down.”
“Please,” Chad begged. “Have some faith in the man. He was so kind and gentle in caring for your father. If only you had been here. You would understand.”
She let out a sob and crumpled to the floor. Chad kept calling to her for a few more minutes but she didn’t listen to the words. She wallowed in her misery, wondering how much it would cost to have a helicopter pluck her from the deck and get her back to dry land. Or maybe they would pass by another fishing vessel and she could make her escape with the lifeboat.
Murder. The word caught in her throat. She had nearly been killed on a New York City street by a deranged madman. He had held a gun to her head while other pedestrians gawked at the spectacle as if the event had been staged for their entertainment. Only one man had the presence of mind to throw his attaché case at the criminal and shout for the police.
But Murray had committed his crime silently, with a thin, slender needle and deadly poison. The thought chilled her to the bone. What kinds of medicine had Murray given her father? Could her father have bestowed the Merrichase to Murray under the influence of some mind-altering drug?
If he did, would there be some kind of evidence?
Doria dried her eyes on her sleeve and got up from the floor. This cabin had been the one her father used. Modern and utilitarian, it didn’t offer many hiding places. There were three bunk beds and six small cabinets to stow personal gear.
She sniffed and headed for the cabinets. After a quick inspection, she found one locked cabinet. Logically, it must contain her father’s personal effects but the possibility existed that some significant clue resided in there as well. A scrap of paper, a prescription bottle, a needle. She fought against the queasy feeling in her stomach.
She needed a key. She tore through her backpack and found a pair of cuticle scissors. Jamming them into the keyhole, she concentrated on trying to spring the lock. She didn’t even hear the cabin door open. When Murray spoke she jumped.
“You were the one who wanted to come on this trip and cook for us,” his deep voice rumbled. “So get out in the kitchen and finish the meal.”
Her heart hammered in her chest but she drew herself up to face him with her scissors clutched firmly at her side, just in case. He stood casually, leaning up against one of the bunks with his gaze fixed on the floor.
She wavered in her defensive stance. He didn’t look like a murderer. She stiffened her spine. Hah. What was a murderer supposed to look like? They committed their inhuman acts in moments of rage, like the man who had held a gun to her head. 
For some unknown reason Murray went off the deep end one day and slipped a deadly needle into his ex-fiancé’s arm. The question was whether he executed her father in the same way.
“W-what medications did you give to my father?” she stuttered.
He lifted his head and sighed. Doria realized his eyes were the same shade of green as the ocean on a bright day. She blinked and stared in wonder for a moment.
“I can give you a list,” he stated. “But perhaps you should talk to the pharmacist since you won’t believe me anyway.”
She shivered as she noticed the scar above his right eyebrow. It lent him the air of a pirate. Greedy and ruthless, he had taken everything from her.
“I want the key to this cabinet,” she demanded.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. Slowly, he worked one off the ring. He held it out to her. Doria picked it out of his hand. His skin felt warm as she touched it. The key held the same warmth.
“We aren’t going back until we have our limit of porgies in the hold.” He turned and left her in the cabin.

≤≥≤≥≤≥≤≥≤≥≤≥

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Deep in the Pine Barrens

Deep in the Pine Barrens
I finished writing Home Somewhere. I spent an inordinate amount of time fussing about the title and even asked friends on Facebook to help me. In the end, I decided to stick with the original idea. Now I have to write a blurb and a synopsis. Then I'll send it out and see if anyone wants to publish it.

It took me a longer than usual to complete this story. At one point, I went for a critique to help me fix the plot, which was going off in too many directions. In addition, I had plans to reissue Sea of Hope and Heaven's Blue, which I did but that was time away from writing. I also wrote Clear as Ice, my Christmas novella.

And, of course, life--as always--provided more distractions for me. But the book is complete with a beginning, a middle that doesn't sag, and an ending.

Part of the story is set in New York City and part of it is set in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Many people who do not live in New Jersey see only the Turnpike as they are passing through the state, which is unfortunate. New Jersey is more than beautiful beaches and oil refineries. The Pine Barrens is unique and important to the ecosystem. A large area of the Pinelands is protected. You can read about that HERE.

I've camped in the Pine Barrens and gone to the annual Cranberry Festival. I went swimming in the cedar water. I've heard the screech of the Jersey Devil. (Well, I think it was him.) So, I decided to include the Pine Barrens in Home Somewhere. 

At any rate, I am really happy I got to the end of the story. I hope I don't spend an inordinate amount of time wrangling with the blurb.
💕😊💕

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day!


I love love. I love happy endings. I believe in love.
So, I write romances. And I read other authors' romances. Romance novels are the BEST!
💖

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Down With Acronyms!


I hate acronyms. English is littered with a mind-boggling and confusing collection of shortcuts. These seems to proliferate most in the medical field where people are labeled with an endless list of capital letters like this: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/appendixb.html

But it seems every group has its own personal set of acronyms. Writers, who one might imagine love to hear the flow of nice long, genuine words all spelled out are noted for a long list of abbreviations. You can read some of those here: https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/abbrev/

In my teaching career I found plenty of alphabet soup: http://images.pcmac.org/uploads/nyecounty/nyecounty/divisions/documentscategories/documents/acronyms_1.pdf

Then there's the political world where nothing is sacred: https://www.allacronyms.com/political/abbreviations

Can't we stop this?  Can't we take a little more time and say Post Traumatic Stress Disorder instead of PTSD? Or Work In Progress instead of WIP?

Please stop the flood of acronyms!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Phantasmagoria

Marlu Lake, Thompson Park
January 25, 2020

Phantasmagoria (from Dictionary.com)

noun
a shifting series of phantasms, illusions, or deceptive appearances, as in a dream or as created by the imagination.
a changing scene made up of many elements.
an optical illusion produced by a magic lantern or the like in which figures increase or diminish in size, pass into each other, dissolve, etc.

I thought of this wonderful old word when I snapped the photo above on Saturday. It rained hard most of that day, but just before evening it stopped. Though it wasn't dark yet, the clouds had not cleared away and mist swirled around everywhere, which gave everything a spooky, shifting appearance. If a giant fish leaped out of the lake while I was there, I probably would have screamed. If a large blue heron flew by, I'm sure I would have been shaken as well. The dream-like scene conjured up illusions in my mind. Anything could have risen from the water: a dinosaur, a mermaid, or a talking frog.

I haven't written a paranormal in a while, but viewing the lake with the fog drifting around on the water had me thinking about it. What kind of story does that lake summon up in your mind?


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sing Old Songs


In The Cowboy's Miracle, Seth finds a battered, old guitar in the guesthouse and strums chords while singing classic western tunes. Mentioned in the book are songs like "Goodnight Ladies," "A Man Without a Woman," "Buffalo Gals,"and "Oh My Darling Clementine." Those songs are cultural gems--a link to our country's past history. Music chronicles historical eras in a very succinct manner. It is another way to bring past times into focus and make them easy to remember.

As a retired teacher, I have worried about the future of music education. Often, the arts are the first thing to go when cuts are made in education. I always included music as part of my curriculum when I taught--especially in a closed classroom situation. My own daughters took piano lessons for years, but in addition our home is packed with music of all types.  

As a family, we sometimes sit around the fire and sing old songs. Once, my younger sister questioned this habit. 

"You're singing the same songs you sang forty years ago," she said. 

I informed her that the old songs are the best songs. They've stood the test of time, but there's more to it. Those songs are references to our national cultural heritage. We should not allow them to fade into dust. 

Teach your children well. Sing old songs. 


Unfortunately, reviews for the book were lost in the process of switching to Kindle Unlimited, but you can read some of them HERE! 



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Except from CLEAR AS ICE!

I neglected to post an excerpt from CLEAR AS ICE! I'll blame my error on the busy Christmas season. But Christmas is over and there's more time to get back to reading--especially when it's cold outside. So settle down with this excerpt. The novella is now available through Kindle Unlimited. If you subscribe to it, you can get the book for free. 

😁

To everything there is a season---a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:4

1

     Haylie’s pulse raced with a combination of fear and excitement as she parked her car by the gully. She got out and swung her skates over her shoulder. The ice on Destiny Lake appeared as smooth as the screen of her laptop. In this corner of central New Jersey, a cold front swept in only one week before Christmas. The lake froze solid.
     Not another soul appeared to have ventured out yet on this early morning and that was perfect. Haylie didn’t want anyone else to witness her halting, miserable performance on the ice—not that anyone she knew lived here anymore. When Superstorm Sandy destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of property, many—like her parents—left their destroyed homes. New people with money, bought the property at rock bottom prices and built new homes raised on tall pilings.
     She walked down the hill through the gully along the well-worn, easy sloping path formed by generations of Fortune Beach youngsters. It warmed her to discover the old trail survived the storm’s devastation.
     At the edge of the lake, the blackened evidence of a small fire touched a sad place inside her. Memories of the times she sat by a fire in the same place rushed into her mind. Those days, which were filled with promise, would never return.
     She pressed her lips together. She was here to conquer the old memories and build new, hopeful ones that couldn’t be crushed or broken—or washed away.
     A large, convenient log lay nearby. Haylie sat, put on her skates, and pulled the laces tight. Though aware her ankles would ache after a few turns, she didn’t care. Seven years ago her world fell apart, but she intended to put it back together as much as possible— and that included skating on this lake. She wasn’t going to skate in an arena and win awards anymore, but she came to realize she needed to skate as much as she needed to breathe.
     It all started at Destiny Lake. She glanced toward the new red house sitting at the top of the hill, and her eyes misted. That house stood in the same spot where her family home used to be until the storm came and the water undermined it. The house was condemned and torn down. Her parents now lived in subsidized senior housing because they had lost everything.
     She turned her gaze back to the frozen lake. She now lived in an apartment two miles away, and if she was thrifty, she could save for a down payment on a house. She hoped to buy one overlooking the lake where her own skating arena would always be available as long as the weather cooperated. She dreamed of placing floodlights on the house so she could direct the beams toward the lake and skate after dark.
     When Christmas came, she intended to host a skating party. She’d put lights in every window of her house as well. She would plant a fir tree in the yard and string lights on it. She’d invite friends to join her in singing Christmas carols and she’d serve hot chocolate and cookies.
     Her glorious fantasy crumbled. The problem with her grand scheme was her lack of friends. There were none from her skating days. After her accident, they all disappeared. The rest of her school friends vanished after years of neglect when she became a virtual prisoner living in a state of perpetual panic from the stress of being stalked by Bret Rounder.
     She inched onto the ice muttering. "I’m over it now." She studied the surface to make sure there were no obstacles—nothing that would catch the blade of her skate and trip her. One broken femur in her life was enough, but she refused to stop doing what she loved. She would skate again. Not professionally, but for fun. For the joy it evoked once upon a time before her life became one long disaster.
     She pushed off and warmed up by gliding along, not going very fast, but seeking a smooth even stroke. The stinging air bit into her cheeks, but she didn’t care. She focused on her balance and the path ahead of her. The lake wasn’t large, but several smaller coves made it much more interesting than going around in circles at an arena.
     A small amount of confidence restored her earlier trepidation. All the skill remained despite her years away. She didn’t intend to try anything daring or dangerous. No jumps. She wanted to slide along as she did when she was young. To be as free as one of the gulls that whirled in the sky.
She swung around and dug in the toe pick of her skate to stop. She almost laughed as she recalled how her coach continually reprimanded her over and over about the proper and professional way to stop. But even her coach had abandoned Haylie after the accident.
     "I’m here to have fun," Haylie spoke out loud to the wind. Her words echoed in the still air. A shiver ran along her shoulders. She turned around. Was someone watching her?
     She shook herself mentally. What nonsense. If someone stared at her from a window it didn’t matter. She was nobody now.
     Her ankles protested after several more minutes, so she headed back to the gully, but she promised herself she’d do a backward crossover for a short distance before quitting. Taking in a calming breath, she held out her arms and pushed off. She smiled as her soul filled to the brim with the glory of the morning. The ice was all hers and hers alone.
     That’s when the loud bark of a dog startled her.
     "Rufus! Come!" The deep voice of a man echoed over the lake.
     She stopped and turned. A large black dog ran towards her. Her pulse jumped. She didn’t trust dogs. Bitten on the lip when she was young, she shied away from dogs ever since. Could she skate faster than the dog could run?
    "Rufus! Come!"
     She glanced at the hill where a man climbed down, grabbing handholds on bushes and trees.
The dog, Rufus, didn’t stop or pay any attention to the shouted command but dashed toward her at a mad pace. She willed herself to be calm. She thought of possible ways to avoid an attack. She wore a thick down jacket and a pair of heavy leggings beneath her jeans. If the dog bit her, he’d get a mouth full of fabric first.
     Ten feet away from her, the dog lost his footing on the slick ice. He let out a cry as he fell on his side and slid—and kept sliding. His couldn’t pull himself up. She moved in time to avoid a collision as the dog went sailing past her.
     The dog cried pitifully as he drifted toward the opposite shore of the lake. She hoped he wasn’t injured but helping a wounded animal could be dangerous.
     Meanwhile, the man descending the hill reached the bottom and started running and sliding across the ice.
     "Hey! Miss! Could you grab Rufus’s collar for me?" he called out.
     "Does he bite?" she shouted out the question. It echoed in the air. She guessed what the answer would be. The owner of the dog who bit her when she was young claimed her dog never bit anyone. But he bit her.
     "Of course not!" The minute the words were out of his mouth, both of his feet went out from under him and he landed flat on his back.
     Shocked into action, Hailey pulled the phone from her pocket and skated toward him. When she reached him, he was staring up at the sky with eyes as blue as the heaven above. She’d never seen a man with eyes of such an intense color. She gazed in surprise for a moment until he turned his head toward her.
     "Sir, should I call 911?" she asked.
     "No." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Please don’t. I’ll never hear the end of it."
     "Are you hurt? Did you hit your head?"
     He opened his eyes and held up a leash. "Would you please fetch Rufus? He won’t hurt you. I promise."
     "What if he’s injured? Wounded animals bite."
     The man’s mouth turned down in a frown. "You’re afraid of dogs."
     "Yes," she admitted.
     He sighed, rolled over, and gingerly managed to get to his feet.
     "Don’t run," she advised. "Walk slowly."
     "Did you see which way he went?"
     "He slid that way." She pointed in the general direction. "There’s another little cove there with lots of marsh reeds."
     "Would you mind accompanying me in case I fall again." His penetrating blue eyes gazed into hers.
     She swallowed hard. Tall and handsome, the man’s chiseled features spoke of strength, but a touch of gentleness lingered around his mouth. Usually, meeting any stranger would put her on edge, but this man did not cause that reaction in her. Had he hypnotized her with his eyes?
     She switched her gaze to the distant marsh reeds. "Actually, I was afraid I would fall when I came out here. It’s been a while since I’ve been skating."
     "You seemed to be doing fine." He took firm but cautious steps on the ice.
     "Were you watching me?" Her pulse began to race with anxiety. She’d skated in front of thousands of people in countless arenas, but this was different. This man could be some sort of stalker—like the one who drove her half crazy. She sensed someone was watching her and she was right. It was him!
     "Rufus was watching you." He shrugged his shoulders. "He barked and insisted I come to the window. I watched for a minute until I remembered I forgot to put out the garbage can for pickup. When I opened the door, Rufus ran out. I guess he really wanted to meet you."
     "Oh." She whispered. Her suspicions were groundless. Once, countless adoring fans cheered for her. Now the only one intrigued with her was a dog. "I hope he’s okay."
     "Me, too." With a somber note in his voice, he continued. "I need that dog far more than he needs me."
     Haylie couldn’t understand why anyone would need a pet. Pets involved a great deal of time and expense. She never owned a pet—of any kind. Not even a goldfish. Her parents’ biggest expense was her and all that expense came to nothing. Guilt remained heavy on her shoulders.
     "I got bit once—right on my lip. The scar is here." She stopped skating and pointed to it.
     His very cold finger touched her lip. Despite his icy skin, a little spark ignited inside her. "Plastic surgery?"
     "Yes," she admitted, a little shaken with the odd sensation coursing through her. Her coach had recommended the surgery. Everything needed to be perfect. Her face, her hair, her outfits, her routine. The pressure was constant. She didn’t miss that at all. But she missed skating. Without it, even on sunny days, clouds hovered in her thoughts.
     As they rounded the corner, they spotted Rufus. He cried and struggled weakly to right himself.
Guilt pricked her conscience. Still, dogs couldn’t be trusted due to their large teeth. Some men couldn’t be trusted either, but the majority of them were as ordinary as her dad. At least, that’s what the counselor tried to drum into her head.
     "Probably hypothermia." The man knelt beside his dog, whipped off his coat, wrapped the dog in it, and hoisted the animal in his arms.
     "Hey," Haylie warned. "You’ll be an icicle in minutes."
     "He’s disoriented. I’ll get him to the vet right away."
     "I’m really sorry." There wasn’t much more she could say.
     "Please stay with me until I get to solid ground."
     "Of course." It was the least she could do. "By the way, there’s an easier path through the gully to get up the hill."
     "Thanks. I’ll try that. Rufus weighs sixty pounds."
     "Should a dog weigh that much?" The memory of all the treats she’d been denied in order to compete never left her.
     "It depends on the breed."
     "I never owned a pet. They’re expensive and time consuming." With her rigorous schedule, she never had time for anything except skating. Yet, she was the one who wanted it. She enjoyed the competition—then.
     "What do you do?"
     "I’m a physical therapist."
     "Even a physical therapist has the time and moneyfor a pet."
     She clenched her teeth to prevent herself from blurting out her life story. This was her new beginning. While circumstances forced it upon her, despite the obstacles she managed to succeed.
She struggled for calm. He didn’t realize all she endured.
     When they reached the gully, she stopped. "I need to change back into my shoes, but I’ll pray for Rufus’s recovery."
     "That won’t do any good," he muttered as he hurried up the path with his burden.


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Thursday, January 09, 2020

Bittersweet--Looking Back and Moving Forward


The photo above is a picture I took of a bittersweet vine. It's an invasive species introduced into this country in the 1800s as an ornamental. From there it took over, spreading by roots and seeds, suffocating plants and felling trees, which is rather impressive when you consider it is only another plant. It takes a lot of work to get rid of bittersweet vines. They are not easy to defeat.

But the bright berries are pretty, even though they are poisonous. So while the vine is delightful to look at, it can be deadly, which is why bittersweet is a very apt name for it. There's pleasure, but there's also regret.

Life is like that. There's the wonderful times and the sad times. With another year gone and a new one just begun, I get anxious. Scary things have happened in the past, and there's no doubt in my mind that some events in the future will be just as bad if not worse. Life comes with no guarantees.

But there will be good times, too. There always are. The bitter and the sweet mingle together. The happy moments, the sad moments, the highs and the lows. One day might be filled with tears. The next might be filled with laughter.

And sometimes, there will be boring days. I've come to appreciate those mundane times where drama is noticeably lacking--except in the pages of a book. I enjoy trudging along in the familiar routine and accomplishing some of the tasks I've set for myself. It's those humdrum times when I seem to achieve far more than I thought I could--when I race along like those bittersweet vines, climbing toward the sun without anything to stop me.

So here's to 2020. I'll move forward and pray for plenty of uneventful days.