Category Archives: Essay

My First…(What Are You Thinking? It’s Not What You Think…)



I had always considered myself a dog person. My co-worker Angie was hell-bent on my adopting a cat. We debated for the afternoon, with no consensus. I was on the fence. Another heartbeat in my apartment would be nice, but a cat? You don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t know cats.

I arrived at my apartment complex after the sun had set. I made my way to the mailbox station and I heard the distinct sound of a cat’s meow. It sounded sad. It sounded nearby. I looked out into the shadows and I saw two pencil thin white lines moving. They were the front paws of the thinnest cat I had ever seen. She meowed again and stopped. We looked at each other. I instinctively reached out to her. She came to me and meowed again. She wasn’t sad as much as hungry. She was beautiful, white with black spots and a spot on her nose.

I ran up to my apartment and brought down a can of tuna. I put it in the bushes for this poor, pathetic animal. I went home. The next day, I told Angie about my encounter with the stray. “THAT’S YOUR CAT!” screamed Angie. I stopped mid-sentence. “You’ve got to be kidding. She’s a wild cat who’s starving. She’s not My Cat” I said, defensively. “No, you don’t understand, cats don’t come to people easily when they are feral. They shy away from people. This cat has picked you out as her person. We have to get her tonight.” Now Angie is a force of nature and what she says will happen, happens. So I found myself looking for this elusive cat that night with Angie who was experienced at catching strays.

There she was. Unlike the night before, she ran away, Angie and I frantically trying to keep up with her. We split apart, each going a separate way around the apartment building. Angie yelled at me, “I’ve got her!” She turned the corner with the little white cat squirming in her arms and her fur was flying in clumps. “Why is her fur flying off her?” I asked. “It’s what cats do when they are really scared” she replied, struggling to hold her.

We took her up to my apartment, I felt unsure about a wild cat running loose in the small space, who knows what diseases she could have. We put her in the bathroom and closed the door. I made plans with Angie to take her to the vet the next day and get her checked out. Angie said “It’s wonderful to be owned by a cat, you’ll see!” I sat in the living room, amazed at what we had accomplished and feeling anxious about the entire unknown wild cat in my house situation.

About an hour later, the bathroom door opened and out came the scrawny white cat who then ran onto my lap and she lay down. I was so surprised, I didn’t move. Was this the same cat I had chased downstairs? She was purring loudly as she lay quietly on my lap. How had she opened the door? The mystery would always remain. Transformed into the picture of domestic bliss; we stayed on the couch for hours. I forgot my caution regarding potential disease, she was purring, she was sleeping, she was on my lap. I knew then Angie was right, I had been chosen to be owned by this particular cat. I named her Smudge and realized at that moment that I was a cat person after all.



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To Speed or Not To Speed; The Journey to Publication From A Newbies Perspective

Example variable speed limit sign in the Unite...

Example variable speed limit sign in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is becoming a writer like driving your car? Do you chart a path of safety, clocking in at a pre-determined speed, careful not to break rules written and unwritten? There is so much traffic, and everyone is jockeying to get to the same places. And everyone is going at their own speed. On this road, there are no police, just a lot of gate keepers and toll booths that will alter your destination time and time again. On this road, I am not bored, I am anxious to get to my destination, the hell with the traffic, the gatekeepers. I want to get to the destination, but I really don’t want to drive. But you say “Getting there is half the fun”. That may be, but I have waited a lifetime to be in the driver’s seat. I am tired of waiting, now that I’ve made the decision to drive, to write.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard writers have to work to get published, to make a life writing. I know you have to pay your dues and work your way up in the craft. I know it takes time and persistence. I guess I just want my break to come sooner rather than later. Is that so bad? Of course I know I have to do all the things writers do, indeed I have to write more. But this road is filled with dreams, and sometimes the dreams get in the way of the work. All my life, I did not believe that I could be a writer since I did not go to school for writing. I know, very limited thinking. I thought that is what it takes to be a writer. But I am finding that while it certainly helps to have the paper behind you for moral support, you really only have to do two things to be a writer and that give yourself permission and then you write.

Getting published is part of the highway I’m traveling on.  It requires diligence and patience and  humility and bravado, (Yes you can have both at the same time.)You have to want the public destination that has your name on it for all to see, and you have to be willing to listen to those who are already at their destination and who are directing you. Bravado and humility. So, I do desire the public destination. I aspire to having my name appear before readers. Yes, I want recognition for my efforts. And I want to be wise about it, so all these other writers who are willing to share what they know are important to me. I want to know what they know. They are guiding my ride and are making me adhere to the posted speed…steady as she goes.

Before being published, (dreams getting in the way again) I have to find my voice. Sometimes when I write, I am inspired and the words flow and the piece comes together and it’s a very a good thing. It makes me happy and the experience is much like being a conduit for the act of creativity, the inspiration takes over and you simply are along for the ride. I love it when that happens. More often than not, I am working to make the subject interesting, to make the words spill onto the page coherently. This is what being a writer is all about. Writing with the inspiration, and writing without it. But always writing.

To be known to others that I’m a writer means jumping in headfirst to social media. Now my ride is feeling a little out of control. The newness of it all. Finding out that I’ve made some mistakes branding myself. Coming to terms with the fact that I am promoting myself as a product. I used to be in sales, and I can sell ice to Eskimos, but that was with someone else’s product that I believed in, now it’s all about me and I have to believe in myself as much as I believed in other people’s products. So, I tweet a little, I blog, and I write a lot. I read even more, always seeking guidance and directions from others. I don’t know squat and I am learning. The ride is still scary.

I will leave my lawlessness for when I’m behind the wheel of my car. For my writing I’m choosing the speed-limit-adhering directional wisdom of others who are making a living writing. The highway has many curves and turns and potholes. I plan to arrive at my publishing destination wise and grateful, and none the worse for the wear. Just because there are potholes doesn’t mean I have to drive through them. Avoiding them is acceptable on the journey. But there doesn’t seem to be a police presence on this writing highway, no flashing blue lights to ruin your day. But then again, this journey is just beginning. I think I may change my view on police once I work with some editors.



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Bound Over Time

Pam 2012

We met when my sister lived behind her in the New England suburb of West Peabody, MA. She is eleven months older than I am. We were teenagers when we got to know each other, sharing a love for my new-born nephew. She would babysit for him, her mother would clean house for my sister. We were instantaneous friends.  She has been a fixture in my life since then.

My mother always told me that you can count your true friends on one hand. She’s right. Through all the years that have passed, “friends” have come and gone. Acquaintances have littered the years, some brought betterment to my life, and some were better forgotten. She is the one person who has remained and who I can say is my true friend.

Sometimes there would be long stretches of time when we wouldn’t see each other, or talk to each other. Not because of a falling out but because life would take its course and there were geographical separations, me in Florida, me two hours away in western MA, me in college, through all those life situations, She remained my confidante, she was the constant through the upheavals, the moves, the bouts with unemployment, the failed relationships, all of life.  When we would reconnect, it was as though no time had passed, or we were in each other’s presence despite the miles that separated us.

She has always inspired me, her life filled with challenges that I think would have bested me. She always has the right attitude, and she handles her challenges with grace. She makes wiser decisions than I do. She is grounded. She gives of herself to others tirelessly. She is a good friend to others.

Now, in mid-life, we are separated by 1500 miles but she manages to visit in person. We can burn up the phone lines and we use email a lot. We are solid despite the distance. We share similarities in that neither of us married or had children. A circumstance that separates you from the majority of the population, but that binds us together. Animals mean more to us as a result. Our nieces and nephews are surrogate children, now on their own.  Though childless we both know the pain of an empty nest and the joy of future generations. The children we knew are now having children. The cycle of life moves on.

From her I’ve learned to be patient, to love and show that love through actions. I’ve learned to assert myself, and to not take grief from others.  I see the results of consistency in her life that will help make the second half of her life better than mine. She has been stable and focused. I have been erratic and scattered. Our paths have brought us to different places but we transcend the differences in position to a common familiarity. We are as different as we are alike.

The relationships that have gone from my life serve a purpose. Primarily to teach me something, then to make me appreciate the true relationships I have that have survived the passage of life. I am grateful for the experiences with these acquaintances no matter how fleeting the time spent with them or how painful their departure. They have made my gratitude for my true friend all the more intense.

We would say we’ll be sitting next to each other in rocking chairs on the front porch of the rest home. I don’t believe that but I do believe she will be in my life when I am old and we will have a comfort of shared history, and we shall remain forever friends.

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Breathing Lessons

When your heart is shattered into a million aching pieces, what do you do? You seek out love’s healing power. When the first two cats I ever owned died within six months of each other after being with me for just eight years, I was consumed by the pain. The loss was simply more than I could stand. I went into survival mode, and what I was compelled to do, seemingly driven by an unseen force, was replace my cats immediately with a kitten. No waiting period, I needed to love something then and there.

Ignoring my previous objections to shelters, (they killed animals as well as saved them. I didn’t think I could stand the reality of all those hopeful eyes begging me for a reprieve) I went to the Halifax Animal Shelter in Daytona. There, I steeled myself, swallowed my grief and went to the cat room. There I was assisted by a volunteer who brought me all the kittens that I thought had potential. There were dozens. This driving force that had brought me to this sterile room of need imparted to me the knowledge that I would know instinctually when I had found The One.

Sitting in the cat room with me was a man who was holding one kitten for the duration of time where I held over a dozen. Another man and his daughter came in and were looking as well. I was watching the first man, envious of his seeming attachment to the beautiful kitten in his hands. He was speaking to it in a low voice, indistinguishable with the other conversations going on in the room. There was something about that particular kitten, so calm and peaceful particularly when juxtaposed to the squirming, rambunctious roommates I had been holding.

I strained to hear what the man was saying to the kitten; “Now you have to let them see your personality, let them see how special you are. You want them to notice you. They will take you home if you do”. The two men struck up a conversation, and I listened in, watching this alluring kitten with predatory interest. The first man was giving the kitten up and was there to help her get adopted. The kitten exchanged hands and I panicked. No, No No, I think she is The One. Please don’t like her, Please don’t take her, I prayed desperately.

The kitten exchanged hands again, the second man saying how nice she was, the first man looking crestfallen. I spoke up, “Please may I hold her?” She exchanged hands again. She settled into my arms. And she gave me a kiss. The man explained that she was here with her brothers who were Hemingway’s with the six toes. She had five and pretty black stripes, but what cinched the deal was her kiss and her settling into my arms after being held for so long. I told the man I wanted her, that she would have a good home and her name would not be Fossy Ears, as she was presently named. No, her name would be Bella and she would be loved completely because she was The One. The urgency of the force that drove me to that shelter was quelled, and I felt peace in the midst of my grief. Bella was love incarnate and she healed me from that first kiss. I can breathe again.




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The Virgin and the IRS

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins (Photo credit:

I’m about to pay my first quarterly tax on money I received from writing. That makes me a writer, doesn’t it? OK, many writers look down on the type of writing that paid me my first revenue, writing for content mills is not deemed worthy of mention in the writing community. I beg to differ. I am not making a lot of money, except for the Ebook chapter I wrote, but I am producing good work and meeting deadlines and client expectations. I am learning about research and SEO writing. I am paying my  dues. It is worthy work for a neophyte.

Paying taxes is such an adult thing to do. It is a form of validation in my eyes. I did work that was good enough to be paid for, and I did it doing something I love, playing with words. This is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I am literally writing new rules to live by. My dreams, and goals are not grandiose and naïve. They are grounded and honed by someone experienced in life’s realities. I do not believe I will be on the NYT Bestseller’s list. I do not picture myself on the Today show. No, I seek simpler triumphs that are based in realistic attainability.

There are a great many sources of information for new writers to research. I am on overload with instructions on building my platform, querying, honing my craft, watching my punctuation (my Achilles heel). Sometimes I think I will explode from all the information I am ingesting. And what is the loudest message I am receiving? Write. Just Write.

It is easy to get side-tracked by social media, by reading the endless amount of relevant blogs. It is easy to get too absorbed in the technical manuals of writing and craft. The thing that matters most is the act of showing up at the blank page and creating magic with words. Practice, Practice, Practice, it’s how we learn anything new.

Writing for me is still a mysterious act. Where do the words come from? Why can I put them together and other people can’t? Why can’t I write creative non-fiction on demand? I am forced to wait for the inspiration and the mood to be “just right” before the words flow. I read that you are to write even when you aren’t inspired. Is writing like a muscle that needs development and constant training for it to perform well? I don’t do well with mysteries. I like answers to questions, and I fear my questions will go unanswered for the duration of my writing career because writing is a mysterious process.

The act of creation cannot be accurately defined. I remember trying to explain the creative process to a very analytical lawyer, and failing miserably after three hours of attempts.  I simply couldn’t give him the exact reason I had created a work of art. It simply had to come into this world by the actions of my hands didn’t cut it for him. He wanted to know what need the object fulfilled. There was no specific, tangible need. It was created from a stirring in me to express myself, but no other outward need. For him, the quilt had to be created because someone was cold and needed a blanket. I created it because the design was in me and needed to come out and be in the world. He never understood art; I never understood not understanding art.

What is in me now, stirring to get out? A book certainly, but the work the book will be chronicling is not done yet. It will be years before the weight-loss journey will be done. So in the interim I write essays and blog posts, and articles I ghost- write for others. The smaller pieces I am writing fulfill the need to create. Whether I am creating art or not is up for debate. What is important is that I am writing. Doing what the sage instructors and mentors of the craft recommend above all else; write, always write. I say, write and pay your taxes. You do the first to pay the second. But if you don’t do the second, you can’t do the first. Pay as you go, write at all costs, and tweet about everything, grounded lessons for a grounded neophyte. Now, where’s my checkbook?


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