Wednesday, December 21, 2016


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Crisp and bitter cold
Snow makes everything seem pure
Have a blessed Yule.
© Teresa Kander 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016


At the time I was born, my parents had been married less than a year. They had met in April 1960 and married on July 30, 1960. (My maternal grandfather was very much against the marriage, which I didn’t learn until I was seventeen. By that time, I felt much the same way, but more on that later.) They were both working full time: Dad was an engineer’s assistant at Buckeye Rural Electric, and Mom was a beautician.
Since they were both working five days a week, I was cared for by a babysitter, a trusted family friend, Mae Roush, known to family and friends alike as Mamaw Mae. According to my mother, Mae treated me like one of her grandchildren, and I was very happy with her. A story that gets told often is of Mae getting frustrated with people asking her how old “he” was, even when I was wearing frilly dresses. She began taping bows to the top of my head, as I didn’t have much hair to speak of, and was even more disgusted when that didn’t seem to make any difference.  
When Mae had to leave us to care for a biological grandchild, Mom and Dad hired another babysitter. I don’t know her name, but I know she didn’t have the job for very long. She apparently took me downtown in my stroller as Mae had done, but she didn’t put nearly as much care into my appearance. When Mom started hearing stories of me being out with a dirty face and dirty clothes, she was upset with the sitter, but the last straw came on a day when I had a cold and it was raining outside. Mom specifically asked that I be kept inside that day for my health, but she learned from one of her customers that I was seen going down the street in my stroller less than an hour after Mom left for work. As soon as Mom heard that, she got on the phone with Dad, who got home before she did, and told him that when he got home that night, he should pay the sitter and fire her. For the next two weeks, I was cared for by my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother, and then Mom became a stay at home mother.

At the age of thirteen months, I got my first pair of glasses. I was born with crossed eyes, which did not correct themselves as my doctor had hoped. Wearing glasses was the next form of treatment, in the hopes that would resolve the issue. Since I was so young, and there was concern I would try to remove the glasses, Mom used rubber bands attached to the earpieces across the back of my head. I kept that first tiny pair of glasses for many years, but somewhere in all the many moves of adulthood, they were lost.
That same summer, it was time to wean me from the bottle. The day that the process was started, Mom and Dad were having a conversation in the hallway near my bedroom. Mom said something about not giving me a “b-o-t-t-l-e” at bedtime, presuming that I wouldn’t know what that meant. She was very surprised when she put me to bed that night without my bottle and walked out of the room.  I started to cry loudly, and through my tears I was screaming “I want my b-t!  I want my b-t now!”  I guess even then I was smarter than they gave me credit for being!
In the spring of 1963, the three of us moved to the first home that I can actually remember clearly. It was a three bedroom home with a full basement, located at 12 Evans Heights in Gallipolis. The third bedroom became my playroom, where I spent a large part of my days, at least until I was old enough to go outside and make friends with the other children who lived on the street.
Around that same time, I decided to display my artistic talents by drawing a magic marker picture for Dad, using the hardwood floor of the playroom as my canvas. When I showed it to Mom, I’m sure she must have been horrified, but I do have to give her credit for handling it well. She left the picture there until Dad got home from work to see it, and then the two of us worked together to clean it off the floor.
One of the stories my mother always tells about me at this age has to do with a day she sent me outside to play in the front yard while she washed dishes, as she could watch me through the window over the sink. She apparently stopped watching at one point, and then realized that as cars went by our house, they were slowing down, pointing toward the yard and laughing. Curious as to what I might be up to, she came outside, where she discovered a totally naked toddler, and found all my clothes neatly folded and stacked on the front steps. I guess you could say that I was a streaker long before it became a fad!

At three and a half years old, I had learned to read well enough to read several of my storybooks to myself, or to anyone else who cared to listen. My Uncle Bob didn’t believe I could actually read, and suspected I had just heard those stories so many times I had them memorized. In an attempt to prove his point,he bought me a new book which Mom assured him I had never seen before that day. When I took the book from his hands and began to read it to them, he had to admit he had been wrong about me.
By the age of four, I was guilty of murder….of a goldfish. My Uncle Bob played a part in this story as well. He came by the house for a visiting, and I was eating an apple. He joked that my goldfish looked hungry and that I should share my apple. Not knowing any better, I later tossed what remained of the apple into the fishbowl. The next morning,I discovered my poor fish had gone belly up.
After three years of wearing glasses, with the adults hoping they would improve my condition, my eyes were still crossed. The next course of action was for me to have surgery to correct the problem by shortening the muscles attached to my eyes, which occurred in the spring of 1965. I only have little snippets of memory from my recuperation period at home, but Mom likes to tell a story from the hospital which is more about the nurse caring for me than about me.
When Mom and Dad were allowed to see me right after the surgery, the nurse told them she knew I was awake, but I was refusing to respond to her. She walked over to my bed to demonstrate, and said “Terri, can you hear me? Are you awake?” and when I didn’t respond, she looked at Mom, apparently expecting her to do something about the situation.
Mom gave her a disgusted look and said “If you would call her by her name, I’m sure she would answer you. She has no idea who you are talking to.” (Both eyes were covered by bandages, making me temporarily blind.) To prove her point, she walked over to the bed and asked “Teresa, are you awake?”
Without hesitation, I responded “Yes, Mommy, but I can’t see you!”
When we got home, I had two metal patches on my eyes, as well as tongue depressors taped to my arms to keep me from bending them, so I couldn’t remove the patches. Mom and Dad put me to bed, and told me to let them know if I needed or wanted anything. A little later, I heard my maternal grandmother in the living room, and couldn’t help myself---I got out of bed and made my way out of my room, then felt along the wall of the hallway to make my way to where the adults were, at which point I surprised all of them when I spoke up and said “Hi Granny.”
The worst part of the experience that I can remember had to do with the stitches. As they began to dissolve, the ends would be in my eye. That meant Mom had to apply a very warm washcloth to each eye for several minutes each, at least twice a day. I hated having to sit still that long, and I wasn’t happy with the heated wash cloth, always felt TOO hot to me.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Flash Fiction:Rolf

This came from my writers group last weekend. Each person created two characters, then we passed them to the people on our left and right. The two characters I received were as follows:

1) An alcoholic firefighter who wants to open a home for kittens.
2) Rolf Koenig--a former warfighter who now smuggles drugs to the first moon colony. He is also raising a teenage son, trying to keep him away from the crime community.

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Rolf Koenig arrived at the moon colony right on schedule. He had brought his teenaged son, Leif, along for the ride this time, attempting to get some quality time with him. Leif was having behavioral issues at school, and Rolf had been hoping to get to the root of that problem.

The trip up to the colony had not been as productive as Rolf had hoped. Leif was engrossed in his virtual reality world and resisted all efforts at conversation. Now that they had arrived, Rolf had to concentrate on unloading his cargo and getting it delivered to his contacts without attracting the attention of the local authorities.

Being a newly-widowed single father was difficult enough, but coupling it with being a drug smuggler who was trying to keep his son unaware of his occupation was even worse. As far as Leif knew, his father was merely a delivery courier for a major corporation. 

Father and son carried the three large crates out of the cargo hold of the ship and placed them in the cargo vehicle. Checking the invoice, Rolf plotted the coordinates and they set off to make their first delivery.

Arriving at the colony's fire prevention station, they were greeted rather over-enthusiastically by Andy, one of Rolf's regular clients. Stumbling his way to the vehicle, Andy slurred "Good morning, gents," and mimed a tip of his hat.

Leif, who always treated the old alcoholic kindly, asked if he had any new kittens in the station or at home. Andy smiled widely as he answered. "Had another five dropped on my doorstep yesterday, which makes the current total thirty. The good news is, I've found a reasonably priced warehouse I can renovate into a cozy living space for them, and I'll still have room for plenty more."

As Rolf listened to the two of them continue to talk about the cats, he wondered if Leif's opinion of the firefighter would change if he knew Andy's money for the project came from selling the drugs they were delivering to him. And what would he think of his father for smuggling the drugs in the first place? Maybe it was time to stop bringing Leif along on these trips, and to find him a boarding school where he could be kept apart from this life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday World Of Words: I Am

I Am
I am compassionate and loving
I wonder how the world really sees me
I hear the whispers in the wind
I see a rainbow in the sky
I want to be more courageous
I am compassionate and loving

I pretend that everything is fine
I feel the sand beneath my toes
I touch the hearts and minds of others
I worry about my children and my husband
I cry about the people that I miss
I am compassionate and loving

I understand that life is short
I say live every day to its fullest
I dream of what could have been
I try to make others happy
I hope that I'll be remembered fondly.
I am compassionate and loving
© 2012 Teresa Kander

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Morning Memories: Meeting a Cozy Mystery Author

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, I was privileged to be able to attend a book-signing event for Tonya Kappes at Books & Company, at The Greene. Tonya is the author of several cozy mystery series, the most recent of which is the Ghostly Southern Mystery series. I've been a Facebook friend of Tonya for a while, but this was our first time to meet in person.

After greeting one another with hugs like long lost friends, we introduced each other to our respective husbands, and stood talking with another couple who had come to see Tonya that evening. Tonya joked about how "shy and private" she is, as she talked about her sons and her pets. Eventually, we had to break up our little group and move to the area which was set up for Tonya's talk.

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Tonya revealed herself to be a very good speaker. She told us a wonderful story about where she got the idea for this current series of mysteries--her very own ghost story. As with all of her series, this one is set in a fictional small town (in the South, of course), and there is always some tie to her real life.

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There was a brief question and answer period which enabled us to learn a little more about Tonya, and then she made herself available to sign books and talk to her readers (she prefers not to use the term "fan").  As you can see from the photo below, she and I were still laughing and joking as we took pictures together.

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Aside from the two books I brought with me to be signed, everything in the picture below was freebie stuff that Tonya gave out to everyone who attended this event.  It's quite an impressive haul!

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If you would like to learn more about Tonya and her books, be sure to visit You can also find her on Facebook at Tonya Kappes, Author:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Flash Fiction: Francine

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 “What did you want to tell me?” Gary asked earnestly. “It must be special, considering the atmosphere of this place.”

Francine smiled sweetly. “Very special. Life-changing, in fact.” She took a deep breath and then continued. “I’m breaking up with you, Gary.”

“What? WHAT?” His voice rose, but then he clamped his mouth shut, remembering they were in public.

“I know your secret, Gary, and I’m not going to keep being complicit in it. I won’t blow your cover, but that’s all I’ll offer.”

With that, she stood, blew out the candle and walked away without a single backward glance.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday World Of Words: Where I'm From

I am from plastic pools in the yard in the summer, wooden sleds down the hill in winter; from RC and Fresca, Chef Boyardee and Lucky Charms; from Barbie dolls and transistor radios.

I am from the house with the big yard and the deck I helped my father build; from the pool table in the basement and the beautiful white bedroom suite. I am from the soft spring breezes and the colorful autumn leaves; from the majestic Ohio River and the gently rolling hills.

I am from the tobacco crops and the fields of green beans; from the potatoes and the tomatoes; from the corn and the cucumbers. I am from the trees I climbed fearlessly, and the swing set where I practiced my acrobatics; from the "hole" where we played with Matchbox cars and the futures we created in our imaginations.

I am from family reunions every year and Sunday afternoons at Granny's; from cousins who were my best friends and playmates, and scary movie marathons on New Year's Eve. I am from Danners and Johnsons, from Wards and Lamberts.

I am from hard workers who gardened and canned, from frugal people who haggled and bargained shopped. I am from patriots who served their country proudly, from moral, ethical people who held to their standards in the face of every temptation.

I am from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, from the Tooth Fairy and the bogey man. I am from trick or treating for hours, and getting popcorn balls, apples, and even apple cider and donuts from the neighbors. I am from bedtime stories and weekly trips to the library, from valuing education and all types of learning.

I am from church every Sunday, whether you wanted to go or not, from Vacation Bible School and children's choir. I am from youth group and play practice, from confirmation and church camp, from doubt to faith and back again.

I am from Gallipolis, Ohio, but I'm also from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland. I am from George Washington's brother, and from Queen Elizabeth I's aunt. I am from meatloaf and mashed potatoes, from apple butter and from bread and butter pickles. I am from country gravy and biscuits, from sweet tea that's nearly syrup.

I am from the River Recreation Festival and the Gallia County Fair. I am from the home of Bob Evans and O.O. McIntire. I am from the town of the French Five Hundred, where Lafayette once stayed at the Our House Tavern.. I am from watching the Delta Queen move peacefully down the river, from barges heaped with coal.

I am from two people who married just two months after their first meeting. I am from hard-working country folks who married as teens. I am from equally hard-working "city" folk who married in their early twenties.

I am from pictures in a photo album, from black and white and from color. I am from Christmases and birthdays, from graduations and vacations. I am from putting on my new dress just to have my picture taken on the front porch. I am from slumber parties and birthday cakes, from football games and band contests.

I am from six years as an only child, and from being a big sister to my younger brother. I am from a happy family of four, and from a "broken home." I am from stepparents and stepsiblings, and ever changing family relationships.

I am from failed marriages and finding true love, from a son, two daughters and a young grandson. I am from teaching and writing, from trying to figure out just who I am.

I am from everything that has ever existed.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Morning Memories: Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat!

 It was over 17 years ago when this incident happened, and I can still remember it very vividly. My older two children had been living with their father for about six months when I learned that was not where they were staying any longer. Their father and stepmother had separated, and the children were not staying with either of them, but with their paternal grandfather. Since he had no custody rights to them, I wanted to go pick them up and bring them back home with me. Unfortunately, my then husband and I did not have a vehicle, nor did we have access to one, which was frustrating me beyond belief.

I was online discussing the situation with my friend Dave, who lived in Texas (we were in Ohio), and was stunned beyond belief when he offered to drive to our home, pick us up and take us to pick up the children. (As a little background, Dave and I were strictly online friends at this point, who had never talked on the phone or met in person, but who had discovered a lot of parallels to our lives, and had become very close in a short time) I felt a little "strange" about accepting his offer, but at the same time there was this sense of it being the right thing to do, so I told him I would discuss it with my husband and get back to him. About half an hour later, Dave called and we worked out a few details, and he said he'd be getting on the road ASAP, and would see us the following evening.

The next day, we heard from Dave several times, giving us an update on his current location. When he finally arrived, bearing gifts on top of giving us his time, it was just as easy to talk to him in person as it had been online. We sat around talking and laughing for a while, then called it a night so we could get an early start the next morning.

Sunday morning, we had a four hour drive to get to the home of my former father-in-law. We had decided not to call and let them know we were coming, as we weren't sure they would be there when we arrived if we gave them any warning.

My husband and I went to the door when we got there, and the kids let us in, full of excitement. When I told them I was there to take them home, they were even MORE excited. My former father-in-law was less thrilled...he said that since my former husband wasn't there, he would have to discuss all of this with him before he could do anything. I understood him wanting to let his son know what was going on, but I reminded him that physical custody of the children was mine alone, by law, and that I had the papers with me to prove it, so there was nothing he could do to stop me from taking them.

In the end, we decided to take the kids out for a few hours, to a nearby museum, and give him time to contact his son without us all hovering around. We had a good time that day, as Dave and the kids got to know each other...and all of them ganged up on me, since teasing me was something they had in common. During that time out, Brian let us know that he wanted to stay a little longer with his grandfather, as the upcoming week was final exam week for him...but Samantha was finished with school for all intents and purposes.

Back at the house, we were greeted with a strange sight....the house was dark, and we got no response to ringing the doorbell. Brian went around the house, looking to see if he could see anyone home, knocking on windows and on the back door. After a few minutes, "The Colonel" came out onto the front porch, closing the door firmly behind him.

That's when it got even stranger....he informed us that he had contacted the local police department and that they would be arriving momentarily. He had contacted my former husband who had given his permission for the children to leave (as if I needed that!), but "The Colonel" wanted to make sure that it was all legally done (as if I was going to believe that a LAWYER didn't know what my custody papers meant!). So we stood there waiting patiently for the police officers to arrive.

Once the police got there and read the papers, they told "The Colonel" that there was really nothing for them to do, as long as we were going to be respectful and peaceful. He asked if they would stay and supervise the packing, adding that he didn't want the children to take anything he had bought for them. The police officer said they could take anything that was their personal clothing or belongings, no matter who bought it for them. He said "We're talking clothes and toys here, not microwaves or televisions. What are you going to do, wear their clothes and play with their toys?"

Unfortunately, "The Colonel" wasn't finished trying to stymie our plans. Turns out the front door had "somehow" gotten locked when he came out...and he didn't have his keys on him. He started talking about us going home, while he and the kids stayed somewhere overnight and got a locksmith to come out the next day, and then we could come back the following weekend to get the kids and their things. I just smiled and told my husband to go ask Dave, who was waiting in his van, if he had his tools with him. As he walked away, I informed the police officers and "The Colonel" that Dave was a licensed locksmith, and that I was fairly sure he kept his tools with him at all times. The look on the face of "The Colonel" was simply priceless....I knew there wouldn't be any other roadblocks that day.

It took Dave just a matter of seconds to unlock the front door for us, at which time one police officer took Samantha upstairs to help her pack up her things. His partner stayed downstairs to talk to Dave, as he said he had never seen a "legal" set of lockpicking tools.

And since that day, any time either Dave or I say "Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" the other knows exactly what that means....LOL.

So, that's the story of how a virtual stranger became my "bestest" friend in the course of one weekend, and why he'll always have a special place in my heart...and always be "Uncle Dave" to Samantha. We love you, Dave...always have, always will!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Story Fragment #6: Kindergarten Lawyer

Amanda King walked confidently into the conference room to meet her opposing counsel. The paperwork she had read about this case had convinced her that a mutually agreeable compromise could be reached in no time.

The scene that created her inside the conference room stopped her dead in her tracks, however. Her client, the owner of a local convenience store, sat on one side of the table, looking less than thrilled to be spending his Friday morning in a lawyer's office. Directly across from him, dressed impeccably in a shirt and tie, sat a young man of no more than six. In a chair against the wall sat a twenty-something female, to whom Amanda directed her conversation.

"Good morning. I'm Amanda King, counsel for the plaintiff. Are you representing the defendant?"

The other woman laughed. "No, I'm the mother of the defendant, Katie Hamilton. Miles here is defending himself."

Amanda was speechless. The six-year-old child who was accused of vandalizing her client's store intended to defend himself--and his mother was willing to allow it? This was definitely not something they had covered in law school!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Story Fragment #5: Heather

Location: Library
Object: Fur coat
Character: Heather Robson (19 yrs old, gentle, impulsive, scared of dentists)

Heather Robson sat in the library pretending to read the book in front of her. Unfortunately, it was impossible to concentrate on the words. Nothing was able to hold her attention this morning other than the throbbing pain of her toothache.

Heather had been terrified of dentists for as long as she could remember. Now, at 19, she really needed to go see one, and just couldn't bring herself to do it. There had to be some other way to deal with this problem. Maybe she could just pull the tooth out herself and get on with her life.

Just as she was about to head home and give her solution a try, she was approached by another library patron. An elderly woman, wearing a fur coat which had seen better days, patted her on the shoulder.

"Don't fret, dearie," the old woman whispered to Heather. "I know just what you need. Take this card, and be at this address in an hour. If you are, your dental problem will be solved in no time."

"" Heather stammered. She got no response from the woman, who shuffled away and disappeared into the rows and rows of books.

Looking down at the card in her hand, Heather couldn't believe what she was seeing. The dark blue card, dotted with tiny yellow stars, contained the following information: Melisande Kaldar Othalon, Spiritual Healer. It also provided an address ten blocks from the library.

How had the woman known about her toothache? And how was she going to help her? Just what was a "spiritual healer," anyhow?

She knew she should probably just toss the card in the trash and head for home. But something deep inside her was intrigued by the situation and wanted to know more.

Story Fragment #4: Callista

Callista Carmichael was looking forward to her waitressing shift at Red tonight. The restaurant was undeniably unique, in that it catered strictly to vampires.

She had seen some pretty crazy things in the three years she had been working there. One evening, a group of vampires had arrived on motorcycles, their leather jackets emblazoned across the back with rainbow unicorns. Another night, she overheard a conversation about ostrich races in Africa, and one patron had even shown her a picture of himself astride his winning bird.

She hoped that tonight wouldn't involve any catastrophes, however. She shuddered as she remembered last year's  Halloween party, when a clueless human had wandered in with a pop gun, and had nearly gotten himself attacked by the group of angry vampires who surrounded him.

Walking up to a table of four patrons, Callista greeted them and took their order. As they ordered, she observed a tiny black cat under the next table, contentedly munching on a pile of cheese crackers. One she had written down the preferred blood types for the vampires at the first table, she continued on to the next, where a lovely young lady sat alone.

"Hey, Katrina--what's up with the cat?" Callista inquired.

"Funny story, Calli--that's my friend, Patrick. He was playing around with this old spell book he found in his grandmother's attic, and the next thing you know, he'd accidentally turned himself into a cat. So we have an appointment with Madame Yvette, so see if she knows how to change him back."

Callista chuckled and shook her head. "You know, I could never make up stories this good! I wouldn't trade this job for anything, not even a bag of gold."

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Story Fragment #3: Meghan

It was a quiet morning in the desert. The lonely ghost town was miles away from any real form of civilization. Fifteen year old Meghan woke slowly, confused by her unfamiliar surroundings.

As she became more aware, it all came flooding back to her in horrifying detail. She had been walking home from school yesterday while talking on the phone to her best friend Kristy. She hadn't given any thought to the black van parked several blocks from the school--at least not until two men in dark clothes, with ski masks over their faces, stepped out of the shadows, grabbed her, and tossed her into the van.

The van ride had been long and uncomfortable. Her captors forced her to remain on the floor, and they had bound her hands and feet, as well as covering her mouth with duct tape. She couldn't see where they were going, and she soon lost all sense of direction as well as time.

When they finally stopped and she was pulled to her feet, she realized any dream of escape was futile. They were miles away from her home in Phoenix, deep in the desert. Even if she found a way to break free, there was no chance she could find her way home, especially not on foot.

The three captors, who still hadn't spoken a word to her, let her into a small cabin, shoved her down onto a bed, and after removing the bonds from her hands, handcuffed her to the headboard. Then they unbound her feet and removed the duct tape from her mouth.

Reggie The Rhino

The last time I wrote a poem was in December 2014, but one of the exercises at writer's group this morning inspired me to write one, and it just came flowing out in a rush.  I had a few people say that it would make a good children's book, so that's something for me to think about.  :)

There was a young rhino named Reggie
Whose political views were quite edgy
His jungle friends knew he was a winner
When he received an invite to the White House for dinner
On the night he was scheduled to dine
He polished his horn till it shined
He was dressed to impress--
In a tuxedo no less--
And he entered the room with an elegant air,
Then looked around for a suitable chair.
After surveying the room with a critical glint
He strode right up to the President
With a haughty tone he loudly declared
"Dear sir, I believe you are quite unprepared
To accommodate someone of my girth
As I would crush any one of these chairs of great worth.

TDK  7/23/16

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Story Fragment #2: African Adventure

Sinece was excited to be on her first photo safari in Africa. Having spent most of her adult life in New York City, this was well outside her comfort zone but was something she had always wanted to do.

Today the group was headed toward the river, hoping to catch sight of animals as they came to quench their thirst. Sinece had overheard the guides discussing both a pride of lions and a herd of elephants in the area this morning, so she was dreaming of the shots she would take.

Laurence, one of the guides, suddenly shouted and pointed off in the distance. Following his gaze, Sinece saw a cloud of dust headed their direction. It was obviously a vehicle rather than wildlife, which gave Sinece a feeling of dread.

The vehicle, which turned out to be a truck full of military personnel, drew to a stop inside their camp. The guides and tourists gathered around the obvious leader of the group, who introduced himself as Major Obongo.  As he spoke, Sinece became even more distressed.

According to Major Obongo, he and his men were looking for a lost group of tourists who had been canoeing down the river. They had last been seen, with their four canoes, two days ago. Yesterday, one of the canoes had been located, devoid of tourists and equipment, at the bottom of the falls a mile away from this camp. There had been no sign of the other canoes or any members of the group.

Story Fragment #1: Possible scene for Daycare Can Be Murder

Arabella looked around the classroom at her young charges and smiled. They were all quickly settling into the routine after just two days, which was an epic accomplishment.

Just as she was ready to jump into the morning's activities, a wail sounded from the block corner. Kelsey Hanna, looking adorable in her pink sundress, had huge tears in her bright blue eyes as she spoke. "Miss Bella, Max threw a block at me."

Arabella  looked at Max Randall, who was staring at the floor as he twisted his Spiderman shirt in his hands. "Max, what's going on?"

"Sorry, Miss Bella," he muttered. "I just wanted to build by myself."

"Next time, try using your words instead of the blocks, Max," Bella suggested. "Now, how about you tell Kelsey you're sorry and give her a hug?"

Once the two children had made peace, Bella distracted Kelsey from the block corner by asking if she would like to be the one to feed Pickles, the classroom fish, this morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hope Lives On

By Teresa Kander

Hope trudges out the back door of the diner. The long shift had her head spinning, her legs weak. After she unlocked the car, she sensed someone’s presence. She turned, blinking twice, not believing what she saw.

“Will?” She was barely able to make the words come out of her mouth. “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

He pushed his blonde hair away from his twinkling green eyes and his mouth formed what Hope had once thought of as an impish grin. “You know what I always say--where there’s a Will, there’s a way.”

She opened the car door then turned back to face him before getting in. “I’m sorry you wasted your time. I’ve got nothing to say to you.”

Hope’s mind was racing during the drive home. What did he want? How had he found her? What was she going to do? The knot in her stomach was growing, and the tears in her eyes threatened to spill over.

She sighed, recalling her teen years in Ohio. She had dreamed of a career in the music industry, of being a pop star someday--but those dreams were broken and left behind, thanks to a disastrous relationship with Will. They fell in love, he introduced her to drugs, and her life went downhill from there. Now she was fresh out of rehab, working as a waitress and trying to put together a new life. She hadn’t seen Will since they were arrested, and she had certainly never expected to see him here in Arizona.

She had to pull herself together. She was no longer the girl she used to be. No way would she let herself be moved by one short encounter. She knew she was stronger than that.

By the time she got home, she had calmed her nerves and formulated a plan. She knew what had to be done, and just who could help her.

As soon as Hope got inside her apartment and locked the door behind her, she picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. The instant someone picked up, she had two words to say.

”He’s here.”

“Are you alright, Hope?” The male voice the other end of the line was full of concern. “What happened?”

Hope described her brief conversation with Will, then asked “So what do I do now?”

“Just go on with your daily routine, as long as he doesn’t threaten you. I’ll be there tomorrow, and we’ll take care of the problem.”
Sleep came in fits and starts that night. Every little sound had her wondering if Will were outside watching her. This was no way to live, for sure.

The next day was Hope’s day off, so she didn’t have to worry about Will lurking around the diner. Mid-afternoon there was a knock on her door. Looking through the peephole, she breathed a sigh of relief and threw open the door.

Anyone seeing Hope with the man standing in her doorway would have known in an instant they were family--same dark skin, same brown eyes, same shiny black hair. Her father had arrived, ready to take care of his little girl.

Hope hugged her father, then ushered him inside the apartment, once again locking the door behind them.

“It’s so good to see you, Daddy. I just wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Don’t worry, honey,” he said. “We’ll take care of this problem in no time.”

Hope smiled at her father and took his hand, leading him toward the sofa. Sunshine was pouring through the windows, so she could almost forget the fear of the night before and begin to relax. Just having her father with her made her believe that everything was going to be fine.

He turned to her, his only child, a somber look on his face. His eyes were dark and foreboding. It was time to get down to business.

“You know what we have to do now, don’t you, Hope?” His voice was cold and stern, and she was taken aback.

“Yes, Daddy,” she answered quietly. She was once again reminded of the chasm between her father’s life and the life she longed to create for herself. If she went through with what she knew he was planning, she would be drawn into his world again, and she might never be able to break free.

Before he could continue, she spoke once more. “Daddy, I know what you have in mind for Will, but I want you to let me try something first.”

But convincing her father wasn’t going to be an easy task. He had obviously formulated his plan before leaving Ohio, and he was determined to see it through.

“I don’t want you to get hurt, Hope. My way, we know for sure he’ll never bother you again.”

Hope twirled a strand of hair around her finger, just as she’d always done as a child. No matter how old she was, her father could always make her feel like that little girl. She often wondered if that was how he kept everyone in his life toeing the line--by that strong intimidation.
“Dad…” She hesitated before going on, taking a deep breath to steady herself. “At least let me tell you what I have in mind before you dismiss it totally.”

Reluctantly, her father agreed to listen to her idea. By the time she finished laying it out for him, he had to concede that it just might work, but he still had his fears and doubts. One area where he absolutely refused to compromise, however, was when Hope insisted he go back home to Ohio. He made it very clear he was staying with her until this situation was resolved.

After another night of tossing and turning, Hope set off for a day of work and of putting her plan into action. She had convinced her father to stay at her apartment, out of sight. If Will saw him, it might arouse his suspicions and ruin everything.

As usual, the diner was buzzing with activity through the early morning hours, so Hope barely had time to think. When she took her break, she went out the back door, looking forward to the quiet as well as the fresh air. To her surprise, Will was waiting there for her, leaning his lanky body again the building. His blonde hair looked as though it hadn’t seen a comb in days, and he was wearing his usual black t-shirt.

“Good morning, gorgeous.” He behaved as if their most recent conversation hadn’t ended on such a sour note. “Did you miss me?”

“Of course I did.” She forced a brief smile, then looked contrite. “I’m sorry about the other day. I was just so surprised to see you, you know?”

“No problem, babe. I was hoping for a more enthusiastic welcome, naturally, but I’m willing to let you make it up to me.” He opened his arms, obviously expecting her to step into them.

Hesitantly, Hope moved toward him and tried not to stiffen as he pulled her into his embrace. But when he moved to kiss her, she turned her head so his lips brushed across her cheek.

“Okay, okay,” Will smiled. “I got it. You don’t want to rush right back into things. It’s been awhile, so I can understand. You want to start out slow.”

Hope smiled and agreed with him, then realized she had to get back to work. Before she went into the diner, she agreed to meet Will at his motel after her shift so they could talk.

Five o’clock came much too soon for Hope that day. As she got into her car, she made a quick call to her father, to let him know she wouldn’t be home until later. He again expressed concern for the plan she was putting into action, but she assured him she would never let her guard down.

When Will opened the door of his room and almost immediately suggested dinner at a nearby restaurant, she was glad she had taken the time to change out of her uniform before leaving the diner. Her skinny jeans and purple silk blouse seemed a much better match for the man who stood before her. His hair was combed back, and along with what looked like practically new jeans, he wore a pale blue long sleeved shirt that actually had a collar.

Will led her to a quiet table for two near the back of the restaurant. They made small talk until they ordered dinner. Then he finally got to the reason he had invited her to this meeting.

“I need your help, Hope. I know it’s crazy, me asking you for help, but you’re the only one I could turn to at this point.” He looked honestly scared, and she realized it was the first time she’d ever seen that emotion from him. “Before we got arrested, I stole some money from my supplier, and he still hasn’t forgotten that. He wants his money back, or me dead, whichever is easier. And Hope, I hate to have to be the one to tell you this...but the guy I worked for was your dad.”

She was torn between anger and revulsion. “My dad? Are you serious? Are you SURE?” She knew her father was involved in some rather unsavory ventures, but if this were true, in some ways it was because of him that she had been arrested, gone to jail, and had to give up her dreams. This was just too much to handle at one time.

Will continued to talk, giving her proof that he’d been working for her father, and that her father now wanted him dead. Hope listened, but remained in a fog during dinner. She had never expected to hear anything like this when she started to put her plan into action.

“Will, I want you to come back to my apartment with me right now. My father is there.” She paused as she saw the shock on his face. “I know it probably sounds like a setup, but I promise you that it’s not. I just think the three of us should sit down and try to work this out before something terrible happens.”

Even though Will was less than enthusiastic about her idea, she was finally able to convince him to go home with her. When they arrived, she opened the apartment door and, with Will still standing outside, called out to her father.

“Dad, can you come here, please? I need to talk to you.” Hope did her best to keep the anger and frustration out of her voice.

Her father came out of the guest room with a gun in his hand. “This is going to be even easier than I imagined,” he said to Will. “I was sure I’d have to trail Hope to find out where you were staying. But instead, here you are, threatening the two of us, forcing me to shoot you.”

Hope couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “So it’s true then? You were Will’s drug supplier all along? While you were lecturing me on my drug use, and on my arrest, you were the one behind it all? What a hypocrite!”

“There’s a difference between family and business, and he…” Her father waved his gun toward Will, “He was the one who blurred the lines between the two. And then, to add insult to injury, he tried to steal money from me.”

Hope put her hands on her hips. “And that was the real problem, wasn’t it? Not that he introduced your only child to drugs, or even that my relationship with him led to my arrest. No, what you cared about then, and what you still care about five years later, is your money.”

He ignored Hope and stood in front of Will, still brandishing the gun at him. Will firmly shoved Hope behind him, attempting to shield her from harm. The two men stood nearly toe to toe, staring each other down.

Her father sneered. “So, Will, do you have my money?”

“No, afraid I don’t,” Will told him. “But it sure helped my mom live comfortably while I was locked up.”

Her father didn’t say another word. Instead, he rapidly fired six shots into Will’s chest, then watched him fall to the floor and smiled cruelly. It was as though he had completely forgotten Hope was in the room.

But she was quick to remind him of her presence. As Will’s lifeless body hit the floor and his blood spread across the room, Hope pulled her own gun out of her purse and pointed it at her father.

“Don’t move--don’t even think about moving. Just stand there and listen. Do you think any of this was a coincidence? I found out about your drug business from the cop who arrested me, but I knew I had to bide my time. When Will got out of prison, I knew it wouldn’t take long for him to find me. And I knew the mention of his name would be enough to make you come running. Now I’ll be rid of both of you, and I’ll be able to take control of my life!”

As she finished speaking, she mimicked what her father had done to Will moments earlier, firing six bullets into his chest. His body joined Will’s on the floor, and Hope completed the scene by wiping her prints off the gun and putting it into Will’s hand. Now it would appear the two men had shot one another. No one would ever suspect a third person’s involvement...especially since the apartment had been rented in her father’s name.

Back in her car, heading into the night and toward Ohio, Hope congratulated herself. Once she got home and told her story, there would be no questioning the fact she was now the woman in charge. Daddy’s little girl had found her place in the world.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Learning To Be Me

I'm a people pleaser...there, I said it! I want everyone around me to be happy. Unfortunately, I have a history of doing almost anything asked of me to ensure that happiness, even sacrificing my own happiness in the process.

It started in childhood. Older members of my family wanted me to become a nurse, so that was what I said I wanted to be when I grew up, even though I actually yearned to be a teacher. I joined a candy striper program in high school and hated every minute of it. Some weeks I would sign in, then spend my shift hiding in the restroom until it was time to sign out.

I received a full scholarship to nursing school and forced myself to endure the first quarter of the program. I even made it through one week of the second quarter before reaching my breaking point. One evening I wrote a short note, swallowed an entire bottle of Tylenol tablets, and went to bed, thinking it was the only way I could escape from my hopeless situation. Fortunately,  I was rescued before it was too late and somehow found the courage to tell my mother I was going to pursue a career in education rather than nursing.

My first marriage came about because I was pregnant and it was "the right thing to do." I put up with a variety of bad behaviors from my husband because I was trying to avoid conflict and keep my family together. I nearly had a nervous breakdown during my second pregnancy because it was such a difficult time, and I had to go through most of it on my own--even more so emotionally than physically--while living in a foreign country and also trying to care for a three-year-old. Once again, I reached my breaking point, shortly after the birth of our second child, and I walked away from the marriage. There was no way we could fix it, yet I still felt guilty for letting everyone else down, regardless of how much better it made me feel.

In my second marriage, I spent years putting up with emotional and physical abuse, hiding it from my family and friends, thinking I somehow deserved it. I told myself that if I were a better wife, then it wouldn't be happening. Yet, no matter how much I changed, trying to make him happy, it was never good enough.

I can't count the number of other times I've given up plans of my own, shelved dreams and hopes, or even gone so far as trying to be someone I'm not, just so the people who matter to me can have the life I think they deserve or at least some temporary happiness. Yet, every time I do those things, I build up a little more resentment and eventually I come again to a breaking point where I have to let it all out, or walk away, or find a way to restore some balance.

In 2014, I read EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert and found several passages that resonated with me. These words were most important:
           When you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles            of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt.

In the months after reading that book, I definitely began to grab onto happiness, holding on tight...and it's begun to lift me from the dirt. For a while, I felt I had lived the best part of my life and that all I had to look forward to was just getting by--that being "sort of happy" was all I deserved. Now I know better. I am happy...truly happy...and it makes a difference not only in the way I look at life, but also in the way other people look at me. At a recent family reunion, we were watching a video from 1995, and one of my aunts remarked I still look the same, only happier.

I'm still a work in progress, but the goal is to stop trying to please other people with every decision I make, and to start making decisions that make me happy, that bring me closer to the life I've always imagined was right for me. It's a one day at a time struggle, but it becomes less of a struggle every day.