Willie McBee


I slept in, 8:30, very late for me. I spent the rest of the morning creating an editorial/writing calendar. I work better with a planner. I put headphones on and filtered the world out. I accomplished my task creating a schedule that will carry me through December. I was pleased. I included Cultural Salad postings, the fledgling writing groups with which I am involved; I included my Sci-fi novel, the blog, and essays. I have allotted time once a week to copy and paste my student comments into a word document.

I shared lunch with my fellow writers and returned to my desk. We made guacamole, shrimp, salmon and roasted carrots. Good stuff.

I returned to my room and opened the sci-fi document and began editing it. I spent almost three hours writing. Focused, seeing outcomes in my head, having strong direction. This would be good! I worked for a close to two hours.

The desk faces a window. A bee buzzed outside the screen. Two buzzards floated in the up-draft, hanging in the air, still. The ever-present hum of the cicadas filled the space beyond my headphones. Jackson Browne was singing, I guess we’ll reach some understanding when we see what the future will bring. It was prophetic. Suddenly, the bee was inside the screen. Shit.

2013-05-22 16.02.31

“This can’t be good,” I said out loud. “Shit, shit, shit! How’d you get through the screen?”

It buzzed here and there along the screen, ignoring me.

“You can’t be in here; you have to go back the way you came. Go on now.”

It disregarded me completely and buzzed its way down the contour of the screen towards the block of wood holding the heavy window open.

“Well, shit, don’t do that I don’t want to kill you.” The song in my headphones began to editorialize, She stepped out in the alley with a single shot 410. The road goes on forever and the party never ends. “Fuck you!” I took the headphones off. “Come on, go back where you came from. Do it! Where the hell are my sneakers? If you come on to this side of the glass, I will have to kill you.” The science fiction was abandoned as I moved into self-preservation mode.

2013-05-22 16.02.44I was armed and ready with the Air retrieved from my backpack. I sat down and put my headphones back on. I was going to finish the prologue, damn it. The High Kings were singing, I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the great fallen…

The bee buzzed, dancing to music it couldn’t hear.

How long do bees live? We need bees; I don’t want to kill a bee. Did ya leave a wife or sweetheart behind? In some faithful heart forever enshrined? … Shit! …Are you a stranger without even a name enclosed in forever behind a glass pane. Ok fine, Willie McBee, I will just ignore you.

It didn’t move.

Was it playing possum?

I slipped a piece of paper between the glass and screen and nudged it. Willie McBee had burrowed itself into the screen. It was stuck. Really Willie? You’re gonna do this? Guns N’ Roses, on cue, began to sing Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door…Mama take this badge from me I can’t use it anymore. It’s getting dark too dark to see feels like I’m knocking on heaven’s door.

I abandoned my room completely. I walked the property and took some pictures. I just knew that had I stayed the next song would be Tears in Heaven.2013-05-22 16.15.31

Willie McBee expired at 5:28pm just as the buzzards veered off to the west and beyond my view.

I’m sure there is some sort of cosmic message there. I’m sure of it, but as Elton John begins to sing Candle in the Wind, I think I would just rather put the whole thing behind me. Maybe I’ll write a poem, Ode to Willie McBee and then return to my novel.

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A half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown…


Where, how do you start? I hear Julie Andrews singing in my head… Start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start…

But which beginning? Doesn’t a beginning imply that something, somewhere must have come to an end?

And so what ended?

Good question. I stopped blogging because there was so much negativity swirling around. So much. A woman I barely know commenting on things on my blog—swiping at someone else, a friend of mine. This woman stirs hornets’ nests. I know because she has tried in my life, in my family.

Another friend…well, not really in the end, I guess, attacked me verbally about a post I made to the blog. A blog about Lee-Jackson Day. Now, I must say, I had been warned. Be careful, she’s a viper. But I try to see the best in everyone until the ugliness spills over like carelessly spilled paint. The colors fall together until only an ugly mud remains.

And a third friend, with whom I disagree politically, tagged someone on his Facebook page; someone he didn’t know. There are lines we don’t cross; lines we shouldn’t cross. In polite society, we don’t manipulate people, drag them places they don’t want to go.

And so, I retreated. Ended. Looked at the half empty glass, half an inch of water…

The winter left me reeling, so many endings: my job, friendships, writing outlets. I am at The Porches as winter surrenders to spring. The lush Virginia landscape explodes in purples and pinks. As I grieve for all that I have lost this winter, I replaced one sort of creativity with another. I planted a garden—that is thriving! I’ve made ice cream with my grand-daughter. And for outward appearances everything looked fine, save the lack of words. But half-empty leaves a hollow in the heart. Hollows that have always been filled with words.

John Prine is singing into my headphones…

That’s the way that the world gores ‘round

You’re up one day, the next you’re down

It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown

That’s the way that the world goes ‘round.

Good philosopher, John. Who am I to complain about lost friendships or jobs? I look around and I think, my god, twenty children in Connecticut, bombs in Boston, explosions in Texas, factory collapse in Bangladesh. Oklahoma. Ronan, god Ronan! It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown.

So, it’s time to pick myself up by my proverbial bootstraps and get on with it, and do what I do best: write. If you think you can use my blog to attack others, well that won’t end well for you. This blog, historically, has about a thousand readers and you will look foolish. And if you don’t like what I have to say, just don’t read. Simple, don’t read. Yes, that means you who thinks your gun “rights” trumps a child’s right to safely go to school, and you who thinks the south is going to rise again and that “Yankees” are from another country… We’re all Americans, deal with it! And you there on the fringes pretending to be holier than thou, I’ve got your number. Try being real.  Y’all know who you are.

There. Now I will start that blogging thing again. I have three books in the works, look out world, I’m gonna do this thing. As I finish writing Bruce Springsteen sings one of my favorite songs ever…

 

I aint been to heaven,

but I been told the street up there are paved with gold

Keep your eye on the prize.

Hold on.

I love it when WGOD plays in my headphones.

 

 

 

Staring Down the Storm


I went to The Porches last weekend, Hurricane Sandy weekend. Because that’s just who I am, ya know? I spent two weeks at The Porches in May of 2011. The day I left, two men were murdered, less than four miles from my home—on my street. One of them had been at my house the day before for coffee with JL. It was troubling, hard to go away.

Distracting. I wrote blogs about it here. Ricky’s memory still haunts the roadways around town. The trial for his accused murderer still not complete.

But I went to The Porches. And it was magical, because it’s always magical. I wrote, and rewrote. I workshopped. Communed. I was in a creative space, with inspired people. I was creating. It was awesome.

 I returned in the summer of 2011, after the earthquake, and before Hurricane Irene. Everyone suggested that I cancel. Stay home. Don’t risk it. But I did. I travelled west to Nelson County. West, away from the storm, away from the chaos. I was struggling with the idea of leaving my job as the director of a tutoring center (about which I will bite my tongue). The stress of the job had become overwhelming and I had stopped writing. I was conflicted. Stay and die a little inside—a lot—or leave and face the unknown, the uncertain. I went to The Porches to think as much as to write that weekend. And I wrote and watched from a distance as the Irene gathered herself over my home and family in the distance. The sky was beautiful. It was serene. I was serene.

I watched the storm.  The trees and sky glittered with an iridescent sort of light. Among the things I wrote that weekend was a letter of resignation. I left Nelson and drove through the devastation the storm left in its wake, feeling grateful. I lost a tree. Within hours of emailing it to my bosses (as an attachment) on Monday morning, I had two phone calls offering jobs. The Universe listens. And it was all ok.

I returned to The Porches this past summer. The night we arrived the Derecho did too. One June 29, a freak storm with straight-line winds travelled over six hundred miles, decimating anything that got in its way. Mostly trees and power lines. Trees and power lines in Nelson County. Overall, I think we were without power (off and on) for thirty-six hours. An odd way to spend a vacation. There were other storms brewing at The Porches that week, deeper, more frightening, more personal storms. Each of us managed our personal baggage and fears in our own way. But as the Derecho changed the landscape, so too did the internal storms change the landscape of our workshops. But I persevered. I got some good writing done. I even wrote a poem. I took some amazing photographs. That creative spark kindled again.

I have blogged and posted pictures of both of these trips. I have the pictures saved in iPhoto as The Porches: Irene, and The Porches: Derecho. The newest batch of pictures is in a folder entitled The Porches: Sandy.

Again, everyone tried to talk me out of going. But I had an old, dear, friend flying in from Boston. We’d been planning it for months. She’s working on a fantasy novel. And she’s a helluva writer. I have ideas about a book that I am trying to pull together! I—we—were not about to cancel.

The Universe conspires—did you ever notice that? The more you want something the more that gets in your way. Is that just me?

My car died on the preceding Friday—the serpentine belt and power steering unit needed to be replaced. No car from Friday until Tuesday. Well that cuts it a little close. JL’s truck went in for (expected) repairs on Tuesday…

Wednesday, a friend posted about Sandy. Really? Really? That’s all I could say. Of course there will be weather, I’m going to The Porches. It’s a quest.

Friday dawned, JL’s truck was still in the shop. I drove Ian to school, did some paperwork, drove Ian back home, dropped JL off at the mechanic’s, and then drove to the airport. Thankfully, Chris (my weekend writing partner) is patient. I was an hour late. I hate being late.

From there we went to the amazing Farmer’s Market in Mechanicsville, Farm Bus. Oh. My. God. They have a grocery package that I am probably going to buy into, and by probably, I mean absolutely, it’s something I am going to do.  Then to the chocolatier, then groceries.

We spent the hour and a half long ride catching up. We have discovered our sons are twins—clones. Same music, same musical instruments, same books, it was wild. We talked about writing, and books (good and bad). We chatted about Doctor Who, and the woes of growing older (but not up) [that’s a Jimmy Buffett song!]. We talked about music. The countryside. Cows. Spaghetti on the ceiling.

We unpacked and feasted on Friday night. We watched Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. We watched a piece of the trilogy each night. And save the tragedy of Faramir, it was (as it always is) brilliant. Chris hadn’t seen it before, but she enjoyed it.

Saturday and Sunday were spent workshopping, walking, revising, and eating good food. And then watching Lord of the Rings. It was amazingly simple. Except for Sandy looming in the distance. Phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts, and emails repeatedly pulled me out to check on Sandy’s progress… You have to come home, it’s going to snow, you’ll be trapped. I looked around at the beautiful antebellum property and thought, well ok. Are you stranded? Is there snow? Will you be able to get home? I opened an old file on my computer, my own science fiction fantasy novel. Chris read it and thought/thinks I should pursue it. I was energized. I will probably workshop it with The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop. Chris and I also looked at my Lunch Time stories. I came away with a lot of ideas for that as well.

It didn’t snow, not while I was there. And the rain didn’t start until Sunday evening. We planned for an earlier than originally planned exit on Monday. We packed Sunday night and departed at dawn. Chris knew her flight had been cancelled, but she wanted to stay close to the airport, just in case she could get on a plane. I thought about inviting her back to the house. But I live an hour from the airport – in bad weather that’s not a good back up plan.

Sandy skirted by leaving Central Virginia mostly unscathed. My heart goes out to those who have lost so much in this storm. Not just loved ones, or property; but a sense of safety and security. I applaud them for they have the courage to get up get ready for work, and get on a subway in New York knowing the ocean could wash it and them away.

So what is it about me and writing retreats and storms? I don’t mind being at The Porches during bad storms. I am isolated, withdrawn from the world—in a room of my own. Bad weather means fewer intrusions. It means that I have to be in touch, in tune with myself. And you know, to write, that’s exactly what is needed.

I have learned that getting there is sometimes the most important part of something. Getting there. The quest. That’s the thing. How important is writing to me? Important enough to stare down hurricanes, damn it! Important enough to entertain the possibility (and in one case the reality) of living with no electricity, no air conditioning, no running water. Important enough for the risk. Staring down the storm within.

So, the planning begins for the next trip to Nelson. I’m thinking the spring, sometime between March and June. Just for a couple of days. Probably near the end of March. I’m looking for people interested in going. Hopefully there won’t be a blizzard!

Cycles, TV, and The Doctor


It seems like lifetimes have gone by since I last posted. Lifetimes. Sometimes there are lifetimes in single days. There have been lots of single days like that in the last couple of months. I’ve gotten no writing done.

But the fact is, I think about writing all the time. I teach writing, tutor writing, proof, edit, and format for people. But the actual writing part somehow always gets pushed to the back burner. Don’t get me wrong; I have ideas, so many, many ideas. Whole universes in my head.

But then…

Life intervenes. Bills to pay. Teaching to do (with a schedule that changes every five weeks, and takes adapting to–I’m learning). Grading. I have a full-time teaching gig these days. Organizing, car-pooling, babysitting, groceries, housecleaning, car maintenance, the occasional lunch with friends, repairing computers (Windows machines, obviously), and vacuum cleaners. Tending to animals, and planning my spring garden adventure (expect more about this). Trying to keep up with the whirring political season—who’s bullshitting who today. Trips to the ER, broken cars. Sleep—well, sleep is overrated.

By the time I get home from work, I’m weary. My brain seeks distraction from the hours of student interactions. And I sit, don’t even read, just sit. Sometimes I think, I should blog about this, or that. But I know I can’t. I know it would upset people in my life, kids, and their exes. Not that I care about exes—see there it is, I’d like to add something about current partners here, but can’t without upsetting the delicate balance in my life. But it’s stifling.

I have some TV shows that I like so I’v watched them… Warehouse 13: Really? REALLY? SyFy is going to do half seasons? What is that about? The next episode for this season doesn’t air until April? Fuck you, Syfy! I am going to have to re-watch the beginning of the season to keep it all straight… what the hell? And they missed a week in the first half of the season. Although the addition of Brent Spiner is great. Downton Abbey doesn’t kick in until January. Damn it—but I am excited about Shirley MacClaine. Midsomer Murders, I watched all that iTunes and Netflix have to offer, twelve seasons. I am missing 20+ episodes. MI5? I watched ‘em all. Sherlock and Being Human (the British version) too. I have now officially seen every episode of every Star Trek ever made. Black Books was good comic relief, so was The IT Crowd, and of course, Doc Martin.

I watched Doctor Who as a kid, in the 60’s, on PBS; yes, I was that geek. It was ok. I always thought the British actors were trying to be Shakespearean, trying too hard. Always so very serious, almost dour. I watched it in the 70’s, the Fourth Doctor, and thought it was sort of ostentatious. I liked it, but then, I too can be colorful, in a 70’s sort of way. The Doctor from the 80’s, the Fifth Doctor, seemed ,well, yuppyish. I have opinions, so, I hadn’t watched the new series; my life is too serious, I look for humor—escape—in books and television. But, Neil Gaiman is writing for the show now (the only better writer they could get would be Terry Pratchett). And my son Nick loves it, and so does my grandson, Ryan. We like similar things, so I figured what the hell, right? And so the Who-a-thon began. The Ninth Doctor was ok. He seemed like he was going for the opposite end of the spectrum, definitely not dour, but rather almost giddy. No, I’d say completely capricious. The show was good, albeit somewhat unnerving.

Ah, but the Tenth Doctor…

David Tennant. He does an amazing job balancing all of those expected giddy and dour moments; he throws in just enough emotion and apathy. He’s brilliant, just brilliant.I think, the Eleventh Doctor is going to have to work very hard to impress me more. I mean, I am sort of impressed that a TV show can still be producing new episodes after fifty years. Damned impressed. But the Eleventh Doctor better be at least as good as his predecessor. And then, of course, there’s Torchwood and I haven’t even looked at that yet.

Other than TV, there have been things going on. Kids. Kids’ exes. Grandkids. Homecoming. Teaching Ian to drive. Crazy-groupie-stalkers. I’ve learned a few things in the last week as well.

People with low blood pressure should not drink copious amounts of peppermint tea. Peppermint tea is an herbal remedy for high blood pressure—and after six hours in the emergency room, I’m here to tell ya, it works. Blog to follow about the nurse-from-hell.

I also learned this week that the power steering unit in a vehicle is controlled by a belt, which sounds sort of old fashioned to me; the serpentine belt. And that sounds positively medieval. If this belt breaks, say at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, on the busiest road in town, while you’re in the passing lane you can still drive long enough to get your vehicle to safety—provided you are strong enough to turn the wheel without power steering. And I’m not. I managed to get almost, but not quite, into a parking lot. JL pulled the car all the way in. The tow truck driver just started it up and drove it onto the truck.

The fall is always a low time for me. Every year I say, not next year. Next year, I will write my way through it. But then I don’t. I stop writing in August and pick up in October. Every year. Strange. Maybe it has to do with the election season (which I have not wanted to write about, too much vitriol is already being spewed out there). I will be at The Porches this weekend with an old friend… I am working on a book that collects my lunchtime stories…

Let the writing begin.

Guest Blog: Pat Ladlee: Retreat!


I left the results of the storm behind as I headed toward The Porches. Heading west on Route 60, Saturday morning, June 30th 2012, my rear view mirror reflected the congestion of Chesterfield Mall and my thoughts moved toward ten days of tranquility in the countryside. Time to relax, to think, to write — no grit of everyday life grinding my body, mind and soul.

Leaves and pieces of bark remained on the otherwise clear pavement. Piles of branches and trunks of trees lined the roadside, evidence the diligent crews worked through the previous night. The dirty footed clouds of yesterday dissipated; scattered puffs of white danced in the cerulean sky. The characters from my novel accompanied me in the drive, enjoying the sunshine.

I arrived at noon to find five very hot writers in the refectory preparing lunch. The word, hot, did not apply to their writing necessarily. I knew only one of them at the time, so I could not judge their genre or their style. Without electricity, however, the temperature was rising. I pulled the Icy Gazpacho from the ice chest, telling my new acquaintances, “It does make you feel cooler. It’s homemade.” Along with the excellent cheeses and fresh, baked bread contributed by Mel who organized our group, it did.

One of the writers helped me drag my bags out of the car, up the steps and into my room. Without her assistance (for which I am forever grateful), I’d probably have spent the first two days taking a handful of items upstairs in each of a thousand trips. Perhaps my husband was right about taking two small bags instead of one large one, though I’d never hear the end of it if I told him. I could not begin to lift my suitcase!

The centenary construction of the lovely old house with shades pulled down and the towering trees covering the lawn fought the sun. With the aid of ice water soaked cloths around our necks, the writers at The Porches survived the heat. We did have paper and pens after all. The temperature outside reached triple digits before power was restored and the window air-conditioners hummed. None of us managed much writing that day.

I called home that night as I always did when I was traveling by myself – just to know that everyone was safe.  My husband answered with that sleepy voice I knew meant he dozed in the recliner, so the conversation was short.

“Has everyone cleared out?” I asked, having escaped from the house leaving him with his stepdaughter, her husband and two grandchildren seeking refuge from the heat when their power went out.

“Yes, they got power back at their house right after dinner,” he said.

I didn’t want to know if the dirty dishes were still on the table or in the sink so I said, “Good night” without asking. One of my favorite lines, written by Margaret Mitchell for her immortal Scarlett, is, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

The writer’s at The Porches worked in silence the next morning and gathered in the parlor for a short workshop before dinner. In the process, I began to know the writer’s. With piles of degrees in everything literary, most of them teaching what I was trying to do, I was a bit intimidated. That’s not my normal state. Before long I saw, they were real people too.

One of the writers evacuated to The Porches when the Colorado wildfire came within yards of her house. I could only imagine her distress. She needed a retreat from worry about her home and her husband, a firefighter. Unbeknownst to her, I prayed for their protection. I promised to continue doing so until the last ember was cold.

Another writer had suffered some potentially serious health issues. She needed healing and recuperation. I think everyone attending this retreat was seeking something – time, healing, gentle hearts, whatever.

I believe, there is not a person on earth who does not have some problem in their lives – major or minor though they may be. Those that insist they don’t are either lying or are so oblivious that that is a problem in itself. Life is a matter of how you cope with it.

I think Mel’s Shepherd’s Pie lived up to its name; it was a comfort food, indeed. We enjoyed it in the coolness of the A/C. It was delicious. She gave me the recipe and I look forward to making it — the next time it snows.

I was late calling home that night and was delighted that my husband sounded awake.

“I just got home from the ER,” he said.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s just strep throat,” he said, explaining that my grandson would be fine once the antibiotics kicked in.

“What’s his temperature?”

“It’s coming down, only 102 degrees when I left their house.”

My four-year-old grandson is asthmatic and I knew my daughter would be up all night.  Should I be there to go ‘on duty’ tomorrow? I’ll wait and see, I thought.

The Porches lost power again during the night. Though everyone was warm, it wasn’t the heat that made things difficult in the morning. We had no coffee!

Mel and I took off for Norwood, a crossroads community nearby. We wanted to charge the laptops in the car. Of course, the lighter wouldn’t work. We needed ice. Even more, we needed coffee. McDonalds never looked so good, or so crowded. Signs were posted, Cash Only; their registers could not function. Their systems were down too. We got coffee, breakfast with enough calories to last all day, and ice, then returned to The Porches.  So did the power.

I called my daughter later. My grandson was feeling much better and so far, his sixteen-month-old sister showed no signs of illness. I don’t need to leave. I can still spend some quiet time communing with the characters in my head, trying to reveal their natures and their story on the page.

When I called my husband on Tuesday night, my first question was, “How are the children?”

“He’ll be fine. He really was good when they put in the stitches.  He was wearing his Spiderman suit and the doctor asked if ‘his web broke’,” my husband said.

“Another ER visit? What happened?”

“Yes, the ER nurses call our names now before we sign in. He was running in the house again and crashed into the corner of the wall between the living room and the hall.”

“Where are the stitches? How many this time?”

“His eye. Only three, I think,” he said.

“His eye? Oh, no…”  I tried to remain calm.

“Don’t worry, it was his other eye.”

“Eye, you said eye. Can he see? How bad is it?” I wanted to scream. I still remember his first stitches – above his left eye — swollen, black and blue from eyebrow to below his cheek. His eye was shut; I worried about his sight.

“It’s all right. He’ll be fine. He will have matching dimples just above each brow.  That’s all.”

My children had no stitches until they were older. Their favorite injuries involved broken bones from climbing what they should not. I think I still have the collection of ace bandages, braces, splints, and casts in the attic acquired during my daughter’s childhood.

My grandchildren are active like their mother. Their balance may be a bit better.  Now if they would only watch where they’re going, I’d age more slowly, perhaps. I find that I worry as much about my grandchildren as I did their parents. Looking back on those days, I remember a day I stood by the window looking into the heavens, trying not to scream or cry.

Talking to God or to myself, (I’m not sure now) I said, “Dear God, if things would only get back to normal.”

It must have been a prayer because I heard that ‘small, still voice’ in my head say, “This is normal.”

My grandson confirmed this when I spoke to him on the phone about his ER visits. “I’m feeling better,” he said— he’s talked like an adult since he talked at all. “But, Mummum, you should see the wall. Daddy’s got to help me fix it.”

The special name my grandson gave me from his own imagination melts my heart. He put together the fact that I’m his mama’s mom. The sound makes all my problems minor ones. I hope my daughter will feel the same someday — but she may have to attend a Retreat before she can.

***

Pat Ladlee is a life-long lover of words. She writes essays, short stories, science fiction and historical fiction (American). She’s an active member of The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop and currently working on two novels.

Guest Blog: Pat Ladlee: Escape to The Porches


Friday night’s storm knocked out power to several hundred thousand homes in Virginia. I was fortunate; mine was not one of them. I woke on Saturday, June 30th, at the same time the sun rose and thought, It’s going to be a beautiful day for a drive to The Porches. I had to admit I was excited. I stumbled over the suitcases open on the floor waiting to receive the last minute items and headed out of the bedroom to find the coffee I could smell already. My husband wakes the roosters at Oh- Dark-Thirty and makes the first pot of coffee everyday – I usually join him for the second pot.

“You’re up early,” he said as he poured a cup of coffee for me, sweetened it, and handed me a spoon to stir.

“Thank you,” I replied. “And, good morning.” The writer’s retreat at the Porches was the first time since my husband and I retired and returned to Virginia that we would be parted for more than a day or two. In the seven years since, I have often suggested that he return to work so he would have someone else to supervise and that morning, handing me that spoon irritated me beyond reason. I know I’m being unreasonable, I thought. So, I wrapped my lips on the edge of the cup and sipped without a sound.

“Did you remember to charge your cell phone?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Did you pack bug spray? Nelson County’s still country; you’re sure to need it.”

This sort of questioning went on as we ate breakfast. I am an intelligent, responsible woman. I have a list. I do not need this micromanagement. I dressed and finished packing my clothes. That’s when the phone rang.

My daughter had no electricity and it was already over eighty degrees in her house and headed for triple digits. It was barely eight o’clock in the morning. What could I say? Of course, she and my son-in-law must come and bring their two preschoolers to my house. I said, “Bring milk for the kids. I’ve gotten everything ready here for while I’m gone, but didn’t stock extra milk.”

I did not check with my husband. I knew he would move the moon and sun for the grandchildren. He might complain about his stepdaughter and her husband as if they caused the storm making the lights go out, but neither grandson nor granddaughter could do wrong. I did ask if he wanted me to postpone my departure for The Porches until power was restored. He said, “No.  It could be late tonight. I don’t want you driving in the dark.”

I gritted my teeth.

Perhaps I should explain that I had been re-singled and a head of household — an independent career woman —for ten years when I met my second husband. I made good money as a contract negotiator and problem-solver for major corporations. I drove over a hundred thousand miles each year keeping appointments with clients. I definitely knew how to drive a car.

The grandchildren tumbled into the house seeking breakfast followed by their parents, hauling all the paraphernalia needed for an extended stay, seeking coffee. They drained the second pot of the day.

As I threw the frozen food and fresh vegetables into the cooler and my husband pulled it out again to re-arrange everything to suit him, the phone rang again. It was Mel, who organized the writer’s retreat I now yearned to reach. She informed me that The Porches had no power.

No electricity, I thought. No Spiderman on the TV, no jingles or tweets from the i-phones and laptops brought into the house by the thirty-something parents, no insistent rings from the landline …

“Are you sure you want to come?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” I said, “I can sweat with the best of them.”

Finally, everything loaded in the car, a round of hugs and kisses ensued.

“If we get another bad storm while you’re on the road you will pull over in a safe place won’t you?” my husband asked. “You won’t have any trouble finding the place, will you? Do you have your cell phone with you? Do you have your directions where you can reach them? Oh and here’s some extra cash. You never carry enough cash?”

I started the car; and through the open window said, “I know I’ll miss you sweetheart. But, it may take a few days …”

My husband laughed. “Will you please get out of here, just go. You’re driving me crazy,” he said and I laughed in return as we exchanged the pecks of a long married couple.

For a nanosecond, I felt guilty leaving him that way. I got over it before exiting the driveway. I knew he could handle it. Maybe this is an opportunity for him to bond with my daughter and her husband, I thought but mostly hoped.

Unlike me, my daughter grew up spending chunks of time with her father. His favorite response to anyone was, “I don’t care; do what you want.  Figure it out.” To her the operative phrase was not I don’t care. I suspect she thinks her stepfather is domineering.

Several days later while sharing a meal, one of the writers attending the retreat presented the question, “How do you stay married to the same person for so long?”

My answer was quite simple. “You must have a sense of humor.” Yes, each partner must laugh at the proverbial cap left off the toothpaste. Yet, there is more. My husband — cares. That means more to me than anything else, even when it drives me almost insane and I want to escape.

 

***

Pat Ladlee is a life-long lover of words. She writes essays, short stories, science fiction and historical fiction (American). She’s an active member of The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop and currently working on two novels.

Consumed by Creativity


I feel like my time at The Porches was well spent. It was, in its worst moments, a learning experience, and in its best awe-inspiring. Of course, being compared to David Sedaris helps to make a fulfilling writing retreat. A lot.

Housemates came and went. Electricity and running water came and went at the beginning of the week. The heat beyond the solid doors was unbearable. Trips to the outside were relegated to early morning hours, and slightly after sunset.

But the days were spent writing, and photographing, and editing, and cooking; consumed by creativity. I didn’t come away with lots of publishable work, but with so many ideas, directions to go, and so much energy.

So I came home and slept. A lot. I researched some places open for submissions, sent out some query letters. Organized some creative projects. I had submitted two pieces before I left The Porches, and now I must write some new pieces. I’ve been fairly visible online these days. Read them:

Country Sunday Drive

That Explains It

Revolution (scroll to June 7)

Shaping Stone

Tír na nÓg

On Yahoo Contributor, I have four essays:

Slippery Slope

 Voyager I (Yes, I know it’s ’69 and not ’68)

Educational Elitism

El Camino: It’s Not Just For Cowboys.

And two poems:

HeatWave

Ranking

I have product reviews at Noobschooler.com:

iCade

iPad Bluetooth Keyboard.

I have also had a piece reblogged by the amazing Amanda Sowards at The Catharine Chronicles.

There’s Always the C-Word.

I am working on having some photography published and have at least two guest blogs in the near future, stay tuned.

Oh! and I am planning my next trip to The Porches for October.