The Keys to Oz: Peaceful Retreats

As a human, it’s important to know what recharges our spirits. As writers, it’s imperative to our craft. Write too long on empty and gobbledygook splats out, pouring black ooze from our fingers and drips onto our feet. The gook sticks to our legs, trapping us suddenly in our chairs. Our brains soon crawl out afterwards and slink away to find a new oasis. Our noses follow quickly, searching for roses and rain showers of bygone, blissful days. If truly dire, legs may start a feverish tap dancing number underneath your desk, greatly upsetting the carefully arranged pencils and tawdry knickknacks. Away, they demand! Away, away, away!

We’re not meant to work forever; we’re meant to live in Oz. Truly.

Don’t argue with me. Take a munchkin and move over.

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Church Through an Introvert’s Eyes: More Thoughts on America’s Warped Christianity

As an introvert (an INTJ to be exact), I find American society at once demanding, garrulous and worshipful of charming extroverts. This perception of the perfect American finds its way into churches, bleeds over the pews, stains the carpets and infiltrates the very verbiage and conversational rhythms. Modern churches exemplify this particularly with stage lighting, booming mic’s, catchy tunes and coffee bars. And suddenly church is about working and collecting merit badges at warp speed. If you have lots of energy, bright eyes and agreeable conversation–you’re in!

If not, you’re a problem.

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Flash Fiction: Women Warriors

You know the drill–99 words, no more, no less. Carrot Ranch is the spot. This week’s theme is “Women Warriors.” Saddle up!

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Labrador Lessons III: Pace Thyself, Human! (Our First 10k)

There are gulpers and there are chippers in this world. I am a gulper. There are no stages, no stepping stones of graduated achievements with how I proceed. There is simply the goal and myself, whatever it may be. Everything between me and the goal must be overcome. And now, today, this very instant in fact! Definitely not tomorrow or a wishy-washy “sometime later, honey.” I will stay the course, finish strong, even if doctors and nurses hurry behind me with a crash cart and tranquilizer darts. Reality be darned!

All this I thought today during my first 10k, walking at a steady pace with my saintly husband* and tolerant Labrador. And then my Lab, during mile six, laid down in the middle of the road during a water break. She peered up at me and my so-called goals.

“Go ahead–try to move me, human,” my Labrador taunted me from the ground. “But you’re going to carry my 55lb butt back to the air conditioned car. And then I’m gonna pee all over your azaleas you just planted so lovingly…”

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Giving & Giving Up: One INTJ’s Perspective

INTJ’s are often described as cynics in Myers Briggs write-ups. If the article is being fair, this innate cynicism is framed around an INTJ knowing how things should be–aka, not like the current state of affairs. As an INTJ, I observe this trait within myself. I’m often skeptical of nonprofits, charities and other agencies with grand, doe eyed missions. I once heard someone share about an agency that planned to eradicate poverty entirely through money–and fairly quickly. I scoffed. Whenever was poverty just about money–particularly generational poverty? If the problem was that simple, wouldn’t it have been solved ages ago? That’s like saying cancer is just about radiation—so much more goes into combating such a crippling disease.

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Demons, Death & Double Standards: “What a Slut…”

I ask your pardon for including the word “slut” in the title. I dislike the connotations and one sided power the word carries. I imagine the word as a broken woman, dragging her dirtied feet through this patriarchal world, a shamed prostitute surrounded by self-righteous rock throwers. A man I knew died recently and, as I learned, wasn’t married to whom I (and everyone else) assumed was his spouse. The news startled me, but I knew it wasn’t my business. I instead chose to help as I was able with the memorial arrangements. I overhead the following conversation happen the day of the funeral:

“And what was with “their companion” written in the obituary…? What, they weren’t married? …What a slut…”

Ecstatic giggling followed the speaker’s judgement. I couldn’t see the group listening, but could hear parts of the conversation. I imagined the speaker’s tongue like a snake’s, split and elegant, licking the air in glee as she laughed. The group murmured some type of consensual agreement I couldn’t quite decipher. The conversation moved onto other matters, sliding easily to other interests.

I sat in my chair, shocked, my brain numbly processing what I heard. I began wondering if I was honestly in the presence of a demon.

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A Partial Movie Review & Thoughts on the Horror Genre: “The Quiet Place”

My spouse bought the tickets, got us free glasses of ice water and I scurried off to use the restroom. I sat down in the dark theatre, baffled by the motley collection of previews that ranged from the dramatic yet playful “Avengers” series to an odd, demonic horror movie of  uncomfortable supernatural darkness. I was reminded how even though I write horror, most horror I’ve come across I dislike and avoid. More on this later.

I relaxed as the “The Quiet Place” finally began and flashed my husband a grin. I was geeked about this movie, particularly because I could learn more American Sign Language (ASL). As I mentioned previously, I’m attempting to become fluent in ASL and was curious how the language–and maybe even Deaf culture–was incorporated into the film.

“A Quiet Place” is the story of an American family cobbling a bizarre, post-apocalyptic existence while striving not to make the slightest noise. The parents are raising children, one who is a teenaged deaf girl and two younger boys who are hearing. Alien neighbors surround the town and farm where the family scratches out an existence. The aliens are blind, armored predators; they target and kill anything that makes the slightest noise (including unlucky raccoons). The family walks barefoot on sand paths, eats on lettuce plates and plays Monopoly with soft fabric playing pieces. They cannot cry loudly and struggle with expressing (and suppressing) their emotions. The parents whisper hoarsely to their kids and use ASL to communicate and teach their children how to survive.

I made it through about 40 minutes of the 90 minute film before leaving. Hats off to Mr. John Krasinski, the director, for the movie’s unique power. I walked out of the theatre, afraid to make any noise in case an alien was hiding around the corner ready to ambush me. I blared my Pandora station with courage at home and proceeded to clean my house–until 2 in the morning.

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Flash Fiction: The Boldness of Cranes

Wander on over to Carrot Ranch for this week’s flash fiction and join us as we celebrate cranes–99 words, no more, no less. Cheers, all.

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Changing of the Winds: Mary Poppins

I’ve always been entranced by a line in Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie. Julie Andrews says this line very quietly to the children at their bedtime when asked how long she’ll stay.

“I’ll stay until the wind changes,” she announces delicately to the children. As a child, that means only one thing: she’s going away. Mary is not permanent.

This perplexed me as a child and still rattles me a little as an adult. How brave Disney was to keep this element of the story, of change and letting go. Waiting periods and change are two of the hardest things for kids to understand. I’m not sure adults win the blue ribbon, either.

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Disenchanted: American Christianity

Sometimes I feel as if America has “signed on” Jesus at the White House to become their spokesman and undersigner–their “yes” man. This Jesus is Caucasian, always Conservative Republican, is allowed to have an “acceptable” beard, and goes around in sandals and a billowing white tunic, shaking hands with politicians while flashing a Crest sponsored smile. He hands out little medals to those who oppose abortion and easily excuses marital affairs, vulgarity and any covered up sex or child trafficking. He gives flowers to women wearing Gucci and busily writing out checks to avoid taxes at tax time. He kisses white babies and applauds business owners for forming jobs and trickling down a meager sustenance to the undeserving, wretched poor.

And then, if he has enough time in his daily itinerary, he hops onto a book signing by any number of white evangelicals in the blessed world of Christian Marketing and Business. He sits proudly behind the desk and recites pitches dutifully, saying “Yep, buy this book for $29.95. Don’t bother talking with me too much or accepting pain and trials–I sure don’t have the time when there are Senate seats to be won! American Christianity is pain free, pleasure filled with blessings upon blessings–but only if you buy this book and decide you’re worth it. Say, have you seen the latest Hallmark movie? They’re all white–just like me. White, blue eyed and blonde haired, mostly…Reminds me of growing up in the Middle East…”

Is it a wonder I feel disenchanted? It’s enough to make anyone gag on their Chick-Fil-A Coke…

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