That Empty Feeling

FeelingsI didn’t realize how much I’d miss Writing 101, but it became a routine. I like routine. I don’t like change. My reader is emptier, the visitors are down, and I’m struggling with semi-burnout. I want to write something, but the words just won’t come.

I technically have two assignments left: writing about an event that was cancelled (and how it made me feel) and

Wait just a minute; I’m writing about a “cancelled” event right now!

How does it make me feel? How do I feel about this? Well, it’s kind of a mix of

abominable, arrant, atrocious, baneful, base, beastly, beneath contempt, brutal, contemptible, damned, deadly, demonic, deplorable, detestable, devilish, diabolical, direful, disgusting, dreadful, egregious, evil, fell, fetid, fiendish, filthy, foul, ghoulish, grievous, grim, grisly, gross, gruesome, hateful, heinous, horrendous, horrific, horrifying, infamous, iniquitous, lamentable, loathsome, lousy, macabre, malefic, maleficent, malevolent, monstrous, morbid, nasty, nefarious, notorious, obnoxious, odious, offensive, rank, regrettable, repelling, reprehensible, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, rotten, sad, scary, schrecklich, sordid, squalid, too bad, tragic, unclean, unspeakable, vile, villainous, wicked, woeful, worst, worthless, and wretched

to name but a few.

Honestly, how would you feel if something you loved ended?

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 15: You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled (or taken over by an evil organization). Read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours!




Ask Me

front porchI know what they say about me. They say I’m too quiet, too observant, and too smart for my own good. They don’t ask me, so I don’t tell them. I learned that long ago.

And now, sitting here in the hot summer sun, I hear it all: the sirens fading in the distance, the crying behind closed doors, the statements given in hushed tones. I hear the excuses.

No, I never heard them argue.

No, I never saw her bruises.

They were such a quiet couple!

He seemed so nice, minding our house while we took vacation.

This is a peaceful neighborhood; nothing ever happens here!

Poor thing; do you think she’ll make it?

Who would’ve suspected?

Who would’ve known?

I suspected. I’m too quiet. I saw the signs. I’m too observant. I knew. I’m too smart for my own good.

They won’t ask me; they never do.

I’m the one who made the call, you know.

But people don’t want to know if they don’t ask.

So I won’t tell them.

It only causes problems.

I learned that long ago.

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 18: Craft a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old observing it all. Focus on specific character qualities, drawing from elements we’ve worked on in this course, like voice and dialogue. Think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

A Note from the Author

I really don’t know why my fictional writing tends towards depressing subjects, but it’s what seems to come naturally. This account is semi-fictional: here was a case of abuse in our neighborhood several years ago, so I wrote it as if I lived in the house opposite.


Personality Check: Fear


Failure is Always an Option








The Cake is a Failure

Failure Defeats and Inspires










Winston Churchill Quote

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 17: What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. Write this post in a style that’s different from your own.

Things in Glass Cases (Part 3): Memories


Memories are the lost and found office:

What we wore and what we ate

Where we lived and who we loved

What we were like

Sometimes, those memories are found by others

A song

A yearbook

A photo album

A note

A letter

A card

So we share them.

We share the things in glass cases.

And we are better for it.

 This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 16: Continuing the serial, reflect on the theme of “lost and found.”

Part 1

Part 2

Things in Glass Cases (Part 2): Introversion

Cutie Mark Crusaders
via thatguy1945 @ deviantart

or Finding My Cutie Mark

Looking back, radio also helped me realize my introversion. I don’t remember the show, but I remember a book they were discussing: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (Disclaimer: I still haven’t read the book.) I do remember the host and Mrs. (Ms.?) Cain discussing the characteristics of introverts and thinking “Hey! That’s me!”

I never considered myself an introvert before. I’d always been told that introverts are shy, lonely, depressed individuals; I am none of these (generally). Nevertheless, my perspective changed.

I know that the internet is not the fount of all knowledge, especially when it comes to personality tests and the like. However, I discovered things about introversion that helped my understand myself.

I discovered that as an introvert . . .

I don’t have to be shy. I don’t like meeting new people, but I will if I have to. I won’t ignore you, but normally you’ll have to make the first move.

I find energy in being alone. This explains why my perfect day consists of curling up with a good book, lots of coffee, and toast. It also explains why I crave “me time” after a day of teaching.

I concern myself with my inner world and mind. For years people have said “He’s in his own little world over there.” Now I know the reason.

I’m in my own little word. But it’s okay; they know me here!

I enjoy simply thinking. Sometimes I even think about thinking. And yes, it is possible to think about nothing all all.

I *can* have good social skills. Just because I don’t like groups doesn’t mean I can’t function!

I tire quickly in large groups. This explains why, even when I visit friends or family, I start feeling drained and just want to go home. Failing that, I’ll find a quiet space and attempt to recharge. For the record, once a group is larger than 5 people I start feeling drained.

I am not automatically depressed. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked “What’s wrong?”. How many times do I have to tell them nothing’s wrong before they’ll believe me? Apparently they equate “quiet” with “depressed.”

I prefer to have deep conversations about ideas and concepts and become bored with small talk. YES! This is who I am! I constantly tell others that I don’t want to discuss unimportant topics like singers, actors, athletes, and the like. Oh, so they’re important to you? Well excuse me for desiring an intelligent conversation. Granted, I could have an intelligent conversation with Ke$ha; I understand she was offered a scholarship to study history. See, we have something in common!

Sorry, I got carried away there. I guess my people skills need some work.

There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert.

Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.

~ C. Jung

I also took the “Quiet Quiz” from the Quiet website and recorded my responses:

I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.


I often prefer to express myself in writing.

True. This blog, for instance.

I enjoy solitude.

True. I also guard my solitude with general cantankerousness.

I appear to value wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.

True. At least, I think so.

People tell me I am a good listener.

False, but only because I don’t talk to people unless I have to.

I’m not a big risk taker.

Define risk. I’ll eat anything once (especially if there’s money involved) and would love to bungee jump, skydive. or hang glide (but not snorkel or dive). However, I thrive on routine and schedules and despise being told to “go with the flow”. I prefer the known to the unknown, so I’ll say . . .


I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with no interruptions.

True. Interruptions are distractions and distractions are evil incarnate.

I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.

True. Even if everyone in attendance could be considered “close,” I’d prefer a small group.

People describe me as “soft spoken” or “mellow.”

False, because once I speak, I speak my mind, and it’s often because I disagree vehemently with you.

I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until its finished.

True. And even then I probably won’t share it.

I tend to think before I speak.

True, but my wife would disagree.

I often let calls go through to voice mail.

True. There’s only one number I will automatically answer. The rest get voicemail.

Isn’t it ironic the series is named “Things in Glass Cases”?

In this case, the “thing in the glass case” is me.

How To Care For Introverts
via Flikr

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 13: Earlier in the course, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something. View day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.

Not Quite Insomnia

Late Night CoffeeThey say writers write when they can’t sleep.

I am not a writer.

Here we go again.

What on earth are they doing?

Do they have any idea what time it is?

It’s 2 A.M. and they’re revving engines, again.

I should call the law on them, but I’m too tired.

Besides, best not rock the boat.

Well, so much for peaceful sleep.

I won’t be going back to bed anytime soon.

Better make some coffee and fire up the computer.

They say writers write when they can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I’m writing.

Does that make me a writer?

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 12: Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. Include foreshadowing.

Home Again

Main Street Honesdale POSTCARDI spent eighteen years of my life in that house. For six of them, I couldn’t wait to leave. Now that I’m asked to recall it, I find my memory lacking. If I close my eyes and imagine myself back in the seventh grade coming home from school, perhaps I’ll remember more.

I always thought I lived on the edge of nowhere in rural Pennsylvania. Rolling hills, farmland, towns so small if you blink you’ll miss them. You can pass through an entire postal code without seeing a single house. Our address listed a town, but the town line was half a mile away. Town itself was a mile. Beyond our house things really spread out.

The driveway is long: 0.2 miles. At one point it was paved; now, not so much. I can walk it blindfolded and have walked it in the dark on moonless nights. On the right: a pond where we swim in the summer. On the left: an old horse pasture where, as a kindergartener, one of them tried to eat my jacket. Years later, we buried my dog Duke with one of the horses. Opposite his grave are some fruit (peach?) trees. Cross the creek. As a child I feared falling into the creek, but I don’t know why. It’s not the kind of thing that could happen accidentally. In the summer, the creek would often flood its banks and cover our driveway, especially if debris caught in the culvert. Finally, there’s a steep hill. A path to the left takes you into the woods. I once fell on that trail while Duke walked me; I bashed my knee on a rock and needed stitches. The hill itself is perfect for sledding, but I’m not supposed to do that. Supposedly it’ll make the hill too slick. At the top of the hill is our house, the only house on the drive. Set back from the road, we have our own undisturbed slice of the world.

The front yard is more of a front hill. It flattens out eventually. When my parents inevitably send me outside, I have a tree with a tire swing and climbing rope and wide branches perfect for reading. My dog Wulf – a Black Lab/Rottweiler mix – enjoyed the rope more than I did; he’d play tug-of-war with the tree. Can you guess which part of the tree I like most?

We have a back yard, too. When I was younger, Mom and I would play whiffle ball or throw a Frisbee. Sometimes we cook hotdogs or roast marshmallow or make s’mores in our fire pit. I once baked bread over the open flame using an old “Carthaginian recipe” for a school project.

A big green shed stands in the woods out back. At various times it’s housed chickens, pigs, and firewood. Not all at the same time, though. One of the pigs grew so heavy it broke through the floor! I hate hauling wood from the building. I used to be afraid that snakes or spiders would crawl in there for winter protection. Sometimes I was right.

I’m not sure what color the house was when I was twelve. It was either yellow or blue. I remember painting the wood siding with my sister. I got shocked by an outlet while washing the siding. When we were done, she painted a blue smiley face on my stomach.

We have a garage, but don’t park a car there. Instead, we store canned goods, groceries, lawnmowers, and other stuff like that. During deer season, it’s where we hang deer for processing. It has a stale, musty smell, the exact opposite of the semi-damp, pleasant musty smell of Grandma’s basement.

Instead, enter through the kitchen. Small but cozy, I seem to remember something always cooking either in the oven or in a crock pot. If not, it’s in the fridge waiting to be heated. In the winter, I used to sit under the kitchen table with my feet on the radiator. In time, this place would be taken over by Wulf. When Mom baked cakes or pies or pizza, he’d end up half covered in flour. There’s one tall built-in cupboard, used for storing cereal and baking ingredients and paper goods. It’s perfect for hide-and-seek except it’s the first place anyone would look.

The dining room and living room are one long room divided by flooring. The dining room had old linoleum, cracked and faded; the living room had carpet, its floral pattern enhanced by countless spilled drinks. Both have since been replaced: the linoleum with wood laminate and the carpet with newer carpet (blue Berber with ScotchGuard).

The dining room is the center of the house. From it you can go to the front porch (a tiny raised concrete patio since replaced by a large wooden deck), the living room (TV, couch, Dad’s recliner), or my sister’s room (I didn’t go there often).

Stand in front of my sister’s room and turn left. There’s a hallway there; shelves and racks covered by curtains hold my parent’s coats, the vacuum cleaner, extra bedding, and the family collection of board games. At the end of the hall is my brother’s room. I didn’t go there often, either.

Come back from my brother’s room and pass through the dining room to another hallway. Down it and on the left is the bathroom. I think it had a tile floor, but it was replaced sometime in my childhood with laminate. An old, in-wall medicine cabinet with lights on either side is set into the right-hand wall. The bathtub is on the left. We have a laundry chute to the basement. This is also a good hiding spot, but is the second place people will look.

At the end of the hall is my room: bed, bookshelves, radio, wardrobe, parents’ closet, and one small window set high into the wall. It was here I learned to love literature and classical music. When I lived here, posters of wolves covered the walls and ceiling.

You have to go through my room to get to my parents’ room. Previously a sunroom, its large windows make it perfect for watching summer thunderstorms. Mom does her sewing out here. I guess the light is perfect for it.

Go back to the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement. Be careful: the stairs are steep. I once dropped my science project (hydroponically grown plants) down these steps the night before Science Fair. I still took 3rd place! The basement is where the washer and dryer are. There’s also a toilet, but you’d only want to use it in an emergency. Dad’s workbench is down here. It’s where he tinkers and cuts meat when necessary. At the back of the basement and near the furnace is where we stack wood. Be careful when stoking the fire, a stray spark can start a fire. My best friend burned his house down because he wasn’t careful. One day we had a chimney fire at our house. My brother and sister pulled the chimney down and saved the house. A door from the basement leads to the garage. On the door is a dartboard. I took out all kinds of frustration here. I never became very good at darts, though.

Well, that’s the house. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 11: Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. Pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

Pennsylvania Sympathy Ham

KummerspeckThe Germans have a wonderfully exact word (is there any other kind in German?) called kummerspeck. Idiomatically, it refers to weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, it means “grief bacon.” In the part of Pennsylvania where I grew up, we had a similar term. We called it “sympathy ham.”

I have no idea where the term came from, but I don’t think it’s related to the Germans (unfortunately). We’re a bit too far removed from the Pennsylvania Dutch/Deutsch for a cultural impact. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s possible.

Sympathy ham only came around when there’d been a death in the family. Where others might bring casseroles or stews or things like that, the people of Wayne County brought ham. Lots and lots and lots of ham. Baked ham, smoked ham, ham sandwiches, ham soup, and yes, ham casseroles. Glorious, salty ham.

Wait a minute! This is supposed to be about foods for celebration, and here I am talking about death. To you, a funeral is not a cause for celebration (unless you’re one of those kinds of people), but for me, a funeral is a celebration of life. We sit and talk about our loved ones: the things we remember fondly, their quirks and idiosyncrasies, family stories they had shared, and sometimes wondering about things we’d found out just a bit too late. All the time we munch on ham: ham with mustard, ham with mayonnaise, cold ham, hot ham, ham in all its varieties. Think of it like a modern wake, but without the alcohol. Great. Now I’m stereotyping. Sorry.

When my grandmother died, the ham seemed infinite. Our car seemed packed with it after church; our doorbell would ring, and there was more ham; I think someone even brought ham to the viewing. Perhaps I’m remembering that wrong. Whatever. Our refrigerators and freezers were soon maxed out with majestic ham. I think we ate ham for a month or more.

I know that science and medicine claim that salt may help stave off depression and that depression is likely to kick in after the death of a loved one, but I don’t sit down and eat ham thinking “man, I’m depressed. I need more salt.” I eat it because of the memories. Because when I eat ham I’m back in Pennsylvania sitting with family talking about days done by and things I never knew, things I half remember, and things I know all too well. Ham is the catalyst for my family’s history. Without it, I would be lost.

 A Note from the Author

Writing 101 has challenged me. Today, we’re supposed to write in our own voice, as if we were talking to a friend over coffee. So that’s what I did. I made myself some coffee and had a friend ask me “So, what’s sympathy ham?” and typed my response as if I were verbally answering them. It might be disjointed, but that’s how most of my conversations go: I start out technical, then realize I’m being too technical, and start to dial it back. Thanks for your continued patience.

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 10: Tell about your favorite meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory. Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

The Four of Us Are Dying*


Darkness envelops us.


We seek warmth in shrouds of pinks and blues and blacks.


Noise. Oh, the noise – loud and obtrusive and filling cranial nooks and crannies with sound.


Blinding light flashes.





Noise grows louder; cold, colder.

Aromas expand and diffuse and permeate.



Groans of anguish and pain and regret join the cacophony of voices both loud and soft and joyous and angry.







End the madness:

Turn on the lights and bump up the thermostat.

Pause the movie and come get supper.

Quit complaining about Taekwondo.

Stop chewing ice.


*Apologies, Mr. Sterling.

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 8: Write a post without using adverbs.

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