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Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Write

GBE2 administrator, the distinguished Miss Beth has instructed that this week we should set a timer and write for 15 minutes without preparation or plan.  Free write from the mind for 15 minutes, word purge, anger, resentment, random ramblings, whatever.  While many will not post these writings, I shall decide in the next 14.5 minutes what shall be the destination of my free writing.  "Post" or "Delete".

Can't help but think of the holidays and since today I turned 62, my birthday, and those things lead to looking ahead with what I may or may not have learned from my past.  I always hope to learn from my mistakes and I always hope to learn from other's mistakes as well.  I had several opportunities this year to learn.  I made a couple of pretty monumental mistakes and I witnessed and was on the receiving end of a few more.  Mistakes are not usually fatal, but they surely can cause long lasting negative effects.

 I have seen one person cause so much pain and disruption with selfishness that that person is now excluded from the lives of others who once were pretty much the center of the world they shared.  Selfishness, I learned is a fast track to loneliness.  If one is truly selfish, being alone is the right choice.  If one is just spoiled and acting selfishly, then changes need to be made quickly before being alone is the only option.

I also learned that speaking one's mind can be very helpful, if the words are chosen carefully and if not, it can be very damaging.  One must choose the right words, spoken at the right time and with the right amount of love, concern and encouragement, if they are to have the desired result.  That being, the person being given those words to become a better, more capable and more giving person.

I hope I learned also that giving of oneself in terms of actual face time, is essential to healthy and thriving relationships.  I am not so much a magnet as I am a hand reaching out to those I hold most dear.

Time is almost up...the last thing I learned is to make every minute count.  You don't have a clue how many minutes you have left...........*ding*


Jo

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Adriana's Awakening

The cold, sunless days of winter are dragging into April this year.  The Spring is very late finding it's way to the north country and it isn't making life easy for Adriana.  She does like winter with the fresh clean floating snow days and evenings, but not the wind which destroys the beauty.  She loves the coolness of the winter days as opposed to the sweltering heat of summer.  Nonetheless, when it's time for Spring she is ready for the awakening of the young plants and the greening of the grass and trees and none of that has happened yet even though it's April 2. 

The office will be closed for a four day week-end while some remodeling is being finished up.  The computers are all being changed out and the techs will be checking and double checking every software program for any glitches.  If all goes as planned, the office will open on Tuesday with everyone fairly well versed in the new programs and all of the machines online.  The paint on the new partitions will be dry and the offices will each have fresh carpet and drapes or blinds.  Adriana's cubicle is located near the back of the main floor and just outside of the office of the VP of accounts receivable.  She works closely with Adriana a couple of times a year when new programs are implemented, but generally Adriana works alone with her computer.

Her long week-end would be one of Spring cleaning.  The apartment could be aired out, if the weather would warm, just a bit.  She would empty all cupboards and throw out things she hadn't used in a year.  That was her hard and fast rule.  Other than the Christmas decorations, she stored nearly nothing that wasn't used on a regular basis.  Her clothes were minimal.  She kept the basic suits that she wore to work most days and the skirts or pants were often worn without the jackets so sweaters and classic shirts were also kept.  She had sweats for lounging and one good pair of jeans for shopping or going somewhere with Carmen.  They were not spending nearly as much time together these days.  Carmen had taken a new job which demanded longer hours and she was often too tired for socializing.  Adriana was fine with this because this having a real friend thing was kind of wearing on her anyway.  Carmen was kind of needy, sometimes.  Adriana was a little too content with her alone life to just run at the drop of a hat to be with her.  It had taken a couple of months to understand what being a friend to a real person required and Adriana had discovered or rediscovered that she didn't like it so much after all.  It was fading from importance to her and she had even ignored calls from Carmen lately just to be home alone with her "friends" and her God.

Opening the locked cupboard Adriana stopped to think about it's contents.  Why was she keeping these?  She hadn't fired a gun since she quit the high school shooting team.  Yet, here they were in all their glory.  Each one cleaned and ready to fire.  Ready to fire...she is suddenly aware of how often she had cleaned them because they had been fired, yet not by her.  Her "friends" had been firing these rifles over the last 25 years with no awareness on her part.  She is suddenly aware of their activities, aware, like almost, but not quite remembering.

She slinks to the floor in a trance-like state. Her mind is racing and freezing.  Freezing and racing. The sound of the shots rings loudly inside her head. It startles her, awakens her.  Oh dear God, she remembers. She remembers the "friend" is called Kimmie.  Kimmie is the one who keeps score in Adriana's life.  She is the "friend" who makes things right in the universe.  If someone hurts Adriana, Kimmie removes them.  No, not removes, Adriana knows now, Kimmie shots them, dead.  Those people who she remembers being killed she remembers now seeing Kimmie kill them.  She was there!  She was there with Kimmie. 

Tears are falling fiercely down her cheeks. She lays the rifle down. She sees a hypodermic needle.  It's empty and apparently used.  Why does she have this?  She has never taken anything remotely drug like.  Aspirin sometimes, but nothing requiring a needle.  Where did this come from?  Whose was it?  Why would she have it in her locked...Brayden.  Brayden had bought this and she was with him, too.  He had used it to inject a skier at the slopes and she was there.  Why would she not have remembered being with these killers?  What the hell...?

More memories or thoughts or whatever these are come flooding into her brain.  Adriana is in unbearable pain as she tries to stand.  She falls back to the floor.  Why is all of this happening today?  She just wanted to clean.  Just clean up the apartment and get ready for the new season.  She had done this every year since living on her own.  She was never overcome with these feelings or memories or this imagination or whatever it was and it was hurting her deeply.  Very deep in her core she felt pain like she had not known existed.

She sat crumpled on the floor for hours.  Perhaps 3 hours had passed, she had no idea.  She only knew that the tears had stopped and the pain had subsided.  She also knew that Kimmie and Brayden were gone. Gone from her head.  Gone from her life.  She had never felt so alone.  The "family" which had changed from time to time wasn't there either.  No one was living in her head.  She was awakened to the real things she had done over the last 25 years and why she had done them.  Had God forsaken her, too?  She felt too much shame to pray about that.  He surely had stopped hearing her years ago. He surely had known, for He knows all things, that she was pure evil.  She knew that now, too.  She had never known before. 

Her choices were few.  Throw herself on God's mercy and pray for forgiveness.  Try to forget all that had happened after He forgave her and just live out her years the best she could.  Being the best person she could possibly be or go to the hospital and ask for help.  She must be mentally deranged, though she didn't feel that, in order to have allowed those "friends" to use her that way.  She felt sane, but detached.

Okay, time was what she needed.  She needed to understand all of this and she needed to go for a long walk outside and try to sort and clear these thoughts.  It's possible that she is just imagining all of it.  Maybe these items hadn't been used at all and she just imagined they had!  She imagined she would be strong enough and brave enough and smart enough to actually kill people who had hurt her and get away with it several times.  Seriously, she didn't think herself that evil or that smart. 

Walking around her little town in the cold was very inspiring and very enlightening.  She began to understand something she hadn't wanted to understand at all.

She found herself walking directly toward the small hospital at the edge of town.  She asked the front desk person if they had a psyche department.  They did and the woman asked her to just have a seat and someone would be right down to help her out.  She sat.

Adriana spent 2 years in this very hospital.  She learned all about transferring one's fears, pain and disappointments onto an alter ego.  She had required one female and one male to keep her from simply falling into a deep dark hole of depression never to climb out.  She learned it was her mechanism for avoiding probable suicide.  She had to cope with believing suicide would have been preferable.  She grew stronger and learned more and more about why people need contact with people and also how to give and take.  She learned that she really wasn't responsible for those deaths or murders.  Her pain and disappointment in all around her had lead her into this dark place and her mind had found a way up and out.  By living inside her head the "friends" had actually saved her life and removed those who caused her pain.  Legally, she would not be held accountable, but emotionally she had to learn to deal with her guilt.

After her release she would have to meet with her doctors on a weekly basis or more if she felt the need.  She would like to move again, but she didn't want to leave this support system she was leaning on for her survival. The apartment had been rented out and the guns had been confiscated by the police.  Her belongings had been stored and her job was still open to her, if she wanted it back.  Her company had all the details of her break down and they still wanted her back.  She couldn't imagine ever walking in there again.  She would have to find new employment and soon.  Her state aid would end the moment she walked out the door of this hospital.

One of her doctors, Dr. Novak, had been with her since day one and he suggested she put in a application with the hospital.  He knew of her unique accounting talents and was certain there would be a job for her in the medical records or accounts department.  He would give her a letter of recommendation and the company she was leaving would do the same.  She thought this might work.

Her release was scheduled for December 1 and she felt ready to try.  Ready to be a normal and sociable human for the first time in her life. She applied to the hospital and would be starting her new position with them on December 4.   Three days to get settled in the apartment she had found 2 blocks from here and get all her things out of storage and settled into her new home. 

As Adriana was signing the last of the papers one of the aides who had befriended her recently entered her room.  Angel was 45, the same age as Adriana, worked as an aide on this floor since she was in her 20's.  She was an easy person to talk with and had never married.  She had a large family and wherever you went around their little town, you would see or talk with someone with whom she was related.  It was cause for many laugh fests as they talked about mutual acquaintances.  Adriana was really going to miss Angel.

"Who is going to help you move your things?"  Angel knew there was no one, unless she had hired someone.

"I guess I am going to have to find a mover.  The one over in West Town, I suppose.  Hope I can afford them."  Adriana had no idea who else she could call.  Carmen, for obvious reasons, had dropped all association with her.

"That's exactly who I was going to suggest.  It's my brother's son."  They both laughed, really hard.

Angel would see to it that no bill was ever sent.

With that decided, Angel offered her help with the unpacking and anything else she might need.  Adriana was more than grateful for the help. She had a future now and someone with whom she could actually begin to form a normal relationship.  Angel was indeed a gift from God for her.

She bowed her head and silently thanked God for everything He had been to her and for His forgiveness.  She knew she could never have gotten here, in the land of sanity, without His loving arms holding onto her every step of the way.  She thanked Him for bringing this Angel to her, as well.

Unwrapping her special Angel for her tree this year would be a miracle and a blessing and a reminder of just how strong God's love and dedication can be and has been for Adriana.  It would bring tears to her eyes because she now knows the feeling of being loved.

For all Adriana had survived, for all the horrid things she had done, for all she had overcome, Adriana was a child of God and finally would understand and live in love.

The End
Jo


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Wonderland ~ BFF #151

Taking the tree down signals the end of another Christmas season for Adriana. Carefully wrapping and packing each ornament to ensure they will be safe until next year when she will lovingly unwrap each one and hang it on the perfect little tree to admire once again.  The Angel topper will be the last thing off the tree and the most protected of all the decorations.  It will be returned to it's original box and placed atop all the other ornaments for it's year long rest.  Once stripped, the tree is folded and placed, lights intact, in it's storage box and everything is stacked with the utmost gentle touch in the closet.  Closing the door, Adriana takes one last look and sighs before closing the door on this Christmas.  It's been a good one.  Her favorite gift was her new real friend, Carmen.


Carmen had met and nearly fallen in love with the most wonderful man over the holiday this year.  She had known almost immediately that this was someone with whom she could have it all.  She saw the two of them building a future together. He shared the same basic values as she and also seemed to feel instantly connected to Carmen as he had never felt before.  The two of them had only begun down the road to forever when he was taken.  Carmen couldn't even think he had died, he had not died.  He was murdered for absolutely no reason except that someone decided to drive down his street just as he was walking into his new home and fire a shot or several in his direction.  The police say it was just a stupid and random thing.  They found no one in his life that could give any indication of anyone who would want him dead. He seemed to have a non-eventful life at work and privately.  He had met a new woman a few weeks prior and everyone knew he was smitten, but everyone also knew she was equally smitten and saw no threat from her.  She had been interviewed countless times by 2 different policemen and a detective and all concluded she had nothing to hide and was genuinely distraught and grieving.  The case was closed and ruled gang drive-by without cause.  Probably just an initiation of sending a wanna-be banger into an affluent neighborhood to find a target and leave a body.  Anyone would be acceptable and it just happened to be Carmen's new man. Craig's funeral was over and Carmen was left with her family and her new friend Adriana to comfort her.  The family would be going back home soon and she was so glad she had reached out to Adriana or she could find herself back in the black hole into which she was wallowing when she first saw Adriana.  


Adriana was the perfect support system.  She was always available but never intrusive.  Carmen could call her anytime night or day, but she never just dropped by and rarely called.  If she hadn't heard from Carmen all day, she might give her a call just to make sure all was well.  If she didn't feel like talking, Adriana would just tell her it was fine, she understood needing alone time, just wanted her to know she was there, if needed.  She was the ideal friend.  Carmen was very lucky to have found and cultivated this friendship exactly when she did, she thought.  Adriana was her lifeline once again.


At home alone this evening Adriana is thinking about some of the things she never likes to remember.  The family who dismissed her at age 18.  The boy in high school who had used her for his physical needs and then laughed at her when she expected to see him again.  The boyfriend who seemed to like her a lot one day and the next day dumped her for a new girl who moved into the neighborhood.  None of those people would ever hurt her again.  In fact, none of them would ever hurt anyone.


Mr. and Mrs. Andrews had been involved in a horrible car accident less than a year after Adriana had moved away.  The brakes on their car had apparently failed during their annual trip through the Smokey Mountains.  Their bodies had been airlifted from the side of the mountain a few days after the crash and the car had never been recovered.  The expense was not warranted because it appeared to all the inspectors the car had simply careened off the sharp mountain road turn and there were no skid marks on the pavement.  Brakes had not functioned or they would have stained the pavement.  Case closed and the tire with the bullet still sat down the mountain side unobserved by authorities.


The young man who 'used' her, Matt, has gone skiing with friends during the winter break.  Somehow he had skied into a thicket by mistake, although he was a good skier, and seemed to have gotten lost trying to find his way back to the slope.  Matt had passed out and died from exposure.  His ski jacket had been removed and was in the snow near his body.  A large amount of cocaine was found in his system and credited with his demise.  His friends had not known he was using.  Such a sad and tragic loss.


Adriana had moved several times in her life after high school.  She had not looked back.  Matt's death had affected her deeply.  She had remained in the same school until graduation and then had moved on with her birthday check to another town and seldom looked back. Except when she read about Ricky.  Ricky had dumped her unceremoniously when some new girl started hitting on him and acting like she was going to be his new girl.  They dated for months and Adriana watched quietly from the sidelines and saw that this girl was now living the life Adriana wanted for herself.  Not that she wanted it now, but she wasn't interested in letting the new girl have it either.  It was the talk of the town when Ricky was found.  Not one clue as to the killer, but he was certainly killed.  Ricky was shot one time squarely in the middle of his forehead. One bullet removed and not one more slug or casing found near the site.  His body had not been moved, the experts determined and no one had seen or heard a thing.  He had been shot from a distance, they surmised, of approximately 300 yards.  Surrounding the crime scene and measuring out the distance and the angle, the shot had come from an upstairs window of the Library.  There was no evidence found in the only room that had a window that opened.  No casing was found.  No finger prints, foot prints nor any dust disturbed on the window ledge.  The rifle had  not rested on the window sill, it apparently had been held and fired from the standing position.  This case would remain open and unsolved.  Exhaustive investigation turned up not even one suspect.  Adriana read of his death in her new home town newspaper.  How sad.


This relatively new area where she had chosen this lovely apartment, was probably not her last home, but for now it was just right.  No need to move yet.  Everything was good in her life and her 'friends' and 'family' were happy here and now that they had Carmen to look after, staying here was important.  She only had to drive 25 minutes to work from here and she didn't want to look for another job and for the time being, it was safe to stay here.  Adriana did wonder, though, which of her 'friends' had taken care of the invader this time.  


Shaking her head to clear those thoughts, she continued to prepare for the New Year. She could not control her 'friends' and 'family' but, she could and would control her own actions.  Sometime today she would have to check the supply cupboard and see if one of the rifles needed to be cleaned.  She was quite sure that would be the case.  They were kept locked and not in view, but her 'friends' and her 'family' did know where they were kept.  It's hard to be the caretaker for so many who have secrets, but at least, they didn't share their secrets with her, so all she had to worry about was cleaning up anything that might be a problem.  Well, we all have our burdens, don't we?


Tomorrow is a work day so today is clean up and relax day.  Adriana has some cleaning up to finish and some relaxing to do and then she will call Carmen and maybe they can have dinner tonight.  Carmen needs to get out and start living again.


This is the most beautiful of all the winter days so far, she will remember to tell Carmen that it's important to thank God for a chance to live here in the north where the Winter Wonderland is so breathtakingly amazing.  God must be thanked for all of our blessings daily.  Carmen had been added to Adriana's list of blessings.  Tonight the Winter Wonderland would also be an additional item.


Jo

Saturday, December 17, 2011

T'was The Day Past Christmas



Putting on her new blue sweater, Adriana felt completely renewed.  Not completely, there was that strange gift left at her door.  What if she had been home when the messenger came, or had it been delivered by the giver, him or herself?  The thought made her shudder.  Someone knocking at her door, uninvited?  Unthinkable.  But someone had and they had left not only a gift, but the note. The telling note of love and affection which Adriana had not enjoyed reading one bit.  A real cold stabbing feeling ran up her spine with the thought of having someone care about her.  Or pretend to care about her.  They would, no doubt stop caring as soon as they got to know her in the real world.  The only people who loved her or cared about her where living in her head and they could be trusted to cause no harm.  People living on the streets and in houses and breathing their own breath, they could NOT be trusted.


Shaking herself loose from these thoughts, she reminded herself she had a job to do and needed to put on her public face and go to work.  Work was the only place she really interacted with people and managed with a great deal of effort, at first, now with ease, to make it seem sincere and natural.  There was really nothing natural about saying good morning to someone you see each morning without really seeing their face.  If she had to describe most of the people in her office for a sketch artist, she would fail miserably.  She never looked at any of them.  She spoke with the mail guy everyday because he always smiled at her and called her by name, so she did the same.  Tom was one of a handful who actually called her by name or whom she could call by name.  Mostly she just did her job and interacted as little as possible.  Her job wasn't an important one, nor was it one which required cooperation with others in her department.  She simple balanced out the financial sheets that were placed in her basket and then electronically sent them on their way to the bookkeeping department for records.  Her's was a nerds job, of sorts.  Just enter all the info, make sure it all balances and forward it on to the appropriate people.  She was very good at it and she had been doing it for a long time.  No offer of advancement had been made and for that she was grateful.  This job was suited to her personality and to her lifestyle.  No overtime, no pressure and not much conversation.  Numbers and typing were two things she was very good at and everyone in the office knew if she did any reports, they were correctly done.

 This day she had fielded a couple of compliments on her new sweater and thanked each of the co-workers for noticing.  She had chosen a well fitted pencil skirt in black to show off the softness of this light blue knitted sweater.  Her gift from her "mother"; chosen because it was perfect for Adriana.  The mother in her head couldn't have done a better job.  She was always hugging her daughter and smiling at her and encouraging her to be her perfect best.  She was the mother Adriana needed and the best part, she was immortal.


Approaching her front door Adriana noticed a note stuck to the wall next to her door.  She feels panic and with shaking fingers manages to grab it down and hustle inside.  The note is in a sealed envelope.  Who is doing this?  Why are they doing this?  Just leave me alone, please! All these thoughts are running through her confused and frightened mind as she opens the envelope. Inside:

"I want you to know that I am not looking to upset you or intrude.  I left the gift and now this note because I decided it was very rude of me to not disclose my identity.  I fear I may have scared you or at the very least baffled you and that was not my intent.  I just wanted to thank you.  You may call me, or you may choose to ignore me.  You have the lead now.  I will not be leaving anything else or trying to contact you.  I promise.  I am now employed with a doctor's clinic because you took the time one day to smile at me over the counter at Walgreen's.  I was working my shift out and had then planned to take an overdose of pills when I got home.  My life was in turmoil and I was so lost. I was on my way out as soon as you were done checking out with your purchase.  I cannot explain why your smile made me rethink things.  I cannot explain why you saying, "Have a good evening.  Thank you" would make any difference at all.  But it did.  I am alive and I am doing well and that night was over a year ago.  I saw you in the store last week.  I was picking up a few things and I followed you here to where I assumed you lived.  I waited outside and saw your lights come on,  so I was certain.  Nothing scary, nothing for you to worry about, just one person thanking the one person who saved my life.
020-555-9131
Carmen"


Adriana had fallen onto the dining chair as she read.  This was incredible. She had saved this girls life by saying such a simple and cliche thing. She had made a difference without trying.  She tried to remember the girl, tried really hard.  Nothing came into her mind.  It had been a meaningless encounter and yet, it changed someone.  No, it saved someone.  Her friends were all excited and talking all at once now.  What a hero they thought she must be.  If only she could meet this person, maybe, this person might be worth knowing.  Or this person could be another hurt source. Carmen could be another real person who cared about her until she did something that made Carmen not care anymore and Adriana would again have to grieve a loss. Again have to feel that pain.

She reaches for the phone and almost dials.  Almost.  It lands hard back in the cradle.  No not now.  Maybe tomorrow or next week or next month.  Not tonight.  The magic of Christmas might be playing with her and it all might not be real. She feels the note with both hands as it lays flat on the table.  It is real and the message is the same  as what she just read.  Carmen does appear to be real.  Tomorrow, maybe she would call her.  She would just thank her for the gift and the note and wish her well.  Yes, tomorrow.


Her friends and family all agree she should reach out to Carmen.  They all seem to think they can trust this one.  She owes Adriana her life, she would be a real friend.


After work the following day all the way home Adriana thinks about calling Carmen.  What would she say?  "Hi, it's Adriana.  Oh, you don't know my name, do you?  I am the woman who saved your life."  No.  That sounds stupid and she isn't stupid.  How about, "Hello, Carmen?  I am just calling to say thank you for the lovely gift and card.  It was so thoughtful of you and by the way, my name is Adriana."  That sounded better.  Something like that would do nicely.  Friendly, but not over the top gushy.  Okay, she would make the call when she got home.




"Hello, Carmen?"  Her voice was low and steady, not at all how she felt, but it was good.


"Yes, this is she."  Nice voice.  Middle range and kind of soft.


"I am just calling to say thank you for the lovely candle holder and the follow-up note.  It was so thoughtful of you."  Precise and not too friendly.


"You don't need to thank me, I am breathing because of your kindness.  I couldn't ever repay what you gave me, but I wanted you to, you know, just know!"


"Well, I had no idea, of course, but if a smile saved your life, I am very glad I felt like smiling that particular night."  She actually was enjoying this give and take.


"Enjoy the candles and maybe when you light them, you could just remember how precious your smile was for me.  I know nothing about you, but I imagine you are very much loved by those in your life because you just exude warmth!  I have seen you a couple of times since that night, but I never had the nerve to follow through with the stalking you part!  I felt kind of like, I don't know, just weird because I knew you had no idea.  But, I thought you should know.  Listen to me rattle on and on.  I'm sorry, I do that sometimes."


Adriana actually found herself laughing lightly.  "Listen, would you like to meet me for coffee?  Maybe down at the  Finely Ground Cafe?  I love their coffee."  Had she said that outloud?


"Really?  I would love that.  In about an hour?"


"Sure, that would be good."  She had said it and Carmen said yes and now she had to go.


This was the beginning of a nice friendship.  The two girls talked for hours and got to know a little about each other.  They even made a date for lunch the next week on Saturday and Adriana wasn't afraid at all.  Carmen didn't know about Adriana's friends and family, but there would time for that later on, maybe.


About 6 months later the two were having a nice walk through the park on a perfect Sunday afternoon.  Carmen seemed a little quieter than usual so Adriana asked if everything was okay.


"I met someone last Thursday.  I mean I met a man who I really want to get to know a lot better.  He works in the same building where I do and he's just like so dreamy and nice and he asked me to dinner.  I went out with him Friday.  I was waiting to tell you after the date and now it's after and oh, Adriana, I really like this man."


Adriana was amazed.  Carmen had never talked of any men prior.  Never even acted like she might like a man in her life.  How weird this felt.  Someone was sharing about the possible new love of her life and if that worked out, Adriana would be alone again.  She had mixed feelings about this development.


Her face must have shown some concern because Carmen finally said, "You look confused?  You didn't think I was gay, right? (laugh) I mean I'm not overrun with men chasing me, but every now and again I do have a date.  Just not like this one.  He is so special, I think."


"Special?  You had one date and he's special?  Okay, I guess I'll work on being happy for you, but I think you should not expect too much.  Men can really be cruel sometimes."  She spoke from experience.  The one who had pushed her down the stairs, accidentally.  The one who cheated on her with her neighbor's daughter.  The one who lied about everything and wasn't even who he said he was. She knew a bit about men.


"I could be wrong, I have been before, but I feel different with him.  I can just be myself and not feel the need to impress him.  I just talk and laugh naturally with him and he smiles with his whole face, Adriana.  His eyes light up and his cheeks raise and his teeth are straight and white enough to require sunglasses!  We are going out tonight again.  This time to a show off Broadway type thing somewhere.  He has season tickets to this little theater and says they try out shows before moving off Broadway there.  I gotta run and get myself ready, but I'll call you tomorrow after work and fill ya in!  Later Sugar..."  and she was off.  


This was probably not going to be a good thing.  Adriana would have to do some investigating on this guy.  She didn't have room or desire in her life for two people.  Just for Carmen.  She needed Carmen and she did NOT need this guy.


It took a couple of weeks for Adriana to gather the information she needed on Craig.  He was everything Carmen had said he was and more.  Good looking, rich, employed and a really nice man.  Carmen could have a great future with him, if he loved her and she loved him and it appeared to Adriana that was the case.


Her phone rang at half past midnight.  Adriana answered, it was Carmen and she was hysterical.  She needed Adriana right now, please.  "Do you want me to come to you or are you coming here?"


"I need you here,  I can't drive now!  Did you hear me?  Craig is dead.  Dead, Adriana!"


Adriana jumped from her sofa and grabbed her jacket from the dining room chair.  She headed out the door and there seemed a small, but definite smile creeping across her lips.  She needed Carmen, she didn't need two people.


Craig had been parking his car near his front door when out of nowhere a drive-by shooting.  This neighborhood was not accustomed to drive-by shooters.  There was nearly zero crime here.  It was not a gated community, but it was a small and closely watched community of neighbors who mostly knew each other.  It was a shame Craig had only recently moved in because no one knew him and no one saw him come home.  The car driving by was dark and that was all anyone had noticed.  There had been 4 shots fired and 2 had hit the target.  Craig had died immediately.

Among Adriana's talents, target practice at the range had been one of her most outstanding.  She was a sharpshooter in high school, but had not pulled a trigger since leaving that home at age eighteen.  Just like riding a bike.


She comforted her friend and stayed the night with her.  All the other friends had to stay at home.  Carmen needed her full attention tonight.  What one will do for a friend is limitless. 


Again, Adriana knew people who hurt her or who might hurt her simply cannot be allowed to continue.  No one from her past could tell stories about her and Craig would not hurt her or Carmen again.


Carmen needed her, exactly as she had planned.


Jo










Friday, December 16, 2011

The Worst Christmas Present

The Worst Christmas Present EVER
BFF post #150


With no one on her Christmas list other than the office "Secret Santa" gift recipient, she shops for something very special as her own gift.  It will be wrapped and put under the tree along with the 5 gifts she purchases for her co-worker.  The "Secret Santa" rules state that one small gift is given each of 5 days leading up to the office party on the evening before Christmas Eve.  The party is held immediately after work and lasts well into the night.  Adriana attends every year, but doesn't stay too late.  She has to get home to her family and friends who will be arriving, she tells her co-workers.  You see, she hosts a night before Christmas Eve party herself each year.  All of the friends and family who live only in her mind, will be in attendance and many will spend the night in her small 1 bedroom apartment.  Thankfully, they prefer to sleep on the floor near the tree.  Since no one from the office had actually ever been to her home, no one thought anything of her story and the fact that it remained the same every year, well, no reason at all to doubt.


Adriana found a positively beautiful light blue sweater at the local ladies shop, My Lady's Boutique.  It would be the perfect gift.  Her size, her favorite color and indeed in her price range. SOLD.  The smaller gifts were purchased at the nearby Walgreen's and wrapping paper procured.  Since she had drawn Kathy's name, she purchased several bath specialty gifts and then a lovely picture frame to frame her children's adorable photo's for her desk.  She wrapped each gift with care and curling the contrasting ribbons on each.  She loved wrapping and tagging and stacking them under the tree.  They joined the dozen or so boxes which were wrapped with equally loving care about 4 years ago and brought out each year for her "friends".  She had nothing for the "family" just having them in her head was enough of a gift for and from them.   They were not a greedy family.  They just enjoyed each other's company and the wonderful meal Adriana would prepare for them on Christmas afternoon.


Her own "Secret Santa" gifts were very nice.  She had no idea who had purchased them, but she had received a very cute Christmas bulb for the tree, a set of 3 candles, a CD by Nat "King" Cole, one of her favorites, a kitchen timer that looked like a rooster and finally a beautiful light blue handmade scarf.  Whoever had drawn her name knew her quite well, she loved each gift.  Upon arrival at her apartment she had placed them under the tree to admire for the next 2 days.  She went to bed fairly early because all the "guests" were just too tired from all the travel to stay up late.


Christmas Eve was a day of visiting with all her "guests" and laughing about all the fun times they have all shared.  She put a frozen turkey dinner in the oven at around 5 and invited all the "guests" to have a seat around her table for 2 and dive into the homemade turkey dinner she was serving.  The rooster timer had announced that dinner was ready! Only a small plate of leftovers remained after everyone had gone for the night.  What a lovely Christmas Eve.  Smiling broadly, Adriana looked in the mirror and reminded herself what a blessed life she had.  "Merry Christmas, Adriana" she said aloud.  These people may only exist in her head, but they were the most thoughtful and loving people she had ever known..


When she awoke on Christmas morning she made herself a cup of coffee and sat in the near dark room basking in the light from the little tree.  She felt truly happy.  Inside and outside her life was exactly what she wanted it to be.  Well, maybe not exactly, but close enough for today.  She prayed her thanks to God and then reached for her special gift.  She carefully opened it and touched the soft knit of the light blue sweater. It was the perfect gift.  She really loved it and would wear it to work tomorrow.  What a thoughtful and practical gift.  "Merry Christmas to me.  Thank you Mother." This she spoke outloud.


Making another frozen dinner, this time it was chicken, she imagined it was the leftovers from the turkey dinner the night before.  It was delicious and she was listening to Nat "King" Cole sing while she ate.  This had been a wonderful Christmas and sitting now with her "neighbors" and sharing a glass of wine, she imagined each of them talking about their Christmas day and she about hers.  There was laughter and there was much talking.  All in Adriana's head.  All very, very real.


She bundled up to take a quick walk around the complex to see the lights.  Several of the residents did quite an extensive light display and she enjoyed walking around looking at their handy work.  Maybe one year she would do some outside lights.  They were so pretty.


A little chilled now she walks a bit faster back to the warmth inside her building.  Her apartment is the second one inside the door.  There is a package outside her door.
She bends to retrieve it and quickly steps inside.  Who would leave her a package and why?  She removes her coat, mittens, hat and shoes before inspecting the package.  It appears to be from a delivery service.  On Christmas?  Looks like it, but there is no label, so no, it isn't.  She tears it open carefully and finds a small centerpiece inside.  It's lovely.  It is a gold circular holder with 5 cups for votive candles and in the bottom of the box 5 blue votives.  How?  Who?  Digging deeper into the box, finally at the very bottom this note:


"Each time you light one of these, please remember someone somewhere loves you. Please know that you made a difference in someone's life and that someone just wanted to thank you.  Merry Christmas."


No name.  No address.  No idea who sent this.  No idea whose life she impacted.  She lives trying not to impact anyone's life.  Trying not to be anything to anyone except polite and kind.  A human bond is way too scary for Adriana and now she is holding proof that one could exist.  This is the worst Christmas Present she has ever received.
Someone out there, loves her and the last thing she would ever want is to be loved.
And the someone knows where she lives.  


She will not sleep well tonight.  The "friends" will not be invited tonight.


Jo







Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions
Writers' Post #27

Nothing says Merry Christmas like knowing that you will be doing something you have always done to celebrate or get ready for the big day.  It may be a life long tradition or something you have only recently begun and wish to do from here on.   What matters is that you enjoy the feeling it gives you.  Traditions are reminders of something.  Days gone by can be brought to the forefront of your mind by doing something that takes you back to a simpler time or a time when someone who is not with you now, was with you. Those who are alone might have a different kind of traditions.  Adriana might have her own.


As the snow fell so violently and the wind blew with such a howl as to chill her bones, Adriana remembered the Christmases of long, long past.  She didn't want to remember them, but this blizzard made her mind drift there. She could clearly see the family, such as it was, sitting around the big old table in Grandmother's dining room.  The cavernous room where all family dinners were served and conversations were controlled and polite. You see, not one person seated at that table wanted to be there.  They attended because they had to attend. It was mandatory.  The Grandmother was the matriarch and she sent "invitations" to the family for command gatherings.  She would have her meal at precisely 2 PM and no one would be late.  No one would arrive early either because that would mean socializing and this family did NOT spend time with each other if there was a way to avoid it.  The Grandmother dinners were one exception with funerals and weddings being the others.  


The family was a group of people who were related by blood or marriage and nothing else.  They had each pulled away in their own time, by their own circumstances but all leading back to something Grandmother had done or said that each deemed, on their own, to be unforgivable.  Yet, her command would still be obeyed by all.  It is still unclear to Adriana why they all jumped to change their other plans to meet her demands every single time.  Adriana was intrigued by the power she held, though she gave nothing back, leave the grandiose meal she prepared with her own hands.  Her culinary skills were immense.  The woman could put forth a veritable banquet with what appeared to be little effort and what in fact was with no affection for any of those attending.  Grandmother, herself, ate only insignificant amounts of anything and forbade all from bringing anything from their homes to share at her meals.  She felt a good hostess would provide a meal and anything else offered was an insult.  The family had long since stopped trying to 'help'.  


Although Adriana was not technically a part of this family, she was there with her foster parents who were related to this brood.  She was glad she didn't share this strange DNA that allowed such a showing of familial ties with none of the affection she had always hoped to find.  Her foster parents were kind and said loving things to each other and even on occasion, to her, there was little hugging, no kissing and just a touch of laughter.  It was the laughter that held her attention.  She never saw anything funny about what they seemed to find hysterical.  The old woman they spoke of was the Grandmother and she had figured that out after the first dinner they were summoned to attend.  They made fun of her house, her clothes, her fake smile and how she always acted like she was glad to see them, though they knew she didn't even like them.  That was funny, laughter inducing funny to them.  How odd, she always thought.  For her, it was beyond sad.  She mourned for the Grandmother's loss.  She had lost all of her offspring in a literal way and yet they all lived nearby and all attended each dinner out of some weird and unbreakable bond.  Adriana had thought Grandmother equaled love, but certainly she was wrong about that.  Though she always thought she wanted one, she did not anymore.


The tradition of the Christmas dinner was something she tried never to recall.  But this storm was just throwing it right up to the front of her brain, damn it.  Now it was sitting there and replaying like on a strange loop.  The food is on the table, the perfectly set table and everyone is truly enjoying the food.  There is very little talk and what there is, isn't personal.  It about the weather, the food, a bit of politics and then more silence.  Grandmother does ask a few questions concerning each persons employment.  She likes to know where everyone works, they say so she can procure discounts, should the need arise to do business with any of her family members.  Otherwise, the meal comes to a conclusion and the table is cleared.  Grandmother insists no one touch a dirty dish, once the table has been cleared and the tablecloths have been sent to the laundry area.  She has nothing but time and enjoys the clean up as much as the cooking.  There is no argument.  Each family thanks her for such a delicious meal and begins to make their exit.  Grandmother makes no move to entice them to stay on.  She is finished now and bids them all farewell and God Speed.  Adriana has no idea what that means, but she always says it as each family leaves.  Another Christmas dinner with family at Grandmother's and not one hug, not one kiss and not one "I love you" to be heard.  That's the tradition.


Adriana does not miss these people.  


She now remembers her 18th birthday.  A beautiful card is handed to her by her fosters and it holds $3000 inside.  There is a very personal message hand written on the left inside flap.  It reads, "Happy Birthday, Adriana and welcome to adulthood.  You have graduated high school and have no desire to attend college, therefore, we have enclosed enough cash for you to make a down payment on your own apartment.  As you go off into the big wide world know that we will always remember you with fondness.  The Andrews"


Yep, that was the end of her "family life".  She was once again alone.  She had not seen or heard from them or their family since she packed her bags 2 days after her 18th birthday and moved into her first apartment.  Although she had lived just  5 miles from them, neither had made the effort to maintain contact.  They had no need or desire to interact with each other.  For the Andrews, it was the life they were taught.  For Adriana, it was all she had.


Every adult in her life, up to age 18, had deserted her in one way or another.  Her birth parents had abandoned her at a hospital when she was a mere hours old.  They were never found.  She had been in numerous foster homes and returned each time to the group home because she either wasn't quite the child that family wanted or they had one of their own and didn't need this extra one anymore, yes, that happened.  All of the adults left her.  The people who ran the group home were employees.  They came and went.  None were lifelines.  Adriana never had a chance to learn what really makes a family something one would want to be part of in a forever way.  

Her Christmas traditions now were her own.  Every year she decorated her 4 foot artificial tree with blue bulbs in the light sockets and blue Christmas balls and silver tinsel.  The topper was an angel she had purchased her first Christmas alone.  She had arms outspread and welcoming.  She had blonde hair, blue eyes and very red lips. She stood on one toe and appeared to be jumping into your arms as you gazed upon her beauty.  Her dress was off-white and lacy covering a cone which held her securely on the tree top. The 8 inch tall angel was Adriana's favorite "thing" ever.  She represented the love that Adriana would spend years making happen, in her head.  She would always imagine and believe it would happen for her and in her mind, she knew exactly how it would feel.  


Her other tradition was a simple prayer she prayed after the tree looked perfect to her and the quiet of the moment settled in her heart.  She would kneel almost under her tree and assuming the praying position she would say, "My dear Heavenly Father, I am thy humble sinner living each day falling short of all I could be.  I thank you for all the blessings I have in my life including my ability to work and support myself while I plod along this unknown path you have set for me. I pray for the strength and the wisdom to know thy will and see it done. Amen".  She called this her prayer of Christmas and it was always exactly the same.  It would change only if she had something else to add to her blessings list.  So far, she had added nothing.

Those memories from long ago were vanished from her mind as she locked eyes with her angel of hope.  Her favorite tradition was to imagine that this would be her last year alone with the angel. 


And the new imaginary friends enter and the party in her mind begins.


 Merry Christmas, Adriana.

Jo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stuffed Crescents

Tasty Tuesday
Stuffed Crescents

Two important things to know before you get started with this one:

1)  Leave the crescent tube in the fridge until you are ready to fill.

2) Cool the filling completely before spreading on the COLD dough.


Okay, so you will need:

One tube of crescents
1/2#  sausage
1/2 cup spinach (frozen, defrosted and drained, squeeze out excess moisture)
 1/2 med. onion chopped finely
1/2 cup artichoke hearts cooked and chopped (canned works fine)
garlic powder
salt & pepper

1 cup of shredded sharp cheese (separate into 3/4 cup for filling and 1/4 cup for tops)

Brown the sausage with onion.  Season with liberal garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste.
Add the spinach and artichoke hearts and combine thoroughly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
You can even do this part in advance and just chill until ready to assemble and bake.

Preheat oven to 375*

Unroll the crescents into a rectangle...pressing the perforations together to make it solid.  Cover with the cold filling going close to the edges.
Roll from the narrow ends for 6 large rolls or from the wide end for 10 smaller rolls.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.


This is what they look like before baking.  I make 6 large ones and serve them with Sausage Gravy over all.  That recipe will follow.



Bake for 15 to 20 minutes watching the edges of your crescents for proper browning.


The sausage gravy topping I use is the basic southern sausage gravy.
1/2# sausage browned with a small amount of onion and salt and pepper.  When the sausage is totally browned sprinkle with 3 tbsp of flour and stir until the flour is making the sausage drippings thicken.  (If your sausage wasn't leaving drippings in your pan, use 3 tbsp of butter before the flour.)  Slowly add milk to your mixture stirring constantly.  Bring to a full boil and continue to cook for a few minutes.  It will thicken and the sausage flavor will completely take over the gravy.  Taste it.  Make sure it has enough salt and pepper and that you don't taste flour.  If you do, cook longer.


Here they are before the gravy is added.  They are good just like this, but any excuse to add gravy is gonna get my attention!  :)






Voila!

And here's what was for dinner last night!










For future reference....you can stuff these with anything you can imagine!  I have done scrambled eggs with cheese, hamburg with potatoes, onions and cheese, spinach and cheese and once I did bacon and tomatoes.

Your imagination is your only limit with this simple and really filling meal.


Bon Apetit!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Songs

My Favorite Christmas Song(s)
BFF #149


This one is fairly easy for me.  I am a huge Elvis fan and his version of "Blue Christmas" is near the top of my list.  I love it and I love how he delivered it.  It is not my favorite, but one I always want to hear on Christmas Day.


Just clickity clickity and Go hear to see and hear him...


Topping my must hear list is "Holy Night" and I like several different covers of this one.  The one I usually choose is Neil Diamond's version.  I love his voice and I love the true feeling in his singing of a song most Jewish children didn't learn at their holiday services.  :)  It makes me smile to know that he can make me believe he believes every word he is singing.  


Clickity click here for this one!


Elvis also does a song that I enjoy all year long...it's called "Mama Liked the Roses" and I nearly cry every single time I hear it.  Most aren't familiar with this one since it was never a big hit, but it is beautiful.  Knowing how much he adored his mother makes it even more heart warming to me and the fact that I adore my Momma might have something to do with it as well.


Grab a kleenex and listen to this one...click click


I put the 5 disc player on early in the day on Christmas and these three along with about 150 more songs will play throughout the day.  Softly singing behind all the noise or being the center of a quiet moment, I can't get enough Christmas music.  I will occasionally just play one cd out of the blue during the year, just to remember the Christmas feeling.  It'll probably be a selection from Elvis does Christmas!  He always makes me happy.


One more from Andy Williams....


And with that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with peace~joy~love.  2012 holds great promise.


Jo (ho ho ho)


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Curiosity

Curiosity
GBE2 #30

Why does it feel so quiet tonight?  Has everyone else in the building gone out?  Have they all gone to family gatherings or to the local pub because they have no one at home and the thought of being alone is overwhelming at the holidays?  Listening intently, she hears absolute silence.  Silent Night. That thought makes her smile and instinctively go to the window to look for the star in the north.  It's there and it is bright, but she is too engrossed in the silence. 

It's a picture perfect winter night.  The ground is white and nearly unmarked by the fresh inch or so of snow that has been falling for the past hour.  Not so much falling as drifting down ever so softly, so as not to disturb the utter silence.  The street lights are kind of blurred by the lightly floating snowflakes as they search for their exact location to fall and become one with all the others, thereby, forming this incredible blanket of fresh, clean and pure snow. 

Returning to her sofa, she reaches for her blanket of the softest yarn she could find when she decided to knit herself a cuddling blanket.  It turned out well after several months of knitting and leaving it and knitting again until it was, at last, exactly the size she required for wrapping or napping.  Tonight she would wrap herself in it's warmth and enjoy this holy and silent night alone. 

She thought very little of the others she used to share in her days.  They had all moved on in one way or another and now her days were filled with television, music, books and her job.  Somehow, being alone in this world was not a bad thing for her, ever.  She liked people and had many acquaintances at work and around the neighborhood, but none of them would be called friends because she chose not to make them friends.  She chose instead to make stories in her mind about their private lives and they lived inside her head that way.  If she thought of Tom who she knew was married and had one small boy, she would see them all three around the dinner table and Tom would be leading the grace before eating and his wife, whom she named Sue, would be smiling and with one hand shushing the little boy.  She had not yet named the little boy. Adriana would see herself seated across from Sue. She only knew Tom because he is the man who brings her mail to her desk each day and he wears a company name tag.  He is not her friend, but in her mind, she is often with his family.

This is how Adriana lives her life now.  All of the real people who had hurt her, disappointed her, just not cared about her, all were gone on their way.  She discovered that if she stopped calling them or stopping to visit them, none of them called or visited her.  Her friendships were all one sided.  She ended them simply by not making any effort.  The new people in her mind, however, were always calling on her and including her in all their plans and therefore, a night like this one, the Silent Night, the Holy Night, actually was a welcomed reprieve. 

Her curiosity was on high alert whenever she realized that in this apartment building lived 10 other single people and one couple.  It seemed to her that very often she was the only one either home or awake. That always made her feel just a little bit better, somehow.  Not better than them, better than she felt when everyone was coming and going or talking in the hallways.  This was the time that she made up her stories about each of them. She had named them all, given them all back stories and knew what each did every minute of every day.  All of this without ever making eye contact with any of them or speaking to them.  She had never uttered a word to another resident.  That would ruin the story development.

Curious, always, but satisfying that quest to know in her own mind and with her own unique spin, always.
Sanity?  Insanity?  Who knows!  But for the first time in her 43 years on earth, she is happy and content and not a single person exists that can cause her pain.  She has had enough pain and this is who and what she wants her life to be about.  Alone with her stories and her God.  Never alone.

Jo




Friday, December 9, 2011

An Old Fashioned Christmas

An Old Fashioned Christmas
BFF #148


Living in South Padre Island, Texas for the last 3 years had been the best life Mickie had ever know.  She had been dating a local guy for the last year or so but when things started to feel permanent, she cut herself loose.  She didn't want to belong to him. She didn't want a relationship with strings and obligations.  She had worked far too hard for far too long to lose everything in her business life just to be with someone.  Her business was everything.  She wanted to make money while she was young and free so that when she was ready to settle down, she would be able to walk away from her business and throw herself into the life of wife and possibly motherhood, or possibly not.  She had not decided yet if children were part of her long range plan.


The one clear and definite thing in Mickie's mind was that this business was everything she had ever hoped for and everything she wanted was happening for her, right now.  She had moved to South Padre Island to take over a business on the island.  It was a candle making business that she had visited some years earlier.  The homemade candles were soy wax and she had purchased several to take home.  After getting home, she realized these were the best candles she had ever burned.  The fragrance was intense, but not overbearing and the colors were subtle yet perfect and the containers were glass jars of various sizes of a unique shape.  They resembled old medicine bottles with wide mouth openings.  


Shortly after re-ordering candles from this shop for the 6th or 7th time, she got a note from the owner explaining that she had put the store up for sale.  Her health was failing and she and her husband had decided they needed to kick back a bit and enjoy their lives just a bit more.  The candle making was taking far more of her time than she now wanted to give.  There had been no 'lookers' to date, but she wanted Mickie to know it was a possibility.  She went on to explain that the two younger girls she had met in the shop would be pretty much taking over until a sale could be completed.  She thanked Mickie for her continued support and hoped she would continue to receive quality merchandise and excellent customer service.  


Mickie was immediately struck with her brand new plan.  She needed to work her buns off for a while and find enough money to buy this place.  She needed to have the life she had tasted on her vacation just 2 years prior.  Currently she was employed in a dead end, but good paying job.  She was customer service, from her home for a company that manufactured fans.  All she did was handle customer concerns and email reports.  Because she was on call 24/7, she was well compensated.  If she took on a few children to babysit while their moms worked, she could sock away enough in no time to buy that business and make the move.  She knew of some discontented moms and she made some calls.  It took her four days to get 5 kids under 4 all for five days a week until the end of the year.  She made it clear to each mom that she planned to be leaving the state in January  of the following year.  This was February, so they could get this 11 month deal.  She would watch their kids, any hours, at her home up to 50 hours a week, not including meals, for $100.  If they had 2 kids, $150 for the two.  If she was providing the food, it would be $50 more per child.  No days off, she would be available 7 days and whatever hours they needed.  She would not be taking a vacation and she would expect them to pay her half of their fee if they took one.
The next call was to the candle shop.  


Mickie explained her plan and wondered if there was any chance that the owner of the shop could just hang on until January.  She explained her plan to be able to make the move in 11 months and would bring cash to buy her out.  The candle shop owner had a better plan.  She counter offered with the idea of Mickie sending her $400 a  month from now until she moved and they would send her a contract stating that she did in fact own the business as soon as they received the first payment.  The contract would spell out all the details, but mainly that the current owner would be working for Mickie as her manager until she could physically take over.  The $400 monthly would continue until the business was paid in full or Mickie could opt at any point to pay it off.  


Mickie accepted.  She was a woman of her word and stayed until January.  The kids were a lot of work, but she actually enjoyed having them around. She never went out, she didn't shop and money built up in her account.  She sent her payment to Texas regularly and handled a few decisions over the phone.  Mostly things went smoothly on both ends during this transitional period.


Now that she had been on the island for a few years, she was more determined than ever to just sock money away and build this business into a mega store.  The candles got more and more unique as she explored and experimented with all kinds of options.  They were not inexpensive, but they were 'must haves' for all the locals and Winter Texans (the northerners who winter on the island or nearby) couldn't get enough of them.  Her next move was to donate a few dozen to each of the many restaurants on the island with tags attached as advertisement.  Some of the restaurants had even implied they could make a small display for her at or near their check out.  They would get a buck or so per sale, but they would also not have to buy replacement candles for their tables, if they wanted to replace them.  Everything was going well, business wise.


The break-up was inevitable because he was more interested than she was.  She really enjoyed the occasional dinner out and having someone to talk to on the evenings she spent at home, but otherwise, he wasn't the one. 


Her Christmas sales had been amazing.  People were buying and ordering candles shipped all over the country every single day.  Some were buying dozens of varied sizes and colors and then calling back to add on.  She was having the best quarter since she had taken over the store.


On the 15th of December her number one sales gal and candle maker, Adele, asked if she would like to have Christmas dinner with her family.  Mickie had met all of the family at other events where they included her as if she was one of them.  She agreed and actually began to look forward to the day, which she had not done in many years, if ever really.  Mickie was an orphan, raised in a group home and Christmas was not much, to say the least.  She had never really had an old fashioned Christmas.


They closed the store at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  Adele went home to her family and Mickie went to the local pub a few blocks from her home.  She ordered a drink and sat quietly in the corner looking around at the usual patrons.  She knew them all and ordinarily would have spoken with them and shared a few laughs.  Tonight she was just tired.  She finished her drink and headed home to shower and fall into bed.


Mickie arrived at Adele's large home on the Lagoon side of the island.  So much quieter here than on the Gulf side, where Mickie lives.  No waves rushing to the sandy beaches crashing and rolling endlessly, just silence.  She was welcomed immediately and rushed into the dining area where the bar was set up.  Drinks in hand she and Adele headed out to the back deck where most of the family was hanging out, laughing and talking and munching on some wonderful snacks Mrs. Rodriguez had prepared that morning.  The smell of the cooking dinner was practically irresistible to
Mickie.  Though she was a good cook, she hadn't cooked a meal in months.  By the time she got home from the store each night, she had no interest or energy to create anything other than a lump in her bed.  


The table was set with red china. All the serving dishes were white and everything was sitting on a magnificent handmade table covering.  It was from Mexico, she was told, an aunt had given it to the Rodriguezes  for their wedding some 38 years ago.  The aunt had made it and had done so for every niece in this very large family.   The wine was also homemade by an uncle who owns a vineyard and was beyond description. The food was endless.  It just kept coming out and being devoured and more would come out.  There was talking. All the time, talking and laughing and Mickie was having the most wonderful Christmas of her life.  The love in this house was contagious. She felt wanted and warm and like never in her life, part of a family.  


In the years to come, whenever Mickie thinks of Christmas, she will think of this day.  After the perfect dinner, there were a few small gifts for everyone, including her.  Her gift was a handmade shawl.  Beautiful traditional Mexican colors of red, green, white, blue and yellow stripes. She had thrown it on her sofa and used it every time she sat to watch TV or read a book. It reminded her of her one and only old fashioned Christmas, Mexican style.  Her style now.  


Padre Island life was so perfect for Mickie and her life was heading exactly where she was driving it.  Christmas had opened her heart for the first time possibly ever.  The family she had become part of was her lifeline and her business was her foundation.  


Once upon an old fashioned Christmas Mickie found her place in the world.


Jo

Celebration

Celebration 
Writers' Post #26

There are so many reasons to celebrate in our lives.  We celebrate achievements. We celebrate marriage, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, job promotions, holidays and the list goes on and on, doesn't it?  We celebrate with the appropriate people for each occasion and share the delight of whatever has happened.  Ever notice how often wine or spirits are part of celebrations?  Wonder why that is?  I also wonder why we so often eat as part of a celebration.  In fact, some celebrations are more about the food than they are about the accomplishment or good news or whatever.  


I love a good celebration!  Let me say that right up front, I am a celebratin' kind of girl.  I am such a partier, I don't even need to have a real reason to celebrate.  I think life is reason enough.  I also think friends are reason enough.  Got friends from out of town coming over?  Have a party! Celebrate and do it up good.  And cook something to share.  Maybe the guests favorite food, or something traditional for the season or something you know you make really well.  Good food, good friends and you've got a party.  Maybe a good bottle of wine or a good case of beer will round out your plan.  Gotta love a party.


Around here, summer equals party time.  We love to throw a party or 10 during the summer months.  We have sufficient outdoor space and I love making food for guests and of course, I love having friends over anytime.  I like to share my current favorite wine with anyone who might like to try it and we always have a large supply of beer and soda pops of various types.  I don't need an occasion to throw a celebratory get together between May and October.  


Now of course, we are entering the Christmas celebration period and I used to love this time of year the most.  I always looked forward to the big family gatherings and food of all sorts all day or week-end long.  Plenty of egg nog for those who enjoy the holiday treat and plenty of coffee, tea or beer or wine for the others.  A little Bailey's in that nog is amazingly festive!


The little ones always love the baked treats that seemed to magically appear for them at every Christmas or Thanksgiving get together.  (Magically, after G-ma had stood in the kitchen for 3 days non-stop mixing, dropping and baking cookies by the hundreds until a thousand or 2 appeared on platters for them to eat here and in boxes for them to take home. )  I always loved watching them play with each other and us while on their sugar highs!


Christmas celebrations are so much more fun with the kids around!  I love that part. I also love the cooking, the visiting and the nog with Baileys!  Momma and I start enjoying that every Christmas Eve upon returning from my sister's delicious dinner.  We have just one or two to 'take the edge off' so we can get a good night's sleep.  (That's our story and we're stickin' to it!)
Roomy started buying us a bottle years ago and that tradition is still alive and well.  She will spend the night with us and stay all day Christmas until dinner is done and cleared.  Our Christmas morning is just the three of us and then we wait until whoever is coming over gets here.  There will be a nice breakfast, gifts exchanged and no doubt, a nap!  


Celebrate each in your own way, but maybe take a few minutes to remember that the birth of Jesus is the reason for this celebration.  Maybe just a  moment at some point during the day you could just bow your head and whisper a thank you and happy birthday.  


And the next day...if you have a minute, do the same thing.  Oh, but this time, you can add "to Jo" at the end!   LOL


Merry Christmas all and to all.....you know the rest!


Jo