Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Writing Sample Wednesday ~ A Snippet From Passing Loop (NA Contemporary)

Well, I don't know about where you all live, but today we're experiencing a stereotypical Alberta winter. Yesterday, our temperature hit a balmy 0* with tons of sunshine and today we have whipping winds, blowing snow and the temperature is dropping by the hour. I have to say that in Winnipeg, where I am originally from, winter lasted from when the snow hit right up until it melted away in the spring. None of these teasers of spring-like weather for a few days until Mother Nature slaps you in the face with the reminder that it's actually supposed to be winter. Nice.

Oh well. Let's find a bit of happiness and entertainment in spite of what it's like outside. For today's segment, I'm sharing a bit from my NA Contemporary novel, Passing Loop. I'm in the beginning stages of finding this one a good home, but I can still share pieces of it until that happens without revealing too much.

For those of you who've read previous snippets from this story, the plot revolves around three very strong women (18-year old Chrissella, her mother Enya and the grandmother Lily Gran) representing three very different generations who are brought together in a blip of life tragedy. Although these women are the central part of the book, there are a few strong supporting characters whose presence are essential to the journey the ladies must take. One of them is George Cooper.

George not only watched Chrissella's mother, Enya, grow up, he also has a very special relationship with Lily Gran. I very much enjoyed creating the spirit he brought in the plot. He adds a fun, gentle and comforting contribution in these women's lives and I love the humor he adds to their banter. This snippet is my introduction of George Cooper, who you can tell from this short scene how much his character is enjoyed and needed.

I hope you enjoy this sample and, as always, feel free to share your comments.

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“Who had the room down the hall where the door is shut?”

Her mother’s face flushed, then she tilted her head. “I said we’ll talk about this stuff later, okay? I told you there is a lot of heavy stuff to share and, for tonight, we’re just going to keep things light.”

Chrisella sighed. “Fine. Can I have a glass of wine?”

“No.”

“A small one?”

“No.”

“Half a glass?”

“No.”

“A sip out of your glass?”

“Maybe, but don’t push it. Lily Gran is very against young people drinking. For a multitude of reasons.”

“Something else you’re going to talk to me about?”

“Maybe.”

“Another maybe?”

“Chrissy!”

“What? I am inquisitive. It’s in my nature.”

“I know. And it drives me insane.”

“You don’t have far to go on that one, you know.”

Enya stuck her tongue out. “Get the glasses on the table before your gran comes back downstairs or I won’t stop her from beating you with her cane.”

“I’d expect nothing less in this house.”

Chrissella walked over to get the cups and wine glasses. As she turned around, with her arms full of tumblers and very expensive stemware, a figure in the doorway almost caused her to drop everything she held.

A tall, lanky man stood beside the open door. He had very worn-in khaki pants and a beige work shirt on. The creases burrowed deep in his brow hinted to signs of long days outside, but the ones around his lips showed that he enjoyed laughing and smiling a lot. He held out a fistful of wildflowers to Chrissella, who was still aghast of what to say.

“Hi there little lady. My name is George Cooper. I’m guessing you’re Miss Lily’s grandgirl from the city. These here are for all of you ladies. They grow like crazy over at our place and thought you’d all enjoy ‘em. God knows we only have so much room inside for these blasted things.”

Chrissella’s voice was caught in her throat. She cleared it sharply then said, “Yes. I…I’m Chrissella. Gran said you were coming. Let me just put these on the table then I can try finding something for the flowers. I’m still learning where everything is.”

“Good grief, girl, no worries,” George said as he closed the door and took his shoes off. “Been visiting Miss Lily for years now and still learning how she likes things.” He winked.

“Well, goodness,” her mother said from behind her. “It’s so nice to see you again, Mr. Cooper.”

“Well for all that’s good in the world. Stop callin’ me ‘Mr. Cooper’. I think you’re old enough to just call me George, now. Don’t you?”

Enya laughed. “Okay…George. Mom should be down soon. She just went to change.”

“Mom?” Chrissella interrupted. “Does Gran have any vases? Mr. Cooper brought flowers.”

“Yeah. She keeps them in the same buffet where you got the wine glasses. There should be a few up on the top shelf.”

“I can’t believe it,” George said to Enya as Chrissella walked back to the buffet. “You don’t seem to have aged one bit. How is it that I’m looking decades older and you don’t seem to look any older than your daughter?”
Chrissella, who could see both of them in the reflection in the glass on the buffet door, did a dramatic eye roll.

“Oh, George. You always were a real lady’s man, ya big flirt.”

Laughter filled the hallway.

“Why don’t we go sit in the living room and wait for mom,” Enya said, gesturing with her hand in that direction. “She should be back down any minute.”

“Alrighty, then.”

Chrissella chose a tall, crystal vase, filled it with water, gingerly put the flowers in then placed it in the middle of the dining room table. She took in the properly set table and all the amazing food, realizing it was probably the fanciest dinner she and her mom have had. Ever. They could never afford to go out anywhere that required more than one plastic fork or spoon and never had any need to set the table since they didn’t get to eat together very often with their crazy schedules. It was kind of nice to have that warm, family atmosphere even if it was a bit on the poshy side for her.

Not that I’m saying anything about it out loud.

Gran’s stern voice brought her out of her daydream. “Well, what the heck are you doing? You look right out of it just standing there staring at the table. What’s wrong with you? We have a guest to entertain.” She limped toward the doorway leading into the living room and waved for Chrissella to follow. “Good evening to ya, George. Glad you were able to make it.”

Chrissella noticed her grandmother’s voice softened when she spoke to Mr. Cooper.

Interesting.

“Well, now. Have ya ever known me to pass up an opportunity to sample your cookin’? Of course I made it.”

Gran’s cheeks tinged red. “Oh, go on. Your mother is the finest of cooks. Can we get you something to drink to start off with? Got all the regulars to wet your whistle. Unless you’d like a spot of tea instead.”

“I think I’d be happy to have my whistle dampened. How about a spiked iced tea? And make sure to pour one for yourself and this beautiful girl of yours.”

Enya put her hands up. “Oh none for me, thanks. Not a big fan of spiked anything.”

“That’s news to me,” Gran said. “Since when?”

“For a while now. Just doesn’t seem to agree with me anymore.”

“Well, it sure as Marvin it agreed with you back in your young days. Boy, I remember some nights--”

“Alright, alright,” Enya interrupted. “I’m pretty sure George doesn’t want to hear stories about my teenage stupidity.”

“Maybe not, but I’d be interested in hearing about some of that dumbness,” Chrissella grinned at her mom.

Enya made a slicing motion across her throat with her index finger. Chrissella stuck her tongue out. 

“Spoil sport.”

“Spiked tea it is, then,” Gran said, lowering herself into a recliner chair and setting her cane beside her. “And please accept my apologies for these two. There’s a reason we won’t be going out very often.” She cricked her neck at Enya. “If you wouldn’t mind? I just got settled.”

Enya nodded, then disappeared into the kitchen.

Chrissella rubbed at a hangnail on her thumb, suddenly feeling exposed and uncomfortable. Just when she was about to offer to go help her mother, Lily Gran said, “Well, don’t just stand there. That’s twice in the last five minutes that you’ve taken on a statue stance. Sit yourself down on the couch with George there and see if you can keep a conversation going.”

“Oh let her alone now, Lil,” George said, leaning into the couch. “Not easy getting pulled away from your home and having to start all over at her age. You should know all about that.”

“Surely you aren’t comparing having to move away from your country because of war and the fear of being killed simply because your religion is different to moving two provinces over to help an old lady keep her house up?”

George grinned. “First off? You are no helpless old lady. Your doctor only asked you to get Enya up here so you could heal and such properly. Otherwise you’d be out there planting, raking, plowing and everything under the sun, never giving your hip a proper rest.”

Gran waved her hand. “Bah. You’re the one who suggested I get her up here to the doctor. Which, by the way, I still have to ‘thank’ you for.”

“Secondly,” George ignored Gran’s teasing. “Moving from a big city to a small town can be a big deal to anyone, especially a young person.”

“She’ll survive.”

Chrissella coughed. “Uh…hello? Sitting right here? Love it when conversations about me are happening right in front of me. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned that before.”

“Well, you’re free to join in anytime,” Gran said, shifting her weight in her chair. “Then the conversation about you will include you.”

“Nice. Oh! And by the way? If you’ve ever walked through downtown Toronto at night, there’s often that killing fear you mentioned. And for a lot less of a reason than you having the wrong religion.”

Gran leaned forward slightly. “Oh, then. Are we comparing war stories?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Good. Because war and dying are two things going on at once, but some people fight battles not requiring weapons, and still die. Don’t make light of it.”

The room fell so quiet Chrissella heard her mother messing with ice cubes.

“I didn’t mean any disrespect,” Chrissella said. “I was just trying to make a joke.”

“Well there are certain things that shouldn’t be joked about. Remember that.”

Heat rose up from Chrissella’s neck. “Yes, ma’am.”

“And for the love of Crikey,” Gran said, slapping her armrest. “Don’t be calling me ‘ma’am’. ‘Gran’, ‘Lily Gran’, ‘Grandma’ are all acceptable. ‘Ma’am’ just makes me sound either like a country bumpkin’s wife, a drill Sargent or just plain old.”

Two outta three there, lady.

Enya reappeared balancing four tall, frosted glasses on a serving tray. She bent down so Gran could take her drink.

“Well, thank goodness she got here with the whistle-wetters when she did,” George said, winking at Chrissella. “One more second and I’da reached for something to do a few shots with to loosen her up a bit, hey?”

Chrissella repressed a giggle, and sipped her iced tea. She wasn’t a huge fan of it when it was made right from actual tea. She was more of a full-of-sugary-goodness type of girl, but it had a slight minty aftertaste that made it not too bad.

“Good Heavens above,” Gran said, sucking in her breath. “I said ‘whistle wetter’ not marinade us in whiskey!”

George laughed, almost spitting his drink in the process. “Oh, you stop that now. All of us here know you’re a three fingers deep kinda gal.”

“Well, I never--”

“Sure as I’m sitting here ya have. Frequently. Just not usually bothering with the mix part.”

Chrissella didn’t know whether to laugh, suck back her tea or leave the room. So she held her glass as steady as she could while waiting for Gran’s reaction.

Gran released a side-smile, then said, “You old coot. Reveal any more secrets like that and out the door you’ll go. And don’t think I won’t kick ya on your big old arse on your way, even with this leg of mine.”

“And why would I think anything different? I’d even bend over for ya!”

Well, that was it. Everyone lost it. Even Gran’s smile widened, as her cheeks crimsoned in unison

The stove timer buzzed, alerting that the meat was finally done.

“Alright, then,” Gran said grabbing her cane. “Let’s move into the kitchen for some supper.”
Chrissella waited until everyone else walked to the kitchen table. She stopped her eyes on her grandmother, who was telling each person where to sit.

I think I just saw a sign of happiness in the old woman. And her face didn’t even crack.


She smiled, then followed the crowd towards the kitchen.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Music Mantra Monday ~ Bridge Over Troubled Water



Today's song choice is probably one of the most powerful songs I've shared on here for a while. It's funny. I've heard this song since I was in my early single digits but I never had an emotional connection with it...until now.

I've written hundreds of articles and blog posts, participated in interviews and given pep talks about the importance of staying true to who you are, even if there are bumps to go over in order to get there. Life isn't easy. I've said this many, many times. If it was easy, then no one would learn anything. And the life we live is based on the decisions we make, the choices we opt for, what influences are close to us and how we handle those tough times when we're knocked on our butts. I've given advice, suggested resources, been a shoulder to cry on and even helped set those who want to go on a better path at the starting line to try again. But what happens when that one person...that one person you care about so much your heart could explode...doesn't want to change their path that you know is destroying them? What do you do when you offer all of the aforementioned tools, and you can see that deep down they really want to reach out, but they turn the other way?

I've literally spent my entire life trying to help others who won't help themselves.

Not can't.

Won't.

And it used to make me so angry when I was younger because I just could not fathom how a person could allow themselves to fall, and continuously fall, but not accept help when it's offered. Even at a young age, I knew that it showed more courage to acknowledge mistakes, a wrong turn on life's path or a poor choice and do what's possible to set things straight than it was to carry on down a self-destructive path. It got to the point where I had to turn away from those I tried to make a difference for because it simply hurt too much to keep watching it happen. And, honestly? I'm not alone in thinking that I can only hear, "I'm sorry," or "It'll never happen again," or "I've learned my lesson," or, my personal favorite, "I'll change," so many times before the words become robotic and meaningless.

I've been accused several times of being cold-hearted, unfeeling, distant and uncaring for my decision to stop trying to help when I realize it isn't really helping, but enabling. The truth is that there aren't many other people out there who care more, feel more or worry about those I truly care about more than me. Those who think I'm a bitch because I put my hands up and say, "Enough!" don't see that it still hurts me to know they are still choosing the wrong path. Those who mark me as not caring because I won't house them after they've given me endless reasons not to trust them anymore don't see that I actually find ways of making sure they're still okay. Those who say I don't feel because I refuse to give in yet again when the end results of me doing so trickle down to affect me and my children don't see me cry at night and say silent prayers for them.

This song says everything I've said here in such a beautiful way. I have someone very dear to me who is choosing to live a life that I see is, literally, eating them alive. And after trying all that is in my power to help lift them up, they turn away believing where they are is better. All I can do at this point is remind them that I will always be here, that my love for them will never change, that I will always see the good in them no matter what they're doing out there and the help is here when they're finally ready to take it.

As said in the lyrics, "I lay me down" to give you a bridge over troubled waters.

I can only pray they'll be strong enough to cross it.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Writing Prompt Saturday ~ Fighting Writers' Block With Inspiration

There's nothing like being full of ideas, settling down to write then be mocked by the cursor blinking on your screen waiting for you to take the lead.

And waiting.

And waiting.

There is nothing more annoying than wanting to start, finish or add to a writing project only to have your muse fall deathly silent when you need her the most.

"Thanks for keeping me up all night with ideas, then shutting up when I'm ready to go!"

There are many authors and editors out there who don't buy into writers block. Even Stephen King has been quoted as saying, 'Just because something doesn't come right away, or you're afraid of it, an author should never just not write. Face it, write it and get it done.' I'll bet many of you are thinking, 'Easy for him to say!', but he's right. Not writing at all isn't going to clear the fog. Writing through it will.

I'm one of those writers (if there are any others out there like me, please stand up) who gets a story idea, envisions it from start to finish, then sits down and writes continuously until it's all right there. That's not how everyone works. But even I get stuck in a plot or scene from time-to-time. So how can we escape the dark grip of writers' brain freeze?

First, Mr. King is right. You can't cure these times by not writing at all because it's basically a form of procrastination. It's still going to be there later when you go back to it, right? Even if you take a break from it for a bit and work on something else, you're still writing and getting those creative juices flowing. Maybe in the process, the ideas will come back and you're good to go on the other project.

Next, figure out what exactly isn't working in the scene that you're struggling with. Have you moved in a totally different direction from where you wanted to go? Have you wandered away from the plot a bit? Did you put in 'too much' and are overwhelmed with trying to keep everything straight? I've done some of these too. The best books out there have enough characters who each contribute a vital piece in the overall story but not so many that the reader gets confused trying to keep track of everyone.

Another tip is to try not to stop in the middle of a chapter or story. There's less of a chance of getting 'lost' when you've included all thoughts, etc. in one scene rather than stopping in the middle and having to go back and refresh yourself on where you were initially going. Sometimes it can't be helped. I have four kids running around here and I am constantly interrupted. What I've done is mark where I stopped and where I was going when I had to stop so that I have an easier time getting back to the mindset I was in when I left it.

Finally, it can also be good to have a few open projects to work among simultaneously so that if/when you get stuck on one, you always have another project to turn to. I don't recommend this to everyone, though, because it's so easy to accidentally mix one story's plot and ideas into another one. Usually, I have a writing project, something that is in the editing stage and something in the research stage so that this problem doesn't happen. At the very least doing this can help you go back to the first project with a clear mind and a fresh view.

Okay, those are some of my ideas. Our writing prompt today is to figure out what gets you into your writers' block funk, and what strategies you can try to break through it as soon as possible. Please share your tips as there may be a fellow writer who could use some extra insight.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my own distraction to inspire me to get back to one of my projects is to do all of my assigned blog posts. I think my muse is waking up a bit and I need to take advantage of her sudden burst of energy.

Good luck and happy writing.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Foodie Fridays ~ An Easy Recipe For Leftover Beef

One of my major pet peeves is wasting food. With the amount we spend on groceries each week, I get a little cranky when food goes bad or leftovers are forgotten about in the abyss at the back of the fridge. So, I've started making leftovers (sometimes, leftovers out of the leftovers) that will be eaten and the flushing of fridge-made science experiments that used to be food.

This week I made a nice roast beef dinner. For the most part, I was happy to see that there was very little left. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busiest around here because dinner has to be ready by around 5 so my daughter can eat and get to her Jiu Jitsu class on time. So I usually plan for bigger suppers the other days so we can either eat leftovers on busy nights, or I magically turn what's left on the other days into something else I know will get eaten up completely. Here's what I did for this week.

I remembered a super easy recipe I discovered years ago to use up leftover chicken. It's made with Bisquick mix, but there are other similar mixes out there to try or you can make your own version. Really, everything you put in it is already cooked unless you need to 'veggie up' the dish and use the suggested frozen veg. It takes very little time to prepare, a short visit in the oven and it's pretty much ready to go in less than an hour, including baking time.

This time, I used up the leftover roast but you can use any kind of meat you have left over in the fridge. The only advice I have is to remember the seasoning used when you cooked the meat originally because that will add to the end flavor of the pot pie. In other words, stick with the seasoning you used the first time because it may not taste as good if you add different spices into the mix.

Alrighty, here we go. Enjoy and feel free to share your own quick and easy ways to use up those leftovers no one eats.
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Chynna's Leftover Beef Pie

1 cup of beef, chopped (or any meat you have on hand)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (or any cream-based soup that suits your meat)
1 3/4 cups of frozen veg, thawed (I use any leftover veg in the mix)
1 cup Bisquick mix (or your alternative choice of mix)
1/2 milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350*. Mix the meat, soup and veg together. If your meat doesn't taste as seasoned as it did when it was cooked the first time, feel free to season to taste. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, any shaped dish will do as long as everything has room without any concern of overflowing. Mix the Bisquick, milk and egg together then pour it over the meat/veg layer. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Writing Sample Wednesday ~ Chynna's Award-Winning Short Story (The Gray Felt Hat)

After a trying and rather stressful morning, nothing brings me back to me than my writing. I feel truly blessed that I have been given a gift that I can share with others. I know that I'm not the greatest writer alive (or dead). All I hope is that my words, no matter what they focus on, are able to reach someone else out there who may really need to hear them.

My focus and thoughts have been filled with having to help some very important people to me through some extremely tough times. The understanding that I only have what's within my personal power to help them has to be the most difficult part. It's heart-breaking to watch someone you care so much about choosing to go down a dark path. All I can do is hold on to the comfort that they have my love, support and pearls of wisdom to take with them that will, hopefully, help give them the strength to change their direction.

Some day.

That being said, I thought that this oldie but goodie story I wrote years ago was suiting to today's segment focus. I'd been writing for years before this story but after it won first prize in a writing contest, one of the editors wrote to tell me to get it published. It sold the next week.

It's a simple, but true story from my youth about my friendship with a wonderful old man I took the bus with every morning. We never even knew each other's names, but he gave me two things I so desperately needed at the time: (a) the gift of unconditional kindness, and (b) his open heart and ears. Sometimes, when a person is at their lowest, feeling at their most desperate, that one person who listens...just listens...is all it takes to re-ignite the self-worth they lost touch with.

So, I'm sharing this story with you today with the hope it brings you some of the same joy I had in writing it. And I hope for those who may be struggling out there, know that for some unexplainable reason, as I found out, that one special person will be brought to you when you need them the most.

Enjoy!
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Always be kind to strangers, Chynna. You never know the power of a simple act of kindness.

My grandparents were the wisest people I knew. I never questioned anything they told me when I was a child, even if what they said made no sense to me at the time. For example, I found being ‘kind to strangers’ a confusing concept considering in the earlier part of my life I was taught not to even talk to strangers.  But I was given a powerful lesson behind their tidbit on kindness the year I started Grade Nine.

It was the fall of 1984. Although there was no snow on the ground yet, it was quite frosty. I hugged myself and shivered as my breath hung in the air in frozen puffs.

“Where is the stupid bus?” I muttered through clenched teeth.

I was about to walk up to the next bus stop, which had a bus shelter, when the bus appeared around the corner and zoomed toward the small crowd gathering around me.

Finally!

The passengers filed onto the bus and noisily shuffled to their seats. I sat in the front of the bus, like I always did, to avoid unnecessary conversations with other people. Not only was I total introvert, but I was also not a morning person and often found cheerful conversation so early in the day quite annoying.

The driver’s late arrival made him behind schedule, so he left the bus stop as soon as the last person climbed up the stairs. As the bus pulled out onto the main road, I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.

A lot had been going on for me that year. My mother had gotten re-married, she was expecting a baby in early October and I’d started ninth grade. I’d had no real friends at school because someone had started a rumor that I was the one having a baby, not my mother. Missing a lot of school to help out with family difficulties only fueled the rumors. On top of all that, my biological father had removed himself from my life or so I was led to believe.

He’d told my mother that he wouldn’t pay her child support since she’d remarried. Mom said, “No money, no access!”  I found out later on the true reasons behind his decision, and forgave him. At the time, though, his disappearance had hurt a lot. And I was consumed with bitterness and anger…about everything.

Whatever. I thought back then. Good riddance.

The bus stopped suddenly, jerking me out of my daydream, and I almost fell forward out of my seat. Out of the window on the opposite side of the bus, I saw the top of a gray felt hat. The hat moved slowly toward the door of the bus and my gaze followed it. The hat rose as the elderly man wearing it clumsily climbed each stair. His body was bent forward in a question mark shape, which made it very difficult for him to climb the stairs with any great speed.

Hurry up! I thought with irritation. We’re late enough already!

After he paid his fare, the man looked right at me as if he knew who I was. A cold shiver raced through my veins. He shuffled slowly towards me.

“Excuse me, young lady. May I sit here?” he asked, motioning beside me.

I nodded.

“Thank you,” he said. Then he lowered himself down and adjusted himself in the seat. Like the gentlemen of his era, he removed his hat and placed it in his lap.

I smiled and looked out the window.

Great. Now he’s going to want to chat.

“It’s a beautiful day, no?” he asked, inhaling deeply through his nose. His accent was slight but familiar. Polish? German? “The air has just enough bite in it to get you going.”

“I don’t like cold weather,” I answered, still looking out the window.

“AH!” he stated with a hoarse laugh. “Just like my granddaughter. At least there’s no snow, huh?”

I turned to face him. “I suppose so. I’m just not a winter person.”

His eyes were a deep, dark brown and filled me with a comforting warmth just looking into them. His hair was silver with sprinkles of black here and there. He barely had any wrinkles, except when he’d smiled. Then deep furrows emerged around his mouth and eyes. I guessed he probably smiled a lot. He kept one hand on his hat while using the other to enunciate his words as he spoke.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you just said,” I said softly. He’d been talking to me while I studied his face.

“I asked if you were on your way to school,” he laughed.

I looked down solemnly and he put his hand on my knee. “Oh, young lady. These days should be the happiest you’ll ever have. You are too young to have such sadness in your heart. Focus on what makes you happy and things will work themselves out, no?” With that he smiled again.

Normally, I would have thought, “What a cheeseball!” But his words touched my heart. I hadn’t felt appreciated in such a long time. It was as though he knew how lonely I’d been. That marked the first of many bus rides together.

Every day he got on the bus and sat beside me. He never lectured me or talked down to me. He just listened and offered me his kind words. A month before school ended, he said something to me I didn’t pay much attention to at the time.

“Before you go today, my dear, I need to tell you how much our visits have meant to me. You are a very special young lady and I want you to make sure you never let anyone make you feel less than special, okay?”

I looked at him, his eyes rimmed with tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “You said that like you won’t ever see me again. Don’t worry! I’ll be here again on Monday.”

His belly laugh echoed around us. Then he got serious again. “Yes,” he said softly. “And I will be here with you too. Every day.”

With that, he touched the side of my face and I got off the bus. On Monday, I looked out the window when the bus got to the man’s stop but I didn’t see his hat. Maybe he’s just sick today. I thought. But the seat beside me remained empty right up until the very last day of school.  My heart ached that day as I looked down at the folded letter in my hand thanking him for his kindness to me throughout that difficult year.

I never saw him again.

We didn’t even know each other’s names, but he made a lasting impression on me. He came into my life during a time when all I really needed was someone just to listen to me. He gave me a gift very few others have ever given to me: true kindness. And I’m so grateful to him.

My grandparents were right. The kindness of strangers can be very powerful. To this day whenever I see a gray felt hat, I smile to myself with a tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. And I always leave the seat beside me on the bus open in case someone wants or needs to sit and chat.


Thank you.

Video trailer for BLACKBIRD FLIES!


Video Trailor for JUST SHUT UP and DRIVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRr-vJ8W7YA