The Sleepover

When I was 7 years old, my family lived in what was called a subdivision.  In ours, all the houses were built exactly alike-except for the shutters and the garage door which was painted a different color for each house. Ours was sky blue.  I remember facing the house, the garage was on the right.  My parents had a chest freezer in there and it normally held meat.  In the winter, when it snowed, we would make snowballs and my Dad would put them in the freezer so we could have a snowball fight in July.  As children, this was the greatest idea ever, until July came and we pulled out the snowballs to find them frozen hard as rocks.  So we decided they were better to chew on than to be hit by.  

There were three bedrooms in the house-one where my sister and I had bunk beds and a second bedroom for our brother. The third, of course, belonged to our parents.

Our kitchen was at the back side of the house with a door to the backyard.  That yard was enclosed by a chain link fence.  The house directly behind us was where my friend Jane lived.  Jane was my age and we would take turns playing in our yard or hers.  One day, Jane asked if I could sleep over.  Our mothers gave their permission and I looked forward to my very first sleepover.

Every day beforehand, I would pack my tiny little bag and then unpack it and repeat the process the next day.  My mother told me I only needed my pajamas and a change of clothes, I think, but I felt as though I would be away for a long time and I tried to pack accordingly.  When the day finally came, however, I packed my pajamas, a change of clothes for the next day and my toothbrush.  There were no gates at the back of the yards so when I was to go to Jane’s, my mother simply lifted me over the back fence. Jane and her mother were there to greet me and I felt extremely important. I was going on an adventure-even if it was just at the next house and only for one night.

That evening, Jane and I spent time coloring pictures.  Her brother, whose name I don’t recall, was a couple of years older and very bossy.  He informed us that we were not outlining our picturse properly and we would probably color outside the lines and make our pictures ugly.  So Jane and I made a point of coloring outside the lines. We didn’t color anything the expected color and when we finished each picture, we giggled together and were quite proud of ourselves.

Supper at Jane’s house was much the same as my own home except for the vegetables. Jane’s family seemed to love eating raw vegetables while I was not as fond.  After supper, we all sat in the living room and watched television.  We could choose from Leave it to Beaver or Bonanza.  There was also Candid Camera, Gunsmoke and The Lawrence Welk Show.

Finally, it was time for bed.  Jane had two beds in her room and when we had climbed beneath the covers and her mother had said goodnight, she turned off the light and closed the door.  Jane and I whispered to one another for what we thought was hours, but finally, it was quiet.  She had fallen asleep.  I lay in the bed listening as her parents went to their room.  Then the house was still.  The moon was bright that night and shone in the window over the bed where I lay on my back.  I wanted to be happy I was having a sleepover, but I wasn’t.  I missed my mother. I missed my bed and I missed the sound of my sister’s breathing as she slept.  I was certain I wouldn’t sleep at all.  I tried to close my eyes but that is when I heard it.

I heard a soft scraping and I knew it was coming from under my bed.  I thought I might have made a mistake but there it was again. The softest sound of scraping.  So soft it might have been missed, but I was there in the dark and the silence and I heard it.  Very slowly, I pulled the covers up to my nose.  I was afraid to take full breaths in case whatever it was would hear me.  At first, I hoped it was a cat or a dog, but Jane had no pets.  I thought it might be a mouse like when I had stayed at my Grandma Mary’s house.  Then I was sure-SURE-someone was under my bed. I was sure that someone was just waiting for me to go to sleep so they could–what would they do?  I had no idea. I only knew someone was under my bed and I wanted to go home.

It felt as though I lay that way for the rest of the night.  The moon was there shining on me, but it gave no answers.  I couldn’t just look under the bed.  That someone hiding there might grab me.  I knew that would happen, so I lay very still and pretended to be asleep.

When I next opened my eyes, the room was bright with sunshine.  Jane was sitting on her bed calling my name.  I was happy until I remembered about the someone under my bed.  I still didn’t want to move, but Jane’s mother called us to come eat breakfast, so I slid out of the covers and put my feet on the floor waiting to be grabbed. But nothing happened.  I pretended to drop my slippers so I could glance under the bed and nothing was there.  I stood, took a deep breath and went off to the kitchen with Jane to eat our oatmeal and toast.

When we had finished and dressed for the day, Jane and her mother walked me to the fence where my mother lifted me over and put me down in my own yard. She reminded me to thank Jane and her mother for having me stay.  Once in my own house, I told my mother it had been a good sleepover  and they were very nice to me-but I didn’t think I wanted to sleep anywhere but in my own bed ever again.

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Lost in the Gloaming

In the old days they called it the gloaming.  I always loved that word-gloaming. I always thought it captured perfectly the look and feel of that brief time between daylight and darkness. That few moments when everything is cast in the shadows of memory.In those few moments the hindsight steps in and the day’s events are savored or are subject regret. But something about that time-that shadow-that wondering-eases the regret and keeps the savored memories in their proper perspective.

For my part, the gloaming is my favorite time. That is when I work to sort out my thoughts. I attempt to learn from my day-both the positive and the negative. But on this particular day, my thoughts traveled far beyond the day I had just completed.

My thoughts went back in time to younger days. To worse times and to better times. My thoughts took me back to days when I was happy-but also to days of despair. My thoughts took me to other times of the gloaming.

I remembered times when the failing of the light brought a peace to the soul. I remembered times when the failing of the light was also a failing of the day.  I sat in that failing light and only saw that all the plans I had set for myself were failed plans. I saw that the hopes and dreams I had nurtured were lost now in the failing of the light. I saw that my life-my light-had reached the gloaming.

Growing older is, of course, inevitable, but age creeps up behind us. It sneaks in as we are occupied with living.

We are, as children, carefree, worry free and age free.  Nothing is further from us than our own mortality.

As teens we are invincible.  We believe nothing can harm us and we believe we will live forever. We see older folks and we only see them as they are at that age.  Somehow we believe they were always that old age.

Then, when we are young adults-in our 20s and 30s- we believe we know all we need to know about life. We often believe we know it all.

But somewhere in our 40s, a truth begins to whisper itself into our thoughts. Our joints begin to rebel. Our bodies slow down and we begin to look back.  As the years then seem to flow by more quickly we look around ourselves and we begin to wonder where the time has gone. We begin to rush into plans we were sure there was plenty of time to complete. We rush to mark off item after item on our bucket list.  We develop something of a fear that we have waited too long. We forge ahead telling ourselves age is only a number.

Then, one day, we look in the mirror and see a stranger.  That person in the mirror has white hair and perhaps much less of it. That image has a face lined with experience and worry and life gone by.

Today was that day for me.  It seemed just yesterday I was looking into a face with smooth skin. I saw thick wavy hair with a strong shiny color. But as I stood there this morning, the hair was thinned and shorter. The healthy sheen was faded and the face looked heavy with life.  My life had become lost in the gloaming.

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Letters to Sarah update

Hello My Friends!!

I have been asked about the progress of Book Three of my series-Letters to Sarah.  I can tell you that Book Three is being written and is, in fact, half completed.  When I have managed to write the rest of it, off it goes to my editor.  Believe me, I will let you all know when publication is eminent! I will be the one jumping up and down in excitement–and relief.

In this third book of the series, Mary is facing the rising ugliness in the world of the 1930s-by listening to radio newscasts and reading the newspapers-but she has made friends who are personally effected by the ugliness which shows her it is all very real.

Mary’s family grows, her world changes, and she deals with a personal change as the book progresses.

Letters to Sarah, Book One and Book Two, are available on Amazon.com and can also be ordered by your favorite bookseller.  Just ask for   Letters to Sarah by Nancy L. Stanford.

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

~Nancy

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Shameless Self Promotion

 

 

Letters_To_Sarah_Cover_for_Kindle

Many of us maintain a blog as a place to vent our inner selves.  Some maintain the blog in order to dabble at writing whatever genre inspires them. And some maintain a blog in order to share that which is a passion. I am, I believe, a touch of all three. 

In any given post, you will read either a bit of my latest project, an essay on a subject that interests me or you may just experience my venting over something or someone that has truly pushed my buttons.

I admit I am not a regular poster.  I posted earlier today on the subject of depression/anxiety.  The previous post was 2 weeks earlier. The post before that was, I believe, six months ago.  I regret that I am not entirely consistent and I hope to improve in that area, but for now, I think it is time to shamelessly promote what I have going.

Two years ago, I published my first book. Letters to Sarah {book one} was the culmination of 25 years research and work..and rework…and rework.  Then, since I had actually completed the manuscripts at the same time, I published Letters to Sarah-Book Two.   The reception of these books has been phenomenal to me.  The positive comments and the encouragement are amazing and the most motivating thing a writer can receive.  These two books have been read and enjoyed by all ages.  With such encouragement and support, I continue.

You see, Letters to Sarah is a series.  The main character is Mary who, at the age of 14 in the year 1910, suffers tragedy.  These books are Mary’s attempt to recover from that tragedy as well as deal with the world around her through her life.  Beginning in 1910, Book One continues until the end of 1919.  Book Two covers the 1920s and Book Three-which is in progress on my desk as we speak-covers the 1930s-and so on.

Categorized as historical fiction, all characters are fictional while the world’s happenings are real.  Mary guides us through our own past while we are given a private look into her life.

Letters to Sarah-Book One and Two are available on Amazon.com and can also be ordered through  your favorite bookseller.

If you happen to venture into Mary’s world, please let me know what you think.  Comments and reactions are the lifeblood to an author, so please don’t be shy.

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My Mask

I have worn a mask for most of my years.  I wear the mask of “I’m fine” and “I’m good” and “no, nothing’s wrong”.  I wear the mask of “Of course I will listen to your worries.” and “Yes, I am the ‘Ann Landers” of the group. Go ahead and tell me.”  My mask has consisted of smiles and laughter and jokes and hugs and play.  My mask has fooled everyone from siblings to spouses to friends and even strangers. I wear a perfect mask.

But that perfect mask does not, and cannot, hide everything.  It does not hide it from me.  Beneath that mask, I know what is true. I know what is real and I know what hurts.  Beneath that mask, the depression threatens every moment. Beneath that mask, the anxiety pushes to explode.  Beneath that mask, the true me wants to throw things and hit things and scream.  Beneath that mask, the tears are plentiful and they threaten to drown me.  Beneath that mask, I often wonder at my own worth. I wonder at my existence and I wonder if it is all worthwhile. Beneath that mask, I am nothing.  Beneath that mask, I don’t count to anyone and beneath that mask, I want to go to sleep so I don’t feel….anything.

That mask allows me to pretend.  I pretend to be ok. I pretend to be happy. I pretend to care about things and I pretend to be the strong one.  But I am not strong. I am not ok.  That mask allows me to get through my days with as little conflict as possible because conflict feeds off the pain and the anguish and my soul can’t take that. That mask allows me to, at least in part, be a member of society. That mask allows me to seem normal for a while.

I would love to throw off that mask. I would love to dispose of it and let those near me see the pain and the hurt and the anguish that depression and anxiety cause.  I would love to be able to depend upon someone to sit with me and actually hear me and at least TRY to understand.  But I can’t do those things.

Without the mask, I am told to “snap out of it”.  Without the mask, I am told to “get over it”. Without the mask, I am told “What in the world do you have to be depressed about?”.  Without the mask, I am avoided. Without the mask, I am ignored.

No one wants to deal with a person who is drowning in depression.  They don’t understand it and that makes them uncomfortable.  No one wants to have that sort of ‘negativity’ around to mess up THEIR life.  No one wants to step forward and say to the one fighting the mask “I am here and I may not understand why you feel as you do, but I care about you.  So talk to me.  Lean on me.  I am here for you.”  No one says those things and means it.  No one means those things when the actions are finally needed.

So I wear a mask.

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I’m Not Really White

I had a conversation recently with two people..one caucasian and one black.  There was a bit of joking about color and discussions about other things more mundane, but after the conversation had ended, I began to think about it.

I have always been identified as white.  Ok.  But, as a person who tends to be a bit too literal at times, I beg to differ.  Snow is white. My paper is white.  The blinds on my window are white. But me?  I am pale pink..or light tan..given the lighting at the moment.  One of my dear friends identifies as black, but she isn’t. She is the most beautiful dark shade of brown.  Neither of us fits into the strict black and white package-in skin color or in attitude.

My friend, I will call her Gina, says she is often called “African American” because of her skin color.  The problem there is that no one in Gina’s family is, or ever has been, near Africa.  Gina’s family originally came from Jamaica with a limb from her tree coming from Haiti somewhere along the way. My personal ancestry is mainly Scottish with a few limbs of the tree stretching to Switzerland, England, France and Germany.  Because of these stretched out limbs, we are both the same. We are American.

Each and every American, unless they are indigenous people, have their beginnings elsewhere.  I met a man once who complained about those invading us from the Middle East, yet, after we talked a while, he told me  how his ancestors came from Jerusalem.  He was proud to come from the same area as Jesus.  I reminded him that Jerusalem is in the Middle East.  I reminded him that Jesus was a Middle Eastern man.

You see, we seem to “hate” what we are told to hate.  We listen to the loudest voice telling us what is right and wrong and we don’t stop to use our own brain. We don’t stop to THINK about what we are being told.  Yes, I am caucasian. Yes, Gina is ‘black’. Yes, the young man is Middle Eastern.  But all three of us were born and raised right here–in the same country, with the same input and the same basic beliefs in freedom and humanity.  Should it matter that our ancestry is different?  Should it matter if our skin tones are different?  Of course not.

When I mentioned that Gina is black, I didn’t tell you she is a brilliant mathematician.  When I mentioned I am caucasian, I didn’t tell you that I suck at math, but I am a creative soul.  When I mentioned the young man whose ancestry is from the Middle East, I didn’t tell you that he drives a semi for a living and his name is Muhammed.

Gina can explain string theory and knows the Pythagorean theorem inside out.  Her skin color has nothing to do with that. Muhammed was born in Arkansas and has driven a semi in every one of our 50 states. He can tell you numerous facts about each and every one.  His ancestry has nothing to do with that.  I believe that every single person on the face of this earth deserves freedom, respect and equality. My skin color has nothing to do with that.

No two people on this planet have the same skin color.  No person does what they do or thinks what they think based on the color of their skin.  The problem arises when those in our number who are basically afraid, begin to judge based on nonsensical things-such as skin color.  We may as well decide our hierarchy on shoe size or height or what was the first thing you did this morning?  Do you are do you NOT like oatmeal for breakfast?  Do you prefer red or blue?  Do you prefer winter or summer?   These preferences make just as much sense as basing everything on a color.

So-I am not white. I am American.  I am a bit on the short side. I wear a small shoe.  I do like oatmeal for breakfast occasionally and I like the color red.  Those things simply make me human-the same as everyone else.

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Along The Way

The last time I wrote about walking the path I took  again today, it resulted in a post about my body arguing the necessity of the walk.  Just a fun post.  This time, however, it is not so fun.

When I set out on the walk-some two or three blocks long, I think-the sky was clear and sunny.  The temperature around 60 degrees and the breeze was perfect.  I walked along feeling revived and renewed with the exercise and the beauty of my surroundings. For those who do not know, I live on the very edge of a very small town, so some of this walk is next to open field and trees.  I am a nature lover-a tree hugger, if you will.  I value and cherish every single living thing, whether it runs, walks, crawls or grows from the ground. That is my chosen religion.  Nature is my sanctuary-my cathedral.  I take care to give it care and respect it deserves for allowing us to live here.  I take care as an offering of gratitude for the very air it provides so that I might live out my days happily.   But today, I was reminded that not everyone is as appreciative or as caring of their surroundings.

As I walked I saw the litter.  I saw the careless lack of thought of my fellow humans. I saw the damage made to our Mother Earth and it made me sad and angry. I know exactly what the thought processes were.

It’s only a candy wrapper.

It’s only the lid off a McDonald’s soda.

It’s only an empty plastic bag.

It’s only a little piece of paper.

It’s only a Platinum X7 bottle {whatever that is}.

It’s only an old throwaway newspaper.

It’s only an empty soda can.

It’s only an empty water bottle.

Every person who tossed one of these things out their car window as they drove down this road thought that…or they didn’t think at all. They simply rolled down their window and tossed it out because it was easy, because they were lazy.  Now, because of their laziness and their inability to have compassion for others, because of their obvious indifference to the world around them, this one short stretch of road resulted in three plastic shopping bags full of garbage.

When I hear someone complain about polluted air or polluted water or those “poor animals” whose photo was posted on Facebook with a plastic ring around their nose or their neck, I want to ask them.  Have you ever just absent-mindedly tossed a scrap of paper out your car window?  Have you been to the beach and sat trash next to your blanket and just forgot about it when you left?  Do you take any consideration at all for the world around you and how interconnected you actually are with it’s health and survival?

When you cut down trees,  you are destroying the creator of the oxygen you breathe. That is not to say that no trees should be cut down.  Please do not misunderstand.  Trees are not immortal. They come to an end just as all living things do and sometimes they fall on their own, other times they must be cut down in order to prevent harm.  But when you cut down a tree because you don’t like the look of it or you don’t like where it sits, you are not thinking it through.

When you chop down a beautiful, healthy tree for no reason whatsoever, you should feel shame and you should feel guilt.

There are billions of individual trees on this planet we call home.  Each and every one of those trees carries a singular DNA, just as we humans carry.  A single tree can be located merely by the DNA.  These are living things that are vital to our very existence.

I suppose I should not be surprised that so many care so little for simply growing things when those same people care little, or not at all, for their fellow man.  But remember one thing.

Without these living, growing things around you, YOU cease to exist.  It truly is that simple.

 

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