Friday, March 30, 2012

Fiction Friday

           “That’ll be $2.99, Ma’am.” The pony tailed, gum smacking cashier held out her hand.
           “But the sale price is $1.49. I only have $2.00.” I showed her the sale paper.
           “That’s last week’s paper, Ma’am.” She pushed her open hand further toward me.
           Down to my last two dollars and now this. Would it be too much to ask to pick up a pair of hose so I wouldn’t look so bedraggled for my job interview?
           “I’m sorry, I’ll put them back.” Of course there would be fifty gazillion people in line behind me, and now all of them knowing that I couldn’t afford a stinking pair of pantyhose.
           “Uh, I don’t think so. You opened them.” She raised her hand toward the customer service desk, pushed the gum under her tongue and called, “Manager needed at register number three.”
           Wasn’t she last year’s Hog Calling Queen? They heard her in the next block.
           “Yes, I’m sorry. I had to make sure the waist band wouldn’t cut off my circulation. I thought they were $1.49. I had every intention of buying them.”
           The manager fumed over like he’d been jerked away from receiving the Nobel Prize for Grocery Store Management.

           “What is it, Tiffany?” She pointed at me. Grand Poobah Manager slid his glasses down to the bottom of his nose and glared me into the dust.
           “This lady opened a package of hose, and she doesn’t have the money to pay for them.” She crossed her arms and cocked her head, lips creeping into a triumph smirk.
           The sound of the coke machine hum and the crying baby behind me screeched to a halt. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and then made a gross clucking noise as I took a breath to speak.
           “I’m so sorry. I thought they were on sale. I need them for a job interview. Could you just take down my name and let me come back with the rest of the money?” Maybe I could search the couch cushions again for loose change. I’ll take that hole in the ground to swallow me up now, if you please.
           “I’ll get your name alright, Lady. Follow me to my office.” He huffed and he puffed and he blew back toward his office without so much as a please or thank you.
           “Wait here,” he snarled, motioning me to a dingy chair.
           What? Did he need to round up reinforcements? Maybe I should run for it and try to make the interview in my disheveled state. The good impression I planned to make evaporated into unemployment land. I plopped down in the chair and closed my eyes. What could they possibly to do me?
           The clock ticked away ten minutes. I opened my eyes and looked around. The manager’s messy bulletin board drooped with old flyers and notes stuck all over it like a ghetto mosaic. My eyes focused on a tear off pad of coupons that read 50% OFF ANY ONE ITEM.

           Ah ha. Tearing a coupon off the pad, I stood to my full height, ready to storm the Citadel and claim my rightful place in the world of the gainfully employed.
           The loudspeaker summoned the manager to isle ten, so I took my package of hose, my $2.00 and my trusty half-off coupon and left the office. I got back in line to check out, but not Tiffany’s line.
           Beep. The clerk scanned my hose. Beep, he scanned the coupon. “That’ll be $1.50 please.” He smiled as he held out his hand.
           I made sure he gave me my receipt in case the manager appeared and accused me of theft. My hand grasped the exit door.
           “Wait, Ma’am!”
           “You forgot your change.”
           I hugged him and then raced three blocks to the lawyer’s office where I was to interview for receptionist. Ducking into the lobby restroom, I changed into my new hose.
           The attorney arrived fifteen minutes later and apologized. “There was some kind of ridiculous delay at the grocery store. Some poor girl didn’t have enough for a pair of hose. They made a huge, outrageous deal out of it.” A friendly wink set me at ease.
           I got the job and a small advance. My new boss gave me a firm handshake. I admired her business suit, and the beautiful, long run in her hose.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Devo Thursday


For who has despised the day of small things? Zacchariah 4:10

"Como esta?" Simon asks as he enters the library where I work. "Muy bien, gracias, y tu?" I answer. He has been helping me learn Spanish and I have mastered the greetings. Recently he discovered that I have five daughters and asked, through my Spanish speaking co-worker, how he could apply to meet them. I grinned and ventured into new vocabulary. "Mis hijas son cansada." Simon and my coworker looked puzzled and then burst into laughter. "You have just told him that your daughters are tired. You meant to say "casada married". Ah, so much to learn. But as I thought about it during the day it occurred to me that sometimes there is just one little thing standing between marriage and tired.

Zerubbabel had been given the power to rebuild the temple. What a mountainous and exhausting task! But the Lord said in Zacchariah 4:6, "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit." He declared in that chapter that the mountain would become a plain before Zerubbabel. He had managed to lay the foundation but now needed to do the many little things that would add up to such a large accomplishment. Those little things must not be "despised".

I am awed to think that the same principle applies to our marriages, or any relationship. We must not despise the little things. The little day to day thoughtful surprises; gentle words, phone calls, notes, gifts, positive encouragement help to keep things new. There's that little 'n' that is so important to keep 'tired' out of 'marriage'. Through the Holy Spirit we are given power to build and rebuild our marriage and keep it new, or 'nuevo' as Simon would say.

What ways do you do little things for the ones you love?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Post

I found this on my daughter's blog Jessica Day Ontiveros and couldn't resist placing it here today.

 To Skate or Not to Skate

Every other Monday night was suspenseful in our house growing up.  The happiness of 6 young children hinged on a handful of poor and unsuspecting piano and voice students. The weight of our worlds on their poor little shoulders. It was simple, if their parent’s paid for their lessons today we got to go to the skating rink. If they didn’t, we didn’t.

We would wait “patiently” as the student would try relentlessly to pound out a beginner’s version of Jingle Bells. My Mom and her ever patient and gentle instructions somehow making sense of it all to the kid, who really just wanted to play drums in the school band but had to get piano out of the way first.
One of us would watch the clock and someone else would watch the window for the parent coming to retrieve their child. Sometimes if they came early and sat in their car for a while we would  try to pass the time by “entertaining” the bored adult. I remember one specific instance when we adorned one of us (probably my poor little brother to five sisters) with a pot on the head and a wooden spoon. The little performer marched like a soldier from one side of the yard to the other, rhythmically beating the pot with the spoon. I can only imagine the concern for our mental state these poor people must have had.

So finally the time would come when the last student would leave. One look at my Mom’s face and we would know whether they had paid her or not.

My Dad worked very hard at two jobs, he was a music minister and (because we all know how much they get paid) also an auto parts delivery truck driver. My Mom had upwards of 30 piano and voice students, this was what funded our skating.

Oh the torment we must’ve put my poor Mother through. Six little faces staring at her as if our lives depended on being able to skate. Especially if she hadn’t been paid. I also can’t imagine homeschooling six kids or teaching 30 music students a week only to have the profits go to a few rolls around the track and a game of Dead Bug. Which was really difficult in heavy roller skates, by the way.
Sometimes we didn’t get to go. Which was of course devastating. For all of 5 minutes. We’d silently curse the parent for forgetting her check book and maybe shed a few tears. But then Mom would come up with some fun thing to do that completely erased it from our minds. We might read The Chronicles of Narnia by candlelight and drink hot tea, or watch Anne of Green Gables all curled up in their huge water bed. Mom always has a way of turning everything into something more enjoyable.

I should probably add (in case it sounds like we were deprived of entertainment) that we did many other fun things and were involved in other activities throughout the week. On Monday nights however, we only cared about skating.

So then there were the glorious times when we did get to go. You may wonder why it was every other Monday night. This was simply because every other Monday night at our local skating rink was Homeschool Night, of course. A whole night dedicated to families like us! Although I don’t remember there being many other people there.
The icing on the cake was that Homeschool Night doubled as Christian Music Night. Because apparently every homeschooling family is also a christian family? Anyway, we were definitely that, so Homeschool/Christian Music Night was our night.

There were some rare occasions that we went on a non-homeschool night, nights where they played “secular” music (gasp!). Honestly, I don’t remember any songs that played on Homeschool/Christian Music night, I do however remember vividly the other nights. Nights where I’d skate around to Tim McGraw’s ‘I like it I love it’ feeling oddly naughty while pretending not to enjoy it or even know the words. I also remember the sheer shock and horror that melted into silent delight when I’d catch one of my parents singing along to “the devil’s music”.  I always knew they were the “normal” ones after all.

Looking back I’m so grateful for those evenings when we waited for the answer to the question “To skate, or not to skate”. They taught me that you can’t always get exactly what you want when you want it. That you have to work for everything that’s anything and that sometimes no matter how hard you work, other people may end up holding the key to your happiness… and disappoint you. In those instances we can choose to be devastated or find a different happiness, like reading Chronicles of Narnia by candlelight. Thanks Mom :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Caption Contest

I ran this once before and the winner never did claim her prize. Post your caption about the photo in the comments section below and I'll pick the one that tickles my funny bone or warms my heart. The winner really will get a prize! 
Even if you don't win, your caption may end up in one of my articles, poems, or books.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday. We conquered it:) I wrote an entire chapter today, and that feels great! What was the best part of your day today?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Get Outta Here!

I made a fast trip out of town yesterday. Three hours there, brief family visit, three hours back. I returned oddly refreshed and motivated. Why do you think getting out of town is such a help?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I know that was a loaded question yesterday: What's a Christian to do? Since I've been studying the love of God by flipping around 1 Corinthians 13 to discover ways that God loves me, I have a handle on it. Measuring my response to some issues yesterday, I'm falling down on the "loving" job. Thank heaven that Father never falls down on His job, His love.

God's love for us...keeps no record of wrongs. Amazing.
Ps. 103:12 blows us away with "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."  How far do you have to go before east turns into west? Forever!

Aren't you glad? On the subject of betrayal, much could be written about forgiveness. But what are your thoughts on "keeps no record of wrongs"?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 turns out that no matter how nice you are to people, you can still get stepped on, disregarded, betrayed, and otherwise have your heart broken. What's a Christian supposed to do with that? I'll get with the Lord and tell you tomorrow...It's a good thing I've been studying God's love.

Monday, March 19, 2012

 Our church has been going through a Duane Sheriff study called Love. We are amazed by 1 Corinthians 13 all over again. ♥

Normally, we look to that chapter to instruct us in loving others. 
Since God is Love (1 John 4:8 NIV), we can flip these verses to reflect
on how God loves us.  I'm going to blog for a few days on these amazing truths.

God's love for us is long-suffering.
Whew! Mercy, and Hallelujah. Me and my Pollyanna personality tend to wake up in a new world every day. I love that line from Anne of Green Gables.
"Tomorrow is fresh, with not mistakes in it...yet." I may start out fresh, prayed up and ready to walk the walk, but mistakes happen anyway. 

As I mediate on the long-suffering love that God has for us, gratitude fills my heart.

Your thoughts?   

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesdays are always quiet at our library. Funny, can't figure that one out. Hump Day slump I guess. At closing time, there are soft clouds shielding the west windows from the sun. There are the usual patrons who don't think we staff have a life and so we have to run them out. We all have supper to fix. Before I put on my librarian face and request that they leave, I sit here and reflect on the day.

Our Director's brother had a stroke today. We are praying for him and for the family as they minister to him.  Each of us has some kind or another of drama going on. There's also a stomach bug going around. It is nice to have the support and friendship that we share here. Even though from different "flavors", we share faith as well.

I love the way these women count their blessings. They may have troubles, but they can also be heard expressing gratitude.

The sun is completely covered now, and the silver lining around the clouds pictures the close of this day. We go home to family and friends, held in the palm of the Father's hand. A beautiful day by any account.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Doors Down From Jimmy

March 11, 2012 
"I know that land ain't worth much. But then someday, I just might up and put my own fence around her and call her Little Reata." -James Dean as Jett Rink, Giant

There it is, Jett Rink’s ‘Little Reata’. Well, what’s left of it.

The Ballroom of the Hotel Paisano, where cast & crew would watch their dailies. There are scuff marks all over the wood floor, perhaps one or two of them belong to James Dean...

When my husband took me to Marfa, Texas to celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary, I thought I would be most excited about staying at the Hotel Paisano. This beautifully restored 1930′s hotel is where the cast (including James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson) stayed during the filming of the 1956 movie Giant. Staying there was a dream come true, I’m a big fan of old movies and an even bigger James Dean fan, so it was pretty surreal. Our room was only 2 doors down from where he stayed. It was amazing.
But the feeling I got when we drove up on Little Reata was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Sounds silly, but just knowing he had been there gives you sort of a rush. Yes, he was there at the hotel too, but his moments at Little Reata were captured on film in one of my favorite movies, so it seemed even more special.
Little Reata is located a few miles outside of Marfa on private property, surrounded by a barbed wire fence. I noticed a place where the fence was up a good two feet off the ground, and it’s apparent that some pretty die hard Dean fans have crawled underneath there. Had I been a bit braver I might have tried!

What little is left of it is the good stuff. The entryway, and the iconic windmill.
Yes, the windmill still stands.
I wonder how much longer Jett Rink's windmill will stand up to the harsh desert weather
Can’t you just see Jimmy sitting up there?
No? Let me help you…

I really wanted to climb it, but unfortunately I don’t think it could even withstand a sneeze.
So there it is, in all that’s left of it’s glory.
Little Reata
It was hard to walk away from there, into the waiting vehicle parked next to the highway. But alas, we had another location to find. We had discovered Little Reata, now it was time to hunt out Reata Ranch.
My husband was a great sport. He is not the old movie/James Dean fan that I am, but he was the one who suggested we go to Marfa. He even let me play the Giant theme song as we drove out of town to find the old movie sets.
Stop laughing. It was a miraculous moment for me… =)
Sadly, seeing what remains of Reata Ranch was not so miraculous. The ranch house seen on film was only a facade made of wood and plaster used only for exterior scenes. Today it’s a skeleton of what it once was. It is also located on private property, and very hard to see from the highway. We actually missed it the first time and had to turn around and go back. We finally found it, but the picture is not impressive. (There are some great pictures online from very close up, if you feel like searching.)

Can you believe it? It actually made me really sad. I can’t believe that used to look like this:

After a few hours of scouring the desert landscape for old movie sets, it was time to head home. As we were leaving the hotel, we noticed the door to James Dean’s room was open. I snapped this photo from the stair way:
James Dean's room, 223
  We had a wonderful time and a great anniversary, I won’t ever forget the time we stayed two doors down from Jimmy!

Check out Jessica's Blog! Jessica Ontiveros

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview with Author and Musician Mike Blakely

Western Novelist/Songwriter Mike Blakely with three members of Critique Cafe


Mike Blakely made his second concert appearance at the Fort Stockton Public Library on Thursday night, March 1, 2012. Three of Mike's western novels have been nominated for the Western Writer's of America Spur Award, and in 2000 his novel Summer of Pearls won the award. In 2007, his song "The Last Wild White Buffalo" won the Spur Award for Best Western Song.

Before delighting the audience with his special brand of songwriting and singing, Mike joined the Fort Stockton Area Writer's Group, Critique Cafe, for a Q & A. session.Here are a few highlights:

Which came first, your writing or your music? My dad taught me to play guitar when I was just eight. I was very involved in music in high school. After graduation from high school in Wharton County, Texas, I spent three years in the Air Force. When I discovered that the Air Force wasn't going to be my career, I decided to go to school for Journalism. My dad got his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri so I thought I'd go there. All day long I wanted to learn how to write something, but they just wanted to teach politics, so I transferred to the University of Texas. They taught journalism there.

What is your opinion of the current state of journalism? There's no such thing anymore. I was taught to be objective. Every report is slanted one way or another now days.

Did you sell your first book? I wrote my first book while I was in the Air Force, back when I didn't know what I was doing. No, didn't do anything with that.

How did things get started for you? I wrote a series of newspaper articles for several years during the Texas Sesquicentennial in the mid-eighties. That took a lot of research into Texas history, which I've always been passionate about. I cowboyed on family ranches from the time I was small.  It seemed natural that I would have a passion for western writing.

You are an award winning western writer. Yes, I've written 17 novels. Summer of Pearls won the 2000 Spur Award, and in 2007 I was awarded the Spur Award for Best Western Song by the Western Writers of America. That was the first time they gave that award.

Who is your agent?  I queried over twenty-five agents when I was trying to get started. And that was before email was the predominant pathway. I got a lot of very pleasant rejections. Finally I landed an agent that was willing to represent a new western writer. I've been with Joe Vallely of Flaming Star Literary Enterprises ever since.

I know you just finished a project with Kenny Rogers. How does that kind of collaboration work? I'd already done a book with Willie Nelson (A Tale Out of Luck). He has the same agent (William Morris Agency) as Kenny Rogers and so one thing led to another. We pass ideas back and forth. I do most of the writing, but it is a give and take. I actually liked some of Willie's ideas better than mine.

What is your best advice for writers? Go to conferences and meet with editors and agents. Learn all you can. Don't write for the markets, follow your heart.

Check out Mike's Website Mike Blakely

Critique Cafe enjoyed the Question and Answer session, and the concert as well. One of my favorite things he said was "I grew up so far out in the country that my zip code was ee i ee i oh."