The Bleaker Street Tradition

The number of holiday lights on Angela and Craig’s house grew over thecobaltb 40-some years they lived on Bleaker St. Hundreds of cobalt blue and white lights trimmed the roof, outlined the front door, and sparkled from the bushes.

That is, until a few years ago.

“I’m afraid the lights are out for us,” Angela told Jess, her next door neighbor. “Craig’s in the hospital; he fell, broke his ankle, sprained his arm, and he has two big shiners.” She pointed at her eyes, and circled her index fingers around them.

“He started to hang the lights, but lost his footing or got dizzy—not sure which—and fell down the steps. He’s doing well, considering, but they’re keeping him a couple of days for testing. I’ll stay at the hospital until he’s released; gotta’ nag him to eat right.” She gave a weak chuckle.

Jess realized that Angela and Craig had aged without him noticing. They seemed too young.

What he said instead: “We’ll watch over your house; give us a call so we’re sure to be home to help get Craig settled.”

Angela smiled a warm thanks. She hesitated before getting in the car, and said “Jess, you and your family have always enjoyed the lights, so please take them. It will keep them off Craig’s mind. He has quite a long attention span, you know.”

Jess laughed, nodded—and made another plan.

It was a remarkable plan—in part because several neighbors agreed to do a fair amount of work in a short deadline—but mainly because of the results.

cobaltsmallerAngela and Craig were treated to a spectacular view as they approached home. Their roof was covered—not just the edges, mind you, but the entire roof—with cobalt blue and white lights. Double strings lit up the walkway, outlined the front door and bay window, and covered the entire row of bushes on both sides of the porch.

Craig’s jaw dropped open. “It looks good enough to eat.”

Just as spectacular was the view of the front yard:  full of neighbors who were laughing, celebrating, admiring their handiwork, and ready to help Craig get settled.

“The lights are on for you, after all,” said Jess, with a slight, serious smile.

Jess’s remarkable plan has continued to shine…

The neighbors have gathered to take care of the lights on Craig and Angela’s house since Craig had his bad fall—the year the holiday lights became a Bleaker Street tradition.

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Author page and Acknowledgements

The most interesting current thing about me is actually About Chessie, an e-reader story that I authored, described below.

This can’t be real yet here it is all the same…
Sharon trembles uncontrollably when she sees her chandelier crashed on the floor, and a lime green creature peer down at her from the ceiling.
“Cheese crackers! I made a hole in your roof!” the creature shouts, and introduces herself as Chessie.
Chessie explains that tired of the madness, she wished herself out of her former story. She is baffled as to why she crashed into this particular story, but she desperately wants to fit in.
Sharon advises Chessie not to get too wrapped up in that idea because hardly anyone ever really fits in anywhere.
So, begin their interactions. About Chessie is a modern-day fairy tale about a character—in the true sense of the word. And a curiously unlikely friendship.
I enjoyed writing this story. I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Link to retailers who sell it for 0.99: Books2read.com/AboutChessie

Thank you
At the risk of sounding Academy-Award-like, I want to thank several people.
This story probably could have been completed in months. It took me seven years. Seven years equates to a lot of feedback—not just any feedback—detailed, point-by-point feedback.  
You took me seriously. I appreciate that. The words were always there. So was the fear of writing them down. Or maybe it was the fear of finishing.
Fear being the key word. All of you (listed below) helped make that better for me.
Thank you for your encouragement, Cheryl

Author of the award-winning novel Act of Grace
Karen Simpson is an extraordinary writing coach. She was key in my finishing this tale of many previous versions. She is expert at giving critical feedback—without being critical. Her feedback makes me think, dig deeper. My writing is richer because of her.
Her passion for writing is one that she shares with the members of three writing groups that meet in Ann Arbor, MI. She has been the informal leader for over twenty years.
Karen also has a passion for quilting. She created her first quilt block using white wedding napkins—to her mother’s surprise—that were tucked away in a drawer for safety. She went on to make several beautiful quilts. She is pictured below with two of her favorite creations—the horse armor for Dancer, and a matching coat for herself, both patterned after the quilts from Hausa Nigeria.
Karen’s second novel, The Naming of Quilts will soon be in press.
More about Karen: www.karensimpsonwrites.com

Bill Bingham, fellow scribbler, for his encouragement and detailed feedback on earlier versions of this tale. I especially thank him for his software training over the years. His tips and step-by-step instructions helped me overcome my fear of technology and gain a skill that has added to my creativity.

Chelsea Writer’s Group for giving my first professional critique and point-by-point feedback.

Kenna Gaynor for her encouragement and comments.

Alice Holbrook for her detailed feedback.

Carolyn Morado an exceptional scribbler’s partner. She has helped me hone several stories over the years. She reviewed several versions of About Chessie—and re-reviewedgiving feedback that helped me refine the tale. She has regaled me with her own delightful stories and interesting manuscript. Our weekly meetings are a real high point for me.

Kelly Pahl for her encouragement—about writing and getting out to exercise. Our talks about all kinds of interesting things make me think, and make my life more interesting.

Pat Stewart for her feedback about the graphics and her patience with my frequent declarations that I finished About Chessie. I appreciate our talks—and our weekly walks. Her friendship has made my life richer.

The Green Bean Scenario

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I mentioned to my friend Connie that the local grocery was having a canned goods sale, that I planned to stop after our lunch to stock up on green beans for my Thanksgiving casserole. “Do you want to go with me?”

“I hate green beans!” she said, much louder than the situation warranted. She arched her back a bit, adding extra emphasis. “I always have!”

“Always?”  I repeated.

Later I thought, “What’s to hate?” Green beans can be baked, sauteed or grilled, eaten with or without butter, with or without sauce. On special occasions, I like them baked in a casserole with onions on top. They seem willing enough to please, with their way of turning a brighter green as they cook.   Some people even snap them in half and eat them raw.

I then remembered that at two different potlucks Connie had complimented me on my canned green bean casserole with onions on top.

Perhaps it is the preparation of the canned green beans that is a problem for Connie, I thought. Three steps required—opening, draining and rinsing–before any cooking can take place. That must be it–the preparation is the problem, not the bean itself.

Tonight I will make two casseroles—one for tomorrow’s potluck—and a special one for Connie, in my quest to erase the association of green beans and hate.

If only it could always be that simple.

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Table for One: Guidelines for Eating Out Alone

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“Table for four?” asked the restaurant hostess. I turned and smiled at the three people behind me.

“No, I’m together,” I said, pointing at myself.  “A table for one would be perfect.”

The few times that I eat out alone, I find it helpful to silently repeat a few reminder mantras:

  • Don’t talk to yourself. (the dogs aren’t here to listen and vouch for your sanity)
  • Don’t stare for a prolonged period. (your eyes widen; you’ll make a spectacle of yourself)
  • Don’t eat too fast. (this one is more about avoiding indigestion than how others perceive me)

Reminders acknowledged, I sat down and picked up the menu. I glanced at the two boys sitting across the aisle.

“Dude, last weekend I went to a wedding,” said one of the boys.

I observed discreetly.

His friend squeezed the ketchup bottle, filling over one-third of his plate. It wasn’t clear if he was listening.

“The actual wedding, well, that was pretty boring, all that talk about love and cherish and stuff.”

I coughed to cover my laugh.

The first time wedding-goer enthusiastically continued. “I went to the reception, though, and that was a whole new deal. There was lots-a food, the band was loud, and stuff like that.”

His friend crammed several ketchup-soaked fries in his mouth.

“They do this thing called The Arch,” said the wedding-goer.

I noted the pronounced emphasis, and anticipated a punch line.

His friend took a big bite of his hamburger.

“People dance around the room and line up across from each other in twos. Arms go up like this” said the wedding-goer, and propelled his arms straight up above his head.

His friend glanced over briefly and went for another bite of his hamburger.

“Then you touch hands with the person across from you,” continued the wedding goer. He bent his arms forward at the elbow and his hands  at the wrist to demonstrate. “That’s what makes the arch. It’s almost a tunnel really,” he said, in a serious tone.

 I smiled—but not so wide as to draw attention.

“Anyway, the people at the end of the line dance through the arch—and as the girls go through, you can kiss ‘em!”

His friend took a big gulp of soda.

I coughed again.

The wedding-goer leaned forward a bit. “Myself, I must have kissed 20-30 girls!” he said, raising his voice and his eyebrows. His grin was as wide as a pumpkin mouth carving. He waited for his friend’s response.

His friend also leaned forward, took a deep breath and asked, “Are you going to eat your fries?”

I bent my head down and smothered my laughter with a napkin. I decided right then and there to make an addition to my eating-out-alone guidelines:

  • Treat yourself to a slice of life. (allow yourself to eavesdrop)

 I looked across the aisle. The two friends were sharing the fries in contented silence.

It was a touching moment—a picture-perfect ending to the lively recount of the wedding activities.

As observed from my table for one.

Cheryl Writing

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The Pause

pawsI have to live in the moment more often,” a friend of mine declared, as she rushed into the restaurant.

I looked at my high energy friend—foot in every puddle she can muster time to splash in, always busy—and wondered where her comment came from.

“Oh…     that’s right…     you went to that relaxation seminar yesterday.”

“Well, yes”, she said. “It made me realize that I need to be more present, aware of my surroundings, what I am doing right now.”

This from the woman who walked into the restaurant with a cell phone at her ear, I thought. What I said instead: “Your sleeve is in the butter.”

Most people would agree that we need to be more present, but it’s a challenge to accomplish that outside of the relaxation seminar room.

Busy work can fog up the real moment. Calling to ask simple questions can result in a series of pressing numbers—with only a vague promise of eventually reaching a live person. We are referred to websites, then challenged to set up a password or remember the password that we set up previously, or remember where we recorded the password so that we didn’t have to remember it.

Getting help with a product can involve lifting it up or sliding it forward to find the serial number, product style number, express code number, or some other number.

It occurred to me that living in the moment isn’t always possible, or for that matter, even recommended. When I feel inundated, I try to pause and remember what I call the Pausing Pun analogy:

The Polar Bear and his friend were at a restaurant.
The waiter came to take their order.

The Polar Bear said:
“I want a hamburger……………………………………………….and a coke.”

“Why the big pause?” asked his friend.

The Polar Bear held up his paws.
“I don’t know, I’ve had them all my life!”

Author Unknown

I find it refreshing to take a few short pauses throughout the day. I think we all should. Otherwise, we’ll always be too distracted to notice when our sleeves are in the butter.

Cheryl Writing

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