Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ridiculous Retribution

By Indrasish, from his blog Indrasishblog

Sometimes a sudden anger leads us to an action we don’t approve of later. But, unable to lid our emotions, we perform it anyway.

Our company provides us with ‘pick-up and drop’ cab service because of our unconventional working hours aligned to US time zone as they are. Ours is an outsourcing company.

Although we spend a few hours in cabs during commuting, the cab becomes a world of its own with its characteristics and uniqueness.

You make new cab mates, a mix of employees from various departments, and the cab becomes a host to a mini social unit.

A part of this small and mobile social circle is the cab drivers. Some drivers participate in small talks with employees and become a part of the circle while others just stick to driving.

But travelling in office cab isn’t always about camaraderie.

There are two types of vehicles in service, Tata Sumo and Tavera. The latter is a heavier one, and because of its studier built one needs to be very careful while shutting its doors.

While closing a door, you have to bring it close to the vehicle’s body and then give a gentle push; otherwise, the door will shut with a bang, shaking the whole body of the vehicle.

Unmindful, I forgot to follow the door-shutting ritual twice. And each time the driver snapped at me. Although I apologized each time, the driver’s insolent bursts left me feeling a little uneasy.

The chauffeurs keep changing every two days or so, and there is an army of them. So each time a chauffeur replaces an old one, you don’t see the earlier chauffeur for sometime. The moody driver was withdrawn from our cab and I didn’t see him for a while and somewhat forgot the incident.

Yesterday it was his turn to drive us back home again. As I was stepping into the cab, I heard a blast of brazen laughter behind me. There was a cluster of drivers sharing a joke.

After a while, in the cab, it occurred to me that maybe the driver was bragging about the snubs he administered to me; I tried dismissing the thought as petty concern about something whose veracity I wasn’t sure of.

But, strangely, the more I tried to wriggle out of the grip of the thought, the more firmly it gripped me, until it led to a dull anger, seeking an outlet.

As the cab stopped in front of my house, I swung the door wide open. I got down, but held the door at a distance. Then I slammed it into its frame. Bang! As the driver burst into a garrulous roar, I coolly walked to my house’s main gate.

Even as I walked out of the scene, his loud verbal onslaught continued, and reluctant to be outdone, I first asked him to shut up and then dared him to come and stand before me.

He rushed to the spot and a full-blown remonstration followed. I used harsh words in English and Hindi, he used some in Kannada. We didn’t follow each other.

PS: Probably my ridiculous retribution, clumsy outburst - or whatever you may like to call it – had to do with the fact that I tried too hard to divert my attention from the incident and the harder I tried, the more focused I became. Maybe sometimes we should just relax and let a concern die its own death and not try hard to stamp it out.

READ MORE from Indrasish at his blog Indrasishblog, where you'll find film reviews, literary criticism and other less emotionally charged stories from his life. I quite like the opening to his March 12 post, The Iron Lady: "Usually, I am not my own man when it comes to choosing the movie I want to watch."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Murder on Main Street

By Martha Moravec, excerpted from her blog Mad Genius Bohemians

Brattleboro, Vermont has been my home for thirty-eight years.  When I first arrived, I was told by a number of people that I would have to be a resident for sixty years in order to be considered a Vermonter.  Fair enough.  I was there to get through college.  I had no intention of staying on, as I had no desire to strike root in a place where I didn’t feel especially welcome.

I did stay, however – in fact, I never left – because I happened to have landed in Brattleboro and Brattleboro was the kind of big small town that just took you in.  Whether you were a low-residency psychiatric patient from the Brattleboro Retreat, a Colombian or Japanese student from the Experiment in International Living, a Cambodian refugee, an aging hippie or a transplanted artist, writer or musician, you were tolerated, you were absorbed.

While at college, I began writing the books and lyrics for five musicals that were being produced as fast as my collaborator and I could turn them out.  One of my lyrics shaded my nostalgia for Beaver PA, the hometown of my parents, into my new sentiment for Brattleboro, which was beginning to feel like home.

If it were mud or made of stone,

If it were cobble or clay,

I still would never walk alone

Down Main Street USA.

I could tell you more about Brattleboro (and I probably will eventually) but if you live in a small town or a big town, a reasonably sized city, a city with distinct neighborhoods or a village in Surrey, Guangxi or Mpumalanga, you probably know what I mean.

There would be no one to disturb

But an old friend on the way;

There’s always someone on the curb

Of Main Street USA.

This summer, the town of Brattleboro, which proudly hosts annual events like the Harris Hill ski-jumping competition, the Women’s Film Festival, the Vermont Theatre Company’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Marlboro Music Festival (in nearby Marlboro) and the Strolling of the Heifers (a jubilant celebration of sustainable local agriculture), also unexpectedly played host to a series of misfortunes whose psychological effects were very likely magnified by their proximity in time.

The season began with a disastrous fire at Brooks House, one of the town’s historical and architectural prizes on the corner of Main and High Streets.  The gutting of the top two floors of this landmark building left seventy people without homes, while smoke and water damage closed ten street-level businesses.  Some of the businesses relocated and re-opened within two weeks, some we might see again in a year and others we will never see again.  We lost the Book Cellar, one of the smartest independent bookstores I have ever been in, and for a time we feared losing the Brooks House tower, which gives that part of Main Street its distinctive profile and provided Archer Mayor with a suspenseful site for a chase in one of his Joe Gunther novels.

If we were feeling complacent after the fire because Brattleboro expects a disaster of that magnitude only once a year, we were startled and dismayed when a few months later another prized historical and architectural feature on Main Street was wiped out by an impatient truck driver.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the Latchis Memorial Building (which houses a hotel, a brewery, several theatres and businesses) is one of only two authentic Art Deco structures in the state of Vermont.  Built in 1938, the Greek Revival-themed interior of its movie palace and old vaudeville house is near and dear to our hearts. The impatient truck driver drove up on the sidewalk in an effort to get around some cars that were – I don’t know – stopped for a red light?  It’s difficult to imagine what he was thinking, but let us be glad he didn’t take out any pedestrians and merely completely mangled the Latchis Theatre’s classic marquee.

People started asking, what the hell is going on?

On July 29 the body of a woman in her early thirties was discovered in the woods off the East-West Road in nearby Dummerston.  She had been shot in the head by, it was quickly discovered, her boyfriend and a buddy.  All three of them were involved in “drug-related activity,” specifically the sale of crack cocaine.  This event, although unfortunate, did not have a notable impact on the local mood and media.

Maybe drug dealers are expected to shoot each other in the head but old hippie types who subscribe to wellness, social change and sustainable living are not.  The death of the woman on the East-West Road acquired a new significance and air of menace when it was followed two weeks later by a shooting at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.  The Co-op had just opened for the day when an employee who had recently received a poor job evaluation walked quietly into the store and shot and killed the general manager.

READ THE REST of Murder of Main Street at Mad Genius Bohemians. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Developmental Milestones

By Ife Togun, excerpted from his blog The Skye Chronicles.

Skye turned one month old on Saturday, which means a number of things should have happened by now including but not limited to:
  • Lifts head for short periods of time
  • Prefers the human face to other shapes
  • Brings hands to face
  • May turn towards familiar sounds or voices
  • Blinks at bright lights

Skye mastered all of these and moved on to some of the behaviors reserved for two month olds, such as tracking moving objects, smiling, and making noises other than crying.

I know, I know, I’m likely making the proud father mistake of taking meaningless gestures as signs of advanced baby genius.  But it’s hard not to.  At least not until such a time around the age of sixteen when she goes on a nationally televised high school quiz show in Washington, D.C., and proceeds to embarrass me by proclaiming “Texas” as the capital of the United States. 

Only then…perhaps.  Until then, super baby genius.  I’ve already started reading her “A Brief History of Time,” and she seems to like it.  She stares at my mouth with rapt attention as Stephen Hawking’s words flow from it.  Of course, it may just be the cadence of my voice.  But again, until that fateful day in D.C., I’m sticking with the super baby genius angle.

Now that Skye’s a month old, it’s time to return to the doctor’s office at Kidcare Pediatrics.  We’ve been back once before, at 2-weeks, for a routine check up.  This time is different though.  This time Skye has to get another immunization shot.  All the shots and tests are not fun.  The last time Skye got stuck with a needle, it was for the battery of tests required by either the state or the federal government to ensure she doesn’t have any odd illnesses that need to be immediately addressed.  

I literally had to hold her down as a buxom, jovial, black nurse named Angie, squeezed her heel with the strength of a thousand pound press, and stuck a needle into it to draw blood.  Imagine holding something so fragile in your arms, telling her it’ll be okay.  She trusts you.  She’s calm.  And then, contrary to your word, it is not okay.  A needle enters her tiny heel and she starts to cry.

Once she is able, through her moist, red eyes she levels you with a gaze of anger and loathing you would not have thought possible of an infant.  It reminded me of growing up as a kid in Nigeria, watching my father and his friends slaughtering chickens in the backyard.  Sometimes, after losing their heads, the chickens’ bodies would kick into survival mode and they’d take off in a headless, manic run.  

But did they head for the men who lopped off their heads?  Of course not.  They came for me, the skinny, well away from the carnage 7-year-old boy, as if to say, “I knew they were mean, but you, I trusted you!  You fed me corn!”  I’d run across the yard, screaming for my mother, as the headless, flapping, soon to be dinner chicken gave chase in a surreal reenactment of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I no longer eat meat.  Haven’t in years.  These “chases” likely played a part.

At the doctor’s office, a nurse named Debbie directs us to the “2nd to the last door on the left” at the end of a long corridor.  The room looks exactly like all the other ones we’ve been in at KidCare, from the location of the examination table down to the placement of the big tub of generic Purell on the table.  It’s comforting.  Like finding a Burger King on a trip to rural China after eating chicken beaks for a week.

READ the rest of Ife's story, Developmental Milestones

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


By Denise DeSio, author of Rose's Will.

For some people, sports are like soap operas. They watch one or two games and the next thing you know, their brains turn to mush and all they can think about is the next episode. Unfortunately, my wife has become one of them. The few pennies we have go to Mercury tickets and when she's not at a game, she pulls up a chair 18 inches from our 52" TV set and acts like she's in the first row.

It's a progressive disease. First it was just women's basketball. Now it doesn't matter who's playing or what game it is. If it has "ball" at the end of it, she's interested.  I stood at the stove, preparing rice pilaf and asparagus tips for friends who were on their way to our house with steaks to cook on the grill, when the phone rang.

"Hello! This is Angela from One Community. Congratulations! You've won two tickets to the Mercury Playoff game."

"This is a joke, right?" It's a well-known fact that I have as much interest in sports as a centipede has in shoes.

"No joke," said Angela. "We just pulled your card out of our fishbowl."

"Really?" I vaguely remembered dropping cards around town to advertise the publication of my novel, Rose's Will. "Thank you," I said, trying to sound as grateful as a sports-o-phobe could be when she's told that she's won the equivalent of a coffee enema. "Do I have to pick them up, or will you mail them?"

"Well, it's tonight," she said in a tone that clearly indicated the answer should have been obvious. "The tickets will be at the window."

"Oh, no!" I said, this time sounding genuinely excited instead of sadly disappointed. "Not tonight! We're expecting company for dinner any minute. Can we exchange them for another night (a night when Carol can go with somebody else, I thought)?" 

She paused. "Um, this is the playoff. If the Mercury don't win, there might not BE another night.

"Oh boy," I said, "this is the worst good news my partner is ever going to hear."

Carol was standing in front of me listening to my side of the conversation and doing what she normally gets mad at me for doing: "What? Who is it? What news?"

I asked Angela to hold on for a second. "We won two tickets to the Mercury game," I paused for effect, "tonight". Her face turned from happy clown into a horror mask. I knew that she knew that we couldn't leave our friends standing in the doorway with four enormous T-bones while we scampered off to the game.

"I'm sorry Angela (I really wasn't sorry), but we just can't." Carol groaned loudly in the background.

I was right in the middle of saying "thanks anyway" when Angela said the dreaded thing:
"We could give you FOUR tickets instead of two if your friends want to go with you."

"I don't know about that," I said. "I'd have to ask them."

Carol stopped groaning. "What? Ask who? What did she say?" I ignored her.

"Listen, take my number," Angela said. "Ask your friends and call me back." Our friends were avid sports fans and as I wrote down the number, I realized that our plans were about to shift drastically. 

So, yes it's true. That was me on the JumboTron, sitting in the 3rd row eating peanuts while four perfectly delicious steaks sat in fridge.

Sometimes you just have to give in.

READ MORE from Denise DeSio at her website. If you're a writer, an aspiring author, you'll enjoy reading about her own journey publishing her debut novel, Rose's Will. There's an excerpt on her website and book review. And lots of entertaining stories from her own (embellished?) life!

Buy ROSE'S WILL for Kindle 
Buy ROSE'S WILL for Nook 
Buy ROSE'S WILL to read on your PC or laptop (use PDF file) 
But ROSE'S WILL for all other devices (PDF, MOBI, EPUB)

Inspired by Denise? Want to share your own story about taking one for the team? Details for how to submit to My Embellished Life are here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Road Sharks

By Peggy Strack, from her blog Kick Back Moments

I have a 30-mile commute to work on a congested highway. The distance isn't the biggest problem, nor is the traffic. It's the other drivers that are maddening. If I leave home by 6:45, it's okay, but by 7:00 the trouble starts. It's as if cruising dolphins suddenly turn into vicious sharks prepared to attack anyone who gets in their way.  

On Thursday of this week I was running late. I left my house at 7:10. The first twenty miles were uneventful. The sun was hovering on the horizon and excellent tunes were popping up on my I-Pod. Then it happened.  I veered into the left lane to make room for the hordes of vehicles that merge onto to the highway at Exit 8. As Coldplay entertained me with Viva la Vida, I peeked into my rear view mirror and saw her--a road shark. Lead Foot Lucy was charging toward me and within seconds was right on my tail. Maybe you've seen her before--bulging eyes, one hand flailing, the other hand gripping the steering wheel like it's the safety bar on a roller coaster. She looks a little like this:

I looked to my right. No room to switch to the middle lane. Lead Foot Lucy was going to devour me. Several yards separated me from the car ahead and I thought about accelerating, but decided not to. I like being a dolphin and didn't want to catch the shark virus. I refused to be intimidated into causing an accident or getting a speeding ticket. Lead Foot Lucy didn't like my decision and inched closer. Why was she in such a rush anyway? Was she on her way to save the global economy? And if she was, maybe she should have left home earlier. She was really starting to annoy me so I took a kick back moment. Relax and enjoy the show. I cruised along a touch above the speed limit. After all, I was in the passing lane. (Sidebar question: Does the speed limit increase to whatever you want it to be in the passing lane, or is the speed limit the speed limit?) 

I looked in the rear view mirror again. Lead Foot Lucy's chin was almost touching the steering wheel and her teeth were clenched. I chuckled, but it really wasn't funny. She could have easily caused a multi-car pile-up and I'd be the first victim. Just then free space opened up in the middle lane. Within two notes of the song playing on my I-Pod, Lucy sped past, then darted in front of me.

The highway ended and I sat in my car waiting at a traffic light right behind Lead Foot Lucy. We ended up in the exact same spot at the exact same time. If I had succumbed to her pressure to speed up, we might have gotten through that traffic light a little sooner, maybe by three minutes, at the most. Is three minutes worth a blood pressure spike, heartbeat acceleration and an overall crazed feeling? When the green arrow appeared, Lead Foot Lucy zipped around the corner. I smiled and waved, but she didn't even notice.

So how do you drive when you're in a rush to get somewhere. Are you a cruising dolphin or a vicious shark?

READ MORE of Peggy's Kick Back Moments. Peggy says her blog is "a place where the art of relaxing, laughing and slowing down are explored." Each week she posts one original story, a song and a book recommendation. It's a fun blog with lots of great for kicking back photos.

Want to drive along with a real road shark?

As I was getting this post ready, the news was on. I only half-listen but the sound of a speeding car caught my attention. It was a story of a Japanese doctor who put a camera in his Ferrari, filmed himself driving at 140 km/hour (on the highway and in residential areas) and then... posted his video to YouTube. Guess what? He's been charged with dangerous driving.

And now it's your turn to share a story. Cruising dolphins and vicious sharks are welcome to contribute to My Embellished Life. Find out how here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When I was a nun

By Donna Barker

When I was a kid I had a few different career aspirations. I remember two of them quite clearly:

As a teenager I had it in my head that I would become an RCMP officer. I loved the idea of upholding the law and riding horses and having a gun. I didn’t get far down that path, however. I did learn to shoot a rifle, but an astute career counselor and a battery of personality tests directed me away from any career that would require me to follow rules. Apparently, I believe in following the law, but boy do I despise rules!

The other career I recall wanting to follow was when I was much younger. Some age in elementary school. I wanted to be a nun. It didn’t worry me that I wasn’t being raised Catholic. Nor did it worry my grandmother, Nonny. 

Nonny came from a long line of Anglican ministers - starting back in 1845. Her brother was an Arch-Deacon and a good friend of the Reverend Billy Graham (the only TV evangelist she watched). My dad’s generation was the first in over 100 years that failed to provide the family with their Reverend... so I guess she thought that making up for that lapse with a wee little nun wouldn’t be a bad thing.

I’d forgotten all about that goal... And about the time I came home from Bible Camp and tried to secretly convert my 3-year-old brother to a born-again Christian life. (Oddly, my parents didn't send me back to that camp the following summer...).

But two weeks ago these old lives of mine came flooding back (I'm sure if I thought hard I could come up with a clever Biblical pun, but those really are old lives). What happened two weeks ago? I had a past life reading and guess what? Several hundred years, but only two lives ago, I was … a nun!

It’s true. I lived in Rome. I was very devout and I never sinned. But – and this is the information that has me convinced that the reading is accurate – I was a nun who challenged certain rules of my Church.

Apparently, I could not reconcile the fact that, as a woman of God, I could only show my devotion with my spirit. I wanted to use my body as well. I was one of those progressive nuns who believed that we should be able to serve God and be allowed to experience not just spiritual but bodily ecstasy as well.

It may have been several hundred years and two lifetimes ago, but I still hold that same belief… why have the ability to feel spiritual, emotional and physical pleasure (and pain, of course) and not explore all of these as fully as we can?

I think I’ll get a piercing or a tattoo tomorrow…

Have you ever had a past life reading? Or do you just have an innate sense of who you were in a past life? If so, share your story here at My Embellished Life. Guidelines - which I guess I'd have to excuse you for breaking - are here.

And if you enjoyed this post, please read some of the other wonderful writers who have contributed to this community blog. And leave a comment or a Google + on one you particularly enjoy. We all love a virtual high-five.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Identify Yourself

By Victoria Opalewski, from her blog, A Survivor’s Write

When I first moved to a small town in Iowa, it bothered me when every single person I met asked the same question, “What are you going to do?”  And no, they didn’t mean for fun, like my friends in the city did when they asked the same thing.

In modern cliché business terms, my new neighbors wanted to know what was my “value-added?” They didn’t want me to be “low-hanging fruit.”

At first I was offended; shouldn’t they be excited I was moving into their little town?  Didn’t they know how much I was going to be missed in my last community?

No.  You’re only as good as what you bring to the table tonight, and they wanted to know what need I was going to fulfill in their town.  They had no use for someone just taking up space.

People have specific expectations of people in different roles.  However, I quickly relearned that people must fill multiple roles, especially in small towns.  For example, one woman is a mom to two teenage boys and teaches Jazzercise, but she’s also an accountant and runs the bowling alley with her husband and teaches confirmation at one of the churches.  And those are just the parts I know about her.

We’re all made up of many different facets.  There’s the version of you that your grandparents see, the one seen by your spouse, your colleagues, your parents and siblings, the waiter or waitress you flirt with.  Add in the people who used to know you, and there’s still more pieces.  People who knew you in college or high school have a version of you forever fixed in their minds.

But, this year, in this town, I’m a writer.

If only it were that easy: just label yourself who or what you wanted to be, and voila! So it is.  But the truth is the reflections of our identity are endless.  They’re all versions of real; they each tell a piece of the story.

Over the years, I know people came to see me in a certain way because I was a high school English teacher.  You could easily hear it in the first five minutes of conversation, You teach high school?  Man, I do not envy you.  And English you said?  I hated English.  Wait, you’re not correcting my grammar right now, are you?  As much as these reactions became monotonous, they were also comforting in their predictability. 

When I made the choice to leave teaching to pursue writing full-time for a year, the reaction from my colleagues varied:

Wow, that’s awesome!

Really?  You’re crazy.

Huh.  I just don’t even know what I would do if I didn’t teach. 

That last one’s probably why the initial question from the Iowans about what I was going to do bothered me so much. 

Although I’ve tried to tell others that what you do for a job doesn’t equal who you are, without my job to define me, I wasn’t sure how to explain who I was, especially quickly, in a casual conversation.  Had I really gotten that lazy, that the sum of who I was amounted to what I listed on my tax return as my occupation?  Since I don’t believe that in other people, I was shocked that I would tolerate it from myself.

We are made up of more than the jobs we do, but it’s not until we’re forced to defend leaving the safety of that niche that we really learn how much our pigeon hole mattered to us. 

A mold can be a useful tool in guiding something’s shape, but there will always be a few that don’t slide smoothly from the mold.  In writing my memoir and living as a writer for more than half a year in a new state and town, I’ve decided that’s better anyway.  Mold can also be the furry decay of organic material that we easily discard because it looks bad.  However, a lot of times, if you have a bit of courage, you’ll find it’s still useable.  You just have to take the time to scrape away the intimidating layer of color to determine what’s underneath.

READ MORE from Victoria at her blog, A Survivor's Write

Here is the opening for one of her posts called Patience, Elevated, "Patience is a virtue, or so they tell us. I've never had time for it myself." 

Anyone who knows me personally knows my own struggle with practicing patience. Case in point: I was married for fourteen years, he left me without any warning, and I started dating in under a month. I knew I'd start dating again eventually so - why wait? Well, six years later I can give you dozens of reasons, but in that moment, "patience" was a dirty word. A weak word. Anyway! Enough about me. Grab a cup of tea and read more from Victoria. Her stories are much more entertaining, touching and inspiring than what you'll find meandering around YouTube to kill time while you wait for... something else.

And... if you'd like to share your own story about patience or your lack of it, or anything else for that matter, do come back to My Embellished Life and share it with us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Rollover

Contributed by Ken Rosentrater, from his blog Matters of Worldview

It was a green ‘55 Chevy station wagon. My Dad bought it for me the previous summer. (We hardly had any money in 1969; I had none.) It was ugly but fun. We called it The Pickle.

In early February 1970, the Pickle and I were wending northward on the two lane ribbon from Bartlesville, OK to Wichita, KS where my fiancée was a student at Friends University. The purpose was to bring Annette back down to Bartlesville for the weekend college Valentine banquet.

I had just removed the snow tires, snow being long gone in Bartlesville. The ones I put back on the car were nearly treadless. Big deal. The roads were all dry. Just north of Winfield, KS, the rain began. I passed a car at about 60 mph. The driver told me later he was concerned about that. Silly guy thought I was going too fast. I’d been on this road enough times to predict the next 4 curves at any point on the journey. On a very familiar section, I glided into a gentle, easy right-hander. It had been recently patched, but I didn’t know that. The patched area was a smooth, mostly tar, surface. The Pickle lost traction and got sideways.

The tires then encountered normal pavement and got their grip back. Get this: I left the road on the inside of the curve! Ever heard of that? Down the embankment. Up the other side, still trying to steer my way out of of my self-inflicted predicament. Back down that embankment. Doom approaching.

When the left front tire caught the slope back up to the highway (I’m currently below the road surface) it flipped me. Noise. Chaos. Rattles and bangs. Popped out windshield – one piece. Tire iron and huge jack levitating somewhere in back. No seatbelt (not invented yet in ’55 autos). Head banging on the left door post every time the thing took another roll for the top. That would be 3 times, because we rolled 2 ½, coming to a stop on the roof. That was the noisiest experience my ears had suffered in my 19 years.

The car had rolled along the bottom “V” of the two embankments, pinching the nose and rear of the car down into a goofy imitation of a pea pod. I was lying out full length on the roof, feet in the back cargo area, hands still gripping the steering wheel. The engine had stopped. Still, I reached up (not down) to the ignition key and turned it off. I opened the door (yes, it worked fine) and climbed out, just as the trepidatious fellow I had recently passed tentatively drove onto the grassy shoulder. He said he was “never so glad to see a car door open” as when he saw me emerge from the broken, dripping Pickle. When I stood up, I noticed one front tire was still rotating. The windshield was lying in the grass on the bank a few yards away, barely cracked. The only personal damage was a slightly chipped tooth and a small bruise on my pelvis. Oh, and the pride.

I sold the thing to a junk dealer for $50. A bemused friend drove up from Bartlesville to get me to Wichita to meet my wondering future wife, and we all drove back in the dark. By then there was a blinding blizzard going on. This adventure took most of the night. (Wesley Goss, thank you, wherever you are.)

I did stop by the junkyard a few times on later trips to pay my respects to The Pickle. Somewhere in a box I still have a forlorn photo.

Read more stories from Ken, aka sonofjames, at Matters of Worldview.

Post your own story of a lucky escape, your first car, your first love - or all three! - here, at My Embellished Life. Oh - and drive safe and please, wear your seat belt!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fairy Tale

Contributed by Pamela Turley, author of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Men

 I was taking a break from work, flipping through the channels, when I came upon the series finale of 'Sex and the City'. You know, the one where Carrie goes to Paris with Petrovsky, only to discover that he is an incorrigible narcissist with an inferiority complex, who either ignores her for his "work" or demands her undivided attention when his needs require it.

Carrie tries to oblige, being the obliging sort, but you painfully watch her slip from disillusionment to despair as the realization of who this man really is dawns on her. She gave up everything she knew to be with him. Now she is left wandering around a strange, foreign place, lonely and alone, a mere appendage and companion to an "important" man. This is not what she signed up for.

Elation, dreams of romance in the City of Lights, hope for a future - all collapse around her during the final fight of the relationship. When she protests his treatment of her, he calmly states: "I thought I made it clear who I was." She replies, "Well, maybe it's time I made it clear who I am. I am a person who wants love - deep, all-encompassing, can't-be-without-each-other love."

But, of course, it's too late now. The problem began in the beginning. From the start, Carrie got lost in her romance-novel fantasies and projected them on the situation. Who can blame her, really? Here was a world-famous artist, rich, sophisticated and worldly, and he seemed captivated by her. It's natural to want it more than anything you've wanted before. It’s natural to believe you just won the romantic lottery.

But the red flags were there. Remember the disastrous dinner party Petrovsky hosted for her friends while he sat silent and judgmental? Remember when she spontaneously brought the girls by to meet him one evening and he turned them away, only to justify himself by wallowing in artist angst? She compromised and excused little by little until there was nothing left to compromise but her soul.

Say what you want about 'Sex and the City'. In the midst of the ditsy-ness and glamour, there are lessons to be learned here. In the beginning of your relationship, no matter how rich or powerful the man, create your own boundaries. Never give up your life. And always remember: If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't. An ounce of reality is worth a thousand pounds of broken romantic dreams.

Luckily for Carrie, she had the guts to leave her unrealistic fantasies of Petrovsky behind. She left him standing in the expensive hotel suite. She is at the front desk, negotiating a new room when in walks none other than Mr. Big, who has come to Paris to search for her. She is saved!

Cheesy, right? A complete fairy-tale with every bad cliché from every bad chic flick. Well, I'll tell you a secret. I cried. Me, the big testosterone tough-girl cried. Why? Because in our little girl hearts that's what we all want, isn't it, whether it's realistic or not. We want Mr. Big - the hard one, the commitment-phobe, the one who seems to have everything but us - to discover that it is exactly us that is missing from his life. We want him to be the good guy. We want him to say, with tears in his eyes, "It took me a long time to get here. But you are the One." And then we want him to take us home.

It's so easy in the movies. Things can work out like that. And because it seems so right to us, and appeals to our little girl longings, somewhere inside us, we believe it. And then we try - we bloody our fingers trying, against all odds - to re-create the fairy tale. And that, my sisters, is where the heartbreak begins.

Pamela has written a book for all us sisters, trying to navigate the world of men, which you can find here. If you have a story with a fairy tale ending or not, add it to the comments on this My Embellished Life page and I'll give you your own post and promote it to my networks.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cherry Hookers

By Chris, from her blog A Hairdresser's Diaries.

Marilyn, a very good friend, was having a bridal shower for her daughter Lynne. The decision for not having strippers at either the shower or the stag was agreed upon by all. She was not sure how to make the shower fun without the silly games and party favors. So she decided to have the shower at a hotel and local bar so no one would have to drive home inebriated.

I have never been a drinker.  I did, however, like one drink that my sister learned to make in Bartending School. The love of cherries was my downfall. The drink was called, ‘A Cherry Hooker:’ cherry brandy and orange juice with 3 cherries impaled on a plastic skewer. I always requested a whole lot more orange juice and a lot less brandy.

It was quite the joke about my heavy drinking. My kids teased me saying, “If you even open a beer bottle in the same room as Mom, she gets drunk.” I was a cheap date to say the least. I was looking forward to the night out and figured I would nurse one drink. Therefore, anyone I didn’t know would not ask questions. I did not advertise my drinking habits as sometimes I found I was defending myself. I was also not familiar with the new-fangled drinks that were circulating the bars.

I will not say I am a prude, but I am a bit naive. When I arrived at the hotel, everyone else was already seated at a table. I knew most of the girls, but there were a couple new faces. We had our introductions. Marilyn then asked, “Who wants a drink?”

The hands were flying in the air and an array of drink names shouted out. Marilyn waved her arms and said, “I think the late-comer should place the order.” Everyone thought that was a great idea. I of course was the late-comer.

“Okay,” I said, “What is everyone drinking?” Marilyn looked at me and smiled, “You’ll have to memorize the drink names; they’re not what you are used to.”

“Not a problem. I will write them down.” Then I asked, “Why don’t we just give the order to the waitress?”

Lynne piped up and said, “If you give them to the bartender first, the waitress can just keep filing our orders for the rest of the night.”

I shrugged, “Okay no problem.” I started to write,” So what’s the order?” I was surprised at the list, but I was assured I had it written down properly. Off to the bartender I went. Now I was sitting on the high stool looking straight into the face of this very handsome, young man. Behind me, I could hear giggles, but didn’t pay too much attention. I needed to concentrate on the drink list. Oh boy, where was I to start? Okay I would start with the simple ones first.

Leslie wanted a Screwdriver. With that, the bartender nodded. Carol wanted a Planters Punch, again a nod. Betty wanted a Slow Screw? Yep, that one was okay but with that one, he smiled. Lynne, ordered a Slow Screw with a twist? Whew, this was getting a little embarrassing. The bartender didn’t even miss a beat. Now for Cathy’s she wants an Orgasm. By now I was getting a bit flustered and had my face lowered and my hand shielding my eyes. Now flabbermouth blurted out, “Do you know how to make a Happy Hooker?”

“No, my dear but I do know how to make a hooker happy.” With that, everyone at the table burst out laughing. These wonderful ladies had set me up. The bartender was in on the whole deal. The drinks were indeed real drinks, but the girls at the table were not having any of them. The most exotic drink served that night was my Cherry Hooker. Now who, other than your friends, would love you so much and feel comfortable enough to embarrass you in front of a cute bartender and still know you loved them.   

Read more of Chris's Flabbermouth stories at A Hairdresser's Diaries.

Do you have a funny drink story? Share it here at My Embellished Life so others can enjoy it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

For the Love of Houseplants

Photo courtesy Diane Stephenson

By Micki Peluso, excerpted from her blog, A Writer’s Journey

They don’t allow me plants in this dire, greenless place. I have no children to replace the ones I lost. Too long, I dwell in a carnival of maniacs and fools, endure the dulling drugs, the solitude, weeping through eternal night. And it’s all my husband’s fault.

He always hated my plants. He didn’t just dislike them, as one might a book, or painting, or a cold and rainy day – he hated them. I loved them as I would have loved the children we never had. I babied my houseplants, nursed them through root rot and mites, fed and pruned them and placed them in their favorite spots.

My Philodendron especially liked to sit on the warm place on top of the television set. The English Ivy preferred to dangle above the stereo and sway to the vibrations of the music. He was particularly fond of Bach. Some of my houseplants hung from the beamed ceilings in the living room. Some posed sedately on the window seat, watching out for strangers lurking about my home. The larger plants, mostly Rubber Trees and Palms, were content to stand erect, acting as my doormen. My house was filled with flora of almost every genus and I doted on them fondly. My husband hated every one.

“Why does this house have to teem with vegetation?” he constantly complained. “They’re running up my water bill! They’re using all my oxygen.”

His anger culminated on an otherwise ordinary Saturday night, for no reason I could foresee. He rose from his easy chair, brusquely shoving my Asparagus Fern away from his face, unaware she only meant to play, and headed for the kitchen. I hummed softly in an effort to ignore him and continued mixing up a batch of fertilizer. Stomping through the doorway, he kicked over my Fiddleleaf Fig tree with the tip of his work boot, and enjoying the look of horror upon my face, he smiled and went upstairs to bed.

I quickly righted my poor baby, crooning over him and carefully repacked the soil that spilled from his pot. The Fig tree sulked all night, with sagging leaves, his indignation clearly noted by his stance. Resentment built inside me slowly. By the evening’s end, it had grown to such proportions that I thought my chest would burst. My husband, while he made no effort to hide his hatred of my plants, had never harmed them until this day. I was filled with maternal rage and could not be consoled, not even by the caresses of my Purple Passion.

Fear, as well as anger, bode within my heart and I was frightened for all my plants. I felt no safety for them within my foliaged home. Nights that followed left me sleepless, filled with a restless urgency to protect them. I arose several times throughout the night to oversee them, remembering to leave the hall light lit; for my Palm Tree greatly feared the dark.

My husband made no apology, but in the days that passed he seemed contrite and even brought home a tiny cactus as amends. Perhaps he really was repentant. When it died two days later, he merely shrugged and said he lacked my green thumb. We lived in guarded accord, my plants, my husband and I. My babies were thriving and growing larger every day, drooping only in the presence of the master of the house.

Waxy Pink Begonias filled my home with splashes of color. The Snake Plants nearly reached the ceiling, while the Fiddleleaf Fig tripled his fullness, spreading his dark green branches to embrace me. Spider Plants, Coleus, and vines of all variety grew rich and full, crawling tentatively across my wooden floors. I was filled with love and pride.

On one particularly dismal evening, the harmony within my home was broken once more. My husband came home from work late and in a mood that made me wary. It seemed he’d had a bit to drink and did not see the offshoots of my Spider plant as they danced from the living room archway. He struggled blindly as the baby Spiders writhed about his face. I knew then this night would come to no good end.

He tore my lovely lady from her hook above the doorway, shredded her to pieces and smashed her into the wall. I shrieked and ran to gather up her remains. My heart pounded with love and dread, for I knew I could not save her. I took her babies from her, the ones that lived, and placed them in a vase of water, where they might grow again.

My husband cursed and staggered off to bed, swiping at whatever plant was in his way, kicking my Fiddleleaf Fig, yet again. My fury knew no end. I said nothing and with lowered head, tended my poor darlings; when I could do no more for them, I went to bed.

I did not sleep at all that night. My mind raced with thoughts of vengeance. Somehow, some way, my husband would never harm my lovelies again. By morning’s early light I knew what I must do and finally slept.

READ THE REST of For the Love of Houseplants at Micki's blog. Before you leave, give her story a Google + vote if you're enjoying it.

And once you've recovered from the surprise ending of Micki's hopefully fictionalized first-person story, come back to My Embellished Life and share your own first person story of love and revenge!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A true Giants fan for life - and maybe longer

By Thomas "Dennie" Williams, excerpted from a series of anecdotes he provided. 

When I was but a broth of a boy, say nine or ten, my Dad, Thomas David Williams, made me into a full time New York Giants fan. Occasionally, we'd drive down to the old Polo Grounds in Harlem, the northern section of New York City, and see a game or two. Dad was so busy being a well-known antique dealer with my Mom, Constance Ripley Williams, he didn't have the time for a more regular ballpark visitation. But, of course, we did listen to their games often on the radio. The announcing of Russ Hodges and Ernie Harwell then seemed much better than what we later viewed and listened to on television. I guess, as a boy, imagination travels beyond any filming. 

One day, Dad came back from a New York City antique business trip with a wonderful surprise. One of Dad's buddies, Harry Bland, an antique art and print specialist, had given me a beautiful print of the Giants playing the original Baltimore Orioles in the Polo Grounds, probably, I guess, in 1894. That was when the Giants lost the pennant by three games to the Orioles and then beat them in a post season series to win the National League championship. In the detailed, colorful print, many of the male fans are fancily dressed in black top hats and suits, while the females have on beautiful dresses and designer hats. The players not on the field sit sprawled on benches next to the wall behind home plate. In the game, it looks like the Giants runner on first is aiming to steal second, while the runner on third holds his ground. Meanwhile, the Orioles pitcher is delivering sidearm to the Giants' hitter. As the ball moves toward home plate, an ancient train moves above and beyond the stadium, not far away from the Harlem River and a bridge crossing it in the deep background.

The print, dated April 1, 1897, still hangs in our television room with the rest of the baseball memorabilia. That includes a small sculpture of Babe Ruth swinging the bat, created by a Balinese artist my daughter, Gisela, found when she was visiting Bali. Not too long after Mr. Bland gave me the print, Dad convinced me to lend it to a baseball memorabilia exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Days later, I was astonished when Dad told me to look at the New York Herald Tribune Sports Section. There on the featured first sports page was a large photo of Leo Durocher, the Giants' manager, and his wife, Loraine Day, standing right in front of my print. That was a thrill of thrills. Later, I got another pleasant surprise. I entered a museum baseball contest, part of the exhibition slate, and won an autographed baseball! I'm not sure, because I still have a dozen or more such balls, but I think it may have been George Kell's. He was then a third baseman for the Detroit Tigers and shortly afterward for the Boston Red Sox.

In 1951, Willie's rookie year, Dad and I went to at least one or two games and saw him scooting around the outfield like young deer chasing looping or line drive butterflies. What a thrill! I still have the picture of him in my mind's eye catching baseballs and hitting them too! I became so transfixed, I had to listen to Giants' radio games to regularly find out what controversial manager Leo Durocher was doing with his lineup and whether the team was on a roll or not. In August, the pain became overwhelming for young fans like me The Giants dived to 13 ½ games behind their cross-town rivals and constant thorns, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But, despite their failings, I never lost hope. In fact, I sent the team a one page letter. I wrote that I was still rooting for them every day, and I was sure they were going to make it back to first place by the end of the season. Of course, I ended by asking for all the players' autographs. Honestly, I didn't expect any answer. I was just a little boy idolizing players I thought were so busy and high in the sky that they wouldn't even read my scrawly handwriting. But, guess what?! Some official connected with the Giants did read the letter and collected the autographs of everyone on the team on the letter's blank spaces. That was it! I was going to be a Giants fan until I was no longer on the earth, and maybe even afterward, if that was possible.

Thomas "Dennie" Williams shared many more pages of his Giants' fan stories with me. If you'd like to read more from Dennie, let us know in the comments. 

Dennie suggested creating a whole section of sports stories. If you have a first-person sport story to share, post it or a link to it on this page! Maybe we'll create a My Embellished Sport Life section within this blog. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Leap of Faith

By Sandy Penny, excerpted from her blog Writing Muse

I circled the fire with a tambourine in my hand, striking the instrument on my thigh in time with the chant, "My body does whatever it takes to protect itself."  I gazed into the glowing red and orange eyes of the twelve foot by four foot bed of coals and watched a coating of white ash begin to form. "The fire and I are one," I chanted with the others.

The fire pit looked back, studying me with its many eyes.  "Will you walk tonight?" it silently asked. Would I cast aside caution and logic and make a tremendous leap of faith with a few small steps on an 1800 degree bed of coals?  Could I?

The chant changed to "I am the light, I am the love" and then swelled around me again with "The fire and I are one." I thought about how I came to be standing on the edge of eternity, a 42-year old woman, questioning the very nature of reality.

It was only a couple of weeks ago as I entered the Chapel of Prayer with fifty or so people to listen to a Hindu Guru tell traditional Indian parables, that I met Charmaine McGhie and Tore Fossum. We were seated next to each other and connected so quickly that Charmaine invited me to a New Year's Eve Party and Firewalk.

I was intrigued. I had seen firewalking on TV and read about it in National Geographics, but never had I witnessed it in person.

Meanwhile, the couple gave me a book called "Firewalk" by Jonathon Seinfeld that I read with great interest. The book called firewalking an empowerment tool and a subcultural movement in the U.S. since the 1970s. It said the U.S. has more firewalkers than the rest of the world put together. I couldn't believe it!  How could I have missed it?

I had pretty much tried every "new age" experience I had run into. How could such a phenomenon have slipped by unnoticed? My excitement grew as the days passed.

The book helped keep me occupied with a lot to think about in the days leading up to the party. It told stories of firewalking in every culture and quoted scriptures about firewalking. It even discussed the unsatisfactory research that has been done. I was primed for the experience - to watch the experience, at least.

I arrived early at the suburban house in a nice Friendswood, Texas neighborhood. Not really where one would expect to see a firewalk. The preparations looked like any other New Year's Eve party. Guests arrived with covered dishes, and someone played piano—fifties hits for a sing along. The only difference is that no alcohol was present.

At about 9:00 pm everyone gathered in the back yard.  A norther was moving through, and the air was cooling down. The grass was soaked with a hose as a safety precaution, and the evening began. The fire department showed up to certify the safety measures, and approved the walk.

Each participant took turns carrying logs to build the fire. They were instructed to think of the logs like children, and focus loving attention on them. A firewalking facilitator took the logs and built an impressive "boy scout" style teepee-shaped structure that would become a large hungry bonfire that would devour about half a cord of wood.

The excited attendees took turns stuffing newspaper in the cracks, and the fire was lit with great ceremony. The blaze reached skyward as a word of thanks and protection was intoned by a lady wearing a long full skirt. Surely that skirt was not a good thing in which to walk through fire.  I love fires. I faced the flames and raised a hand in salute. Just as I raised my arm, the fire leaped upward, and it looked exactly like I was waltzing with the vulcan fire god. My friend Juanita snapped a photo of it, and I love that photo.

When the fire was blazing violet and gold, everyone went to the patio to try out some other phenomenal activities. It would be two to three hours before the coals were ready.

Someone announced it was time for the "rebar game" and a cheer rang out. I had no idea what that meant. Rebars are 3/4" x 6' steel bars used to reinforce concrete. Two people stand face to face about six feet apart and a rebar is suspended between them by placing the tip of the metal rod in the hollow of your throat. 

Then please come back and read more first-person stories. When you're ready to post a link to your own first-person blog story, add it to the comments on this page.