Home

For all practical purposes, the words ‘house’ and ‘home’ are interchangeable. They both bring to mind a place where you live, typically with your family. For me, the word home feels warm – it evokes a sense of coziness that house does not. The old saying “A family makes a house a home” is true – the house contains the family, the love, the spirit which truly makes it a home.

We are selling our home. After 21 years here, we have decided to downsize while the market is good, moving away from the place that gave us shelter and held us together. It’s just a building, but it’s been so much more for our family – it is the place I staked my independence following my divorce. It’s where I embarked on a new marriage with hope and joy. We brought home our son a few years later, adding a third child to our already busy home. He’s lived here all his life and now faces a move to a smaller room in a smaller place that I hope will become a home to him.

When I think about the years we’ve been here, I feel like I have touched just about every wall in every part of this house. We have been actively improving it year after year, adding on, remodeling, redecorating, doing the regular maintenance a house needs. I have loved making my yard the garden I’d dreamed of – and feel connected to it at my very roots. I can walk through the garden and touch my plants, seeing the results of years of work come to fruition. All of this has been a labor of love, with an eye toward ‘someday when we sell, we want it to look good’. And we made it look really good – so good, in fact, we began to question why we wanted to sell. But the fact remains – two of our three children have married and moved into homes of their own. A big house is no longer something we really need. It feels empty and unused for much of the year with our youngest now in college. It’s time to let someone else love it.

The sales process was swift. Houses in our area are being snapped up quickly and within a day of listing, we had multiple offers. We wanted to pass our home on to someone who wanted to be a part of the neighborhood and raise a family here. One couple stood out to us as those people. They told us about their love for gardening and art – they could see themselves here, tending the garden, working in the art studio upstairs. It felt right – and we quickly accepted their offer. What it meant to us was the stark reality that we would really be leaving our home. No more ‘someday when we sell’ – that day was here.

A house contains us – a home nurtures us. All the tears, the laughter, the sleepless nights – every emotion under the sun has taken place here. So much love has passed through this place – so many of my memories are rooted here. It will always be a part of me, in a way no other home has been.

This is the longest I have ever lived anywhere. We moved a lot when I was a kid – the longest in any one place was ten years in our Golden Gardens home in Seattle. Giving my kids a stable place to call home was a big priority for me. I think I learned a lot of resilience moving around growing up, but it was hard being the new kid over and over again.

Starting soon, we will enjoy being condo dwellers for the next few years. We’ll work on building our next home and making the move to Whidbey Island one of these days. For now, we’ll say a loving goodbye to the place that kept us warm and safe and dry all these years, leaving behind the good memories and good karma that has come from the joy, the pain, the happiness and sadness every family shares.

Friday Flash Fiction

JHardyCarroll

Photo Courtesy of J. Hardy Carroll

These benches tell a story – of the people who’ve come and gone, the talented hands of the person who made them, their silent watch over time passing by. This reminds me of Ellis Island, or a train station – some place from the past, where life passed through and time has passed by.

Word count: 99

Waiting at the Station

Passengers streamed off the train, waving at their loved ones. Reunions took place on the platform — kisses and hugs, handshakes and hellos, chaos and commotion.

Sarah waited patiently. He’d be on the train. Watching the joy on the faces around her, she smiled to herself. A mother greeted her returning soldier with tears of joy. Sarah felt her own eyes well up. So much joy.

After the rush, she made her way to the luggage car where a black draped coffin waited on a cart. She let her tears fall silently then. Her love was home at last.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Ceayr

Photo Courtesy of C.E. Ayr

A spaceship? An arena? Whatever it is, it looks poised to take off. And so my story follows…

Word count: 100

Bluer than Blue

The reflection of the stadium was momentarily mesmerizing. A blue wash across the water, shimmering in the night. People inside were having fun, cheering the game on, their roars rolling across the river.

Eliza knew other people were happy. She just didn’t know how to get there. Bluer than blue, sadder than sad had been the theme song of her short life.

She stood shivering in the night air, concrete at her back. She relished the chill on her skin, knowing the water below would be colder than cold, darker than dark. Closing her eyes, she stepped into the black.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

being MG

Photo Courtesy of Marie Gail Stratford

‘Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town…’ – one of my very favorite cities in the world is featured this week. Long ago, I thought I might live there. I never was a fan of Midwestern winters, however. Nor their muggy summers. I hear there are about 3 weeks in April and October that are lovely…

Life changing things happen behind the many windows of a big city, hidden from view. Everybody has their own burden to bear, carried silently within.

Word count: 100

Overshadowed

Long shadows fell across the familiar buildings at day’s end. She’d leave her office once she’d composed herself, putting on a happier face to the world. For the moment, she let the news wash over her again.

Nothing to be done, really. She’d get up every day and face whatever needed to be done. The shape of her life had altered, the road ahead no longer endless.

Breathing deeply, she squared her shoulders and shook her head, wishing away the three words burning in her brain. Tonight, she’d live her life and enjoy the city.

Cancer could wait until tomorrow.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Ted T
Photo Courtesy of Ted T

Beauty in the most unlikely places – this picture is all sorts of interesting. ‘Why?’ is the big question that comes to mind. ‘Why not?’ is the most likely answer. Sometimes you just don’t get to know. You just get to live it.

Word count: 99

Pottyville

Momma always said ‘bloom where you are planted’. She had no idea what that really meant.

Living on the streets as long as I have, I make my home wherever and however I can. Sometimes I imagine a place all mine, with windows and a garden and walls that don’t let the wind through. Dreams come easier when it’s dark and I can’t see the edges. Daylight brings it all back.

So I look at my garden and smile. The pansies dispel the gloom in spite of their unorthodox placement.

Momma would just love how I’ve embraced her motto.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Photo Courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

This picture has a lot of inspiration packed into it. I made the mistake of reading a couple of entries and now have to see what new twist I can make on the same prompt. I usually don’t read until I’ve come up with my own. Now to let go and see where the creative river takes me.

Word count: 101

Flux

No man ever steps in the same river twice – all things are in flux like a river.” Elmer said quietly to himself.

“What you going on about?” Opal shook her head. “Old coot.”

He looked at the river, knowing his own feet had stepped there, younger feet, back when his world was new.

Heraclitus had it right. His life barely mattered and any impact would wash away like a footprint in the sand, gone before the next foot landed.

“Don’t forget to shut that damn window. You’ll catch your death.”

Nodding faintly, Elmer closed his eyes, hoping for just that.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Out of Season

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I love spring. It has always been my very favorite season – something about the suddenness of things bursting into life after being dormant all winter fills me with hope and gives me a feeling of wonder.

I have posted about the beauty in my garden as the early bloomers appear or about the glory of the nesting Great Blue Herons as they begin the cycle of bringing their chicks into the world. They are reminders that spring is here and all is right with the world.

Things have a time, a purpose, a season and the pattern is familiar and comforting. Then my thoughts drift to my sister, my friend, my constant companion. We often talked by phone as I took my walks that led me past the herons, especially toward the end of her life. I’d walk and tell her what I was seeing, describing the hungry chicks calling for their food like rusty hinges squawking with life.

It dawned on me earlier this week that I am almost exactly the age she was when she died. That thought stopped me in my tracks. I can’t imagine being ready to leave my life. It is staggering to think about, really. Her time was cut short – she was an out of season loss. Not everything conforms to the patterns or the timing of nature. It’s been five years this year that she lost her fight with pancreatic cancer and it’s gone by in a flash, while every day without her has felt too long.

As I think about it, I am reminded to live each day fully, as she chose to: to revel in the everyday things and marvel in the beauty of the world. She was an inspiration as she approached the end of her time with us. She wanted nothing more than one more day in case she had the opportunity to meet someone new and maybe touch another life with meaning. She was an optimist and kept her childlike wonder even as she faced the death sentence she’d been given. I loved that about her. I loved so much about her.

Jan, in her field of gold
I saw a picture of her flash by on my screensaver yesterday. It was taken a month or so before her death. She is standing in a field, lit up with golden sun at the end of the day, looking fragile but peaceful. She told me before she died that she visualized her home in heaven – she believed fully in what comes next – and saw it in a field just like that, lit with golden sunlight. Seeing that picture, I am filled with joy, then sadness at losing her, then anger at it coming too soon. All those emotions roil through me in a split second and then I say a silent “I love you, I miss you, it’s not the same without you” and smile. Everything has a season. Hers just came too soon.

Friday Flash Fiction

Sean Fallon
Photo Courtesy of Sean Fallon

This made me think back to the days when finding the right battery was critical to my young kids. It seemed like every single one of their toys needed a different kind. And then, once I found (or more likely, purchased) the batteries, I’d regret it because it usually meant they were toys that made noise.

I’ve always thought there’s a special spot in hell for people who design annoyingly noisy toys.

Word count: 102

Powerful

“Hey! My Gameboy stopped working! What the…”

“Mommy! Darling Dance-A-Lot stopped playing…”

“Waaaaah!! No sound…”

My kids made more noise than the toys I’d surreptitiously sabotaged. I knew it was short-lived, however. I had a plan.

“Here – try one of these,” I said in my most convincing voice. “It’s something you’ll love.”

Eying me suspiciously, they turned to look. I held out the treats, calling them to me like the Pied-piper.

“Books, my sweets. Quiet, lovely, books.”

With a little persuasion, they settled in with their new found friends, each one a doorway to a new world. A much quieter world.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Why Women Rock

Twain Quote

In my “About Me” section on this here blog, I have a list of 25 Things About Me. Number 5 on that list is “I sometimes think that I relate better to males than females but I wouldn’t revoke my membership in the sisterhood for anything. Women rock.” and that sums up my thinking about my women friends to a tee. I have some amazing women friends and I count myself lucky to be in their company.

Some of these women have known me since I was a child – Laurie J. and I met in second grade. Lori M. and I were college roommates. Others are from high school, college, various jobs I’ve had along the way in my career – but all of them have a singular theme: With these women, I have given up pretense. I am my true self, imperfections and all. That is why they are so meaningful to me.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure (and it really was just plain old fun) to spend a weekend in Coronado with 23 women from my college days at Stanford. Some I knew really well. Some I was just meeting that weekend. But the fun part was we could all be ourselves and show up at breakfast in PJs or running clothes or fully decked out and ready for the day and be equally accepted. It’s the best feeling in the world to be with people who just let you be you.

group 3
This group has been doing this in one form or another for over 25 years. It was something that started as people realized seeing each other only every 5 years at a reunion wasn’t going to cut it. Now it happens when someone plans the weekend, not on a set schedule. Sometimes it is only a handful of women going somewhere truly exotic – but at the core, it is this bond of familiarity that keeps people coming back.

My first outing with the group was white water rafting in Oregon about 15 years ago. Lori invited me and I figured it was a great way to spend a few days with her, never really factoring in the rest of the group. I had a great time with everyone and I felt comfortable being in their company. I remember one trip to Lake Tahoe a few years later where I was really struggling with my sister’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and had a very heartfelt, honest conversation with one of the women there who happens to be a doctor. Her compassion and truth touched me deeply – and helped me prepare for what was ahead in a way I might never have been able to do.

Group 2

When we get together, there is always laughter and stories and wine and food. We are a loud group to be around, but the kind of group you look at and think “I’ll have what they’re having.” We just have fun. We talk about kids and work and parents and challenges and successes – no subject is off the table. And your feelings are always allowed.

This particular group includes some amazingly accomplished women – doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, education professionals, stay at home moms – it’s a cross section of talent. This diversity means you get some really different perspectives and ideas. I have loved seeing how conversations ebb and flow when I am with these women. And following one get together, someone shared this article, an excerpt of which is below. Apparently, we’re not the only ones to believe in the power of female friendship.

A friend of a friend wrote last summer that she just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.

At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences.

Physically this “quality girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.

Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.

Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged – not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!

Talking with a girlfriend is as good as going to the gym? Sign me up.  In another article sent by one of this last gathering’s attendees focuses on the value of women friends as we grow older. It’s safe to say I don’t need any convincing at this point – I know the power of these friendships first hand. They have held me up through all the slings and arrows of life’s misfortune and cheered me on when I was riding high.

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I have women friends that I do weekends away with who are from earlier in my life and we can pick up where we left off in a heartbeat. It’s comforting to be with people who know your whole story and see you for not just who you are today, but that younger woman you once were. That makes me feel connected in a way that is truly special. It’s something I realized I really missed when I lost my parents and sister – these women know me through and through. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I know it matters to be fully known by someone else.

I’ve often thought that I would love to be able to gather all the women who are special to me in one place for a Grand Salon – to have them mix and mingle with the sole purpose to be to bond with each other and become a larger support system. That may have to stay a dream, but I think it might be time for me to at least plan the next weekend adventure.

I remember my mom talking about “the girls” when she would plan an afternoon of bridge or a lunch at our house. These women were from her younger days, the mysterious time of her life when she wasn’t just our mother, but her own person. Those girls have all passed away, but mom kept her female friends going strong until her own death. She must have figured all this out long ago.

I plan to follow her example and so to my dear friends, old and new – thank you for being in my life, thank you for all you have shared with me, and thank you for letting me be me. Every single one of you rock.

 

Another year of blogging

This post has been percolating for a full month. I meant to write at the end of December. I meant to write at the beginning of the New Year. But we went to Costa Rica for a week and it was so lovely there, I put it off.

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Sunrise from our place in Costa Rica

I’m finally writing on the second to the last day of January. Which means, I’m slacking. Or I’m busy. Take your pick.

For those who know me outside my writer persona, I have a full time career in technology. I enjoy my work and have been lucky enough to have had a career that has been both satisfying and challenging. Lately, it’s been time consuming. It doesn’t appear that’s going to get much better this year – as I map out the next eleven months, busy just seems to be a norm. I’d better get used to it and not use it as an excuse to NOT write. Or I’ll stop being a writer and just be someone who talks about writing.

I’m a storyteller. It’s what I do. This has been a part of who I am since I was very young. I tell myself stories all the time and some of them I like enough to turn into writing. Some are just to keep me from losing my mind when I’m stuck in an airplane aisle way waiting to deplane.

This past week, I was invited to present at a technology conference in New York on the work my organization is doing around Digital Transformation. It felt like a daunting task – until I remembered that I’m a storyteller and that I knew this story better than anyone else did. So I crafted the story and told it, adapting it on the fly for the audience. It was fun and I loved doing it. (If you want to read some of what I shared, it’s here)

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation

I’m an accidental technologist. I didn’t set out to be in Information Technology. I stumbled into it. I took one programming class in my senior year of college to fulfill a science requirement. I learned enough to write some simple scripts and see how logic applied to the commands. My first job as a professional was as a manager for a group of people who managed the telephone lines and numbers in the Network organization for a local telephone company. They pulled reports from a large database and had to do the same commands over and over. I figured I could write a simple script to automate that process for them. I did, it worked, and I was suddenly a wunderkind who was highly technical. Ha! I was anything but, but I did know how to solve their problem. The rest, as they say, is history.

So today, when I talk about technology, I always try to approach it from the “why does this matter to the business?” angle. I like to think that I have been a translator from the bits and bytes to the dollars and cents – using technology to make business run better, faster, and more efficiently which turns into a stronger bottom line. That’s what keeps the business running, after all.

Day jobs – writers have to have them. Luckily I like mine.

But back to blogging. In my rather cursory year in review, I find the following:

  • I hit 67% on Friday Fiction – not bad, but could be better
  • I didn’t get anything published
  • My novel is stalled following the last review by an agent with more revisions needed
  • I completed another novel but haven’t gotten back to it to polish it or even begin to query it
  • I started another novel and am about a third of the way into what I think is an interesting story, but need to get my fingers back on the keyboard

In short, I fell short. But that’s OK. Because I haven’t given up hope nor have I stopped. I’m just in a bit of a lull – regrouping, perhaps – refueling.

Things that I have been doing that are more positive:

  • I’m still reading for a literary agency
  • I attended a Meetup for local writers and had a lot of fun talking with them
  • I met in person one of the Friday Fiction writers (Hi, Dawn!) and participated in a Bloggers Unite posting on gratitude
  • I remet a writer friend from Salt Cay (Hi, Anne!) and we’ve been working on some business ideas together as she shapes her plans
  • I read and helped advise on an autobiography for a lovely woman in her nineties who is an alumna from my university
  • I met another writer whose work is fun to read and have my fingers crossed that her book, which is now represented by a wonderful agent, is published soon

All of this means I’m still out there, still trying and still hopeful.

My blogging stats show pretty much what I’d expect – most of my posts were my Friday Fiction and most of the readers came just for that. One post that came in first is a bit surprising – it had the most readers but zero comments. I’m not sure why that is. Talk to me, people!

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Zero comments? Really?

All in all, 3,000 visits from people in 57 countries. I feel pretty good about that.

Here’s to 2016 and continuing to silence the little voice in my head that says I’m not a real writer. I’ll just keep plugging away until I believe it myself. Happy (belated!) New Year to everyone!