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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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Remembering High School Graduation

High School Graduation: Times Past

Was high school graduation a big event for you or did it pass unnoticed. As a city baby boomer high school graduation was not an event that my school, at least, made much of a fuss about. I believe that this may have well have changed with different generations and certainly by geography. I know from the American television shows (Gidget, Happy Days and numerous movies) that in the States high school graduation was quite different to what mine was.

My memoir:

Baby Boomer, rural central school in western New York state, graduation 1971

A central school in the sates means it services multiple towns. I attended K – 12 in the same sprawling building with essentially the same 60 students all 13 years. There was a Catholic school that fed us about ten students at the start of seventh grade. We not only knew each other, we knew the whole family and pets too.

Up until my junior year I was one of the popular kids and included in their activities. My mother had gotten sick during my freshman year and my grades fell so my senior year I was in classes with students I knew, but had never been close with. Mom died November of my senior year and that distanced me further from the “crowd.” I recently talked to a high school classmate, first time in 45 years, and she told me, “We didn’t know what to say, so we didn’t talk to you.” It’s nice to know, finally, it wasn’t all me. I’m really glad there are now grief counselors and people talk about death and it’s repercussions.

Graduation itself was cap and gown with Sunday best underneath. Each student was limited to five tickets because of the size of the auditorium. People with large families had a problem with that. My father, who until my mother’s death had rarely attended anything to do with school, was there, along with my Aunt, my older sister and her boyfriend, and my boyfriend. Dad reached in his suit pocket and pulled out his reading glasses that we had been searching the house for on a daily basis. We had a good laugh, the last time he had worn his suit was at mother’s funeral. He probably said something like, “Guess I should dress more often.”

I received a $200.00 award for having the highest average of a student entering a near-by two-year college. A couple of my fellow male students kidded me they would have done more homework if they had known there was money to be had. It felt good to be ahead of them for once.

My guests and I went back to my aunts to cut a celebratory cake and that was that.

 

Unexpected News – Flash Fiction

January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.  https://carrotranch.com/2018/01/12/january-11-flash-fiction-challenge/

My offering follows:

With great excitement and anticipation I opened my son’s first letter since he had joined the Air Force. I expected personal news and an address. I got the opposite.

“I’m sure you don’t know, Dad told me to never come home again for enlisting without his blessing. I don’t think it’s safe to give you any contact information because he will force you to choose between him and me. I’m sorry.”

My sudden tears wet the ink. I realized any letters would have to be kept secret and I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

#FlashFictionChallenge-The Mesh of Marriage

Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary community has given the word “mesh” for this weeks flash fiction challenge. Here  is my offering using mesh as a verb. This is the link  https://carrotranch.com/2017/11/16/november-16-flash-fiction-challenge-2/.

“Melding two people in marriage is like weaving your personalities into a strong mesh. Today I know your special mesh is as fine as Lilly’s wedding veil. It is my duty to warn you, life will present trials that will stretch the spaces and even create holes. Disputes can be about anything from whether to have children, how to spend your money, or deal with  in-laws. I challenge you to never let your mesh get a hole in it. Do you accept my challenge?”

The reverend eyed the bride’s family as the beaming couple answered in unison, “We do.”

TMI

This is the day we recognize social media and how it has changed our every day lives.  Think about it, depending on your age of course, the time of waiting for news of the birth of a cousin by snail-mail is long gone. We now have instant pictures or videos. I think that’s a good thing and I’m sure every family that is now spread across this nation, or the earth, thinks so too.

On the other hand so many people use social media to bash someone or our government that using it has become a negative instead of a positive. I have to admit, I have unfollowed “friends” who bash others. I have also unfollowed people who post too many details, all negative, about their current relationship or life style. I don’t want to be dragged down by those who won’t take responsibility for their own lives or get help when others have suggested that is what could improve the situation.

My blog is part of social media and I’m sure there are some that look at my titles and think, “Who cares?” That’s all right. My point in writing this was to help myself become a better writer and just maybe inspire some conversation around someone’s dinner table instead of having four heads buried in their phones.

You-Tube is its own being now. You can find anything on You-tube. I do like my favorite genre of music videos. I look up how to do something in my sewing room, and my grandson watches people play and explain video games. There is definitely something for everyone, especially about cooking and travel. My wish is for the people who make the videos to take all the “umm” and “ya know” phrases out of their public speaking. But then again, that’s just my pet peeve.

Social Media is here to stay, unless of course, the power goes out. I think it has made the world a smaller place and I’m not at all sure that is a good thing. See you soon on Facebook!

You Choose Each Other

Today is National Best Friends Day. What do you consider a best friend? My definition includes things like loyal, accepting, someone I could travel with, someone to share secrets with and best of all, you choose each other because it’s fun and comfortable to spend time together. If your best friend is also a blood relative, you are even luckier.

I am very fortunate. I have best friends in different aspects of my life. I have M.B. who I went all through school with and have stayed in close contact with to this day. We know each others personal life secrets and don’t tell. I have 90-year-old V.B. and 76-year-old K.K. who are older women I can bounce life’s challenges off; they have more experience than I do and can share different view points with me. I have my sewing buddies; three ladies who had very similar childhoods to mine. We talk about current events, our families, and quilting— mostly quilting. We laugh a lot together. I also have a lady friend, J.G., who can often explain other people’s actions to me. And then I have my Blog supporters, N.G., K.P., and R.C.. I’ve never met R.C. but she has a blog and is an author and baker. I’m sure if we had a chance to share a cup of tea or coffee, we could talk for hours about our like interests and hug each other at the end of our visit. I also have three older sisters who I am close to. We can actually travel together and enjoy it. I am truly blessed to have so many close female friends. And let’s not leave out my children, who I can complain to and share the joy of the milestones we all accomplish.

The list wouldn’t be complete without including my husband. When we first met he said, “I don’t care about your past. I am interested in the person you have become because of it.” He has always stuck to that, never questioning or berating me for mistakes or decisions I made before I met him. He is my most loyal supporter and because of his acceptance I have been able to grow as a person. He deserves my trust and loyalty because he treats me the way I need to be treated, not the way he thinks I should be and he let’s me be me.

As I write, or sew, or cook, I have another best friend. My cat, Useless. He is my constant companion, will listen to anything I have to say, warms my lap while I nap or read, and doesn’t argue. He can be a pain about wanting to go out and come back in so many times in an evening, but I never come home to an empty house with him here to greet me. He has a bed in my sewing studio and shares my chair with me, or takes it over is more like it. He’s fourteen now and starting to show his age. That makes me sad.

Today would be a good day to tell your best friend(s) how much they mean to you. Life sure would be empty if we didn’t have our favorite humans to share it with.

 

 

Family Craft Time

It’s National Children’s Craft Day. Once again, I am perplexed by the choice of picture for this day. I guess if you let that little person sit on your lap while you are crafting, you create interest that hopefully remains. I would have picked an older child that could actually create something on their own. You know, with popsicle sticks, glue, glitter, colored paper and crayons. Maybe a little help with the scissors would be needed.

As a mother, some of my most cherished heirlooms are things my children made in school or scouts when they were little; as in ages five to ten. Christmas tree ornaments are a prime example. It doesn’t matter how well they were made, or if you even know that brown blob is a camel from the manger scene, it matters that my child made it and when they brought it to me, the expression of excitement and accomplishment on their face is embedded in my memory forever.

That’s the cool thing about crafting. Any age person can do it (according to the type of craft of course), learn about art, learn construction, and have a sense of accomplishment. My grandson, at the age of nine, asked to make a quilt with me, so he could learn the process. I did the cutting with a rotary cutter and ruler, and the pinning. He learned to lay out the color design, sew straight seams and iron by setting the seams first, then pressing to the dark fabric. We had a grand time and his quilt is on his bed. I wish he wanted to do more, but once he learned how the process worked, he was satisfied.

There are so many different types of crafting I can’t begin to even name them all. May I suggest, sit down with your little ones, or borrow some if need be, and make something with your hands. Sharing time with your crafter is almost as rewarding as making something is. Make it a family affair.

Not Just for the Professionals

It’s National Care Givers Day. According to the National Day of calendar this day is set aside to acknowledge, thank, and give credit to professional care givers. Amen to that! Where would we be without our nurses, doctors, technicians, and even the cleaning and cafeteria crews at a hospital; or the staff in our doctor’s office? These people are there when we need them, hopefully it isn’t too often. Note: they get to go home at the end of their shift.

Let’s take this a step further. After a loved one has a knee replaced, with a hospital stay of only two nights, now who is the caregiver? If someone is going through chemo treatments, with rides needed, meals prepared, the house cleaned, and a gentle touch; now who is the caregiver? If someone is in an auto accident that shakes their security to the core, who is their caregiver? You got it, usually it is a family member or friend.

In my circle, I am known as the hospital sitter. I don’t mind sitting quietly, for hours if necessary, in a hospital room, or waiting room, knowing that I am making the patient just a bit calmer. I’ve done it for my husband, the neighbor, my boss, other family members, and a  fellow Harley rider after a terrible accident that left him in a wheelchair. I’m not looking for praise, it’s a way I can calmly give back. There is a down side. On the odd day I’m needing a boost myself, it’s a little too easy to ask, who is taking care of me? Thankfully that thought doesn’t happen often, or last long.

Currently in the U.S. it is socially acceptable and even suggested to tell a military veteran thank you for their service. It’s about time. May I suggest, if you know a caregiver, especially the stay-at-home type, add them to the list of people to say thank you to. By acknowledging the person that needs the care and the caregiver, you let them know you are concerned for both of them. It will mean a lot as the stay-at-home caregiver often doesn’t have an escape like a professional does.

 

Day of the Deployed and the Family too

National Day of the Deployed honors all of the brave men and woman who have been deployed, are sacrificing, or have sacrificed their lives to defend our country. The day also acknowledges their families who are separated from them during deployment and the sacrifices they make in order for their family members to serve our country.

WOW! A military recognition day that also honors the family left at home.  I’ve been in that position and it isn’t easy!  You function as a single parent the best you can (and get used to being in charge) then your spouse returns home, and thinks he is in charge.  It’s always an adjustment to relearn how to share the responsibilities of the family and household.  Today, it’s almost as common to have the Mom gone instead of the Dad.  I would guess that’s even more difficult if the separation is for a long time.

When my nephew was deployed during Dessert Storm, I sent him the Sunday comics each week.  I got more than one letter of thanks, and it is still mentioned at the holiday dinner table.  He laughs, “If I had been a drinking man, I would have charged rent on them.  As it was, there became a pecking order of who got to read them when I was finished.  They got passed along until they were tattered.”  Those funny papers were a touch of American life and home for the guys deployed.

I recently attended a church service where a young man was recognized before being deployed to Iraq the following week.  He told us he would be back in a year, if all went well.  I hate to admit, when we said good-bye to Dillon, we were all thinking, I hope you do come back.  It made sending him off a little harder to do.

These days the deployed can communicate much easier with home via cell phones and Skype.  I thought it would make deployment easier on both sides, but a good friend, a Captain in the Army, told me it makes it more difficult for some, because the parent at home shares all the troubles (car won’t start, mother-in-law didn’t send a birthday card, child is acting out because they don’t understand where Dad/Mom is) and the person deployed can’t do anything from so far away except feel guilty for not being there. As I said, it isn’t easy.

If you know someone who is deployed, may I suggest you take the time to send them a card or stop by their house and ask the family if they need something done.  I promise, they will appreciate knowing someone recognizes the sacrifice they are making for the U.S.A.

Grief Can Do That To You

Today is National Grouch Day. Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch and he is constantly complaining, about something; anything. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of fellow. The picture above shows a definitely unhappy child: maybe he’s hungry; he didn’t get to have a new toy; he doesn’t know when he’ll see his Mom again because she left in her military uniform; or his father is crying and he’s never seen him do that after talking on his cell.  The reason for the tears: he just found out his favorite uncle died.

My husband and I spent the last couple of days at the funeral of his cousin Jerry. The first of fifteen cousins in his generation we had to say good-by to. It can be frightening to think our age naturally puts us in line for it to happen more often and closer to home. The fear of the unknown date can cause you to get grouchy; the riled emotions and sadness can cause you to get grouchy; trying to find a funeral home in a big, unfamiliar city can cause you to get grouchy; and so can the noise being made by other guests in the hotel you are trying to sleep in.  It’s an emotional time for everyone involved, especially for the spouse left behind that has to figure out what the “new normal” is going to be.

Jerry had been sick for a long time. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell there was cancer in his system; other times, you didn’t think he would last another week. So when the end finally came, it was not a surprise. How much it hurts was a surprise. We all said it was a blessing he was no longer in pain. We added, he wasn’t here long enough to suit us.

I’ve been to far too many funerals already. I’ll share with you that both of my parents funerals were like a party week. The relatives came, the neighbors, the friends. People we hadn’t seen in a long time made contact with calls, cards, and flowers. It was festive. The pain set in afterwards when the house was quiet, and the company disappeared. Then the mind asks, “What just happened?”

Jerry’s funeral was like that. Cousins converged on Baltimore from Chicago, Boston, Knoxville, TN, Rochester, NY, and Miami. Friends came from next door, Washington, DC and Maine. We laughed about some memories and cried over others. We hugged each other; we said I love you. One of the family members didn’t speak to me and it really hurt my feelings. I thought he was mad at me, but then I found out he didn’t talk to hardly anyone. Grief can do that to you when you aren’t ready to face it yet.

I know this isn’t my usual type post, and there are lots of other reasons to be a grouch, but this reason is on my mind. The National Day of calendar suggests spending time with a grouch on this day and give them a reason to smile or pass them one of your own. It may help them be less of a grouch, and just maybe help them to heal from the pain of loss.

 

 

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