KINDNESS

Be Kind

 

In an unsettled and unsettling time,
when life’s surprises can turn on a dime,
we look to each other for reasons to smile,
to leave fretting and worry behind for a while.

Tomorrow has never been certain;
it hides behind Future’s opaque curtain.
Be thankful you have this day,
to be kind to others along life’s way.

Give when you can in this murky rift,
to help those who are suddenly adrift,
cast into the darkness of what’s next,
their hearts and minds equally vexed.

Kindness does not resolve fears;
it can wipe away worried tears,
giving for a moment, a little relief,
restoring, hope, trust and belief.

In an unsettled and unsettling time,
when life’s surprises can turn on a dime,
we look to each other for reasons to smile,
to leave fretting and worry behind for a while.


Follow Sharon at:
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Day 132

Alone

Abigail rose from the tangle of blankets, wringing wet. The bedding reeked with her sweat. She staggered to the window, chilled less by a limp breeze, more by what she would see when she looked out.

The barren street mocked her.

She rubbed her thin arms and turned away from the emptiness: empty cars that would never go anywhere again; empty benches where no one sat; empty sidewalks devoid of walkers. The worst? Lack of noise. No screaming sirens, wailing babies, horns honking aggressively, people arguing, the swish of skirts and click of high heels; coughs, snorts, sneezes and wheezes. Laughter. Nothing.

Simply silence.

She grasped the handle of a pan and threw it across the room just to hear the sound as it hit the wall. It thudded unsatisfactorily and clanged unconvincingly when it hit the wooden floor.

Abigail had selected the apartment for the view out the window. The pandemic that wiped out the world population, apparently leaving her the single survivor, had driven people from the neighborhood looking for safety somewhere; anywhere. The stench of death didn’t hover here, as it did in many places she’d encountered in her search for other survivors.

She was it. There were no others, not one.

She picked the pan up from the floor and returned it to the counter, setting it down with more force than necessary, just to hear the sound.

She’d had her pick of places to settle in. The complex she’d chosen wasn’t fancy but it was well-maintained. The studio apartment was on the second floor, facing the street. The higher you went, the better the view and the more expensive the rent. That didn’t matter anymore.

Her selection of the studio apartment came down to one thing – apart from the view; it was the only apartment on the second floor facing the street that stood open. All the other doors were closed tight and locked even tighter. Whoever had lived in 227 B had left in a hurry.

In her wanderings, before arriving at 227 B, Abigail had seen a perplexing mix of evidence that humanity was crazy as hell. She had heard – when communications networks were still functioning – that as bodied piled up in make-shift morgues, people went nuts, burning, looting, killing. Entire neighborhoods were decimated by violence. If the creeping, killing virus didn’t get you, the guy next door might, probably would, and then he’d steal you blind, rape your wife, kill your kids. You gave up trying to decide who was friend or foe. Survival meant you trusted no one.

Now there was no one left. Trust was no longer an issue, was it?

Abigail had plenty of food, most of it in cans with tab-top openers. For the cans that didn’t have tab tops, she had found a manual can opener at a trashed hardware store. At first, she left money on the counter when she took something, until she ran out. By then she’d come to realize she was the only one left.

Why?

It was a recurring and unanswerable question. Everyone in the world – as far as she knew – was gone. Dead. Until she’d come to this town, this neighborhood and settled in 227 B, the stench of rotting corpses had clung to her hair, her clothes, her body. She’d left death behind and was glad to be rid of it.

In her heart she believed – hoped – there were other survivors, but where? In this town, state, country? How did she find them? In the beginning, she’d taken cars abandoned along roadways, driven them until they ran out of fuel and then commandeered another one, searching always, honking the horn, hoping someone would run into the streets to flag her down; to say, “Here! Here! I’M HERE, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!”

But it hadn’t happened.

Yet.

She hadn’t given up hope.

Yet.

And if she came upon someone? What then?

Trust no one. Her mother’s dying voice rang in her head during the day and haunted her dreams at night.

The apartment, at least for the moment, had running water and electricity. The appliances were electric and in working order. If she didn’t know bone crushing loneliness, she would be fine. How long everything would continue to function was something Abigail chose not to think about. She was okay for now, and now was all the mattered.

The apartment also had the advantage of being small, which suited Abigail very well. Despite knowing she was alone, she was terrified of potential unknowns that lay beyond her door. When she was in the apartment, she set the deadbolt and for insurance, lodged a chair back under the knob to prevent anyone from entering. For added protection, she kept an archery set close by. She’d found it in a sporting goods store and taught herself how to use it. It was a skill she practiced every day so it became an extension of who she was.

Abigail went out every day, bow and a quiver of arrows strapped rakishly over her shoulder. She did not walk openly in the empty streets. She skittered down back alleys, looking for anything she could use to survive. Stores of any kind that had battered down doors were fair game. She pilfered from a Walgreens, stocking up on bandages, over the counter meds, makeup (why makeup she didn’t know; she never used it), paper goods and nonperishable foods, books, magazines, batteries, anything that she could use to make her life bearable. There was also a neighborhood grocery store, not one of the chains, but well-stocked, although the fresh meats, fruits and vegetables had long ago gone bad, the bread products moldy or rock hard. She took sparingly from the freezers, hoping they would last as long as the food in them did. She stocked up on clothing that spanned the seasons, sensible shoes, practical and sturdy. She took what she could, day-by-day, stacking it up outside the apartment when she ran out of space inside 227 B.

How much would she need? She didn’t know, but she didn’t want to find out by not having enough.

Some days she would ask herself, “Why bother? Why not just roll over and die, take the still-functioning elevator to the top floor of her 24-story building and fling herself off the roof? She didn’t know why, but she was determined to survive.

Her restless night clung to her as she put on distressed jeans, found in a trashed boutique; $200 price tag, more than she’d spent on clothes in a year in the time before. She slipped a hoodie over her T-shirt and stepped into her favorite tennis shoes. It was a chilly day, early signs of fall in the air.

As she walked along, she wished she’d stayed in the apartment as she trundled her pilfered shopping cart down the alley, packed full of her finds. She hummed some half-remembered song from her youth to keep herself company.

“HELLO! HELLO! ANYONE? ANYONE?”

Abigail froze.

“HELLO? ANYONE THERE?”

Where was the voice coming from? Abigail darted her eyes side-to-side, not looking for the owner of the voice; she sought instead a place to hide.

Male? Female? She couldn’t tell. The voice was raspy, raw from yelling, as hers had been when she screamed and screamed the same unanswered greeting for days on end.

“HELLO! ANYONE THERE?”

The voice was coming closer. Trust no one.

Abigail quaked. What was she to do? She scurried down the alley like a frightened mouse and hid behind a dumpster that had never been emptied; its sour smell stagnated by time.

Footsteps approached, the sound plodding and dreadful.

Trust no one. Abigail swallowed a gasp of fear  and squeezed her eyes shut, as if she could shut out approaching doom.

“Well, well, well. What have we here?”

Abigail swallowed a sob and opened her eyes expecting something – someone – to be leaning over her.

“Looks like somebody’s been shopping.”

Abigail dared to peek around the edge of the dumpster. A woman, if the long brown hair was an indicator. Still, it could be a man, which worried Abigail. A man would take over. Steal everything, leave her with nothing, maybe not even her life.

The figure rummaged around in the cart and pulled something from the carefully arranged stacks. A Payday. Abigail’s favorite. For one foolish second she thought to leap from her hiding place and snatch the candy bar from the intruder.

Intruder? Isn’t this what she’d hoped for, another survivor, someone to share the burden of survival with her? But she remained still.

“What do you think of that, Chloe?” The voice asked.

Definitely a woman. Who the heck was Chloe? Abigail leaned further around the edge of the dumpster to see if there was another person there. No one, just the woman eating her candy bar.

“I think we found home, Chloe. What do you think?”

Dead silence.

“I agree. Now we have more provisions to add to the store we already found. Let’s go home.”

She started pushing the cart quickly down the narrow alleyway.

Trust no one.

Abigail knew then that she’d been found, that this greedy woman was taking over her life. She wasn’t about to let that happen. She rose from her hiding place, an arrow already notched in place and let it fly just at the woman turned and fired a gun point blank at Abigail, as though she’d known all along where she was hiding.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

Dance Today; It’s Okay

DanceDelight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Dance today. It’s okay. God knows your joy. Remember its source. He knows your fears, your sorrows, your fury, your confusion. The Lord of all walks with you and lives in you. He is not a distant and unconcerned God; He is the God of possibilities; He is the God of the impossible. Let him in. Take comfort in his presence.

“How can I?” you ask, “My home was washed away in a massive flood!”

“How can I? I lost my job!”

“How can I? My husband/wife left me!”

“How can I in the middle of a pandemic?”

“How can I when racism rages?”

How can you not? The anchor in every storm is the assurance of God’s presence. Studies have shown that those who lean on their faith are more likely to overcome troubling times. Dance, even when the dance is one of sorrow or disappointment or anger. Even in those times know God is present, not to fix what’s wrong, but to give you strength.

Dance on the flames of hate until they are stamped out. Dance so justice is served. Dance so the dying embers of hope spark anew. Dance in memory of innocent men, women and children everywhere.

The music of life is a curious thing and a reminder that we are never alone in our dance. The spirit of hope and the hammer of faith give us strength, wisdom and helpers along the way. We aren’t forgotten even when we forget. God’s love for us is as real as the breath we take in and the breath we let out. God doesn’t care what color we are, what language we speak, the way we worship Him – or not. I believe God is color-blind but very attuned to the melody of renewal.

Dance. The band is in full swing. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isiah 55:12


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

Isolation

Kafka

Isolation is a way to know ourselves. Franz Kafka
The arts don’t exist in isolation. David Byrne

We’ve been in forced isolation because of this pandemic. Some don’t mind it at all; others chafe under the restrictive boundaries. It isn’t just the “staying home” edict that grinds. Mask-wearing has, for some, become a line in the sand. Personally, I don’t like them but if by wearing a mask I protect others, I’m okay with masking up.

Not interacting with others is a bit more of a challenge. I like people. Although I’m inclined to fade into the background, I still want to hear what others have to say, even when I don’t agree with them.

Kafka – a man full of self-doubt about the thing he most valued, his writing – perhaps sought isolation to better understand who he was and how the complications of his life shaped him. A tyrannical father, the deaths of siblings when he was young, a mother who loved being a homemaker but who didn’t quite know what to do with an intellectual child who would become more so over time. These factors affected his relationships and colored his work. Interestingly, little of his work became known during his lifetime. Were it not for his friend Max Brod, his unpublished manuscripts would have been destroyed.

I’m inclined to agree with David Bryne (Talking Heads), identified by Time Magazine in 1986 as Rock’s Renaissance Man: “The arts don’t exist in isolation.” According to the Time article, Byrne enjoys success as a singer, composer, lyricist, guitarist, film director, writer, actor, video artist, designer, photographer. Always engaged in creating art.

These very different men identify with isolation from perspectives based on their own experiences, and most certainly through the lens of the eras in which each live(d). Bryne works in collaboration with others to bring art to the masses in different forms. Kafka, although a genial fellow in certain circumstances, was so haunted by self-doubt about his writing, he asked his good friend to destroy his work after Kafka died.

Isolation 2020 will have repercussions on society that are yet to be determined. The impact of COVID-19 on those who lost family and friends is incalculable. The economy reels and will continue to do so for some time. The emotional toll will emerge slowly, catching us unawares, showing up in unexpected ways.

Kafka was a pessimist and probably for good reason. He lived in scary times. If you want a nightmare, read Metamorphosis. His work is overall bleak. Byrne on the other hand appears to be the ultimate optimist. He confesses to being “mostly” happy.

In the days ahead (weeks, months, years?), we have a choice to make: be an optimist or a pessimist. I don’t think there is a middle ground. Pass on your optimism to those around you. If you must be a pessimist, find people who know you well enough to help you see the up side, even when it feels like there isn’t one.

To say the future is a bit wobbly around the edges isn’t being a pessimist; it’s seeing the world for what it is and doing what you can to make it better. Two things you can do – optimist or pessimist: VOTE and fill out your census form. See, that isn’t hard!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


 

 

 

TRUST

Trust

 

Bring peace and justice
in equal measure.
Give hope to hearts
broken by hate and fear
so we become alike it this:
we are equal,
we are the same.
Trust sets the standard
for how we live,
giving feet to faith,
hands to helping,
bringing joy to hearts.
In all and with all
we see His promise,
taking us from fear to clarity,
from fury to assurance.
Trust opens doors to possibility.
Break the barriers between us
so we see each other
for who we are,
not the color of our skin –
equal, the same.


Follow Sharon at:
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Mr. C Returns

Quick Fact

Mr. C is back and has taken up residence in my bladder. I know, TMI, but I’m sharing this information because bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., affecting about 68,000 adults each year. According to the Mayo Clinic website, it occurs more often in men than women. I appear to be one of the lucky women who has it. Bladder cancer can happen at any age, but it is more common in older adults. I’m 75, prime time.

Early detection – as is often the case – means treatment is likely to be successful. Someone asked me what stage the cancer is. You’d think I would know, but I don’t. I start treatment next week, one a week for six weeks, followed by two years of treatment, one every three months. With bladder cancer, frequent monitoring is a must as it – as my doctor said – is unlikely to go away permanently. The best course of action is vigilance.

The first procedure, before the treatment plan was determined, took place on May 6, delayed because of COVID-19 and the need for critical care facilities. The procedure determined the presence of tumors and the likelihood they were malignant. Further testing revealed there are tumors, and yes, they are malignant.

The good news is, I won’t have chemo; I’ll undergo an immunotherapy regimen, which is less intrusive and arduous than chemo. It is not without risk as the drug I will be taking contains TB cells, which creates a hostile environment in the bladder that prevents the cancer cells from growing. (I hope I got that right.) I won’t go into detail about what one must do once the drug is eliminated. Suffice it to say one must be VERY careful.

So, prayer is appreciated. No worrying allowed. I’m a tough old nut and have survived Mr. C’s other visitations to my body.

Because it is fairly common, I’m including some of the symptoms you might want to talk to your doctor about if you have them.

Bladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:
• Blood in urine (hematuria)

• Painful urination
• Pelvic pain

If you have hematuria, your urine may appear bright red or cola colored. Sometimes, urine may not look any different, but blood in urine may be detected during a microscopic exam of the urine.

People with bladder cancer might also experience:
• Back pain

• Frequent urination

Be well; stay healthy. As we age, it is ever more important to be alert to symptoms and see the doctor about concerns you may have. It – whatever it is – won’t magically go away, just because you want it to. It’s your health; be proactive. See your health care professional regularly.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

NAVY BLUE

American Flag

 

You went to war,
at seventeen,
boarding a Navy ship
to unknown waters,
tearful and fearful,
yet brave for all that,
knowing not
what to expect,
but ready
– you prayed –
for what lay ahead.
You spoke only once
of the horror you saw,
but you lived it
in moments quiet,
when you withdrew
to think about
what you’d been through.
Grieving and baffled,
by innocence lost,
you served with pride,
to keep freedom alive.

In tribute to my father, Tommy Conkle, who proudly served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.


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Homeward Bound

Yellow Roses

Hat and yellow roses
on a bale of hay,
handmade cards on a table
ready to be signed and sent.
Homeward bound,
their work is done.

A small tribute to our friends, Kathy and Fred Allen.
Passed from this life into the next, February 21, 2020

Redesign

Sharon VI am so psyched! For the past several months I’ve been dragging my fanny, and it isn’t funny! I’m so not the sit-on-my-bum kind of person. As a writer, I have options most people don’t have:

  • I can work where I want.
  • I can work when I want.
  • Inspiration is a window, not a door.
  • I can take on clients to write for, or I can get creative with my own writing.
  • I’ve been working from home before it was a thing.

I could easily attribute my lack of productivity to life events that sort of stopped me in my tracks, not the least of which is the mad virus that has brought the world to a stuttering halt. That’s BS, a big BULL and big load of SPIT!

My method of handling life is to write about it, in my journal (which no one will ever see), and through poetry, fiction and essays. Some get publish; most do not.

Why am I psyched? I did a website redesign, or more truthfully, erased a lot of color giving it a cleaner and crisper look. Why does that get me going? This sort of comes under the heading of what COVID-19 has taught me.

  1. Like my website, I live with unnecessary clutter, yet fill my days with procrastination and guilt. The wouda-coulda-shoulda syndrome. I’m over it. One day at a time.
  2. I tend to equate busyness with productivity. So not true! In future, I hope to have the good sense to ‘finish’ one thing rather than half-assing five.
  3. I’m a more social person than I realized. I miss seeing friends and – really, folks – ZOOM is a crappy substitute.
  4. Hugging is healing. Virtual hugs are wonderful, but there is no substitute for a hug from a friend.
  5. When it comes to the virus and the future, nobody has ‘the’ answer. There are too many variables.

My daily prayer is that my friends in small businesses can survive and thrive and that the virus dies out, never to return.

So, why am I psyched? Because there is no alternative. Living in limbo waiting for the next alarming news report is a sad waste of time. I choose to count today as the best opportunity to be… well, me. And, yes, I am ever the optimist.

What COVID-19 has taught me more than anything is to live each day as best you can. We’ve lost so many to this breath-stealing monster. Don’t let fear rob you of the best life you can live, now.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central