Sunday, June 28, 2015

As The Day Winds Down - A Front Porch View

Well, I am really slacking off with my serial story, “The Red Sweater”. But I’m on vacation, down at the Jersey shore and the sun, sand, and ocean breezes have taken me elsewhere for a while.
The house we rented for the week has a deep covered front porch with white wicker furniture.  We are about a block in from the ocean.   Even though we don’t have a beach view,  we are on a peaceful street with only the occasional walker or jogger passing by. The bushes and shrubbery planted along the front of the deck are mature and provide some privacy.   The perfect retreat in which to nap, drool, and dream.
We arrived yesterday in a driving rain storm which lasted all night and into the early morning.
But, then, as is typical on an island, the wind changed direction chasing the clouds the other way. The rain suddenly stopped and the sky transformed in an instant from dusky gray to brilliant blue.
I made a pact with myself to walk three miles every day while I am here.   I was pleasantly surprised when my granddaughter, Bella, agreed to accompany me this morning.
Bella is a gangly 11 year old.   We definitely were not on the same stride.  It was three of my short legged steps to a single lanky one of hers.
Four of my other grandchildren are also here with us.  Four boys.  Two seven year olds, one six year old and a barely two year old.
The three boys were playing paddle ball on the beach this afternoon.  Ryan got a little too close to the paddle.  He is nursing a fat lip.  Poor kid.  
It was breezy down by the water.  The ocean was rough.  Probably remnants from the storm.  As the waves broke on the shore, the wind carried shoots of mist high into the air swirling them around like mini tornados.   The life guards called out to the swimmers with their shrill whistles, waving them  into shore.  The tide has changed, they warned.  It was not safe for anyone to go out as far as they had been.
It’s quiet now.  Their parents have taken the kids to the boardwalk.
The day is winding down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Look Ma, I’m Writing

For the past six weeks I have been writing a serialized fictional piece.  Once a week I have posted a part of the continuing story here.  If you have been following along, you know that I am a novice fiction writer.

As I mention at the beginning of each post, "During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.  This time I will be writing a serial type of story.

It’s been an interesting project.  The process has certainly been enlightening for me.
As I was instinctively calling this a “serial”,  the first thing I did was look up the meaning of serial fiction.
I wanted to make sure that I was using the correct term by calling it a serial.

According to Wikipedia:  
  “In literature, a serial is a printed format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in sequential installments. The installments are also known as numbers, parts, or fascicles, and are either issued as separate publications or within in sequential issues of a single periodical publication.

Yes, that’s what I was intending.

Part One was easy.  I had an idea for a beginning, the introduction of a few characters, a vague idea of suspense, and a tease at the end.
When I started writing Part Two, I instantly became aware that logistics were crucial to the story line.
Questions like, “Wait a minute,  where did I leave Rachel in part one?”  “How old are Rachel and her sister when the story takes place?”  “When were they born?”  “Let’s see that must make their mother…”
I couldn’t keep all this straight in my head, especially if the story was going to continue for weeks, so I started a word doc with a list of characters, their birth dates, relationship to one another, etc.  Like I said, I am learning as I go and this one was an important lesson.  As I continued on with each part, my word doc became more detailed and a reference document.

One of the most fascinating experiences for me was how immersed I became.  As I was writing, and thinking and plotting,  my imagination grabbed me and plopped me right into the middle of the story.

I promised a six week (or maybe more) story. A challenge to be sure.  Where was this story going? More importantly, how would it end?  Didn’t I owe an ending to my reader(s)?  Which by the way, includes me.
But then I remembered an incident that happened when my mother was living with me.  It was during the last months of her life.   The incident proved to be a revelation for me and it had an impact on how I thought about life.
One of the things that would have brought peace to my mother was to know that her son, my brother, was going to be okay.
The last hours of her life were spent in a non responsive state.  The hospice nurse told us that it seemed as though she was hanging on, not wanting to let go.  “Perhaps she was waiting for someone?” the nurse asked.
We immediately thought it must be my brother.  We called him.  We put the phone up to her ear, and he told her that he loved her and that he was going to be okay.  She passed a few hours later.
Of course, I knew that he wasn’t okay.  And that’s when it struck me.
I thought about all the worrying I do, especially about my own children.  But truly, none of us ever really gets to know the end of every story.  You know, Life Goes On.   That became starkly evident to me after my own son passed away.   There should have been so much more to his story.  After all he was one of the main characters.

Perhaps that’s why I chose to do a serial.  I, at least, have control of how this story ends, or not.

By the way, once I publish a part, I have difficulty not going back and editing it.    I will re-read a section and think, Darn, I should have had Rachel go here instead of there. 
But, that’s life!

Stay tuned for Part Seven of “The Red Sweater”.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Part Six of “The Red Sweater” - A Serial

During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.
As I meander through my imagination, I expect an episode to take shape in time to be posted each week.  

If you would like to catch up, simply click on the “Red Sweater Serial Tab” at the top of my blog. 

The Red Sweater

Part Six 
Rachel brushed past Roz on the stairs mumbling, “Sorry.”  She fumbled in her purse for the key to her room.  Her hands were shaking as she struggled to get the key into the lock.  Once inside the room, she closed the door and leaned up against it.
It was now dusk.  The window shades were drawn, darkening the room but she did not turn on a light.    Her legs felt rubbery.  She slowly sat down on the edge of the bed.  With a rigid arm on either side of her body, and her palms pressed into the mattress, she tried to steady herself.
She slowly shook her head back and forth and began to cry.  She turned and crawled on all fours up to the head of the bed.  She sank down onto a pillow, pulled her knees up and hugged them tightly into her chest.  She tried to make sense of it all.  She had many questions and most of them began with “why”.
Earlier in the day, mid morning, right after breakfast, Rachel got into her rental car, typed an address into the car’s navigation system and started on her journey.  She wasn’t sure what to expect, but she felt she had no other choice.   The weight of uncertainty was suffocating.  Her episodes of panic and anxiety were becoming more frequent and intense.
Evie told her she was becoming obsessed with the whole thing.
“You should move on, Rach.   Dwelling on the past is not helping.”
She hated when Evie talked about moving on.  What would she know about it?
That’s not fair, Rachel thought.  Evie has been through difficult periods.  She knew her sister was only trying to help.
According to the GPS she would arrive at her destination in less than two hours.  During the first part of the trip she traveled on rural single lane roads.   Under different circumstances she would have been able to appreciate sitings of long neck herons as they skillfully tip toed their way through scenic grassy marshes.
This morning, though, her thoughts were narrowly focused.
Rachel vividly remembered the day she found the document.
It was a Sunday afternoon.  Her mother called to ask if she would help her clean out Rachel’s father’s study.  It had been two years since he passed away.  Actually the day her mother called was the two year anniversary of her father’s death.  With the exception of an occasional dusting, the room had remained exactly as it was when Rachel’s father was alive.  It had been his refuge.
“It’s time, Rachel,” her mother said.  “Evie and Ed are out of town.  It will be just the two of us, I’m afraid,” she added.
The room was small,  but her father had made efficient use of the space.  There were floor to ceiling book shelves along opposite walls.   Two club chairs were placed in front of a double window which looked out onto the street in front of the house.  Her father started out each day sitting in one of the chairs sipping on his coffee. He liked looking out the window, watching the early morning walkers and joggers as they passed by.  His desk and computer were situated along the other wall facing the center of the room.
The two women spent the afternoon sorting through papers they found in her father’s desk.
“What are you going to do with the desk?” asked Rachel.  It was an old worn oak piece.
“I was going to give it to the second hand shop.  You know, the one affiliated with the church.”
Rachel said, “I would like to have it, Mom.”
“This old thing?” her mother exclaimed.  “It’s full of nicks and scratches.”
“I know,” Rachel said.  But, it was Dad’s.  And look, here’s where Evie and I carved in our initials, she said pointing to the side of the desk.”
When her mother tried to open the center drawer, it stuck.
“It seems to be locked,” she said.
“Here let me try,” said Rachel.
Rachel tugged, but it wouldn’t budge.  She pushed it in and then pulled on it again and it gave way.
That’s when she found it.  An envelope, yellowed with age.
“Emma’s Birth Certificate” was hand written on the front of the envelope.  She recognized her father’s distinctive script.
Confused, Rachel’s eyes narrowed,  her brow knitted.  “Who is Emma?” she asked.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Part Five of “The Red Sweater” A Serial

During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.
As I meander through my imagination, I expect an episode to take shape in time to be posted each Tuesday.  

If you would like to catch up, simply click on the “Red Sweater Serial Tab” at the top of my blog. 

The Red Sweater

Part Five 
Evie sat on the stool behind the counter, staring into space.  She was having a hard time concentrating on the inventory report and there were four boxes of yarn to unpack in the stock room.
Ed had gone out.   He told Evie that he was going to take a walk down to Uncle Pete’s deli.
“What would you like for lunch, Eve?” he asked before he left.
He was wearing his red sweater.  It was one of Rachel’s creations.  He had been in a panic earlier that morning when he thought it was missing.   He finally found it hanging on the back of his chair in the study.
Hand knit sweaters, in any shade of red, designed by Rachel was her way of showing affection and appreciation for those she cared most about.
“For my heart’s love” she would say.
Rachel tried to entice Evie to learn to knit.  She was a patient teacher.
“I’ll cast on for you,” she would say.  “And I’ll even start a few rows,” Rachel said, trying her best to convince her sister.
Then she would hand the ball of yarn and a pair of wooden needles over to Evie.
"Okay, hold the left needle like this.  That’s it, wrap your fingers around it and secure the stitches with your thumb.  Hold the other needle in your right hand the same way, with your thumb on top.”
Rachel made it look so easy.  But when Evie did she felt like she was all thumbs.
Evie remembered when Rachel first took up knitting.  It was in the late 70s.  Evie was sixteen, Rachel fifteen.
Rachel was trying to think of a unique gift for Sam’s mother, Marge.  Well, it wasn’t actually for Marge, but for the baby Marge was carrying.
“I’m going to knit a sweater.  A little red sweater for Marge’s baby, she told Evie.”
“You don’t even know how to knit, Rach,” Evie said.
“No,  big deal,” she told Evie.  “I bought a ‘How to Knit' book.  And I used to watch Grandma all the time. Remember the socks she made for us?”
Rachel and Sam were teenagers in love.  Marge was like a second mother to Rachel.  She could talk to Marge about anything.  Not something she could do always with their own mother.
Then one day, Marge, Sam and Sam’s father suddenly left town.
“I don’t understand, Evie,” Rachel sobbed.  “Why would they just leave like that?  They didn’t even say good-bye.”
She did not want Rachel to be sad. Evie did her best to console her younger sister.
“Come on, Rach, let’s go to the movies.”
Rachel would sigh, “No, I’m not in the mood.”
“Hey, how about if we go to Pinky’s and split a Belly Buster.”
But all Rachel wanted to do was work on the little red sweater.  It was to be the first of many she would eventually make to give away as gifts.
And then, years later, fate stepped in.
“I’m back, Eve,” called Ed.  “Got your BLT on rye toast, light on the mayo.”
“Let’s sit out front,” said Ed.
They sat in the white slat rockers, quietly eating their sandwiches, each distracted by their own thoughts.
“Huh?  What is it?”
“I was thinking that maybe we should take a little vacation.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Eve.  Rachel is away.  We can’t leave the shop, you know.”
“Eve?” Ed hesitated before saying, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
Evie held her breath.
Her phone rang.  It was her mother.
“Evie, sweetie?  Can you come by later?  There’s something I have to tell you. "

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Part Four The Red Sweater Serial

During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.

As I meander through my imagination, I expect an episode to take shape in time to be posted each Tuesday.  (Oops, a day late this week.)
If you would like to catch up simply click on the “Red Sweater Serial Tab” at the top of the blog. 

Part Four

When is Mary going to come help me out of bed? Adele impatiently thought, as she looked at her watch for the fourth time.
This was the day that the doctor was going to take the cast off of Adele’s ankle.
A youthful looking, active woman, Adele would be turning 75 in a few months.  She walked 2 miles every day, rain or shine.
She gave up dying her hair years ago and usually wore her shoulder length pure white hair tied back in girlish pony tail.
She and Jane, her best friend and next door neighbor, were on one of their walks on the “path” the day that she had the accident.
The “path” as it was commonly known by the locals, was a groomed 8 mile nature trail maintained by the town.  It meandered along the old abandoned railroad tracks.
She clearly recalled the details of that day.
They had been walking at a steady pace, chatting away, when Jane let out a scream.  Startled, Adele literally jumped backwards.  The next thing Adele knew, she was on the ground, her foot twisted underneath her body.
The reason for the scream was a fallen tree branch that Jane mistook for a snake.  Another indication that Jane’s eyesight was beginning to fail.
As Jane tried to help her up, Adele gasped with pain when she attempted to put her foot down.  With Adele’s arm flung over Jane’s shoulder and Jane’s arm wrapped tightly around Adele’s waist, the two women managed to get back to the car, Adele hobbling on one foot the whole way.
Adele had been laid up with her injury for the past six weeks.
This was the first time she could remember having to be still for such a long period of time.
“Addie, don’t let the grass grow under those feet,” Bob used to tease her.
Even when everyone, including herself,  had the flu that time, Adele managed to take care of Bob and the girls, sneaking in a few minutes of rest when she could.
Now, comforted by the warmth of the sun room, she spent hours sitting, staring out at the clouds and reflecting back on her life.
The accident had made Adele realize that she was vulnerable and that she was not invincible.
She was anxious for Rachel to get back.   Adele knew the time was right to tell her youngest daughter the truth.  
She was afraid.  She wondered if Rachel would understand why Adele had lied to her.   She worried that  her daughter might never be able to forgive her.
Bob hadn’t agreed with the decision. He and Adele had argued many times over it.  Adele was strong willed and usually got her way, especially with Bob and eventually he gave in.  The only way Adele would agree to the “arrangement” was with the stipulation that she and Bob had to be informed of the details, all of them.
Spending most days of the past weeks in this room awakened memories of that time.
Adele reminisced about cool spring days of so many years ago.   Rachel would sit in this very sun room after school doing homework.  Some afternoons Rachel would sit propped up against the sofa at Adele’s feet, her head resting in her mother’s lap.   As she wound a loose tendril of Rachel’s silky hair around her finger Adele was reminded of tiny baby fists.
Rachel, barely into her teens, taught herself to knit.  Adele recalled the day she and Rachel were browsing in the yarn shop.
Rachel selected two skeins of soft, squishy “Persimmon Red”.
“That’s an unusual color, choice sweetie,” Adele said to her daughter.
She tried to entice her with pastels like “Petal Yellow” or “Minty Green”.
“No.”  Rachel insisted, "It must be ‘Persimmon Red’, for my heart’s love.”
Adele affectionally recalled the determined look of concentration on Rachel’s face.  Her brow furrowed, her lips barely moving as she counted under her breath,”Knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two.”  Soon the sweater began to take shape.
Mary knocked on the bedroom door calling, “Morning, Addie.   Time to get ready to go to the doctor’s.”
Adele’s phone rang.  Rachel’s number displayed on the screen.
“Mom?”  Rachel voice sounded strange.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  You knew.  All of these years and you knew.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bathing Suit Update - Which One Did I Choose?

In my last post I wrote about shopping online for bathing suits.  I promised I would provide an update once I received the suits and tried them on.
Recap: I ordered three suits from Amazon.  The manufacturer is Cocoship.
The price of each of the suites was around $24.00.
A general opinion about all three.
Quality: I would rate the quality of the suits as fair.  If, like me, you are going to be using these in a chlorine filtered pool, the suits are most likely only going to be one season suits. They were worth the $24.00.
Fit: Personally they were true to a size I would normally wear.  The material is soft and silky.  I felt comfortable in the suits.
Vanity: Since not one of the three invisible models shown below have an ounce of fat, and I have more than an ounce, and since their curves are all in the right places and mine have shifted somewhat,  I have to say the suits were more flattering to their figures than they were to mine.  :)

Suit No. 1
I would give suit No. 1 ☆ ☆ ☆ out of 5.
I liked the cut of the “boy short" style bottoms.
The top’s peek-a-boo cut out was too revealing for my taste.

Suit No. 2

I would give suit No. 2 ☆☆☆ out of 5.
This is the suit I was hoping would have been the one for me.  It wasn’t.
Because the bottoms have a high waist line and shirring,  the style does hide certain problem areas, mainly stomach.
However the top, again was too revealing for my taste.

Suit No. 3

I would give suit No. 3 ☆☆☆☆ out of 5.
It’s the one I will keep.
First, I like the vintage style cherry pattern of the fabric.
The waist is shirred, which is a great concealer.
The top is modest enough for my taste.
I have already worn this to water aerobics and I felt comfortable.

By the way, Ross thought I looked great in all three.
But,  I made him take photos of me wearing each of the suits, front, side and back.
Ross, you are sweet.  And I especially am grateful that your eyes are aging more gracefully than I am.

Now I just have to figure out how to return the other two suits.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Oh No! Bathing Suit Season

A couple of days ago I tried on bathing suits from last year, the year before and the year before that.  I never seem to stay the same size from year to year.
I now have a collection of suits, circa 2012, 2013, and 2014.  None fit.
I suppose I keep the suits from year to year as motivation or inspiration.  Which, by the way, winds up being neither of those but rather, instead, puts me in a depressed mood.  That’s when I make my annual declaration.  “I will never wear another swim suit again.”  Heck, I don’t even know how to swim.
“It’s ridiculous,” I complain to Ross.  “A woman of my maturity (ha!) shouldn’t be wearing one of those things anyway.”
But we live near the beach,  have a pool in our community and I’ve been going to water aerobics.  

I have given up “in store” bathing suit shopping.  (I do bathe.)  I cringe when I stand in front of one of those horrible fun house dressing room mirrors.
That’s why I have been online shopping for suits since 2012.  I have the garments shipped to my house.
It works out nicely. I can try the suits on in my own bedroom.   The mirrors here are much more forgiving. Besides,  I keep the lights low and the shades drawn.

So, yesterday, I spent several hours browse shopping online.
Lands End, LL Bean, Macy’s Jc Penny’s and Nordstroms all carry similar styles. But, I was looking for something more unique.
While I was browsing on Amazon, though,  I stumbled across a manufacturer of vintage retro style bathing suits called Cocoship.
First of all the prices are incredibly cheap.  That’s right, not reasonable, not inexpensive, CHEAP!
They range in price from $18.99 to 28.99.
Secondly, there is a varied selection.
A slight glitch is that the sizing is not the standard US sizes.  However,  there is a conversion chart.  But even with the conversion chart, I was unsure about what size I should choose.  I was also hesitant about the quality of a $24.00 bathing suit.

Fortunately, there were over 1,200 customer reviews, some with photos.   They were rather entertaining to read and helpful, especially about the sizes.
I don’t know about you but when I read customer reviews I read the single star reviews first.
For example:

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
ByKatie Anyanon July 8, 2014
This swim suit is very cute, but poor quality. As soon as I put it on the first time I heard threads tearing (not because of the fit).
 Ive worn it twice and the panty line seam is already stretched out even though the bottoms were actually too large. 
The bottoms also come up VERY high- all the way up to the top. If you want a 1-time-wonder, then by all means, go for it, 
but I would not recommend purchasing this particular brand.

Then I go on to the five star reviews:

58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2015
I really liked this suit. it came after about 10 days, it seems to have quality construction, and fits me pretty well.
The sizing seemed confusing with mixed reviews, but I decided to go with my gut and get the small.
 I am 5'6" 110 lbs and have a pretty straight up and down body type. The bottoms fit well but are a little loose at the top.
 I may take them in a bit. But they fit my butt well and that is what really matters. 
From the photos it was hard to tell the coverage level of the bottoms, they are full coverage front and back, 
keeping true to the classic style of the suit.
The top is a little strange. It is padded, not push up, but the cups are a little far apart for me, like others had 
mentioned in their reviews, 
but it would be easy to tack it together or possibly knot it. 
I have a relatively small chest and I was worried that the large coverage bra would shrink them more. 
This is sort of the case, especially as the bra is fully padded, it looks like it would be a push up, and it is not. 
So you are left thinking, where is the cleavage? I would rather have an un-padded bra or a push up. 
But hey, small chest problems.
All in all it is a good, well made suit that happened to fit well. I am happy with it.

Since there were over 600 five stars and only 40 with one star I decided to give the suits a try.

I chose three styles.  I ordered the items yesterday afternoon and Amazing Amazon will be delivering them tomorrow and the shipping was free.  

I like this retro look.  They seem to fit my ahem, maturity. 

I’ll be adding my own review here once I get my delivery.  No photos though.

Do you read customer reviews?   Do they influence your purchase?  Do you write reviews?