Category Archives: Writing 101

LINK WITH THE PAST

Last assignment of Writing 101 is for Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure: Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you. Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative. You can go with a set number — 750, 1000, or 2000 words, or more (or less!)

I looked down at the item in the box that my sister Gayle put in my hands. I hadn’t seen it for years. What memories it brought back of the fun of looking at three dimensional pictures.

These memories began with visits to Aunt Laura’s house, a small home that this widowed lady had stuffed with many things. Aunt Laura was the oldest sister of my mom’s father, born sometime in the late 1870’s or 80’s. We loved Aunt Laura and she always seemed glad to see us. However, her house was not a very exciting place for two youngsters, five and six. Aunt Laura had the answer. She would bring out her “Holmes Stereoscope” and this “machine” would bring the world outside alive to my sister and me. With great anticipation, Gayle and I would argue about who got to see it first, but at Aunt Laura’s urgings to share, and my mom’s warnings about putting it away, we would share it. As we put a card in the holder and moved it backward or forward until the picture was in focus, magic appeared before us. The double images on the stiff cardboard rectangle before us blended together in a three-dimensional picture and the walls around us opened to the waterfall cascading over the cliff; or a mother in her kitchen, baking; or a small boy and his dog kneeling beside his bed, saying their bedtime prayers. One of us would look and soak it in, then pass it to the other to enjoy, trying to wait patiently until it was time to put another card into the card holder.

Stereoscope
“Holmes stereoscope” by User Davepape on en.wikipedia – Photo by Davepape. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

We loved it so much that after a later visit, Aunt Laura said she wanted us to have it. We gasped in delight. The fantastic 3-D machine would be available whenever we wanted to use it.

And now, I held the precious machine. Its rickety state showed how much my sister’s children and grandchildren had enjoyed it. I knew it would never make it through more children unless I was there to oversee the process. I wrapped it up carefully, wondering what the value of a well beloved stereoscope was. I looked up stereoscopes on the internet and found that they were fairly recently still being made! Our stereoscope would remain a sentimental item.

3-D card
3-D Card for the stereoscope

Later, I wondered, would my grandchildren appreciate this old picture viewer? Would the pictures I remember be as wonderful to them as they were to me? Technology has improved things, even those things that to me are not so old, like eight track and cassette tapes.

There are other items classified as stereoscopes, among them the View-Master made in 1939. In the 1960’s and years following, they were a favorite toy of children, who like my sister and I, enjoyed the world around them reaching into their lives. They were great, but the pictures on the cardboard disks were never as nice as those on my stereoscope. But progress changes things and View-Masters were easier to use than stereoscopes.

View-master for 3-D viewing
1962 View-Master

Having the stereoscope goes beyond the fun of seeing those pictures as if I was looking at the real scene, it is about having something in my possession that links me to my grandparents and the time they grew up in. It makes me wonder what Aunt Laura thought about new inventions, like electric lights and telephones, to say nothing of cars and airplanes!

According to Wikipedia, this Holmes Stereoscope was created in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes. “He created and deliberately did not patent a handheld, streamlined, much more economical viewer than had been available before. The stereoscope, which dates from the 1850s, consisted of two prismatic lenses and a wooden stand to hold the stereo card. This type of stereoscope remained in production for a century and there are still companies making them in limited production currently. It is primarily American, although it is often named ‘Mexican stereoscope.’ ”

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MY LETTER

Day Fourteen writing assignment for Writing 101: To Whom It May Concern. Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

Dear Lord, You always know what to send to add cheer to my life. You are so good to me. Thank you for the beautiful red bird that fed at the bird feeder outside my window. You give me many gifts to enjoy. I always want to have a thankful heart.

Your servant,
Me

FOUND

Writing 101 Day Thirteen: Serially Found. Today’s Prompt: write about something you found. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment—loosely defined.

I’m told to share

one thing I’ve found

and so I tell

three things to share.

Car keys laying

on the seat.

Wedding album–

lost is found!

cell phone hiding,

I have it now.

But greater still

than all those things—

not what I found,

but what found me

and took me as

I was with all

my foibles, failures,

emptiness.

I know that if

you measured me

in spirit, soul,

I could not stand.

But Jesus’ blood

upon the cross

covers me

and now I live.

His joy is mine

and peace and hope.

Yes, I am His—

for God found me.

2015

THE CONVERSATION

Writing 101 , WordPress: Day 12: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon
Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-word conversation. Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

Mama and I sat at the table, eating breakfast. At 91, she knew her life was coming to a close, but concern for me, a widow, and her dog, companion for fifteen years, made it difficult to let go. I think her concern came partly from the death of my brother, her only son, a few months earlier.

“Who will take care of Rascal when I die?” she asked, offering her Rascal a bite of her peanut-butter toast.

“Oh, Mama, I will care for Rascal. I love him, too,” I answered.

After a moment’s pause, she continued, “Don’t you want to get married again? Have someone to take care of you?”

I smiled. I’d been a widow for seven years and my life was busy taking care of Mama. “No, Mama, not now. I’m fine. I really am happy the way things are.”

Mama gave Rascal another bite of toast. She looked at me again, anger flashing in her eyes. “Why did your father leave me? Why doesn’t he care enough to come back?”

I’d answered this question so many times. Daddy had passed away fifteen years ago. Now, in the last few weeks, this had become her question. They had been married almost fifty-six years. I knew that because of her dementia it wouldn’t matter what I answered; she would ask that again and again. She wouldn’t accept that he was dead. The chaplain said perhaps this was easier to think about now than his death. I tried a different answer. “Mama, he has been called to a mission. The Lord wants to use him. You’ll see him when his job is done.”

She added, still angry, “And why doesn’t Wayne come back to visit me? Doesn’t he care about me?”

“I think he will when he can. Why don’t you take your pills now? I know there are a lot of them, but the doctor says you need them.”

She complained a little about the pills, but took them.

There was a knock on the door. Our friend, Margot, was at the door. I had to go out and Margot from church had come to be with Mama while I was gone. Margot was ten years younger than Mama and in good health. She and my mother loved each other.

“Margot!” Mama exclaimed. “I’m so glad to see you.”

“Want me to turn the TV on?” I asked Margot.

My friend shook her head, smiling. “No, we always have lots to chat about.”

I cleared the table and put my shoes on. “I’ll be back in a couple hours.” Margot nodded and she and Mama sat down on the couch close together, Rascal at Mama’s feet.

I went to do what I needed to do and when I came home, they were engrossed in conversation, mostly Mama sharing the past and Margot listening.

“Thank you, Margot,” I said as she got up to leave.

Mama got up and gave her a big hug. “Come back again, please.”

Margot smiled. “I will. I love your mom,” she said as she returned Mom’s hug.

The time came where Hospice came to help with Mama’s last days. We put a hospital bed in the living room. A couple weeks before she passed away, she stopped asking what would happen to Rascal or if I wanted to get married, or why Daddy and Wayne didn’t come to see her. Rascal got sick and I took him to the vet, but we lost him. I didn’t want to tell Mama; she didn’t say much about him these days unless she saw him, which didn’t happen often because she couldn’t see him when she was lying in the hospital bed.

One day after I had taken him to the vet and he passed away, she asked, “Where is Rascal?”

“He’s sick, Mama. He’s at the vet’s.”

Finally, after her question and my answer several times, and consulting with my sister about it, I decided to tell her, expecting a very emotional response. I sat down beside her. “Mama, Rascal died. He was very sick.”

She simply wept a few tears without saying anything and never mentioned Rascal again before she died. When she lay sleeping that last week, she seemed to be holding on; my brother-in-law took her hand and said, “Your girls will be okay. You don’t have to worry about Darlene. We’ll take care of her.”

Within less than two days, Mama went home to be with Jesus. Her concerns were behind her. She was at rest at last.

TEARS IN HIS EYES

Here is Day 9 from Writing 101: Point of View. Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

From the man’s point of view:
He was so glad to be here in this place at this time. His feet seemed not to touch the sidewalk as they walked the path through the park. Flowers were not his thing, but today, he noticed every one of them. And the sun. Bright and cheerful, it improved his day. But could it be better?

He glanced at her fingers, clothed in the engagement ring she had accepted moments before. He smiled, remembering her tears as she said yes and hugged him. What a moment! He promised himself he would never forget it.

The bench where the old woman sat, knitting the red sweater caught his eye. The memory of a day in his past interrupted his joy. Tears filled his eyes as he remembered texting while driving and looking up to see the old lady in the red sweater in the crosswalk. He had swerved, but not far enough and his bumper brushed her. He saw her fall in his review mirror. He had run, but not far enough. Caught, he paid the penalty with time in prison for hit-and-run.

He brushed the tears from his eye and struggled to keep walking, not wanting to let her know something was wrong. What if she found out about his past? Would she still want him?

From the woman’s point of view:
What a glorious day! Her fiancé was such a wonderful guy; she had hoped for months for him to say the words, “Will you marry me?” She glanced around the park. Flowers bloomed, branches of trees waved in the breeze, the sun warmed the earth. It felt so good on her face. And the engagement ring. It felt so good. And it was beautiful! She smiled at the memory of his proposal. A single red rose offered as he bent on one knee and asked, “Will you marry me?” There was no answer but “yes” that she could give!

She looked up at him, wanting to take in every eyelash and every strand of hair that lay on his forehead. She saw him glance at the old lady on the bench, knitting the red sweater, and then brush tears from his eyes. Bet she reminds him of his grandmother, she thought. I’m glad he is a sensitive guy. That will be good in our marriage.

From the old woman’s point of view:
The old woman stopped knitting for a moment to examine what she had done. Should fit my little grandson very well, she thought. It it so much fun to knit for him.

She looked up and saw the young couple walking down the path, holding hands. They look so happy. Wonder if they are newlyweds? She watched as he wiped tears from his eyes. Hmm, I hope everything is okay. Life is so hard. They look so happy, but it is hard to know if all is okay. “Don’t give up,” she whispered as they passed. “Keep settling quarrels and let love reign. It worked in my 50 years of marriage.”

SPRING IN THE PARK

Here is my post for Day Eight in Writing 101: Death to Adverbs
Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post.

I walked through the park, green with life. As the weeks have passed since the calendar said Spring was here, I have watched life being birthed on the trees. Some have remained leafless in the middle of April, but it was a joy to see buds turn to leaves on many of them. Daffodils lined the path that led through the park and when I passed the playground, I smiled at the presence of mothers and fathers pushing children, who begged, “Push higher!” The sun beamed on everyone striding on the path. Some stopped to play hopscotch on the diagram drawn on the sidewalk. Dogs on leashes danced down the path in front of their owners. All in all, it was a day to enjoy Spring and the warmth of the season. Rain may fall, but winter is done, and the sun is smiling.

CAT AND DOG

The Writing 101 challenge for Day Seven: Give and Take
Today’s prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

CAT AND DOG
“What is a dog doing are?” Cat laid his ears back as he stood in the kitchen door.

From the next room, Dog tipped his head and took a step toward Cat. “My family left me here—“

“What? In my house?” growled Cat.

“What’s wrong? I’ve been here before. And I’ll only be here a couple days.” Dog took a step forward.

The hair on Cat’s back stood up. “Hold it, big fella. Stay away from me.”

“Hey, I just want to be friends,” Dog said.

“Me and you? Are you kidding? You better just out of my way. My claws are sharp and I can bite.”

“Well, if that’s the way you want it,” Dog said. He turned and went to lay down by Don’s chair. “Dumb cat. Thinks he could beat me up, does he?”

Cat watched Dog lay down. Then with watchful eyes, he made his way to Gayle’s chair on the other side of Don’s chair. He jumped up beside Gayle. For a few minutes he stood on the arm of the chair.

“Well, Miss Gayle,” he meowed. “What’s the idea of the dog?”

Gayle reached up and scratched Cat’s head between his ears and said in a soft voice, “Come on, Kittie, lay down. Don’t worry about Dog.”

“Humans sure are dumb,” Cat said. “They don’t understand a word I say. I’ve told her not to call me ‘Kittie.'” With a sigh, Cat lay down on the arm of the chair as Gayle went back to her needlepoint. “I guess I will just have to keep that Dog in line myself!”

MEETING MARY ANN

The new challenge for Day Six from Writing 101: A Character-Building Experience
Today’s prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or new people) you’ve met this year?
Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

I only knew Mary Ann’s name until she became a widow late last year. She and her husband had no children and the only family she had were those in our church. Having been through the loss of my husband several years ago, I knew her special loneliness because although I had family and children, they were far away. My support came from those in my church. I made an effort to befriend her. What a pleasure she has been.

Mary Ann is short, only about five feet tall. Her soft white hair frames her round face and her eyes twinkle with her ready smile, always making me feel special. She laughs easily. Even in her grief, she exudes a deep seated joy that she says comes from Jesus. She has an acceptance about her life that gives her strength as she navigates being single and taking care of things her husband always did. But Mary Ann doesn’t give up; she has a strength that asks for help she needs and is quick to express gratitude when others reach out to her.

Our pastor’s wife gave a luncheon for widows in January. We were to introduce ourselves and share a little about our journeys alone. As Mary Ann began to share, her tears came. It had been about a month since her dear husband died. She seemed almost ashamed that she was crying, but I knew it wasn’t because she was afraid to let others know she was grieving; being with people fueled her spirit and her tears waited until she was alone. As we encouraged her that we understood, she took a tissue someone offered and continued her story. She had been at her husband’s side throughout his illness. He was her world and she was his. Her faith in Jesus Christ was helping her through her journey. Now several months later, she still grieves, but she has taken life by the tail and does what she needs to do.

Mary Ann is a joy to know. In reaching out to her, her sweet spirit has reached out to me. I am glad to call her my friend.