Archive for April, 2011

Cue the Banjos

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

by Samantha Prust

Before we painted our house exterior, my husband and I used to sing hillbilly banjo music as we pulled into the driveway. It was our way of saying, "Yes, we ARE embarrassed by our house," and it made us laugh when what we really wanted to do was cry. We also decided it could definitely pass as a crack house. The paint job didn't look so bad when I bought the house, but after a few more years of wear and tear—spackled spots where we had insulation blown into the exterior walls, scraped off old paint and splotches of new paint samples on the siding—there was no curb appeal to speak of, unless, of course, you're a hillbilly or a crack addict. It was time to paint.

I had never been fond of the house's yellow body and maroon trim. For some reason, I don't like maroon on a house. Yellow is a nice color for a house, but the yellow paint on our house was dull and faded. When it came time to paint the house, I was elated. I gathered paint samples. The one sample that attracted me the most was the Sherwin Williams Suburban Modern palette. Its brochure says, "Your future is bright. With clear, cheerful colors, the 1950s exhibited a new American outlook. The exuberance showed up on the walls as striking shades like chartreuse and organic shapes like boomerangs. Whether you just feel nostalgia for those optimistic days or you want to re-create the period in exacting detail, our Suburban Modern Preservation Palette provides the hues you desire." Well, that sounds peachy keen, doesn't it? And the names of the colors—sunbeam yellow, holiday turquoise, pink flamingo, radiant lilac, caribbean coral, burma jade—this was the palette for us.

I had read that you should try to match your neighborhood when choosing a paint color for your home's exterior and I knew we could get away with these colors because there are houses in our neighborhood painted in these retro hues. However, there are a lot of "normal" colors, too. At first, we decided we wanted the body of the house to be less bold. We chose "beige" on the Suburban Modern palette, but when we tested a sample on the house, it looked pinkish. I thought, I can tell people it's beige from the Suburban Modern palette all day long and they'll still say our house looks pink. Not good. So then we thought we'd go with white for the body and burma jade for the trim. Later we decided against that because the house kitty corner from us is white with teal trim. Too close for comfort. We wanted our own style. Finally, we decided to go bold and use burma jade for the body and white for the trim.

Choosing the colors was difficult, but had I known how difficult the painting would be, I would've taken another year to choose the colors. My brother was here to help us paint and we couldn't have done it without him! The transformation was unbelievable. People driving or riding by on their bicycles would shout out compliments: "Looks great!" and "Love the color!" The neighborhood was probably celebrating that we were finally painting the eyesore that had plagued their street for years. Dave and I certainly celebrated, even though we were a little disappointed that singing hillbilly banjo music when we pulled into the driveway was no longer applicable. Just a little.

It's Not His Fault He was Born A Spider

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

It’s Not His Fault He Was Born A Spider


Fay Ulanoff

            The tiles chilled my feet without slippers and the site of an eight legged spider did not warm me.

            I knew he wouldn’t hurt me as I him, but we were together and at odds at the same time.

            I, looking down at him, who was now motionless, and I was sure, he was playing dead.

            But I knew he and I could not inhabit the same room. Well, at least not with him out in the open.

            I guessed he felt the same way, but since I was a trillion times bigger, I became the master of our situation.

            Bending down on both my knees, and leaning closer, I knew he was alive and I must act quickly.

            Fearing that he might run and hide and knowing we both would have to face off again soon I reached over and unrolled some toilet paper and stretched over to the sink to wet it. Before he could run under the throw rug, I grabbed him up within it.

            I stood up and with the balled tissue in one hand, while keeping it in motion and ran up the stairs to the front door and opened it, then tossed him out into the yard.

            I hoped he had survived the slight blow from his fall, so I stepped outside onto the grass and bent down to have a look. After carefully unrolling the white fluff, I saw him crawl away.

            Poor guy I thought.  I meant you no harm. It’s too bad we can’t all live together side by side. It wasn’t your fault you are a spider.

Grief Lingers On

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011


April 6th marked the 14th anniversary of my husband’s death. Fourteen years and I have survived, although I miss him still. Thoughts of him bubble up during unexpected moments – one of his favorite sayings – a familiar gesture – a deep sense of loss. I received an email message this morning from someone I do not know (through the Veriditas Listserve) which aptly captures some of my emotions.

News of Death

Last night they came with news of death
not knowing what I would say.

I wanted to say,
"The green wind is running through the fields
making the grass lie flat."

I wanted to say,
"The apple blossom flakes like ash
covering the orchard wall."

I wanted to say,
"the fish float belly up in the slow stream,
stepping stones to the dead."

They asked if I would sleep that night,
I said I did not know.

For this loss I could not speak,
the tongue lay idle in a great darkness,
the heart was strangely open,
the moon had gone,
and it was then

when I said, "He is no longer here"
that the night put its arms around me
and all the white stars turned bitter with grief

by David Whyle

Flash, Back on the Job

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Flash here. Guess what? I don’t have to stow away in Cindy’s suitcase after all! She said I can come on the retreat with her today as long as I behave myself and don’t bother the other main characters who might be tagging along with their authors.

Who me?

I think I know why she’s letting me come. She’s working on my story again. See, we finally got the revision letter from Scholastic. For about a week Cindy stared at a big piece of cardboard covered with sticky notes, mumbling words that made no sense at all. Structure. Catalyst. Midpoint. All is lost.

Hel-lo? I’ll tell you what was lost—her brain. I mean, come on, we can’t sit around playing with color-coded sticky notes when we’ve got work to do! The Scholastic editor is waiting. Could we please get writing already? Finally, she sat down at the computer and I curled up on her lap.

I have to say she’s made good progress since then, but she wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much done without my help. Maybe I should change my name from Flash, Feline Extraordinaire to Flash, Feline Extraordinaire and Professional “Mews.”

Get it? Like a muse? Ha! Sometimes I am so clever I amaze even myself! No wonder Cindy can’t do without me while she’s gone on this retreat for four days. Well, I got a plane to catch. I’m still hoping one of the other authors’ main character is a sweet green-eyed GIRL cat. I won’t bother her. Cross my whiskers.

My Father's Hands

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The Weekly Writers Workshop does a freewriting exercise to start off each meeting. One of the exercises that was picked said to write about your father’s hands, but a workshop member said the exercise had been done before. I couldn’t let go of the desire to write that …

My father’s hands are pockmarked, fingers swollen with thick, cracked nails. Skin is pulled taut like a white sheet, straining simple movement. Knuckles are towers of folded skin covering what used to be piano fingers …

Just like mine are now …

My father was at work a decade ago, using a voltmeter to measure electrical current. The instrument exploded, causing first- and second-degree burns on his face and second- and third-degree burns on his hands.

To me, my father’s hands looked like foreign objects, first in gloves to help healing. And then, when no more could be done, they turned into a display of an undecipherable riddle of scars. It was as if the cliché that wrinkles tell stories of a person’s life fell apart. My father’s scars began telling me the story of an accident, hiding the wrinkles that speak of a man’s love for his daughter and son:

He lifted us onto his shoulders,

Carried each of us together, a hand on our backs.

Played stick-around, letting us run out of his lap,

Pulled us in again

To twirl in circles,

Holding our bodies out,

Our anchor in his clasp. 

Family photos lend memories:

I am on his lap as he shows me his work,

Or lean into him in our Mickey Mouse ears,

Looking up, or being around or laughing,

I am Daddy’s little girl,

Not thinking of my father’s hands,

Just him,

The beauty of –

I could not fathom

The accident,

That could break a man’s heart,

For awhile,

Until these stories despite the fire that burns –


All that my father’s hands could do turned more difficult, a slow letting go of a young man’s dreams burned up in an instance. But then he retired and returned to fixing up his old house, a sparkle coming back into his eye about what he could do despite the scars.