|Strait-laced and anxiety-ridden Anna never expected to save someone’s life. But when she sees a woman standing on the ledge of a bridge, she can’t help but intervene. The unexpected kindness from a stranger changes the course of Kylie’s life. Only now, she has to figure out a way to tell her creepy boss that she can’t exactly dance around a dimly lit pole with an ugly cast halfway up her leg. Kylie’s scars are inked upon her body, while Anna can’t go a whole day without popping painkillers. Determined to make her therapist proud, Anna takes a chance on opening her heart and her home to someone who seems to need a friend even more than she does. Choosing Charity takes its readers beyond the glossy confines of social media to look at the core wounds that shape us. Proving that it is possible to find unexpected love in the midst of trauma.|
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By Sara Zavacki-Moore
Squeezing the bridge of her nose, the beginning of a dreaded aura began creeping along her field of vision. Anna looked around the interior of the ambulance, noting how everything was beginning to blur and shift. If she didn’t take her migraine pill soon, she’d be hit with the pain, not to mention dealing with the repercussions of a migraine for days. Thankfully, she had thought to grab her purse. She felt around until her fingers located the pillbox. Pulling out the small silver blister pack, she peeled one open and stuck the small white wafer onto her tongue. It dissolved into a milky blob as it slid down the back of her throat. The EMT watched in silence. Anna gave him a small smile and he returned one. The woman beside her closed her eyes. So Anna took the opportunity to get a better look. Her dark tresses remind her of the pond she used to swim in on hot summer nights in Maine. How does she keep her hair so shiny? She reached up to touch her own fair hair. I should get my roots touched up. She looked down as the stranger felt for her hand again, squeezing it into her own. Her nails were short and had remnants of black polish. She wore a knotted Celtic ring. When she caught her looking, she turned away.
Winner of the 2012 CWG Word Weavers Short Story Fiction
The poem was signed LLPC-Lonely Ladies Puppy Club. Back then I considered myself a creative genius. My teenage angst sprang from my lack of male companionship. Admittedly, I had tunnel-vision when it came to boys, it seemed like everyone around me enjoyed romantic couple hood.
Everyone except me. Well, that’s not exactly true. There were four of us in the LLPC. Carol, Missy, Ashley and I were chronically single. We all yearned for male companionship, but were not quite in the same league as our popular, outgoing, and beautiful counterparts. During Bible class, we secretly wrote bad poetry to each other about the plight of the lonely lady. The “puppy” part our club name was thrown in because we hoped that our forlorn puppy dog eyes would appeal to the boys who were just dying to ask us out.
Alas, there is no hope for me. I am alone, drifting out to sea. No man in sight, my lonely plight…
Alas, (shocker!) there was hope in sight. At church youth group I learned that we were having a date night. This announcement followed a month-long educational series on dating. My fellow involuntary-abstinence-practicers and I spent the past four Friday nights learning the rules of “Christian” dating. One workshop even included a list of rules.
The commandments were as follows:
1) Thou shalt not pull up.
2) Thou shalt not pull down.
3) Thou shalt never unzip, unbutton, or un-tuck.
And most important:
4) Thou shalt not touch any part of the body that would normally be covered by a modest bathing suit.
So not only was the church successful at creating a lifetime of guilt around nearly everything I said or did, it now included dressing and undressing as a potential threat of evil. I, of course, had no one in the spectrum of maleness to even come close enough for me to breathe on, much less to contemplate undressing!
In order to prepare for our date night, Pastor J picked names out of a hat and matched up random girls with boys. I prayed that he would somehow pair me with my secret crush Andrew. Clearly, Andrew was no Pastor J, but he was a close second. I should have known from the start that this was too good to be true. Perhaps with the random selection of a boy’s name, my prince charming would be picked! This boy would see past my pink, plastic-rimmed glasses and my gleaming braces, and become blinded by my inner beauty. I would no longer be the leader of the LLPC.
No such luck.
At the end of our church worship service, Pastor J sauntered towards me. My heart fluttered, and my palms immediately became sweaty. Hopefully the enormous zit on my chin was successfully concealed. Pastor J was a force to be reckoned with. It was an understatement to say that all the girls in the group had a lip-gloss-smacking crush on him. I mean, what wasn’t to love? His dreamy blue eyes were like the heavens he always spoke of. His golden brown hair whooshed in an arc over his left eye. (It must have really been sprayed in place to stay that way). It was supernatural. It was awe-inspiring. It was “savior-licious.”
“Sara” he whispered. I stared into his eyes, holding my breath as my friends looked on. I just knew he was going to confess his undying love for me. “We have a little problem with the date night event.”
“Uh huh,” I mumbled. “Problem? What problem?” I thought while gazing at that manly mound of hair.
“Um, well, we actually ran out of names. So… you will just have to share a date.” he said quickly.
“Oh,” I stammered as I refocus. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you and Crista will both go with Ryan.” He paused, glancing at my confused face. “It’s just the way it worked out. It doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. I will be sitting by you too.”
“Oh, um, okay.” I mean, really what else was there to say? Not only could I not get anyone of the opposite sex remotely close to me in “real life,” but I couldn’t even get a date in a church set-up. Now this was just pathetic. I was an even bigger looser than I thought.
The big day arrived. I wore my newest dress. It was hot pink with white lace peeking out from the staggered hemline. My eyes were accented with electric blue mascara (watch out Tammy Faye). I was ready to go! As always, Crista looked great. She smiled as Ryan handed her small bouquet of flowers.
“Sorry” he mumbled in my direction. “I forgot about you.”
My little boat has sprung a leak, oh how I wish I was asleep…
Swallowing back my tears, I took a deep breath and scrambled towards my friend Melissa. As we loaded the church van, I squeezed next to Ryan and Christa. I’m not sure how convincing I was, but I tried my hardest to look comfortable. After a romantically-challenged ride, we climbed out and filed into the restaurant. A tempting aroma of garlic butter and marinara tickled my nose as I eased into the nearest seat. As promised, Pastor J sat next to me. I remained quiet as Ryan and Crista chattered away.
Damp and tired, I am so cold. Alone I’ll be till I am old…
Sensing my unease, Pastor J suddenly began to play an invisible keyboard on the tabletop in front of him. Greasy fingerprints were left on the placemat before him as his screeching caused the elderly couple at the next table to turn off their hearing aids. I had never heard a version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” quite like it. The teenage chatter ceased for a moment and then we all began singing with him. I smiled and grabbed a piece of greasy garlic bread. Maybe this night wouldn’t be so bad. Glancing up, I saw my secret crush Andrew smile and wink at me. I pictured myself sitting in a sinking canoe, all alone.
No, no, it cannot be. The lonely lady will not be me.
Paddling quickly I reach the shore.
I’m tired of this life, I now want more.
Boldly, I stood up, eased my way out of the booth, and headed in his direction.
I am so very excited to announce that my first novel, Choosing Charity is going to be published by The Wild Rose Press!
After many years sitting contentedly in my laptop, I decided to pull out my manuscript and get to work on improving it. Thank you in advance to all the lovely early readers who took time out of their busy lives to read my efforts and provide me with valuable feedback! The past several years of revisions and editing has paid off!
As I continue in my efforts to create the final produce, I will keep you posted as to my progress. Be on the look out for free excerpts and updates!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me along this journey!
Writing prompt “I couldn’t let them get away with it. They, and people just like them, had gotten away with similar things in the past, like…..”
Relentlessly teasing girls who were still eagerly waiting for their bodies to change. In the gym locker room they would flaunt their perky new breasts, admiring themselves in the full-length mirrors. They would loudly proclaim how having breasts made them superior.
They were especially cruel to one small girl in our class. Mabel was shy and quiet. She was easily a head shorter than everyone around. Her mousey brown hair was often shoved into a lop-sided pony tail. Thick plastic rims framed her hazel eyes.
The “mean girls” never much bothered with me. Puberty visited me the year before. Having taken after my Italian grandma, none of them came close to filling out the school uniform the way I did. They had stopped competing with me, and I found it easy to ignore them.
While Mabel locked herself in the bathroom stall to change into her oversized tee-shirt, the three mean musketeers preened in their padded bras. As they began their weekly rant about how ugly Mabel was, I could hear her sniffling quietly in the stall next to mine. I opened my gym bag and pulled out my mother’s sewing scissors. They were surprisingly heavy. I opened my door while clutching the smooth metal. The girls stopped midway through a made up poem about Mabel’s body, their eyes widening in fear and uncertainty. All three froze as I coolly strode toward them.
“Turn around.” I commanded. Quickly they turned and faced the mirror. I sneered at their reflections as they watched my hand in the glass before them.
“Mabel” I whispered. “Come out.”
“Hey! What do you think-“ the tallest girl started.
“Shut up!” Raising my scissors in the air, I paused until I heard the stall door click open.
Mabel stood there, silently watching.
“You all think you’re so pretty.” I mumbled into the mirror tightening my grip.
“Look at yourselves.” Lifting my empty hand, I placed my hot fingers on the first girl’s cold shoulder-blade. She shuddered and started to turn around, so I shoved her against the mirror. Flattening her body against her image, and placing the sheer along her back, I slowly slipped one half of the shiny bade under the pink lace of her bra. The fabric sliced in half as she gasped. Quickly I repeated cutting the back of each girl’s bra. Each girl responded by crouching down and clutching at their chests.
Backing away I turned to Mabel with a smile.
She stared into my eyes and began to laugh.
I was supposed to die on my birthday.
I don’t mean on that party of a day that we celebrate each year with gluten-free cake and obligatory gifts.
I’m referring to the actual day of my birth. That day that should have ended with me no longer being alive.
My mom was only 5 ½ months pregnant, so when she went into early labor, my grandma kind of freaked out. I mean, there was my mom in the front seat of my grandma’s car, squeezing her eyes shut with each wave of pain, as my grandma ran red light after red light. In fact, my grandma ran so many red lights, that it was sort of inevitable that someone would hit her. And so, when that large yellow school bus careened into the front of the car, my mom’s face hit the windshield. It was the 70’s, so seatbelts were merely there for decorative purposes. Onlookers stared in horror as the red lights of the ambulance and fire trucks arrive. The rarer lights of that large rusty truck that housed the Jaws of Life followed them. Those jaws cracked open my mom’s potential grave, and rescued her. My grandma sat in stunned silence as her unharmed self whispered a prayer to the Virgin Mary for my life. Mary must have been listening that day.
For a split second, I contemplated walking away, claiming that she wasn’t my child. After all, I counseled other parents. How then, did I become that mother?
You know her. She’s the one you glance at while passing her in the store. You sigh and think, “Thank God my child never acted that way!” You tut-tut, and duck down another aisle, away from the demon spawn.
I thought I was so progressive. Of course, my child could wear her princess costume to the store! I even taught her baby sign language. My husband had tea parties with her. I taught her how to use power tools. (Ok, maybe I didn’t really do that, but I thought about it.) So, where did I go wrong?
The day started innocently enough.
“Princess Lydia, do you want to be my helper at the grocery store?”
She paused mid nose-pick. “Can I push the cart?”
“Of course!” This was going to be easy.
Gingerly she placed a tiara on her head and pulled on her ladybug boots.
As I parked the car, I patted the treats I had shoved into my purse. Bribery was my form of behavior modification.
Once inside, I tried coaxing Lydia into the cart.
“I wanna go home now!” She frowned, pulling off her tiara.
“You want to eat tonight, right?” I shoved the glittery crown into my purse.
“Well, then the princess needs to buy food.”
“I’m hungry now!”
Before she could protest further, I pulled out a container of crackers. She began munching and humming the theme to Beauty and the Beast.
We navigated the store, piling the cart with preservatives, and headed towards the checkout.
“I want her!” She pointed a sticky finger at the overpriced helium princess balloon.
“No. We are not getting that. I’m sorry.” (No way was that $8 monstrosity crinkling it’s way into my home.) I grabbed a lollypop from my purse, hoping to placate her. She began emitting an ear piercing bellow, complete with tears and intermittent hiccups. The cashier had started bagging my groceries. (It was time for the princess’s royal nap!)
“Come on. Let’s pay and go home. Do you want to watch your Belle movie when we get back?” (Every good kingdom has a little bribery now and then.)
“No! I want her!” She scowled, crossing her tiny arms.
I watched her perfect little eyes narrow at me as a mischievous grin passed over her angelic face. Suddenly she widened her stance, hiked up her gown, and peed all over the floor.
If only I could lock that little princess in her tower for a while.
It wasn’t until I attended a recent funeral that I gave a second thought to the cultural differences that might be involved.
Sadly, a baby angel joined heaven last week. One of the families that I have been working with for over a year contacted me to tell me of her passing. Grace was a mere two-years-old. Her family is from Thailand. Although she had many moments of smiles and brought her family and friends great happiness, her short life was also filled with illness. She is now at peace, and will be greatly missed.
I had the privilege of attending her funeral last week. I have never been to a child’s funeral, and worked hard to prepare myself for the emotional angst that would surely accompany this event.
As a large group of people sat in the santuary in silence, tears welled up in my eyes as I stared at the tiny, white coffin.
Many of Grace’s family and friends surrounded her taking photos and video. I had never been to a funeral where this happened.
Grace’s father invited us each to approach the coffin and see her. Grace’s small body was covered in beautiful, bright flowers. The only thing that you could see was her precious face, and one chubby hand that clutched a white rose.
After a beautiful ceremony, I followed the group to the cemetary.
As they lowered the coffin into the ground, Grace’s parents placed her diaper bag on top of it. They also put in photos of her, and some of her toys. Lastly, her father took the shovel from the cemetary groundskeeper and began to shovel dirt back into the grave. Then her mother took over. Little by little, other family members participated. It was beautiful to watch this group of lovely people in mourning join together to show their respect.
I will miss you Grace, and am blessed to have known you and your beautiful family.
The Novice Blogger
Why can’t I go just one day without a migraine?! Even as I sit here writing, my head is throbbing like mad. Over the years I have tried everything imaginable to help with this chronic pain. Dozens of medications, bio-feedback, massage, yoga, myofascial therapy, chiropractic treatment, diet, laser treatments, TENS units, psychiatric treatment, physical therapy, and more.
For some lovely reason I get the genes that leave me with Fibromyaglia, Major Depressive Disorder, Migraine Disorder, BiPolar NOS, and Celiac Disease.
It is so frustrating!
So, as you can guess from my bitter sarcasm. Today is a bad day. Overall, I have found a few things that have helped with my chronic daily pain. Here is what (usually) works for me:
Staying on a birth control pill so that I no longer get my period. (Hormonal triggers)
Diet: gluten-free, no citrus, limit caffeine and chocolate, no tomatoes.
Medication: DEPAKOTE–best med so far for my migraine and mood.
If you are suffering from any of these issues, these are a few suggestions. Hope it helps!
-The Novice Blogger