Retro Tuesday 11-29-2022


House of Fear


“You can’t leave your fears behind,’ he’d said, “until first you live inside them. You have to live inside your house of fear.”― Steve Rasnic Tem, Deadfall Hotel

When typing the above quote (all right, cutting and pasting), the phrase ‘house of fear’ jumped out at me like a bolt of lightning. Living inside your House of Fear seemed a dangerous proposition. Who, after all, wants to live with their fears on a daily basis? And what, exactly, is my House of Fear?  What would lay within its walls? Would it be dark and spooky, like a haunted house, or stark and lifeless with six equal sides, a square of fear? Perhaps well lived-in. Perhaps not. I have, after all, had many years for fears to accumulate, drifting into the cracks and crevices of my life, lost beneath the furniture of my mind- a dusty chair, an unmade bed, a table upon which the book of my life rests.

So what do I fear? What ghosts linger there? I fear rejection, both personally and as a writer. What if I am not strong enough, bold enough, to record the lives of the ghosts whispering in my ear. Spiders – though I am much better now. Opening up to let others inside.  Never trusting again because one person decided it was okay to lie and treat me like I was nothing. Ending up like my mother, locked in a body that, inch by inch, took her life long before she died. My kids never learning how to be responsible adults. Hate and violence engulfing the world. What, then, am I not afraid of?

I am not afraid of dying though, as the saying goes, I don’t want to go today. I am not afraid of having less than nothing in my bank account. I’ve been there and you just have to let it go. I am not afraid of being alone. I know how strong I am, how much I crave being responsible for my own life. I do not fear petty, mean-spirited, people because I know their attitude is their problem and has nothing to do with me. Of course, I could list all the fears I’ve ever had in my life and all the fears I have overcome but we would be here forever. Life is learning to face your fears and becoming stronger for each battle. Do fears leave the house once they no longer linger in my subconscious? Yes and no. They turn invisible and, while mostly they slip away, a tiny misty form remains, ready to spring back to life at any unguarded moment. 

What is your House of Fear?

Retro Tuesday 11-29-2022

Living In The Moment


“When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions – such as merit, such as past, present, and future – our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.”
― Peter Matthiessen

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is to live in the moment.  It’s easy to get ‘mired in the relative world,’ caught in the mundane day-to-day living and forget the paradise from which we were expelled as we grew from children to adults.  Children live in the Now, no divide between the real and fantasy.  After all, children are the ones who believe by simply stepping into a forest, they enter another world.  Children believe in ghosts and fairies and Santa Claus. They believe in the goodness of the world because they have never been taught the bad.  I am, of course, speaking generally here as I know there are many children who are never allowed this kind of childhood.  Even these children often live in fantasy, believing – hoping – that the one who abuses them loves them.

I understand the need for ‘words and ideas and abstractions’.  We need these to survive in today’s world, but as Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes said, “I go to school, but I never learn what I want to know.”  Where do children learn love and kindness and compassion?  These traits are of the Now.  Nobody learns love or compassion or kindness in the past or the future.  And if they don’t learn these things as children, Now, where will they?

The world’s sadness comes from not living in the Now.  We expect children to grow and become responsible, to forget the magical world of childhood, instead learning geometry and history and government.  Important, yes, but why not art and theater and day-dreaming, too?  The past is gone, never to be retrieved.  The future will never come.  All we have is each moment to exist in all the glory of the world, to come to know not only our own souls, but the soul of the world.

I believe we are all connected, deep down in our souls.  We are one, you and I and the mountains and rocks and trees and animals.  Science has gone a long way to proving this.  After all, we are all made from the same building blocks of the universe: us, nature, chairs, tables, the food we eat.  Children instinctively understand this.  As adults, we have forgotten.  We spend hours immortalizing vacations, children’s games, birthdays, Christmas, in photos instead of moving the camera from our vision to see the beauty now, moment to moment as it unfold.  We run from our emotions, hiding them to avoid the pain, pretending our lives are full and happy and whole.

I know my life is not full and happy and whole when I am living in the past or the future. So how do we remember to take each moment as it comes?

Retro Tuesday 11-22-2022


Hearts are breaking…


Yesterday, I came home from work to find my mother has been placed under Hospice Care.  She has suffered Parkinsons for many years, slowly moving further and further away into a world far beyond our reach. I have watched her turn inward, slowly losing the ability to walk, then stand, to move or feed herself.  She suffered hallucinations of trespassers living behind the shed; my Dad dating other women; imaginary people in the house.  And always that she wasn’t home.  Hallucinations, the doctors assured my father, caused by her medicines.

Day by day, she wasted away, thinner and more inward each time I visited. What was the point of ‘going home’ if it wasn’t really home?  No place could be home without my mother, even the house in which I’d lived until I married. Regardless of the fact she and I fought throughout my childhood and adolescence, me to break free and her to mold my life to her expectations, no place felt like home without her.

When I became an adult and learned to live with manic depression, and she learned to let go, we became friends.  She was my strongest supporter.  No matter when I called or what I called about, she listened.  Going through years of marriage and an inevitable divorce, she listened.  She never had harsh words, at least in front of me.  Now she is leaving slowly, bit by bit, day by day, a frozen statue of herself.

Nobody in the family bore any illusions Mom would ever get better.  You don’t get better from Parkinsons.  Betrayed by her body, she lives locked in a prison from which there is no escape.  At first, her mind remained, but that too has faded, gone just as her ability to speak, open her eyes, or stand.

My Father took care of her at home until he fell ill and ended up in the hospital.  I was charged with getting Mom into respite care, a horrible decision, but the only one available.  She couldn’t care for herself and, even if my sister or I could stay at the house until Dad was better, we were barely able to lift her out of the bed on her final day at home.  Days later, Dad came home from the hospital.  We all knew that she wouldn’t be going home with him.  Caring for her exhausted him to the bone, leaving him with no strength or ability to do so anymore.

On the hour journey from the house-that-was-no-longer-home to the Assisted-Living Faculty, she cried only once.  I had been afraid she would cry the entire time, but soon discovered her silence and the knowledge I alone was taking her to the place she had always feared, hurt even worse.  All during her illness, she feared being left and forgotten in a nursing home.  And here I was taking her there.

The first week or so at the faculty, she ate and responded normally.  When I visited, she cried.  The only words able to stop the tears was my promise to take her home as soon as Dad was strong again.  But I won’t.  She won’t ever go home again.  Her last ride will be in the back of a hearse as she goes back to the town that was her home for so many years, to the friends and family grieving her loss.

She stopped responding to anything this past week.  She’s stopped eating.  She’s given up.  I can feel it in her.  So many words have never  been said.  The last time she responded to me, I told her, I promised her, I would take her home when Dad was ready.  I told her that I loved her.  I told her that I missed her so much.  Her thin, frail, fingers clutched mine as I held her hand, almost as if she was telling me she understood.  Now if only I understood.

Retro Tuesday 11-15-2022


How Do you Kill a Monster without Becoming One….

As the story told itself, it switched around some on the actual prompt, but that’s okay. I let it go where it wanted to go. Let the speaker use his own voice which is nothing like mine. And nothing like my normal writing. But it was fascinating to watch the words flow.


It ain’t easy.  That much is for sure.  Been a long time since I killed anything but back in the day….. yeah…. back in the day…..

It came for me when I was 15.  Thought I was tough then, I did.  Big swagger as I walked down the street.   Tough words.  Angry words.  Ugly words.  Funny how when you’re young you think those things make you tough.  Don’t take me wrong.  I was a scrapper.  I’d been in any number of street fights.  All my life.  Thought that made me tough, too.  How little I knew.

It came on a Monday.  I was home.  Had to be.  My little sister was there.  Didn’t like to leave her alone at night.  Not if I could help it.  We had day-old hot dogs for dinner.  A dented can of baked beans.  Marshmellow fluff. 

Lived in a series of rooms. Used to be offices when the building was a warehouse. One central room with a hotplate, couple broke-back chairs. A table. A radio. Another room with two mattresses on the floor. A bathroom that worked. Barely. But enough for water to clean and cook. I’d installed locks on the doors. Kept us safe so far. Then again, I wasn’t asleep yet.

Been years now. Too many. Never did find my little sister. I looked for her sometimes. All the times. That face in the crowd. A voice across a street. A dream of before I’d become a monster. But now… now I am old. Haven’t killed in years.

Weren’t killing that’d made me a monster. No. Abandoning her did. Ran when the Government people finally tracked us down. Gonna take us into the system. Foster homes. Schools. The ‘right’ life. Couldn’t take that. And so I ran.

She screamed. Begged. Tears. Never did forget that. Never did forget the sound of tears. Sound rang in my ears the rest of my days. Still there now. But it’s gonna be gone soon.

Soon. Another breath. Two. Another tear. I’ll no longer be a monster.

Retro Tuesday 11-8-2022



There is a park on the main bypass through town. It is falling into disrepair because the play equipment is old and sparse. The wading pool has been closed. I pass it every time I take the bypass and, besides stopping once in the fall to take pictures of the leaves, I never give the park a glance. Until I started to notice the writing on the fence. Some unknown soul had woven bright green tape through the lattice of the fence to spell out the word *Begin.*

This, too, I ignored for weeks until one day I saw Begin and started thinking. What was I beginning in my life? What did I need to begin? I am in a phrase of change, of trying to get back to being the writer I am and move my life into the direction I want to go. Like most mothers, I have spent the last twenty some years of my life caring for children. So how, and when, do I begin my life again? How do I begin to be a writer again when I’ve only written in my mind for so long?

So what does Begin really mean? According to, Begin means the following:

to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action; commence; start:
to come into existence; arise; originate: be originator of
to succeed to the slightest extent in

All so simple and easy, right. We all know what the word begin means. We’ve used it all our lives. But now I wonder if I’ve I’ve ever really, really, thought about the word and it’s meaning, in particular how my life and beginning are intertwined.

To proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action. As a writer, I begin by picking up my pen or, nowadays, turning on my laptop. Each word is a new beginning, a new choice, the possibility of my characters going right or left, saying one word or another. And each beginning subtly chances the course of the story.

To come into existence. Was this the first beginning? My birth with every moment since a new beginning because each moment I make a choice which, again, implies other possible choices. Is my life a life of moment to moment beginnings?

To succeed to the slightest extent in. As in, my salary won’t begin to cover all my expenses. Yeah, this one I know, too. I’ve struggled with the money issue all my life. How does one begin to accept that the money will be there and that if I just give up my need to control every aspect of my life, that the Universe will begin to take care of me.

Where does life begin? That is one of those issues people fight over, sometimes kill over. All because of the word begin. We all know that life is sacred, as we should, but where does it begin. In what moment in the womb, what second, makes the change from a growth of cells to a living being?

Begin? Being? How close these two words are. Is life simply about beginning to be? also says that begin is Old English beginnan “to begin, attempt, undertake,” a rare word beside the more usual form onginnan from bi- “be” + W.Gmc. *ginnan, of obscure meaning and found only in compounds, perhaps “to open, open up” (cf. O.H.G. in-ginnan “to cut open, open up.

How do I undertake my life, open myself up to all the glory that is waiting? How does one stop being afraid of beginning? And how do you begin? Have you thought about what you need to begin in your life?