Dancing to Elvis

Dancing to Elvis
By Laura McHale Holland

photoJim burst through the door yesterday afternoon after running errands and called, “Laura, Laura, you have to hear these two Elvis songs I just listened to! I’d forgotten how great he was.” I was at work, but, hey, when does that sort of thing stop one spouse from interrupting the other?

I left my office and joined him in the family room. He put on Elvis 30 #1 Hits, and Suspicious Minds blasted into the room.

“You could dance,” he said. “You’ve been sitting all day.”

“True,” I said, feeling guilty that I hadn’t even walked the dogs at lunchtime. I was grateful he was spurring me to get energized.

Every so often Jim plays DJ for me, and I gyrate freeform around the room like people did in the 1960s. Sometimes he just plays a couple songs, but other times, he plays tunes for an hour. I dance. He sways to the music and sings along during his favorite parts while he looks through his CD collection to see what he’ll put on next. It reminds me of long-ago days when guys I knew would make cassette tapes for their girlfriends, except there’s no recording when Jim selects songs, and he never picks the same ones. This was the first time he’d played Suspicious Minds for me.

“This is from when he broke up with Priscilla. You can tell he put everything he had into it. I think it might be the best song he ever did,” Jim said.

I’d never considered which Elvis song might be his best, but the song that came immediately to my mind as I shuffled and pirouetted and jigged around the room was Can’t Help Falling in Love. I suspect many of my female baby boomer peers favor that one too, as well as women from the generation born during World War II who came of age before the Beatles were on the scene. Favorite doesn’t necessarily mean best, though, and I don’t feel like I’m a big enough Elvis fan to opine on what his best might be.

The second song, Burning Love, came on. Now that one is energizing. I spun and pranced, arms waving, and wore myself out. When the tune ended, I thought of asking Jim to play Can’t Help Falling in Love before he put the disc back in its case. I like Elvis’ interpretation of that song better than Andrea Bocelli’s version, although one afternoon when Jim and I were driving along scenic Tin Barn Road. Jim put on Bocelli’s Amore CD, and after Can’t Help Falling in Love played, I pressed repeat, not once, but three times.

Jim didn’t complain then. I’m sure he would have obliged had I asked him to play one more track before putting Elvis’ CD away. We might even have slow danced instead of hugging quickly before I tromped back into the office and he went out to chop firewood. Why didn’t I? It would have delayed my return to the computer by only a few minutes. Why was I so quick to rush off? The Elvis moment with Jim has passed. Would it be the same if I asked him to play it today? I guess the only way to find out is to speak up.

 

Copyright  ©  2014 by Laura McHale Holland

Share

Merry Little Christmas

This is a different sort of Life As a Wife episode.

Merry Little Christmas
By Laura McHale Holland

We hauled all of our Christmas paraphernalia down from the garage several days ago, but the boxes sat unopened in the family room until yesterday morning, when I decided to surprise Jim by putting the tree up before he awoke.

I was stringing blinking lights around the tree when he walked in, big smile on his face. He likes blinkers; I don’t particularly. The last several years, I’ve had my way: nice steady lights. This year I decided to do it his way: alternating blinkers top to bottom.

Jim sorted through some CDs, put one on. Soon James Taylor’s voice filled the room. Taylor’s renditions of “Winter Wonderland,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Jingle Bells” and other favorites set a warm, festive mood. I continued to fiddle with the lights and then sort through ornaments, garlands and knick knacks. Then “The Christmas Song” came on. It’s the one with the line, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” The words and melody gripped memy eyes filled, tears spilled. I was surprised. Jim bought the CD last year, and the song hadn’t made me cry.

GD ornamentJim’s response? He said to Romeo, one of our dogs, “Uh, oh, the waterworks; it’s time for us to go, fella.” I shook my head, thinking he was channeling John Wayne again—or maybe Humphrey Bogart since he’d just watched “Key Largo” the night before. He ambled toward the kitchen, the dog padding after him. When he returned, we hung the first ornaments: balls with Grateful Dead art on them, part of Jim’s assortment of the band’s memorabilia.

Jim had an errand to run. I decided to do some other chores—pay bills, do laundry, that sort of thing. I thought about “The Christmas Song” while I worked. I remembered that my father used to croon that one, along with many others. He would sing with everything he had, like the Welsh miners who harmonized throughout their days in the old film “How Green Was My Valley.” When my father was alive, my days were bursting with music, especially at Christmas. Then he died, and the holidays of my childhood grew quiet and bleak.

Later, I returned to the tree. I pulled out a box of golden orbs painted with a glittery holly pattern and checked to see whether they still had hangers attached. I didn’t notice that Jim was at the stereo until another voice filled the room: Robert Goulet singing, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the Broadway soundtrack of Camelot.

Sometimes I think “If Ever I Would Leave You” is the best love song ever written. I always think of it as Jim’s and my song. Often, words of comfort aren’t Jim’s thing. Jokes and music are. He knows I lost my parents when I was far too young and that even though I am happy now, sometimes a song or movie or painting or remark will remind me of past times of sorrow. He realizes these memories are fleeting but that they shaped the person I’ve become. He also knows I know he’s never going to leave me as long as there is breath in his body.

I looked up. We smiled at each other. I thanked him for playing the song. He sashayed across the room and gave me a big hug. I told him I want to donate to a toy drive this year in addition to writing our year-end checks to the local food bank and a few other charities. We used to donate games, dolls, action figures and more when our children were growing up, but we haven’t done so lately. I know a toy won’t transform a grieving family into a thriving one, but it might provide at least a moment of happiness, something that could help tide a child over to another good moment, and another, and another until such time as there are far more good times than bad.

Jim, of course, said he’s all for it.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

Share

Sometimes

Sometimes
A reflection by Laura with a way cool poem by Moira Kathleen

11.23.versions.photoSometimes I feel like a bloated computer file stuffed with too many variations of the same old story. Other times I’m like a youngster again watching Jiminy Cricket sing When You Wish Upon a Star on the Walt Disney Show. But I wonder whether I’ve been wishing upon the wrong star, chasing something illusive, unattainable.

Typhoons and tornadoes rip across the landscape in far off lands and closer to home. Cars crash. Fires break out, consuming homes in a flash. Any of us could lose everything in an instant, or our lives could dribble away slowly.

I worry about all of this way too much, I know.

imageBut occasionally I’ll do something routine that shifts my perspective—like yesterday, I took a shower, toweled off and rubbed a new brand of vanilla lotion all over my skin. The scent reminded me of a poem my daughter wrote when she was 10 years old.

It was selected for the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans, 1997 edition.

I looked through a book shelf near my bed and found the slender volume. I’d forgotten how wonderful the poem is. I hope I never forget again. It reminds me of the power of giving and receiving everyday, constant love—and what an honor it is to be my daughter’s mom:

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mom
By Moira Kathleen Holland

My mom is as beautiful as the sunset
She smells like a bundle of new roses
She loves to garden and write
When I wake up in the morning
she smells like vanilla
My mom has a dancing heart
I love her very much
I think she is a child wrapped
in a grown-up’s body

 

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

 

Share

Fuckin’ Falafel

Fuckin’ Falafel
By Laura McHale Holland

Here’s another little something from my life as a wife:

IMG_1303I’ve removed the text of this post because for some folks it cast my husband in a negative light, which was not my intention.

I’m leaving the comments, though. If you’re curious about what prompted the comments, please get in touch with me through this site’s contact form, which can be reached from the menu at the upper right-hand side of this site.

 

 

 

Share

Domestic goddess—not

Here’s a little something from my life as a wife.

IMG_1302Jim pulls an old L.L. Bean shirt from the dryer, hands it to me and asks, “Can you do something with this?”

“Sure,” I say. “It’ll be great for rags. Chamois is really absorbent.”

“But I love this shirt. Can’t you fix the collar.”

“No can do, honey.”

“You must be able to fix it somehow.”

“Nope.”

“Well, you sure aren’t a domestic goddess, are you.” He purses his lips, looks me up and down.

“We’ve been together 29 years, and you’re only now realizing that?x!#?”

 

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

Share

If He Wanted

I was experimenting with repetition in flash fiction this week. What do you think of this one?

photoIf He Wanted
By Laura McHale Holland

Irons. In the fire. He rubs his eyes. He’s always had too much to do. Leap. He tries to leap up. Chains hold him down. Only his arms and hands are fluid. He cracks his knuckles. He feels. Tortured. Out of breath. Out of time. He cracks his knuckles. Again. He rubs his eyes. Again. He does not see. The chains are weak, rusted. He could break them if he wanted. Badly. If he wanted to reach the fire. The irons. In the fire.

 

Note: This story is not in the flash fiction collection (The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song) I’m holding up in the picture accompanying this post. It might make it into a future collection, though.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

Share

Crepe myrtle reflections

IMG_1265In this picture, these crepe myrtle blossoms exhibit a warm red hue, but in the sunlight yesterday afternoon, they looked like the raspberry sherbet served long ago at Dipper Dan’s, a small independent ice cream shop where I worked briefly when in high school.

The pay was $1 per hour and all you could eat, and I ate more than my share of raspberry sherbet. So did all my friends, who would pay 15 cents for a single dip, but I’d pile three scoops on, squishing them down as far as possible in an attempt to make them look like a single dip.

The owner was kind; he let me get away with it, probably because I didn’t have hoards of friends, just a handful. He grinned as he watched them plunk down their dimes and nickels and slip out the door, their tongues darting to catch dribbles of sweet, sticky goo that slid down the cones onto their fingers.

Has anything you’ve seen recently brought back memories from days long gone? If so, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments section.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

Share

Supermoon love

Reversible_Skirt_front-cover-web

Lately, I’ve been working on two long projects: Belinda Blue Brown’s story, which I’ve been posting here, and a sequel to my memoir, Reversible Skirt.

Shifting gears

Belinda’s story is at a point where I need to draft away and not worry about whether it’s good enough for public consumption. The second memoir also isn’t at a stage where I’d be comfortable posting excerpts from it here.

Based on how the two projects are going, it looks like the memoir will shape up faster than Belinda’s story.

Then it’ll be time to figure out the best way to share it with, well, you, dear readers.

A new project

Thus, I need to regroup and consider what kinds of posts would be enjoyable for you to read and fun for me to produce. My most successful blog project to date was weekly flash fiction, which I continued for more than a year. I culled from those to create my flash fiction collection, The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song.

IMG_0986I want to do something different today, so I’m going to snap pictures with my iPhone and write tidbits to go with them. These could be fact or fiction or maybe even poetry.

So, here goes.

Supermoon Love

By Laura McHale Holland

IMG_0849Twilight. June 23. Jim and I leash up our pups, Romeo and Leo, climb into our Ford Escape and drive through the Sonoma countryside to view the supermoon, which occurs annually when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit.

We veer southwest after a while and get out to romp above Dillon Beach in Marin. It’s cold, dark and windy, though. Even the dogs cower in the face of the biting gusts from the sea. So that part of our excursion is short, but invigorating.

IMG_0994If it weren’t for Jim, I wouldn’t be admiring the supermoon. I probably wouldn’t know when to set the clocks forward in the spring and backward in the autumn, either.

Nor would I wash the car, watch Game of Thrones and The Newsroom on HBO, clip the juniper in our front yard.

But most of all, without him, I wouldn’t wend my way home after hours of editing at my day-job, and know that I am loved.

The next supermoon will be Aug. 10, 2014.

Share

The unquenchable Okie spirit

When my friend Holly puts a flute to her lips, she transports people from the cares of daily life to realms of joy, spirit, peace. I met Holly in San Francisco in the late 1970s. She was in a little band that played in coffeehouses. I wrote songs in my room, rarely performing them in public. But when Holly brought her harmonies and counterpoints to my melodies and chords, the effect was magical. Fond memories of our collaborations always brighten my spirits.

Holly also hails from Oklahoma. In May, when the state was struck by tornados, she posted some of her thoughts about the devastation on her Facebook page. I asked her whether she could expand her post a bit so I could share it on my blog. She kindly obliged.

The Unquenchable Okie Spirit
By Holly Whitman

8806182886_537573b2b1In the wake of the terrible tornados that struck Moore and the surrounding area on May 19 and 20, 2013, I have to admit I am so proud of the Oklahoma can-do spirit in cleaning up and rebuilding. It was stunning to learn yet another, even more terrible twister struck again less than two weeks later, on May 31; some folks had to endure the terror all over again and still they carry on.

There is an amazing resilience in Okies born of challenges like the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, tornados year in and year out, wind storms, ice storms, floods, and even earthquakes. The way these Okies are tackling the aftermath of those tornados – looking out for neighbors, friends, and family – is exactly what I’d expect from residents of my home state. It is the spirit that I grew up with and was surrounded by all of my life. No hand-wringing about who will fix it or waiting for FEMA or promised government aid that may take months, if ever, to come.

8795602301_61a4a551acEven if and when government aid does come through, many Okies are just way too proud to accept it. They will have fixed it all long before any aid arrives. Very few Okies have availed themselves of public shelters, opting to stay with friends and family instead. Centers that have collected items to give to those whose homes were devastated in the storm are brimming with unclaimed donations as Okies find their own way through this challenge, too busy to go seeking handouts, deserving as they are.

Looking out for each other with a spirit of genuine, open friendliness and helpfulness are familiar Okie traits, so none of this is surprising to me. I love it.

You go, Oklahoma! You rock!

About Holly

Holly Whitman lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, with her husband, Craig, their son, Sean, and their two pugs, Willis and Teddy. Holly is employed as a counselor and therapeutic home specialist supervising providers who foster very difficult children in their homes. A former columnist for the Sierra Vista News, she is also an editor, as well as a musician who has worked in a variety of venues over many years. Currently, she plays jazz flute with Nancy Weaver’s Swing Band, and is a member of the Sierra Vista Community Band. Previously, she was a music teacher and the owner of a small cleaning business.

 

Both photos by Save the Children 

Share

Blue Paisley

I wrote this story in response to another Lille McFerrin five sentence fiction prompt. The prompt is “abandoned”

Blue Paisley
By Laura McHale Holland

4377285195_67bf1b8c42_mShe tightened the blue paisley scarf tied under her chin, babushka style, slapped a $20 bill on the counter and strained to grunt, “Camels, please, filters,” as words tangled in her vocal cords.

The cashier picked up the money, pulled the cigarettes from a display above his head, put them on the counter, and then shuffled to the register to ring up the transaction and get the woman’s change. A horn blasted, and she dashed out, not even pausing when the cashier called, “Hey, lady, you forgot your change!”

Hours after she’d jumped back into a Nissan spewing a thick gray cloud from its tail pipe as it sped away from the store, a remnant of blue paisley fluttered, caught in the railing of a rickety bridge far up the road. Below, a crumpled pack of Camels floated at the river’s edge; above, a faint smell of exhaust lingered in the air.

Photo by Johnnie Utah 

Share

Damage

I wrote this in response to Little McFerrin’s five sentence fiction prompt for this week: ringing.

Damage
By Laura McHale Holland

69953132_62128c44e7_mHe wants quiet to wash over his head like cool river water on a blistering day. When the day settles down and the moon waxes or wanes, he remembers when the only sounds he heard were the wind in the maple outside his window, a coyote howling in the hills or car wheels pulling into his drive. He once had long hours of peace, but he can no longer feel them in his bones. The damage is permanent. He puts on his headphones, turns up the volume and finds a pulsing counterpoint to the endless ringing in his ears.

Photo by jbelluch

Want to read other writers’ takes on “ringing”? http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=234250

 

Share

So they chew

There’s more to this story than I thought when I scribbled the first draft a few days ago. That feels good.

So They Chew
By Laura McHale Holland

His gut is a giant diet gingerale, hers a sloshing jug of bitter lemonade. They are not hungry. But the 6:00 news is on; it’s time to eat. So they do. Tuna fish. Casserole. The kind with potato chips, peas, mushroom soup.

She saw the recipe on the Internet. Showed it to him. They had to try it for old time’s sake, he said. She bought the ingredients. Layered the casserole. Baked it today.

So they chew. Slowly. Just a few bites. Then a few more. It doesn’t taste like the tuna casseroles their mothers once made. Two-thirds gooey, one-third crispy. Burned around the edges. Grease on the tongue.

Their version tastes like a hanta virus in the toolshed, a white blood cell count rising, a bogey man in the crawl space, a neighbor walking away from her mortgage.

In silence, they chew on. They eat everything on their plates. It’s what they were taught to do.

 

(The casserole photo is from Salwa’s 5 alive flickr photo stream.)

Share

Undercover

I wrote a first draft of this based on a promt at WriteToDone.com. It’s posted, along with many other stories based on the prompt, in the comment section there. Then I did a couple more rounds of editing before posting it here.

Undercover
By Laura McHale Holland 

I’ve seen plenty in my thirty years here. There was the time I arrived to open the bank, and the display windows were smashed. Glass shards littered the sidewalk; glass was on the floor inside, too. The work of young anarchists prowling the night before.

Another time, it wasn’t glass on the floor; it was everyone in the bank. Except for the tellers. They were pulling money from their cash drawers with trembling hands. But then a customer realized the gun the robber brandished was only a toy. He wrestled the culprit to the ground. I pressed the alarm. Soon enough Officer Kaufman had the man in a paddy wagon.

Photo by H.Adam

Yes, I’ve seen plenty over the years. But today takes the cake. I can’t work. Clothes racks and shelves clutter the waiting area. And a checkout station is right where my desk should be. A girl behind the counter is waving at me. Our tellers would never have tattoos all over their arms like she does.

 Hi, Mr. Walker, are you lost again?” she asks.

 I’m not lost. I work here.” 

 Of course you do. Why don’t you have a seat by the window? I’ll sort it all out, okay?” She picks up her cell phone. I stand my ground.

 A few minutes later, Officer Kaufman walks in, smiles at me. “Francis Walker. You’re just the man I’m looking for.”

 Hi there Officer. Do you need another loan?”

 No, Francis. I’ve come to take you home.”

 Home? Is something wrong with Nancy?”

 Nancy is in heaven now, Francis. You and me, we’re both widowers long retired. We live at Happy Hills, and I’ve come to take you home.”

 I don’t believe a word he’s said, but he is an officer of the law. I’d better go. This must be some undercover operation; he’ll fill me in once we get outside.

 

Click to visit H.Adam’s flickr photostream.

Share

Checking out new template

I just thought I’d stick a photo in here to see what it looks like on screen with the template Linda Lee‘s working on.

I love the way the light hits the bush at the left, changing the green from dark to light.

Site design is in transition. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I will welcome feedback and suggestions during this process.

Share

Is it really already mid-December?

It seems just the other day I was pulling the Thanksgiving turkey from the oven, and now Christmas is almost here. We don’t even have our tree up yet. All our decorations are still in boxes in the garage. I need the old shoemaker’s elves to come tonight while I’m sleeping and work some magic. I promise not to look and scare them away.

Share