Top Five Essays I Have Written

I created this blog as a requirement for my Creative Fictional Writing class at Bellevue College. I have tried to write in a blog before, so I felt this assignment would be a pain in my ass.  And it was, at first. Once I started gathering followers, I felt I needed to write more.  I have since passed the class (A+) but I’m still finding things to write about.  I decided to share the four pieces I had to write for my class (plus one that I wrote years ago, but love), because I am very proud of what I wrote.

Enjoy!

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The Power of Memory

I am standing on the beach.  I can’t be more than two, two and a half. The sun shines brightly above me. I can feel it turning my skin brown. I’m wearing a pink bathing suit, bubble gum pink.  My hair is nothing but pale blonde wisps that I brush from my face, whenever the breeze meanders past.

I’m holding a plastic, turquoise bucket filled with rocks and other treasures I have discovered earlier during my travels on the beach. I feel the warm sand between my pink painted toes. I don’t enjoy the rough feel of it between my toes.  I’m watching the ocean waves, deciding if I want to play in it with my older brothers or return to the towel where my mom sits reading.

My mom is relaxing on an old beach towel, so faded it no longer knows its true color. Her slight frame is shiny with baby oil and I can smell it from where I’m standing.  She is wearing a green, v-neck tank top tucked into black shorts. A cigarette burns in her left hand, an old friend of a paper back is open in the other. I cannot see her eyes; the large tan sunhat blocks them from my view.

I timidly take a step towards my brothers who are splashing and hooting at each other.  Not all of them are here, I can only see two. They don’t glance in my direction, I’m just their annoying baby sister.  I take another step and feel the cold fingers of a wave tickle my toes. I suck in a breath of air, tasting the sea. Another step, and another.  My bathing suit grows darker as the ocean spills around me.

The next wave that reaches for me is too much. I feel myself falling forward, my hands trying to brace myself for a fall.  I’m engulfed in a cold embrace. I try to stand up, but there is no earth below me. I try to look up, but there is no sky above me.  I panic, inhaling my cold, wet environment. Time stops. The only sound is my pulse in my ears.

Suddenly something grabs at my bathing suit.  It’s my brother, Pat The Eagle Scout. He’s shaking me, screaming my name: “Katie! Katie! Katie!” He has me on the warm, coarse sand. There is a rock digging in my lower back.

I cough, feeling my lungs ejaculate the cold sea from my body. My throat hurts, only a rusty cry comes from it.  I look up at my brother hovering above me and then I look to the left of me and I see a white swan gliding across the daunting ocean.

This memory sits in my subconscious, coming out whenever I go to the pool or lake.  I acknowledge it as being the reason why I’m afraid to swim in anything where I cannot see the bottom.

Fast forward a few years to when I’m in my early teens. It’s the weekend, so we are camping up at Tally Lake. It’s just my mom, my dad, my little brother, me and my dog, Poochy.

It’s a popular camping area, but the spots aren’t too close to each other.  You can catch glimpses of campfires between the Ponderosa Pines or hear the other camper’s jovial shenanigans if the night is still enough. It’s a hike to the lake and even a longer hike to the creek that feeds the lake.

We just finished a pre-dawn swim, the water is always the best temperature at this time of day. My mom is sipping her campfire coffee. The smell of it mingles with the smoke from the campfire and the bacon my dad is currently cooking.

“Remember when we went to the ocean and I almost drowned? I think that is why I won’t venture out past the buoys.”

My mom replies in her matter-of-fact voice, “Drowned? You’ve never almost drowned.”

“Sure I did.  I remember it clearly.  Pat even pulled me from the water by my pink bathing suit. He saved my life.”

“Katie, you never even seen the ocean.  This must have been a dream.”

I continue to try to understand. This memory is always there.  It’s my earliest memory. My body still remembers the feel of the sand and the hot, hot sun.

“You know what I think?” My mom asks. “I think this is your brother Robs fault.”

“Why?” I whine back.

“He let you watch Jaws when you were little and you had the worst nightmares from it. You would refuse to go to bed by yourself because the carpet in your room was blue and it reminded you of the ocean from the movie”

Did my imagination create something so vivid that I came to believe it?

Great, my earliest memory is of a nightmare from a movie.

Interesting fact though, my brother Pat did save my life when I was a baby.  I was just home from the hospital and my mom was nursing me in the rocking chair.  My dad was remodeling the house and four, very heavy, two-by-fours were leaning against the wall next to the rocking chair my mom was sitting in. The wood started to shift, and my brother put himself between them and me.  He received a medal in Eagle Scouts and a feature in our local paper for being a hero as well as a large bump on his head.

It’s amazing how you can be so sure of something, even if it never happened. I’m 38 now and I can still remember the feel of the warm sand and the smell of the ocean.  This dream still creeps up on me, adding new details like the sound of the gulls flying above me and the smell of the car exhaust coming from the parking lot. I add elements from movies and books that I have encountered throughout my years, but the core of the dream stays the same.  My brother always saves me and my mom always sits there smoking her cigarette.

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My Personal Space

My husband, daughter and I live in a small apartment in the Bothell area. We each have a place to call our own.  My husband has his computer area, my daughter has her room.  Me? I have a spot on the couch.

The couch is one that we bought on sale at Mor Furniture for Less about a year ago.  It sits a bit higher than our old one, something that I wish I noticed when we tried it out as my laptop consistently slips off my lap now unless I put a pillow under it. The couch is a nice gunmetal gray, when you brush your hand across it the gray turns into a silvery gray.  The couch is 9 feet long and has cushioned arm rests as well as large, fluffy couch cushions on the back.  It is what my daughter calls a “Man Eating Couch” as it engulfs you once you sit down.

My spot on the couch is on the left side. My husband sits on the right as it is directly in front of the television where he can play his video games. I don’t watch much television and when I do I have to angle my body towards it. I have a fat blue throw pillow supporting my back and a soft Seahawks blanket behind that.  These are often found pushed between the seat cushions and the back of the couch by the time I head upstairs to bed.

Also on the back of the couch is a quilt my mom made for us. She won First Place at the Flathead County Fair when she entered this quilt in 2000.  I have seen many of my mom’s quilts, but this one seems ordinary. It is made from fabric that I personally have sent her to use; hoping she would make dresses or clothes for my nieces and nephews. There is also a University of Washington blanket that I made my husband which he wraps himself in while playing video games.  His fat blue pillow is always stuffed between the cushion and back of couch as well. A Harry Potter Slanket, a Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary blanket, and a snowflake blanket take turns falling behind the couch.  We must be very cold people to need so many blankets on our couch.

My daughter use to sit in the middle of the couch, but in recent years she chooses to spend her time in her room or sitting on the floor when we watch movies.  So, in her absence I have my three stuffed animals.  There is a Seahawks Build a Bear wearing a Championship shirt, christened Sluttly Hauschka since the shirt won’t stay on. He brings me good luck on game days.  A Snowy Owl Build-a-Bear named Hedwig and a Star Trek Build-a-Bear named Spock keep Slutty Hauschka company in the middle of the couch.

My side of the couch is cluttered with my projects.  Currently on my armrest sits my husbands and my W-2 as well as various other tax related items. Tax season is upon us and I work on them when I find the time.  There is also last week’s Entertainment Weekly and a flyer from Mercer Education. I’ll add the Entertainment Weekly to the Entertainment Weekly pile and read it when time allows.  The flyer will go into the recycling bin.

There is a side table filled with other pieces of my life. One pile contains old Christmas cards and letters, waiting for me to decide to either keep or recycle. A signed copy of “Torchlight Lullaby” as well as signed prints wait for me to find an appropriate place for them.  And under those sits a couple more Entertainment Weekly’s waiting to move to the Entertainment Weekly pile. There are also expired coupons to Fred Meyer and pamphlets to local colleges for my interspersed in the pile.

Another pile on the back of the side table contains “Home Buying for Dummies” as we are looking to buy our first home and we want to make sure we get it right.  There is a cook book “Paleo for Beginners” and a Star Trek trivia book.  These books are making an excellent stand for the stereo systems speaker.

Scattered between these two piles are various hair ties and clips, taken out after a long day at work.  There are also a couple of candy wrappers and a few crumpled receipts.  A bottle of blue nail polish and my PlayStation Vita fight over for room in the middle of the side table. A coffee cup from Seattle Meowtroplitan Café holds a dark blue sharpie, two blue Bic pens, a green highlighter and a thermometer I forgot to put away in the medicine cabinet the last time my kid was sick. One small bump, and the clutter on the side table could shift and fall onto the floor.

The floor on my side of the couch is where I keep my laptop and school books.  There is also a few Lootcrate boxes that now hold my crafting supplies.  I have a “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” coloring book as well as a brand-new set of markers sitting within reach just in case I feel the urge to color. I would have to move my blue and green acrylic paints that currently reside on top which I left there after I finished a pair of Seahawk shoes for my Etsy shop. I also can see my Entertainment Weekly piles, stacked on top of my most recent Firefly Cargocrate from Lootcrate.

On my side of the couch I get my work done.  It is my desk for school, my crafting area for my Etsy shop, my gaming area when I feel like playing The Sims or my Lego games, my reading corner, my napping spot, my lesson planning area for work, my brainstorming area and where I sit and listen to how my husband and daughters’ day went. It’s my personal space.

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My History in Books

Books have a special place in my heart. They are there for me when I need to escape, they never judge me, they are loyal friends, and they have something to tell me every time I open their pages.

I don’t remember my first book.  I think it is because I had books around me all my life, so my first book is not that significant.  It was probably a “Little Golden Book”. The book cover is made of a stiff, thick cardboard printed with bright colors usually favoring yellows and reds. “Little Golden Book” is written in perfect cursive penmanship on the top of the book in gold, gold that matches the gold foil spine.  This spine tastes metallic.  I remember chewing on many Golden book spines. The pages inside the book were stiff and rough.  Most likely yellowing as the book would probably be a hand-me-down as most of my stuff was.  My first book was either this or a children’s version of the bible. Every good little Catholic girl had their very own bible.

I do remember my next book, though.  I still have it.  It was my First Communion handbook.  The book cover is a slick white leather embossed with gold.  “First Communion” is on the front with a large gold cross.  A gold ribbon book mark hangs from it.  This book has a photo in it of me and Conan Jakes.  We had our first communion together.  Father Roberts signed the inside cover as well as my mom and Godparents. I remember taking this book with me every Sunday, turning the pages as the long Roman Catholic mass went through its routine. Following the prayers and scripture. This book only attended mass with me for about a year and was quickly replaced with a sticker book.

In the 80’s if you wanted to be anyone, you owned a sticker book filled with your most prized stickers.  We would sit in the wooden playhouse during third grade recess talking stickers. We would compare the lasting stickiness between the puffy stickers and the glitter stickers.  We would list our favorite scratch-n-sniff stickers and try to pawn off the ones we don’t like. I coveted my white, velvety, unicorn sticker which I would purposely skip the page it was on so the other girls wouldn’t see it. We would get envious of girls who had the rare stickers—ones that could only be purchased at the mall and cost over a dollar. Our sticker books would hold AAA stickers that came in the junk mail, taken off of graded assignments, given to us at birthday parties or by relatives, be Mr. Yuck stickers, stickers we could color, and stickers we were willing to trade. I spent so much time looking at my stickers, that I don’t remember the cover of my book.

The library is where I would get my next books.  I devoured the Garfield comic books, Far Side Collections, Goosebumps, and Choose-Your-Own-Adventures.

My mom signed my library card giving me permission to peruse the adult books at the library.  My Junior High years I would be seen with Stephen King, Mark Twain, Danielle Steele, and Greg Matthews.  Until I discovered boys and the Young Adult Section.

Vampires were all the craze in the early 90’s.  These vampires didn’t sparkle.  They were misunderstood monsters who wanted to be loved. “Braham Stokers Dracula” staring Gary Oldman was playing at the theaters. Young Adult books featuring Vampires on the covers were advertised in ‘Seventeen’ and in bookstore windows.  I purchased “The Vampire Diaries” by LJ Smith with my birthday money. These books are what the television series is based on.  Nikki, Amanda and I would talk about Elena, Stefan, and Damon as if they were old friends.  You could find the three of us in the back of the band room arguing if we could trust Damon.  There were four books in this series and I got extra babysitting jobs so that I could have the whole set.

August 1994 my book of choice was “The Scarlett Letter”.  I purchased this copy for ten cents at a yard sale in my neighborhood. I carried it with me like a badge, to prove that I was well read.  I hated the fact that we disassembled the book the previous year in English class. I swore that Nathaniel Hawthorn never intended to use symbolism in his work. He just wanted to tell a good story.  I was traveling to New York by train by myself to visit my Aunt and Uncle who were stationed at West Point.  “The Scarlett Letter” was never read on that trip, but it did get to see Times Square and watch the OJ Simpson trials on the big screens there.  It got to see Yankee Stadium, but no game as the baseball strike was going on.  It also got to see Tony Randall outside of the Ed Sullivan Theater where “Late Show with David Letterman” was filmed.  Tony Randall was covered with mud from head-to-toe to look as if he just came back from the anniversary of Woodstock. I returned home on the train with “The Scarlett Letter” in my suitcase and souvenirs in my hand.

By my Junior year of high school, I had a decent collection of books: a handful of R.L. Steins, Christopher Pikes, Stephen Kings, Michael Crichtons, Mark Twains. I met Heather that year and we instantly bonded over Stephen King. Her favorite book was “The Stand” and I hadn’t read it yet. I wanted to, but it was never available at the county library and our High School banned Stephen King books. We found it at Borders and I added it to my collection.  Most of my babysitting money went towards books and pretzels at the mall that year.

Senior year, 1996, my boyfriend purchased me “The Eyes of the Dragon” by Stephen King.  My brother and sister-in-law got me the boxed set of Michael Crichton’s more well-known works: “Sphere”, “Jurassic Park” and “Rising Sun”. I learned of fantasy, science fiction, and murder mystery through these books. No longer was I interested in childish things and I wanted more adventure in my reading.

There are too many books to remember after High School.  My book collection became our book collection as I got married. He added The Dragon Lance Series, Grapes of Wrath, Star Wars, Shakespeare and duplicates of books. I added text books, how-to books, and eventually children’s books that I use for my classroom.  Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey Series, erotica, The Anita Blake Series, graphic novels, Sookie Stackhouse series, Lord of the Rings, biographies, Christopher Moore books, true crime; so much has been added over the years.

E-readers made it easier for me to keep my books with me.  My Sony E-Reader changed into a Nook which became an IPad Mini where I have the Kobo Reader, Nook, Bluefire Reader, and Kindle apps so all my books are at my fingertips.  And I can add more instantly expanding my circle of friends with just a click of the “pay now” button.

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Daily Affirmations

Hitting the snooze button. Warm socks and hot coffee. An upbeat story on the news. Goodbye kisses from my husband, goodbye hugs from my daughter. A “turn it up” song on the radio for my commute.

Sometimes I hit the snooze button too many times so I don’t get to enjoy that cup of coffee and there is nothing but sadness on the news.  My husband doesn’t remember kissing me and my daughter is too bitchy to say goodbye.

No traffic on the way to work. Plenty of time to chit-chat before the children arrive. Good morning hugs from my children at school. Surprise coffee from my boss. My Assistant teacher did not call out sick. A child did it all by themselves. We-missed-you-so-much-you-were-gone-so-long hugs from my students. High fives from my former students, a hug snuck in by the ones who miss me. Laughing with my friends.  All the children took a decent nap. No poopy diapers to change. The sun is out, so we go out. Goodbye hugs from my children. No traffic on my commute home.

Sometimes the children arrive poopy and cranky and they don’t want to be comforted.  There is biting and hitting and no coffee in the staff room. My Assistant teacher is out sick and I have to work with the one person who would rather be somewhere else.  The children need extra help and there are no extra hugs. My friends went out to lunch so I’m the staff room by myself. There are no nappers and everyone pooped. The rain stayed longer than expected so we don’t go out to play. I am stuck behind a bus on the way home.

A snuggle from my teen-aged daughter, she had a good day at school. A quiet moment to myself. The smell of new books and old, just books in general.  No homework. Funny jokes on Facebook. Working on items for my Etsy shop. Getting ready for Comicon. Getting it right on the first try.  Pancakes, better yet, blueberry pancakes. Carmel and dark chocolate.  Homemade mac and cheese drizzled with ketchup. The smell of bread baking.  My husband offering to clean up after dinner. Starting a new book.  Finishing a favorite book. Family time.  Watching movies. Goodnight kisses from my daughter.

Sometimes I’m antsy from a bad day at work, so I need my quiet moment first.  My daughter had a bad day as well, so no snuggles from her.  I am in no mood for books, or Facebook, or my Etsy shop.  I need a long, long cry. I don’t want to cook or bake and going out seems disgusting.  Days like this makes me think I need to get back on Wellbutrin, but the side effects weren’t worth it. I’m just going straight to bed.

Holding hands with my husband. Saturday Date Nights. Visits from my brothers.  Rose perfume reminding me of my mom. Productive weekends. A trip to the mall.  New shoes that don’t pinch. Bad puns. Kitten purrs. Sappy commercials that make me cry. Talking to my brother Ray on the phone. Harry Potter. Star Trek. Firefly. Lego Video Games. Romantic Comedies. Action flicks. The Sims. Going to the library and finding the books I need and finding one that is perfect.  And getting to do it all over again tomorrow.

Sometimes my husband and I don’t want to be around each other and our date nights aren’t enjoyable. I miss my mom.   My brothers haven’t visited in years. I get no phone calls. Harry Potter is juvenile. Star Trek is tedious. Firefly is cancelled. Lego Video Games won’t load. The Sims aren’t stimulating. Romantic Comedies are tacky. Action flicks are tiresome.  Weekends fly by. The mall is busy.  Shoes will pinch.

Sometimes I wish there was no tomorrow. But I will keep trying.

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Tears for my Self

I am normally a quiet person who keeps her thoughts and opinions to herself.  I have very strong opinions on many things, but I was raised to “speak when spoken to” and since I am female what I have to say doesn’t’ matter. So you could imagine that I’m a psychologists dream, with many pent up emotions and rants just screaming to get out.  But no, I don’t.

Over the last 32 years, I’ve learned to channel everything through writing or, my favorite, a good cry during a sappy movie. Which is what I chose to use one summer evening a few years ago.

I don’t remember what the circumstance was that was bringing me down, but I headed towards Blockbuster to rent something sappy. We ended up choosing Hanging Up.  This movie is about three sisters whose alcoholic father is dying and how they create a new bond with each other.

My husband and I put our daughter to bed, and we climbed into our bed to watch our movie.  Everything went as normal as movie watching goes.  I teared up at appropriate spots and my husband handed me tissues.  Then they had flashbacks of their childhood.  That’s when all hell broke loose.

The actor that plays the father Lou Mozell is Walter Matthau.  Walter Matthau and my father looked very similar. They even had the same walk and sense of humor.  I also had a childhood with an alcoholic father.

I started crying hysterically.  I was sobbing so hard, my husband was getting very worried.  My breath was hitching, I could not stop.  I begged my husband to turn off the TV. That movie opened up some repressed memories of my childhood that I tried to bury forever.  Things that I was never permitted to talk about, feelings I was never allowed to share, thoughts I was denied to have.

Jung states “you can’t destroy inborn abilities.  They just get pushed underground, into the unconscious.  There an interesting thing takes place:  those personality traits inevitably become personified. That is, a personality forms around the abilities that we diverted into unconscious.” (page 111)   Jung called this personality the Shadow.  This personality lies dormant until something triggers it into being. My trigger was watching Walter Matthau portray my alcoholic father on TV.

I spilled a lot of my childhood that night to my husband.  He learned things about me that no one knew and I found out that I’ve been denying myself something that I should have not been holding back.  Those events I witnessed and experienced in my childhood made me who I am.  I should share those experiences and help others learn from them. The repressed memories were my Shadow. I was forced to confront my shadow.  “Something within us won’t accept our one-sided view of life.  Jung called this inner process the transcendent function.  The transcendent function attempts to restore wholeness by bringing repressed or ignored aspects of the personality into consciousness.” (page 121) I knew what I needed to do.

Ever since that day, I have shared.  Shared things that have helped others. Shared stories to comfort the scared.  I have become a more caring and passionate person.  Watching that movie would have to be one of the best things that has happened to me.  It released me from a darkness that prevented me from being who I am.  Casting loose that Shadow from my Self, created a new persona for me.

 

Works cited:

Robertson, Robin.  A Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology.  York Beach: Nicolas Hays, 1992.

Hanging Up. Diane Keaton. Columbia Pictures. 2000.

 

 

 

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