What I Can’t Throw Away

Another great writing exercise created by Steff: “What I Can’t Throw Away”

Prompt: What is the one piece of clothing (or a pair of shoes) that you know you will never wear again but you cannot bring yourself to throw it away and why. 20 minutes.

Each season I pull clothes out of my closet evaluating whether they should stay and be packed away or go in a black garbage bag headed for the Goodwill. I have long let go of the notion I will ever be a size 4 or 6 again. I am solidly a size 10-12 and I have come to embrace this reality. So I don’t hang on to clothes that are too tight. I’m too into comfort to be squeezing into jeans that I have to lay down to zip up. I’m no fashionista. I actually get most of my clothes as hand me downs from my sister so whatever was in style in 2010 is my style in 2013.

All this is to say I don’t hang on to clothes I won’t wear again. But there are a couple of things I haven’t been able to part with even though in all likelihood I’ll never wear them again. I’ve held on to all of my Irish step dancing costumes. And in all fairness to me, if the opportunity arose to do a show and tell about the skirts I could wear them and explain little details about the skirt. But my Irish dancing hard shoes are something I know that I will never wear again, but I can’t throw them away, give them away, or part with them in anyway.

My right foot is such a skeletal mess that even sliding on the shoe is a challenge. I just wanted to see if I could shuffle around a bit. Nothing too fancy, maybe just a cramp roll or some heel clicks. Not to be. I slid the shoe off and ran my hand over the broken in but still shiny leather remembering the last time I wore them during a performance at Oktoberfest. The performance where I came down wrong on a high kick and injured my foot, ankle, and knee but kept dancing on it.

So now I’m left with these scuffed, Irish hard shoes but can’t wear them. I turn them over and run my fingers over the engraved brand name of Rutherford on the sole. It looks like the name is hand-tooled into the leather. My name and phone number are written in a clear, legible print in case I ever forgot them at a performance- a holdover from the time my mom would write her name and phone number inside all of my dance shoes when I was little. I slide my hands into the shoes and clack the heels together simulating the action of my feet. I bend over and continue with a stomp and shuffle all as if my feet were dancing.

I lean back in my chair and let my mind drift back to moments dancing in competitions and pageants, hot and sweaty for hours in dance studios, auditioning for a spot in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and making the top 32, twirling around in a full nun’s habit as Sister Mary Leo, in a corset and pantaloons in the musical Oklahoma!, in a short can-can skirt, throwing my leg up as high as I could, high kick after high kick in Guys and Dolls, and my heavy straight arms nearly glued to my sides, as I executed near militaristic stomps, kicks, and jumps in unison with my Irish step dancing group.

I keep these shoes, these worn out and tired shoes, that I can no longer wear because they remind me of where I’ve been and the ground I’ve covered. The shoes represent the determination, persistence, and tenancity that I showed with every dance I had to master. When I have an “I can’t do this. It’s too hard” kind of day, I can look at my shoes and know that I can.

Irish Hard Shoes

You’re a Maid in a Hotel…

This writing prompt is courtesy of my fabulous writing buddy, Steff. It was so much fun to write some fiction and just be silly for a bit. 🙂

Prompt: You’re a maid in a hotel. You find something in the room that isn’t normally there, do you return it or not? Write for 20 minutes or 2 pages, writer’s choice.

My shift ended in 15 minutes and I had all my rooms cleaned and cart ready to check-in. My co-worker Sheila begged me to take her last room; she was running behind and couldn’t afford to miss her quota again. I pushed my cart back to the service elevator and pressed 3. Room 3115 would be the last room I would ever clean.

When I pushed open the door to the room, it appeared that no one had stayed in the room. The bed linens weren’t creased. The soaps and shampoos that most guests squirrel away in the luggage sat untouched along the spotless bathroom counter. Nothing appeared to be altered in any way.

I stood in the middle of the room searching for any sign of a visitor. Then I spotted the edge of a book at the end of the bed. It was covered in a worn leather. I sat in one of the chairs next to the window not wanting to mess up the bedding. I untied the leather strip and placed it on the table. The book cracked as I opened to find the pages filled with handwritten notes covering the front and back of every page. The precise script began, “The book you hold in your hands is no ordinary book. It has sought you out to impart secrets only a few will ever possess.”

I closed the book and peered around thinking this had to be a joke or my bosses were testing me to see if I would sit down on the job or take the book for myself. Well, I decided I didn’t need any secrets. Secrets get people in trouble. I tied the leather strip back around the book and placed it on my cart. In the basement, I checked my cart in, signed the “Lost and Found” log describing the book and left it with Jerry the night manager.

“What’s this? Someone’s diary?” He flipped it over in his hands.
“I don’t know. I didn’t look at it.”
“Well, let’s take a looksy, shall we?”
“I don’t think we should look at someone’s diary.”
“Oh don’t be such a Pollyanna.”
Jerry opened the book, same cracking sound as before.

“It’s blank.” We said in unison.

His more a statement, mine more of a confused question.

“Well, that’s no fun. I was hoping for some juicy stories.”
“My shifts over, so I’m going to head out. You think someone’s really going to come back for that diary?”
“Nah. Probably won’t make the effort.”
“Mind if I have it?”
He tossed the book at me. “It’ll be our little secret.” He gave me a wink.

With the book tucked securely under my arm, I clocked out and hurried to the park across from the hotel and sat down on the bench where I often sat after work gathering my thoughts. I untied the leather strip, curled it around my fingers, and opened the book to the first page.

“As I wrote before, the book you hold in your hands is no ordinary book…”

10 Years, 2 Pages, 3-Word Sentences

Here’s another fun writing exercise that forced me to look at my experiences/memories in a more focused way. In addition, it helped me be as concise as possible.

The exercise is to select a 10-year period in your life. I happened to choose ages 10-20, but you could select 12-22, 47-57. Just make sure you limit yourself to 10 years. Then instead of a timed writing this exercise forced me to stay with it for about two hours since I had to fill up two pages. A side note: I write pretty much write all rough drafts and writing exercises by hand, so your “pages” may be different than mine. Lastly, and this is the fun part. You can only use THREE, yes THREE words in each sentence! 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from my attempt. I don’t necessarily have “sentences” but I have attempted to string three words together. In any case, there are enough details for me to remember moments that I can expand later.

**Bonus: Once you have completed the two pages, read back through it and when you come to an area that jumps off the page at you, spend another two pages writing solely on that topic.

Excerpt: 1985-1995

Fall of 1985. 10 years old. My parents divorce. We must move. Mirror slices hand. We destroy house. Color on walls. Rip up carpet. Pull up tacks. Wagon packed up. Drive at night. Spooky new house. Wood covered walls. Chinese paper lantern. Dolls behind glass. Scary new school. Pretty blonde girl. Free lunch sevens. Many nose bleeds. Never see dad. Grandma moves in. She smokes Kools. Scoots house shoes. She eats SnoBalls. We watch Cheers. She curls my hair. She loves me. Grandma gets sick. She breathes loudly. Three purple X’s. Along her chest. Not long now.

I won’t post the rest, but even at this point, I have been able to grab the most vivid memories and distill them to a point I get at the essence of what was going on. The three purple X’s were drawn on her chest to mark where the radiation would be beamed into her (I don’t even know the right words for it all). I remember vividly seeing these purple X’s on her and the doctors so proud that they had burned away all her cancer only to find out they had burned her esophagus to the point she would never be able to eat again. I was 13 when she died and I have never forgotten those X’s. This exercise proved to be so helpful to me in mining my life experiences that I ended up doing it again for ages 21-31!

Happy writing! 🙂

Six Random Words and Twenty Minutes

Another great writing exercise my writing buddy and I did this year.

Writing Exercise- Select Six Random Words. Then write for 20 minutes. 

Birth control, boots, carnations, thunder, green strawberries

I lay awake staring at the ceiling, the green glow of the clock taunting me. 3:26 a.m. I focused on those numbers like a meditation to distract me form the booms of thunder and flashes of lightning that lit up our bedroom.

3:26 a.m. The exact minute she was born. My first child. I rolled over and looked at Jake’s lips slightly parted as he softly snored. Another flash of lightning illuminated his dusty work boots neatly arranged on a Braum’s paper sack near the closet.

Jake pulled 18-hour shifts at the glass plant, and I picked up all the shifts I could at the diner and we still couldn’t make ends meet. We were using birth control when we found out we were pregnant.

Now, we had a little one on the way. Jake took it as a sign that God wanted us to have a baby; I wasn’t so sure. He was like an overgrown kid singing to my belly and rhythmically tapping on it. One holdover from being a drummer, he tapped on anything.

We decided to decorate one side of our bedroom with pictures of angels. His folks gave us a tiny bassinet and it sat right next to our bed.

Jake drove damn near 90 miles an hour to get me to the hospital. The baby was on its way- three months too soon. I prayed and prayed for our baby to wait. Keeping saying it wasn’t time yet. But headstrong like her parents, Amber Marie, came when she wanted to come.

She was tiny, too tiny, and blue. She didn’t cry. Her little arm dangled from the doctor’s hand. I watched the doctors pump on her chest with just two fingers. Jake stood at the end of the bed, pale face. A nurse wrapped Amber in a pink blanket and rushed from the room.

“NICU.”

“We’ll keep working on her.”

“Take care of Mom.”

Pieces of phrases and words floating around. Nurses came and went, pushed on my stomach, took my blood pressure. They kept saying it was too high.

“Where’s my Amber?”

“There are no updates yet.”

I drifted off to sleep, when I woke up there was a glass vase filled with pink carnations and a bowl full of chocolate-covered strawberries. This was Jake’s “I’m sorry” gift when he’d messed up and couldn’t say so. The baby warmer had been removed from the room. All of the equipment the doctors and nurses used to bring Amber to life was gone too.