Silence IV

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

I like to think I have the best team. All incoming nurses and interns vie for a position on my unit. I work my team hard but fair, and never ask them to put in more than I’m putting in. As such I’ve never had the energy to vet who I bring on. If I have to let someone go or someone actually quits, I have an immediate replacement. I never bother to screen them. If they think they’re good enough for my unit I give them a try. If they prove they aren’t I ask that they be transferred and someone else is placed with me. Easy.

And because it’s so easy and because my team is the best it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to let anyone go or lost anyone. So to say I was surprised by the gross lack of respect and sheer selfishness I saw on display in the break room tonight would be putting it lightly. It was especially surprising coming from miss Ditmire. I suppose there was something to that, seeing as how she could never stop talking. In fact, the only time I’d heard her quiet was for all of five minutes when she didn’t know I was there…which is probably why she wasn’t talking.

It was a few months back, when my insomnia was flaring up. I’d been unable to sleep at home and after accidentally waking my husband, who promised he’d start work on the addition to hold my exercise equipment that very day if I would just please go back to bed or leave before I woke the kids, I’d come back to the hospital to get an early start on the day. It was a relief really since my insomnia that night had more to do with a young patient than my usual unexplained bouts of sleeplessness. The girl was so young, just like my Janey before we adopted her, when she first came to foster with us. She had this look of nonchalance…no, more like she was unaffected, but really she was scared. So scared. I just had to make sure this little girl wasn’t scared, too.

After checking on her, she was sleeping peacefully among all the wires and tubes and beeping machines, I stopped by the nurses station to review my charts and there she was: nurse Ditmire. Silent. Sitting completely quiet in one chair with her feet up on the other eating what appeared to be a cupcake. I’ve never been so surprised. Until today. So while nurse Ditmire could talk a blue streak, I’d never before thought her cruel until that moment.

I’d all but decided to ask for her transfer later today when I was walking by the station and saw her give me a look. Her eyebrows shot up and she said “Easton” and I knew. Of course I wouldn’t make her handle that call. No one should have to handle those calls, but especially not a woman who’d just shown her complete lack of compassion. I motioned I’d take the call and hustled to my office. Taking a deep breath I clicked the button with the blinking red light.

“Mr. Easton? Dr. Voss. I’m going to need you to verify your identity by answering a couple of questions before we can proceed. Please tell me your fathers full name.”

“My fa,” there was the sound of a throat being cleared,” my father was Joesuf Paul Easton. With an f, not a ph.”

“Was?” I asked.

“I was told he died when I was young. Is there something…”

“And your mothers full name, please?” I interrupted.

“I, uh, I’m not entirely sure. I wasn’t raised by my parents. Only know my fathers name because of my aunt who raised me.”

“I see. Well, Mr. Easton, due to the nature of the situation I am going to take it on faith that you are the correct contact. Your father, Joe-s-u-f,” and here he spelled it out to be clear, “Paul Easton is here in the hospital now. His sister, Marlena Paula Easton, is his first emergency contact and we’ve been unable to reach her. You, his son, are his second emergency contact. I’m going to need you to come in as soon as possible to tell us how to proceed.”

It was silent on the other end. I didn’t hear the phone line disconnect, or the phone being dropped, or an intake of breath. There was nothing to indicate Mr. Easton was on the other end. Nothing at all. Just silence.

“Mr. Easton?” I asked.

But there was only silence.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When my first child was born it was the very best thing that ever happened to me and also the single most horrific thing that ever happened to me. The first four to six months were positively awful. I can’t even find a way to sugar coat it. I would try to tell you how bad it was but I really don’t think anyone would believe me. It’s hard now, looking back, to believe it myself. Saying my son had “colic” immediately makes it seem minor and normal and people kind of roll their eyes and say “oh yeah, we had that, too.” But they don’t have the PTSD look in their eyes when they say it, so I know they don’t really know.

At any rate, we had this miracle baby who never slept and never napped. He’d go from one crying jag to twenty minutes of being passed out from said jag onto the next crying jag. He literally never stopped sucking on my breasts, although maybe sometimes during that twenty minutes of passing out the nipple would pop out of his mouth and I’d get a second of relief in which to throw some vinegar on it, dry it off, throw some coconut oil on it, and get it stuffed back into my bra before he woke up screaming and I had to transfer him to the other breast.

None of that is normal. None of that is colic. And if any of you are suffering through this sort of situation please get yourself immediately to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Immediately. Go now. This will still be here for you to read later.

So there we were, not sleeping, barely eating, spending a combined 46 hours a day (we’d each take one hour off each day to go sleep…sometimes shower, but usually sleep) trying to keep this miracle alive and quiet and bingewatching Netflix because doing literally anything else would have driven us insane, when this goddess offered to bring us food.

I barely knew this woman but knew she had a fabulous smile, kind eyes, and amazing kids. And here she was offering to bring us food. Home cooked food. By her. It was incredible. The offer was incredible. The food was out of this world. It is still to this day the very best chicken tortilla soup I have ever had. And she made it for us. Then she delivered it. She even offered to leave it at the door so as not to disturb us. But at this point I didn’t care who came in as long as they took care of my baby daddy and I so we could take care of this creature that clearly hated us for bringing him to life.

She arrived with the food and her kids and they were a literal breath of fresh air. They probably only stayed for twenty minutes but it felt like an hour of heaven. I don’t think the baby cried once the whole time they were here. It was the very best gift ever plus fabulous food!

That woman contributed to a blog recently and I just found out about it. The story is lovely and a perfect example of who this family is and if you read the blog you’ll understand why I turned to my baby daddy that day after they’d left and said, “that’s the mom I want to be and the kids I want to have.”

Check out her blog here. Enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Blair Lonergan, The Seasoned Mom. Want to make the soup from the photo? Check out the recipe on Blair’s blog here. (Bonus: it’s a slow cooker recipe *swoon*)

Trouble

It wasn’t anyone else’s job to tell her the truth. She wasn’t sure anyone else even knew. As far as she knew, everyone thought she was the life of the party. A party girl. A good time girl. Trouble.

Part of that image was her own doing. She’d been told a rumor by a friend that word was she had gotten into some major trouble in the city and her folks had shipped her out to the mountains to get her life in order. Cause what kind of trouble could she possibly get up to in a small mountain town. Ha! As soon as she heard the rumor she decided to have some fun with it. She painted her nails black. She flooded her social media with posts about drinking at the local, sunbathing naked in her backyard, and partying til last call.

She wasn’t lying. She did those things. Happily did those things. But that wasn’t her and never had been. If anything her life before was a bit of a bore, if you don’t include her college years, which she didn’t. College was four years of making up for missing out on the partying she never did in high school. It was four years of being lonely, confused, and going completely fucking wild because there finally wasn’t anyone telling her she couldn’t. But everyone did that…didn’t they? So it didn’t count.

And after college life became boring. Predictable. Mundane.

She got the job. She got the boyfriend. She got the house. She got white picket fence. She got the 2.3 dogs, because seriously who even has children anymore? Who can afford to? And even if you could, who wants to give up their freedom? Their ability to be selfish? Not her.

And that was her life.

Until one day, her parents bought a place in the mountains. A beautiful place they could retire to in a couple of years. Ten acres, no neighbors, a horse property, with four seasons, and honest to goodness snow in the winter. It was a dream. They needed a caretaker. She offered to do it. Immediately. Begged to do it.

So here she was: Trouble.

It was hilarious. Until it wasn’t. It was fun. Until the rumors got out of hand. Suddenly she was sleeping with peoples husbands. Suddenly she was into drugs. The rumors were out of control. And they would be horrifying if they were true.

She did the first thing she could think to do to solve it: she took a boyfriend. The first single guy she’d met who made it clear he wasn’t afraid of her. The first single guy she’d met who was tall and hopefully intimidating enough to put an end to the rumors. And it worked. She didn’t hear another rumor again for nearly a year.

By then she’d broken up with that guy and fallen in with another. By then that second guy had ended too. And since a week had gone by without her hitching her star to someone else’s sky, the rumors began again. Only now her phone was ringing with fearful wives. Damned if she was gonna jump in with any old soul to calm the waters though. No way no how. She’d learned it did nothing but cause her to leap before she looked.

Ignoring the rumors and trying to ignore the phone calls she went back to her life as best she could. Her life. Her real life. The life of animals to care for: chickens, ducks, geese, and goats. Books to read: the myriad tomes that had filled her living space for a year gathering dust. Bingeworthy shows to watch: shows with dragons and zombies. Volunteering to continue: raising money for the local school. A new job to start: her dream job at a book store.

Slowly her life began to slow back to that boring, predictable, mundane only this time around it was pretty near perfect. Pretty near, if it weren’t so lonely. A dog is a great companion during the day, but at night the dog could only participate in a monologue. The dog couldn’t pick a clan or a character to root for. The dog couldn’t interrupt her reading to bring her a cup of tea.

She had hired a man to re-do her bathroom once and she called him again to do some work in her barn. And then some work around the grounds. And then some more work to the house. He was there every morning telling his workers what they were to work on that day and then again every afternoon to check their work and their progress. He’d always give her a run down after the workers had knocked off for the day. And the rundowns slowly took longer and longer to finish each day.

She’d occasionally borrow a tool from him: a drill or a pitchfork. Something she should own, did own, but that broke and hadn’t been replaced yet. She’d borrow his and then return it, if she hadn’t broken it. Like the pitchfork. How do you break a pitchfork? She managed it. He insisted the damn thing had been old and worthless long before she ever got her hands on it and it was no big deal. But she felt terrible. Offered to buy him a beer at the local to make up for it.

Next thing they knew they were hanging out at the local together every night. But there was nothing going on. Not yet. Lots of long looks and intimate conversation masked in loud laughter and gatherings with other friends.

~~~That’s an hour~~~

Silence III

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

Mr. Easton. Of course I knew who Mr. Easton was. We’d all been waiting for him to call back for what felt like forever but was probably less than ten minutes. Still, as soon as he said his name I blanched. I never was a good poker player, can’t hide my emotions at all. It can be hard being a nurse without that ability to just become a wall when your shift starts, but I’m good at my job even so. Still, I sure was glad there was a phone line between us and not a desk.

The doc was walking towards me so I looked at him, raised my eyebrows and said “Mr. Easton,” and rifled some papers, pretending like I had to look for this guys info but really just waiting to see if the doc wanted me to handle the call or not. Boy howdy, I was not looking forward to handling that call. None of us were. We’d all done a rock-paper-scissors when we got the call that the ambulance was coming in. I’d won and had just taken a deep breath to let out a sigh of relief when the doc came in to tell us the ambulance was here and to knock it off, he knew what we were up to. He said he’d handle calling Mr. Easton himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so ashamed as I was that minute.

When he told us a few minutes ago that he’d had to leave a message and to expect Mr. Easton to call in sometime today, why I thought to myself, “Virginia, here’s your chance to make up for that despicable display.” I was eager and almost hopeful to be the one to take the call. Until I heard his voice. Suddenly he was a real person who didn’t know terrible news and I was going to have to tell him. A man I’d never met. Over the phone. It just wasn’t right.

But the doc nodded his head and pointed toward his office; he was going to field the call. Hallelujah and thank you Jesus, cause I would have done it, and I would have done a fine job, but woo wee was I glad I didn’t have to. I put that Mr. Easton on hold so fast I was about as worried as I’d hung up on him on accident. But no, there it was, the blinking red light that told me he was still there waiting. Poor man.

A few minutes ago this place had been hopping, I mean really something to see. Sounds of sneakers scuffing the floors as they ran with gurneys, people speaking all kinds of medical jargon kinda like you see on television but without the chaos, tubes getting run here and there and machines being turned on. All the beeps and clinks and the shuffle of efficiency. I loved my job.

My favorite part was when I had graveyard shift, although we don’t call it that here…bit morbid for a place that’s supposed to be healing people. Still that late night to early morning shift when patients are sleeping, doctors are at home, and it’s just me and maybe a couple other nurses and a janitor. That twenty minutes or so between bed checks and chart updates when I’m wolfing down some sugary thing I got out of the machine down the hall (those chocolate cakes are the perfect jolt I need to get me through that three to four a.m. bit, but unfortunately they haven’t stocked the machine yet this week and the chocolate cakes are out and I’ve had to make due the last two nights with those snowball things. Yuck. Still, the only other choice is pretzels right now and what the heck am I supposed to do with pretzels at three o’clock in the morning?).

Everything is so quiet. Well, compared to the daytime anyway. At three in the morning, as I’m eating my chocolate cakes, it’s just me chewing and sipping on stale breakroom coffee. There’s the beeping of machines coming from every room, just about, but still and all…it’s almost quiet. It’s a silence I’m not used to and the closest to silence I can stand. I mean normally during the day I’m talking a mile a minute and my coworkers are everywhere and the patients are pushing those buttons needing pain meds, needing to pee, needing nothing but a bit of company rolled up in a request for water. But at three…silence.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

A Few Days In

So I’m officially a few days in to my self-imposed challenge of writing for one hour every day. I’m amazed at how the time literally flies by. My only frustration is having to stop periodically to run back and feed my baby who seems to wake every twenty minutes and realize I’m not there. Sigh. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be frustrated by it too.

I’m at the point where I’m willing to share my page publicly and share my posts, but I also feel like my site is drab and not quite what I want it to be. Not much to be done about that, sadly, as it would require more of my already limited time, not just to learn how to do what I want, but then to find the additional resources needed to do it. For example, the stock photo on the front of my site = blech. What I’d like instead is a lovely photo of a library of books or a typewriter or something a bit more inspiring than a mountain I’ve never been to in the sunset taken by someone that isn’t me of a place I’ve never been. All of that fixing, however, is a major time suck and not relevant to my challenge.

I think I will wait a couple more days before I give my friends, family, and I guess technically the entire world, access to my writing. I think I’m still a little too nervous. More nervous than excited.

While this post hasn’t been an hour, I did spend time in my private journal to make up that time. Thanks for reading!

The List

Meme Courtesy of Enlightened Consciousness

It was the loneliness that did it. She could have handled just about anything, but being alone in a relationship broke her. For a woman used to needing loads of alone time it was a bit of a shock. She knew she’d never be a good military wife, but she never thought of herself as needy or one of those women who had a new relationship started before the old one ended just to ensure she’d never be alone. But here she was in a relationship with a man she loved but rarely saw and it was breaking her.

It’s not like she didn’t know what she was getting into. He’d been a workaholic from day one. In fact, she respected his work ethic, was proud of it. But after ten years, three careers, and absolutely no change in his sixty to eighty hour work weeks she was coming undone. How many plans had been cancelled? How many dinners ruined? How many nights spent drinking just a little bit more to numb the loneliness?

She woke one morning, mouth dry, head throbbing, bed empty and realized this was her life. Realized it wasn’t going to change. Realized her drinking was getting excessive. She needed a plan.

She got dressed and brushed her teeth. At least she’d look presentable if he came home. She began making coffee, breakfast, enough for two, just in case. She sent a text, hopeful but not expectant: “Breakfast?” it said.

A couple minutes later as she was plating the food her phone buzzed. The reply was typical, brief: “Can’t.”

She ate her meal in silence and formulated a to-do list. It included all her normal Saturday chores: laundry, cleaning, bathing the dog, grocery shopping. And then, surprising herself, she wrote “make a plan to leave.”

That hadn’t been what she’d meant rolling out of bed feeling like hell. She’d been thinking more along the lines of finding a new hobby. Maybe quilting? Or was it knitting that was all the rage now? Well, whatever, that’s where she’d been leaning until she saw it in print. But she knew it was right.

If you love someone, let them go. She knew she loved him and knew he’d never change. She also still had some love left over for herself and apparently it was time to let herself go.

It was odd that day. Doing the chores as though it were just another ordinary Saturday. But it wasn’t. At all. Next to her grocery list she also maintained a list of the things she’d need in order to leave: make a budget, look into buying a home, where to live in the meantime, leave dog?

That one gutted her. She saw the dog more than any other creature. Took care of it, fed it, bathed it. But a dog would make it harder to find a place to live. And a dog would increase expenses. And taking the dog would mean he’d come home to an empty house. She loved him still and couldn’t do that to him. Not when she knew how much it hurt. Plus, maybe her leaving would be a turning point for him and having the dog as an excuse he’d start being home more.

Every Saturday after breakfast she’d start a load of laundry and begin cleaning the house. Today was no different. The first load of laundry went in and by the time it was done, she was done cleaning and could move the first load of laundry to the dryer. Then she’d start the second load of laundry before going to bathe the dog. By the time she was done washing the dog, cleaning herself after washing the dog, and cleaning the bathroom, the first load of laundry would be ready to fold and put away, the second load of laundry would be ready for the dryer, and the third load of laundry consisting of dog towels and blankets and cleaning rags would be ready to start.

After folding the first load of laundry and putting it away, she stopped, debating: if she went to the grocery store she’d be spending money she’d need on food she wouldn’t be around to eat, or would she? Was she really going to leave?

She finally decided that whether she left or not she’d at least need to eat lunch and seeing as how it would be cruel to leave the kitchen devoid of food, if you don’t count the things they almost always had like lasagne noodles and panko crumbs, she decided to head to the grocery store for something for herself as well as boxes, cans, and freezer food for him.

She headed to the grocery store like it was an ordinary Saturday. As she shopped the aisles, pushed the cart, and crossed things off her list she found herself picking up the ground beef she’d normally purchase and putting it back. Old habits. He wouldn’t know what to do with a package of ground beef. She spent more time than usual in the frozen food aisle selecting one of each flavor of TV dinner available.

Despite having come to the same grocery store every Saturday around 1pm for ten years, she always had a different checker and bagger. For the first time it made her happy. The anonymity. No one to ask about the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. No one to ask about the mountain of TV dinners. Just the regular small talk about the weather.

By the time she’d returned to what she was already calling “his house” the second load of laundry was dry. She switched the loads around, did a quick rinse to clean the washer drum of dog hair, and then proceeded to put the groceries away. It was remarkably easy and quick. Painless really.

She folded and put away the dry laundry. All of her clothes were now clean, dry, and hung or folded. How easy that made it. She knew she’d never have room in her car for all of her things, so she decided the first trip would be all of her clothes, toiletries, jewelry, and whatever else she could smash in.

It was here that she realized she didn’t have a place to go. Going back to the kitchen she threw a TV dinner in the microwave and pulled out her phone. There had to be several options what with the military base nearby. Apartments must come available all the time. She did a quick search for “apartments near me” as the microwave beeped. Peeling the plastic off and scorching her knuckle in the process she sucked the marinara off her fingers and realized she’d heated the spaghetti dinner. Damn. The least appetizing of the bunch.

Selecting the first result off the list on her phone she saw that even if they had any vacancies she wasn’t interested. Puke green and two to three bedrooms. No, thank you. She briefly considered the idea of a roommate as she hit the back button on the phones browser. Then selected the second list result and thought “no. No roommates. I’m lonely for my man, sure, but that doesn’t mean I want to give up my freedom or space.”

The second and third results on the list would have been fine but both websites noted the existence of a waiting list. She was beginning to consider that this plan may not be going into effect anytime soon and she’d have some explaining to do about the groceries when the fourth result loaded. It would do. Not ideal, by any means, but no major red flags.

“Call for vacancies,” she read aloud as she pressed the link.

The phone rang twice before a recorded voice told her some unremarkable information and then informed her she could speak with someone in the sales office by pressing two. Doing so connected her with some more prerecorded and unremarkable information followed by something someone somewhere considered music. By the time her dessert was gone, much better than expected and loads better than the entree, a polite man had answered the phone.

He’d clearly been in customer service for several years as he had the studied diplomacy that only ages of handling assholes gives you. In no time flat he had confirmed the vacancy of a studio apartment, “no one bedrooms available currently, I’m afraid,” taken her details and informed her he’d be in touch shortly as the credit check would take roughly an hour to complete and would she “like to come take a tour in that time?”

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Silence II

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

If you’d told him at twenty that he’d be starting over at forty-five and be remarried with two not-yet-teenage boys at fifty-five he’d have called you a liar while slapping you heartily on the back and offering to buy your next round. He was still known to buy the occasional round, though no one ever saw him drink anymore. It would usually be a birthday. He’d turn up early the night of a buddy’s birthday, walk in like he owned the place, throw down a wad of crisp twenties, bang the gong, and holler “first round’s on me; Happy Birthday!” before clapping the birthday boy on the back and laughing that laugh.

He had the best laugh. Women of course loved it. But even the guys had to admit they lived for the sound of it. The laugh made everyone else laugh and brought out a light in even the darkest corner of that shitty small town bar. It was the laugh he’d be known for. The laugh they’d all talk about at his funeral (the one they had even though he’d expressly forbidden it in his will). But that wouldn’t be for another thirty-two years. At fifty-five he was still in his prime and very much the incredulous and grateful father of two as yet pre-teen boys and the husband of one soon-to-be-dead wife. And he was happy.

Sure, he sometimes found himself thinking what life would be like if he’d never had more kids. He’d still be drinking at the local every Friday night before slipping away when the evening crowd arrived, tab paid in full with a tip and his drink nearly empty. He probably wouldn’t have married that gal if he’d never knocked her up. He’d like to think they’d still be together though, even without the ring or the kids. Hell, he loved her before the kids but isn’t sure she would have stuck through some of his nastier traits without the little ones to consider. Still. He liked to think they’d still be together.

But that quiet life really wasn’t for him. He couldn’t think of anything he liked more than the sound of her whistling some tune he could never place as she pulled out dishes and directed the boys to set the table. All the sounds of life happening all around him. This was what he’d always wanted and he did his best to make sure they all knew it every day.

He’d just finished reading through his emails for the day, deleting most of them with no reply, and had wandered into the kitchen to scrounge up a snack which his phone rang. He could hear the damn thing clear across the house and he cursed as he realized he’d once again left the mobile phone immobile by his desk.

“It’s a good thing she’s gone or she’d be laughing at me,” he thought as he tried to make his lumbering into more of a jog so he could catch the phone before it went to voicemail. Realizing he’d never get there in time he considered just grabbing the snack he’d come in for first but continued toward the phone anyway.

Just as he took the turn through the doorway towards the desk his toe caught the door trim and the immediate blinding pain made him rock back.

“God damn it!” tore out of his mouth as he reeled about trying to plant his ass in the rolling chair so he grab his foot, as though through sheer power of massive hand squeezing he could stop the pain.

Sure enough the phone had stopped ringing and he heard the familiar tone indicating whoever had called had left a voicemail. After ensuring there was no blood and his toenail probably wouldn’t fall off, he picked up the phone and proceeded through the motions of discovering who had called and why. The area code was local but he didn’t recognize the number. He hit the button that would play the voicemail and listened to the strange emptiness all messages seemed to have before they got started.

“This is Clark County Hospital. Please contact us immediately at four-five-oh-six-two-two-one-three-two-five and ask for doctor Voss’ unit. Thank you.”

His first thought was that this was a mistake. His family had only just left, they were fine. None of his friends would use him as an emergency contact as they all had spouses or immediate family in town. The only other option would be his brother, who had lived in town his whole life too. But his brother was away on a fishing trip, some big river thing in Montana, and the voicemail had come from the local hospital.

Pressing the link that would return the hospital call he heard it ring once before a voice answered, “Clark County Hospital, is this an emergency?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so.”

“Please hold,” a voice said crisply. Before he could argue he heard a loud boop and then silence.

He waited patiently for about thirty seconds, then pulled his phone away to see how long he’d been on the call. He made a deal with himself that if the phone didn’t get picked back up in the next thirty seconds he’d hang up and call again. Just as he was about to make good on his deal, the loud boop came again followed by, “thank you for waiting. How can I direct your call?”

“I’m returning a call for Dr. Voss’ unit?” he said. He’d meant it to be a statement, but it came out like a question.

“One moment.”

The loud boop. Silence. Again. Funny thing this kind of silence though. It’s not the complete lack of sound. Is there ever a complete lack of sound? This silence was more of a technological silence. There was the strange whisper of being connected to someone somewhere.

“Dr. Voss’ unit, Nurse Ditmire speaking. How can I help you?”

“I’m just returning a voicemail from this number?” again, it came out like a question. He was irritated with himself and realized he sounded like his wife when she was confused.

“Yes, sir. Your name please?”

“This is Paul. Paul Easton.”

“Easton,” he heard her say under her breath as he heard what sounded like papers being moved around. “Ah, yes, Easton. Sir, I’m going to need you to hold for Dr. Voss please.”

And there it was again. Boop. Silence.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Bull Shift

“What, uh, what did you do here?” He tries to sound calm, nonchalant even.

“Do you like it?” I’ve been seeing them everywhere and though of you.” She’s ninety percent sure he’ll love it, but there’s a nagging anxiety inside her at all times, unless of course she’s working on one of her projects.

“Permanent?” he asks, trying not to sound hopeful, merely curious.

“Oh, well, yeah, I mean…we could add things to it around the holidays to change it up a bit but…”her voice trails off as she searches his face for a clue.

He grunts and flops onto the sofa with the remote, trying to ignore the now desecrated bull skull hanging on the wall. Pressing the buttons more firmly than usual, he searches for something he can ignore while he thinks of how to proceed.

Three months ago when she’d first moved in he’d been sure she was “the one.” She was completely his type: tall, thin without being boney, fantastic red hair that tumbled all about, and a laugh that made entire rooms go quiet for a moment in appreciation. He gave her a key to his place on their third date and had planned to propose after three months. Odd numbers were his good luck, or at least they always had been. But now, here they were three months in and he’d never been so unsure of anything in his life.

It wasn’t like she’d changed the last three months. He hadn’t learned of any major skeleton in her closet. She didn’t stop shaving or doing her makeup or gain a ton of weight. If anything, he’d finally realized why some men claimed to love their spouses best first thing in the morning: hair tousled, eyes gritty with sleep, breath molten. He found he loved her most first thing in the morning, too, especially when she was still sleeping or had just woken up and had spoken yet.

No. It was something else. Something unexpected and impossible to change. He tried. Of course he tried! This was the love of his life, potentially. He’d offered to buy her things on Etsy or at those damn craft fairs she was always dragging him to. He intimated that she couldn’t possibly have time in her crowded schedule and surely she could allow him to just buy it for her. But she always declined. She always insisted she needed the outlet, she loved the results, it was better and more intimate if she made the things herself.

And so, slowly, weekend by weekend, project by project, she’d begun to make things for “them.” She wasn’t the worst ever at it. He was sure a child would produce something worse than she did. Perhaps. And he tried to love her creations because he loved her and she loved her crafts. But it was no use. He couldn’t look at the “farmhouse sign” she’d painted without being embarrassed. He couldn’t cuddle on the couch under the blanket she’d quilted without slitting his eyes. And he absolutely could not, would not, sit under his horn-wrapped-bull-skull, the first bull he ever roped and the only skill he’d ever mastered that his father appreciated, now emasculated by air plants and raffia and whatever the hell else she’d done to it and pretend that all was well.

He’d asked her once at two months in how come she didn’t have all kinds of homemade stuff with her when she moved in.

“Oh, I only make things for the people I love. My love inspires me,” she’d said.

He’d remained silent at that and told himself he’d learn to live with it. Afterall, everyone has baggage, right? Some other woman would be far less perfect and come with way more to ignore. So what if this one needed to spend two days a week creating something truly awful in order to express her love.

And so a cross-stitch throw pillow that always made the bed look like it was tilting to the left, a log reindeer that thankfully got packed away for a future holiday, and an owl topiary in serious need of a veterinarian or a gardener or something, joined the sign, blanket, and now the skull.

He stabbed the television off, set the remote carefully on the coffee table, and met her now moist gaze.

“I’m sorry!” she blurts. “I thought you’d love it. I really overstepped. I should have asked…”

He holds up his hands to shush her.

“I didn’t know I could love anyone as much as I love you now. After only three months you’ve managed to create a place in my life and in my heart I didn’t ever think were there. You’ve managed to show me week after week just how much you love me and I’m grateful.” He takes a deep breath before continuing, “this here with my skull, well, I guess you can’t know just how much this bull means to me cause I’ve never bothered to tell you. And I guess if I want things that are mine and only mine that won’t get me too far, fact is, it hasn’t gotten me very far at all. What I’m trying to say is…” and here he paused.

Once he said what he was thinking of saying he wouldn’t be able to take it back and he needed to be sure. Looking at her lovely confused face he continued, “will you keep making us things you love forever?”

He pulled out the ring he’s been carrying for three months from his jean pocket, got down on one knee, and stared into her weeping eyes.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Silence I

This is the first part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

Sometimes she’d look back on her life and miss the days when she could lay in bed reading, breaking the sound of silence and the occasional turned page by getting up to pee or grab a cup of tea or a bottle of beer. Sometimes she’d look back on her life and see days, months, years: wasted.

What if she’d started this whole “mommy” thing earlier? Would she be a better parent with all the vitality of youth or was she a better parent now with the patience of age? Would she have married “someone” to co-parent with or would she have been a single mom? Would she have had two boys or just one child? A girl maybe?

There wasn’t any point to these daydreams, these questions. They didn’t change anything. She didn’t regret her wasted youth and she certainly didn’t regret her current status of wife and mother of two. If anything, these things were still a happy surprise. But still the questions occasionally came.

“Jesus,” she thought to herself, “I can’t even think like an interesting person.”

She put the last dish on the drain board and rinsed her hands. Turning the water off, wiping her hands and throwing the towel under the sink among the pile of soiled rags kept in the bucket until laundry day. At least the kitchen would be tidy for a red hot minute before her husband came in looking for a snack. Although she hoped to have the kids in the car before then.

“I’m leaving in five minutes!” she hollered into the house, “anyone wanting a ride into town better be getting shoes on and seat belts buckled!”

She couldn’t help but smile as she heard the crashing and sliding of her boys as they juggled to get out of their rooms and down the stairs. She’d never actually left without them before but they knew from other events that it was better to assume she’d follow through than risk that she was bluffing.

She heard them calling “bye, Dad!” as they raced down the hall and their father call back “bye, boys! Be good!” as she slipped into the hall behind them and down to his office door. He sat in front of his computer, hands steepled over the keyboard, reading the monitor from was she was sure was an unsafe closeness.

“Hey,” she said softly, hoping not to startle him.

“Hey,” he said, his body slowly swiveling his chair in her direction as his eyes remained glued to the monitor until the last possible second.

“Love you, bye,” she said all in a breath, giving him a kiss on the lips. She started to pull back then changed her mind and said “more,” before kissing him again.

She couldn’t believe her good luck. Still in love with a man after ten years and two kids. And not only that, they still saw each other, appreciated one another, and consequently still had sex more than twice a week, unlike the other married couples they knew.

“Have a good day,” he said, meeting her eyes before smiling and turning back to the computer.

She hop-skipped down the hallway stopping briefly in the kitchen to grab her keys off the hook under the calendar and her water bottle off the counter. Whistling something that might have been Bach was probably Beethoven she put her shoes on in the garage, jumped into the car and called out “belts on?” as she started the car.

Hearing grunts that she translated aloud to “ye, mother, of course,” she backed out of the garage and also snuck a peek at each boy to be sure they did, in fact, have their belts on and that they looked presentable and had shoes on their feet.

Satisfied with her boys, her husband, and her life, she put the car in drive and began moving down the road.

“This is forty-five,” she thought, smiling.

And then everything was loud. So loud. How could things be so loud? Metal on metal, glass shattering, screaming. Was that her screaming? Or the boys? Would she even be able to hear them over the metal if they were screaming? The thought, “they’d better not have a scratch on them,” flit through her mind and then silence.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

This became a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read the rest in order.

Start Here

Sunday Dutro at 40 years old

Who I Am

Sunday Dutro
she / her / hers

I’m a forty-something-year-old stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) that’s always had a passion for reading and writing. I currently live in Montana with my beautiful family: husband, two kids, two dogs, five barn cats, and a handful of laying hens.

Why A Blog?

  • I need a space to write that’s not just my private journal
  • I want to connect with other people and hear their thoughts about my writing
  • A footprint – this blog will show my daily writing: the good, the bad, the ugly. The pre-polished turds, if you will, or accountability for daily writing without edits
  • If my kids ever feel they don’t know who I am/was, this’ll be somewhere they can turn to

So now you know a little about me and a little about what I’m attempting to do here. All of my posts will be my half or one hour daily writings (even if they’re terrible, #writehtirtyminutes or #writeonehour). My hope is that one or two of these writings may later become something publishable (after some serious time and labor). I took a massive break due to the COVID Pandemic and all that it brought into my life, but now I’m back! I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I write (preferably encouraging things…I’m not trying to tell you what to do, just hoping). Enjoy!

Oh, and if you don’t know where to go from here and you aren’t used to the traditional style of a blog being in reverse chronological order, you may prefer to pick the posts you read from my Blog Index which is updated with each new blog posted and it’s category or check out the other stuff I do by going to the Publications Page.