Monthly Archives: October 2013

NASA and me

NASA has built me a mattress!


It was part of my creative assignment for last week: write what your mattress would say about you. In case you missed it, here is what it said:


1. Page 76. If your bed could talk, how would it describe you? 

“Frank, I am telling you what, this woman is a mess. She can’t be still. She can’t sleep with the TV off and so the blue/green screen is flashing dark and light all night. I can’t get any rest. First she is cold and she wads up the covers around her legs and shivers. In no time, she is too hot and she starts shucking off her socks with her toes and kicking them out from under the covers. Before I know it she’s slung half the covers to one side and she is changing the channels on the TV. I hear her groan and then sigh and she gets up and is off to the bathroom since by this time she is awake from all that flailing around. I hear her mumble, might as well go pee since I’m already awake. I tell you, Frank, I don’t know how much longer I can take it.”

Well, Frank, I have a few things to say about that! In the first place this mattress is one of those with springs that are separately wrapped supposedly so that each part of your body can be supported individually. In fact, what happens is that none of your body is supported well and you sag in the middle and fold up so your shoulders are bent toward your hips. Nobody can get a good night’s rest that way. And second, that bed doesn’t breathe. I know you think beds don’t breathe and my daughter thinks fingernails don’t breathe, but my fingernails do and they can’t do it with polish on them choking them to death anymore than my body can sleep in a bed that doesn’t breathe. It starts out cold and it ends up hot and ask any woman my age and they will tell you, Frank, you can’t sleep if the bed’s too hot.

It is no wonder I am tossing and turning, taking off my socks in the middle of the night and getting up and down. But I have found a solution. Actually NASA was working on it all the time and I didn’t even know it. Thank goodness for a government agency that is thinking about the health and safety of its citizens! Yes, NASA has invented me a bed! Here is what they did, and I am not making this up. They took some memory foam and sandwiched an egg crate in the middle like you’re making a peanut butter and banana sandwich with whole wheat bread. The banana slices have gaps between them which lets the hot air out and the wheat bread has holes which lets the cool air in and bingo, you get a good night’s sleep every time. They even sent it out in space and had the astronauts try it out for us to see if it was good enough to sell to the general public. It was and I am about to get me one. How dare that old saggy mattress sully my name with accusations that really are all his fault.

Frank, if you are thinking to yourself where can I get one of these sweet mattresses, here is the website:  Oh, and there is a bonus. This mattress is green. Not the color green but the ecological green where it doesn’t poison you with fumes nearly so much as the old fashioned foam rubber ones did.  Now, Frank, aren’t you proud you’re American?!


Ten writing prompts from Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg and my responses



Assignment: Choose prompts from pages 54 to 81. Do 10.


1. Page 76. If your bed could talk, how would it describe you?


Frank, I am telling you what, this woman is a mess. She can’t be still. She can’t sleep with the TV off and so the blue/green screen is flashing dark and light all night. I can’t get any rest. First she is cold and she wads up the covers around her legs and shivers. In no time, she is too hot and she starts shucking off her socks with her toes and kicking them out from under the covers. Before I know it she’s slung half the covers to one side and she is changing the channels on the TV. I hear her groan and then sigh and she gets up and is off to the bathroom since by this time she is awake from all that flailing around. I hear her mumble, might as well go pee since I’m already awake. I tell you, Frank, I don’t know how much longer I can take it.


2.  Page 78 Use these three words in a short paragraph: magazine, pantry, telephone.


I was on the telephone with my friend Madge the other day when I heard a noise in the pantry. “Madge,” I said, “wait a minute, something is rattling in my pantry.”  I put down the phone and opened the pantry and there on the third shelf was a baby snake. It wasn’t a mean looking snake, no diamond head or anything, but I screamed anyway.

I could hear Madge shouting through the phone, “What’s wrong, What’s wrong. I’m hanging up and calling 911.”

 “ NO!” I shouted, but she was already gone. I grabbed the first thing I came to, my Better Homes and Gardens magazine for November that I had just gotten in the mail and dropped it down on the snake. That wasn’t the smartest thing to do because baby snakes aren’t interested in magazines and they don’t stay long when accosted by one. It instantly disappeared into the Cheerios that were left open by accident and I thought I had him. I quickly folded the top flaps and tucked the tab into its slot as the front door burst open and policemen with drawn guns ran into my kitchen. I screamed a second time and dropped the Cheerios, popping open the top flaps, and out raced the baby snake. This time the two cops screamed with me and one of them started shooting which scared the baby snake, who slithered down the heat vent.


Madge arrived about that time yelling, “Esther, Esther are you okay?” 


“Yes, Yes, I’m okay but my linoleum just died and there’s a baby snake down the heat vent.” I went to the pantry, picked up the BH and G and moved in with Madge, til next Thursday when the pest control gal and the linoleum man are coming to make my house livable again.


3. Page 79. Fill in these blanks:

            a. the unsettling end of the journey

            b. tiny as the Who that Horten Heard

            c.  newborn’s hands, shaped like mine

            d. Lemonade icicles

            e. proud mama

            f. the visceral pull of the unknown

            g. the carnival smell of funnel cakes

            h. demure Abigail, dressed in gray

            i. that musty smell of summer




4. Page 80. List 5 different colors that describe the sky

            a. Murky gray-green

            b. Clear blue

            c.  Solid Black

            d. Sunset red

            e. Smooth gray number 3 right before the snow begins to fall


            Now list 5 moods that do the same

  1. Miserable
  2. Carefree
  3. Angry
  4. Dreamy
  5. Hopeful


5. Page 80. Use these three words in a paragraph: gum, beard, truck.


I was out of gas and standing by my 1972 Vega hoping for a ride to the nearest gas station when a big rig pulling a load of Chevy Silverado pickup trucks started lumbering up the mountain road. Relieved, I thought, as he passed on by, but then I heard his brakes start to grind and he came to a stop with the cab about 10 feet ahead of me. I hesitated, but I couldn’t just let him sit there, so I ran to the front and climbed up to the passenger window. What I saw was an aging Tom Selleck with a scruffy beard, one side tooth missing and a wad of gum threatening to slide through that tooth shoot as he offered, “Need a ride, Lady?”


6. Page 80. He slumped down in his chair, and everything about the way he looked could be summed up in one word: DEAD!


7. Page. 80 Provide one line of dialogue as a response to these questions:

            a. How did you know it was love? One look in those big brown puppy eyes and it was all over.

            b. What does swimming feel like? Some people are dolphins, I am a rock fighting to keep myself up.

            c. What could you never forgive? Just don’t hurt my babies, and we’ll be all right.

            d. Why do people need to believe in God? We have to have someone to thank.


8. Page 59. Write—quickly!—a five-sentence paragraph backward. In other words, start with the last sentence, and end with the first.


I should have known better. The gas tank was empty. It was 2:10 a. m. on the clock when the car stopped dead in the road. Rain hit sideways on my driver’s side window as I sped toward the traffic light. I was desperate for a Starbucks Venti Mocha Light Latte.


9. Page 58. Envision a town and its inhabitants, your own Lake Wobegon. Now describe the eccentric mailman there.


Most of the time it didn’t take long for Harry to get his job done. He’d been doing it for 37 years, ever since his dad died and he inherited the job. He would have passed it on to his kids, but Harry wasn’t married. Never had been. Thought about it once, when Lucy Sanders lived in the corner house at 921 Lumpkin Street. Lucy was a red-head, tall and thin, with a little lisp, but Harry liked her. He never got up the nerve to say anything though and eventually Lucy went off to Vandie up in Nashville and never came back. Married a doctor, her mama said. Harry was happy for her but that was the end of his thoughts about marriage and now he was left walking his mail route through the small mountain town. Most days he was satisfied with that. But when the weather acted up and his lumbago with it, Harry walked a little slower and thought a little harder about adopting somebody strong to pass on his only inheritance.


10. Page 63, A young couple is moving into a house where an old widower is moving out. What does he tell them?


Be sure and check the water spigot before frost. It’ll leak on you and once it’s froze there ain’t nothing you can do about it til spring.  Must be something cracked somewhere but I never was able to find it. Just cut it off til warm weather and you’ll do all right. Don’t need it anyway til then. And be sure to hold down the upstairs commode handle til it’s done flushing. That thing’s give me trouble ever since Sam was a baby. Sam’s down in Memphis now, you know, playing blues in a Jazz Bar. His room was the one on the end of the hall next to the bathroom. Oh, and another thing, that latch on the back screen door is loose. Won’t take nothing but a Phillips head screw driver and a couple of good turns to fix it. I could get my tools out of the back of the truck if you want…oh, sure, of course you can. You’re young and strong. I remember when Bessie and me moved in here, why you should have seen this place then! 

Creative writing assignment: Make up you own writing prompts

Creative writing homework: Create ten prompts of your own.


Write as a journalist. Record the interviews that answer these questions:


  1. To Mother Theresa: If you didn’t have a habit, what designer would you choose to create your clothes and why?
  2. To Amelia Earhart: Where are you?
  3. To a pumpkin boat racer: Really? Pages/PEvents – Regatta.html
  4. To Vincent van Gogh: How’s your hearing?
  5. To Lady Gaga: What do you wear around the house?
  6. To President Lincoln: In retrospect, do you wish you had stayed home and watched the final episode of Survivor?
  7. To Elvis: What is the recipe for your peanut butter and banana sandwich?
  8. To the Wright Brothers: Could you please settle this dispute—which state gets to claim first in flight?
  9. To God: Exactly what were you thinking when you created yellow jackets (the insect, not the Ga Tech mascot)?

10. To your own DNA gene pool committee: Did you choose this combination of genes to protect me from dying so soon or to cleanse the world-wide gene pool?


Creative Writing assignment –Class Clowns

Black Square by Kasimir Malevich


Creative Writing Assignment: Page 73. Go to an art museum and find a painting that is particularly evocative. Seated before it, write the story it suggests.


I know nothing about this artist. I am embarrassed. My students, surrounding me with expectant eyes, await my words of wisdom, my wealth of knowledge. I sigh. I’ll have to BS, I think. My synapses start frantically sparking, searching desperately for an explanation for this black square painted by someone with a foreign sounding name in 1916. That is all I know for sure. The chances of most of my students checking my facts are pretty much nil. I could tell them anything and even if they half listened, it wouldn’t matter to them at all. For these students, this field trip to the museum was just an excuse to get out of algebra for the day and to eat at the Varsity on the way back to school.

“I could do that, Ms. Allen. Anybody could do that.” Everybody laughed because Judd was the class clown in the first place, and they were all thinking it but hesitant to ask what the hell this museum was thinking when they paid apparently a great deal of money for a solid black canvas with a white frame edged in gold.

 When I don’t know the answers and my synapses fail me, I ask a question. “If you did do that Judd, what grade to you think you’d get in my class?”

 “You mean if I got it in on time?” 

 More giggles from the peanut gallery because we all knew Judd had never gotten anything in on time the entire year, and this was April.

 “Yes, of course. What grade do you think you’d earn?”

 “D minus! That painting is worthless. “

 I turned to the class, “Do you agree with Judd? What do you think would cause someone to paint a solid black square with no other shapes, no light, no texture, no horizon, no color, no value changes?”

 “No Hope!” came the answer from the back of the cluster of students. I stared at the boy standing silent and alone until now.

 The students turned en masse. Jonathan had never spoken the entire year except to his parapro. He had never looked straight at me, let alone anyone in the class. As far as I could tell they had never looked at him either when they thought he saw them. Shocked and amazed at his insight and his urgency to share it, no one knew what to say.

 But Judd–and this is why I love class clowns–Judd came to his vocal senses sooner that any of the rest of us. He stepped back beside Jonathan and gave him a fist-bump.  “Genius, you’re a genius, Jon!” And this time Judd wasn’t clowning around. The class clapped–actually clapped–as though they’d witnessed a great performance.  Maybe they had.

 And then they all started at once.

“I get it!”

“That’s me after my chemistry test.”

“And me before the SAT.”

 There was a change in the air after Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square. I didn’t have all the answers, but we all had lots of ideas. From that point on, the museum was not just a legal way of skipping school any more.

 And for Jonathan it was a beam of light peaking through a big black square.

Creative Writing Assignment for week 4: write your answer to 10 prompts from pages 55-84 of Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open.



Prompt: page 61 Write the first line for a love story.

I should have known better.


Prompt: page 61 Write the last line for a tragedy.

I should have known better.

Shopping for a Hooter’s Uniform

Shopping for a Hooter’s Uniform



On Monday I had occasion to be in the Commerce, Georgia, area right around shopping time at the Tanger Outlets so I stopped there to see if there were any long cold-weather dresses in my size. Everyone who knows me is probably wondering at this statement since for about the last thirty or forty years all I have worn is shirts, and khakis or jeans (on Spirit Day Fridays). If it didn’t go with New Balance tennis shoes, I wasn’t wearing it. But this past April 24 (my husband’s birthday) I had an emergency appendectomy and the experience changed my whole attitude about clothing.

 Now I want dresses that don’t squeeze anything below the shoulders. No tight waistbands, nothing that feels like a tourniquet constricting blood flow and breathing while causing immense pain. Summer dresses were easy to find. Long flowy dresses, sleeveless, yes, but I could put a light sweater over them and cover up my droopy arms. So I was good until it started getting cold.

I’ve shopped the Cumming area, the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville, and North Point Mall. No luck. All the dresses for winter are short and sleeveless. Who thought that combination up? It’s going to be winter, for goodness sakes. Anyway, there I was at an unexplored shopping mecca. Perhaps I’d have better luck.

I went to nearly every shop: Eddie Bauer, Chicos, Coldwater Creek, Ann Taylor, Wrangler/Lee…you get it… with no better luck than in my own neck of the woods. Finally, I ended up at Dress Barn where there were some dress possibilities so I tried them on. Dresses 1-3 were too short and wouldn’t cover up my compression stockings (the appendectomy left me with a couple of blood clots so I have to wear these lovely old lady stockings for a while). Dress 4 was too tight and it had stripes that go around, not down—no short girl needs that. Dress 5 was long enough but cut too low.

 I gave up on dresses and figured I’d have to resort to sewing if I my clothes were to fit my criteria. However, as I was hanging up the rejects, I did discover some sweaters that work for me. First of all they were long sleeve cardigans. They weren’t those little short things that make you look like a snow woman and they didn’t have any jack-o-lanterns, reindeer with blinking noses, or other holiday paraphernalia (my daughter’s rule—she tries to keep me from making a complete fool of myself in the fashion department).  They didn’t have pockets, which would have been a definite plus, but price trumps pockets and they were buy one get one half off. I picked them up and headed to the check out counter.

 There I found a friendly young black lady with a wonderful smile. She gave me a card for future discounts and signed me up for their e-mail sales. She asked me my e-mail address and this is when I got into trouble. I stopped to think. Not that I didn’t know my e-mail address, I did, but I have two of them. One is for friends and family. The other is for businesses that insist on having every address you’ve had since you went to grammar school. So my short hesitation seemed like I was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and I rushed to explain that I really knew my address. I told her it was like when I go to the doctor and have to remember to tell them my first name (Ethel) which I don’t use regularly (for obvious reasons) instead of my middle (Marie). We had a good laugh about how many times I have been embarrassed by that first name, but how now it is kind of funny and I get a lot of laughs out of it.

 As she was finishing up the sale and I was about to leave, I said that my name was so funny these days I was thinking about going on the road with it, I could do a whole comedy routine based on my name alone at bars and comedy clubs across the country. We laughed again as I was headed toward the door.

 “Yeah,” she yelled, “Hooters!”

“No,” I shouted back, “I’d have to wear the costumes.”

“You could pull it off!”  she replied as I pushed the exit door open.

I don’t quite know what she meant by that! 


I’m Rich

I’m Rich!


I wanted to wear my bathrobe made of fake sheep fuzz to walk this morning out in my driveway. I was cold, it was warm. But I was already wearing my pink South Forsyth Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirt and my pink fleecy sock monkey pajama bottoms which I didn’t intend to change and I felt bad for the people passing who have to see me as they are trying to get their kids to Matt Elementary on time. I should at least wear a daytime jacket instead of a housecoat, I figured. So for the first time this year, I opened the coat closet and pulled out a black jacket that is fleece on the inside and that same fuzzy stuff that my bathrobe is on the outside.

I put it on inside out because the fuzzy stuff is warmer than the fleece, even though the zipper is harder to zip up wrong side out and I got it stuck for a minute before I figured it out. Then I got my iPhone, set my Nike ap to counting and started on my way. It was as I was putting my phone in the warm pocket of my jacket that I discovered I was rich! $17 rich.  Two ones, one $5, and a Ten. Found money. Free money.

That was when I figured, maybe I’d write about it for my homework today. I wasn’t sure, though. Maybe there was something better to write about.  Something funnier. I guess God was getting pretty impatient with me about that time. It was the third lap and I was indecisive about my subject for the day. After all, He had given me a free $17 dollars to write about and I was wavering. I say He because I grew up Southern Baptist and both King James and St. Paul thought God was a He. However, as an adult, I’m not so sure. Is God a He, She, It, or They?  The reason this philosophical, religious question came up in the first place is that Whichever God is, He threw down a shiny silver dime all washed clean from the rain on the driveway right in my path. He said, Dummy, write about money today.

So with $17.10 in my pocket and a commandment clearly from on High, here I go.

What will I do with this free money? What can $17.10 buy? Should I put it in the bank and accrue interest? Not knowing how much interest that would be I looked it up. Don’t you just love Google! You can figure anything out on Google. What I figured out is that you need a doctor’s degree in finance to be able to figure out interest rates on $17.10. It depends, says Wells Fargo, my bank, on where you live. You have to plug in your sip code before they will even tell you anything. That begs the question does someone who lives in the same town as I but has a different zip code get more money per day on their $17.10? I didn’t try another zip so I don’t know, but it certainly does deserve more investigation.

If I understood those tables right, If I have $25 which I don’t I could get .01% on my money if I left it in an APY (anybody know what that is?) for 6 months.

Okay, I guess God is telling me She thinks I ought to spend it.

Wait, maybe They think I should give it to charity. They are after all, God.

All right then. What charity? Well that is easy, you’re wearing it, silly. Didn’t you have enough coffee yet this morning?

So I went to this website: – partners1 and at first I thought, wow, God was telling me both, spend it and give to charity at the same time because there was a link for Breast Cancer Awareness merchandize. Perfect I thought, I’ll get a coffee mug, more coffee, cancer research gets funded—Good job, God, I said prayerfully! But no, I don’t think that was what God was saying after all because I had to buy 172 coffee mugs, that was the minimum order, for $4.75 each. That was way over my budget.

I went back and looked at the organizations I could contribute to and there were so many I just chose the top one, the American Cancer Society. Even they thought I should donate at least $50 but they did give me a space for other after the long list of larger amounts. I plugged in my $17.10 into the other spot, gave them my credit card information and the name of the person I was donating in honor of–my mama, Cleo Duncan, who had breast cancer first and died of pancreatic cancer later.

I feel good about my $17.10. I’m no longer rich, but I feel richer for it. God and Mama, I hope you are all proud of me. I love you, Marie