Category Archives: fiction

Princesses

 

Watching Princess Kate on the “telly” with her impeccable manners, fantastic clothes, and her jet setting life style it’s hard for a girl not to think, wouldn’t it be grand to be a princess? Always perfect, always poised and pretty, but… what if you just aren’t that type of girl? What if you prefer messy spaghetti to neat finger sandwiches; and overalls to long gowns? Can you still be a princess?

I have two wonderful daughters. Two daughters, two girls, two VERY different people.

When my oldest daughter was little she was a princess loving freak! She wore dresses and tutus and loved anything that glimmered and shined. She watched Ariel and Jasmine and Belle over and over; beautiful (and overly priced) dolls littered the hallways and stairs of our home and she dreamed of one day actually living in her own giant, pink, plastic, elevator-equipped Barbie Dream house.

My younger girl…not so much. Most days it’s all I can do to get a brush through her hair, and she barely made it through one year of ballet class. This little girl spends much of her time being a Ninja warrior, and for her birthday this year she wants Legos (not the pink ones), an extra large plastic container of orange cheese puffs, and karate lessons (God help us).

 

 

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It takes all kinds of girls, and thank goodness for that.

So for my two girls, and for the millions of girls in this world, those that are quiet and those that are loud, those that are graceful and those that are not, those that dream of being princesses and those that already are, I wrote this little rhyming picture book.

 

 

 

SOME PRINCESSES

 

Some princesses wear high heels, shiny and new.

Some princesses wear flip-flops, or red running shoes.

 

Some princesses walk slowly, their heads held up high,

Some princesses like to skip, leap and soar to the sky!

 

Some princesses’ attend grand balls and waltz all about.

Some princesses rock the drums and totally jam out!

 

Some princesses play croquet, gently tapping the ball.

Some princesses play baseball, hitting one up, Up, UP…

and over the wall!

 

Some princesses eat sandwiches, with the crusts all cut off.

Some princesses crave tacos, or spaghetti with sauce.

 

Some princesses watch their manners and try not to slurp,

(but all princesses pass gas and ocasionally burp).

 

Some princesses’ dress in long gowns covered in jewels.

Some princesses wear overalls, with pockets for tools.

 

Some princesses have hair that’s always shiny and neat.

Some princesses have hair that just FREAKS out in the heat!

 

Some princesses make a mess, and have maids put it all away on a shelf.

Some princesses have moms that say, “Princess, go clean that mess up, YOURSELF.”

 

Some princesses have brown skin, some freckly, some fair.

Some princesses wear eyeglasses, some use a wheel chair.

 

Some princesses may be quiet, while some are quite bold,

but all girls are princesses, with hearts spun from gold.

 

It’s true.

 

No matter who they are or what they like to do;

ALL girls are princesses, especially,

 

Girls.

Just.

Like.

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Anne Sawan 2014

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March Madness and Three Little Pigs

So we are all into March madness over here, both the basketball kind and the kind brought on by prolonged winter cabin fever.  Lucky for me, Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a March Madness writing contest to help alleviate some of the boredom and restlessness that has settled into my brain. This one requires a 400 word max fractured Fairy Tale. thIt’s all just for fun (and a few great prizes) so give it a try, you just might get hooked!

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html

Inspired by almost-true events:

Go outside Three Little Pigs!! 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

Three little, lazy pigs that just sat around all day and did nothing but play video games.

Until, one sunny day when Mama Pig decided she couldn’t take it anymore.

“That’s it!” She said, pointing to the door. “I have had enough! Go. Out. SIDE!”

“What?” said the First Pig.

“You want us to go out… there?” said the Second Pig.

“But, there’s never anything to do outside.” complained the Third Pig.

Mama Pig threw open the door.

“Have an adventure! Use your imagination! Just go outside, NOW!”

So the three miserable, lazy pigs went outside.

“It’s sooo hot out here,” moaned the First Pig.

“I’m sooo bored,” whined the Second

“I miss my video games,” cried the Third.

A dark shadow crept slowly along the fence.

“Little pig, little pigs, let me in,” whispered a deep, gravely voice.

“The wolf! Mom! Mom!” The three pigs banged on the door.

“Go away,” said Mama Pig from inside the house.

The three pigs stared at one another.

“Quick!” said Pig Number One. “To the straw pile!”

The three pigs ran across the lawn and burrowed their way into the middle of the straw.

“Ha!” laughed the Wolf. “Do you really think that measly house made of hay is going to keep me away? I am going to huff and puff…”

The three pigs dug as fast as they could through the back of the straw pile.

“To the tree house!” yelled the Second Pig.

The three pigs clambered up the ladder to the tree house and slammed the door shut.

Snap!

A branch snapped, and then another, and another.

Snap!
Snap!

Suddenly through the wall came the wolf’s furry head, his red, beady eyes and his pointed teeth.

“Really, a house made of sticks?” He snarled.

The three pigs quickly threw themselves out of the treehouse, landing one by one with a thud on the dirt below.

“Over there! Behind that brick wall!” yelled Pig Number Three.

The three pigs scampered behind the wall but they knew it was no use;

sharp claws soon crept over the rocks…

“Help! We’re doomed!” They cried.

“Pigs! Oh, Pigs, time for din-ner!” Yelled Mama Pig.

“Awww, already?” said Pig Number One.

“That was way more fun that video games!” Said Pig Number Two

“Sure was.” Said Pig Number Three. “See you tomorrow Wolf?

“See you tomorrow Pigs.”

Do You Believe In Magic?

I am in a really bad mood today. Don’t know why, maybe its the never-ending pile of snow outside my front door. Maybe it’s because the door on my car was frozen shut when I went to drive the kids to school.  Maybe it’s because I had zero gas in my car once I finally opened the car door and then had to stand out in the snow and wind and freezing rain to fill my tank. Whatever the reason, I am not in a good mood. So on the advice of my sister I am headed to HomeGoods to buy something with a starfish on it and then I am going to bake a cake. A chocolate cake. In the meantime here is a little story I wrote about a girl who woke up in a bad mood, and the help she gets from her brother to turn it around, because sometimes all it takes is a little, fun, child-like magic…(and sometimes it takes HomeGoods and chocolate cake)

Harry’s Magic

 

Eliza woke up on the wrong side of the bed,

her hair all askew, her eyes seeing red.

She didn’t know why but she felt angry and mad;

her insides felt twisted, and crinkly and bad!

Her head was all groggy, her lungs full of steam;

she wanted to shout, she wanted to scream!

She put on her shoes and downstairs she clomped,

Each step getting louder: stomp,

STomp,

STOmp,

STOMp

STOMP!

 

“Hello!” Called her brother,“ What’s that? Whose out there?

Is a there a dinosaur in the house?  A monster? A bear?”

“No, Harry, it’s me,” Eliza said with a growl.

“I woke up feeling grumpy, my mood is just foul.

I don’t want to laugh or smile or play.

I just feel like yelling, so stay out of my way!

I am furious, irate, annoyed and quite fuming.

I feel like a beast, like something not human!”

 

“A beast!”  Harry said. “Well, I can fix that!

Quick, bring me my wand, my cape and my hat!

I will drive out that fiend! I will shatter that curse!

I will make you a potion before it gets worse.”

 

“Now, let’s see…

First, I will need the dog’s chew bone, then some old bubble gum,

three hairs from a hairbrush and an earring from Mum.

A sock that is smelly, a Band-Aid that’s new,

a crayon that’s green and dad’s left running shoe.

Some Halloween treats, an old boiled egg,

a button from your sweater, a scab from your leg,

some bologna that’s slimy, an elephant with wings,

three rotten apples and a dolly that sings.”

 

Eliza reached under sofas and reached under chairs,

she peered into closets, and ran up and down stairs.

She pulled back the curtains and opened the drawers,

she climbed into the bathtub and searched behind doors.

She gathered it all, the old and the new,

the smelly, the gross, the slimy, the chewed.

 

“Let’s go!” Harry said, throwing open the door.

“Outside! We aren’t done, there is still a lot more!

We must search all around and find all that we need,

like that slippery worm! Quick! Over there, by that weed!

Next a butterfly, then some flowers: both yellow and red,

a grasshopper and a rock from under the shed.

Wild goose feathers, and a jumping bull frog,

a nut and a twig and some moss from that log.”

 

So, Eliza ran and jumped and climbed into the trees,

she crept through the bushes on her hands and her knees.

She gathered it all up and put it into a pail.

“And lastly,“ said Harry, “one teeny-weeny snail.”

 

Eliza searched and searched until at last she found one.

“There!” She said, “Is that it? At last, are we done?”

“Almost,” said her brother, slowly stirring his brew.

“But there is just one more small thing I still need you to do.

You must jump! Dance! Leap! And sing out a song!

And when you are done, that beast will be gone.”

 

Eliza growled and groused, but did as he said,

singing sort-of-a song and barely nodding her head.

She gave one leg a slow shake and the other a jiggle,

she wiggled her backside and then… she started to giggle.

Huh?!

 

Eliza’s eyes grew round, her mouth opened wide.

“Harry,” she whispered.  “I feel different inside.

I am no longer crabby, or mean, or a beast!

I feel silly, elated and not mad in the least!

All gone are my monsters, my meanies, my pout,

I just feel like singing and dancing about!

I feel crazy and happy! I’m Eliza! I’m me!

Oh, thank you! You did it! You set my fun free!”

 

“You’re welcome,” said Harry, with a wink and a bow.

“My magic always works and I’ll tell you how.

First you conjure up some sillies, then stir in some fun,

give a hip and a hop and… ABRACADABRA! It’s done!

Because no beast can survive, no grumpies will stay,

if you just let a little Harry-magic into your day.”

Wedding China

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I took down my wedding china this morning. I pulled a stool over to the cabinet where it is hidden away on the top shelf, I climbed up and took it all down: the smooth, ivory plates with the ebony and ruby etched borders, the dusty, cut crystal wine glasses and the tarnished silver forks, spoons and knives.  I took them down and stacked them all by the kitchen sink and after I finish writing this I am going to wash them off, and get them ready to be used tonight. Why tonight? Because it’s Monday.  Because it’s Monday and we are having lasagna and salad and garlic bread for dinner. Because it’s Monday and my kids will get a kick out of having their milk poured into those fancy wine glasses. Because it’s Monday and after dinner my kids will pull out their notebooks and calculators and start their homework. Because it’s Monday and for the twenty-three years I have been married I have only used my wedding china twice. Twice.

I remember the first time I used it. It was our first wedding anniversary and I made my husband a “Chinese” dinner using some sort of pre-bottled sauce that I poured over a few pieces of chicken and some frozen vegetable mixture. Then, as the gummy concoction sat and simmered on the stove, I proudly set our tiny, second-hand kitchen table.  I took out two settings of our wedding china, filled the sparkling glasses full of wine and carefully polished the silverware before neatly placing it by each plate; and then we celebrated.  We celebrated with cheap wine and gluey chicken over sticky Minute rice served on magnificent china plates, in a four room, drafty apartment we rented above a dance studio, across the street from a noisy twenty-four hour gas station, and it was grand.

We’ll do this every year I thought. But we didn’t, we forgot how nice it was and went out to eat on our other anniversaries because for some reason we thought we should, because somehow that seemed better, fancier, more grown up, and so the china stayed unused up on the shelf.

The second time I used my china was years later, when I hosted Thanksgiving in my now bigger, not so drafty home. I was nervous that day, nervous about the turkey being too dry, the stuffing being too bland and my china being chipped or broken.  When the kids reached out with their sticky fingers for the pretty china dishes, I smiled politely and quickly handed each one a paper plate, hoping to avoid dropped dishes and shattered glasses.  After dinner, when everyone had finally left and the kids were in bed, I washed, dried and carefully inspected each piece of china before breathing a sigh of relief and placing it all back up on the shelf; it had made it through unscathed.

Then, this past week my parents who have been married for fifty-four years finally decided it was time to move out of their home. The home they have lived in for forty-five years.  The home where they raised their children, and kept them warm and sent them off one by one to find their way into the world.  It is too big now for only two people, it needs a lot of work, upkeep…and it is just time. So, as we sat around the other day, drinking coffee and discussing the impending move, what they will take with them, and what they will have to leave behind, my mother mentioned her wedding china.

“I need to take my wedding china. You know, we never even used it.”

“Never?” I said in disbelief (as if using mine two times in twenty-three year was so much better than never.) “Why you should be eating off china every night! You earned it! Forget getting new plates, use your china!”

My brother chuckled. “I’ve never used mine either” he said, the pain of his still recent divorce barely hidden beneath his deep laugh.  We all paused and then giggled as we imagined the certain therapeutic release that would be felt if he were to eat off his wedding china and then promptly smash it all on the floor, before sweeping up all of the broken pieces and throwing them away.

So, that’s why I am using my wedding china tonight. Because it’s Monday.  And because we are having lasagna. And because the truth is, no one gets through this life unscathed.

When Santa Was Small

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, whatever suits you.  It has been a hard week for this country.  A week full of grief and sadness.  I have no new words to share, no pearls of wisdom about this great loss; I just thought I would publish this small story I wrote to help spread some cheer. A story about Santa.  A story to remind us all about childhood and the fun and the mischief we got into.  Have a great holiday and hold your kids close, but also hug those adults you love. They were once kids too.

DSCN2373When Santa Was Small

T’was the night before Christmas, the kids tucked in tight,

all drifting off to sleep on a cold winter’s night,

with dreams of Santa Claus dancing through their heads,

and the gifts they would find when they sprang from their beds;

wind up robots, sparkly dolls and chocolaty sweets,

new books, bouncy balls, and shiny skates for their feet!

All except George, who sat up straight in his bed,

while visions of black coal filled up his head.

His eyes were big and round, his lips all a quiver,

his legs starting to shake, his body to shiver.

Was it real what he heard? Was it all true?

Santa could see everything that you do?

Like the time he told his mom he ate three cookies but really had four,

or when he taped “You have cooties!” to the girls’ bathroom door…

What about last week when he threw a spitball during lunch,

then kept throwing more, until he had thrown a whole bunch!

George slid down under his covers and hid.

There would be no presents now! Santa saw what he did!

Then his mom walked in and switched on the light,

“What’s wrong George?” She asked. “Something not right?”

George pulled back the blankets, poked out his head,

cleared his throat, took a gulp and quietly said,

“Mom, do you think Santa was ever just a young boy, like me

a boy who worried he might not find a present under the tree?

Do you think Santa ever sat in school, trying so hard not to wiggle,

but then his mouth started to twitch, and his legs started to jiggle?

At lunch did he gobble up his Jell-O, but not his fish sticks or peas,

and did he have to be reminded to say thank you and please?

Do you think he ever passed gas or let out a HUGE burp?

Did he drink his milk fast, through a straw, with a slurp?

Did he leap off the bus with a rip and roar

run up the steps and throw open the door?

Did he holler and jump, sprint and dash all about

until his big sister yelled, “Mom!” and his mom said, “Go out!”

Do you think Santa went out to skate on the ice

spinning and showing off,  then falling down…twice?

Mom, do you think Santa tried to be good, but sometimes was bad…

acting up, yelling out, driving everyone mad!

George’s mom smiled, kissed the top of his head,

pulled up the covers, fluffed his pillow and said,

“You know what I think…I think Santa did,

all of those things because he was once a kid.

A kid filled with sillies, with love and with joy,

a kid who made mistakes, like any small boy.

I bet… after Santa fell, his sister helped him back up,

and gave him hot chocolate in his favorite cup.

Then his mom made him a warm bath all full of bubbles

to help him unwind and forget all his troubles.

I think Santa sat and soaked ‘til he was shiny and clean,

and then brushed his teeth ‘til they glistened and gleamed.

He went and found his favorite pajamas with feet

and slid into his bed under soft, cozy sheets.

I think Santa’s dad read him a book and gave him a kiss,

and said, “Go to sleep now, little Saint Nick.”

Then his mom shut the door, leaving on one hall light,

whispering softly, “And don’t let those jingle bugs bite!”

And as he laid in his bed, I think Santa looked to the sky,

and dreamed about flying in a sleigh way up high…

with eight magic reindeer and hundreds of presents with bows,

zooming and zipping through the white Christmas snow.

So yes, I think Santa was once a just a boy,

a boy full of mischief and sillies and joy.

And I think he remembers what its like to be young.

all of the hard stuff and all of the fun,

because Santa, like you, was once little and small,

and Santa knows being a kid, well, that’s the best gift of all.

Anne Sawan 2012

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2012: Off And Running And Writing.

2012! Wow! How did that happen? Weren’t we all supposed to die about a million times already from some sort of apocalyptic disaster? I think there is one happening this year as well.  So this might just be it, the real end.  Better go live your dreams, make your wishes come true; eat that chocolate cake before we all explode into a million microbes.

I had a great 2011. I felt like I made some strides in my writing, and want to thank you all very every much for your votes in the various contests I entered. I truly appreciated all the support and encouragement.

These writing contests remind me of the races I subject myself to every few months.  I run and run and run, maybe limping a bit a long the way, then come home proudly clutching the medal that shows I did in fact pay the entry fee for the race and my kids jump around, asking, “So, did you win?” To which I inevitably reply something like, “No, but I was the 200th runner over the line!”  They stare at me, sadly shaking their heads and place a sympathetic hand on my shoulder saying, “That’s okay Mom.” Or, more likely,  “Wow, you stink.”

Look, I know going into these races I am not going to win but I love them. I am hooked. They challenge me, give me something to put my energy into and inspire me.  I see the true athletes out there and I am in awe. These people are good! They train year round, living and breathing this stuff. Me…not so much.  In many ways these races are a lot like the writing contests.  They provide me with a goal, urging me on, daring me to learn from my mistakes and to strive to become perhaps a just a little bit better.  Afterwards when I read over my material, see my glaring errors and then read other peoples entries and see their genius I think: That’s it!  I am done, no more writing for me… then I get just a sliver of good news.  Just enough to keep me going…like two great things that happened this past week.

One, I received news from Adoptive Families Magazine that my book, The Very Best Day, was the most read printable article of 2011. That felt great! (Not exactly sure what it means.  Aren’t they all printable?  But hey, take what you can!) Now I just need a publisher…

And, two, my book A is for Adoption was published last week in the January 2012 issue of Adoption Today. So all and all, a good end to 2011 and off to a running start in 2012.

I am placing a link to Adoption Today below, but I know some people have had trouble accessing it, so I will include a copy of A is for Adoption as well.

Now here is a quick disclaimer about the book. The book is narrated by a girl named Anna, which some people, including my own children, found a bit confusing given the makeup of my family (my oldest is named Anna).

Teddy: “Wait! Anna is adopted too?”

“No, Anna is not adopted. Eliza is adopted.”

Harry: “You never told us Anna is adopted!”

“Because she’s not.”

Teddy: “Am I adopted too?”

“No!”

Eliza (crying) “Wahh! I want to be adopted like Anna.

“You ARE adopted. Anna is NOT Adopted.”

Teddy: “Are you sure I’m not adopted?”

Challenges!

I hope you all have a good, healthy, and happy New Year.

http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=95083&p=38

A Is For Adoption

A is for Anna, that’s me! What’s you name? When you see the first letter of your name in this book shout it out!  A is also for adoption. I’m adopted, are you? Adopted means your birth parents couldn’t care for you and your parents really, really wanted you so they made you a part of their family, forever.  Some people are adopted when they are babies and some when they are older. Some kids are in foster care first, and some aren’t.  How were you adopted? What’s your story?

B is for birthday.  I have a birthday party every year to celebrate the day I was born.  This year I want a chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles and a HUGE piñata. B is also for birth parents, the man and woman that made you but couldn’t raise you. B is also for brother. I have three. They like to wrestle, look for worms and play baseball.  Sometimes they let me play with them, sometimes they don’t. Do you have any brothers? Do they live with you? Do they look for worms?

C is for cookie.  Everyone knows that!  C is also for caseworker, some people call them adoption workers or social workers.  A caseworker is the person who watches over kids before they are adopted and makes sure they get to the right family.

D is for Daddy. I love my dad. He takes me on bike rides, and buys me ice cream.  I also have a birth dad. I never met mine. Do you have a dad? What do you guys like to do together? Do you know your birth dad?

E is for eternity. Eternity means forever and ever, which is how long I am going to be a part of my family.

F is for Family.  My family has a mom and a dad and three brothers and a sister and two dogs and a turtle and some fish.  My friend Lizzy has two dads, one brother and a cat and Jay has a grandma and that’s it.  All families are different.  What is your family like?

G is for Gecko, which are the only lizards that make noise. They live where is it warm. They have nothing to do with adoption, unless… are you from a warm place? Did they have geckos there? I hope I get one for my birthday. That would be cool!

H is for Happiness.  Happiness is love, fun, friends and families…. oh, and Disney World, of course!

I is for I love you. That’s it.

J is for jumping, juggling and jogging.  J is a fun letter! J is also for Judge. A judge needs to say it is okay for your parents to adopt you. I had to go with my family to a judge when I was a baby. I saw a picture of us all in our dress up clothes.  The judge wore a black robe and was holding this hammer thing called a gavel. Everyone was smiling.  Some kids go to the court when they are older.  Do you remember going to see the judge?

K is for knowledge.  That’s a big word that means to know or learn stuff, like who you are, where you are from, what your adoption story is.

L is for life and learning and love.  My birth mom and birth dad gave me life, so I could breathe and eat and swim and run, so they are really special.  Learning is important because you need to learn about who you are, where you came from, and then there is learning in school like how to read and do math. Love is the best.  I love my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters and friends and pets and teachers and cousins and grandparents and…whew! That’s a lot of love!

M is for Mom.  I love my mom; she plays with me and likes to read to me.  What do you like to do with your mom? I know there is another person out there who is my birth mom, but I didn’t know her. I am glad she had me though, or I wouldn’t be here! Do you know your birth mom?

N is for Naked mole rats. They are small rodents who live in underground colonies in Africa. They have large teeth that stick out that they use to dig. They have very little hair and have wrinkled pink or yellowish skin. They are really funny looking and have absolutely nothing to do with adoption, unless…are you from Africa? Maybe you have seen one?

O is for open.  Open means you can talk about anything and not be scared or embarrassed to ask questions about adoption.  Your parents might not always know the answer, but they will try to figure it out for you.  Open also means something you forgot to shut, like the refrigerator door and then your mom will yell, “Who left the door open!”

P is for parents.  I have two, a mom and a dad. How about you? Parents get to make the rules like say what you can eat and where you can go, and tell you to do your homework, and stuff like that.

Q is questions. I have a lot! Like who were my birth parents? Why couldn’t they keep me? What did they look like? Where are they now? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? How do fireflies light up like that? Do you have questions?

R is for rainbow.  Rainbows are cool and have so many different colors, just like people.  Some families look like rainbows because there can be all kinds of colors in one family: brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, brown skin, tan skin, light skin with freckles.  If you line up your family maybe you can make your own people rainbow.

S is for super, stupendous and special!  I am all those things, super, stupendous and special, oh and my mom says I am silly. S is also for sister. I have one older sister.  She likes to play softball, swim and shop for clothes.  Do you have any sisters?  Mine is awesome, even though she doesn’t like me touching her stuff.

T is for together. Adoption is about being together as a family.

U is for Ultrasaurus which was a huge, long-necked dinosaur.  Their bones have been discovered in both South Korea and the United States.  They don’t really have anything  to do with adoption either, well unless you are maybe from South Korea or the United States. Are you?  Wouldn’t you love to ride on an Ultrasaurus!

V is for valuable.  Valuable means something that is desired or wished for or important.  My parents say all kids are valuable.

W is for wish.  My parents had a wish and it was me! I have a wish, to go to Africa and see a naked mole rat in action.

X is for Xenops, which are birds that live in South America and again have nothing to do with adoption, unless you are from South America, then, I suppose it could have to do with your adoption story.  Are you from South America?

Y is for yes! Yes I am adopted! Yes I love my family! Yes I am valuable! Yes I was wished for! Yes I have questions! Yes I want to see a naked mole rat!

Z is for zillion. I have a zillion more places to go, things to do and questions to ask.  Oh, yes, and I love my family a zillion times through.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2012

MeeGenuis, you Genuis too?

Hi all! T’is the season to freak out! I am freaking out.  Just back from a great trip to Florida, and not one Christmas decoration has been dragged down from the attic, unwrapped or hung yet. I received my first Christmas card in the mail today, I haven’t even taken our photo yet! Somehow these things all manage to get done in time.  Thank God, Steve Jobs, Amazon and UPS for without them Christmas would simply just not happen here.

I do have a Christmas story I am going to post in a few weeks but first it is time for a holiday appeal, and the hope for a Christmas wish to come true.

Wouldn’t you like to make just one person’s Christmas wish come true? Guess what, you can! It takes no money and minimal effort on your part. I know everyone is tired and annoyed from the last writing contest I asked people to vote for, and believe me, no one is more tired of asking people to vote for them than me but… (you knew that was coming right?), I entered yet another writing contest so if everyone just goes and votes for my two books I can stop these annoying and rather embarrassing pleas for help.

A company called MeeGenuis, which publishes and markets online books for children, put out this contest.  I tried a few of their books out on my youngest and she liked them, so their marketing ploy has already worked for them with at least one consumer. I entered two books into this contest, and if I win I not only get my book published but the local school library gets a free library of ebooks for a year. Pretty cool, right? So please, take a break from the Christmas hubbub. Make yourself a cup of cocoa with creamy marshmallows melting over the top, sit down by a crackling fire, put your tired feet up and vote for me.  That’s all I want for Christmas…oh yeah and world peace, of course. Thanks guys!

Oh, here is the link, see how easy I made it for you? Relax, breathe, now click the “Like” button right there next to to the story.

http://www.meegenius.com/challenge/the-baseball-game-by-anne-sawan

and again, here.

http://meegenius.com/challenge/two-years-bigger-two-years-smaller-by-anne-sawan

Thank you! You are the best! You deserve something really great this year. Something really big! Really expensive! Really cool! Treat yourself, go ahead. Or better yet, write a blog, tell people what you want, and maybe…. 

The Perfect Halloween Costume

Halloween may have ended last night for some of you, but not for everyone. Halloween has been postponed in our town due to Mother Nature’s Nor’easter surprise, so we will go trick or treating on Friday instead. Now believe me when I first heard that the town police were officially halting Halloween I acted just like my four-year old, stamping my feet and crying. Then I moved on to the eight and ten-year old behavior yelling, “WHAT!! That’s not fair!” Next, I made my way to adolescence, shrugged my shoulders, and mumbled, “Jerks”, under my breath. Finally I emerged as an adult and reasoned, “It’s not anyone’s fault. Some parts of town still aren’t safe and there are downed wires in places.” Which is really the truth, and I wouldn’t want to have the police chief’s job of having to cancel the best day of the year for kids. To make things even worse (or better if you are a writer and think this would make a great book) the police chief in my town has the last name of Meany! Is that great! Chief Meany cancels Halloween. There is definitely a story in there just waiting to be written!
Anyway, all is now fine here in Whoville. We have recovered and are looking forward to a Friday haunting…the big problem for me at this point is trying to keep my kids from changing their minds again about what they want to be for trick or treating! The progression for Eliza has gone like this: super hero, fire fighter, pirate, tooth fairy, princess, a tooth fairy princess, a firefighter-toothfairy-princess… I don’t think I can make it through many more of these costume changes! Here is a  poem I wrote based on this decision process…

The Halloween Costume

Only a few nights to go until Halloween.
Oh, what should I be a frog or a queen?
I lined up my costumes from perfect to pink
And laid there, just thinking, not sleeping a wink…
I tossed and turned in my sweet little bed,
while pumpkins and bats swirled through my head.
Until…gasp…there was just one more night until Halloween!
Should I be something funny, or scary, or mean?
A ballerina, a witch, a bright yellow bee?
I can’t decide! I don’t know! I need help!
Can’t you see!
So we drove to the store, and looked all around.
I saw goblins and mummies and one creepy clown.
And then I decided! I knew what to do!
Why pick just one? Why not pick two!
Or more, even more! Be all that you want!
Put them together into one smorgasbord haunt!
My mom always says, “Be all you can be.”
So that’s what I was, a perfect picture of me.
A little bit silly, a little bit fun.
Throw in some crazy and then you are done.
A dancer, a jester, a silly old ghost.
I won the prize, for wearing the most!

A True Haunted Halloween Story

Did you have a haunted house in your neighborhood when you were growing up? I fear with all these Mc Mansion cul de sacs everywhere we may soon be saying so long to the traditional, eerie neighborhood haunted house.  Somehow a million dollar, well manicured, haunted house is just not as effective…. (By the way, we use to call cul de sacs  “dead ends.” I guess that is now considered offensive to dead people. Sorry dead people. )

Ours was the next street over.  A small brown house, it was neglected, overgrown and inhabited by an elderly woman who was rarely seen. We convinced each other that she had killed her husband and kept his body in her garage in a large crate. We would periodically dare someone to look in the window, the rest of us hiding in the trees.

Here is what happened to me at the Haunted House in the fall of 1978.

I never told anyone before, but it’s all true, I swear….

THE HAUNTED HOUSE

The haunted house was directly behind ours, the yards separated only by a thin chain link fence.  The old brown house leaned so far to the side it looked like it would fall over in a good breeze.  The concrete steps were chipped and broken, and the metal handrails that ran along the sides were rusted through. A few of the windows were broken; some ill fitted with pieces of cardboard to keep out the rain and winter chill. The trees and bushes were tangled together, their branches snaking up the sides of the thin clapboard. In the evening there was only ever one light on and a small television screen barely visible, flickering behind the dirty windows. The newspapers would sit outside collecting in the cracked driveway for weeks until the owner of the house; a tiny, twisted, ancient woman would shuffle outside.  She always wore a dingy grey sweater pulled tightly around her, even in the oppressive summer heat.  Shaking her head and muttering to herself, she would inch her way gingerly down the broken steps to collect the soggy bundles.

But it was not the house that fascinated us…it was the garage. The small building was almost lost in the overgrown, dense backyard jungle of intertwined trees and vines.  It too leaned to the side, held up by only a few cracked wooden beams. The windows were all smashed, probably by neighborhood kids throwing rotten apples at them, and at some point a tree had fallen over and landed on the roof, crashing halfway through, creating a hole that was never fixed. The hole let in just enough light that we could just make out some of the contents inside laying among the cobwebs; corroded cans of old paint, abandoned fishing rods, rusty tools…and one large wooden crate with a heavy lock and chains wrapped around it.

All the neighborhood kids knew what was in that box; it was the body of the old woman’s husband. She had put his remains in the garage, locked tightly away in that wooden coffin, so know one would find him.  There were many stories about how he died, some said she killed him by cutting off his head and then put his headless body in the crate. Some said she poisoned him by serving him rat poison in his food, and others said she didn’t kill him quickly at all but rather she had locked him up in the box, letting him slowly starve to death. Depending on which story you believed, at night you could sometimes see his headless ghost wandering around, hears his cries of pain, or listen to his moans of hunger.

Halloween of 1978, we were in sixth grade, too cool for costumes, but not yet ready to give up all that free candy. We roamed the streets scoffing at the little kids in their ridiculous outfits, rounded the corner of the block and stopped… shocked. We couldn’t believe our eyes.  Every light in the haunted house was on. The whole place was lit up like a Christmas tree, and there on the steps stood the old woman. There was a small, carved pumpkin sitting next to her with a candle flickering gently inside.  Her grey sweater was pulled tightly across her frail body and she held in her hands a tray piled high with homemade donuts.  The most wonderful smell of cinnamon and sugar wafted across the street, drawing innocent trick-or-treaters closer.

We looked at each other and screamed, certain that those doughnuts were steeped in poison.  We laughed, pointed, and jeered, “KEEP AWAY! HAUNTED HOUSE! POISON!”  We ran up and down the street loudly warning everyone about the crazy old lady, and telling them not to go near the house.

The old woman stood on those broken steps all night, proudly holding her treats and waiting for the children to come trick or treating at her house…but no one did.  Child after child, family after family scooted past, some politely nodding their heads hello, some looking away embarrassed or scared. No one stopped.

Later that night, after counting, and stacking and trading our candy, we climbed into our sleeping bags to tell ghost stories. One by one everyone fell asleep, except for me. I lay there, too frightened by the spirits of Halloween to close my eyes, and stared out the window into the back woods certain I would see the ghost of the murdered husband.

Then I saw it, a wisp of light, shining through the trees. What was that? I crawled to the window and peered out. A woman was running through the yard across the fence. She turned, looked around, laughed and headed towards the haunted garage. What if something happened to her? What if the ghost got her, or worse, that crazy old woman?  I had to warn her.  I tried to wake the others, but it was no use, so I snuck out the basement door and traipsed through the dark, cold October night, over the chain link fence and into the backyard of the haunted house.

I heard a giggle coming from the garage and snuck quietly up to the back, dropping in through in through a broken window. I landed softly on the floor and looked, there in front of me stood a young woman.

“Oh my,” She laughed. “You nearly frightened me to death!”

She was breathtakingly beautiful.  Her blonde hair cut short in a twenty style bob, her skin milky white and her eyes an icy blue.  She wore a flapper style iridescent, white dress, with loops of shiny beads strung around her neck, and a dingy grey sweater tied loosely around her waist.

“Did you hear us running in the woods? Sorry if we woke you. I was playing tag with him. I thought he came in here, but I guess he left…again. He always leaves.”  She pursued her lips together thoughtfully, and then clapped her hands together in delight.

“But now you came to visit!  I have been lonely for so long! This is wonderful! Come on, I will teach you how to Charleston and Shimmy. I’m Claudia.”

She took my hands and threw me around the room, dancing fast, singing and humming as she swept me away. Finally she stopped and leaned back against the locked wooden crate, breathing hard, catching her breath.

“Whew!  Wasn’t that was fun!”

She rubbed her hand along the crate lovingly.

“Do you know what is in here? It’s his piano.  He was a great pianist. So beautiful, no one played liked him…”

“And I was a dancer. A wonderful dancer.” She toyed wistfully with the beads around her neck.   “It’s too bad he left…” She shook her head sadly. “Why did he have to leave? I have been so lonely.”

“Hungry?” she said.

She grabbed a plate full of doughnuts that were sitting on top of the crate and shoved one in my mouth before I could protest.  I waited for the bitter taste of poison …but instead a warm buttery mix of cinnamon and sugar slid down my throat.

“Aren’t they just delish? It’s a secret recipe. They’re his favorite! I heard you and your friends screaming about them tonight during trick or treating, but I couldn’t quite hear what you were saying. I think you were saying how much you wanted one. Just think, now you can have then all!”

She began feeding me the doughnuts so quickly I couldn’t swallow them fast enough.

“Aren’t they just delish?” She kept saying as she pushed the treats in my mouth.

I felt them piling up in my throat. I couldn’t swallow. The doughnuts were landing one on top of another.  The smell of the cinnamon and sugar filled my nose, and I had trouble breathing. My hands clawed at my neck. I was desperate for air.

“Come on, dance some more, before it’s too late!”

Claudia grabbed my hands. She spun me around and around the room, crumbs and bits of sugary doughnuts flying out of my mouth, until together we dropped to the ground, and I managed to spit out the last bits of the sweet dough. I lay there gasping for breath as she chatted on.

“Can you believe he just vanished? Like that!” She snapped her fingers. “But you won’t leave me ever…will you? You won’t just disappear?”

Just then the first rays of dawn began to poke through the hole in the ceiling.

“Oh shoot!” She pouted, “I have to go.”

Her eyes narrowed and not for the first time that night I felt afraid. Her hand reached out, her blood red nails digging into the flesh on my arm as she tightened her grip.

”How do I know you will come back? You might leave me like he did and then I will be all alone again. I couldn’t stand it!”

She looked around, her eyes resting briefly on the crate, “Maybe I should put you in the…”

Then she threw her head back and laughed, “Yippee!” as she twirled around in the early morning sun.

“Never mind, there is no more time. But you better hurry back. I am lonely here by myself. I will make more doughnuts for next time! Hurry!”

And with that she left, her sweater catching on a nail and falling to the ground as she slipped out of the garage.

I ran home, climbed over the fence and back into the basement. Everyone was still sleeping, as I slipped into my sleeping bag, exhausted, and fell fast asleep.

I opened my eyes slowly. Outside the sun was shinning high in the sky and I could hear kids shouting and playing. My head was foggy, and it took me a minute to remember where I was.  My throat was parched and sore. I licked my dried lips, gagging when I tasted bits of cinnamon and sugar.   I stood up and fell right to the floor. My legs were aching and sore, as if I had been running or dancing all night. I slowly crawled upstairs and sat at the kitchen table, shaking my head as I tried to separate my dreams from reality.

My mother came in.

“Good morning sleepy head,” she said. “You sure slept late.”

The steam from her coffee cup curled above her head as she glanced outside through the backyard.

“What in heavens is going on over there?”  I heard her murmur.

I looked outside through the yard and saw blue police lights flashing through the trees. I got up from the table and ran through the backyard, throwing myself over the fence.

“Hey kid! What are you doing?”

I looked up. It was a policeman.  He was carrying a flashlight and a box of tools, and was headed towards the haunted garage.

“What? Where?”  I gasped.

“Are you looking for the old lady that lives here,” he asked gently.

“Too late sweetie…she died, last night sometime. Looks like she choked on a piece of a doughnut.  Sure is a mess in there…she was cooking up a bunch of them for someone, that’s for sure. Don’t know who she was doing all that cooking for though…”

He scratched his head. “She didn’t have any family.   Poor old soul.  Claudia Jacobs was her name. Guess she used to be a famous show girl back in the day, a real beauty I hear. Became sort of a recluse after her husband ran off with another dancer. Well, that was the rumor. He just disappeared one day. No one ever heard from him again.  She lived a lonely life after that…an odd bird. … Hey help me out, I hear there is some old stuff in the garage we might be able to use for the policemen’s auction next month.”

He tore down a few vines covering the entrance and we entered the dark garage, knocking over a few cans and wiping away the cobwebs as we went in.

“Well, I don’t think there is much in here,” he said, waving his flashlight around at the boxes of trash.

“Just an old ratty sweater and a bunch of crumbs. Must be a family  of happy mice in here somewhere… Hey! Wait, what’s that? That might be something.”

He knelt by the old crate.

“That’s a pretty heavy duty lock.  I bet there’s something really valuable in here!”

I stood behind him.  Using his crow bar he pried the crate open and as the wood fell away, the last piece of Claudia’s love story was revealed.

The piano. It was shiny, a glossy black, with sparkling white keys.  It looked brand new, as if it hadn’t just been sitting neglected in an old, musty garage for all those years but rather had been lovingly polished and cared for on a regular basis.

“Wooooo,” the policeman whistled. “This must be worth a fortune! I bet it will get a high price at the auction.”

A few weeks later I sat at the dining room table struggling with my homework and listening to the bulldozers in the back as they took down what was left of the old house.

My mom called in from the kitchen,  “Interesting story here in the paper, honey. Remember that old piano they found over at the poor old lady’s house? Looks like they auctioned it off last week, and when the buyer opened the top he found a headless skeleton inside….”

My heartbeat quickened, my throat tightened and I suddenly smelled the faint scent of cinnamon in the air.

My mom entered, a familiar looking grey sweater thrown over her shoulders, and in her hand she held a tray.

“Doughnut sweetie?” She asked.

And that’s a true story!

I still think of Claudia every Halloween, and I still can’t eat cinnamon doughnuts.