Thursday, September 20, 2018



On this rainy morning, a new word in my vocabulary bank. How did I not know this word, a word that describes me so perfectly? I will add it to my author bios: pluviophile-a lover of rain, a finder of peace in rainy days. 

When I was young, my mother would call me in from the branches of my secret apple tree nook when the drops began their descent. Her call was easy to ignore, and I would nestle a bit deeper and watch the sky change hues and try to count the droplets.

As an adult, in charge of my own self, I no longer climb into trees, leaving that to my younger mini-me. However, when I wake to soothing drops on shingled roof overhead, a smile begins even before my eyes open wide. 

Rainy days promise hot mugs of coffee, snuggled in chocolate brown softness of my couch nest, pen in hand, words flowing across the pages. 

Rainy days make for sleepy dogs, peaceful hours of watching the latest novel unfold in my mind as I read hundreds of pages in a sitting. 

Hi, my name is Kristine, and I am a pluviophile. It sounds like the opening act of a support group, but this isn’t a condition that needs fixing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mo Rúnsearc (roon-hark) secret love

Mo Rúnsearc (roon-hark) secret love

Lulled by her maid, Aileen’s, gentle brushstrokes upon her thick auburn hair, Maebh sighed and closed her lavender eyes. Sparks crackled with each stroke, bright spots in the candlelit room. She was so relaxed, that Maebh didn’t understand what was happening as her small seaside town’s warning bells chimed. Aileen snatched her by the elbow and hastily shoved her into the small hidey spot used since she was young. After an unnecessary reminder to stay quiet, Aileen scurried to find safety elsewhere. 

Hidden in the recesses of her closet, Maebh watched through a sliver of space as a large, swarthy man moved through her doorway. Though she knew he couldn’t see her, she instinctively pulled back. All Maebh needed to do was wait silently for Aileen to retrieve her once the thieving marauders had gone. 

He stopped in front of the mirrored table where she’d so recently sat, and Maebh saw him pick up her delicate strand of unique pearls. She gasped and clutched her throat, where they usually rested. She had taken it off for bed, and in the rush hadn’t picked it up. It was all she had left of her mother, who’d died when Maebh was only three. Tears filled her eyes as she realized it would be gone. 

Instead of pocketing the treasure though, he gently laid it down. Mystified, Maebh tore her gaze away to look at the man’s face. He was staring directly at her. She closed her eyes, wishing it away, and heard heavy footfall exiting. 

Her room was empty, and Maebh thought of opening the latch, rushing out to grab her treasure, but then thumping and Aileen’s indignant screams changed her mind. 

“Ya beast!” Aileen cried as she fell into the room. 

“Where is the lass that wears this?” he demanded, shaking the pearls at Aileen. 

Maebh watched as they glared at each other: Aileen shaking in fear, the man in rage. 

Suddenly, the tension broke as Aileen drew back and sobbed, “It’s you then.” 

“Aye, tis,” he growled, white knuckles fisted at his sides. 

“She’s gone then?” he asked, knowing the answer before Aileen nodded, adding, “Some fifteen years now.”

Maebh watched the giant shrink as he whispered, “Mo Runsearc.” His eyes swept the room, landing on her hiding spot again. “And the wee lass? My Maebh?”

“The Master raised her as his own, never welched.” 

Returning the strand to Aileen, he stood tall once again, dark eyes locked on Maebh’s. “Aye, that’s as it should be.”  He turned and left. 

Maebh didn’t move until Aileen patted the floor beside her. “Come Lass, and I’ll tell you your story.”  

 *This is my Fiction 440 piece that needed to include the words: welch, lavender, pearl in a complete story (no poetry or excerpts). I'm thinking this could be a larger piece. What are your thoughts? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Book Review: Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes *****

Ghost Boys

     Wow! This book has been on my 'to be read' list for a while, and last night I picked it up and read the first few chapters before going to sleep. As soon as I woke, the book was back in my hands. It had to be read.
     Rhodes has done an outstanding job of combining current social injustices with the historical importance of Emmett Till's story (and the story of so many other murdered 'ghost boys'). Though I am familiar with the horror of Till's murder in 1955 Mississippi, the power of connecting Jerome's new ghost with hundreds of murdered ghost boys, the daughter of the officer, and his living relatives brought it all to new heights. 
     The changing perspective of 'Dead' and 'Alive' was a punch in the gut, completely brilliant, and necessary. I'm sure that my own personal story made this aspect especially meaningful. 
     Everyone needs to read this book. It is a must for all teachers of middle and high school students, and will be one of the texts I am sure to mention when I visit schools. It reads quickly, but should be read again and again, used as a reference and resource and a springboard for further reading. 
     Well done, Jewell Parker Rhodes! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My First Year without a 'First Day'

     Yesterday my alarm beeped at 6:45 a.m. Groggily, I made my way into the kitchen, sleepily turned the coffee maker on, and looked out across the misty morning. It took that long for it to hit me. It was the first day of the new school year. My grin spread wide across my no longer sleepy face. Energy rushed through me. Yes, I was awake, but an hour later than 'normal' for this day. I was up in order to meet a friend out at Brighton State Recreational to ride my awesome horse through the early temps and still freshly spider webbed trails of Michigan.
     All I heard last spring were the warnings of people of how I would be so sad when this day came. As I poured my coffee and made my way to the front porch, I enjoyed my leisurely coffee breakfast as cars on the way to work and buses on the way to Mason Public Schools roared past. I felt like the Grinch must have after he saved the sled overflowing with Whoville's Christmas.
     After a beautiful morning of riding, it occurred to me that Mason students were already done with their half first day. There was nothing looming overhead for me to worry about, no last minute administrative issues pressing me into extra hours at my desk, no lessons to plan, etc. I went home, unloaded my mare, danced my way back into the house, and had a bite to eat.
     Grueling my body through an intense CrossFit workout later in the day, I had energy. I drove home and it struck me again, the differences between last year and this year. Last year, after the first day with students, after having already put in at least 80 hours in classroom prep, I would have been exhausted. I might have dragged myself to a workout, but it would have been after a nap, or worse, without time for a nap, and absolutely without the necessary reserves needed for an intense sweat session like the one I had just completed.
     Here's the thing that most people simply cannot understand: Teaching is exhausting! Even on a good day, when everything goes right, when not one of the students in your care has an emergency, when all the technology runs smoothly, and nobody cries or screams or loses something, teaching is exhausting. It is all consuming. At least, if you're doing it right.
     I did it right. For all 30 of my years. I gave my students everything I had in order for them to achieve every goal they could reach.
     Most days, it didn't leave time or room or energy for much else. I wouldn't change my life as a teacher. I will cherish every hug, every shared story, and every joyous moment. I have taught kids to read and write. I have held them when they sobbed tears of loss. I have stood up to them in the face of their anger, and fought for them when nobody else did. Teaching brought me memories I never could have dreamed of when I started my first classroom. Nobody can prepare you to be a teacher, not really.
     So last night, I smiled at my husband, knowing I could stay up as late as I wanted even though it was a school night, with no last minute preparations for the first full day of school in the morning. I did not set my alarm. I did not hang up tomorrow's outfit. I checked my calendar, did some writing, tried to stretch my aching shoulders and legs, and simply went to bed when I was tired.
     This was my first year without a first day of school to be prepared to manage, and though I do not regret or miss heading into my own classroom, I am looking forward to what the future holds for me now, whenever I might wake up in the morning.

Friday, August 17, 2018


What a beautiful and amazing summer is has been for me. One of my retirement objectives, hosting and facilitating writing retreats, has begun a year earlier than expected! From August 6-8, I was lucky enough to write with a group at Bay Pointe Inn on the beautiful Gun Lake in Shelbyville, Michigan. Our group filled the Boathouse and a few extra rooms as well, did some writing and sharing together, had hours of small group and individual writing time, and took full advantage of the beauteous location.

Here are a few selections from that event that some of the writers were gracious enough to share with me to share with my readers. 


From Kristin Kochheiser, a Grief poem:


Grief greets me
like an unexpected visitor
who should have called
before knocking at the door
breaking into my day, my routine
with its quick, incessant knocking
on my heart.

Just when I think I have seen the last of
my unanticipated guest
a voice, a smell, a taste, a touch, a picture
will twist my heart again,
insistent that I answer with tears,
throat quenching tight,
a memory revealed
and even though I want to shut the door tight,
bar its entry into my space,
this company of grief simply stabs its foot
into my door frame
preventing complete closure.

Grief stands in front of me
hands on hips
head cocked to one side
in query
wondering why I do not jump forward
in embrace.

Grief is adamant,
our unscheduled, untimely visits
are worthy
important to the relationship
of one so dear to my heart.

Memories agree,
so I acquiesce
and slowly wrap my arms around Grief
holding tight to its sturdy stance
praying for its gentle release
until finally, it nods its head in farewell
slips slowly away,
heading for another heart.

As I turn from the opening,
ready to quietly close the door,
to await another time, another visit
I spot it:
a round, shiny stone on my pathway
and I realize He did it again.

Grief leaves me pebbles of progress
marking the path
we have walked together
through the labyrinth of loss
where memories beckon
tears strengthen
and His love heals, all.

Kristin Kochheiser

From Therese Wood, a lighthearted piece written from the perspective of an inanimate object:

My life as an outdoor gas fireplace

So, what do You do they always ask, and when I tell them I’m an outdoor gas fireplace they all roll their eyes like “Oh Lord, BORING!”
But I’ll tell you what, I see the most amazing things here
First dates stand near, blushing with new-found infatuation
  Old friends catching up, sharing war stories of divorce, job changes, illness, loss
Everyone comes near me because I offer a quiet warmth, a tiny light to stand near to share intimate thoughts
I don’t judge, I never leave, I stay the course and do my job

Last night I heard a woman tell her husband that she was pregnant with their first child
I saw joy in his face and tenderness as he embraced her
Last week another couple in their 70’s stood sipping their wine
Peering out at the sunset
 They held hands quietly, no words were spoken-  None needed I think

Mothers of the bride checking their last minute lists
Family reunions with dark secrets to share
Everyone comes to me, in the twilight to find comfort
And a bit of warmth
I’ve got to say, I have the best job in the world.

And another from Therese Wood:

How to find my passion
In a heap of ordinary life
Is a tall order
I’ve been head-down, carry on,
Gitterdone for so long
I’ve scarcely come up for a breath
Much less ask myself
“What’s my passion?”

It feels like an expensive delicacy
I’ve been too destitute to afford
Something I see in others
But not myself

The task to uncover my own passion
Is to allow my responsible self
To settle in to recklessness
To let in the straggler who is me
Always responsible, always following the rules
staying within the lines
to slow down
Dig in the dirt
And let in the chaos

I envy those whose passions
Burn so bright
Their artistic creations on display
for others to croon over

My life seems quite boring
I’m the Willie Loman
of older women
Blending in to the camouflage
Of others-
Not too this
 Not too that

But I do confess
that I see beauty
in the ordinary
And I am comforted by
the simple pleasures of life

Will I “find my passion?”
 if I stay still and listen
will I hear the faint
murmurings of my own creative soul

whispering to me its secret heart?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Homeless Beauty on Barracks

I cannot stop thinking about the homeless beauty outside Café EnVie. Tall, athletic, dirty. White t-shirt tied in a tight bow above her belly button.

Walking home from St. Cecilia’s, the taste of brown butter still on my lips, potatoes Lyonnaise crunch still savored by taste buds. I had eaten every bite, my only meal since breakfast. Redfish Almondine, somehow flaky and tender. Only one of our five carried leftovers, the result of earlier Willie Mayes fried chicken. Her ‘food baby’ wouldn’t let her finish her own flaky fish dinner. Barracks Street was busy, of course, and as I was transported to San Francisco’s foggy bay by a friend’s words, I needed to move behind and beside to make room for evening strollers from opposite directions.

We crossed over Decatur, music from further away filling the air. A clump of people crowded, crouched over at their waists on the adjacent corner, like kids roasting marshmallows around a campfire, leaning in to check the brownness. The group huddled, swarming like ants on a hill over the pile of blankets and bedding-four or five of them; it was hard to tell.

Just past the last window of EnVie, her back to us, was another, perhaps part of that group, perhaps not.

As she turned, my eyes locked with hers. I had to look up. She was tall. Not thin. Her skin, exposed above her belly, I thought, would be soft to the touch, like a toddler’s that gives to a mother’s tickling fingers. Backlit by the street lamp, a mass of hair, dirty, thick, the beginning of dreads perhaps.

In slow motion, she stepped out of the street’s light as I moved forward, still listening, part of my mind fogged with San Francisco.

The homeless beauty’s eyes locked on mine. Her sadness, naked. She hadn’t planned on looking. I felt her surprise. She could have been my daughter’s age. She is someone’s daughter, I thought.

Instinctively, I smiled. My smile wasn’t pitying. My face opened without counterfeit. She looked down, found the pavement. I continued walking, hearing my friend’s words, but not.

“Excuse me…could you spare your leftovers, mommy?” the girl my daughter’s age asked the only one of us who had them.

Although I didn’t turn around to watch the exchange, I imagined the passing of the box to the girl as I heard my friend answer. “Of course, sweetheart. You enjoy it.”

I cannot get the girl out of my head. Did she sit down and eat right away? Did she walk across the street corner to share with the other five? Did she sleep alone, somewhere safe or stay up all night until the sky began to light a new day?
As I sit inside Café EnVie this morning, an army duffel lies almost hidden on the 2nd story balcony beside the door of an empty apartment. For Lease sign hanging by only one hook. What else lies beyond my line of sight? Is she there, pressed against the wall, shaded by brick and plaster? She was athletically built. Did she climb the black wrought iron post? Shimmy up, dragging the bag, all her worldly belongings upon her wiry shoulders? Was it flung up and over or placed lovingly, carefully where it lies? Is she sleeping there now, belly full of redfish almondine and crispy potatoes?

What changed her path, brought her to the French Quarter? She is someone’s daughter, once beloved-or not, I guess. I cannot imagine her mother’s pain. Does she know where her daughter puts her matted head at night? Does she cry, weep, gnash her teeth or does she sleep soundly, head nestled in downy dreams.

Does the homeless beauty sleep, dreaming of home? I cannot get her out of my head.


Powerful Writing made possible via New Orleans Writing Marathon 

“Why don’t you take a pause and clean your room?” This last line delivered in a humorous anecdote while breakfasting at Croissant D’or, and as I laughed, something clicked in my head and I immediately had to write.
            I was reminded of all the times I had said something similar to my own two kids. Robbie’s carpet was a deep, dark blue, but I only know that because I bought it. Katie wanted red, bright like summer tomatoes, but settled on a dark forest green when Momma put her foot down.
            How many wasted moments, worrying/nagging/fighting about the stupid rooms?
            “I can’t even see your floors!” I would argue. “Why did I pay for carpet if we were never going to see it again?”
          And Katie, preparing for Air Force departure, piles, heaping piles of clothes and all the things she’d collected in her eighteen years so far. She was only allowed one large khaki military bag and a small duffel when I dropped her at the hotel with the other new recruits, so she was cleaning her room and deciding what to do with things.
           Two entire dresser drawers were filled with ‘special rocks.’ I remember standing in her doorway, fighting the urges to cry because she was soon leaving and sigh because clearly, I had missed the cyclone hurricane earthquake that had come through her bedroom sometime during the night.
          “Didn’t you get rid of your rock drawers when we moved here?” I sighed anyway. Sheepishly looking up at me, her hands cupping stones and then letting them slide through her fingers down into the drawer, she smirked. “These are my new rocks.”
          And then Robbie was gone, and I was sprawled on my driveway as sirens howled and police arrived and cars parked everywhere as word spread, and I did my best to stop screaming, keep breathing, and answer unanswerable questions. A special cleaning crew would be necessary. I couldn’t return into my home until then, and I needed to be back inside. Exposed items would need to be discarded, due to the ‘nature of his death’. 
When my best friend asked, ‘what do I do with all the things in Robbie’s room,’ I sobbed. “Get rid of it. Get rid of all of it!” Another friend cried, ‘No, No, you don’t want to do that.’
            Until then, I wasn’t aware of the dozen or more people gathered behind me on my driveway. Had they witnessed the past hours of my destruction, the screaming, me at my worst moments? It didn’t matter. None of it mattered.
          The deep sea blue carpet was ripped up that night while I lay not sleeping, shaking with shock. I returned to my home early the next morning and stood in vacant space. Newly painted walls. White. Floor bare of everything. Plywood, waiting to be replaced with a neutral low shag.
         I can see the floor now, but would give almost everything to have  back that blue carpet, mysterious and hidden again, and my boy sprawled atop the mess smirking, rolling his eyes, and ignoring his messy room.