20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers

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Today I turn 39.  My last year in my 30’s.  If I had my nearly 4 decades to do over, I’d stay home with my kids, which is a total contradiction because I hated staying at home when they were very young.  Now I’d do it all over again and for longer, just for more time with them.  I’d go to graduate school the first time I had the chance.  I’d go back to that first relationship in high school, and I’d say no to that boy.  Yes, it would change the course of my life, but I’d avoid the pain of losing a friend.  I’d make and keep better connections with friends of my parents and my extended family.  I had no idea how much I would wish I knew them better as I got older.   I’d demand more of myself.  The status quo and self pity would never be in my coping toolbox.  I’d learn about self care early on and make it a priority.  I’d stop myself from picking up terrible interpersonal habits that negatively affect my relationships.  My poor husband really has to deal with a lot of baggage.  I’d let people get close to me, I’d be more vulnerable.  And I’d expect it of other people too.  I’d take back every mean word I ever said to my sister.  Maybe we were just kids, but I’m sure it affected her, and she’s the only sibling I have.  I’d set better boundaries for myself, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say no.  I wouldn’t find a sick comfort in relationships that make me feel bad.  I’d talk to my mom about her illness, I’d share my fears about living a life without her.  I’d snuggle up next to her that night when she asked me to.   I’d understand that in order to feel great joy and compassion, you also, at times, have to allow yourself to feel great pain.  I’d never stop writing.  Or dancing.  Or letting the world know how smart I am.  Or crying.  I’d cry a LOT more.  And I’d pray more.  I’d figure out early what makes me passionate and pursue that.  Or not stop pursuing that.  I’d have a job that I love, that fulfills me, that I can’t wait to get up and do every morning.  I’d force my foot into that Cinderella slipper and never let it fall off my foot.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 39.  It’s going to be a great year.

©SpiritLed 2014

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Birth Day

In a parlor plain and
solemn, a small crowd huddles
Tomorrow I celebrate
one more year, today
I attend my friend’s
final life celebration

Funerals produce in me
a subtle sense of asphyxiation
and I sit in the quiet chapel,
in this room full of acquaintances
and strangers, barely breathing
for fear I might explode
into unending tears

But the moon rising in my heart
speaks of fullness and cycles,
and creates in me a curious juxtaposition

and a shift happens, a veil lifts to reveal
awareness that death is life anew,
that as one celebrates birth
another now possesses a freedom
that earthly souls can only imagine

Rest in Peace, my friend,
and also my yesterday self,
for today we both start anew
and tomorrow as well,

fulfilled in the knowledge
that neither death nor birth
signify an end or a beginning

but rather each day is a new path
in our personal eternity,
one more step in the journey
of Divine life

© SpiritLed 2014

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A ‘Super’ Welcome

Well this is my first post on 20 Lines a Day.  I predominantly write poetry on my personal blog, so I thought that I would use 20 Lines to inspire me towards my creative writing purposes, and I also noted that there are few short stories told on here.  I am in the process of writing a fantasy story, although procrastination is probably a better description of my writing at the moment.  So I thought I would share with you a little about myself today in about 20 lines, a true story about myself from a ‘few’ years back …

The day was warm, and the sun shone brightly.  The clouds hid from my eyes, it was another beautiful summer day in our nation’s capital, Canberra.  The brightness of the day was not only because of the weather, for today was one of my best friend’s 21st birthday party, Jordan.  I had spent the summer in the Australian Alps, far from friends and family.  Busy working towards my future and understanding the real world from my studies.  I had not seen many of my friends over the summer, except for a brief visit from Jordy and a few others when we had spent a warm day in the Alp’s sunshine and indulged in the cool waters of a farmer’s water hole.

For the party I was joining Jordy’s girlfriend, Kelly, in dressing up in complementary costumes for the party.  I was already partly dressed in my blue tights and raising the S of the Superman costume upon my chest.  Fully dressed in the outfit of Superman I was then joined by Supergirl.  Kelly looked a damn sight better than me in tights.  We had planned this many weeks ago, with the irony being that the party had no theme and was not a fancy dress.  We were to be the only two in costume at the party, as our friend Jordy was the usual one to be a little outrageous.  So it was only fitting that we provided the flair and entertainment for his party.

Together we traveled to Jordan’s house, looking very ‘super’ in our outfits.  We knocked on the door to be greeted by Jordan’s mother, who was surprised to see us dressed up.  Although not really shocked that we had done something different.  Jordy then walked into the room and saw us.  He laughed, his hands went to his mouth as he burst with laughter.  “I love it, you guys look awesome.  I don’t know what to say … I am speechless.”  Laughter was contagious and we couldn’t help but laugh with Jordy.  Without any gift we already have given him the best present he would receive tonight.  Memories, laughter and friendship.

The night had many memories, and laughter was had by all.  Many times at our expense, but I am not one to take myself too serious.  The joy of making others happy was worth the cost of being the source of their laughter, including the bouncers I let “throw” Superman out of the club.  Although I did discover a major flaw with Superman’s outfit, other than drunks wanting me to “rescue” their friends from the police.  As during the night of celebrations, and journeying out to the town my wallet and Kelly’s purse were stolen because Superman, although as fast as a speeding bullet, had in his oversight forgotten to sew a pocket into his outfit.


Birthday Wish

It’s the lonely old man’s birthday.

He remembers his 10th birthday, 60 years ago, when he celebrated it with friends, parents, and boxes of water guns.

He remembers his 30th birthday, 40 years ago, when he celebrated it with partners, mistresses and wads of cash.

He remembers his 50th birthday, 20 years ago, when he celebrated it with children, grandchildren and bottles of champagne.

Today he celebrates his 70th birthday with a wooden table, a wooden chair, and four empty walls.

His mind is of anticipation. A wooden box, a wooden dais, a small white floral wreath.



c Sorrows in a Serenade

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My mother used to tell my brother and me that she’d played shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I never questioned that. You would have to have known her. She was so convincing. This became family lore, and eventually she told the story that she named me Maggie because “it has two Gs in it and they stand for gullible, gullible.

We had many a laugh over this throughout the years. When she was 64 and first became ill, she kept her sense of humor through the six years of her illness and dying. Her mind remained sharp.

She died at the too-young age of 70, and we carried out her wishes, to scatter her ashes at the beach. We did this on her November birthday which, that year, was Thanksgiving. I know I was putting it off. Finally our son-in-law said, “If you want to do this today we should get going because soon it will be dark.” So after our daughter, her new husband, our son and his girlfriend, my in-laws, and my husband and I had had our dinner, we headed out to the beach. I carried that black box in my mittened hands.

My stomach churned. I didn’t know what her remains would look like. Yes, I had that fear of the unknown. But when I opened it, it was all grey ash. That’s it. I was wearing a purple down jacket. I whooshed those ashes to the wind, and some of them got on my jacket. I loved that. And I felt good that we were doing as she desired.

Five months earlier, after the visitation at the funeral home, my brother, his wife, our children, and my husband and I stood in the parking lot with blue and green balloons. Blue and green were her favorite colors so there was no question as to what colors to get. Each balloon was on a long ribbon, and attached was a little white card. We decided we were going to write messages on those cards before releasing them heavenward.

Well, if you’ve read my writings you know that I often tend to be wordy, and I was trying mightily to write every possible significant thing I could think of on that little card. I was writing so small, and up the sides of the card. It was as if I couldn’t get it all said. Fortunately, my mom and I had said everything to each other while she was still alive.

Finally everyone was done. At the last minute I said, “Would anyone mind if we read what we wrote?”

And my brother said, “No. You go first.” He must have known that it would have been the longest. Of course he was right. Then the others read theirs. My brother read last. Its simplicity and poignancy touches me still:

Shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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The Phone Call

The phone would have rung about 11:00 this morning.

“Happy Thanksgiving, honey.”

My mom. And she did it on Christmas, and Easter, and our birthdays, and our anniversary, always that call to begin the day.

It’s been 17 years since I’ve heard that phone call. It was her habit. Call the kids and wish them a happy ____________(whatever). Her voice, tuned to the emotional strings of the day, rang into the depths of me. I could depend on it. Like clockwork, as they say. No call this morning, no voice…

…except in my heart, where I will always hear it.

My Father’s Last Birthday

At the juncture

of life and almost-death

I saw him,

89 years, old,

surprised him on his birthday.

Balloons couldn’t cheer the room,

the gift bag too heavy

with its weight for what was to come.

We pretended cancer had not stabbed

him in the gut, but all around

the ghosts of Future leered.


It’s my birthday! A writing challenge.

I would like to share my birthday cake with each of you … but since I can’t do that, let’s write together.

Make a wish.

And tell us about it.

I will be tied up for the evening until late and I don’t know how tired I will be, but I will write this one soon.  Please join me in writing your heart’s wish and share it with us here.
Thank you, each of you, dear contributors and readers, for coming together and forming this community.  Each of you are a gift in my life.

Very best,


Happy Birthday

We’re going to an open house this afternoon for our friend Isabel, who is turning 80. I hope this little poem, tucked into her card, will make her smile.

And here you come, octogenarian,
swift-sliding into first with ease and grace,
arriving “Safe,” the umpire calls, on base.
We’re honored to reflect your friendship sun.

Through marriage, children, music, writing, art
you let the others in, allow a peek
at all the depths of you and what you seek.
As friends we’re thrilled that we’ve become a part

of your especial universe. What fun
to write with you. Remember when we pressed
those flowers onto a poem page? They blessed
my father in his grief. You have outdone

yourself in many ways, expressed the blaze
of sunrise, tenderness of hands, a smile
or laugh that turns a sadness or a trial
into an individual turn of phrase.


I’m Glad

This morning something came back to me which I would like to share. You know, sometimes we get clogged up with negative thoughts or we concentrate on what’s not so great in our lives. But this was a moment of sweetness, and looking back, I will always be glad that I did it.

My father died three years ago. He had lung cancer that had metastasized from the base of tongue, and had many issues with eating and swallowing. He lived his last year in an adult care home. As he lived in Tucson, Arizona and I live in Michigan, we talked on the phone daily, but our visits had to be spaced out.

On the occasion of his 89th birthday (he died three months short of 90), I wanted to fly out again. My husband, always accommodating, agreed. So I went shopping. I bought books that I thought he would enjoy, wrapping paper that I thought was cheery (no wrapped presents on the plane), the perfect cards, a framed picture of my brother and me, and other small things for him that would decorate his room. I even bought a cool picture frame that would eventually hold a photo of his beloved German Shepherd whom he’d had to give up. When we arrived I also bought a colorful Happy Birthday balloon.

I’d talked with the owner of the home, and she and I planned this out to a T. She would walk into his room, presumably to check on his feeding tube (which she did several times a day), and my husband and I were to stand in the door quietly. His recliner faced away from the door.

You see, this was a surprise visit.

A. said, “Hello, N. Let me take a look at that tube.” And then she turned toward the door and nodded to us.

She backed away as we approached his chair. My husband was behind me. My father didn’t see me, as he was involved watching CNN.

“Happy birthday, Dad,” I said as I came into his view.

And the next moments were priceless. It was the classic double take.


“Hi, Dad,” I said with as much equanimity as I could muster as I hugged him and tousled his white hair.

“What, uh, how did you get here?”

“Oh, American Airlines did a pretty good job of that!”

He just kept staring at me, as if he couldn’t quite believe that we were really there, that we would do such a thing. As I handed him the birthday balloon, piled the gifts into his lap, and started clicking pictures, I noticed little tears glistening in his eyes.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

(Four years later I can still see his surprised face, hear the nuances of his words, and feel the emotion of the time.)


Cupcakes and Balloons

This afternoon at my newly-eleven year-old granddaughter’s birthday party, my two year-old granddaughter sat on my lap eating a cupcake oh, so delicately. No bites, mind you, but she put the tip of her index finger delicately into the frosting, which she then licked off her finger. She stayed at this, working away, and we all chuckled, saying, “It’s going to take you all day to eat it like that.”

Finally I asked her, “S., would you like to take a bite?”

“Yup,” she replied.

So I peeled the paper back, held it up to her mouth, and she took a little bite.”

But she then pointed to the cupcake, wanting to “dip” her finger again. She never made a mess, never got much frosting on her face at all. But she did want to play with the balloons. She patted the step where she wanted me to sit, then gave me a balloon. She kind of “threw” her hands up in the air.

“Here it comes. Get ready.”

And she burst out laughing when the balloon floated toward her, her little blonde curls bobbing.

It takes so little to satisfy a child.


(For the Weekend Challenge)

The weekend nears. Cool temperatures, warm sun
combine almost like sheets of yesteryear
hung on the line to dry. A freshness here,
anticipation of her birthday fun.

Granddaughters grow so fast. She’s in that stage
where dolls and teddies still compete with clothes,
lime green her favorite color now. She shows
her readiness for middle school, the page

about to turn. On Saturday her pool
will fill with splashing girls and boys who come
to help her celebrate. This grandma’s numb
with utter disbelief. Who made the rule

that they must leave their childhoods far behind?
I guess for that I’d have to go to church
on Sunday, ask God: How should I now search

to know the answers to such questions? How
am I to understand ships on the sea
or planes that hover in the air? To be
a seeker means, He said, is just to bow

to Me. I hold all answers in My hand.
Please, My sweet child, allow Me, let me give

you all of your desires so you can live.
The world is ordered from the small to grand.

And speaking, as He was, of grand, I said,
“My little granddaughter…” Shh, wait. I made
her, crafted her with skill like Chinese jade.
Don’t question. Watch her grow in faith instead.

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August 16

It’s late and I shouldn’t be up at this hour. But, I can sleep in tomorrow.

Since it’s after midnight and officially August 16, I wanted to note my granddaughter’s birthday. She turns eleven at 6:53 this evening. I remember well the night she was born.

I had a 7:00 meeting at school, as did her other grandma, who was an aide for the fifth grades in which I was one of the teachers. We both missed that meeting, but the other teachers and the principal filled in for us at the last minute, doing what we would have done on the program. They were all wonderful about it.

When we got the call, we were off to the hospital. Our daughter and her husband were already there. Let’s just say we didn’t go the speed limit!

After a short labor, M. was born, and I had the unparalleled gift of being in the delivery room when she came into our lives. After the nurse did the things she had to do, she wrapped little M. up, swaddled her in blankets, turned around, and handed her to my husband. His face lit up like nothing I’ve ever seen (I had the same pleasure when our grandson was born, two years earlier).

This little munchkin has been a dancer, a swimmer, a soccer player, a student extraordinaire, a pianist, and will this year begin middle school where she will be a percussionist in band. She flourishes academically and creatively, and as I write about her I know I am glowing.

She saves her money to give to causes like the Humane Society or Feeding the Hungry. She tithes to her church.

Not to worry. She’s a little sister, and that sometimes causes angst, as you might imagine. She likes to have her way, and can get moody, like the rest of us, but I choose to write about all that’s special and wonderful about her.

Oh, yes, one more thing…

God must love me very much to give me her as a granddaughter (and her brother as a grandson, and my other granddaughter as well).

Happy Birthday, M.


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