The Music Played

Three years ago, I lay curled up on the couch in our living room, covered in an icy blanket of hopelessness and depression. My dad was dying.

The hard truth about death is there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. We can only postpone it. My dad’s time had come after years of keeping it at bay, pushing it off each time it crept in like a fog, and I knew it.

What could I do?

He needs his music. The idea, seemingly external in origin, reached in and took hold of me. I knew how important music was to him. I couldn’t stop him from dying, but I could give him one final gift—the same gift he gave me years before when we sat, poring over his record collection, listening to everything from Janis Joplin to the old-school folk music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. I pulled myself off the couch and spent the next couple hours scouring iTunes and making a CD of music I knew he would like.

Three years ago I sat by my dad’s bed in the skilled nursing facility, talking to my stepmother and listening to the CD I placed into the player on the laminate wood nightstand. Together, we waited. My dad had been in a “non-aware” state for a couple weeks so my stepmother and I talked around him, not to him—at least until my stepmother needed to make a short run to her office down the road. She kissed him and told him goodbye … that she would be back soon.

I think he was waiting for that moment. I think he didn’t want to die alone, but also didn’t want to put my stepmother through the pain of watching him take his last breaths.

I turned up the music, which had been set to a barely audible volume and returned to my chair near the foot of his bed. I laughed when Johnny Cash repeated his famous lyrics about falling down, down, down into a growing ring of fire. That kind of imagery probably wasn’t the most comforting to a man who was about to pass from this world, into what lies beyond. I said as much to my dad while switching to the next song. We shared the same dark sense of humor, so I’m sure he didn’t mind.

During the next couple of songs, the time between each rise and fall of my dad’s chest grew longer and longer. I moved my chair next to the head of his bed and held his hand while we listened to Alison Krauss and Neil Young. I cried bawled. I wondered at times if he had taken his last breath, only to see his chest rise again. I called my brother, who was at work, and told him to call his mom—my stepmom.

I told my dad it was okay to go. That he had been a good dad. I thanked him for taking me fishing and camping, for always being a part of my life, for sharing his love for music with me.

I told him I loved him.

I don’t know at what point he left his body—the exact moment that he died. He left without a word, without a sign. At some point between his last breaths, he had opened his blue eyes just enough that I could see the light was gone.

He was gone.

Still, the little CD player serenaded him with the music he loved while I held his hand, tears streaming.

I smiled. I don’t know why. Maybe because he chose me to be the one to see him off; I was honored. For a moment, I felt his presence in the room. But maybe I imagined it. I like to think he stood—for the first time in years—and saw that I wept for him, for the loss of him. Then he felt … gone.

Death is a knife to those left behind, cutting deep, leaving scars that heal slowly. But, just like music, the memories play on.

 

Xenodochial (R.I.P. Rocco)

Xenodochial is an adjective that mroccotuxeans “friendly to strangers.” At least that’s what http://adjectivesstarting.com/ claims.

My go-to source for most things word related, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, doesn’t recognize that form of the word so I can’t say for sure it exists. But I’m going to use it because it works for what I want to write about. Because two days ago it was “X” day for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  

Because two days ago, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Golden Retriever. 

We adopted Rocco four years ago. Even then, he had enough white fur on his face and body to tell us that he was an older pup. Still, he was energetic and healthy for most of time we had him. And, like most Golden Retrievers, he loved just about everyone—friends and strangers alike.

A few months ago, things changed. His health and vitality began to decline until finally his suffering, his struggle to breathe and eat, became too much.

It was a gloomy, atypical rainy day in San Diego County when we gathered around Rocco as a family, stroked his once-golden fur, and said tearful good-byes to our faithful friend. We were there when he took his last breath.

I couldn’t help but think of the day—two years ago—I sat by my dad’s bedside, held his once-strong hand, and sobbed as I told him how much I loved him. I was there when the first man I ever loved took his last breath.

In Rocco’s final moments, he lifted his head and looked toward the door of the vet’s office. Maybe it was a normal reaction. Maybe he noticed a change taking place in his body. Maybe it was electrical impulses. I prefer to think he was responding to a loving call to transition to the other side of life.

I wonder if it was my dad—who always enjoyed visits from our happy, loving dog—he heard. Maybe Rocco recognized the man who slipped him pizza crust when he thought we weren’t looking.

In any case, I know Rocco is being taken care of. I know I will see him again. I also know we will always love and miss him.

Good-bye, sweet Rocco.

drroccoroccopup

 

 

Name Change

So, I changed the name of my blog. I got tired of the old one, so to add a little excitement to my life, I spent the better part of a day thinking of the perfect name.

Good bye “Whims & Wanderings.” You’ve been replaced.

Why “Life Within the Words”?

Words are a big part of my life, especially written words. I am surrounded by them. Mostly I read them; sometimes I write them. I’m paid to evaluate them. I love words.

I also have a life. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister.

The new name represents what this blog is about. I write words about people who write words. I write words of my own. I write about the words I write. But filling the spaces between the words in my world is my world—my life. I use this blog to write about my life.

I began this blog years ago. I think it was originally called “Life in Bits & Pieces.” I liked that one, but it sort of made me think of a life that had been shattered. Mine’s fine. Thank God, my life is not broken. It was about my life and all the parts of it.

Then it was called something else. Must have been boring because I don’t remember what. I don’t think I wrote much during that time. ((yawn))

I changed it to “Whims & Wanderings” because I figured I’d use it to write about whatever I wanted, unbound by a theme. It was a decent name, but like I said above, I got tired of it.

“Life Within the Words” better suits what this blog has evolved into. It’s a stopping ground for all my blog posts. When I write a post on my author blog, it will end up here. My editing blog posts will be copied here as well. Posts about my real life—where my family, my faith, and my musings reside—will continue to be posted here.

Life … within the words.

My husband suggested the name “The Junk Drawer” since everything ends up here. I like that one, but … junk … maybe not.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thanks! I hope you visit again.

word
Yep. I made this.

 

 

Author Interview: M.C. Allen

Last we51YS-anwh-L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ek’s interview was with author William Allen. It’s not a coincidence that this week’s author has the same last name. That’s because they are brothers. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with both of these men, and all I can say is their parents must have done something right.

They don’t know this, but for a while, I suspected William and M.C. were the same person (sort of like Latoya and Michael). They’re both witness-protection-program private and don’t have profile pictures. Plus, I’ve never seen the two of them in the same place at the same time. But now that I’ve gotten to know them a tiny bit, I do believe they are separate people.

I wanted to feature M.C. this week because he just published his first book. Not a short story, not a novella, but a full-fledged, full-length novel. His book takes place in the Walking in the Rain world. If you haven’t read William Allen’s Walking in the Rain series, you should because his books are great. But it’s not necessary to read them in order to enjoy M.C. Allen’s Firestorm. The characters are different and it reads like its own, unique story.

And now, read on to find out more about M.C. Allen.

Please tell a little about yourself.
I’m a full-time classroom teacher. Firestorm represents my first foray into writing fiction. I have a teaching degree in English and Biology from a small university in East Texas. William Allen is my older brother, and except for my wife, he probably knows me the best.

What is Walking in the Rain: Firestorm about?
Firestorm takes place at the same time as William Allen’s book Dark Sky Thunder. The characters in my story are trying to find a safe haven, and along the way they find some friends. They also run into some people who need a good killing. Firestorm is a little darker that the rest of the series.

What went through your mind when you finished your first book and finally hit that publish button?
Oh crap? What have you done? I panicked. I literally panicked that I had done something wrong. I understand the self-doubt that real artists go through with their work. I feel like a fraud putting my work out there next to all of the other great authors.

What did you learn in the process of writing Firestorm?
To me, the writing of the story was the easy part. Once I completed my first chapter, the rest of the novel wrote itself. My dad once said that parts of his book took on a life of its own.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m going to still be in education, but probably not in the junior high level. In the next two years I plan to complete my second Masters, or possibly go for my Doctorate in education. I definitely do not want to be a principal! No amount of money can compensate me for that kind of pain.

Do you like piña coladas?
I like just about anything with alcohol!

Of all your characters, who are most like? Is there a character you’d like to be more like?
I’m a lot like my character David. Slightly insane? Yep. Prone to irrational rage? Check. I would like to be more like Joseph. He has an even disposition and he tries to be rational.

Have you ever eaten grubs? If so, how did you like them? If not, go eat some and get back to me.
We grew up poor on a farm, but not that poor. I have sampled dried dog food and cattle feed at one time.

How do you find time to write? What is the best time of day for you when it comes to writing? What is the worst time of day?
I try to write at night before bed and on the weekends. I can’t write in the morning at all. My brain is too fuzzy before noon, and coffee only makes me jittery. I did write most of Chapter One of Firestorm at one of those meetings that are mandatory for teachers but unpaid.

You obviously have a good relationship with your brother, William. Did you always get along with each other? What is your favorite memory with your brother and/or family?
We used to fight like a pair of junkyard dogs. We are only 18 months apart in age, so I was the annoying little brother throughout grade school. My favorite memory was when my younger brother Chris got back from his tour with the Marines in Iraq. We had a blowout party, but the memory of all of us boys with our dad in a picture reminds me of that happy day.

Qqqqqqqqqwewqwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqop[? (That question is from my cat)
Yes, I like catnip too, but it makes my heart race.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what? If you don’t listen to music when you write, when do you listen to music and what kind do you like?
I don’t listen to music when I write. I try to keep the distractions down when I’m working. I do like classic rock and a little country, but not the new crap. I’m not a prude though. I’ll jam out to pop on my way to work just to get the synapses firing.

How ready are you for a worldwide, apocalyptic SHTF (sh*t hits the fan) scenario? What do you think is most likely to happen to cause TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)? An EMP; economic collapse; zombies; war, alien invasion, epidemic … or is there something else that maybe you know about that the rest of us don’t?
In a SHTF situation, I’ll be good for about six months. I think we will eventually slide into an economic collapse. This house of cards cannot be supported at the current rate of consumption. Eighteen trillion in debt? What happens when that bill is due? If we write that off, the world economy would go into a tailspin. Look at the austerity movement in Greece. That didn’t fix anything but make people more angry and resentful of their elected leaders. An EMP might actually be a godsend. Zap! All electronic debt could be wiped out in a split second.

Do you think people are inherently good or inherently evil?
People are people. They will jump good or bad based on how they were raised. I see it in my classrooms daily. A child will respond to someone in a positive way if they were raised correctly.

Do you have any scars? How did you get them?
My left thumb has a dime-sized scar from my experience with high voltage and a floor buffer in Germany. That is my most obvious scar. The farm left me with all sorts of interesting stories. Barbed wire fences gave me some good ones.

Of the following 1970s TV shows, which would you prefer to be in when society collapses, and why? A) Welcome Back Kotter; B) The Jeffersons; C) Gilligan’s Island; or D) Starsky and Hutch
I’ll take the island. At least there are coconuts! I’m taking Gilligan out day one though. The Skipper will be held in reserve for when the food runs out.

Let’s say you only have a roll of Duct Tape, a few Sporks, and can of Silly String. What kind of weapon could you create out of them to fight off zombies and/or bad guys during an apocalypse?
Without anything else? I can see using the duct tape to make some sort of fighting gloves with the sporks used for sharp pointy things. The Silly String doesn’t have much use except for the metal can. If I can bend it enough, I can make a sharp edge for creating a makeshift shank.

What’s next for you in terms of writing? Will there be a sequel to Firestorm?
I’m trying my hand at young adult fiction right now. I don’t have a projected completion time for it, but I feel that Christmas time is doable. I want to tell the story of David trying to hold his neighborhood right after the pulse. This is where he starts to lose it and “go hunting.”

What are your superpowers and/or secret talents?
I can’t tie a cherry stem into a knot, but I do know how to write lesson plans like a fiend. Ooh, I just remembered something! I know the secret to making Sonic’s onion rings. I worked as a cook and assistant manager where I discovered the inner workings of a fast food establishment. I do know my way around a reloading bench, so I make my own ammunition.

Where can readers find your book?
Firestorm: Walking in the Rain Book 5 is available from Amazon.com as an ebook. I anticipate having the hard copies ready by December.

R is for Reconciliation

R is for Reconciliation

Reconcile (verb)= to restore to friendship, compatibility, or harmony

Reconciliation (noun)=  the action of reconciling or state of being reconciled

Source: Merriam-Webster Unabridged

The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.
~Nhat Hanh

The overall purpose of human communication is – or should be – reconciliation. It should ultimately serve to lower or remove the walls of misunderstanding which unduly separate us human beings, one from another.
~M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace

Chimps are very quick to have a sudden fight or aggressive episode, but they’re equally as good at reconciliation.
~Jane Goodall

P is for Planning

P is for Planning

PI am the first to admit, I am horrible at planning. It’s not that I don’t have goals. It’s not that I’m lazy… okay, sometimes it is. I guess it’s not a priority to me. I’m sure those who are reading this who are planners have a hard time understanding that concept.

I don’t remember dates, so if I plan too far ahead, I will absolutely forget. For example, hair appointments. Instead of scheduling my next appointment while I’m still at the salon, I just wait until my hair is unbearable and then call to schedule an appointment… preferably for that day.

Sometimes plans change, so I take a proactive stance and wait to see if an event is really going to happen before I commit to it.

I’m not going to lie. Life would be simpler if I took some time to plan ahead and being open to improving my life, I plan to plan more. One area I will start planning more faithfully is in figuring out ahead of time what my kids need to do for their school work that day. Then I can write it down and they don’t have to keep asking, “What should I do next?” I used to plan a week at a time when I was teaching, and that worked pretty well. I should try it with homeschooling.

Okay, now I plan to finish this so I can go ahead and plan something for the letter Q.

Thanks for stopping by!

M is for Mom Plays Minecraft

M is for Mom Plays Minecraft

Once again, I am behind schedule with the A-Z Challenge. I have a lot of catching up to do.

This will be short and… well, short.

Minecraft is fun. My kids got me into it and now the whole family plays. Just for fun, I’ll share some of the screenshots I took recently of my Minecraft world.

Fullscreen capture 4172015 102805 PM
I’m collecting chickens. Yes, those square things are chickens.
Fullscreen capture 4172015 102722 PM
My player (MCMom70) surrounded by chests… and chickens.
Fullscreen capture 4172015 103514 PM
A Minecraft sunset.