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Oct. 22nd, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Please visit me

at SM Johnson Writes (things that go "naughty" in the night) on Blogger.

I will no longer be updating LiveJournal because of technical issues.

SM Johnson Writes has a new Fiction Format - look for serial updates (A Year of Sundays) every Sunday. Bloody Monday posts will celebrate vampires. And Thursday will be surprise fiction by me or someone else: short-shorts, short stories, poetry, essays and who knows what more! 

Thank you so much for stopping by!

~SM Johnson

Oct. 7th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Blogging Me Softly

10.7.11

 

September 29 is day 7 without nicotine. I am taking a  generic Zyban product, which is incredibly helpful, but still I am restless and out of sorts. (Oct. 7 is day 15 – and still doing okay).

I am actually trying not to talk or complain about it too much, however,  because that might generate obsessive thinking, which is where my quit efforts have always failed. 

I’ll be honest here: I love smoking. I have always loved smoking.

I once quit for 4 years, and found it a total relief to start smoking again, even though I had hardly missed it. I like smokers. Seriously. In today’s world of smoking-is-allowed-absolutely-nowhere, smokers are stubborn rebels. I tend to like that in people. I don’t know why, I just do. Like folks with tattoos – there’s a basic toughness in people who walk 2 blocks on their 15 minute break. 

So here we are, me and all the characters in my brain who talk to me (even though I try to play it off as talking to myself), going on day 7.

This is what I am telling myself: The first seven days must be the toughest.

Yesterday I told myself: The first six days must be the hardest.

Do you see the pattern here?

Honestly – I would just smoke, except that seven days seems like an accomplishment, and I’d have to start over counting the hours.

One way or another, I have to quit.

I have an obstructive pulmonary condition that will turn into COPD if I keep smoking. That turns into emphysema.

Ugh.

On the upside, I no longer wake up feeling like I am drowning.

I can laugh out loud without the laugh turning into a hacking cough. (Although I still have a cough).

I can inhale and exhale deeply without choking.

I ran two blocks with the dog today, and it felt GREAT. I haven’t run on purpose for years. (Poor old dog, had to give her an aspirin for her sore knee afterward). 

I jogged up four flights of stairs yesterday. Okay, that didn’t feel so great. Although it did make me feel as if I’d just smoked a cigarette, which pretty much was my intention.

Jogging the stairs is my plan for not going crazy at work. If I can’t smoke, I tend to skip my breaks, but then I get totally stressed out. So never mind the stair-master, I’ll be using the real deal.

Anyway. Enough of my whining. We all have our trials.  I still have 9 cigarettes and a lighter inside a cigarette pack. It’s my emergency stash. It’s wrapped in duct tape, mostly to give me time to reconsider. Because I know myself: smoking just one cigarette is all it takes for me to quit quitting.

I am not worried about writing. Stephen King assured me in his book, On Writing, that even without nicotine, my brain will spin stories and all I have learned about my craft will not suddenly disappear.


Whew. That is good news. I’m even turning it around on myself – I used to measure time with cigarettes, and I used to smoke as a transition between activities. So my strategy this week has been to use that time writing a few hundred words. Very productive.

I learned something else about my productivity, and that would be that I have a very hard time keeping my ass in my chair. No wonder I don’t write more than a few pages a day. Good God, I’m getting up and heading to the back door a few hundred times a day. Well, that’s what it feels like now, when I get up from my desk, and then try to figure out what I got up for, since I’m not going outside to burn one.


Anyway. Despite feeling a vague sense of boredom, and despite having to constantly remind myself that I am no longer a smoker, you know what? It’s day SEVEN, and I’m actually doing all right (smile).


Have a great Thursday. (If you happen to be a smoker, smoke one for me, k? Thx!)

 

PS. Apparently there’s a new glitch and LiveJournal won’t publish my pictures… I’d love for ya’ll to follow me at SM Johnson Write and Dream on Blogger – http://smjbookteasers.blogspot.com – because I may soon decide to lay my LJ to rest.

Sep. 29th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Marketing is not for dummies…

…and other Thursday thoughts.

 

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People fascinate me. The stuff they do, the stuff they say, the stories they tell, the images and videos they capture. From a human perspective, I could browse websites, blogs, and Twitter links all day. From the perspective of a writer with a day job, I have to be a little more disciplined, because quiet hours around here are precious.

I can lose hours of what-could- have-been-writing-time to social networking.

And book reviews! I love reading simple, well-written reviews, like the ones at Dark Divas Reviews. My to-read list is growing. I get happy little links on Twitter that take me directly to Dark Divas – it’s so easy, and so fun!

Some social networking I do to keep in contact with real life friends, and some of it I do for marketing. I’m all for discovering the gimmick that goes viral and earns me followers who will buy my books.

moon cards

But alas, I’m not as funny as I would like to be. I never know what to post on Twitter. I mean, I look at my history of tweets and think, “Man, I am sooo B-O-R-I-N-G.”

I try to think of witty, clever little things that will be less boring. But 140 characters is… well, 140 characters. There’s only so much you can say. 

Some people have a gift for Twitter, but I do not.  (check out the hysterical Twitter stream found at #bookswithalettermissing).

And yet, an idea came to me while pondering life-skills that I do not possess.

I thought, “A-ha! New tweets! Yay!”

Actually, I think I was home alone and might have said a-ha and yay right out loud.

June 2008 107   (Me saying A-ha!)

Things I have Never Done, an attempt to be witty and clever via what I wasn’t saying.

#1 waitressing

#2 housekeeping

#3 cocaine.

I thought there would be a subtle sort of humor inherent  in what is absent from the list.

But I don’t know. Perhaps it’s too subtle for 140 words. Perhaps a more comprehensive list would be funnier than individual tweets. Most likely?  Writing humor is tricky.

I do not believe that Things I have Never Done is going viral any time soon. Damn.

Marketing baffles me, and this baffled part of me longs for a six figure advance and a team of publicists. (And health insurance. Health insurance would be really nice).

When push comes to shove, I don’t want to spend my time peddling my wares. Forget the marketing hullaballoo, forget promoting myself. I am tired of searching out new networking opportunities to manipulate into sales figures.

That’s not me.

I’m the story spinner with so much going on in my brain that you don’t even know --  the dreamer with her head in the clouds.

US b&wclouds

And I just want to write.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thursday, darlings!

Sep. 21st, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Blog, blog, bloggy, blog.


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It has been a slowly productive week around here, and proof that I could joyfully pass on having a day job.

I didn’t do much creative or personally fulfilling writing this summer, discovering early in June that managing a bored grade-schooler and immersing myself in my fictional process are activities that are mutually exclusive.

Life is like that sometimes, you know?

So instead of concentrating on fiction, I focused on developing this blog and learning about twitter and Facebook fan pages.

And now we’re about two weeks into the school year, and here’s a newsflash:
Getting out of the habit of writing gets one out of the habit of writing.
Seriously.

Getting out of the habit of writing also gets other people out of the habit of leaving one alone to write.
One almost needs office hours.

Anyway. Because I work part time and every other weekend, my day job leaves me two and sometimes even three weekdays to play.

Play means write, right?

Of course it should.

And yet… I have a great coupon for the craft store that expires this week, and I really want to find a good winter jacket before it snows, and it would be nice to fit that appointment with the doctor in when I don’t’ need childcare…

Not to mention the laundry that’s piling up, the dishes that need to be done, the cat’s nails need clipping, and what the hell is the dog barking at?

Yesterday I milled around for half the morning, at loose ends and having trouble settling somewhere with the laptop. But then I remembered (insert drum-roll)…

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.

Eeeeeeeek! My one chance to write a completely brand new sparkling, delightful, and torturous first draft.
I love NaNo. Well, I love NaNo for all of the eleven months that I don’t hate it, that is.

But here’s the thing…

I have to clear the writing decks by October 30th to free myself for NaNo. I also should give the house a good clean, because everybody around here knows I’m not doing any of that in November.

So. It’s time to kick it into high gear, give myself office hours, and get some shit done!

Out of the Dungeon will be released as an ebook  on Smashwords October 30. Which means I need to A) finish writing the wee little bits that need finishing, B) find some early-readers for some feedback, C) do an anal-retentive copy-editing read through, and D) Design a kick-ass cover  (which involves shopping, photography, and some stumbling graphic design).

I also have to get busy on a re-write/co-write of Assassin Jaxx.

So I’m kickin’ it in the guest room, where I can’t hear the dryer squeaking, the house phone ringing, or the dog barking. I even have a writing partner.

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I swear he’s more enthused than he looks, he was just very suspicious of the iPhone being pointed in his direction during our little game of cat and mouse.

So, if I don’t answer the door (or the phone), it might be that Meow-Meow (formerly known as Colby) and I are busy with office hours. And purring. Purring keeps us very busy.

Happy Thursday, darlings! Stay warm out there!

Sep. 14th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Proud musings…

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We had our local Pride celebration last weekend, and, near as I can tell, a good time was had by all.


Attendance at the daytime park gathering seemed a bit low this year, which could be due to several factors. One was scattered thunderstorms in the forecast, although the day was mostly sunny, with just one short instance of rain, which made the temperature perfect.

Also, despite this being the 25th anniversary of our Pride event, it didn’t seem as heavily advertised as it has been in the past.

And finally, I hear the road construction between here and the Twin Cities is nightmarish, and in past year our event has drawn a great deal of people from surrounding areas, including Minneapolis and St. Paul.


But still. It was a beautiful day in Bayfront Park.


The great stage was home to several performers. I wish I could introduce you to them all, but somehow I neglected to pick up a Pride Guide this year, and to tell you the truth, I was busy talking to people and didn’t manage to follow the stage patter. My bad.
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The grounds filled with information booths, craft vendors, and rainbow schwag.


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And food! Ah, yes, don’t forget the food!


I had caramel apple strudel with cinnamon ice cream for breakfast, and sweet crunchy kettle corn for lunch. Had I heard of it earlier, I might have had a bacon-wrapped deep-fried hot dog, but alas, I didn’t have room.


I shared a booth with the local alternative newspaper, the Zenith City Weekly, and when I wasn’t chatting with people, I took pictures of the park, the people, and for sure the pets…


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The guys above came to the park with a macaw (perched on the chair) a cockatiel (I think) on the shoulder of the guy on the right, and a boston terrier. I asked, “Don’t you worry that someone else’s dog might try to attack them?” The answer was, “That’s my 2nd worry. My 1st is that a hawk will dive down and steal one of them.”

Interesting. I would have never thought of that. There was another lady with a bird, too, that rode in a back-pack pet carrier, perch an all. Way cool. (Click the pet-pack pic below for more info on this kind of product).


pet pack


What I found myself thinking was… there’s nothing here to be afraid of. Just people.
We happen to be Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, Queers, Allied or Intersex. But mostly we’re just people. We all have our good sides, our crabby days, our fat days. Days in which we love ourselves and every one else, and days where we hate everybody, including ourselves.


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There were same-sex couples holding hands (women more often than men), men dressed as women, woman so butch it was hard to tell they were women. There were young people reveling in the chance to be here and be queer. There were rainbows and rainbows and rainbows.


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Thanks for visiting my blog Darlings! Happy Thursday! And Happy Pride. Have a great weekend.

Sep. 7th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Pitfalls in Narrative

show don't tell mug 2

I’m going to talk about some pitfalls and mistakes that authors make in narrative, but I want you to know I’m writing from the perspective of a reader, not as an author-expert. I am by no means a perfect writer, and I try to learn more about my craft all the time. This is what I know: One way to learn more about writing is to keep reading.

So. Let’s talk about the things in fiction narrative that make me crazy, shall we? Starting with…

Repetition of important details:

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Here’s the thing, readers are not stupid. If an author asks me to suspend reality to join his world, I will happily do so. If the author tells me that our hero looks like a high school teacher but is really an undercover cop investigating the death of Mary Mary Quite Contrary, not only will I believe the author, but I will actually REMEMBER this detail.

Readers are good at following the arc of a story. It’s what they do. It’s why they like to read.

Please don’t remind me every time I meet our hero that he’s not actually a  teacher, but, oh my, an undercover cop investigating the murder of Mary Mary Quite Contrary.

The fourth or fifth time the author reminds me that our hero is not  a teacher, but an undercover cop investigating the murder Mary Mary Quite Contrary, I start to feel annoyed.

Kindergarten cop

**image does not reflect blog content**

The eighth time I roll my eyes.

The tenth time I vow to never read another book written by this person ever again.

Kindergarten cop

When, on page 499, I’m told yet again that the teacher is not actually a teacher but an undercover cop, I wish I’d quit reading 400 pages ago and wonder  if there was an actual editor involved in the publishing of this book.

Along the lines of repetition, PLEASE don’t explain who the main character is each time the narrative changes to his POV. It makes me want to beat my head against the wall. Or stop reading. And that’s criminal.

If the story is good, and the plot has intrigued me, I’ll make a point to remember the details. That’s what I came here (into the book) for. The author should trust me.

Next: Stating the obvious.

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Within the narrative our hero answers the telephone and the caller says, “Hey,  this is Sheriff XYZ. You’re right, we could really use some help from the inside, so consider yourself deputized.”

And then the narrative explains what the phone call I just witnessed means. The Sheriff hung up, effectively giving our hero the green light to investigate.

Um, yeah. I was totally there for that conversation. I followed exactly what happened.

Or how about this one… a virgin gets de-flowered and then immediately afterward is murdered. I’m right there with the poor virgin, as she’s having her first sexual experience, and then as she’s gasping for breath and fighting, literally, for her life,  for at least a couple of paragraphs.

And then the author explains it to me: Mary Mary Quite Contrary lost both her virginity and her life that night. 

Now, “Mary Mary Quite Contrary lost both her virginity and her life that night” is a really dramatic phrase, and it sounds nice and pretty and… dramatic. But it’s kind of telling rather than showing, right? Especially when the author has already effectively shown me what happened. So this is where the editing advice “kill your darlings” comes to mind. Sometimes even phrases that you really love need to become victims of the Delete key.

 

show dont' tell book 2

Don’t get me wrong, some characters DO state the obvious, and such statements are part of their characterization. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character comes to mind. When he figures something out he might say, “Ah-ha!” or if he’s just caught the bad guy red-handed, “Gotcha!” And every time Spenser says, “Look, a clue!” – I laugh my ass off.  Because it’s part of characterization and is consistent throughout the series, it’s witty. Otherwise it would only be lame.

 

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Next irritant: Typing an accent or speech impediment.

Don’t do it. Don’t. Even if you want to.

Comment on it. Describe it. Give a sentence or two for example. Then resume proper spelling and grammar. Really. The reader can now grasp the concept and let his imagination fill in the rest, from southern belle to Aussie bushman. Trust the reader.

A couple of polishing tips before I wrap this up…

Writers need to trust themselves. If a writer suspects she is over-using phrases such as “undercover cop” – MS Word has a remarkable feature called “find.”

When I think I’m working with a final draft I use the Find feature to see how and when each character uses cuss words. I study each use and give some thought to if it’s really necessary. I also use the Find feature to examine every word in the manuscript that ends in LY, and, specifically,  try to eliminate 2/3 of my use of the word “really.”

Polishing a final draft is more work than writing a first draft. Often it seems exceptionally tedious, but it matters.  I try to spice up the process with self-challenges. How can I strengthen this character? What mannerisms or speech patterns need to be consistent, and did I pull it off? How many words can I eliminate? How many sentences can I simplify?

And here’s one I discovered recently… if writing a “series” or trilogy where each book could conceivably stand alone, make sure to describe each character well one time in each book. Preferably near the beginning. I learned this through a FAIL. Because I’m not perfect.

Well, Darlings, I hope your weekend is as good as mine will be!

ds pride 2011ds pride flag

Sep. 2nd, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Late Morning Coffee

9.1.11

OMG, is it Thursday already? How did that happen?

If you showed up for coffee and I wasn’t here, I’m sorry about that!

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So here’s what’s happening… DeVante’s Children is going to the printer – yay! This book publishing process happens in the time between day jobs of several people, so we are perhaps not always precise in our scheduling. Progress is being made! One really cool thing is that I was able to create a QR code, and it’s on the back cover to the right of my author bio. QR codes are those weird little black and white squares that work like a bar code – you can scan it with your phone, and your browser will load the associated website. Technology is scary cool these days.

Blogger QR code

And it even works! Moments after inserting the above pic, I downloaded a QR scanner on my iPhone, scanned the screen and ta-da – there’s my blog! Ahh, how sweet it is!

The evolution of technology kind of freaks me out. I have a birthday next month that marks the start of my 4th decade, and I clearly remember a time when I did NOT have an email address. I remember writing letters by hand to keep in touch with people, and the minimum five day time lag between the last moment my words were written and the first moment they were read. I’m pretty up on my technology. I can email. I can attach files, share pictures, and upload statuses to Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Heck, I can do all of those things at the same time, and I don’t even need an actual computer to do them.

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Whoa!

And yet… my 8 year old child can do all of that and more, and probably faster.

She will perhaps never know life without the kind of technology that keeps people connected and interacting instantly and constantly.

She has little interest in reading books for amusement or relaxation, because her digital world is always in motion.

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I remember ten years ago worrying that my step-son spent too many hours a day playing video games, and wondering what effect the constant audio/visual stimulation was having on his ability to learn.

Now I worry that my own child spends so much time interacting with others that she’ll never take time out to quietly reflect alone inside her head. How do you know who you are in this crazy world? What’s real and what’s digital, and what’s the difference?

Are we so self-involved that we must shout to the world what we’re having for lunch today (probably Subway FYI), or how well we slept last night, or that the cat puked, or that we’re tired or that we’re sick – and who the hell really cares, anyway?

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I was tech-free for the past two days for personal reasons, and as I caught up with Facebook and the like this morning, I realized I didn’t miss much. Well, I missed an important email from my publisher yesterday, but I responded today – that’s a 24 hour turn-around, and that’s not too shabby, even in the era of digi-tronics.

So, all of a sudden I realize it is Thursday morning, and I’ve neglected to leave a new blog for Coffee. I had a moment of horrified panic. And then I took a deep breath. All right, so TMC is a bit late today. Guess what? The world keeps turning.

Happy Thursday, Darlings, hope you have a beautiful weekend!

~SM

Aug. 25th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

The First Time

08.24.11

Good Thursday morning to you, darlings!

Let us have some coffee, shall we?

As a writer of things erotic, I love exploring “first times,” the butterflies, the thrill and terror of the possibility of acceptance or rejection, the breathless moments that stand still in memory, throwing yourself out to the universe, gods be damned, people be damned… willing to risk  everything to become the person you were meant to be.

No, I’m not talking about losing virginity. I’m talking about finding yourself.

Sometimes they are coming out stories, and sometimes they are, indeed, first sexual experience stories. Or those beautiful essays (a thousand poems, no less) penned to a first love, bittersweet in their longing, doomed to fade with the passage of time.

Do you remember your first real kiss? The one with tongue?

Do you remember telling your best friend that you’re gay? Maybe you were thirteen, and hardly knew yourself what it meant, and after stammering awkwardly through words that almost killed you to say, she laughed because she already knew, and the world was brighter because you were no longer alone with your secret.

It was the first time you stood up to your mother and you knew you were right.

It was the first time you confronted your abuser, wresting his power away when you said, “You can’t hurt me anymore.”

It was finally walking away from a poisonous relationship, and it hurt, oh god, how it hurt, but there was a part of you dying anyway, and every step further away earned you strength, until, eventually, you knew you were not only going to be okay, but you were going to be even better than you were before the experience.

It wasn’t the first time you had confusing feelings about another person, but it was the first time the light bulb went on and you had that “ah-ha!” moment – and admitted, at least to yourself, that you are bi-sexual. Or homosexual. Or transsexual, or a Star Wars fanatic, or just plain different from other people.

It was the first time you risked a friendship and told someone else, someone important to you.

Maybe it was the first time you let your co-workers know that their homophobic jokes and obvious bigotry weren’t okay and certainly weren’t funny.

It was your opportunity to feel your heart beating hard because something inside you couldn’t stand the façade for one more second, and you had to stand up for what you believe in or explode.

It was the first time your first vampire novel came out in paperback.

A big happy “paperback day” to DeVante’s Children.

I’d love to hear your “first times” – darlings, comments begged for welcome!

Aug. 18th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Coffee read–DeVante’s Children excerpt

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08.18.11


Good morning and welcome to Thursday Morning Coffee!

Since DeVante’s Children is being released in paperback this month, I thought I’d give everyone an extra-special sneak peek…

Read Chapter 1 HERE… How to Choose a Fledgling, then close the window and READ MORE for Chapter 2, How to Leave Home. And then please feel free order the whole book from Rebel Satori Press!

Happy reading and yay, it’s almost Friday!

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Aug. 11th, 2011

Moon over Hawaii

Sammy Jo

July 24, 1992 – July 26, 2011


Sammy Jo died suddenly at age 19, leaving a void in the lives of many.







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It is a bit odd that when someone dies, their memory becomes almost like community property. I would never write in detail about a living person without their permission. And yet, if I don’t write about a little girl I once knew named Sam, I might be stuck in this melancholy shadow-place forever.


I have been slow on the tweets and statuses, (statuii?) this past week because I have a creaky old memory reel turning laboriously in my head, starting, then stopping, then rewinding, then making an effort to start again.
 
I knew Sammy from when she was very little until she was about nine years old. I did not knew her as either a teenager or a young adult, and for that I am sad. I have no doubt that she was a complex and amazing young woman, because she was a complex and amazing child. She had this straight-edge kind of logic that was sometimes hysterical, and sometimes astonishingly wise.


Sam was… well, Sam. I can’t compare her to other children, because she was a unique spirit. She had soft brown hair and serious, observant brown eyes. She could be stubborn, but she could also be winsome - when she wanted to be.


Sammy Jo was reserved. When I say this, what I mean is that she did NOT warm up to me the first time we met. Or the second. And maybe not even the third. Slow-to-warm up is almost an understatement. I might even say she was outright suspicious. Perhaps I was trying too hard (smile), because I really wanted her mother for a friend, and I was determined to win over this little girl.


The reason this is significant is because the first time Samantha Jo met my husband, she fell for him with no holds barred. I’d warned him, “Don’t expect Sammy to like you. She doesn’t like anyone at first.”


Oh, how wrong I was. And my husband was annoyingly smug about it. In fact, every once in a while through the years he’ll ask me, with a glint in his eye, “Are you old yet?” And it brings forth one of our fondest Sammy stories:



Sam: When I grow up, I’m going to marry Dave.

Sam’s mother: But what about SM?

Sam: Oh, she’ll be old by then.




The story seems bigger in memory than just those few lines, and we laughed until our sides ached. Sammy used to follow Dave out to the garage and just hang out with him while he worked on cars. She wasn’t needy or intrusive, she was just there, keeping him company.


Sam was a treasure.


I wish my memory reel was more accessibly archived, but the memories are random and disjointed and out of order.


I remember a time when Sammy’s mom felt the daycare was letting the kids stare at the TV for too many hours a day. She was assured that the children watched a minimum of television, only educational, and only when the worker was preparing lunch or snack. It was a week or two later that we heard Sammy, up in her bedroom, belting out at the top of her lungs, “SAVE BIG MONEY AT MENARD’S!” We looked at each other in surprised silence for a second, then burst out laughing.


I lost Sam (and her firecracker sister and baby brother), ten years ago when they moved away.  I found her again, completely by accident, a year ago. We had a brief message exchange, and I wish I had said more, told her how much I had loved her when she was a little girl, but I didn’t. Old friends of your parents gushing how much they loved you when you were a kid is probably inappropriate, if not downright creepy.


I’m not sure what the lesson is here. I know it doesn’t do anyone good to give too much weight to regret and useless “what if” imaginings.


So I will say this: Recognize that important people will pass in and out of your life. Treasure the good memories. Be grateful for happiness, and mindful of sadness, and know that both will change you in ways that you might not see until you look back.


Thank you darlings, for reminiscing with me.


~SM



Time works its quiet magic, mending and molding us so carefully that we rarely notice the stitches, and only see the scars when we take the time to look for them. – SM Johnson, DeVante’s Choice (coming 2012)

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