Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Valleys and Summits

"It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest."   -Greek Proverb

This is exactly what I've been telling my family for a long time, although this proverb says it far better than I can.  I know my family cares about me.  I know that's why they occasionally encourage me to consider an anti-depressant.  My sisters absolutely swear by theirs and perhaps it's a good aid for them.  I consistently and (hopefully) politely refuse.  For me it would not be an aid but instead a crippling impediment.  

There are times when I am so overwhelmed with negative emotion.  I am so low it feels like I am in a deep fissure in the earth.  Inky darkness swallows away any shadow.  The cold snakes through my heart to leech away any warmth.  Silence pounds deafeningly.  The thick air is hard to breath.  It is a forbidding place and lonely because even the best efforts of friends cannot raise me from this pit.

Time spent in a valley is extremely unpleasant but vitally necessary.

It is only because of the valleys that my summits are so dazzlingly high, so brilliantly bright, so wonderfully warm.  It is only in comparsion to the dark that I can see and appreciate the full quality of the light.  Comparison to the cold makes the warmth warmer.  Comparison to the depth of the valley makes the height giddy and awe-inspiring.  Even if I could reach the summit without going through the valleys, without the comparison everything would be muted.

It's just basic physics.  If I trim amplitude off the bottom of the wave by chemically altering the depth of the valley I must, as a matter of natural law, lose an equal amount from the crest.  Without the deep troughs I cannot soar to the incredible highs found at the wave's apex.  As hard as it is to get through the valleys sometimes, I refuse to do anything to change that amplitude because I am so unwilling to give up the highs of riding the crest.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Damon and Pythias

Describe your favourite fairytale, myth or legend from your childhood.  Discuss why it’s your favourite and how it has influenced your beliefs and morals throughout your life so far.

I loved mythology when I was a child -- mostly Greek and Roman.  One of my favorite myths was that of Damon and Pythias.  The story is actually rather simple.  Pythias is accused of a crime by the king and sentenced to death.  He asks to go home to say goodbye to his family.  The king refuses because he's sure once released, Pythias would never return.  Damon offers to stand in Pythias' place and, if he doesn't return, suffer his fate.  The king accepts the offer. As Pythias is returning after visiting his family he is attacked by outlaws and left for dead.  Execution day comes and everyone is taunting Damon telling him what a trusting fool he has been.  Right before the execution Pythias shows up - beaten, bloody and half-dead.  The king is so impressed that Pythias returned that he sets both men free.

Damon was willing to give his life for his friend Pythias.  Pythias withstood travel when he was already half dead to save Damon.  That kind of legendary loyalty is and always has been very appealing to me.  I hold loyalty like that in extremely high esteem.  Sometimes, when misplaced, my loyalty towards others has caused me pain, but I refuse to lower my values because others take advantage.  When I look at myself in the mirror, I have to be able to like what I see.  If I were disloyal I wouldn't.  Sure, that means sometimes I've been used.  But over the years, the users have faded from my life while the person in the mirror never has.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Monday, July 25, 2011

Silver Lining

Prompt: Fukijima, Japan --- Mar 12, 2011

On March 12, 2011, Japan's Fukushimo nuclear reactor was threatened with a meltdown. The company responsible for operating the plant had tested it to withstand a 7.9 magnitude quake, which they considered the strongest possible.  The quake that actually threatened was a 9.0.

On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers in New York City were targeted by terrorists flying commercial airliners bound and fueled for cross-country flights.  The designers built the structure to withstand a crash by a single 747 jet.  They didn't foresee the power inherent in a dual attack by larger planes.

Are the designers and engineers responsible for these structures also responsible for their destruction?  Should  they have foreseen the damage that was done?  I don't think so.  It's not like they hadn't tested at all.  They prepared for what they considered the worst case scenario.  Unfortunately, the worst case turned out to be worse than what they imagined possible.

Unfortunately our human brain can only process certain levels of destruction.  No one believed a 9.0 magnitude earthquake was possible in Fukijima.  No sane person could imagine the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.  No one saw the Holocaust coming either.  The destructive power of chaos, whether natural or man-made, is something hard for humans to wrap their brains around.  We spend our lives guarding against the probable.  If we were to guard against every possibility we would spend all our time shoring up defenses and never try anything new.  If we did that we'd still be living in moat-surrounded castles.

When I worry about something too much, my husband puts a stop to it by reminding me there's an asteroid somewhere in the universe hurtling towards Earth and suggesting maybe I should worry about that for a while.  He's right, of course.  Some situations, while possible, are so far from the realm of plausible that they cannot be protected against.  Nor should we waste time contemplating them because the likelihood of them coming to pass is so remote.  But every now and again, these impossible situations do happen and when they do the results are devastating.  That's when we humans start second guessing ourselves and wondering why we didn't see it coming.

But we shouldn't.  We make the best protections against the situations we consider the most plausible and that's all we can do.  If we tried to protect against every possibility we would never advance.  Which would be another kind of tragedy.

Growth of any kind takes pain.  As painful as these events were, there was something else that emerged from them too.  After these tragedies, the human race seems to pull together.  It gets past it's stupid individualism and nationalism and helps those that need help.  As tragic as these events are, what I choose to take away from them is the power of the human spirit to overcome the situation.  It's a small sliver of a silver lining around an extremely dark cloud, but it is enough to give me a most precious commodity - hope.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Goodbye Letter

You've won the lottery! No, not that lottery -- the Goodbye Lottery. For some reason, as Death comes to collect you, he gives you leave to write a farewell letter to your family and friends. What do you write?

Dear Everyone,

I know that sounds a bit stupid, but you will have to forgive me.  Not everyone gets this chance and I can't decide if it's a blessing or a curse.  Death is standing here and will be taking me soon, but has given me time to write a note to say goodbye.  I guess most would consider it a boon but I'm finding it a very uneasy task.  Concentrating on what's most important to say to you as I am also contemplating the fact that I will be dead when I'm finished is a very surreal feeling.  I'm sure you'll all understand and forgive me if I'm a bit incoherent.

Katie & Christina, y'all have been wonderful friends.  It's so nice to have women friends to share my life with - especially since our kids' lives are so intertwined.  I've always thought it important to know my kids' friends' parents but seldom have I ever been so close to them.  I will always smile (if there's still smiling where I'm going) when I remember the fun, goofy times we've had together.

Jeannie, there's just something about you, girl -- something that makes me feel I can share my deepest, darkest secrets knowing they will never go further, but more importantly, they won't make you run screaming from contact with me.  I haven't had a friend this close in at least a couple of decades and I forgot how important it can be to have someone like you.  Not only can I share all my secrets with you, I don't have to explain feelings to you (like I sometimes do with King Charming - you know how that male/female communication can sometimes be a bit stilted).  I hope you one day find true happiness and a soulmate to share your life with.  I don't know anyone more caring or more deserving.

Brandy, I want you to know I do love you.  I know we've had a hard time the past couple of decades because I'm so strongly opinionated about the "mom" thing.  It must have been hard on you for me to call you Mom when I was younger but to feel so strongly about it now.  I hope you understand that my feelings stem from knowing what a mom is now and from knowing how hard the job can be.  But I want you to know that I do understand why you made the decisions you did and I recognize that were I in your place I might do the same thing.  It must have been hard on you and I want you to know I recognize that.  And know that I love you.

Michelle, funny how things work out, huh?  Remember that song "Seasons in the Sun"?  It definitely is hard to die when all the birds are singing in the sky.  I always had a hard time with that song.  Maybe some part of me knew this day was going to come just as it has.  You know there have been times when we didn't get along but know that I always loved you and all I ever wanted was for you to be happy.  You deserve so very much to be happy and not to have to have dealt with some of the trials some of the men in your life have put you through.  You have such a wonderfully big heart -- I think that's why you needed the heart surgery.  You are sooo loving and kind and give so much of your heart to the people around you that it just needed a bit of renewing.  Love ya, Kiddo!

Bobby, you're growing into a fine young man.  I know there was a time there when you had Meme very worried about you but I kept reminding her that we all go through our wild times.  You had to go through your own.  Now you're settling down and paying your bills and becoming quite a responsible young man. I'm very proud of you, Buddy.

Mom, what do I say to the woman that gave me my life?  Everything I am is based on the foundation that you and Daddy laid.  Intellect, inquisitiveness, drive and ambition, they all came from you and I thank you for always being that wind that allowed me to soar so very high.  But more than that was the love.  You have sometimes mentioned a wish that you were more expressive in your love but I want you to know that there was never, ever any doubt in my mind that you loved me and only wanted the best for me.  Sometimes you and I disagreed with what "the best" meant, but the older I grow (I guess it should be "grew" now) the more I understood that was the sole reason for our occasional disagreement.  I want you to know that my life turned out wonderful and I was very, very happy and a large part of the reason for that was the values you taught me and the love you've given me all my life.

James and Joey, what do I say to you, darlings?  I'm so glad this day didn't come sooner.  I was always worried when y'all were younger.  Remember how I used to tell you that mommies and daddies always come back?  I was so scared that decision would be taken out of my hands and then not only would I be gone but I would have lied to you.  I know you're both old enough know to understand that this is not my choice.  Oh, how I so wish I could see you finish growing up.  I want to meet your children!  I want to see the kind of men you become - even though I already know you'll both be wonderful men.  James, I hope you never lose sight of that firm sense of right and wrong you have.  Yes, there are shades of grey in the world and you have to recognize that they're there.  But it's a balancing act because having that strong sense of good and evil is a wonderful thing.  Joey, never lose your funny outlook on life.  You have such a wonderful wit and it so often made me smile.  That's a gift, baby, being able to make people smile.  My soldier and my hippy... I couldn't have asked for more wonderful children than the ones I was blessed with.  I sure am gonna miss y'all.

Jim.  You know.. I was hoping by the time I got to this part of the letter I'd have some clue as to what to say. But I still don't.  Maybe I should tell you why I love you but I'm not even sure that would be coherent.  I know it has to do with your intelligence and wit and how much fun you are, but it's so much more than that too.  How do I put into words how much you've meant to me?  I was so very young when we found each other so in a sense you finalized my growing up.  You've taught me so much over the years -- even about mechanical orange pickers ;-).  But the thing you've taught me the most is the value of loving someone completely and being completely loved.  Because there has never been any doubt in my mind that you love me completely.  And I hope you know how much I love you.  That will never stop.  No matter what lies on the other side, you should know that my love for you will continue, unending, throughout all of time.  And somehow, someday we will find each other again.  There's just no way this huge a love can be meant to be contained in one lifetime.

I guess it's time to go now.  I wish I had longer to write this and make more sense of these feelings, but Death is tapping his toe.  I guess he does have other appointments to keep.  So for now I'll just say farewell.  Whatever is on the other side, know that I'll be looking for you when you arrive, but don't let it be too soon.  Enjoy life and be good to each other.  I love you.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On the Border

Write about what you think about that moment before you go to sleep.

Many times I'm watching television as I go to sleep so I think about whatever's going on in the show.  But there are times when I'm listening to music or something and my thoughts wander. Sometimes they traverse issues that are going on in my life.  They touch on my kids, my husband, my family, etc.Sometimes they review good memories.  Good times spent with friends make me smile as I remember them.  Sometimes they dwell on stories or ideas I've had.

But always they're random.  As my conscious brain turns off and my subconscious takes over randomness prevails.  It's one of my favorite times of the day.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Friday, July 22, 2011


If you have nothing else to do, look at yourself and see if there isn't something close at hand that you can improve. It may make you wealthy, although it is more likely it will make you happy.  - George M. Adams -

Let's first look at the part about "nothing else to do".  I can't think of a single woman I know to which this might apply.  Most of us have our jobs, our children and our husbands to look after.  And, shhhhhh, don't tell the hubbies, but often they're the "child" that needs the most looking after.

But let's just say, for the sake of the prompt, that I found myself with nothing else to do one day.  Let's say all my menfolk are sleeping, the house is clean, my book isn't calling me to write, I have run out of blog ideas, etc., etc.

What a magical thought.

So what would I do with myself?  What could I improve?

Maybe I could get a better handle on my emotions?  I do wear them so far out on my sleeve they're like one of those old pirate shirts with the loose and flowing cuffs that hang down from the wrists.  Maybe that's a bad thing. I'm sure sometimes it is as my angry reactions to things get me in trouble or at least did before I learned to go outside and have a smoke and let the feeling pass.  But if I get rid of the emotional intensity it would affect the good emotions as well as the bad and I'm not willing to mess with that.

Maybe I could learn to let my children go and grow?  They are seventeen and fifteen right now, after all.  Maybe it's time to let them grow up and be men.  In my mind, I know this means letting them fall on their faces now and again and learn from their own mistakes.  But my Mommy's heart cries out that I must protect them and look after them - even now.  I know it probably isn't very good for their development but that's what they have a Daddy for.  I have to go with my Mommy's heart in this.

Maybe I should learn to share only the good parts of my life with my girlfriends?  Poor things -- they didn't ask to be tied to this emotional roller coaster that is my life.  But then again, they don't back away either.  I've got really excellent girlfriends who are always there for me, good or bad times.  I count myself extremely lucky to have them and for them to  be willing to put up with all this stuff because without them I think I would explode.

So what would I change?  I'm sure there's something but I just can't think of it right now.  Sure, being wealthy would be nice but I don't see that happening.  And I don't see how I could be more generally happy than I am right now.  Am I happy all the time?  Of course not.  Am I satisfied?  Absolutely!

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Thursday, July 21, 2011


"Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts." -- Edward R. Murrow

My daddy taught me that nothing worth having comes easy.  Difficulty is a necessary pre-requisite of anything of value.  It was true in 1961 when Mr. Murrow made this statement and is still true today.  Unfortunately, most people seem to have forgotten this.

The Continental Army faced monumental difficulty during the winter at Valley Forge.  Many soldiers didn't have shoes, coats or enough to eat.  As cold as their hell was, they preservered, conquered the difficulty and made a difference.

The people of London faced monumental difficulty during the bombings of WWII.  They dealt with blackouts,  limited supplies and constant fear.  But as dark as their nights were, they preservered, conquered the difficulty and made a difference.

The Allied soldiers faced monumental difficulty during the assault on Normandy.  Their only defense was that of schools of fish and herds of wildebeasts -- the safety of the group that comes with massive numbers.  An individual might die and they all knew it.  But they enemy couldn't kill them all and those that got through preservered, conquered the difficulty and made a difference.

What would have been different if Washington's men had decided the difficulties faced at Valley Forge were too much?  How would the world have been different had the forces at Normandy shrunk back from the difficulty of the assault?

Today America faces difficult decisions.  For too many decades we have lived as if the natural course of things were to always get better.  We are now reminded that resources are finite.  We must now choose between schools and prisons, between government programs and private initiatives, between equally compelling but opposing choices.  We must find a way to untie the Gordian knots of healthcare, our tax system, public assistance programs, etc.

The difficulty of the choices has polarized us into political camps that spend their time bashing each other rather than addressing the issues.  Of course, slinging mud is always easier than finding a way to dry it out and build something.  But history will judge us on the results, regardless of the difficulty of the choices.  We must find a way to work together.  Of course, it won't be easy, but that is no excuse.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Write about the good times (without bringing up the bad) of a past relationship that went wrong.

Wow!  This post is harder than most that have come before it. It's been 25 years since I've been in a relationship with anyone except King Charming.  It's hard to think back that far.

Mitch?  Well, it was sweet the way he met me at college every night just so we could drive together on the highway.  And the way he proposed was very sweet.  Too bad he ended up breaking up with me so he could date a friend of mine.

Richie?  What a sweet boy.  He was the perfect first boyfriend. He didn't push too hard but was very kind.  He was exactly what a young girl needed at the time.

Ron?  I would never have had the experience of working in a theater production if not for him.  And there were other good times too but that was destined to end.

Do I think about them still?  Occasionally.  It'd be nice to know that their lives ended up okay.  But that's as far as it goes.  I was very lucky to find my man early in my life.  I was all of 20.  Now there are some definite good times that we've shared.  Some bad times too.  But that's what sharing life is all about and I'm so glad to be sharing it with him.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Sea

In all or any of it's forms or uses- What does the sea mean to you?

The sea is romance.  I stand on the shore and listen the endlessly comforting lapping of the waves.  I smell salt in the air and taste it on the tip of my tongue.  I feel the warm breeze dance across my skin making it tingle in anticipation.  The sensations are intoxicating like a long, deep, satisfying kiss from a lover.

The sea is mystery.  Which direction when all look the same?  What life have we yet to find?  What secrets can we still learn about our world?  Who can fathom the mysterious secrets of the depths?

The sea is adventure.  It is Errol Flynn or Johnny Depp hanging from the riggings sword in one hand and dagger clasped in the teeth.  It is new experiences, the kind they would never try at home, for those who brave it's fickle care today.  The possibilities race the blood and pound the heart.

The sea is eternity.  It has no beginning and no end.  It was always there and will always be there.  It is the womb from which humankind emerged and the grave to which our remains will be washed.

Romance, mystery, adventure and eternity.  The sea is life.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe for a Happy Home

I like the One Minute Writer site because they give you a prompt that can be written about in a single minute or less.  I tried one today and found it a bit more challenging than I thought it would be (hard to gather thoughts in a minute or less).  But this is one that really touched my heart.

The prompt was: In my old family cookbook, there is a recipe for "A HAPPY HOME" that includes ingredients such as "4 cups love" and "2 cups loyalty," blended "with tenderness."  Write your own "recipe."

My response: The husband and wife can be any spices that go well together.  They have to complement each other, not be too similar.  Then add in the ingredients that are your children.  Cheesy, spicy, meaty, starchy, it doesn't matter.  All combinations can work.  You just have to remember to stir them up with lots and lots of love.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan


Today's 30 Day Blog Challenge prompt: Write about how you've experienced the randomness of life. It could be any (or all) of the following:  A random act or experience, A random encounter/meeting with a friend of a friend of a friend (like the Six Degrees of Separation theory), Synchronicity that you've witnessed

Yesterday I was at the mall with my best buddy and a couple of her friends.  We had a great time and got along great. I don't remember how the subject came up but someone mentioned an interesting way of referring to pregnancy.  It had something to do with a song, I believe. Anyway, my response was the fun line from the B-52's song "tin roof! rusted."  Within about 10 seconds we turned the corner and the ambient music changed.  Now the song playing in the background was "Love Shack" which is, of course, where the tin roof quotation comes from.

Too weird!

I don't believe in coincidences.  When things like this happen, I always wonder what it is that God or the Universe or whatever is trying to tell me. 

Oh dear God, don't let me come up pregnant.  That would be bad on so many levels, but especially now that I've had a taste of the freedom to be found when the kids are raised and gone.  Don't get me wrong... I love my babies.  But I do love having my life back again too.

Tin roof?  I don't have one.  My son's girlfriend's parents do, though.  Maybe I should give them a call?  Nah, I don't know them that well.  And my kid would kill me after her parents decide she can't go out with someone who has so whacked a mother which, of course, would be the only reasonable decision they could make.

Maybe I'm being too literal.  Maybe it's a good thing.  Maybe the time spent with my friend's friends yesterday was the start of a a new relationship with a couple of wonderful people. 

That'd be cool.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Today's 30 Day Blogging Challenge prompt: How hot is it where you live?

I've lived south of the Mason-Dixon line all my life.  I grew up in South Carolina, lived a while in Georgia, but have spent the last 23 years in Florida.  I'm used to the heat.

My husband grew up just outside of New York City.  When he was 18 the US Air Force stationed him at Homestead AFB.  He hasn't lived in a cold climate since.  He hates to be cold.  He's more than used to the heat.

Of course, there are some things we don't get.  I, for one, miss watching the leaves change color in the fall.  We get about a day or so of fall here.  The leaves of our deciduous trees are more like the Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter series.  One day our leaves just wake up, decide it's time, and seem to shed all their leaves in a single day.  We don't get to ride along on the highway and see the magnificent colors gracing the trees.

Living in Central Florida, we get something different.  I've been here almost two years now and it still amazes me to look out over the undeveloped stretches of my drive home.  We have an almost equal mix of deciduous trees and palm trees.  Looking out over our landscape there's no doubt we're in a climate change zone.

Yes, it's hot here.  In August it can be almost unbearable.  Given Florida weather it's no surprise to me that air conditioning was invented in Appalachicola, FL.  That's usually when my friends in Canada and the northeastern US pay me back for the evil phone calls I make in February and March when our weather is so nice.

I probably deserve catching that heat.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mysterious Style

Today's 30 Day Blogging Challenge prompt: In terms of your artistic/writing craft, comment on the following idea:  "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious". ~~Einstein and  "What shakes the eye but the invisible?"~~ Theodore Roethke

My husband and I have decided it's probably best if I don't ask him to read my work.  It's not that he thinks it's bad.  It's just not his style. He's not into the flowing, emotional style that appeals to me so much.  So it's best he not read my stuff.

Of course, I'm not into reading the types of novels he likes either.  His favored style is a straightforward telling of the story with just enough detail to let the reader know what's going on.  Logical plotlines and suspense are what he favors.

Not me.  Emotions drive my writing and play a huge part in what I like to read too.  Sometimes there doesn't even need to be a plot.  It's the invisible emotion that shakes my eye and heart.  It's the mystery of trying to understand and explore something that is in no way based on logic that makes a piece beautiful to me.

Which of us is right?  Both, of course.  That's the beauty of our relationship - the fact that we complement each other so well.  That's part of why I love him so.  And that's part of why he shows up in my stories so often.  No matter what the male lead looks like or the fact that some of his personality traits are different from my husband's, it's still him I'm usually writing about.

It's one of the ways I express the love I feel for him - that love that's still so deep and mysterious after all these years that it still shakes me to the core.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Friday, July 15, 2011

Six Weeks

Today's prompt for the 30 Day Blogging challenge: If you had six weeks to live, what would do?

I've always thought knowing when you're going to die is the cruelest form of torture.  If I knew I only had six weeks to live, they would be filled with pain and a longing for what could not be.

The first thing I would do is run home and cling to my hubby.  I can't imagine being without him and to know I only had six more weeks with him would absolutely tear me up inside.  Then I'd cling to my kids for the same reason - intense love and a refusal to accept that I don't have a seeming eternity with them.

Then I'd get mad.  Oh sure, I'd love to sit here and say that I could take this with aplomb and grace.  But that just wouldn't be the truth. I'd rage and scream against all the gods, fates, whatever sent this my way.  I have no idea how long the anger would last.  I'd like to say I could get past it and be one of those patient, soul-filled people that accepts God's plan, but I doubt it.

I'd go see my mom and sisters.  I'd go for a good long visit with them and just cling to them too.

I would wish for the resources to take a trip to Europe.  It's honestly about the only thing left on my bucket list.  I guess that's a pretty good place to be in, having only one thing left on your bucket list.

I'd write.  Oh God would I write.  There are so many stories in me clawing to get out.  When I wasn't clinging to the ones I love, I'd write.  I'd have to.  But I know what I turn out would be dark and depressing.  I always write what I'm feeling at the moment.

I would NOT sleep.  I would find somewhere to buy some speed (hey, what? I'm going to get addicted?  Well, the "cure" is coming, right?).  I'd pop as much as I could get away with without overdosing so I wouldn't waste a minute of the remaining time in sleep.

I would not be able to stop myself from listening to the clock.  Even though we have no actual ticking clocks in the house, if I only had six weeks to live they would all start madly tick-tocking and I would be driven as crazy by the sound as ol' Cap'n Hook was.

I hope I never know how much time I have left.  I can handle the idea of dying.  At least in the abstract.  But to know it's coming and know how long I have, that would be a cruel knowledge.  I would hope not to waste the time I have left wallowing in self-pity, but I know me better than that.  If I knew I only had six weeks to live, my heart would die immediately and I'd be a dead man walking, desperately clinging to the things I love with a terrified abandonment of all semblance of sanity.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Attitude is Everything

30 Day Blogging Challenge prompt: "Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." - William James -

This is an excellent follow up for yesterday's blog prompt.

I do believe that inner attitudes shape outer aspects of life.  I've told my mom -- a loveable but somewhat pessimistic woman -- many times over the years that your attitude shapes what happens to you.  I fully believe you attract what you expect.  If your attitude is one of pessimism you attract negativity.  If you have an optimistic attitude, you attract positivity and good things will happen to you.

Interestingly enough, in either case you get what you see yourself as getting.

This is not a new idea.  Wiccans believe whatever you do will come back to you threefold.  With a positive attitude your actions are more positive and thus a positive attitude will cause outer aspects of your life to reflect that positivity.  Even Jesus told his disciples that with enough faith you could tell a mountain to move and it would.  If you believe something will happen, and truly believe it - heart and soul - then it will happen.  If that thing you believe is positive then your outer aspects will be affected by that positivity.

Still don't believe me or Mr. James?  Try it for a while.  Change your inner attitude and put in the effort to really get to the point where you believe it.  You'll find your life has many more positive outer aspects.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy Is As Happy Thinks?

Today's 30 Day Blog Challenge prompt: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." -Mohandas Gandhi  Do you think this to be true?  What brings you the greatest happiness in your life?  What is one of your happiest moments?

As someone whose emotions rise and fall with external tides, I wish I could truly believe in Gandhi's quote.  Maybe I should.

I know well the popular internet story about the man who chooses to live, chooses to have a good attitude, chooses to be happy.  I wish I could be like that.  Maybe I should.

I just don't know if I can.

I subscribe to a Facebook app that feeds me something God wants me to know every day.  Today's morsel was about how one can choose peace.  I wish I could right now.  Maybe I should.  Maybe I should just make up my mind to be peaceful and happy despite the buffeting of the typhoon that sometimes rages around me.

I just don't know if I can.

What makes me happy?  Most of the time, it's my fabulous family.

We took a long car trip last week - thirty hours in a subcompact over the course of three days.  I was so very happy with how the kids behaved.  They were absolute jewels - well behaved, not hassling each other (well, not overmuch - they are brothers), and kind and helpful.  King Charming and I tried very hard not to snit at each other since we knew most of our frustration came from the trip itself, not any particular thing the other did.  For the most part we were successful.  Despite the strain of being in the sardine can for that long, I found myself happy to share the trip with my fantastic family.

Then again, there are times when my family makes me decidedly unhappy.  There are days when I think they might be sharing a single brain amongst themselves -- like when the trash can is almost overflowing but nobody seems to notice it except me.  Or the days when they forget the little things I ask them to do and I end up having to do them - even though I've been at work all day and they've all been sitting around.  Those times make me decidedly unhappy.

But maybe I shouldn't let them bother me.  Maybe it's all small stuff that I shouldn't sweat.

Maybe one day I'll learn to be happy within my own self.  Maybe one day I'll learn how not to let my emotions rise and fall on the external crests and valleys of the sea of life.  Maybe one day I'll learn to define happiness as something that comes from within, is contained in my own thoughts and deeds, isn't dependent on external events.

I know I should.  I just don't know if I can.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Life's a Beach

Today's 30 Day Blogging Challenge Prompt: It's hotter than Hades in August and you're at the beach. You run out into the ocean waves, jump to get over that big one, and on the way back down, something bumps against your leg. What would you do? Would you dive under the water to see what it was? Would you yell for help? Would you swim toward shore in the same direction as the bump? Or something else?

I don't like the beach.

Okay, so it's not so much the beach itself I don't like.  It's really the ocean.  There's all kinds of creepy crawlies out there just waiting to get ahold of a tasty morsel like me.  Sharks and jellyfish top the list but there's tons of others.  If I were at the beach, in the water (unlikely event to begin with) and something brushed my leg, I would freak out, scream, holler and get out of the water as fast as I could.  

I much prefer to do my swimming in the carefully controlled environment of a swimming pool.  Pools have chlorinated,clean water and, what's more important, I can see all the way to the bottom and be sure there's nothing in there but the other humans splashing around.

Unfortunately, life is much more a beach than a swimming pool.  Here I am happily floating along when something comes along to give me a bump.  And just like at the beach, I scream and holler and try to get away from whatever it is as quickly as possible.  In life this means fixing whatever the problem is wherever possible, sometimes learning to live with it and sometimes ignoring it, hoping it'll go away.

Yeah, I make just as much sense handling the bumps of life as I do bumps in the ocean.

Unfortunately, in life I can't really get out of the water. I just have to float along and hope not too much bumps into me.  Or at least that I don't get bumped too often.  

What was that thing that just brushed my leg?

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Monday, July 11, 2011


The 30 Day Blogging Challenge prompt today was a bit difficult.  You could pick one of three: Mountaintop, Fracking or a tale of taking down the Christmas Tree in July.  Didn't much care for the choices, but I guess that's why it's a challenge.  I chose fracking.

According to Wikipedia, fracking is the process of using a fluid to break apart rock to get to the oil and natural gas found below.  There appears to be great controversy over whether or not fracking should be permitted in the United States due to the negative side effects, such as contamination of the water table.  I guess all the easy oil has already been pulled from the ground so now we have to resort to potentially harmful methods to extract the rest.

Raising children is very similar.  When they're young, they're easy to mold and teach.  But when they get older and have their own opinions and ideas, they can be considered a more solid person.  Solid like rock.  Of course, sometimes their opinions and ideas are obviously youthful and require correction.  However, now you can't just tell them their wrong and be done with it.  They must be persuaded.  They must be fracked.  With your greater experience you can find a tiny chink in their rock and pour your ideas in the chink like pressurized fluid.

Is it dangerous?  Of course.  The side effects can be almost as deleterious as a polluted water table, but with child-fracking it's a psyche, not a water table, that could be contaminated.  But just like fracking for oil, once you've done all the easy stuff and there's still more to do, sometimes you have to resort to more drastic measures.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Inspiring Authors

Today's 30 Day Blogging Challenge prompt: Who are the authors who have inspired you work?

Today's question is a very interesting one.  I can (and will) name a few authors who inspire my work, but I'm not sure any of them would be a direct inspiration.  There's just something in their work that sparks something in mine.

I can't talk about my writing lately without mentioning Nora Roberts.  Her descriptions, while not Dickensian (thank goodness!) are nonetheless sufficient to really place the reader in the setting.  Her characterizations are usually spot on (although everyone does a lot of dragging their hands through their hair when upset or frustrated, but I guess everyone does that).  And her love scenes are written with a obvious heat but carefully chosen words that make them accessible to the general audience (her books are sold in regular bookstores, not adult ones).  Her descriptions of characters actions are detailed enough to let the reader know what is happening but vague enough to allow the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks.  If I had to pick one author I would most like to model my work after, it'd be Roberts.

I guess Vonnegut has also inspired my writing.  Sometimes I'll put a sentence or even just a few words in their own paragraph for emphasis.  I remember when I first came across that technique in Vonnegut and was so surprised at how well it worked.  Since then I've thoroughly ignored the rules of grammar when it suits my purposes.  Vonnegut taught me that it's important to know the rules so that when you break them you can do so in a way that matters.

Many science fiction and fantasy writers have mixed into my brain over the years.  While I don't recognize anything specific of theirs in my writing, I know some of my ideas come from writers like Donalson, Brooks and, probably most importantly, Piers Anthony.

These are the authors I can think of whose work provided some direct inspiration for mine.  That said, I know there are many, many others whose influence is there but unseen.  I think back on all the good literature I was exposed to in high school and college (and why don't kids get exposed to the same classics these days -- but that's fodder for another post).  I'm sure there are influences from them as well.

I don't think any creative person can ever provide a full list of who has influence on their work, no matter the particular field in which they create.  Creative people are like a Cold Stone creation.  Ideas flow in through the senses.  They get folded into whatever's already there.  Eventually, we stop mixing and present the whole conglomeration in a cup for your enjoyment.

We can only hope it's tasty.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The End of the World

Last week was a crazy week of travel and, what's worse for me, no internet connection for most of the trip.  I will blog about the trip later on but for now, it's time to get back to the 30 Day Blogging Challenge over at writing.com.  Today's prompt: December 21, 2012 is supposed to be the end of the world. Do you think it will it be a cataclysmic shift of Earth itself, a transformative shift in human consciousness, or something else?

The whole idea of the end of the world scares the bejeezus out of me.  What if Revelation is right and the Day of Judgment is coming?  Am I ready?  Are my kids and husband ready?  Will some of us go to Heaven and others to Hell?  Let's just say I do get into Heaven (a fact I doubt greatly sometimes due to my religious beliefs, but that's a subject for a whole 'nother post).  If I get into Heaven and Jim or either of the boys doesn't , would it still be Heaven for me?  Could I stroll those Elysian Fields in peace and tranquility knowing the ones I love will never be there.  No, that would not be Heaven, but would instead be the inner circle of damnation.

But what if the end of the world means something else. Astronomy tells us that we're entering a new astronomical phase and the Earth is shifting and changing.  Maybe the end of the world is simply a major astrological and/or geological shift?  If that's the case, I wonder if humans will be able to adapt.  I believe we could.  We're an incredibly adaptive and inventive species.  

I wish I could believe the end of the world could be a shift in human consciousness.  In the late Sixties everyone was excited about the coming Age of Aquarius -- a time when peace and love would reign supreme.  But unfortunately the dreams of the Sixties could not stand against the realities of human nature.  For every person  willing to share everything there were several greedy, self-centered vampires willing to use the good then toss the carcasses aside.  The late Sixties were a skirmish between Good and Evil.  Good shone for a while but in the end, Evil conquered and celebrated the Me Generation which led to the excesses of the last thirty years.

Maybe the end of the world will be some rogue power gaining control of and using nuclear weapons.  I could easily see that happening.

Maybe the end of the world will be a complete collapse of the financial infrastructure.  That could easily lead to walled, armed communities and atrocities by the strong against the weak like we haven't seen since the European Middle Ages.  I could easily see that happening too.

What I find interesting is that both the Mayans and a Chinese civilization predicted the same date for the end of the world.  I forget which Chinese civilization it was, but I heard about it on the History Channel and I find it quite intriguing that they both predicted the same date.  

Maybe the best advice comes from the Christian faith.  According to the Gospels, Jesus said we would not know when the end was coming.  If that's correct both the Mayans and the Chinese must have been wrong about the date.  That's the hope I will cling to as December 2012 approaches.  We cannot know the date, so any specific date must be wrong.  Knowing that, it only makes sense to live as Christ taught us - as if the end could come at any time.  Then, whatever it is that ends the world -- be it a stupid human conquest or simple greed -- I'll be ready.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Monday, July 4, 2011

Love and Marriage

30 Day Blog Challenge Prompt: Some countries legalize same sex marriage. Which is your stand, just go with it or go against?

These days more countries are legalizing same-sex marriage. There are other countries adamantly against it.  People are the same, for or against it, and are usually quite vehement in their beliefs.  I looked up the definition of marriage in Webster's dictionary and was surprised to find the argument continued there with a differentiation between marriage between people of opposite sexes and those of the same gender.

Personally, I think one's stand on the issue must depend on one's  definition of the word marriage.

Some believe marriage is a legal and social contract instituted between two persons, their families, their communities and, by extension, the State.  In this case marriage is something to be regulated and recognized by the State.  And given this understanding the State should not prevent any two persons from being married.

Others believe marriage is something more - something instituted by God and maintained by Him.  To these folks, the social and legal realities of marriage pale against the moral and religious ones.  Given this understanding they and their churches and other religious institutions cannot condone same-sex marriage because they have moral issues with the underlying relationship between the two people.

Unfortunately, we use the same word to mean two radically different things.

We shouldn't.  It just leads to trouble.

We should develop a new word, something that can gain the same connotation as marriage.  Some have tried with the phrase "civil union" but that just doesn't work.  Probably no word(s) will work right now, given the emotional charge of this issue.  But we should search for some words to connote the social and legal definition of marriage as recognized by society and the State while maintaining a separate meaning for that recognized and condoned by the Church.

The State should not bar recognition of love wherever it is found.  At the same time, the Church should not be forced to recognize what it finds immoral.

I hope we find this magic word soon, because when an issue turns love into hate, something's seriously wrong.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Thirty Day Blogging Challenge prompt: Every country has its prestigious traditions.   Some of those are our favorites.  In the community you live now enumerate the good traditions you and your family are anxious to celebrate.

It has been said that all we can give our children is roots and wings.  The wings are important as they will let the child soar to whatever heights his spirit, imagination and perseverance can take him.  But the roots are what I am most comfortable with.  Roots keep the child grounded.  Roots provide a comforting and safe home-base to return to when his wings get tired. Family and societal traditions are the roots we give our children.

Some of our family's favorite traditions are being awakened by the family singing "Happy Birthday" to you on the morning of your birthday, opening one present on Christmas Eve, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.  Of all of our family's traditions I would have to guess that my children's favorite is fireworks.

It shouldn't surprise me that my sons are pyromaniacs of a sort.  I think most men are.  And to be able to burn things and blow them up and do so in a manner that is socially accepted as with fireworks is a treat sweeter than a dripping ice cream cone.

When the boys were very little I would hold tight to them while Daddy set of fireworks.  As they got older we let them play with sparklers.  Yes, they held them a bit close to their bodies -- once.  They learned quickly.

Now they're old enough to help set off the fireworks.  They've learned all the rules about setting them up in a safe place which, in our neighborhood usually means in the street.  They've learned the importance of getting away quickly once you've lit the fuse and staying away even if you're almost certain that one's a dud.

I can see in their eyes this is a tradition they love.  They love being old enough to continue in the tradition of blowing things up just like their father and grandfathers did.  And I can see their spirits soar into the air with the roman candles, bursting into an explosion of beautiful color as I hope their lives do.

Of course, as a mom I worry that they'll blow off a hand.  Or worse, put an eye out.

Nevertheless, I stand back and let Dad be the safety expert, ensuring they're taking all reasonable precautions and not letting Mom's fears weigh them down.

I know I have to let them grow up.  I cannot keep them on the porch with sparklers forever.  Fireworks are an important tradition that root them to the other men in the family and still let their spirits soar like the fireworks themselves.

Giving them roots was easy.  Letting them soar is the hard part.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Today's prompt for the 30 Day Blogging Challenge on writing.com:  Ponder the spectre of yourself as one human being in the over six billion people on Earth.  We are so minute as to be nonexistent. And yet, we have the power to visualize, to imagine the entirety of the cosmos.  In your journal, write about the paradox of being both microscopic and immense.

I am but one of billions of people.  I am but one of trillions of objects in the universe.  I am trivial, inconsequential, insignificant.

Small as I am, I think.  I feel.  I dream.  Billions of thoughts pass through my mind, some trivial, some profound.  My emotions are a tide, rising and falling with awesome crests and ominous valleys as I ride.  My dreams create worlds of fantasy and fear, characters of beauty and bleakness, plots of suspense and sensuality.

There is a spark in me.  There is flare that gleams with the power of creation.  It flows through me and out of my fingers like the nozzle of a rocket.  Sometimes it's wrong and devours itself in a conflagration of confusion.  Sometimes it's right and soars, carrying me along with it.

I am both passenger and vessel, fueled by something bigger than myself yet contained within me.  I am small and large, negligible and vital.

I am alive.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Friday, July 1, 2011

Glory Days

I decided to partake in the 30 Day Blogging Challenge on writing.com.  Today's entry is about "Glory Days" and the prompt is "We are now in the mid year of 2011.  Look back from the start of this year to present and share your glory days."

It's been said “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.

"Glory days"  Every time I hear this phrase I think of the old Bruce Springsteen song with this phrase as its title.  The song talks about folks my age that are stuck in a rut and thinking back wistfully about their glory days in high school and as young adults.  I liked the song when it came out while I was in high school, but like so many things in life, I didn't really "get" it then.

I do now.

When I was in high school, the whole world was open to me.  Thanks to God and my parennts I had the ability to go anywhere and do anything I wanted.  I thought about MIT. I thought about studying in Oxford.  I never did any of these things, though.  I was young and foolish and didn't want to leave whichever boyfriend I was with at the time.

I know; I know.  You know George Bernard Shaw had it right when he said "youth is wasted on the young."

Fast forward ten years.  I had two young children but I also had the opportunity to climb a corporate ladder in a field that I thoroughly enjoyed.  And the kids had a wonderful father who I knew took great care of them on those times I was working late.  I tried to make sure it didn't happen too often, but you know how it is when you're climbing that ladder.  I wonder sometimes what effect that had on my children, but I honestly don't think I was gone enough to make a real difference.  At least I hope not.

Oh and the corporate ladder thing didn't work out.  They moved my position to Pennsylvania and I was not moving to Pennsylvania.

Now I'm old.  Okay, maybe not old but I'm certainly no spring chicken either.  With my years of wisdom, I've discovered that the ambitions of grandeur and the corporate ladder don't matter at all.  What matters is the people you love - those with which you share the moments that take your breath away.  There have been several of those moments since the beginning of this year.  Most of them are far to private to blog about but let's just say that I've discovered a lot since the beginning of the year.

I've discovered that while my boys will always be my babies no matter how old they get, they're also young men now and facing all the decisions that come to one at that stage of life.

I've discovered the joy of an oceanic depth of love with my darling husband and the contentment of reminiscing over the last 25 years we've shared with each other.

I've discovered the treasure of girlfriends you know you can count on for whatever you need, whenever you need it.

I've discovered the simple, heartwarming pleasure of thoroughly enjoying the relationships with which I've been blessed.

This year has been filled with glory days -- days when the power of emotion fills me and takes my breath away.  And thanks to the fact that I finally seem to have learned what's important in life, I know the rest of the year will continue to be glory days.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding Your Temper

I found a new writing prompt site called The One-Minute Writer.  I was supposed to write about this prompt for only one minute, but when the time was up, I found I wasn't done.  Leave it to me to stretch one minute into five, huh?  Anyway, the prompt was "When you 'lose your temper' where is the best place to find it?"

Sometimes when you lose your temper you don't want to find it.  Remember that jerk in the Mercedes who cut you off in traffic.  Let that one go.

Sometimes you have to find it.  Remember the idiot at work who never does anything but brown-nose the boss?  Remember how you went off on him the other day?  Find your temper in your paycheck, because you have to make it work out especially in this economy.

But sometimes you lose your temper with someone you love.  Your children may be playing loudly or fighting after you've had a difficult day at work.  Before you know it your frustration bubbles over and you scream at them.  You realize they are just being children when you look in their eyes and see the hurt and confusion.

Now what?

Gather your babies in your arms and hold them tight.  You'll find your temper and find it easy to bury it deep inside you again.  You'll chain it down tight and vow to never lose it with them again.  Your intentions are pure but you know you will lose it again one day.

Don't think about that now.  Think about that later.  For now just enjoy the infinite love and forgiveness flowing from your babies.

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Communications: Mind to Heart

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point
The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.

Boy, ain't that the truth!

King Charming and I are the proof of this all the time.  When he speaks it's with reason.  When he hears, it's with reason.  When I speak and hear it's with the heart.  He is so logical and I am so emotional and it affects our communications all the time.  For years he's told me to listen to his words.  He says that he chooses certain words to mean certain things and that's exactly -- no more, no less -- what he means.  I've tried.  I really have tried.  But every word in our language has a certain connotation, a certain nuance, and when he says one thing I can usually think of several things that he could mean without my even trying.

I've learned he usually means it in the sweetest or most complementary manner so that's the interpretation I usually presume.


Not always though.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly emotional for some reason or another, I become convinced that he meant one of the other nine things his words could have meant.  That's usually when he starts looking for a brick wall to beat his head against.

Of course, with age supposedly comes wisdom.  But I don't know about that.  The older I get the more emotional I become.  Usually that's a good thing, especially when I have a man who is so wonderful to me.  He really leaves no room for doubt whatsoever that I am thoroughly loved.  And usually the way he treats me is sufficient inoculation against the myriad of ways what he says could be taken.


And when it's not, he has gotten a lot better about understanding where I'm coming from.  He seems to have learned that my emotionalism is something reason just can't make sense of but must just be accepted.  I guess it's only logical to admit that the emotionalism of women is part of what makes us so intriguing to our men.  

As long as they have a brick wall nearby on which they may take out their frustrations.  Anyone know where I can get a portable brick wall?

Copyright © 2011 Denise Duggan

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Duct Tape and Girlfriends

Prompt: Duct tape can fix anything. Almost anything ...

All of my friends know I am a Southern girl through and through.  I like grits and boiled peanuts.  I enjoy relaxing with friends around a bonfire or a truck with a cooler full of Bud in the bed so much more fun than going to any club.  I even know that roadkill can be a valid food source should something happen to the local Winn Dixie.  And, being a good Southern girl, I have a reverence for duct tape.  Duct tape can fix anything.  Well, almost anything.  I have used duct tape to hold tent poles together.  I have used it to fix leaks in a tent.  I have used it to hem my jeans and to fix a broken pocketbook.  Once a group of friends and I used duct tape and cardboard to build an actual lakeworthy vessel in which we let a young boy set sail.

One thing duct tape cannot fix is a heart aching with love for a man that is not around.

King Charming was recently out of town for four days.  Four little days!  One would think a middle-aged woman like me would have more self-respect than to act like a giddy school-girl.  But recently I have felt exactly like a sixteen year old in the throes of first love.  After twenty-five years love should be like a gentle breeze blowing through the soul, but lately there has been a Category 5 hurricane raging through me.  It feels silly, sure, but then I remember I am not the only one to feel this strength of emotion.  To quote a showtune, "when he goes away, that's a rainy day.  But when he comes back that day is fine.  The sun will shine."  So as silly as it is, I know it's a valid and real emotion.  And I enjoy it.  Usually.

It was a rainy day, actually several of them, when he was recently away.  And it was so hard on me.  I knew before he left it would be difficult but even I was not prepared for the strength of longing I felt for him.  As long as I stayed busy it was just a twinge here and there. But when I was alone, all I could think about was how much I wanted him with me.

It felt like my heart was breaking.  Even thought I knew it was only temporary, I knew I needed to fix it if I was going to get through those days.  And like I said, I knew duct tape would fix anything.  But I could not figure out how to duct tape my heart.

My girlfriends knew how, though.  The whole time King Charming was gone they called and dropped by and generally did not let me have too much time alone.  Sure, all my dreams of spending the entire four days writing flew right out the window.  Looking back on it, I shudder to think of the dark pieces I would have written.  It never takes long for my soul to sink into a valley, but my girlfriends made sure that never happened.  They were the duct tape that held my breaking heart together until King Charming could come home and weld it strong.

Duct tape can fix almost anything.  Almost.  But not everything.  And what duct tape cannot fix, girlfriends can.

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Mess

Writing Prompt: No matter how much you clean, the house is always a mess.

My house has stayed relatively clean this week.  It’s actually quite soothing to walk in and see things in their place.  It has actually been relaxing to come home from work and see there is not a big pile of everything everywhere.

To get this clean house, I had to send the kids away.  They are off visiting family in South Carolina.  Thanks to Facebook and instant messenger and texting, it feels like they are only across town.  My sister rocks at making sure I know what they are doing.  I do not doubt her abilities at all.  In fact, if there is anyone I trust completely with my kids, it’s my kid sister.  

Of course it’s different from seeing them every day.   For the next two weeks they will be in South Carolina and my house will be clean.

Mind you, I still have to pick up a bit here and there after King Charming.  But he actually does a pretty good job of picking up after himself.  No worse than my Daddy.  Mom says she could tell where Dad had been by following the trail of socks and stuff through the house.  It must be a guy thing.

That is the crux of the problem, after all.  I gave birth to sons and guys being guys, the house gets messy.  I guess it would be too much trouble to take the cheese wrapper that you just had in your hand while making the sandwich, turn, take two steps, and throw it in the garbage can.  Why do that when it is so much easier to leave it on the counter?  There’s a house fairy that comes and cleans up after all the men in the house, right?

Yeah, it’s called Mom.

But for two glorious weeks they won’t be home and my house will be clean.

And quiet.

Too quiet.

Too clean.

No matter how much you clean the house is always a mess when boys live there.  But while they are gone my heart is a mess.  I think I prefer the messy house.

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Hardest Thing

Written in response to a writing prompt which said to start a piece with "I used to think..."
I used to think being the mother of a toddler was the hardest thing in the world.  I used to think that, but as my son grew I realized it was only training for what was to come.  As he grew, I taught the basics – don’t touch the hot oven, don’t stick forks in light sockets, don’t pull yourself up on the entertainment center.  But now that I have to tilt my head to look into his eyes, I can see clearly a lack of important knowledge I must have failed to impart.

Grades have become a big issue in our house because my son hates homework (as if anyone really likes it).  He is in high school now and building the student resume that will open or close doors for him in his early twenties.  He talks about going in the Marines and being an aviator.  With his knowledge of airplanes and military matters, that sounds like a career that would fit him better than the flight suit he wants to wear.  But then I look at his report card.  He does well on tests but refuses to do homework.   He sees no purpose in it and is unwilling to let the school win.  Refusing to do it, he feels victorious.  He beat the school.  They couldn’t force him to do homework.  He cannot see the soul ache coming when the Marines tell him he has not proven himself and cannot be an aviator.  It is very hard to watch him throw his future away but since I refuse to stand over a seventeen year old while he does homework I usually try to avoid thinking about it.

I am also teaching him to drive.  What an adventure!  He actually does quite well at it.  He maintains a good speed and stays in his own lane.  He concentrates on what he is doing every time he drives – a skill I doubted he had mastered.  But we still have the occasional problem with rolling a stop sign.  And, of course, whenever we do, I get visions of him broken and battered, lying on the side of the road.  What if he is mortally wounded in a wreck and only has time to call and say goodbye like the guy on the news?  What if his only last wish is to feel his momma’s arms around him so she can kiss him and make his passing all better and he cannot have that?  It is very hard to think about the very real dangers of learning to drive, so I usually try to avoid it.

And don’t forget that the teenaged years bring perfumes as well as car fumes.  Ahhhh, relationships.  He has a very sweet girlfriend that I like very much.  I count myself extremely lucky that I like her, but, of course, the problem is he likes her very much too.  And we all know what happens when a teenage boy likes a girl that much.  Hell, we know what happens if they like her just a little.  Of course, being a teen, he believes nothing bad can ever happen to him.  Yes, we have had all the discussions about safe sex and the incredible responsibility of a baby.  But I cannot be with him on every date and when he goes to see her, I cannot help but think about what I was doing at seventeen.  I refuse to think about it for long, mind you.  It is hard to look at my baby and realize that he is biologically capable of fathering a child of his own despite his lack of preparedness so I refuse to think about it. 

I used to think being the mother of a toddler was the hardest thing in the world, but now I know better.  Parenting was so much easier when he was younger.  As cruel as it sounds, I knew if I let my son touch the still warm oven once it would cause him pain, but I wouldn’t have to worry about him touching it next time it was hot.  How do I help him experience just enough pain to understand “it’s better to have loved and lost….”?  How do I make him understand the desperate and certain self-loathing coming when he realizes he did not beat the school because the school was not playing and he has only himself to blame for throwing his dream away.  Do I wish for a small wreck as some sort of perverse vaccination against a bigger one?  

Friends with toddlers have asked me if it gets easier as they get older.  “When they’re older, they don’t need you near as often,” I tell them.  “But when they do have a problem, it’s bigger.”  And harder on your heart, I know, but I leave this out.  No sense in letting them know they are still in training and have not even begun to face the hardest thing in the world.

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Photographs and Memories

I wrote this for a contest. It had a 1000 word limit and was to be based on a theme of a photo evoking paintful memories.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” gushed Karen, eyes goggling at the rock on Tina’s finger.
“I think so,” beamed Tina. “And he was so wonderful last night. Of course the restaurant was beautiful – “ she started.

“Where’d he take you?”


“Oh swanky!” Karen said appreciatively. “Did he get down on one knee and everything?”

“Absolutely. After I found the ring sitting on a curl of chocolate atop the crème brulee.”

“Oh, what a romantic!” sighed Karen. “Have you set a date?”

“June 15th.”

“June 15th! That’s only six weeks away! How on earth are you gonna be ready?”

“You’re gonna help me.” Tina dragged Karen down the hallway by her arm, sending Karen’s coffee over the rim of the cup. “First thing I have to do is find that blue garter from my grandmother’s wedding.” Karen put her coffee on the nightstand as Tina manhandled a box from the top of her closet, grunting as she dropped it on the bed. Tossing the top of the box onto her pillows, she pulled out papers, pictures, notebooks and other treasures. As she dropped a composition book on the bed, a picture slipped out onto the floor.

“Here,” said Karen as she picked up the picture and handed it to Tina, “you dropped this.”

The light left Tina’s eyes so fast it was like a solar eclipse. The picture dropped from her suddenly limp fingers as her knees gave way and she sank to the floor leaning against the side of the bed.

“What is it?” asked Karen as she picked up the picture. She glanced at the happy family posing with Mickey Mouse and recognized Tina’s smiling teenaged face. Setting the picture on the bed, she sat on the floor beside Tina and wrapped her in a hug. “What’s wrong?”

Tina’s skin felt cool and slick. Her eyes were distant. When she finally sighed deeply and spoke, her voice was hollow with the monotone Karen had come to recognize meant Tina was furiously fighting back the tears.

“That was the last picture ever taken of my Dad.”

Karen had no idea what to say.

“That was taken at Epcot when I was thirteen years old. Dad was so excited about going there. He and mom always meant to take me, but we never had enough money. Finally, Dad decided it had to happen sooner or later so he took out a loan for the vacation. Dad was like a little kid at Christmas with the idea of going to Epcot.”

Tina paused for the space of several heartbeats before continuing.

“We got there early in the morning and the first thing we had to do was have our picture taken with Mickey. That was so important to Dad.” She sighed deeply. “The next thing was ride Mission: Space.” She looked from the picture to Karen, but Karen noticed her eyes were still far away, seeing whatever images she had seen on the day the picture was taken. “Dad always loved the space program. He said it was America’s finest hour. So for him to get to feel like he was going to space, that was a total kick in the pants to him.” She paused again. “Maybe we should have read the warnings but we figured it was like a roller coaster. And we didn’t know Dad had heart problems.”

“He loved it. But afterwards, he had to sit down for a while. He said he just didn’t feel good. A couple hours later, he collapsed in the doorway of the aquarium. We figured it was the heat, but by the time they got him to the emergency room he was gone. I don’t remember much of the hospital, but I do remember the doctor telling Mom something about the stress of Mission: Space being too much for his heart.”

Now the tears escaped and Tina’s voice became thick with guilt. “If we’d only known about his heart condition. Or just hadn’t gone to Disney.“

Karen squeezed her tight again. “That’s why you never talk about your Dad and never, ever want to go over to Disney, huh?”

“Yeah. See, after that trip, we still had to pay back the loan. And Dad didn’t have any life insurance. So Mom and I really struggled. She ended up having to use all my college savings to pay it back. That’s when we started to fight, too. She never said anything but I know she blamed me for Dad’s death.”

“You don’t know that!” protested Karen, but her thoughts were on how distant Tina and her mother were.

“If he hadn’t wanted so bad to take me to Disney, he would still be here. And now Dad’s not even going to be able to see me walk down the aisle.”

“You know he will. How many times have you told me your Dad is your guardian angel?”

It was a foolish belief fashioned by a young teen’s mind when her dad was no longer there to cling to, but it was comforting. Tina’s logical, twenty-two year old mind tried but couldn’t quite shake the guilt planted when she was thirteen. Determined, though, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and gave her friend a weak grin.

Encouraged, Karen sprang to her feet, dragging Tina with her. “C’mon. We have a wedding to plan and we’re going shopping!”

“It’s only 8:00 in the morning. Nothing’ll be open.”

“Walmart’s always open. By the time we’re done there the mall will be open.”

Tina’s arms flew around Karen. “I’m so lucky to have you!” They turned to leave but Tina paused at the doorway. “Hang on.”

Karen watched as Tina crossed to the bed. Picking up the picture, she stared at it for a few long moments. She gave her father’s picture a kiss before putting the picture back in the composition book and the book in the box. Turning to Karen, her smile flashed like sunlight. “Let’s go!”

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Life.  That single word filled her mind as they left the gloom of the woods and broke into the clearing.  The vitality of the green ached in her eyes and the air was heavy with the smell of growth.  The grass grew as high as a man's knees and the reeds on the other side of the river would reach to his chest.  The knobby bark trunks of the trees grew straight and true, their bases thickening to draw more life from the river.  The river itself was a sea of green, the water obscured by the plants growing on the surface.  It was so lush a faithful man might even be able to walk on water here.  It was a wild place, a primal place, a living place, the perfect place for their ceremony.
Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lake in Autumn

The sunlight glowed on the trees, laying their long shadows in the placid water of the lake.  The hill behind the island was filled with the branches reaching for the sky like an old woman’s arthritic fingers, but the trees on the island still got enough sun so they were just now basking in the full glory of their autumn attire.  Three evergreens stood straight, tall and green on the left of the island, but it was the golds and umbers of the other side of the island that arrested her attention.  The colors popped from the gray background and raged against their coming demise.  The cool air was scented with their struggle, the deep smokey smell of autumn filling her senses as much as the bacon frying on the campfire behind her.  When Steven emerged from the tent, sleepily rubbing his face, she pounced on him.  “Let’s take the canoe over to the island!” she exclaimed, then drew back, knowing what a bear he could be after his nightly hibernation.

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Lighthouse

Quinn stood at the corner of the fence and looked out over the sea, thinking about how the lighthouse clung on the edge of two worlds in more ways than one.  In front of her she could see the sea pounding at the base of the massive rocks the gods arranged to hold back the land from merging with the sea.  Both the water and the sky were the same murky, misty blue, so dark it looked almost purple.  If she concentrated, Quinn could see where sea met sky, but only if she really concentrated.  As she savored the salt the light mist laid on her face, she turned to face the lighthouse.  The thick, dark forest behind it came right up to the lighthouse as if it were trying to push the structure over the the ledge of land to which it clung to the rocks below.  Quinn watched the forest get darker as the light faded, turning the grey-blueness of the sea and sky to the mysterious deep black only found on the ocean.

As Quinn turned back to gaze out over the sea, she made her decision.  The way ahead of her loomed as unknown and unnavigable as the cove would be without the light from her grandfather's lighthouse.  The path of her life until now crowded in on her as dark and treacherous as the forest.  She watched the light from the tower flash rhythmically on the ocean and thanked God again for her grandfather.  His example flashed on her own life like the light guiding ships, slow and periodic, leaving the navigation to her but providing a beacon, a direction, a warning.  No longer did she worry about losing her grip on the slim ledge of sanity she clung to like the lighthouse clung to the edge of land.  She could feel herself edging closer to stepping off into the unknown darkness of the sea of her own life and wondered if she could avoid the rocks as she made the transition.

Copyright © 2010 Denise Duggan