Slice of Write

stories & jibber-jabber

It happened so quickly I didn’t know how to react.  Neither did he.  I hadn’t touched anyone in a very long time, let alone a stranger, since the pandemic stay at home orders were instituted, and I assumed he felt the same.  I was at the grocery store checkout line, and accidentally dropped the pack of m&ms the checker had left on the little shelf next to the credit card machine.  It wasn’t like I was going to eat them right that second (I would at least wait till I hit the parking lot), but I guess they put precious items such as candy, water bottles, and greeting cards there on that protective shelf so they don’t get smashed at the bottom of a grocery bag by some unsuspecting cans of soup or, God help me, put in the bag containing raw chicken by mistake.  As soon as the helpless m&ms fell from the counter, my reflexes kicked in and I moved my hand to grab them.  The courtesy clerk, aka bagger, had the same impulse and went to save the m&ms for me.  Our hands briefly touched in the struggle to pick-up the bag of chocolate gems, and rescue it from the carton of orange juice and box of jumbo kitty litter raging down the conveyer belt.  As soon as our hands touched, we looked at each other as if we did something wrong and got caught.  His eyes were wide and I imagine mine were the same.  We both quickly apologized and went on with our business.  On my way out of the store, he said, “have a great day” and I thanked him and wished him a good day too.  We were careful not to touch again or make further eye contact.  We didn’t want to make that wonderful, yet dangerous mistake again. 

It is that time of year of reflection and hope.  Unfortunately, all of that seems to get jumbled up with anxiety filled thoughts of wondering what time the wine shop closes because I need to buy one last gift, or trying to estimate what is the best time to leave my house to beat the traffic on Christmas Eve to arrive at my sister’s house on time, because I definitely do not want a repeat of last year.

I often long for, which I am sure many adults do, the simpler times.  When the biggest conflicts in our lives would be trying to guess what is that funny shaped gift wrapped in green and white paper laying under the Christmas tree, or is Santa going to bring me that new doll I asked for this year.  Holiday parties at school, watching Christmas movies, and helping my mom decorate cookies, pretty much consumed my adolescent self during this time of year.  Now, I stress out from everything to what should I wear to the office holiday party to did I remember to take the price tag off of my nephew’s Christmas gift before I wrapped it last night.

If I could really ask Santa for one thing this year, it would be to go back in time.  To wake up on Christmas morning when it was still dark outside, tap my sister till she woke up, and run to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought us.  Mom stirring from her bedroom, probably hearing our laughing and squealing from down the hall.  Dad slowly behind mom, making his way to the coffee pot.  My sister and I both shouting at our parents, “look at what Santa brought us!”.

The day would be spent playing with our toys and showing our relatives the gifts we received from Santa.  We would have a delicious dinner, followed by dessert, and spend the evening watching a Christmas movie and playing under the Christmas Tree.  Mom and Dad would tuck my sister and I into bed, and we would be so exhausted from the wonderful day we just had.  Thoughts of my new toys and playing with my friends tomorrow would consume my thoughts and I would fall into a deep sleep.  The kind of restful sleep only a child on Christmas can experience. 

I was watching the news last night and felt myself drifting off to sleep.  I was excited that I might be able to sleep tonight for the first time in weeks.  I shut off the tv, set my alarm on my phone, and turned over in bed.  Within fifteen minutes of waiting for sleep to overcome me, I realized I was wrong.  The small bout of tiredness was all a ruse.  I re-positioned my pillows, turned over to my other side, and tried not to think about the million things I need to do at work tomorrow.  Did I remember to email Sadie the agenda for the meeting on Thursday?  Did Jack plug in those financials I needed for the presentation?  I hoped I wasn’t forgetting anything.  Stop, I told myself.  I let out a deep breath and thought about the snow falling outside.  The two large trees in the front yard would be covered in snow, and the neighborhood would look like a winter wonderland tomorrow morning. 

“It looks like a Christmas card,” my Aunt Shelly would tell me.  She loved the snow.  It always gave us a good excuse to make hot chocolate, bake cookies, and watch old movies by the fireplace.  Oh, how I miss my Aunt Shelly.  She was the best and always made me feel special.  Anytime I was having a bad day because someone said something about my parents, or a group of kids called me names and chased me home from school, Aunt Shelly could somehow make all of those feelings of sadness and anxiety go away – even if only for a few hours.  I remember sitting on the couch, snuggled in that soft blanket with the birds on it, watching actresses such as Grace Kelly or Ingrid Bergman on the television screen, and wishing I could be them when I grew up.  They were all beautiful, smart, funny, and everyone liked them.  My Aunt Shelly would tell me I was perfect just the way I was.  Her words were always positive and a nice change from the words I was used to hearing about myself. 

I turned on the light on the nightstand and walked to the linen closet in the hallway.  Buried underneath some other blankets, I found the blanket with the birds on it.  I rescued it from the blanket prison and took it back to my room.  I gently lay it on top of my comforter and shut off the light.  I got back into the warm bed and grabbed the blanket as tight as I could.  It smelled more like an old bounce sheet than cookies, but the soft cotton polyester blend felt calming against my skin.  Within a few minutes, I felt myself drifting off to sleep.

It’s finally here! The Other Side of the Ledge is available on Amazon via Kindle or hard copy. Thanks to everyone for your love and support. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I look forward to chatting about it with you soon!

Summary: A young widow finds new meaning in life in this empowering novel about the death of a husband and the way mental health plays a role in relationships. Kara McKay, a California paralegal, never expected to be a widow at thirty-seven. Now, as a young woman coping with the sudden death of her husband, Kara reflects on the ups and downs of her marriage while she uses humor to navigate pain. Supported by family and friends, Kara begins to accept the man her husband was and the new person she has become. The Other Side of the Ledge is a witty, heartfelt story about the bittersweet nature of love and loss and the power of family and friendship.

I arrived at the office building about thirty minutes prior to my interview.  Perfect.  I have time to freshen up, look over my resume again, and mentally prepare.  Fifteen minutes before the interview, I take another sip of water, check my makeup in the visor mirror for the 85th time, and open my car door.  I suddenly realize my car key fob is missing.  Dammit!  I have done this twice since I bought this car a few months ago.  I try to remember to put it in the cup holder for safe keeping, but sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, that doesn’t always happen.  It’s a used car, but it’s only a couple of years old.  My previous vehicle was a 2002 and had absolutely no technology hinderances at all.  I was able to manually roll-up my windows, throw six cds into the disc changer, and, most importantly, I had an actual key!  Two minutes later, I feel my face is flushed, I’m out of breath, knees on the pavement, frantically searching under the passenger seat – where I found it last time.  I rush back over to the driver side to check again, trying not to open my car door too wide, and smack the brand-new Mercedes next to me.  Ten minutes until the interview.  This is it.  Now or never.  I check between the console and my seat one more time.  I shove my hand into that weird black hole of a space between the seat and the console, and feel what I can only imagine are some old jellybeans and pieces of hardened french fries.  I have a tendency to eat in my car and, albeit, I can be a bit of a messy eater.  Okay, I am a super messy eater and usually end up spilling stuff all over the place, but that’s my business.  My fiancé is always on my case about keeping the car clean.  I do keep it clean.  I don’t have trash, boxes of crap, or empty water bottles all over the place.  It’s mostly just food crumbs and some very light soda and/or coffee stains here and there on the seats and floor.  I suddenly felt the cold, heartless key fob in my fingers.  I carefully bring it back to the land of the living, but then it fell back down into the abyss.  Yikes!  I carefully shove my hand back into the crevice.  “C’mon you little jerk,” I mumble to the key fob.  I feel the key fob again and manage to kidnap it from its sanctuary.  I frantically jump out of my car and look down at myself, searching for any unexpected dirt stains on my suit.  Four minutes until my interview.  I slam the car door and hit the fob to lock it.  I elegantly sprint from the parking lot to the building.  On my way, I throw the annoying key fob into my purse.  I’m sure after my interview he’ll be hiding at the bottom of my bag, and it will take me anywhere from three to five minutes to find him again.  He thinks it’s a game.  Unfortunately, it is, and he seems to always win.  I check the time as I frantically push myself into the elevator with ten of my new best friends.  One minute to my interview.

As I drove through the old neighborhood, memories of my kids playing at the community park, riding our bikes to the ice cream shop, and driving them to school every morning, filled my heart.  Austin and Sophia are now in their late twenties and both live out of state.  Jeremiah, their father, and I divorced when they were in elementary school and we rarely saw him once they hit middle school.  It was his loss, not theirs.  I moved across the state several years ago for a job opportunity, and this was my first time back since I drove off in the moving truck on that clear, Fall day.  Moving day had been full of laughter and tears as the kids and I finished packing up the last of our things.  Sophia had found the tiara she wore in her first dance recital, and Austin had been enthralled with his old video game set.  We had all gone out to the backyard to say our final goodbye to the place where we spent so many lovely evenings.  I would be laying on my favorite lounge chair, reading or chatting on the phone, while I watched Austin and Sophia take turns climbing the old oak tree, or fight over who was “it” when playing tag. 

My car turned the all too familiar right turn onto our old street.  The sedan seemed to know exactly where I was going without any direction from me.  We passed Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s house.  Unfortunately, they both have passed away, and I heard their kids sold the house about a year ago.  Trey and Selene lived next door with their three kids, but moved shortly after I did to upgrade to a larger home.  I didn’t recognize any of the cars on the street anymore.  My sedan slowed and I parked across the street from our old house.  The plan was to just drive by, but apparently, my car had other plans.  I turned the ignition off, removed my seat belt, and just sat in the car staring at our old house.  Despite the different color house paint, and a new front door, I could still easily picture what it used to look like in my mind.  Tears filled my eyes.  I now understood what my mom felt when we had driven by her old house many years ago.  I was eleven or twelve years old, sitting in the back of my parent’s station wagon, when my dad had pulled over to park across from mom’s childhood home.  I remember tears had filled her eyes and my dad had gently put his hand on hers to comfort her.  At the time, I truly didn’t understand what the big deal was…it was just a house.  Now, I feel what mom must have felt all of those years ago.  The longing to go back in time, even just for a few moments, to feel the warmth and love that filled the walls.  Oh, how I would give anything to be cooking dinner on that ancient stove, or yelling at the kids to come help set the table for dinner. 

I was immersed in memories, when the streetlights abruptly turned on.  I realized I should probably leave, even though I wanted to stay there forever. 

I snapped my seatbelt back into its place and reluctantly turned on the ignition.  Tears streamed down my face again as I took one last look at the old house as the car started to accelerate down the street.  

It started with just one.  I noticed a single, tiny black ant on the kitchen counter.  I grabbed a paper towel, smashed it, and threw it in the kitchen trash can.  I made my way back to my original destination, the coffee pot, and started my daily routine.  I don’t have one of those fancy Keurig pots, or Nescafé whatevers that George Clooney and everyone’s mother raves about.  I have an old school, honest to God, coffee pot.  It doesn’t even have a timer on it.  Yes, I have to manually make my own coffee.  This actually shocks a lot of people.  No, I don’t go to Starbucks every morning and spend three dollars for a cup of coffee.  Now, that’s not to say I have never been inside a Starbucks, or any other coffee, latte, juice bar, hipster places.  I often meet friends or have the occasional meeting at one of these places.  The baristas are often baffled that I just want BLACK COFFEE!  No, I don’t want sugar, milk, cream, spice, or even a drizzle of honey.  The cashiers often ask again, “are you sure?” because apparently, they don’t believe me.  They should be thanking me for saving them from the grande, hot mocha frappuccino lite with coconut milk, add a dash of cinnamon, and an extra pump of sugar, standing behind me in line.  I grabbed my favorite coffee mug from the cabinet and smiled.  My brother bought me this mug years ago.  It reads “Don’t talk to me until this cup is empty.”  Yes, it’s all very well, and funny, but I really only like the mug for one reason…the size.  It holds about 2 cups of coffee in it.  I have often pondered about how useful this mug really is and how much time it saves me.  I normally have to go refill my mug every 30-45 minutes, give or take, but with this lifesaver, I’m good for over an hour.  All of those precious seconds of my life, every day, could add up to hours in a full lifetime.  I told my brother this one time, and his reaction was “you really need to get a hobby.”  Not that I’m surprised; it’s a typical David response.  He thinks he is a master of hobbies because he has one.  When he’s not working, he’s golfing or watching golf.  Maybe that counts as two.  Yes, the wild and exciting times of David King, ladies and gentlemen.  To answer your ever-burning question, he is not the black coffee type.  Yes, you guessed it, he is the grande, hot mocha frappuccino lite with coconut milk, add a dash of cinnamon, and an extra pump of sugar, standing behind me in line.  As you can imagine, our parents are ever so proud.  The coffee finished brewing and I poured the steaming, beautiful, dark liquid into the mug.  The smell already had my mouth yearning for that first sip.  My lips were pursed, ready to indulge, when I noticed a line of ants running along the back counter, behind my coffee maker, towards the kitchen sink.  “Seriously?”  I whispered to myself; irritated that my routine has been so rudely altered by these uninvited guests.  I gently lay the mug on the counter and go in search of more paper towels. 

As some of you may know, I started writing a book many years ago, but work, school, life, and my other hobbies got in the way of me finishing it.  During my COVID-19 furlough from work earlier this year, I went back to it and was able to turn this wonderful idea in my head into something tangible.  I wrote this book to make me laugh (and sometimes cry), and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. 

The Other Side of the Ledge is the story of Kara, a woman in her late 30’s dealing with the sudden death of her husband, Chris.  The book flashbacks into the life of their marriage and the readers get a front-row seat into their loving and complicated relationship.  The story not only delves into the stages of grief caused by the sudden loss of a loved one, but also explores the role mental health plays in our personal relationships, and how people use humor as a tool to help navigate hardships.  Through the love and comic relief of her family, friends, and new friends made along her journey, Kara learns how to finally accept Chris for the person he was, come to terms with his death, and embrace the new person she has become as a result. 

My goal is to release The Other Side of the Ledge on Amazon by mid-December!  I’ll keep you posted. 

Most importantly, a big thanks to my family and friends for all of their continued love and support!  Without you, none of this would ever be possible.  Cheers!

Yes, I have turned into one of those people that I used to make fun of.  After New Year’s, I vowed to change my diet, actually use the gym membership I’ve been paying on for the past 18 months, and lose the 40 pounds that has permanently latched onto my body like a vice.  I do agree with the consensus that metabolism reduces to nothing after the age of 40, and me being chained to a desk all day, has contributed to my weight gain, but I’ll be the first to admit, I just love food. There, I said it.  Yes, I just love to eat.  What’s wrong with that?  If I want to eat a burrito, I eat a burrito.  Life is too short to deprive myself.  However, I do realize I can’t sustain this lifestyle either.  There has to be a balance and I am on a mission to find it.  On January 2, I wake from my winter slumber a few minutes earlier than normal to gather all of my necessary work-out items.  I grab my new, turquoise colored gym bag and carefully place my work-out clothes, shoes, socks, towel and, deodorant in all of the correct zipper compartments.  I drive to work and proudly walk in with the turquoise bag on my shoulder.  I want everyone to know where I’m going after work.  I practice my answers to pretend questions thrown at me.  Sorry, Nancy, I’m going to the gym after work.  Nope, Jason, I’m going to the gym after work.  Yep, I am feeling pretty awesome about myself as I strut to my cubicle and lay the gym bag under my desk.  Every so often my feet would rub against it and I would smile to myself.  Yep, going to the gym tonight.  I’m going to start this new life and it will be amazing. 

The day was going pretty well until the afternoon.  The morning had flown by, lunch was a salad and some crackers, but by 3:00 p.m., I was feeling hungry and tired.  I grabbed a tiny piece of 100 calorie chocolate and washed it down with some low calorie, flavored coffee.  I was feeling pretty confident to start my new gym life at 5:00 p.m.  By 5:15 p.m., I had changed into my work-out clothes and was driving to the gym.  The parking lot was filled by the time I pulled into the parking lot at 5:45 p.m.  I didn’t want to park that far away from the front entrance, but apparently, I was going to have to do so.  I finally found a parking spot, looked at myself in the mirror, and whispered, “you can do this.”  I grabbed my gym bag, keys, and water bottle.  There were groups of people in gym clothes talking in the parking lot, eating nutrition bars, and wiping their brows with their gym towels.  I smile as I walk by each group.  Sometimes they smiled back or nodded their heads in my direction.  It felt good to finally be a part of a group.  These are my people now.  Gym people.

I walk in the front door and swipe my membership card at the kiosk like a pro.  The place is packed.  I planned to start out slow, so immediately began searching for a treadmill or bicycle.  Crap.  All of my new gym friends are using the machines.  I reluctantly walk towards the ellipticals.  I like the elliptical, but I’m afraid I might not be up to it on my first night.  I look down the line of machines and see one free elliptical, in between a guy that could be my Father, who is killing it on the elliptical by the way, and a teenage girl that probably has never had an ounce of fat on her body in her life.  I look back towards the treadmills and bicycles, hoping one had magically become available in the last ten seconds.  Nope.  I then turn my attention to the rowing machines.  The four rowing machines were occupied by guys who looked like they were on the US Olympic team.  I decide I better make my move on the free elliptical before someone else jumps on it.  I speed walk down the row of ellipticals and fumble to get on the machine.  I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but it was obvious I didn’t.  I struggled to turn on the machine.  My gym dad next to me saw my failed attempt to get this machine going.  He told me, in between deep breaths, to just start pumping and the machine would turn on.  I did so and the machine lit up.  I smiled and thanked him.  He half smiled and returned to watching the gigantic televisions screens on the wall. 

Two minutes in, I was still feeling good.  I got this.  My body was feeling great.  Muscles were moving in ways they haven’t moved in years.  About 6 minutes in, the burning started.  Wow, these muscles are really out of shape.  My pace was so much slower than my gym dad on my right and miss teen on my left.  I kept my eyes on the treadmills and bicycles to see when one became available.  Nineteen long minutes later, I was still waiting for a treadmill or bicycle.  By the time someone was getting off of a machine, there was already someone new taking their place.  I had wanted to get off this machine about 1000 times in the last 20 minutes, but promised myself I would keep going until I hit 25 minutes.  If I wasn’t going to get another machine, then I need to make the most of the elliptical…even if it kills me, which it might at this point.  Twenty-three minutes in and I can feel the sweat oozing from my back.  I imagine the nasty stains imprinted all over my new shirt.  I wipe my brow again and take a quick swig of water. 

The last two minutes feel like an eternity.  My sports bra is strangling me like a pair of tight panty hose on a hot day.  I look down and notice my left shoe is untied.  After some back and forth, I decide to press on and finish my last minute.  No need to stop and tie my shoe.  I just hoped I was able to hold my balance for the next 60 seconds.  I push my bangs out of my face for the millionth time and rub my brow again.  I look down and see I made my goal!  I gradually slow down over the next minute to give myself some time to cool down.  If I suddenly stopped, I probably would have fallen off the machine.  My legs were somehow numb, but burning at the same time.  I grab some disposable cleaning clothes that were left on the machine.  As I start to wipe my blood, sweat, tears, and dignity from the elliptical, my gym dad looks over, smiles, and says “good job, tonight”.  Before I have a chance to smile back, he turned his attention back to the large television screens.  I finish cleaning the elliptical and awkwardly maneuver myself off of the machine.  As I turn to make my way to the exit, Miss Teen smiles and gives me a thumbs up.  I smile and nod back at her.  That smile didn’t leave my face until I finally fell asleep a few hours later. I woke up the next morning, sore as hell, but excited to do it all over again.