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Today

I’m not really feeling IT today, whatever IT is. Creativity alludes me, but I promised myself I’d write something today, because I actually have a tiny porthole type window of time to do so today. It’s just a little round window that doesn’t even open to let in any fresh air. Maybe that’s why my creativity is stifled.

creepy road

Nevertheless, I was just able to work in the word nevertheless, so I guess I’m not completely mind numb today.

I had big plans. There were two ideas in my head fighting each other for my attention all day. Now that I’m spending time with my personal laptop, the ideas have vanished. Ok, not completely. I remember the concepts but not the wonderful way I was going to string my words together to make my points poignant. And really, if I cannot write either of these ideas to the best of my ability, I refuse to do it at all! Sometimes it’s ok to write fluff just to be writing; other times your topics require your utmost affections in molding them with your words. Masterpieces require love, time, and inspiration (just as lists require an Oxford comma).

It appears my ideas must wait for a better opportunity. Today is not the day.

 

Home is Where the Heart Is

There she was, curled into a dot on the bed, wrapped in a furry dog. I hoped my instincts would kick in as the dog’s had. This was way out of my comfort zone and level of experience… yet here she was, left in my uncertain hands.

The phone call had come just nine days earlier, during a leisurely afternoon nap (I had a feeling naps would be scarce in my new life). My blurry brain was having a hard time comprehending the surreal conversation. Perhaps I was still asleep and this was a  dream.

“Jane took off today. Nobody knows where she is, but I had a feeling this was coming. The kids are both with your father and me, but…” my mother trailed off. “It’s just too much for us with both the kids.”

What was she saying? What was she about to say? I knew there was a reason she had called me, and I think even in that foggy moment, I knew what the question would be. I’d had this conversation with my sister only a few weeks earlier. At the same time as it was a shock Jane had actually left, there had been some signs and a deep feeling it would come.

“Lynn, would you and Michael please consider taking in Diana?” What did that mean, and for how long?

My simple reply was, “Give us a couple days to think this over.” I could have just answered then. I knew what the answer would be. How could we deny taking in an innocent little girl who needed a home? Yet, this was my family, not his blood, and I knew a life-altering decision had to be discussed. That initial discussion lasted about 45 seconds. We knew it was the right thing to do, even if we were both frightened. So frightened.

So we stood in the doorway of the now pink room we had spent days preparing for her, and we watched her sleep, enthralled by what was happening.

She had not gone to sleep peacefully. She had screamed and cried and when there was nothing left for us to do, we had put her to bed where she cried herself to sleep as we helplessly cringed and stared at each other. She was angry, confused, and absolutely inconsolable. Who could blame her? But a four year old doesn’t know how to voice what we knew she was feeling. She didn’t understand where her mother was, why she had just spent a week and a half at her Gran and Pop’s house, and why she was now in our home, her great aunt and uncle she mostly just saw on holidays.

Our hearts went out to her. We knew she was in a tender place, but we also had to set a certain tone of authority, because this could very well be a permanent situation for us and we needed to be the ones in charge. What a crazy balance we would have to learn when we had spent fourteen years avoiding parenting.

She sighed and rolled over, and the dog stirred. The other dog, as uncertain and scared as we were, stepped towards the bed and peered over the top at the tiny creature who had made so much noise earlier, but now only lightly snored. She was a curiosity. Something new to be discovered, for all of us. And she would change us.

**Just a little creative writing draft**

Terri Klaes Harper

Copyright 2017

Vampire Huntress

Perhaps I should not read Dracula before bed, I had a dream I was teaming up with Van Helsing to go after a band of vampires (one of which was my crazy niece). The setting was modern and for some reason I had wardrobe people. I had to explain to them that wearing heels when hunting vampires was not sensible and I had a conversation with one of them about the time she went to a theme park and a domestic cat had lunged at her, knocked her down, and purred in her face. I woke up to my cat putting next to my head. – Jan 19, 2017

Here is what happens when a Facebook post of my actual dream becomes a challenge to write it out into a short story type something. Anyway, it’s a draft at this point, so I’m just fleshing out what I remember:

Vampire Huntress

Mist hung in wisps among the live oaks tinsled in Spanish moss, creating a haze around the moon from my view hidden behind a tombstone.

“Friend Terri. You must come, now,” Professor Abraham VanHelsing hissed from behind another tombstone. He was the cutest little old Dutchman, with his numerous degrees, his broken English, and a brown corduroy jacket with suede elbow patches. He reached out his hand, which I took, and we were off. Yes, I touched his hand and we were suddenly in the sanctuary of a well lit suburban home, surrounded by people.

“I did not have Host with me, or the garlic. Thank you for come with me, Friend Terri, but I cannot be put you in any more danger, dear, sweet girl.”

“Really, Prof. Van Helsing, I want to help you end these terrible creatures.”

“Dear child, is not one of them a niece to you?”

“Yes, but perhaps it is not too late for her. Maybe we can still give her soul freedom.”

“I fear she has gone too far for that freedom.”

“Then I am ready to make sure they will not do this to any others. What can I do to help you, Professor?”

The lights suddenly dimmed and we found ourselves watching TV monitors of surveillance cameras covering the back corridors of a closed shopping mall. We caught the images of four vampires, two female and two male, moving from one screen to the next. It was almost dawn and they had to find their resting places for the coming day… at a shopping mall.

Part of me wondered why their images could not be reflected in a mirror yet could be captured on video, while another part of me wondered what time period this was. These vampires looked very Lost Boys-ish to me. I could have sworn the blond male was a young Keifer Sutherland.

“Do not worry why they do not reflect in mirrors, Friend Terri. But you must prepare for hunt now. These ones will help you get prepare, and then come find me,” Van Helsing offered as he left five assistants behind for me. “I will be outside Macy’s when you are ready,” he added as he hoisted a Victorian crossbow against his shoulder and left another leaning against the wall for me.

The assistants were apparently my wardrobe people, each sizing me up and sifting through an array of clothes that had suddenly appeared. I didn’t mind the steampunk corset, which was surprisingly comfortable, or the looked-like-leather-but-felt-like-jeans pants they literally threw at me. But I had to draw the line at the high heeled buckle boots.

“Really? How do you suppose I am going to sneak around and hunt dangerous vampires in those? I won’t even be able to walk in them. Don’t you have anything more sensible for vampire hunting?” I pleaded.

“Women always wear heels and leather for such tasks in movies,” one of the wardrobe girls said. The others all shook their heads in agreement.

“Well, this isn’t a movie, and I need something flat and comfortable.”

“How about these?” another of the girls offered as she handed me the perfect pair of boots. They were plaid and leather and flat with buckles and spurs and a comfortable gel insert.

“Yes, I believe I can even run in those,” I said enthusiastically. “Now, let’s talk hair. I’m going to need it back out of my face…”

Ever so quickly, my hair was set in a long sideways braid and I was wearing a top hat that stayed on my head even when I shook it.

“Ladies, thank you. Do you think I am ready now?” I asked as I reached for my crossbow.

“Yes. You look like a vampire huntress.”

A black cat suddenly appeared, rubbing at our ankles. One of the girls reached down and lifted him so she could look him in his green eyes. “I love cats. One time I went to a theme park and saw a cat in some bushes behind a bench. When I called to him, he ran out, jumped into my arms, and knocked me down purring.”

 

 

And that is when I woke up with my own cat purring in my ear on my pillow. I am ready the Dracula sequel, so who knows what else I’ll dream. I like to think Professor Van Helsing and I kicked vampire butt though, even though I’ve never before used a crossbow or worn a top hat.

Tiny Poems

Sometimes you get a few lines of rhyme in your head and you just have to get them on paper. But then that’s it. What do you do with them? I don’t know, but here are a few of mine:

The mirror on the wall

It never lies

It reflects my fears

and all the lies

Jan 10, 1998

Will you be my resting place,

When my days are long?

Pick me up and carry me,

When I’m not so strong?

March 12, 1998

i’m drowning in a pool of misery

all i am and want to be

suffocating, i cannot breathe

the undertow, kills me

3-11-98

What a pretty calamity!

A beloved gone to waste…

Who would have given it all up

For just one little taste…

…yet now in solitude.

10-8-98

I still have dreams of you,

Nightmares actually.

But I can’t change that past,

It’s now a part of me.

11-28-98

Soothing thoughts stroke my brain,

Promising to rid all my pain

3-?-99

I wish I could get away from myself,

Spend a day in the life of someone else

Spring ’99

Make me believe

in make-believe

While you hold

My heart in your hands

Spring ’99

All of the above poems were obviously written by me, Terri Klaes Harper

A Girl Gets on a Bus…

Or

Tales of How Our Choices Effect Others, Part I

Or

All the Bananas in the World Cannot Fix Crazy

Once upon a time a girl got on a bus. Why and how she got there is really only the beginning of the story though.

She was an unhappy girl, and had been for some time, presumably even before she had her first baby at too young an age and suffered postpartum depression, which she denied and refused help for. Instead, she made threats of awful things she could do to the baby, and had a second one by a different father two years later, a pregnancy she attempted to hide for five months, even though it was obvious.

Her unhappiness and clear resentment of the children and herself lead to her yelling at them and neglecting them for hours in the mornings, because she felt it unfair she could not stay up and out all night and sleep the morning away. Why did they have to wake up? Why did they have to eat? Couldn’t everyone just leave her alone? She only truly lived at night. And the girl’s grandparents, who had taken her in when she had nowhere else to go were treated to fits of anger and screaming for their attempts to help care for the children who were still too young to care for themselves. They did not respect the way she was choosing to raise her children. It was none of their business if the baby girl cried from hunger pangs through the morning hours while she slept. How dare they try to overstep her parenting! After all, they were her children- her things. So instead of being grateful for their help and caring, she disrespected her grandparents and was cruel to them every chance she had.

One day, the girl moved in with her boyfriend, not the father of either child, and took the children with her…at least for a few months, until it got hard. She requested the grandparents take the older, harder to deal with child, the boy. She had always liked him less anyway and made no attempts to hide it. The boyfriend seemed to need someone he felt he could fix, and the girl was in need of fixing, and so it was a perfectly unhealthy combination for a codependent relationship.

It occurred to the young girl while she was launching and breaking items around her boyfriend’s father’s house as the couple fought one day, that she’d had enough. Yes, she was done. It was time to “minimalize” her life. Everybody expected her to have a job, to take care of her children, and to be a responsible, like an adult. Who needed that? It just wasn’t fair! And so, with nothing except the clothes she was wearing, her wallet, and a pair of sunglasses, she took her boyfriend’s deceased mother’s bicycle and peddled herself under the hot Florida summer sun at least 30 miles to a bus station. There she purchased a one-way ticket that would take her 3,000 miles away. She couldn’t take the crazy demands of everyone. Too much was expected of her. They were sapping away her free spirit, so she let it loose, like a bird, like the homeless people whom she had always admired, with their carefree lives.

The problem? Both children were in the home that day, as even the boy had been allowed to visit with his mother for the summer, even if he couldn’t have ice cream when his little sister did. Now they were simply left behind at the young girl’s now ex-boyfriend’s (who was neither child’s father) father’s house. She had simply disappeared, making no arrangement for them whatsoever. The distraught ex-boyfriend quickly contacted the much resented grandparents, not knowing what else to do, and not having been given any instructions from the mother, whom he was afraid was going to kill herself.

But she didn’t. Instead…she simply got on a bus and left everyone else to pick up the pieces of the abandoned children, which is where the story really lies. Maybe if everyone had just left her alone and let her sleep when she had wanted…

Stay tuned for more possible stories. Any similarities of these tales to real life will be denied, chalked up to paranoia, and called a piece of fiction, as nobody would believe such an awful person existed anyway.

O Christmas Tree

The tree stood a mere 32 inches off the floor. She reflected on the tree from the Christmas prior and figured she should be thankful. That one had been a literal sapling, meant to be planted outdoors after the passing of the holiday, but it had deteriorated and died before Christmas day had even come. It was just as well anyway as living in an apartment didn’t afford much of a place for them to plant the bitty tree.

She tried not to see the parallels in the trees and her own lack of thriving. The positive side was that one strand of lights made this the brightest little tree she had ever seen. And after scanning the living room portion of their one-room studio apartment, she could see that shifting the items from the small corner table to the desk by the bed would provide a better vantage point for the tree and give it the appearance of a being taller.

After placing the tree in its new home atop the table, she decided it was best to be thankful for what she had and placed their small star on top. With a feeling of contentedness, she settled down on the love seat with a cup of hot cocoa. Unexpectedly, her husband arrived home from work, emerging through the door with a six foot tree he had won at his company Christmas party.

 

Rules of the Road

I wrote this some time back for a possible upstart app and online magazine; however, it seems things never really got moving with that and I forgot about this article until I became active in running and cycling again and became annoyed with the many near misses I have been in and seen due to negligence of the laws. It is likely these rules and laws are applicable, at least to some extent, where you live, but this was written specifically for Flagler County, Florida as I live in Palm Coast:

miyagi squish like grape

Rules of the Road

There I was, running along the road in my quiet neighborhood, watching the teenager on his bike swerving towards me from a distance. The problem was he wasn’t watching me; he was texting while riding. As a result, I had to take a leap onto someone’s well-manicured lawn, dogs barking at me for trespassing, as the cyclist flew past me, never even knowing I had been there.

Then more recently, I was driving down Belle Terre Parkway when I spotted a young woman jogging while pushing her sporty baby stroller. There are sidewalks; however, she had decided to run with traffic just next to the median. Immediately, I was reminded of the mostly sage advice given by Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in the original The Karate Kid: “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape.”

I remember learning road safety for bicycles and pedestrians back in elementary school. Do they not teach this anymore? In today’s society maybe we just need an app for that.

Cyclists

A cyclist (or anyone on wheels that are propelled by human power) must obey the same rules as a motorist, except they are actually allowed to drive on sidewalks as long as local ordinances allow. We’ll get to that later though. According to the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide I located from 2005, “Riding as a driver makes a cyclist visible and predictable.”

As found in chapter 316 of the 2014 Florida Statutes of the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law, the following are some of the basics in bicycle regulations to help keep you and others out of harm’s way:

How should a cyclist accessorize? Fashion is all up to you, but your bicycle needs a front lamp of white light which can be seen 500 feet away and a red reflector and a red lamp visible up to 600 feet from your bike’s tail end [316.2065(7)]. “About 60 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Florida occur during non-daylight hours,” says the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide. A helmet may not look chic, but it is the law for anyone under 16 [316.2065(3)(d)]. Leave any sort of headset at home. Your ears should be clear from distractions [316.304].

Where should you ride? Just as in driving a motor vehicle, we are not in England and should always ride on the right side of the road [316.081].  This is what most motorists expect and are looking for, so the predictability is best for the rider, whom otherwise might not be seen. Cyclists must follow all traffic signals and devices, as well as follow the same patterns of yielding and passing as when driving a car. If there is no bike lane, ride as far to the right as safely possible, especially if unable to obtain and maintain the same speed as the flow of motor traffic [316.2065(5)].

Since bicycles do not come equipped with turn signals, a cyclist must use the proper hand gestures during the last 100 feet before the turn [316.155(2)(3) & 316.157(1)] as follows: left turn, extend the left arm horizontally; right turn, extend the right hand horizontally or upward; to stop, extend the left arm down.

And finally, cyclists may ride on sidewalks, as long as there is no local ordinance prohibiting such use. In my research, I could find no such ordinances for Flagler County. However, a cyclist has the “rights and duties of a pedestrian” while on a sidewalk [316.2065(9)] and must also yield right-of-way to all pedestrians, as well as give audible warnings to pedestrians if planning to pass them (I have had many a bell jingled at me while I was out running) [316.2064(10)].

All of this information can be found online, but I was also able to request a couple pamphlets from PC Bikes. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.2065.html

Pedestrians

Of course, walking, running, skipping, or hopping should not be done in the middle of the road, but Mr. Miyagi was incorrect that either side is safe. Only if there is no pedestrian sidewalk, a pedestrian must be facing oncoming traffic and remain on the left shoulder [316.130(3)(4)]. Pedestrians and motorists can then have better visibility of one another.

Pedestrians should follow appropriate signals at intersections, but what about when there are no signals to follow? A basic rule is that pedestrians always have the right-of-way over motorists as long as they are within a crosswalk and made sure not to enter the roadway without allowing a vehicle time to safely stop [316.130 (7)(a)(b)(c)]. This does not mean all motorists are aware of this law, so be wary. Also, if you intend to cross a road in an area without crosswalks, you must yield to motorists [316.130(10)]. Don’t get cocky out there. The chicken may have crossed the road to get to the other side, but do not play chicken with oncoming vehicles. Another small note about crosswalks: travel on the right side within one to keep a regular flow of movement [316.130(13)].

What about safety accessories for pedestrians? I have run in overnight races when I was required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking red light on my rear, but I was unable to find anything in the Florida Statutes requiring any of these for pedestrians. The definition of pedestrians is not broken down between early morning runners on a rural road or those taking leisurely strolls along a sidewalk in the middle of a city, thus, regulations of this sort are not as clear. In this case, I suggest considering your environment, the safety in numbers factor, and good, old-fashioned common sense to make a decision on your precautions.

Riding or running along a road is always a bit more risky since we must factor in motor vehicles. Fortunately, Flagler County offers bike and pedestrian paths galore. It is important to remember though, that many of these rules should still apply to give consideration to others recreating along said paths. Always keep to the right, as you would if you were in a car on the road, and always give audible signals when passing, which should be done on the left.

While cyclists should not wear any sort of headsets, headphones, or listening devices, other than a hearing aid, while riding [316.304], there does not yet appear to be any rule on texting while riding (or jogging, for that matter), though I would personally classify it as an equally, or more distracting activity and safety violation. Perhaps a petition will be created to add this to a campaign against texting and driving.

Also, remember to continue to use caution and care. You may now know the laws set for your safety, but unfortunately, not all motorists or other pedestrians or cyclists do. Always use common sense above all else.

The following are some other resources to check out:

Bike Florida www.bikeflorida.org

Florida Bicycle Association http://floridabicycle.org/

State Safety Office Florida Department of Transportation www.dot.state.fl.us/safety

Terri Klaes Harper, October 2014