Family Matters – A Short Story

The following excerpt is from my short story, entitled Family Matters, which was recently published on the Short Fiction Break website (link to full story is below). Enjoy!

The private dining room, despite its sophisticated walnut accents and warm tones, was both stifling and somber. A fitting place for this particular family dinner.

Sliding open the paneled screen, a waiter entered the small space and set a plate of edamame down on the white linen tablecloth. He then stood waiting at the end of the table, clasping his hands behind his back.

Dennis Martinson dismissed the waiter with a wave of his hand, then picked up a pod and munched. He was a man used to getting his way, and he regarded his son with irritation, not hiding the disdain in his voice. “So, Adam, tell me again why you’re planning to leave the business?”

Adam looked around the table at his family, settling his gaze on his mother, Annie, who averted her eyes. He exhaled a loud breath, but when Adam spoke, his voice was steady. “It’s like I already told you. I never did like manufacturing. It was fine when I first got out of school, but it’s been a few years. I need to do my own thing now.”

Click HERE for the story in its entirety!

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A Resolution of JOY

Despite 12 years of Catholic education, I consider myself more spiritual than religious.

You may argue that “spiritual” and “religious” mean the same thing. But to me, being spiritual relates to matters of the soul and intangible things, including heavenly beings. Being “religious” pertains to the specific beliefs of a particular religion.

My blog, my opinion.

It’s fair to say that I believe in God as well as angels. I hope like hell there is a heaven (pun intended) in the afterlife. All other details are up for negotiation.

Consequently, Christmas has become a time of reflection and introspection for me, rather than a religious celebration. So when my daughter asked me to accompany her to church on Christmas Eve, I decided to go more for her than for the experience. After all, I finally figured out that God is everywhere, and I don’t need a church to talk to Him or pray to Him.

Now I have to mention that my daughter’s church is a non-denominational Christian fellowship that she was introduced to by friends a while back. Not exactly traditional, or even familiar, for that matter. But she loves it. I vowed to keep an open mind.

The “church” was really an auditorium, and the stage (couldn’t call it an altar) was arranged like a concert with a drum set on risers and various musical instruments in stands. About a dozen small lighted birch trees were evenly scattered on the stage, like soldiers in formation. A huge digital screen above it, displaying messages and song lyrics during the service. It was definitely a different experience than I am used to.

But the heart and soul of any religious service is the sermon. If the message is clear AND is communicated without judgment AND sticks with me for hours or perhaps days…well, let’s just say that this sermon really spoke to me.

The pastor spoke of JOY. Which makes sense because it was Christmas Eve, and JOY is what the birth of Jesus is supposed to bring to Christians all over the world. He quoted numerous scripture verses that mention JOY. He pointed out that the word JOY appears 214 times in the Bible. We sang “JOY to the World” after his sermon.

All that being said, my fascination with his message about JOY had very little to do with religion. He spoke specifically about the difference between HAPPINESS and JOY. 

The pastor referenced happiness as this wonderfully pleasant feeling that many people seek. When you eat a delicious meal with family around the table, it makes you happy. Or if you receive something special, like a gift or a compliment or recognition for something, you will be happy. 

Happiness is something many people seek and work hard to achieve. I mean, who doesn’t want to be happy? I even wrote a post several months ago about it called Be Happy: A Grammatical Perspective. I liked writing that post and, at the time, strongly believed in what I was writing.

But my semantics were off.

Happiness is fleeting and temporary. It is a reaction to something that happens to you. When good things happen, happiness increases. When bad things happen, happiness decreases. Happiness goes up and down like a rollercoaster. 

JOY, on the other hand, is not generated by exterior causes. JOY is an attitude that comes from within. It is powerful, and it is resilient.

While some people seek happiness as their main goal in life, I realize now that they are missing the point. Reaching a goal implies an ending. JOY is about the journey. JOY is the perspective along the way. While happiness dissipates after the source is removed, JOY involves lasting satisfaction. JOY exists even in the face of adversity, in spite of those things that might make us unhappy. 

joy2

Is JOY easy to attain? Is it inevitable for everyone? Of course not. It is a conscious choice. A state of mind. But when you seek JOY and find it, it changes the way you live your life. It changes everything. It becomes an undercurrent in the everyday existence. So while happiness comes and happiness goes, JOY is enduring.

This JOY vs. HAPPINESS debate is not new. It’s been written about many times over. Like here and here. So why is it that I am just now truly understanding what this means? Part of it is attention. I suppose I never really paid attention to the differences. They were always just interchangeable words to me. Also, I believe that you must reach a certain point in your life where you give a shit about those differences. I think people need the clarity of those ups and downs of happiness, resulting from external sources, to truly appreciate the internal nature of JOY. 

It’s kind of like what Glinda the Good Witch told Dorothy at the very end of The Wizard of Oz. And yes, this is paraphrased: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

For 2019, I am making a resolution of JOY. I know this won’t be easy. In truth, I’m not even sure how to accomplish this! This mindset goes against my natural inclination to feel (and wallow in) every single emotion I have. But in truth, I can still experience all those crazy emotions because JOY will carry me through.

So forget the resolutions of “I will lose 20 pounds” or “I will do more volunteer work” or “I am going to take up painting/gardening/salsa-dancing.” Resolutions don’t have to be about doing something. They can be about feeling something.

I resolve to feel JOY.

I’m not a graphic designer, but…

OK, so I know I’m supposed to be editing (and I am, I SWEAR!), but I needed a break so I started playing with my book cover design. Not that it matters anyway, because I’m going to finish this novel AND get an agent AND get a publishing contract which will include a cover design anyway.

But I was having fun.

Here is my original design:

My Side cover

 

And here is my new one (you can see I have a vision about this cover):

My Side cover2

A graphic designer I am not. But, hey, a girl can have a little fun on Sunday afternoon.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Would you buy this book based on this cover? Why or why not? You are my audience so I am clearly open to ideas!

Thanks, as always, for supporting me!

Karen

My Side of the Bed: Chapter 2

Here is a sneak peek of Chapter 2 of my novel My Side of the Bed (unpublished). Feel free to comment and let me know what you think! If you missed (or forget) Chapter 1, you might want to click here first.

Later The Day I Left

My fingers feel tingly as I grip the steering wheel and navigate my way out of the parking lot. Reaching the road, I stop at the red light and take a deep breath. I don’t want to go home, I think, lowering my head. I shouldn’t go home. What I should do is turn the car around and go back into the store to finish the shopping. A horn beeps loudly from the car behind me, and I look up to see a green light.

Home is to the right. I turn left.

Driving down the road in my sensible family car—a minivan stocked with booster seats and all kinds of distractions for antsy children—I feel a mixture of indignation, disbelief, and numbness. Mostly numbness. I don’t know what I was thinking back there in the store. And I don’t know what I am supposed to be feeling at this moment. I don’t typically abandon a cart full of groceries, but here I am leaving the supermarket with nary a box of cereal.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know it isn’t home. It will only be a matter of time until I come to my senses and return to my chores, my responsibilities, my life. I know this because it’s what I’m expected to do. My stomach actually clenches at the thought. But until that happens, I just want to do anything BUT what is responsible. So I just drive.

Continue reading “My Side of the Bed: Chapter 2”

BE HAPPY: A Grammatical Perspective

Earlier today I was on the treadmill at my gym reading a book (which is what nerds like me do when they actually make the time to work out!). During a fairly benign scene in chapter twenty-seven, two characters in the novel were discussing what they want out of life, and predictably, one of the characters said, “I want to be happy, I suppose.”

Coincidentally, but perhaps not so much, I looked up from my book and out the picture window of the gym that faced a row of homes across the street. Perched in an upstairs window of a house just to the left was a small sign with bold white letters: “BE HAPPY.”

So this got me to thinking. Which can be a dangerous sport.

Continue reading “BE HAPPY: A Grammatical Perspective”