The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


Laundry: A Poem

I'm trying something new tonight: sharing a poem with you. Seeing this artist's rendering of dryer lint reminded me of a poem I wrote in college. The scene that unfolds in it is fictional, but feels very real to me.

I'm rather shy about sharing this with you. Poetry is like singing for me: I enjoy it, but haven't the faintest idea if I'm any good at it. With my narrative non-fiction writing, I can usually get a handle on things and decide if a piece is good, or at least passable. But my own poetry leaves me baffled. I know I like some of it, but I have no bearing beyond that. Perhaps therein lies my answer: If I like it, it's good (enough) for me.

And so, I stand up and sing in front of the world:


The agitated sloshing of cold water Tide
Is white background noise
To accompany silent swirling snow outside.
Two chairs from the door, resplendent in purple polyester pants,
And a gold paisley shirt
Plumps a sitting woman, serious about her breathing.
Across the room, brown and stout, the change machine crouches.
A small boy, same shade as the machine, though slighter in build,
Reaches on tip-toes to feed it a limp dollar,
Laughing with accomplishment as four shiny quarters clatter
Into the curved cup.
In the corner, farthest from the windows
(Though the fluorescent lights allow no shadow)
Entwines a couple, as agitated as my washer.

A harsh buzz,
The spin cycle stops.
Time to dry.
I open the smooth white lid to towels and shirts
Stuck, wet heavy cold, to the pin-holed sides of the steel tub,
Like people pressed to the walls of that amusement park ride
Spinning wildly and the floor dropped out and your face flattened
With the pressure.

The lint in the tray is soft speckled grey:
Leftovers of some stranger's laundry.
I'd like to keep it --
Collect the lint of a hundred machines,
Weave a familiar eclectic sweater
To wear when the wind threatens my warmth.
Instead, not to look odd in front of the wheezing polyester woman
(now sucking on a soda)
I toss it away and heap
My own into the dryer.

In the corner, the couple giggles.
The little brown boy stares until
Mother reprimands,
Her arms full of kiddie clothes,
A yellow, green, and white box of fabric softener wedged between her chin and chest.
The boy spies Polyester's Mountain Dew and clamors
For more change.
Another washer shutters to a stop.
The girl of the couple swings her tight acid washed jean hips to the machine,
Peers inside, unsure of the next step.
I wonder if her man will strut to her side and save his distressed damsel;
But he just stares at her backside leaning over the open lid.

A click and a beep.
My towels are warm and fluffy,
But too worn
For a Downey advertisement.
My basket piled full of woven lint,
I set it on the orange plastic scoop chair beside me.
The smell of static-electricity,
Like metal-vegetation:
Tiny crackling sparks as I pull apart
Washcloths and socks,
Pillowcase and bathmat.
The mother drops a small pair of overalls
And the boy asks me, "Do you have a quarter?"

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add to kirtsy | 1:30 AM | 4 comments


Lessons from the lightning bugs

video originally uploaded by fimoculous

What the fireflies teach me:

  • Magic is happening all around you. (look: here. and over here. there. here and here. look.)
  • Fences are artificial divisions. There is no real difference between my land and yours.
  • Not all creepy crawlies are scary.
  • There's always room and time to play.
  • There's light in the darkness if only we can see it.
  • Joy and wonder are ours for the taking and giving.
  • Even the most ordinary-looking little thing is full of unexpected possibility.
  • Whimsy is not limited to little children.

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add to kirtsy | 10:37 PM | 7 comments


Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Dear Potential New Neighbors:

Thanks for talking to me before the real estate agent showed up. I was just out there in my backyard, battling with The Garden That Threatens To Engulf My House when you waved hello from the neighboring deck. That was nice of you.

And then you came around to the side yard and clearly wanted to converse. I have to say, I felt a bit giddy at that moment: drunk on the possibility of talking to real, live people. You see, I work from home. And today, my longest conversation with anyone outside of my cats was 30 seconds on the phone with the husband, about something that I can't even recall.

So you -- and your desire to interact -- caught me a little bit off-guard. I'm usually pretty good socially. I can hold a conversation about almost anything with almost anyone. But I was rusty tonight. So if I came off weird, please forgive me. I don't know why I felt like I had to explain the random swing set at the bottom of my yard. Well, actually, your two adorable kids are probably the reason. I didn't want anyone getting their hopes up about playing with the neighbor kids. No kids here. Just two lazy adults and one idle swing set left from the last family. And me babbling about it.

Other than that bit of rambling from me, I guess the conversation went okay. Right? Neighbor?

Yours truly,


add to kirtsy | 9:07 PM | 4 comments


Photos of Me(me)

click image for larger version

To do this fun -- and beautiful -- photo meme , type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr search. Then, using only the first page of results, choose your favorite image, and copy and paste each of the URL's into the mosaic maker (3 columns, 4 rows). I made the one above a few weeks ago.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you attend?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

Here are the sources for each of the above images:

1. Jennifer, 2. Day 158/365: Grilled cheese - yummm, 3. july on the bay, 4. The Photographer, 5. Dolores Costello, 6. afternoon, 7. Sunshine, 8. tira mi su**, 9. Eden Park Artist, 10. Deflating / Desinflando, 11. Soft purple, 12. ~Ocean Playground~

Here's one I made today, just to see how it would compare.

click image for larger version

1. Jennifer Love Hewitt, 2. Cairo, 3. Untitled, 4. |Twilight| Boat_Birds & Storm, 5. Pavelka Farmstead, 6. darjeeling sky, 7. Capri, 8. I Love a Rainy Night, 9. Strip-tease!!!, 10. evening James River sky, 11. the red room, 12. Fletcher

add to kirtsy | 1:17 AM | 4 comments


Life After Death

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the last post, emailed me, or sent their support via Twitter. I appreciate each of you so much. The flurry of activity that surrounds death came to a head with yesterday's funeral. Now comes perhaps the hardest part of all: the denouement back into everyday life.

I've been removed from my normal routine for more than two weeks now, what with traveling across the country, spending days at the hospital, and grieving with family members. I'm weary in body and spirit. Trying to jump back into the fray of normal life has been hard. I long to get back to my easygoing routine that barely qualifies for the word "schedule." I want to cook dinner, weed the garden, sit on the patio, do some freelance work, laugh with my husband.

But this morning, I didn't even want to get out of bed. Still, I did. And I managed to take Gatwick the Catwick for one of his periodic haircuts, return library books (on time!), pick up a few groceries and household goods, and do two loads of laundry. This means that we now have some vegetables in the refrigerator and I won't have to shower with a paper towel, like I did this morning. I also wrote 19 words of an assignment and stared at my notes for said assignment.

I'm glad I spelled it all out like that, because I was feeling a little loser-ish and a lot overwhelmed. But now I see that I did accomplish something. Several things, in fact. One thing at a time. Living is always that way: one thing at a time.

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add to kirtsy | 11:04 PM | 6 comments