Tag Archives: Family

Fairies and Other Good Stuff

Fairies and Fireflies Michelle Torrez

Fairies and Fireflies by Michelle Torrez

When I was a little girl, my Grandma Joye and I would sit on the front porch of her Craftsman style house and make up stories about fairies together.  Under the sweeping mimosa trees, we’d build fairy houses of twigs, shells from fallen nuts and acorns, bark, moss, grass and flowers to make sure the fairies would stop at her house for the night.  We chased fireflies and marveled at the flowers on her four o’clocks.

One of my cherished possessions is a handwritten copy of her poem Fairies and Other Good Stuff written in a blue ballpoint pen with drawings of fairies all over it.  On the days I miss her the most, I pull it out and think of those warm summer nights on the porch swing surrounded by fire-blinks and fairies.

When everyone is out of sight,

Or sound asleep, I stay at night

And think about some special tot,

Remembering things we liked a lot.

And in my thoughts again we’re found

Out on the porch swing or uptown

Where at the park, through nook and cranny,

You lead a huffing-puffity Granny!

Some busy folks don’t understand

About the good things right at hand

To please a child to sight or touch –

And please a Grandma twice as much.

They’re funny when they make a fuss

And call our best fun ludicrous

(Ludicrous means strange, you see,

Which can’t apply to you and me!)

For we are serious when we think

Of Penny Peacock, a fire-blink,

Or Rosie Rabbit’s powers to keep

The children safe in a forest deep.

They shouldn’t scoff for we are sure

That fairies are and always were,

(A few of us, if the time we took,

Could show them where, if they’d really look!)

In the evening late when the sun is set

And all the dark has not come yet,

While grass is warm before the dew,

There’s a fairy place I’ve shown to you,

Where little fire-flies wink and blink –

You think they’re here and then they wink

Away off in another place,

Or sometimes right up in your face!

Then in a circle, sparkling bright,

Fairy wings light up the night,

They turn and swirl and fly so free

In a rainbow dance for you and me!

On tiny, silky wings they glide

First all alone, then side by side

Around the fairy-queen, who’ll swish

A magic wand for a rainbow wish.

It’s sad that some folks never see

The beauty shown to you and me

So we’ll just soak it up and then

Shine it back out all over them!!

-Joye Kanelakos

‘Til next time,


Lake Love

IMG_1189Grand Lake holds a special place in my heart.  Dad’s parents had a home there for most of my childhood, and my memories of summers spent there are…magical. We’re talking back steps framed by huge Dahlias, the smell of freshly turned garden soil, the taste of home grown…everything, and the glint of sunlight on the water as I studied my Grandpa Bill’s fishing skills and tried to whistle through my front teeth just like he did.  Although my grandparents are gone now, Dad and his brothers and sisters rent a place there every summer.  There’s lots of laughing, talking and my God the food…well, we like to eat.  I’ll just say that much.

2015-06-21 08.17.12Last weekend we all got together for our long weekend, and Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Bill always seem to hover a bit closer these weekends.  I always get a little nostalgic when the lake weekend approaches, and this year my grandparents felt especially close. As I made my shopping lists and gathered my stuff, I suddenly got an urge for grape soda.  I don’t think I’ve tasted a grape soda that didn’t come out of my grandfather’s “pop fridge”.  My cousin’s little ones were very excited by the grape soda I brought, lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over the stuff.  A craving for strawberry shortcake overwhelmed me, and although my store bought strawberries were ripe and sweet, they still didn’t compare to the ones that came out of my grandmother’s garden in the back yard. (as opposed to the one in the lot across the street.  That one was Grandpa’s.)

I’ve visited Grand Lake (officially known as Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees) with other people, but it was never quite the same on those trips.  There weren’t any pickles Grandma Audrey made, there was no driveway lined 2015-06-21 09.34.53with flowers, and Grandpa Bill’s homemade ice cream was no where to be found. (Can you tell?  My family REALLY likes food!)

I learned a lot on that lake growing up.  My cousin taught me what firecrackers in an old metal coffee can sounded like; Dad taught me how to tell a really good scary story; and my Uncles showed me that sometimes it is better just to jump on in…even if the water is freezing.  I caught my first fish on that lake; dropped an expensive fishing pole to the bottom of it; learned to dive off my dad’s shoulders; watched Grandma make noodles (I haven’t figured that one out yet), helped teach (and I use that term VERY loosely) my cousin how to swim; caught fireflies; tried to lean how to grow things (my sister is MUCH better at that than I am); watched my mother run from a raccoon; and we laughed…a lot.

For me Grand Lake is filled with happy memories and love, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We’re making new memories on the lake now, and Spider-Man-like leaps, fish kisses, and my first experience with home-brewed whiskey are just a few (the whiskey was great…the morning after, not so much).  My sister’s strawberry preserves and homemade pickles are showstoppers, a new generation is learning how to fish, and we’re still laughing.  Fortunately, some things never change.

‘Til next time,


Candlewyck Cove ResortLast weekend, I joined my family at Grand Lake for our annual long weekend at the lake.  Every year we rent a house at Candlywyck Cove Resort (and a hotel room or two) and spend the weekend laughing, eating, swimming, fishing and playing dominos (and any other games we can come up with).  My dad and his brothers and sisters and their families (when they can) come in to just hang out and reconnect.  Most of the weekend we had about 15 people there, but on Saturday that jumped to around 25ish (I really didn’t count).  Let’s just say there were a lot of people.

Grand Lake has been a central meeting place for our family since I was a kid.  My grandparents retired there, and we would all gather at their house for every holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Easter, Labor Day…you get the idea) and as many weekends as possible every summer.  Some of my best memories were built on that lake.  I learned how to fish, helped “teach” my cousin to swim, drove a boat for the first time, told stories, enjoyed the fruits of my grandparents’ gardens, learned checkers, became a baseball fan, watched my first soap opera, got my first black eye, and so much more.  When we were looking for a gathering place in later years, it seemed only natural to choose Grand Lake.

Yes, we put everybody in one house, voluntarily, for four days.  This is apparently unusual for families.  I had no idea.  Until I became an “adult” (however, my nephew’s friend questioned my “adult” status this weekend), I thought everyone’s family was like this.  There’s lots of laughing and good-natured ribbing, but rarely a “real” argument.  Our discussions this last weekend ranged from health care and financial planning to theories on how my dad and his brothers managed to cheat at Apples to Apples (We’re not competitive at all: Insert sarcasm font here).  These weekends have been influential in a lot of my major decisions.  When I was trying to decide whether or not to take a job in Chicago, I brought it to the family on one of these weekends.  This year, I even brought the short story I’m going to be submitting for publication for them to read.  (The general consensus is basically that I’m weird, and it must be the weird books, television and movies I like.  This is an acceptable and expected response.)

Some of my favorite moments this year included taking my nephew and his friend out on a paddle boat (apparently kids under 14 can’t go alone.  My nephew was horrified.)  The wind blew so hard the little boat moved backwards, no matter how hard they paddled, and they had to work hard for their trip around the cove.  However, there were no (major) crashes with docks, a couple of turtle sightings, a threat was made to eject someone from the boat (and an unsuccessful attempt), and a lot of laughter (also a request to turn in the boat 15 minutes early).  Paddle boating is tiring.

My cousin’s boyfriend and my uncle attempted to teach us how to play the card game, Pitch.  We learned how to play a game, but I’m not sure it was Pitch.  They kept remembering rules they’d forgotten as we were playing (they were threatened with their lives discouraged from implementing new rules halfway through the game).  However, I think I have it now…maybe…there are a lot of rules.  The most important thing to come out of the game was a nickname for our new “teacher”.  He now goes by Pickles. (It is funnier if you were there).

Everyone got involved in Apples to Apples, which was a treat since one of my aunts usually refuses to play because she says we’re “awful”…not awful, just competitive.  (Really!)  Only a few of us had played the game before, so we got to teach it to everyone else.  The Three Amigos (otherwise known as my dad and his brothers) blew everyone else out of the water…especially my dad.  This is what led to the cheating accusations, well the unexpected domination in the game and a vast and varied history of cheating at board games.  (Seriously, they even cheat at checkers!)

Also there was singing!  My dad only knows one song, and only part of that.  Have you ever seen the movie Paint Your Wagon?  It is an old western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin.  Until I saw this 1969 film, I had no idea that Eastwood could sing, and although it is Harvey Purcell who sings my dad’s song, They Call the Wind Mariah, it was this unsuspected side of Dirty Harry that stuck with me.


If I remember correctly, this was one of the first movies my parents went to when they started dating.  The first time I sat through this film, I made my parents promise me that I wouldn’t have to watch it again for 10 years. (I think I was 10.)  I did watch the movie again, and really enjoyed it. (What can I say, it’s no Star Wars but it is pretty good.).  Now, I’m willing to watch it whenever they want to.  I suppose, it is pretty sweet that my dad still sings a song from one of my parents first dates.


All of this to say, there really is nothing quite like family.  Next year’s lake trip can’t come soon enough.

‘Til next time,



Neil Gaiman Talks: What ifs, Why fors, and Hows

Have I mentioned lately that I love Twitter?  Well, I do.  I find some of the greatest stuff there!  For example, today I haven’t even been on Twitter, but I got an email from them with tweets I may be interested in.  (You know the one I’m talking about).  Typically, I just delete the email and move on.  Really, I get too many emails (especially since I started applying for jobs online, 30 emails a day with results from job searches!).  This time the title Neil Gaiman Follows the Guiding Light of Instinct caught my attention, and I opened it up.  My mom may read this and see a bit of inspiration from him in the story I just gave her to edit (it is based on something her sister told her that scared her when she was little.  Oh yeah, she’s thrilled to be my editor on this one). Seriously though, I love reading his stuff.  The Ocean at the End of the LaneFragile ThingsStardust, Smoke & Mirrors…really, I haven’t found anything I didn’t enjoy.

This New York Times article delves into a bit of why we like to be scared by horror and frightening stories, they discuss his Carnegie Hall performance that is coming up the end of June, and his creative process.  His thought process as a kid reminds me a lot of myself.  I was always thinking of “what-if” scenarios…then torturing my sister with them.  When I asked if she thought I could scare someone in 2,000 words or less she didn’t even pause.  She interrupted me with a resounding “Yes, definitely!”.  If anyone would know, she would.  I practiced on her for our entire childhood…maybe I still use her as a guinea pig.  (Sometimes, I wonder why my family puts up with me.  I just gave my mom her childhood boogeyman to edit for me…hmm…best not ponder this one too much.)

TheTruthIsACaveInTheBlackMountainsThe Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains has been released in a special edition with the Eddie Campbell artwork, and, for those of you lucky enough to attend the Carnegie Hall performance, you’ll get to hear him read this to music by FourPlay string quartet and see the artwork.  You can purchase an edition of the book with illustrations by Eddie Campbell as well.  (Since not all of us can score tickets to Carnegie Hall…)  If you are attending this show, please email me or comment to tell me about it!

Did you ever play the “what if” game?  You know, making up terrible scenarios and stuff?

‘Til next time,


The Imperfections Are Where the Love Lives

Recently, I attended a private party at Pinot’s Palette, a place where you make a little art while you drink a little wine.  A co-worker organized a party and invited us to bring some people and join in for an evening of painting and wine drinking.  This was not my first trip to Pinot’s Palette.  Some of us had booked seats on an open night for my Aunt’s birthday. At the birthday celebration my mom and I had a blast, so when this came up, I invited her along.  Plus, she’s kind of fun to hang out with.


ImageYou start off with a blank canvas…and some wine.  We chatted and laughed, and I got to know more really fun people. (and forgot to take pictures of the work “in progress”)  The instructors are all very kind and patient.  Well, they’d have to be right?  Creating art, especially for the first time, can be a bit intimidating, and people get really worried if it doesn’t look exactly like the example or the one the instructor’s painting.  (Plus, they serve alcohol…patience is always a requirement when alcohol is involved.)  All of the instructors I’ve had either have or are getting a degree in Fine Arts, and I’ve been impressed with them.




Slowly, under patient (and often repeated) instruction…and more wine, an actual picture begins to take shape.  I like to paint at home for fun.  Mostly abstracts…that way I don’t have to worry about reality too much. When we saw the example, my mom turned to me and groaned “circles”.  If you’ve ever had to paint or draw a circle freehand, you know what she was talking about.  Me I just shrugged, and told her that if it ended up really crooked we could just say we wanted to try Salvador Dali’s style.  


When I come to these places, I have to really be careful, because I’m not in my old comfortable painting clothes.  You know the kind, jeans worn until there are holes, the hems have frayed, they are all soft and comfy, and fit perfectly.  My usual are jeans like that (but also paint smeared) and an amazingly soft but ugly flannel shirt (the sleeves are a different color blue from the rest of the shirt).  I can’t really complain though.  I stole it from my sister when we were in high school.  However, for an evening out in public on Cherry Street, I tend to dress like a grown up.  (Mostly a grown up, I still had on my Chuck Taylors…those are grownup…right?)  All night, I had to remind myself not to wipe my hands on my pants…I’m a pretty messy painter at home.  My clothes managed to stay paint-free, but my hands were smeared with green paint before we even got started. (Eh, their hands.  They wash.)




Typically, painting doesn’t make me nervous.  It is kind of relaxing.  However, that’s at home alone in my little spare bedroom/studio. Apparently, I don’t relax well when other’s are watching (probably not actually watching because they’re painting too, but it sure feels like everybody’s watching!)  I don’t know why.  It isn’t even really stage fright, because I’m mostly okay (when forced) on stage.


The same issue plagued me when I played the piano…and the clarinet…and sang in the choir.  Put me in a group where no one can hear me and I’m great…anytime that I realize someone is actually paying attention, I mess it all up!  My poor mother had to stand in another room just to listen to me play the piano…for years.  These days, I’ll let her stay in the room…sometimes.  I can’t play and talk…or sing at the same time.  Lord help us if you want me to play while you sing.  I get distracted by the singing, and apparently forget how to mostly play things…like chords.



Vintage Ride, by Jessica Thompson


Aaaaannnnndddd we’re back on the actual point.  You know what helps with this nervousness?  Wine.  Wine helps a lot.  I didn’t worry so much about what other people thought about my creation, or who was watching.   When my inner perfectionist tried to raise her head, I drowned her out with a nice red blend and some laughter.  At events like this, I try to just enjoy the company, the laughter, and the whole  process without worrying too much about the finished product. Sometimes, it even works.


A long time ago, I got some great advice about the little imperfections in things I make. When I was making my first quilt, I worried about mistakes a lot.  The rows didn’t line up exactly, or it wasn’t perfectly square (or both).  My Mom just told me that the imperfections were where the love lives.  That’s how they know that it was handmade…she also told me when I pricked my finger with the sewing needle, “whatever you do, don’t bleed on the quilt!”  Both excellent pieces of advice.  The one about the imperfections being where the love lives, is the one that really stayed with me through quilts, painting, music, and even baking…wait, maybe cooking was “it doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it tastes good”. (I may have dropped a pie…or two.  What can I say, I am not the most coordinated of individuals.)


By the end of the night, I ended up with a painting, some new friends, and great memories.  The imperfections are where the love lives.  “Vintage Ride” hangs in the entryway of my house, front and center.  The memory of laughter, family, friends, and fun are in every brushstroke.  I wouldn’t change a single thing.



My Mom and I showing off our creations


Have you ever gone to a place like this?  Taken an art class? (I really want to do that, but it scares the bejesus out of me!  Probably that whole creating art in front of someone…or a bunch of someones.)


‘Til next time,





Enhanced by Zemanta