Harvesting the Unexpected

“We hope for a linear method or writing. Do A, B, C, and voilá—your memoir is before you, sprung like a cake from a pan. But look at your life: A often doesn’t lead to B or C. And that’s what makes it compelling—how things worked out in the wrong places or were a disaster when they were supposed to bring happiness. Even if you managed to narrow your life to one thin line: born, went to school, worked a job from nine to five, saved your money, ate a single lamb chop and baked potato on Saturday night, there were still dreams and nightmares, the gaping hole of death at the end, the sudden unmistakable crush on the woman with the pale eyes who worked the register at the employee cafeteria.”

–Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir

 Make a list of all the unexpected things that have happened in your life. Keep working on this list. If you have allowed yourself to live, your list will be extensive. Pick something on your list and tell me about it. Repeat.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    At age 78, I would be living alone. After a 46 year marriage and a 15 year marriage, I always thought I’d have someone to share life with. Yes I have 3 children and 10 grandchildren; but they have their own lives. My two dogs are great comfort; but there’s something to be said sharing life with a living soul. I am fortunate living in a Mobile Home Community with many friends and an abundance of social activities; however there is a huge void. Recently I experienced a flood which affected four of my six rooms. One of my daughters and her husband recently lost their home and their jobs. My homeowners Insurance allowed me to re model. I will enjoy having them move in by Christmas. She loves to cook and clean and he’s a Handyman.
    All my life I’ve given to others. Now it’s time to receive . Expect the unexpected.

    • Ilana says

      Fran- It’s amazing how something that could have been such a bad thing really brought people together. How beautiful. You’ve given me a wonderful start to my day. Thanks! IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thank you for sharing this, Fran. I’m envisioning you being comfortable on a sofa or favourite chair and them mixing up aromatic delights from the kitchen. They cook for you and get you anything you desire, which you ask for or just state as a need. No hesitation from them. No yeah-but. Enjoy, Fran. Hope all works out. You so deserve it.

  2. Sangeeta S. says

    I’m working on the list as we speak, but I still can’t pick “one”- (or two, or three). You see, as soon as I pick one, I spiral back and get stuck in the mire of “the list,” –(and that’s in every area of my life..). My inability to make solid decisions and power through is perhaps due to my previous life (i.e. up until my thirties) when I thought I had it all figured out and “decided” everything very concretely–and then went out and got it. Thing is, now i’ve changed and I don’t know where I am or even who I am. The person that I was is no more and the person who I want to become is still waiting for permission; (what type of permission, I’m still not sure.) Or maybe, she’s just waiting to set herself free.

    Once we’re out of prison, perhaps we forget to throw away the keys..

    Here’s to unlocking doors in my future that are already open.

  3. Dianne Brown says

    In 1999 I was in a great creative groove of writing poetry. I had been awarded a grant from the Highland Art Center in Weaverville, CA. to publish a book of my poetry. One of the poems I wrote was entitled “Quintessence.” At the time, it was entirely fantasy, but it later became one of the great “unexpecteds” in my life. It went as follows:

    Quintessence

    Quint went home
    On the 5:05
    Read the news
    Took a snooze
    Rode that dream
    Right through
    His stop!

    What fantasy now
    Has altered his state
    From Philly, Pee-A
    To Lida Rho 2
    Third Dog Star
    North
    Of Motherbase
    Gate?

    About 3 years ago I started thinking about that poem (strange in itself) and decided to see if there really was a Lida Rho 2. There wasn’t. But what I found was the existence of a 3rd Dog Star. We all know there is Sirius A and Sirius B, but the long suspect Sirius C is a fact known only to the ancient Dogon people in Africa. Their information about the three dog stars is very accurate and is older knowledge than that of our scientists.
    The Dogon name for the 3rd Dog Star is Emme Ya or Sorghum. It is thought to be the seat of the female soul.
    This past May I finished my book, The Cowgirl Princess and Starwalker—My Mother’s Story. The amazing thing I find, now after it is written, is the last chapter—the epilog—for it takes place in a far away place called Sorghum. It was my resolve and the revision of my life and rocky relationship with my father. I chose to bring about a story I could live happily with and put it in my Mother’s Story. As far as thinking about where it took place and that the entire epilog is happening during a sorghum festival was spontaneous and never did I think about the connection.
    The next unexpected thing relating to the topic was on October 20th of this year; I had a book signing in the Public Library in Southern Indiana where I grew up. On the same day as the book signing, just about 20 miles away, they were celebrating their annual Sorghum Festival.
    There are more weird and wonderful co-inky-dinkys connected to this subject, but I will save it for possible future entries.

  4. Diana says

    Til stared at the papers in her hands. She carefully scanned the documents. She registered the intricate looping script of the Parish Clerk. Her eyes fell on the “x” at the bottom that was her mark for her new name; a full name first and last. “X” for Til Baker. Under her mark was the date, October 28th 1851. Til had been born a slave. Now she stood staring at her “registration of a free person of color” documents. She had won her freedom in a court of law. The fight had been so long and so unlikely to win that she felt her freedom might vanish into the Louisiana humidity or sink to the murky bottom of Bayou D’arbonne. As she stared at the paper she thought over the last six years. When Til was 16 she had accompanied Mistress Baker to Alabama to live with her niece and nephew- in- law Elizabeth and Absalom Autrey. One day Ms. Baker sat Til beside her sick bed and told that in her will Til was to be taken back to Kentucky and given her freedom. Til remembers falling to her knees, crying and thanking Mistress Baker. Ten days later Mistress died. Til asked Masa Autrey about taking her back to Kentucky. He told her flat out she wasn’t going to Kentucky and she wasn’t going to be free. “You huss up with that freedom talk or I’ll beat it out you”, said Masa Autrey. Til didn’t remain silent and Masa Autrey was true to his word. When Mister William Norris, Mrs. Autrey’s brother saw the bruises on Til he was furious. He went to fetch the sheriff to intervene as legally Til was to be free. Before the sheriff arrived, Silas Marion, Masa’s son-in-law alerted him. Autrey grabbed Til and hustled her into the wagon. “Come on girl we heading to Louisiana tonight.” He said. When Til resisted he threated to turn her over to the slave trader to be sold. They left for Louisiana and would wait for the rest of the family to catch up in Vicksburg. Til hated Masa and hated Silas Marion almost as much, but she didn’t want to fall into the hands of a slave trader either.
    Once they settled in Louisiana, Masa Autrey put to her work clearing land and planting cotton. Mister Norris tried to talk reason with Masa. She could hear the men yelling in the house. Mister Norris charged off the property. The next time he returned he had the sheriff with him to serve legal papers. Mister Norris had found an attorney that would present her case to a judge. Four years and witnesses from Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana. Four years of living at the sheriff’s house for protection against Masa killing her or selling off. Four years and she had won. She had won. She was FREE!!
    Epilogue
    For the last year I have been avidly researching my family history. I have had many unexpected discoveries. The previous narrative is a fictionalized account taken from my family history. I am a direct descendant of Silas Marion and William Norris. The above case of Matilda vs. Absalom and Elizabeth Norris has captured my interest and imagination.

      • Diana says

        Thank you for the feedback. There are so many players in this story that I was not sure the message could be conveyed in short form. I am toying with the idea of expanding it.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Diana
      I read your story before going to bed last night. Your message came through loud and clear! And yes there were a lot of characters: each one so distinct a part of the story, even in short form. I have so many questions. I couldn’t sleep as I made up the answers for myself, fleshing out the players. There is so much potential here for a full length novel, a fictional account, based on Til’s story with the same liberty I could take because I had no inhibitions about whether my version was factually true or not.

      • Diana says

        Hi,
        Thank you all for your positive feedback. Writing a book has been a dream of mine for sometime. Since discovering Matilda’s story, it has become the story I want to tell. Joining this group has been the first step in hopfully producing a novel as I am a novice writer.
        You don’t know how much the encouragement means to me.
        Diana

  5. Eve says

    An unexpected turn-
    I never expected that day that I would be set out on a mission of death. It was really out of the blue. I was off work on that day when the thought was brought to my mind. I had been meditating for extended hours because I was having trouble sleeping. I could feel God’s love & energy all around me. I started being able to hear peoples thoughts. I would say words for them before they even began to say the words themselves. People were getting freaked out at what I was doing. The day it happened was a normal day for me. I had not thought of suicide since I was 15 years old, I let out a cry for help by taking all the Tylenol, Motrin & Asprin that I could get my hands on in school one day. That had been 8 years before. Now I was a different person. I was a critical care nurse. I had a great job, a great apartment of my own & had a beautiful future ahead of me. I was really enjoying being me. It was just a thought, but when someone said something that validated the fact that I needed to get to the other side, it was on… I did not hesitate. I was on a mission to get there. I had been dating a very handsome AAA baseball player at the time, but it had come strongly into my consciousness that my true soul mate was on the other side and I needed to get there for some reason. I had no idea where I was going or why. Where this unexpected moment has taken me is unbelievable…

  6. Hazel says

    Mom gets religion, changes my life.

    My mother had been very ill with her third pregnancy and spent most of the nine months in bed, much of that time unconscious. I, at age five, with a two years younger brother, took on many responsibilities that should not have been those of a child so young, but that is not what I want to write about.

    After my sister was born, mother began to search for a religion she could really believe in. It took a few years, but she eventually decided she was going to have Bible studies with an Elder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. This was the end of a way of life for me, my brother, sister, and my father.

    We had been a fun loving family up to this point. We went to movies, were welcome at family gatherings on both sides of the family, and I had no problems at school. As the Bible studies progressed our lives became more and more restricted. We children were also required to be present at the Bible studies and there were stories of the end of the world as Armageddon draws closer and closer. I had terrible nightmares of the whole world burning up; of Jesus coming in a cloud of angels to punish the wicked. I thought I must be wicked because I still wanted to go to movies, I didn’t want to go into the coat closet while the rest of the children pledged allegiance to the flag. I still wanted to eat my lunch from the school lunch program instead of bringing my own because the school cook used lard or there might be sausage in something. As I grew into a teenager I wanted to be like the other girls and wear lipstick, but that was forbidden so I hid mine and put it on after I left the house and wiped it off before returning home. I had many fights with my mother about clothes and their appropriateness. We also fought about this religion, about its being so unrealistic that to exist in this world was impossible. My mother made many enemies among our family and friends because of her new convictions. She and my father fought of it, they had never fought over things before, only discussed them. I didn’t understand any of this. I just wanted to belong somewhere reasonable.

    At thirteen I was sent to a SDA boarding school. I cried myself to sleep every night because I thought I had been sent away because they didn’t want me at home anymore. I became very ill while there and developed rheumatic fever. They had to take me back home then and I spent the next two years in bead. It was at the end of World War II and antibiotics were new, expensive and unavailable most of the time so bed rest was the next best thing. I became absolutely vitriolic. I hated everyone and everything.

    At seventeen I left home never to return again except for very short visits. My father, always a gentle man loved his family and went along with my mother because he loved her, but he was always more temperate in his belief. When I left I did not tell anyone where I was going. I bought a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles. I learned later that my father was on the verge of a nervous breakdown until I let them know where I was and that I was okay.

    One of my older cousins told me: “Your folks used to be a lot of fun until Gertie got religion.” Confirmation to me that I was not entirely wrong.

    I have since realized that my mother needed the structure of a very strict religion in order not to lose control of her life. She was very scared when she was ill with her pregnancy and ever since then needed something to hold her together. She did the best she could with the information she had and the stigma at the time of getting psychiatric assistance if one needed it. “No body in our family is crazy!”

    That one thing drastically changed my life. My defiance made me stronger, even through the hurts. I feel that I have been ricocheting ever since, but finding my artistic self has given my life meaning and I find comfort, pride, and acceptance in the things that I create.

    • Ilana says

      What a wonderfully, well told story. I felt like I got a really full picture of what you were going through and how it affected you. Good read! Thanks for sharing it with me. IM

    • Liz F. says

      Great story Hazel. It sounded like a very hard thing to have to endure as a growing child. I found it so sad that “religion” often tears people apart rather than brings people together. But what great reflections in the end! Bravo for you!

        • Hazel says

          Thank you for reading and sharing my story.

          Till the day she died my mother and I were at odds about many things. She was a good mother in that she provided well for us; she taught us many things about life and living; about literature and the importance of learning a way to support ourselves; about the wonderful world of gardening and simple joy of holding a butterfly in your hand. BUT, we never resolved our differences about religion. I am sorry that it hurt her so much but each soul has to find its own way with mutual respect for the other.

          • Jim Dowling says

            You write with an admirable grasp of events. What I find so interesting is that you’ve apparently moved past nagging defiance to feel real empathy for the parent who essentially cast a shadow over much of your youth. To come away without a huge chip on your shoulder says a lot about you. Hell of a story.

    • says

      Hazel, I know I wrote a response to your piece a few days ago, but perhaps it was on my phone–and it didn’t actually get posted! So here I am again. There’s so much in this piece, but the thing I want to comment on is that I think you may be ready to write about it in more depth because along with the child’s perspective, you now also have the adult perspective–and the compassion for your mother, the understanding of what drove her choices. That is what makes for a rich, engrossing story–three dimensional people acting out their lives in ways that are inevitable for them–even if they are damning for others.

      • Hazel says

        You are write about being able to write about this in a detached way of looking at both sides. Just before my mother died she spent a little time in an assisted living home and I wrote this poem at the time.

        (A Shakespearian Sonnet form)
        VISITING MOTHER
        AT BROOKSTONE CARE CENTER

        I didn’t say:
        “Your feelings are showing.
        I always knew you for a witch.”

        I didn’t see her face.
        She stared out the window
        gathering strength­

        I didn’t leave.
        I said: “I treasure the things
        you taught me. I love you Mom.”

        I saw her eyes flash;
        anger race across her face;
        her hands tremble as they dropped into her lap.

        I went out through the locked doors alone
        stared at us
        through years of blurred windshields.

        7/28/02

        • Diana says

          Hi Hazel,
          I grew up with a religious grandmother. I could also identify with the frustrated child. You perspective of the rational of the adult added a different perspective I had never considered. I would like to read more.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Hazel,
          This resonates with me quietly, almost hauntingly. I will read it often I think. Reminds me how every time I sent a letter to Mom or my stepfather, Canada Post somehow mishandled every single piece of my mail. “Never got it,” she said. After I put so much work into it. Wait. I think Australian Post did the same too. Thanks for posting this. I appreciate it.

          • Hazel says

            Or, perhaps she did get them and said she didn’t to keep you writing them. Maybe some day you will know. I used to tell my mother that I didn’t get her letters because I still wanted to be mad at her. It wasn’t fair but who says life is fair.

  7. Ilana says

    Hello writing community. You saw a slightly uglier side of my writing last week. It kind of scared me to be vulnerable in that way. I just want to thank you for allowing me to share even the shameful and feel safe. I’m feeling better this week but I now know that if I weren’t that would be okay too. What a privilege it is to be a part of this community. And with that preamble, I give you my response to this week’s prompt.

    I Never Expected This

    I never expected to overcome my fears. I had spent most of the last 38 years avoiding the things that scared me at all cost. I thought this would be how I would do things my whole life; that I didn’t have a choice. As each challenge arose I would approach it tentatively, with great anxiety, wondering how to get out of doing whatever it was. I would manipulate, beg and threaten anyone who loved me into doing it for me. If that didn’t work, or wasn’t an option, I would find a sideways, most often inadequate, way to get it done.

    There were so many things that scared me. Opening a cookbook brought on terror and intense feelings of inadequacy. I knew that no matter what I did it would come out all wrong and I’d have to throw away the ingredients. Even thinking about that brought on unspeakable shame. So I didn’t cook. Instead I’d claim that I liked having cereal or a sandwich for dinner. When I became a mother and I needed to cook for the kids Ramen Noodles turned into a staple. Another thing that scared me was driving to a place that was unfamiliar, where I could get lost along the way. To deal with that I’d come up with every reason imaginable why I didn’t need to go to that place. Or I’d beg anyone who might be able to give me a ride. Forget traveling by public transportation alone. I could get on the wrong bus or get lost in the airport and miss my flight. Then where would I be? Libraries scared me too. Research was the bane of my existence in college. The information all seemed inaccessible to me and looking for it overwhelmed me so much that I became nauseated long before I walked into the library. To deal with this I did the minimum research required for each project, trembling the entire time. Once I had learned one avenue, periodicals, books etc. I stuck to that and didn’t look anywhere else. The internet scared the hell out of me. I wouldn’t go near that one with a ten foot pole. And God help me if something went wrong in my house and needed to be fixed. Usually, I insisted my husband, who often worked more than 50 hours a week, do the leg work in the few hours he had at home. It always started fights. (because, let’s face it. I was being completely unreasonable.) Most often I would grudgingly, with a lump of fear in my throat, make a few meager steps toward solving the problem and then he would take over.

    I always had a lump of fear in my throat; a band of anxiety around my chest that kept me from taking in a full breath. The phrase “I can’t” repeated continually, both in my mind and from my mouth. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” This was my mantra. This was how I approached life.

    Not anymore.

    A little over a year ago I began to come to grips with my abusive childhood. I finally saw what my brother did to me for what it was, incest and physical abuse. Slowly I stopped blaming myself for all that was wrong with me, all the things I could not do. It wasn’t my fault after all. With lots of help and hard work, I realized that my intense self hatred, lack of self confidence and all those fears were a direct result of what someone else had done to me. White hot anger flashed through me. “Well! I’m not going to let that bastard take all that away from me!” I was thinking it but somehow yelling at the top of my lungs.

    From that moment on I began to conquer my fears. I started with cooking and driving to places with MapQuest directions. Slowly at first, baby steps; simple recipes and places not too far away from home, always with my cell phone charged and my husband within easy reach. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” The voice began to fade and I took bigger steps; I flew all on my own to California for Laura’s Memory to Memoir Retreat, made a whole Thanksgiving feast complete with turkey from scratch, then soup from the leftovers. Somewhere along the way my husband started showing off to ME about ME. “Ilana.” He’d say. “If you want to make me laugh just say the words ‘I can’t’.

    Yesterday, though, yesterday was my biggest step yet. Last week, the house had been freezing. Our furnace wasn’t working properly. I found someone to fix it. At first he said it was just dirty. He did a quick fix saying he needed a second appointment for the full cleaning. It worked fine during the intervening week but having paid for the first call I was entitled to the full cleaning. When he opened up the furnace he found much bigger, more expensive, problems. “See these small marks here? And the moisture here?” This was a real crisis and I needed to act now. “It can break down at any moment and your family will be left without heat. You don’t want that. It’s going to be 12 degrees tonight. You’ll want to replace it sooner rather than later. In 2013 the EPA standards change and the new furnace will cost you more than $10,000 to install. We’ll do it all for you right now for about $4,000.”

    “Let me do some research.” I managed. “Give me the name of the new ordinance and I’ll look it up. “I want to make sure I understand what I’m up against.”

    “Of course.” He said. “You call me tomorrow and we’ll set up the instillation.” At the time I was fairly certain that we really did have a problem. Still, I forced myself not to take any chances.

    Despite my feelings of overwhelm, I got online and looked up the ordinance change he was talking about. It was confusing and long. I could have stopped at that point. There was, indeed, a new ordinance under the name he had given me. It meant he was telling the truth, right? But I forced myself to keep going. I found a phone number and began a series of calls. One person led me to another and another. The people attached to the government were all very kind and helpful. Contrarily, the ‘professionals’ I called about a second opinion treated me like a stupid nuisance. I decided that even if our furnace broke down suddenly, this wasn’t an emergency. Zander and I are savers, planners. If worst came to worst we had the money to stay in a hotel. Even if we didn’t have the money we could easily stay at my in-law’s house. It was ten minutes away and closer to my son’s school than our house. They were out of the country and left us with an open invitation and a key.

    Armed with this safety net, I kept asking questions and I got my answers. The ordinance was not at all what he claimed. They were discussing something but no actual decisions had even been reached yet and the demand would not be made upon the consumer at all. I began to reflect more and more upon the man’s behavior toward me. It all added up. The perfectly timed compliments on my home and my children’s art work, the protective comments about how he would take care of my family. He was playing me right down to the comforting smile and handshake on his way out the door.

    This man really was trying to take advantage of me and I was not going to let him. I DIDN’T let him. I did all the legwork, myself and shared what I had learned with my husband. I came to a decision on how to handle the situation and told Zander what I thought. He listened to me and said it was a good idea. My husband did not have to make one phone call or one key stroke in dealing with this situation. I took care of it all by myself and if we have further problems, which we are not expecting to, I will handle it. I know how to do this and I am not afraid.

    I never thought I would cook a whole turkey or travel by myself. I never thought I would look on the internet to understand a changing EPA ordinance. And I never, not in my wildest fantasies, thought I would face down someone who was trying to use fear against me and say, “Let me do the research. I’ll get back to you when I can make an informed decision.” I never expected to stop letting my fears run my life. I always thought I would be entrenched in anxiety whenever faced with the things that scare me. But as I now like to say, only half joking, “Challenging my fears, head on, has become something of a hobby for me.

    • Diana says

      Ilana,
      I love the perspective of challenging ones fears as a being a hobby. I so relate to having to overcome the “I can’t” mantra.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Diana, It’s so nice not to feel alone. I hope we can both kick (if we haven’t yet) the “I can’t” mode of thinking. IM

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Ilana,
      What an incredible list of skills you have claimed in just a year’s time. Those of us who check in regularly on the roadmap have been witnesses to many of them!
      Bravo.

      • Ilana says

        Wow Beverly- I feel so supported by your comment about “Those of us who check in regularly with the road map.” It’s nice to have an outside voice reminding me of how far I’ve come. Thanks! IM

    • says

      Ilana, you go girl! I loved reading this triumphant story. It’s direct evidence why the painful process of healing is so necessary. Look at what you’ve been able to do!

      • Ilana says

        Wow Laura- I’ll have to reread this comment when things get rough. You are so right, it is worth it in the end. Thanks for reminding me. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      I’m applauding you, Ilana. This is so beautiful, like a new born baby! So happy to read this and especially love you challenging and winning over the furnace guy. How dare him. Rumour has it I would be your older sister but we don’t need idle gossip; as your ‘sister,’ I’m cheering for you every minute. :)

      • Ilana says

        My Sister! Thank you for cheering me on. I always look forward to your posts and comments on mine. Now I feel ready to take on the world! IM

  8. Beverly Boyd says

    I didn’t expect… What was it I didn’t expect?
    There are so many things I didn’t expect.
    Though his image was indelibly etched on my mine, I didn’t expect that the handsome teenager riding his bicycle along the creed path would become my husband and father of my children.
    Years later I didn’t expect that I would fall in love with a man twenty years older than I.
    I didn’t expect to be a widow in my early fifties and live happily without a partner for probably the rest of my life.
    I didn’t expect any of those things, yet they happened and enriched my life in the process.
    Then there were the smaller things that changed me in some way.
    When I was thirteen I was on a trip with my family to California from New York State. Even though from many family trips I had learned that to be cooperative, even compliant, in the car was in my own best interests and it made things so much better for my parents and younger siblings, we would be gone a whole month and I was none to happy about it. I was thirteen. What can I say? I was irritable about having to be on the trip while my friends were having fun swimming and other summer activities at home. Leaving my boyfriend (the handsome teenager I mentioned above) had been especially hard. We were so in love and I wasn’t going to able to receive mail with all the moving from place to place.
    Everywhere we stopped I used my allowance on postcards and stamps. It was hard to write in the car, especially in the back seat, so I used that time for daydreaming and making up recipes for the diet was on. Even though my boyfriend insisted I was not overweight, due to my taller, larger-boned frame. I compared myself to my shorter smaller-boned friends and the numbers weren’t good. Oh the struggle that began long before I ever needed it.
    So what was it I didn’t expect?
    On the way home from California our trip was planned through national parks and other sights. The thirteen-year-old in me was determined not to be impressed. So when we stopped at Bryce Canyon after going through miles of hot, bleak Arizona dessert with its dry washes and mesas covered with sage, we arrived in the parking lot which was as boring as what we had been driving through all morning.
    “I’ll just wait in the car,” I said. I’d write some post cards, a much better use of my time.
    My father, usually a well-modulated and reasonable man was absolutely determined that I get out and come along with them, “young lady or else.” He seldom said “or else” or “young lady”, so I knew he meant it whatever “or else” was.
    A few minutes later I was walking amid a most incredible array of formations created by the winds and waters of nature. Many seemed like sixty-foot tall people: royal kings and queens carved out of red sandstone. From the parking lot and the view as we walked toward the canyon it just looked like one more barren area.
    I learned a lot from that experience and often think of it when I find unexpected facets of personalities or behavior in one of my children or friends.
    For the rest of the trip I decided that maybe to make the best use of my time, I should be more willing to go along with the plans my parents had made during those late evening sessions at home.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Beverly, I loved your story. I loved the 60 foot tall kings and queens carved out of red stone. I have seen their cousins in the 4 corners area of Colorado, N. Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Thanks for bringing that back to my mind . . . what a great sight. Thanks!

    • says

      There’s a famous story in my family about my family’s trip to the World’s Fair in Montreal when I was 9. I spent the entire trip (many, many hours of driving) driving my family crazy with my repeated litany, “I don’t want to go to Quebec. I don’t want to go to Quebec.” I don’t think I ever enjoyed it, either. You reminded me of that time. I don’t know how my parents stood it.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Beverly, I also had the kings and queens jump off the page at me. I’m remembering the red soil of Arizona (haven’t been to very many states) and the Australian desert when I imagine these ‘people.’ Thanks so much for this.

  9. Diana says

    I loved the beginning. What did I not expect? You so beautifully expressed that much of our lives are not what we expect.

  10. Hazel says

    I remember long trips in the car also, but I loved them. I must have been the only child I know of that loved to travel every since I can remember (back to age 2). But I really liked your description of what must have been my younger brother, he hated it and there were many, “or else” moments. The best part was your “aha” moment as you saw the figures appear in the rocks. Good story! Thank you for sharing it.

  11. Terry Gibson says

    Nothing was ever expected of me. Given my situation. one might expect me to get in trouble with the law. Be in court? Definitely.

    Traffic court. Family court. Criminal courts (as defendant and victim). Bankruptcy court. Children’s Aid Society court. Divorce court. Criminal Injuries Compensation Board court. The kangaroo court of all family interaction.

    Where did I end up? In some of those. But, the most unexpected was the day I received a thin white envelope in the mail that said “Sherriff Services” on it. I hardly looked at. Laughed at it when I finally gave it a look-see. Jury duty?

    I didn’t expect that even though I could’ve been dismissed or disqualified on medical grounds, I would NOT accept that.

    I didn’t expect my soft, quiet, voice to project to a judge not six feet away and say: “Good Morning, Your Honour.”

    I didn’t expect that I’d seen way too many episodes of Law & Order.

    I didn’t expect I would WANT to be on a Murder case.

    I didn’t expect I would WANT to be the jury forewoman,

    I didn’t expect I would be angry when people automatically assumed a man should have that role.

    I didn’t expect that I would have such a pivotal role in determining a man and his family’s future.

    I didn’t expect that I would deliver such impassioned words on behalf of the defendant. That I would defend a murderer.

    I didn’t expect to be escorted about the city by Sherriffs nor to be sequestered.

    Nor did I expect to be launched into torrential emotion when we delivered a “Not Guilty” (by reason of self-defense) and everyone gasped.

    Finally, I never expected that I would later shake the huge hand of that young Aboriginal man. That his soft palm would be three to four sizes bigger than mine. That even while happy for him, I felt a chill to my blood as I wondered if we really did get it right.

    About four months ago, I ran into one of those jurors. What were the odds in a city with millions of people? That the woman I clicked with and spilled coffee on would suddenly be standing a foot away from me.

    I lowered my voice. I couldn’t help but ask. “Have you ever had doubts?” Her eyes showed it all.

    “Never,” she said.

    I didn’t expect that either.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Wow. Thanks Laura. I’m excited to work more on this. Did I say ‘work’ in the same sentence with reference to an activity that is so freeing for me?

    • Ilana says

      Wow, Terry- This story is very interesting but the way you wrote it was what really hooked me in. Your cadence just soaked me in. Your descriptions made it all so real. I very much enjoyed reading this piece. Bravo! IM

      • Diana says

        HI Terry,
        I would love to hear more of this story. I liked the way you formated it in one sentences beginning with “I didn’t expect”

    • Debbie says

      Terry – this is terrific! I loved each surprising line – and the totally cool ending! You told a story so clearly while holding to the style of the prompt. Very ingenious and talented. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. Eve says

    Finding my Adam-
    Worked on this piece tonight. This is one of my most beloved unexpected moments…I will type it & post it soon.

      • Eve says

        Finding my Adam
        Two weeks to the day after making a very sincere prayer to God to please send me that other part of me—My Adam arrives…
        It is St. Patrick’s Day 2001. I am out at a club called Area 51with some friends. Area 51 is a really cool nightclub for our quaint little Florida town of Port Charlotte. Tonight is a rave called DJ Wars. There are several amazing DJ’s spinning. They are battling back & forth.
        I run into Lisa, a friend that I haven’t seen for about a year & a half. She is so stoked to see me. In the past when our paths crossed, she would often crash out at my place. She tells me that she has been living in Tampa, and is hoping that her friend Bill & her can spend the night. I tell her that I would love to make it a slumber party night.
        I meet her friend Bill. I don’t pay much attention because he looks like he is about 18 years old. He is cute, but way to young for me. I am 28.
        We all meet up on the dance floor when the DJ spins a perfect song. Simultaneously we all go into our own tribal dances. I look over at Bill & he is breaking it down. When we all return to Earth from our tribal trances, I am bewildered.
        I whisper into Lisa’s ear, “Are you guys dating?”
        “No, he is just a friend,” she says.
        “How old is he??” I ask.
        “He is 28, just like you.”
        I am in love! Yes, instantly in love. I know that my prayer has been answered. This is my Adam!!! My eyes well up with tears as my heart is filled with thankfulness for this moment.
        And we lived happily ever after—
        I wish…

  13. Paula Hill says

    Something so common, something that must occur 100′s of times
    a minute, something soooo primal…..surprised me….

    ANEW

    She perceived life from the beginning
    when New Moon began to wax…
    Becoming She-wolf, She-whale,
    She-in flight,
    Senses lit up from a secret heaven
    reaching for the merger so deep within….

    Her belly was Half-Moon
    when life inside her stirred
    As if a grounding “hello” was in order,
    making carnal the hidden swathe…
    Mother Bear wandered,
    alert to the warmest, most obscure cave….

    Three seasons passed
    as the phases cycled around and through her…
    Reaching Full Moon,
    time came for the waning…
    Her baby was born
    as was the mother….a Goddess ….wakening anew

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