The Sum of All Years

fierceI got this fantastic idea from Bonnie Gillespie whom if you don’t know and you’re an actor trying to work, you need to just go down the rabbit hole of her website and all she offers.

The Sum of All Years is a writing exercise in which each year of your life is described in the number of words for that age.

For now this is the past three but I would like to do this for each year and if I do, I will update this post!


Learned to slow down the hard way.

Surgery. PT. Weight gain and loss.

Healing is never ending.

Gave myself opportunities to grow and others followed suit.

Directing. Producing.

Stopped taking shit (see healing)

The compassion I cultivate must be for myself first.

Fully focused.



Financial freedom is attainable.

Sometimes you have to say no and goodbye forever.

Boundaries are not meant to be broken.

Fringe. Laughter. Friendship. I got your back.

Pismo Beach. Jeff getting married. Indy Film. Webseries.

There is so much I have to offer.


Calendar Girls and taking sexy back.

Learning the painful truth about teachers is key to evolvement.

Yoga Journal Conference, old and new friends.

Some people have sad endings and there’s nothing you can do about it.

After Holiday travel magic in Vancouver.

Butter on Saltines

“Don’t judge me” I said as I mucked my way through the kitchen.  “Don’t tell me what you’re doing because I’m dying to know” replied my uber curious and impatient husband.  Taking out the box of gluten free table crackers and smearing butter across them I returned back to write this.  My grandmother, Ruth, used to love to put butter on saltine crackers, add some peanut butter sometimes, and share this with us for a snack.  Growing up next door to her, we spent a lot of time with her patience and her peculiarities.  For the grandchildren she had, and would proudly name them all and count them, we always knew we were loved by her.  For my mother and my aunt, they did not experience her love or her pride in them growing up.  These were some of her peculiarities. 

Born into an immigrant family of sixteen children, she grew up in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley in California.    When the early 1900’s version of the plague hit America, it took her Father and two siblings with it.   Recalling these memories, she would talk of her sister Elsa and show her picture to us.   Meeting my grandfather in bible school would take her to Washington state, away from her family.   With no prying eyes and no family to help her, she was left to survive my alcoholic grandfather’s violent and abusive behavior, and try to keep her five children out of harms way, often unsuccessfully.  Until he died, she was subject to his violent mood swings and unpredictable and twisted behavior.  We never know what truly makes up a person’s psyche or how one survives, but often these experiences make or break a person, and sometimes the pieces don’t fit evenly.    

My brother and I spent time with Grandma, often over food.  She indulged in the craze of pre-made food from the Schwan Man delivery truck.  We would make home-made sodas, feast on their frozen pizzas and enjoy ice cream bars galore.  Perhaps it was from living in a depression, or living with a man who refused to let her have any money, but she loved to order food as much as make it.  At Christmas she would make her famous Mississippi Mud, a goey contortion of cookies, chocolate and god knows what but it was delicious.  Or her marshmallow rolls, some form of melted chocolate and marshmallows that she froze and would slice into pieces.   But most importantly, the Santa Lucia cake and the bownots.  Santa Lucia, a holiday celebrated in Sweden and other parts of Europe, was a holiday that she, my  mother and I started celebrating.  These traditions would often unite us.  It was sometimes her behavior that would divide us all.

When I was fifteen, troubled would have been a good way to describe it.  Living with her was a relief, until I found out she had read my diary and told my aunt the contents.   Privacy wasn’t her strong point.  If you didn’t answer the phone, she would come over and knock on the door, or the windows.  She would knock on my mother’s window at night calling out “There’s a good movie on channel twelve,” knowing that she was in there with her new husband. She couldn’t keep a secret, ever.  She would tell untruths or assumptions about people that were often hurtful.  No one ever knew why.

 After the death of my grandfather, her finances concerned all of her children.  She sent thousands of dollars to the Jim and Tammy Fay’s and other televangelists.   Even when her children would tell her that widows were to be cared for by God and she didn’t need to send money, she would sent it anyway.  She ordered constantly from mail-order catalogs, skin-care companies, and magazine subscriptions, hoping to win the big contests or just give the things away.  When we discovered her ‘jewel’ collection, a safe full of faux gemstones with no value, concerns gave way to realities.  She had spent all of the money from the estate.   She had long ago sold the car, thankfully, because her idea of stopping involved driving fifty miles an hour and slamming on the brakes.  And while she still had social security, she seemed to be bouncing checks every month.  My aunt finally took over her checkbook, discovering that she was still writing checks to televangelists.  She bought a $2000 vacuum cleaner with a ‘lifetime guarantee’, that lay broken and useless.  And she owed mail-order companies and local department stores. 

Owing money wasn’t her only problem.  The trailer that she owned needed repair.  Because she was now in debt, she couldn’t afford her own groceries.  My uncle started bringing her groceries every week.  My mother would bring her meals from the restaurant she worked at.  My other uncle had done so much work on the trailer and repairing and replacing things, they began to wonder if the trailer would hold up for her lifetime.  They arranged for a non-profit to do the repairs on the condition they would own the trailer after her death.  Soon they discovered she was no longer cooking, or eating, unless it was carnation instant breakfast or a meal from the restaurant.  They knew they no longer had a choice.  Her last few months before her stroke was in an assisted living facility, a nice facility nearby to everyone, but she was unhappy with that decision.  But when she woke up calling the nurses by her dead sister’s names, their medical expertise gave her a few more months of her grandchildren by her bedside.  A blockage to an artery, long undiagnosed and permanent brain damage, possibly accounting for some of the unusual behavior, but permanent enough for a death sentence.   They knew it was her time to go when she told them that Jesus had visited her and it was soon after that she was gone.

It would be easy to remember only the bad parts.  But I believe that you can’t always explain someone’s life or their behaviors based on their experiences.  Like the fact that we would shake our heads at some of her behaviors.  But some of them were straight out of love.  When my mother’s husband convinced her to sell our family home and we moved to another house, he abandoned a lot of our belongings.  My grandmother rescued my Little House on the Prairie books and toys out of the garbage and the rain. She didn’t think it was right that he left them out.  And she knew how much they meant to me.  I look back at all the letters she wrote me.  As she grew older her handwriting became more difficult to read, her letters were often the same: what my cousins were doing, how proud she was, what movie she watched on channel twelve.   Her love often involved food.  Pictures of us, eating fruit leather when dehydrating was the new craze.  Or pictures of me with the Santa Lucia cake.  None of us can get the bowknot recipe right, because she probably left out a few ingredients, not purposefully, just forgot to tell us.  When my mother ‘snubbed’ me and told me to ask my Grandmother for her pastry recipe, it’s still the one I use today. You could ask Grandma to show you how to make anything.  She loved to show you.  When she bought a hat weaver, she made everyone hats for Christmas.  We watched Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, over, and over, and over, and over again at her house.  Every weekend.  She loved making snacks.   Saltines with butter. Sometimes with peanut butter.  Patience is needed.  The butter needs to be soft.  Saltines break apart easily.  She was patient.  And often kind.  There are many pieces that make up a person.  It’s the pieces of kindness that can stay with you for a lifetime. 

Short Story "Purple Cloud" Prompts for Writers

So I subscribe to Creative Writing Prompts blog. Considering the fact that I spent the first day of 2013 watching Serenity and the Walking Dead, sci-fi was a great prompt for me today.   Hope you enjoy:

She noticed a purple cloud floating toward her.  Unable to move, her heart pounding, eyes wide she knew what was next.  The hit from the nerve ray had left her unable to move and with the knowledge these were her last few moments.    So many times she had seen what was left of someone.  So many times she helped eviscerate what was left of the body.  As it grew closer she noticed the flecks of blue, pulsations and waves that intertwined in the cloud.  There was a strange yet deadly beauty to it. 
As it grew near, the noise started.   Buzzing, not quite like insects yet not like electricity either, growing louder as the cloud floated innocently towards her.  It reminded her of watching clouds across the sky in her home planet.  Clouds, beautiful and strange, coming across the sky, unsure of the malicious content they might contain towards the end.  Clouds that used to carry water contained acid, growing more erosive, then eventually, taking the skin.  These were her reasons for leaving.  Finding someplace else, possibly finding a cure for the ills of her planet.  But someplace else wasn’t always welcoming to others.  And they didn’t leave welcome wagons, in fact, they left bodies behind as warnings.  Don’t come back and tell everyone what we’ll do if they come.  But the desperate with no place to go can only keep moving.   
As the cloud moved near, the noise grew louder and the colors began to change.  She noticed the size of the cloud began to grow but there was a strange tingling in her feet.   The feeling was coming back into her body!  “MOVE!” her thoughts screamed, dragging her limbs until she got to her hands and feet.    Five feet to her pod, five feet and she might be safe from the beam, ‘five feet’ she hoped as she got to her feet and took her step towards the pod, seeing the shadow of the cloud in front of her, and then nothing.  
@2013 Jennie Olson Six

The Bench

They had tried to spruce up this part of the park, planting trees to replace the one that had been burned but it continued to be a sad space.   A space that no one really visited except those with spray paint and bad intentions.  Winter had covered the area with a blanket of snow on occasion but it was as if the very ground was infused with a longing for something. 

In other parts of the park, people walked their dogs through trails, children skipped rocks on the pond and rangers emptied trash bins unless the racoons had already done it.  They would hide out sometimes, lurking in the shadows, waiting for sundown until they could come out and scavenge.  They were there that night, watching as the tree went up in flames, scurrying into the woods to avoid the screeching sirens and flurry of men in uniforms.  But none could save the tree and what they found.  

Not far from the site, covered in soot, rambling she stood.  First reports were that she was strung-out and deranged, like she always appeared but it was far from the truth.  It had been that park, that tree, many years passed but she never forgot while everyone else seemed to.  Haunted and stuck, like a ghost who didn’t know they’d passed into the afterlife, her memory clung to that horrible afternoon while her life whirled by.   One of the officers remembered but couldn’t offer her anything that time and space might have created but never did.  It was too late for his institutions to offer help when it had failed so miserably the first time.  Instead, the death of the tree forever changed the landscape of the place and now she wouldn’t have to remember.  There was no longer a tree there, and that empty space could hold something different. 

After the place was cleared, they decided to put a bench up and plant some new trees, to infuse some new life into the area and a new purpose.  But the ground refused to accept that.  The first few trees died and they were forever replanting.  But when these last trees were planted, and lived, it was as if the ground wanted something else.  A place for everyone to remember what had happened here, not to remain in sadness but as a testament to what happens when we try to forget and move on when we’ve left someone else behind. 

A Winter’s Night – a short story

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The solar security light was triggered as he crossed the yard.  He paused for a moment and then regained his sense of purpose as he approached the cabin.  Out here things like cellular service, electricity and phones didn’t exist.  Out here, a certain level of respect was garnered for those who chose to live out here.  But this was someone who did not live out here.  This was someone surviving.  And if you survived out here, you were at a whole other level, that few lived to tell about.
She slept soundly, like she hadn’t slept for weeks or months.  The cabin was as they had left it in early summer.   They had come out for a weekend, a chance to get away before it all began.   The start of school, new jobs, new town, new life gave them a chance to begin again and renew what had been lost.  The cabin, an investment property, something that perhaps they could retire in part-time, a place they planned to visit on the weekends, something that they could afford.  It was all that was left in six short months.
His steel blue eyes peered into the window of the cabin.  A plush cabin built for endurance and for the weekend warrior.  It disgusted him, these people who invaded the land and built these structures, no respect for nature or the life around them.  These people who came and didn’t respect, he hated them all.  He would teach them a lesson.
Her breath was shallow, like she was barely breathing.  But it was only a deep sleep, something she hadn’t experienced for a long time.  She came for the peace and tranquility of the snowy mountains.  She thought as she had drove up that perhaps this would be the place that she could feel again something other than anguish.   She had filled up the car on her way up when it had started to snow again.  There was nothing more peaceful than falling snow but it did not give her the peace she was looking for.  Instead, conflict over what she was doing and why she was there.  It was too soon, or it wasn’t too soon, it was irresponsible or reckless, people would wonder, people would worry, but she had gone and wasn’t coming back. 
The living room hearth had embers of a fire, a big braided rug and long couch.  The walls were decorated with old snow shoes and old tin pots, as though someone were trying to decorate it to look older than it actually was.  The exposure to the elements made him older than he actually was.  At 38, his sandy blonde hair had started the graying process when he was stationed in Iraq.  By the time he returned, it was hard to distinguish which was blonde and which was white.  He had no interest in talking to anyone about what he had experienced.  He had no one to return home to except the mountains.  He felt at one with the wild.  The cold of the winters were harsh but he survived.  He had survived much worse than a little cold.  By this time, his hunger was taking over and he hoped that the cabin had supplies that would get him through the next few months.  As he crossed around the corner of the cabin he saw the small glow of a nightlight.  This small foolish notion only incensed him more.  If these people were so scared of the dark they had no business being there, and he was going to give them an actual reason to be scared.
She stopped at the little store at the base of the mountain.  The few provisions she had, she knew she needed a little more in case of more snow, in case her stay lasted longer than a day or a week.  But she didn’t really want to make any future plans.  Her future had already been decided in a freak accident, taking them all, one by one, slowing, over weeks at the hospital.  He was the last to go, hanging on until one day, after sleeping for weeks next to his side; he stopped breathing for the last time.  But really, she had stopped breathing long before that.  
He peered into the window of the bedroom to see the light source, a Minnie Mouse nightlight illuminating the bedroom.  It was a child’s bedroom, with a small twin bed frame, complete with Minnie Mouse bedding, a large trunk overflowing with toys and a small, child vanity with mirror.  He sneered at the luxury of it.  Most children he had seen had nothing but rocks and barely a roof over their head and lived in a place where everything had been destroyed.  He thought of the effort it took to get something like this to this cabin and how much effort it took those he left behind to just get some water and shelter.   He then noticed the figure in the bed.  Upon closer inspection, he saw it was a grown woman.   The darkness began to cloud his thoughts. 
The snow clouds continued to release their bounty as she approached the cabin.    She pulled the car up to the garage and got out to open the door, nearly jumping out of her skin to discover the family of raccoons living there.   They scurried off and she parked the car, quickly unloading and getting into the cabin.  It was much colder in the winter.  Luckily they had supplied the cabin with lots of firewood, anticipating much more use, many more weekends, the fun and joy that adventures in the wilderness would bring.   But today, this was a refuge, a memory and nothing more than a place that she would decide whether or not this was a life worth living for.   The grief counselors had suggested she get away, maybe spend some time with friends or family.  The prescription for prozac had gone unfilled.  Grief was the word used, but almost felt like a stupid word, as it couldn’t contain the emotions she was feeling.  She wasn’t even sure that it was emotion, as it resembled nothing she could compare it to.  It came in waves, in came in sharp pains, and it just kept coming.  
When she unpacked the food she had brought, she almost laughed, marshmallows, chocolate, cupcakes, bacon, eggs and a bag of salad, a box of wine.  She made a fire and thought she should eat.  She hadn’t eaten much for months, nothing fit anymore and she had little interest in clothing or anything else.  She didn’t force herself to do much, except eat once a day.  Coffee, a bagel was most of the faire she could keep down and keep going with.   She found an expired package of graham crackers in the cupboard and decided to make a smore.  She burnt the marshmallow but ate it anyway, watching the snow fall.  There wouldn’t be anyone around to stop her if she decided to do what she wanted to do anyway.  It was then that the fatigue hit her.  The fatigue of six months of making an impression at the new job and driving the kids to soccer and ballet, of making late night dinners and early morning meetings, of making an impression by attending all the meetings and events and fundraisers.  And when the accident happened, the sleepless nights at the hospital before gripping hands and turning off of machines, of hoping and praying and giving up hope and resurging hope and losing it all anyway.  She wanted to sleep.  And never wake up.
He saw her dark hair frame a small face.  Small curls and a bare shoulder stirred him in ways that he hadn’t allowed or experienced in a long time and was looking forward to it.  Alone, she was alone and there was nothing to stop him.  And he wasn’t planning on stopping.  But her face, something familiar about it, he held it in his gaze searching for what was detracting him from his intentions.
There was a big house ahead, she walked along the path in her dream and approached the window of the house, looking in she saw a man staring back at her, eyes wide and frightening, a peak of sandy hair under a wooly hat.  She froze, unable to move, fearing for her life and yet unable to run, her legs would not move her eyes unable to break their hold of his gaze.
He had seen that face before, too many times.  It was that pained, pinched face, with wrinkles around the eyes that were earned before the body had aged enough to earn them.  It was that face that so desperately wanted relief that looked to him as if he could do something, rescue, respite, relieve and he never, ever could.    He knew that face.  He knew that sleep, of someone who had barely slept and so desperately needed sleep.  He saw it in the face of his buddies, long ago gone, in the faces of people who he couldn’t help.  He saw the sliver of relief that sleep was giving her.  It was enough to make him disappear into the woods and never return. 
She opened her eyes.  The light of the nightlight illuminated the room.  She looked out the window seeing only darkness, the peace of the night.  She knew snow was falling but couldn’t see it.   She thought for a moment of all of the creatures that lived in the woods around her and wondered if she was safe and then squashed those thoughts. She closed her eyes and pulled the blankets tight before she fell back asleep.    
@ Jennie Olson Six 2012