Like a Slap in the Face

I’ve never written about this experience before, and I’m omitting names & specific circumstances for privacy.

44. Insult: Write about being insulted. How do you feel? Why do you think the other person insulted you?

I have never fit in with a crowd.

From elementary school through university, I could never get into the “in group.” I was not one of the cool, popular kids.

But even in the groups I did fit in with, there was always one person I clashed with.

This was usually another girl, and someone with a strong, forceful personality, rather like me.

Sometimes this led to conflict, but most of the time we instinctively knew to try and avoid each other. In college, though, I ended up living with a group of women that included one such personality.

She and I had been “friends” since our first year, but looking back I realize that my feelings towards her were of apathy, while hers seem to have been true antipathy.

After Graduation

After graduating, I had been surprised to be included in an email group made up of most of the women I had lived with. By the time of our graduation, I had distinctly felt myself to be “out” of the group.

We had all gone different directions, and some of us had ended up back with our parents while we figured out what to do with ourselves. After eight years away from home, it certainly wasn’t easy to move back in with my folks, and I’m sure the others felt the same.

A Mysterious Email

Finally, I did write. I told them about home, work, and adjusting to life after college. I sent it off and thought nothing more of it.

Then, while I was visiting a girlfriend for a weekend, I got a couple of strange emails.

First came a response to my email to the whole group. The email just below that came from the same woman and its subject line said, “Read this first!”

I obeyed, and opening the second email, read that she had forgotten to remove my email address from the previous email, and she asked me not to read it. She gave for a reason the fact that they were planning to surprise me with something when we all returned to university in the fall for Homecoming weekend.

I was in the middle of a visit, about to head out, so I deleted the group email, closed my computer and forgot about it entirely. I didn’t even take time to respond.

Then the Insult Came

By the time I got home after my weekend, the email had completely gone out of my head. I went back to work, and totally forgot that I hadn’t responded to my former housemate.

The following Wednesday, I got another email from her.

This email had me baffled. In it, she was apologizing profusely, giving as an explanation that she was not doing well, had been unhappy since graduation, and she had lashed out.

I was startled and concerned. I went into my deleted messages and found her response to my email to the group.

A Bucket of Ice Water

It was like a bucket of ice water had been poured over my head.

I had never had such language directed at me. The whole email was laced with insults, accusations, and shaming.

My eyes were opened to the extent to which I had been on the outside of this clique, the butt of their inside jokes.

It was humiliating.

But the worst part was that it came from the wrong person.

Not The Source I’d Expected

This email hadn’t come from the woman I’d previously clashed with. It came, in fact, from the one woman in the clique I had still seen as a friend.

It was a blow. Already feeling lonely and adrift, the stab in the back just added to my feeling of isolation. It was like the last string holding me to that part of college life had been cut.

Pretty quickly after my initial hurt, I started thinking. I put myself in her shoes. I realized she was feeling the same way I was: isolated and frightened.

Forgiven and Almost Forgotten

Several months later, when we laid eyes on each other again at Homecoming, we both had the same initial reaction.

Our eyes lit up, we each took a step forward. Then, we remembered.

Her face fell. Our smiles vanished. I said, “It’s okay…”

Her answer made me feel even sadder about the whole thing: “No. No, it really isn’t.”

Though I had forgiven her and wanted to forget the incident, I could tell that she hadn’t forgiven herself.

I still miss her, thirteen years later.

A Judicious Use of Silence

Today’s prompt got me thinking about how I’m trying to learn to BREAK silence, rather than keep it. But in an effort to lighten up a bit, here’s one about staying silent.

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.


Before the pandemic, this cry would elicit an almost immediate response from me.

“Don’t hit your brother!” for minor infractions.

“Go to your room!” for slightly more serious crimes.

“THAT’S IT, I’M TAKING AWAY [insert favorite toy here]!” for the most grievous offenses.

But as the pandemic wore on…

I became inured to the call, impervious to their cries.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things I will not tolerate (just ask me how I dealt with a biting habit).

But when it comes to the whiny, peevish cries of, “He pushed me!” “He hit me!” “He took my toy!”… At this point, I am basically deaf to them.

A Newborn’s Cries

You know how parents learn to understand their newborn’s cries? One for hungry, one for sleepy, one for fussy, another for gassy…

It’s actually pretty easy to tell when your child is seriously upset or injured. Just by listening closely to their shouts, I can tell whether my 5- and 2-year-old are actually in pain, or if they’re just kvetching.

So now, when they kvetch, I say nothing.

Blissful Silence

After the initial outcry, when they realize no response is forthcoming, they usually simmer down.

They’ll move on, either play something else together or each move on to his own thing.

It’s only when the outbursts become more frequent and reach a fever pitch that I then intervene.

And then, it’s usually to throw them outside, down to the playroom, or to their respective rooms.

And enjoy a few more minutes of blessed silence.

And maybe a cup of tea…

The Warehouse

42. Warehouse: Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.

It looked grand on the outside.

The outer walls were free of graffiti, and it even seemed like someone had taken pains to clear plants and debris from the area around it.

The only clue it was abandoned were the missing doors. The miserable teenager huddled on the previous block had muttered something and pointed this way when I had made my inquiry.

The look of fear and pain in his eyes haunted me as I approached the eastern door.

Inside, it was bleak.

The first thing that struck me was the smell. A stale mix of urine, old booze and cannabis.

My eyes took a minute to adjust after stepping in from the brilliant sunshine. Everything was stillness, the only sound the wind whipping around the open windows and doors. The glass panes were gone from most of the windows and some of the doors were boarded up. Others had been pried open.

Who would want to come in here, I wondered? Why was I in here, I wondered?

Love, I heard myself answer.

Graffiti lined the walls, up to about six feet high. The floor was strewn with litter.

Empty bottles of booze and candy wrappers. Fast food packages. Cigarette butts. Discarded needles.

A lump started to form in my throat.

Picking my way carefully through the junk, I moved further inside.

Aside from the trash, the floor was pretty much bare. A little further in, as my eyes grew used to the dim light, I found some cardboard.

A box had been ripped open and spread haphazardly across the floor as protection from the wet and cold. Judging from the damp imprint on it, it hadn’t helped much.

A sudden flutter of wings broke the silence. My heart leapt up and joined the lump in my throat.

Above me in the rafters, a pigeon had been disturbed. It took flight, leaving through the gaping hole in the roof. Its wings beat free dust and debris from the rafters and it rained down on me. I ducked my head down and pulled my hood up.

Then I heard a groan.

It was faint, like the flight of the pigeon had roused someone from a deep sleep.

My eyes strained to the back of the warehouse. I saw no movement, and heard nothing more.

I crept forward, hyper aware of each sigh, each hush of the wind. I couldn’t tell which side of the building the groan had come from. I just knew it was ahead of me.

Moving slowly forward, watching for needles, I scanned the base of the wall, first to my left, then to my right. The warehouse must have been at least the length of a football field. Time seemed to have stopped.

Another groan.

This one throaty and louder. I heard a rustle coming from the other end. I peered back there and finally caught the movement.

What had looked like a pile of trash against the back wall started to shift. Garbage slid to the floor as the form hauled itself off its side and propped itself sitting against the wall.

I scanned the rest of the wall to make sure this was the only other person there. I dreaded having to look into more than one face to find the one I was looking for.

I kept walking forward and stopped about six feet from the man against the wall. His head was drooped forward, his chin resting on his chest. He clutched a bottle in his right hand, while his left rested limply on the floor next to him. His palm was up and the sleeve was rolled up. I could see the needle tracks on his forearm.

Then I spotted the birthmark.

Right at the crease inside the elbow.

The lump in my throat felt like it would choke me. My eyes burned with tears, and soon my vision was blurred.

Forgetting my sense of danger, I rushed forward with a stifled sob.

I fell to my knees in front of him, and took his face gently in my hands. Blinking back my tears, I stared searchingly into the face.

A scraggly beard hid almost everything below his nose, but my touch roused him enough that he looked up with bleary, unseeing eyes.

The eyes staring back at me were my own. But the color was his father’s.

Weeping openly now, I forgot the filth of the place. I sat down next to him and put my arm around his shoulders. I could feel how thin he was, how frail. His head fell onto my chest, the bottle slid out of his hand.

My tears fell onto his dishevelled hair. “I’m here, my love. I’ve come. I’m here.”

His limp hand tightened slightly on my arm. The sound that he made ripped my heart to pieces. He started to shake in my arms.

Finally, in the faintest of whispers, he said just one word.


Not So Happy Fourth

41. What You Don’t Know: Write about a secret you’ve kept from someone else or how you feel when you know someone is keeping a secret from you.

Secrets From Myself

Sometimes I just don’t want to let myself feel something.

I just don’t want to give myself permission to feel. Usually negative things.

I start to get this blank feeling. A numbness that means I’m pushing something down.

Feeling Numb This Fourth

I think today I’m numb because I’m trying not to let myself think about so many things.

The pandemic. The lack of affordable or available childcare in this country. The upcoming election. Immigration proceedings. Our children’s mental well-being. My lack of career. White supremacy.

Not In the Mood

So I’m not much in the mood for celebrating.

I guess I’m not really keeping a secret from myself. The numbness, though. That’s a sure-fire sign I’m trying to push away something I don’t want to feel.


So I made a blueberry pie! And truth be told, it was one of my better ones.

All those worries are still there. But at least now I have a quintessential American dessert to drown them out with.

The Driving Instructor

I’m back! It’s been a wonderful holiday, and now it’s back to daily writing prompts.

40. Car Keys: Write about someone getting their driver’s license for the first time.

“I’m gonna KILL YA!

“(I’m not really gonna kill ya.) I’M GONNA KILL YA!”

Such were the comforting words of Manny, my driving instructor.

At age 19, I was relatively late to the driving thing. Most of my college friends had had their drivers licenses since they were sixteen.

“Speed UP! Speed UP!”

“No, no, NO! SLOW DOWN!”


Manny wore rings on his fingers. His carefully coiffed dark brown hair shot upwards out of bright white roots. His deeply tanned face was wrinkled as a raisin, and though he probably wasn’t 50, he looked older.

He was liberal with the use of his passenger side break, and with his gesticulations. Each wild wave of his hands made me cringe behind the wheel as I crawled nervously through the streets of Fall River, MA.

Rings flashed as fingers flailed. “THAT’S not how you pahrallel pahk! Pull fahwahd! Right next to the othah cah! NOT THAT CLOSE! I’M GONNA KILL YA!!”

Who could fail to pass a driver’s test with flying colors after such instruction?

I only hope Manny is still teaching driving when my kids need to learn. Wherever we live, I’ll get them to Fall River so that Manny can wave his hands wildly in the air and shout,


Summer Vacation

I’m ditching today’s writing prompt because it was about coffee and tea, and I already covered that extensively.

Instead, I’m going to focus on my holiday! Hooray!

Honestly, I’m considering taking a break from the daily writing. I’m finding it hard to fit it into the holiday schedule.

Busy Schedule

We’re in a place with lots of sunlight, few blackout curtains and a hellovalotta birds. We’re lucky if the morning is a little overcast and we can sleep in past 6am.

The days are full. Full of the wonderful things that make a summer vacation.

We’ve been cycling, to the beach, out on Bompa’s Boat, had ice cream… Moments full of pure joy.

We’ve also been busy fixing things up around the house and preparing it for the coming summer season. Cleaning windows, trimming hedges, airing out rugs.

When Evening Rolls Around…

I’m bushed. Just wiped out.

Not the kind of fatigue I feel at home. Often at home it feels like there’s a weight on me.

It’s physical exhaustion. We’re on the go all day, and even though we’re the same four people and we have a lot of the same things to do (cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes), being in a different environment changes things.

A Special Place

Just being in this gorgeous, special place makes it different. Here, the only worries we have are the here and the now. We’re not thinking about next week, last year, two months from now.

Sometimes I wish we could stay here longer. But that would be like having Christmas every day.

It just wouldn’t be special anymore!

So yeah, maybe I’ll set aside the writing while we’re here. Make it a real holiday.


38. Fire-starters: Write about building a fire.

It starts out small.

A tiny spark. A sideways comment. Perhaps a passive-aggressive remark.

The paper catches quickly. A little flare as the kindling catches. The tension increases, tempers rise.

Now the logs have caught. We’re really going at it. Voices raised, gesticulating wildly. The fire’s blazing, the flames dancing, casting shadows at the back of the fireplace.

Suddenly there’s a blip. The connection cuts out momentarily. Long enough to break the tension. The logs burn up quickly, and before we know it, the fire is dying.

The embers are still smoldering, though. We can’t quite let go.

Soon enough, even that fades. As quickly as it started, the fire is out. We’re quiet. Feeling kind of sheepish.

“So… Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Yup. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”

Inspirational Wall Art

36. Frame It: Write a poem or some phrases that would make for good wall art in your home.

Nope. Not for me, thanks.

I was never one to hang inspirational quotes on my wall. But then for Christmas the year after my mother died, one of my two amazing sisters-in-law gave me a print by Michelle Brusegaard.


More than an inspirational quote, this was reassuring.

It now hangs at the foot of our bed, and I read it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I’d like another one, though. But the new one would be a phrase my mom often repeated to me after our first son was born.


The Joy of Arguing

I missed writing yesterday because we did an epic one-day car trip with the family. Thank GOD we scored a minivan with a built-in DVD player. Today’s article is coming to you from a different location. A very relaxing location.

35. War and Peace: Write about a recent conflict that you dealt with in your life.

Conflict? Me?! Never.

Well, perhaps not never.

Most of my life, I’ve studiously avoided conflict. A lot of people do, especially (dare I say it?) women.

I’ve apparently internalized the desire to avoid conflict so much that I often respond to conflict with—I’m embarrassed to say it—tears.

Arguing Joyfully

In the last few years, though, I have tried to learn to argue joyfully.

You read that right! Arguing can, in fact, be a joyful experience. When you find yourself in a heated debate with someone you love, it can be a satisfying (and rather exciting) experience to disagree, to even get angry and argue about something.

The key is to always remain respectful, because in the end you do want to see this person again.

A Recent Conflict

Recently, I got into a heated argument with my husband on the way to the grocery store. I got so mad that I stormed out of the car and slammed the door behind me.

With each step I took away from the car, I felt my anger dissipating, and by the time I’d gotten into the store, I was able to do my shopping with a clear head.

Though I made a stormy exit, up until then I had vented my frustration verbally. The fact that there were no tears was a big victory for me.

Tears = Emotional Blackmail

I used to burst into tears when we fought, changing the situation from a mutual argument to making my husband feel ashamed for upsetting me so much.

Bursting into tears at the moment an argument breaks out is emotionally manipulative. I wasn’t sad in these cases; I wasn’t hurt. I just didn’t know how to express anger. I thought anger was the worst feeling you could possibly have.

I thought that it was a horrible thing to be angry with someone I love.

Recently, thanks to the therapy I started after my mother’s death, I came to understand that anger and love are not mutually exclusive. It IS possible to be seriously mad at the person you love.

The key is to learn to argue with joy.

How to Argue Joyfully

  1. Use your words. Anger can cloud our judgment and make it hard to find the words we want. Try to keep your head about you and clearly state what has made you angry and why it makes you angry.
  2. Do not make attacks. This is especially important when arguing with your partner. This is your chosen life companion. You don’t want to say anything you will regret later.
  3. Know when to end it. When frustration reaches a boiling point and you find yourselves arguing in circles, it’s time to stop. Walk away. Cool down. Clear your heads.

Last Rule

Oh, and for Pete’s sake and the sake of your mental health and personal well-being, never EVER engage in an argument on social media.

It is impossible to argue joyfully in social media.

Lookin’ Out My Front Door

34. Sounds: Sit outside for about an hour. Write down the sounds you hear.

Wind rustling through the trees;
Geese honking across the sky;
A cheerful little mocking bird!
A dog barking in the distance.

Airplanes overhead, coming in to land;
Traffic going by on the boulevard;
Someone mowing the lawn;
Music blaring out of a passing car.

Whirring of a bubble machine and
Shrieks of joy from my children.
Chalk scraping on the sidewalk.
Water spilling, feet in crocs stomping in the puddles.

“Mama?” I open my eyes. “I’m bored.
“Can we go inside now?”