Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Cage


She struggles, like a great bird, trapped within Nature’s cage, and the waves that crest her bow threaten to whelm her feeble structure.

To whence would’st thou flee, oh sparrow? Thou who longs for the flight of eagles, to soar far above thy entanglements.

My heart yearns in sympathy, to travel with thee to new lands, and for fresh sensations to dazzle mine eyes. Oh, that I could quell the prison that binds me here, and rise on new swells of freedom.

Go on, then, Queen of the Seas. Shatter thy bonds; flee the tide that shackles thee to the shore. ‘Neath wave and tempest and spray, direct thy rudder ever eastward toward the sun and day and promise of new adventure; turn thy stern to the end of dreams and stench of bitter night.

For that is all I see. A cage, stretching long, long in front.

Sometimes, or maybe quite often, a feeling of restlessness stirs inside me. It eats at my bones and tickles an itch that throbs down deep, so deep I can't reach. And I feel guilty, because after all, I live a fulfilling life, a life filled with good things and good people, fine relationships and beautiful children. In so many ways, I have been blessed, and yet that bone-deep agitation pulses on the edges of consciousness.

There is no name, of which I am aware, for this itch. 

Perhaps it's just me, peering into the looking glass of what could be, if only I would get out of the way and let the Master finish his craft.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fallen Reader

Apparently, I've been ruined as a reader for all time.


Back in the day, I used to sit down with a nice, fresh book from the library. I'd rifle through the pages, inhaling the scent (you fellow book lovers know the scent to which I'm referring--you Kindle lovers who never crack a book will not understand), and I would crawl onto the couch or the bed or the floor or the park bench and settle in for an unparalleled flight of fancy.

The authors never made mistakes. The tone, structure, narrative style never even hit my radar. I simply immersed myself in the story and digested every word with absolute satisfaction.

Fast-forward a few years. I wrote a book, then two, then three, then four, five and six. Every word was studied, every adjective used, then discarded, then used again. Sentence patterns were read, and reread, flipped around, reversed, turned upside-down, then right-side-up. Books were read aloud until my throat ached and my voice rasped. The overuse of adverbs galloped through my nightmares. 

Plot lines! Oh, dear goodness, the torture of a hole in my plot line!

A college professor once told me (and perhaps it wasn't an original quote, but the first time I heard it, it came from him) that to be a good writer, I had to be an avid reader. I took that to heart. Every night for years, after the kids were in bed and I'd closed up shop for the day, I crawled in my bed and cracked open a book. 

The hour didn't matter; it might have been midnight or one or two in the morning. I would still read. Sometimes, I would only make it through two paragraphs. Most often, a chapter. A particularly engrossing book might have kept me awake till four in the morning as I'd tell myself, "Just one more chapter. That's it." Until the next cliffhanger, and then I'd burn some more of that midnight oil and keep going.

But the simple, relaxing enjoyment had flown.

Now, I study every adverb, every adjective. "Why did they put 'slightly' in there? It would have made a stronger sentence without that word!" 

The occasional typo presents itself, and I smirk. "See, I'm not the only one."

I grow green with envy when a particularly interesting adjective or simile pops up. "Now why couldn't I have thought of that first?" I went with my husband to see Catching Fire, the second story in The Hunger Games trilogy. My enjoyment of the movie was tinged with the fact that jealousy ate away at my innards.

Fie on thee, Suzanne Collins! Why must you come up with such an interesting story?

All joking aside, if I had a choice whether or not I would begin this journey again, this relationship with my keyboard, I wouldn't refuse it.

Yes, it does affect my view of other literature, and yes, it is often frustrating that I can't simply sit and enjoy.

But on the flip-side, I've known few activities more enjoyable than the pleasure of allowing my fantasy unparalleled freedom, of constructing a world in which other keen readers, like myself, can wander freely. Perhaps I will never be another Suzanne Collins, author extraordinaire, but I am Tamara Shoemaker, weaver of ideas.

And I'm fine with that.

(Photo courtesy of my six-year-old daughter. This is apparently what I look like when I write a love scene, as I was doing when she took the picture). ;)

Friday, June 13, 2014


Apparently, I am now hooked onto this Flash Fiction group. I love taking a picture and weaving a story, however short, from what I see. Here, I share with you what I felt when I saw this one. If you see something different, feel free to let me know. There's so much room for exploration in this picture.



The steady plunk of berry juice dripped crimson onto white sand around her bare feet, the red divots trailing a path of hard work behind her.

Her stained fingers gripped the splintered handles of the baskets she carried, the weight in her hands echoing in the tight strain across her shoulders and back.

Every day, day in, day out, her footprints marked the sand, her berries crushed their juice through the slatted floors of the baskets. Each evening, when she arrived, she entered the leaning door, ducking her head beneath the crossbeam.

“Evenin’, Pearl.” She rested her baskets on the scratched table and leaned over her friend on the bed, the back of her weathered hand brushing against the woman’s forehead. “I brought your favorite again. Think you can eat somethin’ tonight?”

A bowl relaxed in her fingers, a spoon traveled to a crooked mouth. Purple stains twisted down a wrinkled chin.

A smile stained their lips.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Trying out my poetic wings, which hopefully will not pull an Icharis and melt while I soar too close to the sun.

Recently, I joined a Flash Fiction page - every Friday, I absorb a picture they post, then I write what comes to me based on the scene they provide. Below is the picture and my entry. Apologies for the Poe-like tone--it was what came to me last night at midnight (when I decided to ignore sleep and write instead).



Heat sears the air,
Shimmering distortion vibrates a sandstone roof.

The fire of afternoon brilliance
Shades the dips and dells of
Craggy rock and verdant moss.

It melds heat into the sun-kissed bones
Of citizens below.
Unconcerned, they while away treasured moments,
Chatting with the Reaper
Above the gong
That tolls their final hours,
Sun-blinded and unprepared.

Light flees across the slopes,
Lining leaves and roots
With golden shadow.
It plays in the crevasses and ridges,
Chases the darkness down the cracks
Before dancing away,
Flirting with the whelming blackness
Of Shadow.

Like a laugh that dies before it is heard,
The colors fade.
Amber, then silver, then gray,
And purple.

The citizens turn their faces skyward,
The knell sounds its clanging strokes.

Four hours left,
Three, two, and one,
And then,

Blackness waits.

The night
Sweeps over once more.

And there are no stars tonight.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Ten Years of Forever

Ten years ago, on a very hot day, I sweated in a white dress in an un-air-conditioned wing of a church, and waited.

I was nervous, I was hot (hence, the sweat). Someone found a fan and stuck it under my dress so I could have some air blowing up over my legs.

I almost chickened out. Not out of marrying the guy I loved, but out of the walk down the aisle. I had a sudden premonition that as soon as the doors opened and that aisle stretched out before me, I would lose my breakfast. Rather than risk that embarrassment, I wanted to run out the back door and plan an elopement later.

I'm glad I didn't.

When the doors opened, I somehow managed to cling to my dad's arm and trip and stumble my way down the aisle all the way at the front, where we smiled shyly at each other, like we had only just met.

I wondered
     Ten years ago,
          What I would do this morning
     When I woke and watched your face,
          Relaxed, peaceful,
     Lashes free of glasses,
Breathing in deep, steady draughts of dreamland.

I wondered
     What ten years would do to this
          Thing called "Us."

And so, I grasped my bouquet with nervous fingers.
     The doors opened,
          The music flowed.
               The white satin rustled
                     Toward you, at the front.

The words we said to each other
      That day
           Were meant to last
                 A lifetime.

So here we are
     Ten years later.
           New wrinkles, gray hairs write a
                      Stronger than words:
     Roses from our bush
          Offered wordlessly,
               A stroke of color
                    When I'm not looking.

I woke today and
      Watched your sleeping face,
           And wondered what I should do
                To love you today.

I got up
     And cleaned a mess
           And changed a diaper
                And wiped some mouths
                      And settled an argument
                           And loved our offspring

And loved you
      Because this is
           Our First Ten Years of Forever.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Playing Favorites

I asked my mom once, sneakily, who was her favorite child, me or my brother? Young and naive as I was, I think I honestly expected her to give an answer that favored me.

I have to laugh at that memory now. The tables have turned, and now I'm the mother of multiple children, and the idea of "having a favorite" is so completely foreign to me, I can't even fathom it. Sure, I love some things about one child more than I may about another one, but it balances itself out nicely with the individual qualities of all three of them. They're all three so different that it's like comparing a can opener to the Eiffel Tower to a coffee table to pancakes.

If I had to order my children in first place, second place, and third, I couldn't. They all win. Or lose. Whatever your perspective is (they win in my perspective).

Moving on to another point (because I'm good at making vague points with off-subject stories), my three books are very like my children in that I love them all, I pour my heart and soul into each of them, and I chew my nails to the nubbins as soon as they enter society, terrified lest someone notice a fault in them. When the occasional poor review comes in, I'm heart-broken, asking myself where I went wrong, and it takes many kind reassurances from my husband to remind me that everyone is subject to his own opinion, and that one person's poor review may be someone else's new favorite novel.

Lesson learned. I have to stop worrying so much about other people's opinions.

Incidentally, just as I can't order my own children in first, second and third, I didn't order my books either. They can be read in any order. Ashes, Ashes or Broken Crowns or Pretty Little Maids. All three have different characters and different story lines. The only theme running through all three books is that each of them relies on the history of a nursery rhyme to solve a mystery.

That's it! I hope you enjoy them, because I've done my best with them, but if you don't, send them home and I'll give them a hug and a kiss and tell them I love them anyway. :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

To the Whistling Man in the Walmart Parking Lot

Today, I notice two new silver hairs. They thicken the streak of silver that already waves its way through my bangs. The crows feet stare at me from the mirror, along with the creases at the corners of my mouth that have introduced themselves to my reflection in the last few years.

Yesterday, my daughter held her palm against mine. "Mommy," she said, "your hand is a lot more spotted and wrinkled than mine."

Ah, the brutal honesty of the innocent.

The truth is, I haven't been aging gracefully. I've been aging, kicking, screaming, biting, and clawing my way through it. 

Tonight, I wheel my cart of groceries through the parking lot to my minivan--my minivan that says, "Hi, I'm a mom. I'm a wife. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I have three little troopers that sit in these three car seats several times a week and compete for who can reach the highest decibel."

Somewhere along the line, I lose track of the van and aim for a minivan farther down the row. When I reach it, I see the license plate, and stop suddenly in confusion. Where is my familiar vehicle? I turn in a full circle, and then I see it. Or him.

A man, standing beside the open door of his vehicle. His mouth reshapes itself, and a whistle splits the air--a whistle that proclaims to the parking lot: "I like the way you look."

I stare at the man, memorizing his familiar features, the way his fingers curve around the door handle, as they had done to my hand nearly ten years ago when he had slipped a ring onto the now-wrinkled finger of my left hand.

This man has watched each of my wrinkles form over the years, has combed his fingers through the silver streaks that have appeared, has found ways to say, "I love you, and you're still beautiful to me" through all ten years.

So to the whistling man in the Walmart parking lot: I love you.