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Cindy L. Freeman – Secrets

4/3/18

Every family has its secrets. Most are insignificant, harmless little privacies or even white lies that are perpetuated through the generations. We may guard them because they are painful or embarrassing. Human nature dictates that we protect the family name from ill-repute.

When I was a child, I sensed that my mother held a well-protected secret. As I grew older, it became evident that she had been molested as a child. Had she told me the truth, I might have understood her over-protection of my sister and me, especially her warnings about men. I’m sure I would have responded with empathy. She never shared her secret until I was middle-aged with children of my own. Yet, I knew. I’m convinced that if painful secrets are not shared, they manifest in the behavior and attitude of the secret-holder.

Sometimes secrets are used to manipulate or harm others. In my novel, Unrevealed, Allison Harmon, the twenty-seven-year-old protagonist is plagued by what she thinks are hallucinations. She begins to wonder if she is going crazy. Soon she discovers that a family secret has been scrupulously hidden from her throughout her life. We learn that this secret is the result of her powerful grandfather’s antiquated prejudice.

Even as a child, Allison senses that something significant happened at her childhood home, Wellington Manor, something her parents and grandparents, even her housekeeper, kept from her. Were they trying to protect her or themselves? Had they planned to reveal the truth to her one day?

Allison realizes that, rather than hallucinating, she is experiencing flashbacks to actual childhood experiences. Now, with her father’s recent death, both parents are gone, and she is left with an intense need to uncover the truth. She turns to Wellington Manor’s housekeeper, Martha, the only person who knows enough Harmon family history to enlighten her. But will Martha share what she knows, or will she continue to guard the secret?

I’m convinced that secrets can destroy families and leave individuals with strained relationships and unresolved issues. Will Allison Harmon struggle against her family’s demons forever or will she finally find the freedom to experience a life of love and possibility? Read Unrevealed to find out.

 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed and The Dark Room. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through www.amazon.com          or www.hightidepublications.com

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Linda Dunnigan – Chapter 2 Curiosity and Uncle Will’s Kitchen

MidCentury Childhood Memories

April 3, 2018

 Throughout the fall and spring, many sacks and baskets made their way up and down the stairs to Uncle Will’s kitchen until finally, our curiosity got the better of us.   What we needed was a plan, a way to get up those steps without being seen and, once and for all, into that kitchen.  There had to be a way to follow Uncle Will into the forbidden zone without being discovered.   The one thing going for us was the fact that without his hearing aids in, Uncle Will was deaf!  Maybe, if we were real quiet, we could sneak in behind him before that door shut.

The next time Uncle Will returned from the mountains loaded down with baskets we put our plan in action.  We rushed out, offering to help carry the baskets, and thus identify the source of the aromas coming from their mysterious contents.   Although greeted warmly, our offer to help was declined.  “ I can handle these, “he said as he made his way to the house. This time, those baskets wouldn’t disappear up the stairs without us.  Hard on his heels, quickly and quietly, we slipped in before that door closed.  Success!  We were almost there, as we tiptoed up the creaky stairs into that forbidden zone!

Just a few more steps and we were in!  Then Uncle Will  turned to hang his hat and coat on the door and  spotted us.   There we stood, holding our breath, ready to bolt back down those stairs  and out that door double time as soon as he said “Out!”  To our amazement, all he did was frown,  scratch then shake his head.   “Well now, how did you two manage to sneak up those stairs?  Since you are here, you might as well come on in and help,” and with that,  turned and walked into the kitchen, with us right behind him.

It was hard to believe that we were finally in!  What we saw far surpassed anything we had imagined.  This was no ordinary kitchen!  Oh, there were table and chairs, stove, refrigerator, sink, and even a broom, but so much more!  Fishing poles and guns were secured to one wall on specially made racks.   Across one corner, neat tobacco twists hung on a line, adding yet another layer to the smells hanging in the air.  Ammunition boxes were stacked underneath the flour bin on the Hoosier Cabinet.  A   brass spittoon sat in the corner next to an old rocking chair, much like the one on the stoop at the bottom of the steps.  The nearby tobacco stained wall and floor  bore testament to near misses.  Instead of pictures another wall was covered with big evenly spaced penny nails.

Mouths open, eyes wide, we stared first at the room, and then at Uncle Will who pointed at a basket filled with acrid smelling nuts.  “Here” he said, placing the basket on the table and pulling out chairs. Reaching in, he pulled out a small branch covered with leaves, and  tossed it on the table a pile, leaving the nuts in the basket.

“ These here are Black Walnuts.  They’re worth every penny they bring because picking and shelling them is dirty business.  Be sure the nuts stay in the basket, not the trash pile.  When you finish, put the basket on the floor over there,” he said, pointing to the wall covered with nails.  So the nails were not meant for pictures after all, but for his treasure baskets.  “Nuts have to dry before they can be shelled.  When they dry, maybe you two can help.”   Was that an invitation to come back?  We certainly hoped so!

Job completed, we looked at hands stained black and headed for the sink as Uncle Will lifted another basket filled with hickory and hazel nuts   onto the table.

“No sense in washing your hands until you are finished, sorting is dirty work and besides, those stains won’t just wash off.  These nuts need separating, and when you’re finished, the baskets go next to that other one over there.   When you’re finished with those, sort these,” he instructed, pointing to a basket filled with an assortment of earthy smelling mushrooms.  And so it went.   In no time, we had the drill down pat as we sorted one basket after another.

When we came to a basket filled with twigs, we headed to dump it in the trash.   “Bring that on back here, that’s not trash, that’s Witch Hazel.   Brewed and reduced, it has healing power and helps bruises go away.  Works real well on black eyes too,” he said with a smile, looking directly at the shiner my cousin was sporting, thanks to our earlier stick sword fight.

Next up was a basket full of ugly, gnarly, dirt caked roots, so once again we headed to the sink . “No, no! Uncle Will called, quickly rescuing the basket and turning off the spigot.  These don’t get washed.  Just brush off as much dirt as you can and put them back in the basket.   This is ginseng, my cash crop,” he said with a smile, holding it up, then returning it and us to the table.   There, we dutifully shook off as much dirt as possible, returned the roots to their basket, scooped the dirt into the trash, and placed the basket along side the others, waiting to be hung.

When we saw what was in the last two baskets, we decided that it was time to wash our hands.  The dirt came off, but just like Uncle Will said, the stain from the walnuts didn’t. Hands clean, we returned to the table, to await further instructions.  Gnarly roots might be Uncle Will’s treasure, but ours was in the baskets on the table filled with wild blackberries and elderberries.  Tipping  the baskets onto the table  he said,

“Handle these gently.  They bruise easy you know. Get rid of the leaves and any spoiled berries, after you float the good ones in a bowl of water, drain the water off, and tip them onto that old dishtowel on the sink drainer.  Let them sit a while, then put them in the big bowl on the table.  Even though you weren’t invited, I guess you’ve earned a reward for helping,  so you can eat a handful  as you work.   If you don’t get greedy, there just might be enough to take home.   I’m sure your Mama can think of something to make with them.  Once you stack those empty baskets,  you best take those berries and head on home before your Mamas come looking for you.

It had been a wonderful day!  Not only had we satisfied our curiosity about  the baskets and Uncle Will’s mysterious off limits kitchen, but in the process, were treated with stories of the surrounding mountains.  Because he was a great storyteller, it was easy to picture ourselves beside him as he searched for the elusive ginseng and other natural treasures.  We laughed as he described the angry groundhog popping up out of his collapsed burrow, thanks to Uncle Will’s  digging.  Our eyes grew big as saucers when he recounted how he had slipped on the wet rocks  and almost landed in the creek, coming down  eye to eye with a thick old black snake warming up in the sunshine on nearby rocks. Uncle Will’s stories made the mountains and our imagination come alive.  We could almost hear squirrels chattering, rushing from branch to branch,  letting him know they weren’t happy sharing their bounty of nuts.  Until he talked about the rabbits in the briars under the blackberry bushes we hadn’t noticed the scratches on his hands.  Gotten, we assumed, as he filled a basket with succulent berries we now enjoyed.   We sat mesmerized as he described an array of birds, mimicking their calls, and describing the quiet that followed when the jay sounded the alarm that the hawk was in the air.

We were having a great time, wishing we could stay longer.  As we stacked the last of the empty baskets next to the sink,  heavy footsteps pounded up the stairs.  “We know you two are up there!  What were you told about going into Uncle Will’s apartment?  Is this why you haven’t answer when we called.” No hearing aids were needed to hear or understand those loud angry voices.   Our adventure was definitely over.

To our amazement that anger seemed aimed both at Uncle Will and at us. It was time to come clean or risk losing the right to spend time with Uncle Will.  We quickly confessed that we hadn’t been invited, but had snuck up the steps and decided to stay and help sort the baskets even though we should leave.  We told them what we had learned about nature’s treasures, pointing to each basket, and how Uncle Will told the best stories!  Hearing this, although chastised for not sending us right back down those stairs, Uncle Will was forgiven.   The bowl of berries he handed each mom didn’t hurt either.  After all, we were safe.  As they talked, my cousin and I

retreated quietly until the floor boards squeaked.  They turned and aimed  rapid-fire questions at the two of us.

“ So now you’re getting ready to sneak out, just like you snuck in, are you?  You knew it was wrong sneaking up those steps, didn’t you?”  My mother asked.

“Why didn’t you leave when he discovered you behind him?” Aunt Pauline asked.  d Didn’t you hear us calling you? Did you once think we might be worried when you didn’t answer or come home?”

“What do you have to say for yourselves?” they both chimed in together.

Rapid-fire questions didn‘t leave time for answers.  No doubt about it, we were in some serious trouble and consequences would follow, despite the bowl of berries each held.

Seeing Uncle Will with his hearing aids in, we knew a serious conversation was about to follow so we beat a hasty retreat down the steps.  Stopping at the bottom, we turned on the spigot, grabbed the hose and washed our hands and face, as a puddle of dirt and berry juice formed at our feet.  When the water pressure dwindled we knew we were no longer alone.  We dropped the hose,  turned and  headed home, knowing consequences would follow dinner, but it had been worth it.  It  had beenan awesome day!

About those consequences, my cousin and I weren’t allowed to play together, or to go any where near Uncle Will for two weeks, even though we promised to think twice before letting curiosity cloud judgment or actions.  Discovering what was in that kitchen had been well worth the consequences. The one thing we didn’t want to lose was the right to spend time with Uncle Will once the two weeks were over so we solemnly promised that there would be no more sneaking around, or up stairs, or disobeying, or inviting ourselves in where we had not been invited.  It didn’t make us any less curious about what mysteries or treasures the other rooms in Uncle Will’s apartment might hold.  Sadly, we never had a chance to satisfy that curiosity as within the year, Uncle Will was gone, and our adventures treasured memories.

I loved that crusty old bachelor.  He was an important part of my childhood.   The lessons he taught through the stories he told gave me a greater understanding and appreciation for the mountains that surrounded us. The aroma of Black Walnuts still brings back childhood memories of stained hands an a childhood adventure filled with curiosity,  mysterious baskets, unknown aromas, and the wonder and excitement of an afternoon spent in Uncle Will’s kitchen.

 

 

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Cindy L. Freeman Blog – Almost There 

 

After the birth of our second child, Carl and I moved again, this time to the Denbigh area of Newport News. Reluctantly, I quit my church job in Hampton, but immediately discovered that Page Williams, a friend from college was Director of Music Ministries/Organist at a United Methodist Church in Denbigh. She needed an accompanist for one adult choir and a director for the youth choir. I accepted the job and continued teaching piano. It was good to be immersed in music again.

Not only did Page and I work together in perfect synchrony, but we soon learned that a former professor at our alma mater, Greensboro College, was doing something revolutionary. Shortly after Page and I had graduated, Dr. Lorna Heyge traveled to Germany to acquire her PhD. While there, she discovered a groundbreaking method of teaching music to young children. It was more like captivating children with music through singing, moving, focused listening and playing age-appropriate instruments. After translating the curriculum into English, Dr. Heyge launched a successful pilot program at Greensboro College and asked Page and me to become involved. This was a turning point in my career.

Dr. Heyge settled in Princeton, New Jersey so she could train and certify teachers through Westminster Choir College. Page and I, leaving our young families behind, traveled to Princeton to be educated in the philosophy and pedagogy of what eventually became Musikgarten.

When we returned, we established an early childhood music school at the United Methodist Church in Denbigh. It was a successful endeavor that Page kept going for thirty years. Eventually, Carl and I moved to Williamsburg where I founded the Early Childhood Music School (ECMS) of Williamsburg United Methodist Church.

It was no secret. I had found my true calling. I fulfilled my passion for conducting by directing three choirs at the church and the Williamsburg Women’s Chorus. I started ECMS with two Musikgarten classes of four-year-olds. The next year I had two classes of five-year-olds and two new classes of four-year-olds. As the school grew steadily, I hired and trained more teachers.

Eventually Dr. Heyge moved back to Greensboro where she established the permanent home base for Musikgarten. The company has flourished throughout the world because of ethical business practices, outstanding teacher-trainers and age-appropriate curricula. It provides music-and-movement education from infancy through age ten, including group piano. There’s even a group piano program for adults.

When I retired after twenty-seven years as director of ECMS, where I taught ten classes per week, the school had expanded to a staff of twelve instructors teaching four hundred students on-site and another three hundred preschool children in an outreach program with Head Start, Bright Beginnings and Child Development Resources. I had fulfilled my life’s calling, or so I thought.

I still haven’t come to how this relates to the writing part of my career, so I guess I’ll have to keep blogging.

 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed (second edition now released) and The Dark Room. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com

 

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Peter Stipe – Shrimp and Grits, She-Crab Soup and Love

 

My wife Debbie and I went to Charleston, South Carolina a week ago along with my best friend Archie, and his wife Karen.  Archie has been my friend since high school; I met Karen when they started dating in college.  The four of us have traveled together once every year or so.

Charleston is one of my favorite cities.  Debbie and I go there often but Archie and Karen hadn’t been there for years.  And they’re Yankees, living in New England their whole lives.  I still think of myself as a New Englander too though I moved to Virginia three years ago.  I have begun to acclimate to a southern way of life and southern cooking.  Archie and Karen had a bit to learn.

In New England, seafood means clam chowder and lobster.  Traditional food and traditional recipes abound.  The Carolina low-country cuisine is different but also wrapped in tradition.  Charleston is a beautiful city with ancient mansions, formal gardens behind wrought-iron gates, and old, cobble-stone streets near the battery.  The city features legends, folklore and maybe even ghosts.  And the seafood is different.  Low-country food features shrimp and grits and she-crab soup.  I love them.

I convinced Archie to try both.  Karen was put off by the concept of grits, particularly as a basis for an item on the dinner menu.  By the end of the week, Archie was lapping up shrimp and grits and she-crab soup at every meal.  He even moved on to Jambalaya.  Karen tried the soup and liked it.

I’m an author and my blog should relate to my writing.  How do I connect low-country seafood to my books?  Take a look at my novel, The Art of Love.  Food and cooking are themes throughout the book.  They represent relationships and love.  Early in the book, Mary is a bad cook, settling for toast and canned soup for dinner.  She is also clueless about how to build a relationship and show her love for Patrick.  Their friend Melanie is a worldly woman who has been in and out of love many times.  And Melanie knows how to cook.  She prepares a fancy shrimp recipe for their first dinner together.  She gives guidance to Mary on both her cooking and her relationship with Patrick.  Meals become more elaborate as the story progresses.  Mary learns to cook and begins to understand her relationship with Patrick.  Unfortunately she continues to struggle with loving him.

Food is important but eating well can’t save a relationship.  Melanie’s boyfriend Aaron stumbles in spite of her amazing cooking.  Mary becomes a good cook, but she and Patrick may not be able to work things out.  I do love my low-country seafood.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter Stipe.com   Facebook: PeterGStipe