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…This month, the extraordinary, cartoon/photo Mash-ups, feminine wiles and more!

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Also on our website we have a new weekly Woven Tale contest we’re starting up; winners are either featured on the home page or in the magazine. Our first contest closes tomorrow, so link-up – open to all mediums!


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Tale Tues: The Demented Mom and Strange Men

“There’s a strange man peering in the windows.”

I don’t know why, but these calls from my mother’s aide do seem to coincide with dinner preparation. The last call, about my mother having an accident all over the bathroom floor, caused me to scorch our hamburgers.

This time, I was baking salmon. Wild salmon — not cheap, so should be cooked to perfection, not too red, just a touch of pink, not too well done.

“He was peering in your mother’s bedroom window, then he went all around the house looking in windows and then tried the back door.”

I was also making white rice. Which I can easily burn.

Frankly, these days my mother’s house looks unoccupied. After she had her license revoked, she sold the old blue badly-dented minivan, so there is no car in her large gaping circular driveway. Her aide likes to work on her computer in the dark, so few lights are ever on. In the fall, I had made a point of buying pumpkins and bright yellow mums for the front stoop. At Christmas, I hung a humongous wreathe. The wreathe turned to brittle, and all that is left are the dead pots with mum stalks. Never mind unoccupied. The house looks abandoned.

“He was driving an old model wagon and I wrote down the license plate,” said-aide said.

Which meant I had to find my sticky pad to write the plate # down, to stick next to all the other stickies stuck to my kitchen counter— sticky reminders to call my mother’s landscaper to come seed lawn. Call to get her sprinklers turned on. Call her doctor to renew a prescription…. my to-do stickies for our own abode and ortho appointments that haven’t made it yet to the calendar were stuck somewhere else – and I can’t remember where I’d stuck them.

Great. I’m reduced to forgetting where I put reminders.

The “strange man” had already driven off, but said-aide suggested I notify the police.

The police. Sigh.

Not that I wasn’t a bit alarmed myself – said-aide has a good instinct for trouble; when my mother was scammed by a chimney company, she’d called me then too, suspicious of the “strange man” who seemed high on drugs and was there only twenty minutes evidently to replace an entire chimney liner.

So I called the town police, forgetting to check on the precious expensive better-for-you-than-farmed-salmon salmon.

“Did you get a physical description?” Mr. Police Officer said.

“Mom, I want this game.” Suddenly my little hipster eight year old, Little Bro, was in front of me with my iPad. I say gangster because he’s taken to wearing a black hoodie every single waking moment.

As “cool” as he may try to be, his face was filthy; I couldn’t remember when I’d last commanded he take a shower. There was even something stuck in his hair. Dried catsup from those scorched hamburgers how many nights ago? I couldn’t remember that either….

“Not now.”

“But it’s freeeeeeeeeeeeeee,”  he whined. The little hipster who still sleeps with blankie.

“We’ll send a car over right away,” Mr. Policeman said.

Just to get hipster hoodied Little Bro to go away, I tapped in my apple ID password. Then on my phone tapped out a text to said-aide that police would be arriving “right away”.

Little Bro crinkled his filthy nose. “What’s that smell?”

The rice. It was burning.

And I was about to check on the fish when my mother called.

“There’s been some man peering in the windows.”

“So I heard.”

“It’s probably Rickey.”

In my mother’s descent into dementia, her memory can play such tricks on her that I’m always surprised by who and what she remembers and doesn’t remember.

Rickey is a man my mother had employed for years to do odd jobs like pull up weeds and haul out her deck furniture. She has a knack for taking on sad saps who need the money but essentially are useless. And sad-sap Rickey was known for peering in windows rather than bothering to knock on doors.

I asked her if she’d told the aide that.

“I did but she wants to call the police. Said people shouldn’t be peering in your windows. And I didn’t see him myself so it is a little unsettling…” she’s also prone to a bit of paranoia, believing said-aide herself spies on her and that  I’m stealing all her money to go have “fun” when I’m really “stealing” it to pay her bills and said-aide.

Then I heard in the background said-aide giving to police a physical description.

“Police here now,” my mother said. “I’ll call Rickey and see if it was him.”

She hung up.

I checked the fish. It was too late — dry as sunbaked driftwood.

I turned off the oven and was about to take the fish out when my mother called back. To tell me it had been Rickey. And that the police had a good chat with him about how he shouldn’t go around peering in windows. And that he deserved to go in timeout.

Dinner that night: Hubs politely picked at the driftwood salmon. The boys, in their usually painfully honest ways, defiantly put down their forks.  “It’s dry. Yuck.”

Then Big Bro: “Mom, I want that game too,” the one I’d downloaded on my iPad –somehow Little Bro had sneaked my iPad to the dinner table disregarding usually firm rules of no electronics at family meals.

I forgot to remind him of this rule and only said, “Well, ask Daddy.”  He’d usurped Daddy’s own iPad for games.

Daddy looked at the game. “What is this game?”

I had no idea. But evidently it wasn’t entirely age appropriate. In the midst of that initial mid-police officer convo, I’d seen it was some cartoon thing, even though it had some guns, which for hipster Little Bro who is also part assassin, these days is getting harder to avoid.

I just hadn’t notice the little shooter was a girl with melon-sized boobs.

And then I couldn’t remember for the life of me whether I’d fed the dog. So I fed him –  again?


He ate hungrily, or maybe it was all an act, because Momma not being able to remember things wasn’t his problem…

Momma has dementiaaaaa!

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Tale Tues: Dementia, The Slow Disaster

“I can deal with shit.”

I was making dinner. My mother’s aide had called me.

“But not the constipated.”

She went on to tell me about having to put her finger up past “clients’” butts when not even enemas did the trick.

I was flipping burgers. For dinner. I had to feed my family while discussing feces, the phone cradled on my shoulder. The sizzling ground meat were beginning to look a bit less appetizing….

Said-aide minced no words in letting me know how my mother had let loose all over her bathroom floor. And in trying to make me feel better, when I apologized for her having to go through that, she was point-blank:  “Dear girl. I would rather clean up shit than stick my fingers where they don’t belong. But do please pick up a package of Depends.”

Depends. Diapers. for my Mom.

When did she become quite this dependent?

Mary Gordon in her novel Circling My Mother, describes her own mother’s descent into agedness and dementia as “the slow disaster.”

Well it is.

The slow disaster.

For my mother, one that commenced with falls that landed her in the emergency room so many times, she got to know every member of the volunteer ambulance team, the Presbyterian minister, the liquor store owner, even her electrician, who’d only ever been called on to rewire her kitchen lamp and replace her fuse box.

And each of her falls led to a setback; once having completed physical therapy after breaking her hip, she fell again to fracture her pelvis. Then to bruise her ribs. Then to fracture her tailbone.

Over time, these setbacks weakened her, until  she no longer had the strength  to open the plastic-packaged precooked chickens I’d pick up for her dinners, or the tupperware containers of meals I cooked for her to freeze and heat up in her microwave.

Once even making her own breakfast became too taxing – too many dumped trays and spilled coffee mugs – she had an aide come in mornings.

Then even the microwaving of her dinners became too much – the plates too cumbersome to carry –  and the aide came in twice a day. Various aides, who either quit or were fired.

Now the slow disaster has culminated in a full-time aide who lives in her house. Except for the occasional trek to her favorite chair in the sunroom, my mother spends most of her days lying on her bed because she no longer feels as if she’s living in her own home.

“It’s their house, not mine anymore!” she laments, the “they” being, I remind her, just one aide, not an entire Dowton Abbey servant staff.

“Well she feels like many people,” she’ll counter, and I don’t know whether she really thinks her aide is singular or plural. “Going back and forth, back and forth through my room, it’s a thruway,”  to get to the laundry room where “they” do so much laundry, her washing machine is going to fly apart into a million pieces (What I found out from her aide is that it’s actually my mother doing her own laundry).

Except for the sunroom, my mother avoids most other rooms, as “they” are always in her living room on “their” laptops. Venturing into her own kitchen only sets her off: “Look at this chaos!” she can shriek, with a sweeping gesture of an arthritic hand, at the aide’s own appliances, the large intimidating fire-engine red KitchenAid mixer and formidable black juicer that have taken up residence on her butcher block table.

In Circling my Mother, Gordon’s own mother’s slow disaster was spread out over a period of eleven years, until her mother was reduced to a mental shell who sat all day with her face pressed into her hands, her cheeks  permanently bruised.

My mother is nowhere near that state, but since having a full-time aide infringing on her space, the memory lapses seem to have become more acute, and she virtually has no short-term memory at all; phone conversations can be boundless, circling back around to the same topic from two minutes previous, about how the tree outside her window had sprouted enormous branches just in the space of a week!

If I dare to counter with the fact that that trees can’t “sprout” entire branches quite so spontaneously, (Never mind in the middle of March), she can be as insistent as she can about the aide doing too many loads of laundry, and it’s better to change the topic to the safest, the weather, or whether or not she needs more birdseed.

On bad days, even safe weather topics are circumvented by the imaginary, of people making a raucous moving her flower pots around outside her bedroom door, in the foyer – I say bad days, because these hallucinations are a new dimension to her dementia, to that slow disaster. A dimension I find particularly heart-wrenching to navigate. She knows there is nobody outside her bedroom door. Still, she hears them. So distinctly, that she can’t resist calling out, “What are you all doing out there?”

Then I am texting her aide to please come into her room and reassure my mother again that there is nobody outside her door.

“But I hear them!” My mother can wail, somewhere between the tearful and the hilarious. “Oh, I am going crazy!”

I usually assure her that she is not.

“Well, of course I am, I’m hearing things! My mind is going, I’m not stupid!”

I just called her doctor to discuss how the “slow disaster” seems to have become accelerated, and her response was that maybe not – maybe it only seems that way to me, because, before my mother had someone there 24/7 to observe her, she was able to hide it. Before this someone who thankfully is there, to assure my mother that there is no one outside her door. But who also must weather my mother’s own changing weather, her mood swings; one day she might be complaining to “them” that she will start to cackle like a chicken if she is fed any more chicken meals, only to turn around the next day, when she’s give a steak instead, to snap, “I only want to eat chicken! Nothing but chicken!”

So with my mother’s own increasingly volatile weather patterns – with trees sprouting branches in March, and imaginary people shuffling plants around – I continue to keep changing course in how we converse. Well, I try to anyway. Desperate now to find out whether the sun is out where she is, because it’s all clouds here.


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Tale Tues (on Thurs): Excavating Gerbil Bones

“Mom, can I keep Bochy’s bones?”

Boch was our gerbil who’d just passed away.

Big Bro was brushing his teeth before bed. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this bone question, as he is a deeply sentimental child; he has been known to hug broken chairs left at the curb. He cannot part with his own baby teeth to the tooth fairy.

It was after a delectable lunch of leftover cold pizza when I’d found Boch, cold to the touch (not yet rigor mortis), her white belly prone against the side of her tank, eyes tight shut, but jagged-yellowed front teeth obscenely prominent in her tiny open mouth. One paw frozen midair, splayed, as if waiting for her  nails to dry.

Her sister Rosey seemingly oblivious, tripped over her, chewing a toilet paper tube.

Cold hard facts: As soon as we became dog owners, our gerbils, though not neglected by Mom (who changed their water and feed, and hoarded toilet paper tubes), were largely forgotten by their rightful initial owners, my now eight-and-ten-year-old sons.

Still. I did not look forward to breaking the dead-Boch news to my boys after school. Their only experience previously with lost pets was hermit crabs and beta fish, and neither had elicited much tears, just a desire for more crabs and fish.

But Boch had been cute. And cuddly. And funny. What personality! Brilliant in her own right. Ok, so she wasn’t a dolphin or anything….

I did my own brief grieving as I debated what to do with her; save her for a “viewing” after school? Nope. I scooped her out with a paper towel and dug a quick hole in the side yard, marked with a makeshift cross held together with rubber bands.

I wound up breaking the news to my boys in the car on the way home from school, in the rearview mirror. Not exactly my plan, but perhaps less dramatic than if I’d waited to sit them down on the couch so they might actually expect some far worse news than the loss of a rodent.

“I have some sad news…” I began.

Then it was Little Bro who piped up, “Boch, right?”

I turned to look at him. “You knew?”

He shrugged. “I saw her this morning…”

“And you didn’t say anything?”

He shrugged again, now looking a bit ashamed. “I thought she was sleeping.”

Sleeping? On her back with her paw frozen midair? Those yellow obscene teeth?

“What’s wrong with Boch?” came Big Bro’s high-pitched nervous voice. “She okaaaayyyyyy?”

Then I had to really break the news.

And Big Bro commenced his grieving with sniffles. By the time we pulled into the driveway, the sniffles were transmuting into sobs. He dropped his school bag on the porch and made his way around to the side of the house to the graveyard.

Little Bro didn’t tag along – he had to make his usual bathroom run, as he holds it in all day because he doesn’t like that the school bathroom doors don’t lock.

Our house plumbing is as roiling as an upset stomach, and I could hear the toilet flush from outside. A moment later, Little Bro was calling out the back door: “Mom? Can I have a yogurt?”

His latest after-school snack addiction is banana cream pie yogurts.

“Yes!” I called back and was about to call don’t let the dog out – when he let the dog out. Toby came romping happily around to the side of the house and straight across Bochy’s grave, which only escalated Big Bro’s grieving hysteria.

I snapped at Little Bro to get the dog back in.

Big Bro smoothed back over the dog-paw disturbed earth. Then he began “engraving” on a rock with a purple permanent marker for Bochy’s tombstone.

“He doesn’t even care,” he said, about rather cavalier, seemingly callous, Little Bro.

I placed a sprig of berries at the foot of the crooked twiggy cross, the closest to flowers one can find in the midst of disgusting gray old March snow:


“We all have our own ways of grieving,” I began, when Little Bro appeared at the back door again. “Mom, can I have another yogurt? They’re so awesome!”

Crouched there by the tiny rodent grave, with Little Bro’s constant interruptions, I was getting a bit annoyed with little Bro myself – at the same time, I didn’t feel the intense need for two deeply grieving children….

“Yes but don’t let Toby –”

…out bounded the dog again.

This time, I was the one to take Toby back in and to have a word with Little Bro.

I don’t remember the “word” but something about his need to respect that “some of us” were feeling a little sad at the moment.

“She was my gerbil, not even his. What’s he so upset about.”

Well there is a twisted truth here, if you can own a gerbil as possessively as you might your customized Xbox controllers:


Three years ago at the pet store they’d each picked out their own gerbil with as much deliberation as they had as toddlers, those toy cars strategically displayed at our Rite Aide’s cashier counter.

IMG_2062Rosey (left, Big Bro’s personal possession) R.I.P. Bochella, (right, Little Bro’s possession)

But in this snooty “my gerbil” declaration, I’d detected a hint of sadness. Little Bro’s eyes welled. And little Tough Guy who collects BrickArms tiny guns but still sleeps with blanky, had to look down at his dirty sneakers. “Well, can I?”

I brushed his hair back out of his eyes, kissed his cheek. “Can you what, hon?”

He pulled away, as embarrassed as if I’d actually kissed him in front of all his friends  rather than only the dog.

“Have another yogurt.” He was already heading for the fridge. No more words to be spoken.

Eventually, Big Bro came inside for his far less healthy-than-banana-cream-pie snack, a stack of Oreo cookies, and booted up his computer for his daily dose of Minecraft.

And I thought that was that – until the bone discussion at bedtime.

To address the question about Bochy’s bones, for some reason I’d felt more at ease looking at Big Bro in our dirty toothpaste-splattered bathroom mirror. (Sadly, maybe that’s the only way I can talk directly to my children – in bathroom and car mirrors.)

“Well, you understand we’d have to…dig her up.”

Working his toothbrush hard against his back teeth, he shrugged. And nodded.

“Do you know anything about decomposition?”

He spat into the sink with his usual gumption that left toothpaste splatter on the faucets as well as the mirror. “We’re learning about it in school…”

“Well, then you know if you were to…dig her up…it might be better to wait a few months.”  Truthfully, I have no clue how long it takes a tiny rodent to decompose.

I was reminded of how, when my mother’s cat died, she had dug him up from her own backyard; she simply hadn’t been ready to part with him. Lucky for her, the cat had been cremated and could sit on the mantel in a tiny cute little tin . . .

Big Bro looked at me in the mirror, wiping his dribbling mouth with the back of his hand. “I can wait….”

Oh, goody. Because I really didn’t need a carcass in the house. There’s enough rotting going on under this roof, half-eaten cheese sticks under the couch, Oreo cookies crumbs in every crevasse, dog food kicked under the refrigerator, molding yogurt containers in the playroom…. I could expound upon household decomposition, but might save that for another post.

Though as sentimental as Big Bro can be, he can also be cunning – I wouldn’t put it past him to sneak outside one night to dig Boch up himself, hide her in his room where he might dissect her as he would excavate fake bones out of those archeological toy sets:





Sandra’s first novel now on Amazon. Click on cover to go to issue:





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Tale Tues: Well…

…gosh, you all must think I have nothing left to write about. Ha! I have too many stories to tell, some too real to read like anything more than fiction. If I could only find a moment to tell these tales, but for now we have a zombie apocalypse, stunning macro and realist photography, a bit of dementia, and a few dead-ends to be explored in latest issue of  The Woven Tale Press  now on E-Stand (click on cover to go to issue):



Please do share as no one in the whole world would want to miss out on the digging up of an actual graveyard:)

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