The Bear Attack

Christie, Doug, and Tammy sat in Tammy’s living room reminiscing about old times. These were Christie’s best friends. It started in High School and had lasted for almost fifteen years. Their careers had separated them by miles but Christie thought it was great when they got together. The conversation turned to their current lives.
“How’s your anxiety disorder? Has it been rough since you were attacked?” Tammy asked Christie.
Christie was shocked by Tammy abruptness in changing the topic to something so sensitive.
“It’s tough but I’ll be fine. How about your promotion?” She quickly changed the topic.
Tammy prattled on about her promotion and the interior designer she had hired.
“Look’s nice.” Christie wasn’t listening. She wondered if Tammy was different or had she always been this self-absorbed. Maybe I’m the one that changed, Christie thought. She interrupted Tammy when she finally paused long enough to take a breath between sentences and asked Doug a question.
“My job’s great but Dennis and I are starting our own business.” He went on telling them about his business plan and potential investors. When Doug started going into the esoteric details of business financing and the tax differences of different types of business models, she couldn’t listen to another word.
Christie lifted her glass. “Here’s to good friends and bright futures.”
Christie heard a loud bump coming from a back room. She jumped.

“Did you hear that?” Doug asked.

“Oh, did that scare you?” Tammy looked at Christie. “It’s probably nothing.”

There was a louder bump. Then another. They all stared at each other wide-eyed.

Christie’s mind whirled. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Is anyone else or a pet in here?”

“No.”

The bumping continued.

Christie turned to Doug. “Do you have a pocket knife?”

He fished one out of his pocket. Instead of heading down the hall he handed it to Christie. She glared at him then flicked it open and headed down the hall herself.

“You’re going back there? What if it’s an intruder?” Tammy asked.
Doug also muttered some half-hearted protest.

“If there is an ax murderer back there, I’m not going to just sit here and wait for him to come kill us.” She turned and continued toward the back room.

Christie noticed neither of them followed her down the hall in case she needed help.
When she entered the room, she saw something move in the dark. She held the knife tightly as she flipped on the light. What she discovered was a large, slightly deflated Winnie-the-Pooh balloon floating in the air. It was tied to a chair but it had deflated just enough to put it in the path of the fan. The fan was pushing it against some books and knocking them to the floor one by one. She cut the balloon ribbon. Maybe all three of them had changed, Christie thought, or maybe they had just grown in different directions. It didn’t really matter because she just knew it was time for new friends.

She dragged the balloon to the living room and presented the culprit to Tammy and Doug.

“I just saved your pansy asses from a horrible bear attack.”

Bad Breaks

Daphne downed her third single malt then walked out the door before realizing she had forgotten her hat. She reached into her pocket for her key. It wasn’t there. She had also forgotten her key and her phone. Sara, her sister, had an extra key but with no phone, she couldn’t call her.

“Maybe those three drinks weren’t such a good idea,” she muttered. She checked the windows and doors. They were all locked. She picked up a landscaping rock and broke the back door window. The alarm blared as she reached in to open the door. Great, she thought, the one thing I remembered was to set the stupid alarm. Before she could even open the door, two policemen arrived.

“Evening officers.” she slurred. “Sorry to bother you. I just locked myself out of my house.”

“You have some Identification to prove this is your house?”

“It’s inside with my key and my phone which is why I broke the window, duh.”

“Sure it is,” one officer said. “Is there a neighbor who can vouch for you?”

“I just moved here and they don’t know me.”

Daphne turned to the other and placed her hand on his face. “You believe me don’t you cutie pie?”

Before she realized what was happening, they were handcuffing her.

“We’re going to have to take you downtown,” the older officer said as he clicked the last cuff.

“Great! I love shopping downtown. There are some great stores there. These silver bracelets are nice but I prefer gold.”

“You sure are cocky for someone in your position,” the older cop said.

“What? What? A girl doesn’t have the right to break her own damn window?”

“Let’s see here. What charges do we have?” the older cop asked his partner.

“I’d start with breaking and entering.”

“That’s a good place to start and public intoxication. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah, nice one partner.”

“I was in my own yard! That’s not public,” said Daphne a little louder than she realized.

“Didn’t she touch your face?” the older one asked.

“Oh yeah, yeah she did. Does that qualify for assaulting an officer?”

“I think it might.”

“I barely touched you dammit.”

“Lewd language. Does that qualify?” the younger cop asked.

“I’ll have to check into that but we’ll count it for now.”

“I can’t believe this shit,” Daphne mumbled.

“What was that?” the older cop asked.

“Nothing.” Daphne fell silent after that.

“I like that sound,” the older cop said.

“Silence is nice.”

 

After the mug shots and the fingerprints, Daphne sobered up.

“Anyone you want to call?” they asked.

“My sister’s number is on my phone in my house!” She was so shaken up that she couldn’t remember it.

They passed the men’s cell as they led her toward the women’s cell.  It was full and there was vomit on the floor. She started to panic.

“I remember Sara’s number.”

 

“You owe me. What happened?” Sara asked as they left the station.

“It’s a long story. Please just take me home.”

Sara walked Daphne into her home. As Daphne looked around, she realized someone had used the broken window to get in and steal all of her valuables.

“I think you need to get your window fixed and call the cops,” Sara said.

Daphne just stared at her.

Hurricanes & Earthquakes & Politics, Oh My

This month has been incredibly insane. The events that have occurred have made me want to bury myself under my bedcovers and a ton of pillows and not come out until October.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Katia combined with the Earthquake in Mexico (their worst in almost 100 years) have wreaked havoc through the Caribbean, Mexico, and the southeastern U.S. The deaths and destruction left in the wake of these disasters are devastating and heartbreaking. Recovery, for some areas, will take years. Some areas will never recover.

Millions of lives were affected by these tragedies, but it was very personal for me. My youngest daughter was trapped by floodwaters for days without electricity. There was no way I could get to her. That was terrifying and frustrating.

I had several friends that only survived because they were rescued by the National Guard. I also have friends that lost everything but their lives and the clothes on their back.

As if that weren’t enough to send me diving under those pillows, there’s the escalating rhetoric between Trump and Kim Jung Un. North Korea just tested their most powerful nuclear bomb yet and launched another ballistic missile over Japan. Add to that the dismantling of DACA, having it restored Wednesday night, followed by a reversal bright and early Thursday morning. I won’t mention the rest of the insanity in Washington because that would take too long.

One last item that I will mention is Hurricane Jose. It weakened to a tropical storm, but now it’s expected to strengthen to hurricane force again and the path is moving west toward the U.S.

Since I don’t have a 1950’s style underground bomb shelter, I haven’t found the yellow brick road and I’m positive there’s no Glenda the Good Witch to wave her wand and solve all the problems in the world, that pile of pillows is looking pretty enticing. Maybe I’ll try under the bed. The dust bunnies aren’t great conversationalists, but they’re really good listeners.

The Painting

Sara and Calvin sat at opposite ends of the couch staring blindly at the painting hanging on the wall. The room was illuminated only by the flickering light of the candles spread around the room.

“That painting’s crooked,” mumbled Calvin.

“No, it’s not,” responded Sara flatly.

“Yeah, it is.” Calvin’s voice rose a notch.

“As if you really care.”

“Well, it’s irritating me.”

“It’s been hanging there for a week. Now you care?”

“Never paid much mind to it before, but it’s definitely crooked.”

Calvin sat stoically on the couch as if willing the painting to straighten itself.

They were stuck in a room they had barricaded to protect themselves from the blood-sucking night stalkers. Some people called them zombies for lack of a better term.

The invasion of their town by the murderous monsters started about a week ago. The windows were covered with thick sheets of plywood reinforced by 2×6 pieces of lumber. The door was blocked with several 2x6s that they could slide out if they needed.

“Apparently you think that I can’t hang a picture right.” Sara’s volume now matching his. “It looks fine to me.”

“Did you use a level?”

“Of course I did! If it’s bothering you so badly, why don’t you go get a level and check it?”

“I will,” Calvin spat, but he continued to sit on the couch just staring at the painting,

After a few minutes, Sara jumped up from the couch. “Oh, for crying out loud. I’ll go get the level.” She gasped as she doubled over in pain clutching her abdomen.

“Your incision from the surgery?” There was no concern in his voice.

“The one for the teratoma that almost killed me you mean?” Her sarcasm was biting. She popped open a few of the snaps on her nightgown and stared down at the still healing incision running from her sternum down to her pubic bone. Calvin looked away and didn’t answer.

“Is the level in the closet?” He looked puzzled by the possibility.

She turned and gave him a chilling look. He looked away again. The sound of the glass windows shattering went unnoticed by the arguing couple.

“Of all the things you thought we might need in this room, you thought a level would be one of them?” Calvin asked sarcastically.

“It was already in here and, because you’re so obsessed with this painting, apparently it was necessary.” Sara pulled the level out of the closet and walked toward the painting.

“What’s a tera… whatever?”

“It’s a freaking tumor. Weren’t you listening when the surgeon spoke to us?”

“Oh yeah,” he mumbled. “It had hair and teeth and fingernails and stuff.”

“Of course you heard that part.” Sara rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“What causes that?”

“One of my eggs decided to try to become a baby without the help of your stupid sperm.”

Sara placed the level on top of the painting. “See, it’s perfectly level.”

“Well, it is now! You moved it when you put the level on it.”

“No, I didn’t”

There was a scraping sound on the wood covering the windows.  The couple didn’t seem to hear it.

“Yeah, you did. I saw it move.”

Calvin was still sitting on the couch. He hadn’t moved an inch. Sara threw the level at him as hard as she could, hitting him just above his left eye. He stared at the floor, still not moving as blood trickled down the side of his face.

The splintering of the plywood could be heard throughout the room.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“For being such an ass. That painting was straight and you know it.”

“No, it wasn’t, but it is now.”

“Yes, it was. I just proved it.”

“No, you straightened it.” Blood continued to trickle down his face but he still didn’t move.

“No, I didn’t,” Sara screamed.

The first night stalker burst through the splintered Plywood.  Sara and Calvin stared at the monster in shock, then they turned towards each other. They knew it was the end.

Minutes later their lifeless, blood drained bodies lay on the floor with their dead eyes fixed on the painting about which they had been arguing.

 

copyright ©2017 Liz Leighton All Rights Reserved

All in a Day’s Work

Billy had just arrived at the work sight in the dump truck. There was a rumble overhead and suddenly fish began to fall from the sky. The workers ran for cover while Billy sat safely in the cab of the truck. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened as he watched with astonishment.

There weren’t just a few fish. There was a ton of fish. The fish continued to fall for a full ten minutes or maybe more. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

The crew peered out from the places they had sought shelter. Finally, they began to emerge one by one.  They carefully stepped over and around the fish which were strewn across the work sight while staring up at the sky warily.

Billy got out of his cab and then noticed the back of the dump truck was full of fish. They were still alive and flopping around. He turned to the foreman and said “I’m not picking up any gravel today. I’ve got fish to sell. Where’s the closest place to buy ice?”

 

copyright ©2017 Liz Leighton All Rights Reserved

 

The North American Solar Eclipse 2017

and some most unusual photos

 

Preparation for the Solar Eclipse

After waiting 38 years for today’s solar eclipse, I’ve been anticipating this astronomical event for months.  I planned to travel to the 70 mile wide band that would experience the total eclipse but circumstances arose that made this trip impossible for me.  However, the eclipse would be 73% where I live and I was determined to enjoy what I could.

I researched the appropriate glasses for viewing and ordered a set recommended by the American Astronomical Society well in advance.  I gave the extras to friends and family who also wanted to witness this fantastic event but had not thought about it far enough in advance.  There was no place to buy the glasses locally and I was so happy that I had gotten extras to share.

3 days ago the weather forecast predicted 40% cloud coverage here and 20% chance of rain.  I was disappointed in the forecast, but I tried to remain optimistic.  The odds were still in my favor.

The Waiting was Over

I jumped out of bed this morning full of excitement.  The eclipse would begin here at 11:46 am, reach the 73% maximum coverage of the sun at 1:16 pm and be over by 2:45 pm.  I looked out at the sky and there were a few clouds,  but not many.  Things were looking great!

I finished my morning routines and gathered together the things I needed to make my trek out to my friend’s farm.  I live in an apartment complex surrounded by buildings and trees that would obstruct the view and she has wide open fields, perfect for viewing.  I had 2 pair of the eclipse viewing glasses left—one for each of us.

Disappointment or Success?

As I drove, I noticed the cloud coverage increasing.  I finally reached the farm and the cloud coverage had gone to about 80%.  “Meteorologists!”  I muttered to myself.  “What other job could get by with being wrong so much and still keep their jobs?”  I was getting a little frustrated.

We both looked at the enormous dark cloud separating us from the sun.  I muttered a few choice words and we decided to go inside and watch the photos coming in from Idaho on the TV coverage.  The eclipse had reached totality there and the photos were incredible.  The diamond effect the footage showed as the sun began to reappear were gorgeous and something I’d never seen.  I gasped at the beauty.  I have to admit the clear blue skies I noticed in the background, as the totality ended in Idaho, sparked a twinge of envy.

We walked back outside to see if there were any changes in the cloud coverage here.  I peered through my protective glasses up at the sky.  I saw nothing but black.

Suddenly I began to notice a dim light appearing.  As I watched, a small break in the clouds appeared and then a clear view of the sun emerged.  I was so thrilled.  The moon was at about 15% coverage of the sun.  I think I yelled I was so excited.  It was only visible for a few minutes, but we had gotten our first view of the eclipse.

Yay!

On TV, I watched as Nebraska experienced totality and afterward I noticed the clear blue skies in the background there.  This time I was still so psyched after seeing our first view here in Texas that the feeling of jealousy was gone.

We got a few more breaks in the clouds and were able to catch a few more minutes of viewing here and there while we were approaching the maximum coverage we would experience here- 73%.  We began to watch for sunlight and the appearance of shadows on the ground as we viewed the live coverage on TV.  When we noticed these, we would scurry outside for another view of the eclipse.

About 2 minutes after the partial eclipse had reached its maximum, the clouds began to break up and we were able to watch the rest of the eclipse without any issues.

It never occurred to me to take any photos of the eclipse after the articles I had read.  My friend had read some other articles on taking photos that suggested we could take some with our phones using selfie mode. That way you didn’t have to look directly at the sun.  I decided to give it a try.  I pointed my camera over my head in the direction of the sun or what I hoped was the right direction.

In order to see what we had really captured in our photos, we took them inside to evaluate them.  They appeared to be disappointing at first glance.  Upon closer inspection, we saw some very interesting artifacts in the photos and I want to share a few of them with you.  I saved the best photo for last.

In spite of the changes in plans and all the challenges with the cloud coverage, it turned out to be quite an exhilarating experience.  I’m already looking forward to the “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse on Oct. 14th 2023 and the next Total Eclipse on April 8th 2024.

 

Some Most Unusual Eclipse Photos

 

picture 2 (4)
First attempt at eclipse “selfie”
picture 2 (5)
Artifact from 1st photo
picture 1 (5)
Artifact from 2nd photo
IMG_20170821_135016_edit (2)
Artifact from my friend’s photo

 

 

 

Avoid the 3 Biggest Mistakes I Made Starting a Blog

So you want to start a blog. Almost everyone is on social media:  a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Instagram, Snapchat and multiple others.  So why not a blog?

There is no reason not to have a blog. Many people do, but you may want to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made.

When I started this blog almost a month ago, I made quite possibly every mistake imaginable in starting a blog.  But I just want to tell you about the 3 biggest mistakes I made and hopefully how to avoid them.

1.  Determine your motivation for blogging before jumping in the deep end.  What do you want to accomplish with your blog?

I gave starting a blog about five minutes of thought before I jumped in. I was clueless. To a large extent, I still am. My advice would be to put some serious time and effort into thinking about your motivation, your reason, for starting a blog.

Do you have a business you want to support and promote? Do you have something you want to educate the public about like finance or investing? Do you have interesting stories you want to share? Do you want to entertain? Do you want to inspire?

Take some time to determine what your real passion is and let this guide the direction of your blog. It’s okay to have more than one passion, but a great post should either entertain, educate or inspire.

When I started this blog I thought I wanted to be a freelance travel writer, I like to travel, but I love to write.  I thought freelance travel writing would give me the opportunity to make some money doing what I really love, writing. After getting more familiar with what freelance travel writing is really about, I decided that it was not for me. Most freelance travel articles in publications are dry, boring lists.

I want to write compelling stories, I like writing novels and I’m passionate about many issues.  Dry borings lists is not one of them.

By that time, however, I had already started this blog. OOPS!

 2.  Put some time and research into determining your domain name.

There are an abundance of articles available on how to choose a great domain name in terms of SEO. I’m not a Tech geek so I can’t really offer any advice on that other than to do your research.

The advice I can offer is that it’s a good idea if your Domain name reflects your blog content.  There are exceptions to this rule.  Some bloggers use just their name and for people recognized in their field, that works out well for them.

I really made 2 mistakes in choosing my Domain name but I’m going to give myself a break because they both fall under choosing a Domain name.  Since I’m not focusing on travel writing, Journies with Liz really doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore.  Drats!  Also, according to experts, the cutsie misspelling of journeys is a big mistake in terms of SEO.  A month ago I didn’t know what SEO was.

It’s worth spending more than a few minutes in choosing a domain name.  I certainly wish I had!

 3.  Do some research before choosing a blog host.

The things to keep in mind when researching a blog host are customer support, functionality offered and price.  I didn’t do any comprehensive research before I set up my blog other than a cursory look.  To put it very bluntly, this option was cheap and I was broke.  The functionality as well as the customer service is very limited. For example, Bluehost offers 24/7 customer service where WordPress.com may get back to you in 2-3 days.  That’s just an example and not an endorsement.

These are the 3 biggest mistakes I’ve made in setting up my blog, but I’ve made numerous more.  I’m sure that these won’t be my last and I’m learning more every day.  If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I hope this will help you avoid some of these mistakes.  If you are already an established blogger who took the time to do things right, (and actually bothered to read this) I hope you’re laughing your head off.

This is certainly a journey!  Not the type I intended to be writing about, but a journey after all.