Living the Dream

As a young girl, I always dreamed of becoming another Lucy Maud, devouring books sometimes three and four on the go at one time. Now, here I am, 50-something, and the dream keeps coming back to me. When Magpie Tales started publishing their prompts, I couldn't resist. My first few attempts were shared with a very select few - and it is thanks to their encouragement that I am emboldened to share with more of the world. Read, enjoy (I hope), critique, and tell me what you think.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Several weeks ago, six actually, my blog-friend QMM published a short story as a result of the prompt she found at Magpie Tales .  I found myself intrigued with the concept, partly because I'd always dreamed of writing, but had never really tried to write.  At first my thoughts ran along the line of 'not a chance - nobody would want to read what you have to write'.  But then three weeks ago, the prompt really got my imagination going, and I found myself dreaming a story, so decided to write it out, on a new blog, that I would only let my sister-the-writer read.  Well, she liked it, and with the next prompt came another story-line in my mind.  This time I added QMM to the reader list, to see what she thought.  Now, a third person has read my stories, and the feedback has been encouraging, so now I'm ready to see what other writers think of these.  This is prompt # 6 (# 3 for me) - and I'm going to take a leap of faith and link these stories to the Magpie Tales blog.

No titles have come to mind yet - anybody got any ideas?

When I first looked at this prompt, I thought ‘what could I possibly write that would relate to this?’  So now several days later, I find I’m back at my same characters, so maybe this writing exercise, at least for a while, is going to be a series instead of stand-alone short stories – I guess we’ll see.
‘Bang, bang, bang,’    Jane started at the sound, wondering – but only for a second – what it was.  She knew, just hadn’t been expecting it.  Sixteen-year-old Mick was in the basement workshop, hammering out his frustrations just like…..
‘Bang, bang, bang.’   Jock was in his workshop, while Jane paced the kitchen floor, literally wringing her hands, wondering what to do now.  This hammering sound was a new one in their 4-month marriage, and the argument that had preceded it was their first.  Thoughts of the argument caused a complete 180 in Jane’s feelings – from despair and anxiety to disgust and anger.  How could anybody be so stubborn?  Well, if he could walk away from their discussion, she certainly wasn’t going to follow him and grovel.  Let him hammer!!
Jane headed upstairs into her sewing room.  Mom McDougall said quilting resolved a lot of problems, well now was the time to put it to the test.
As Jane settled in front of her sewing machine with the pieces for the quilt blocks ready to assemble stacked beside her, she picked up the first two, matched them right sides together, and fed them under the presser foot – then the next two, and the next.  The sewing machine was humming along nicely in short order.  At first Jane concentrated solely on the little pieces of fabric, making sure that edges were exactly together, that her seams were exactly 1/4 inch, that she didn’t miss a step in the instructions.  The hammering sounds from the basement occasionally pierced through, but they were much fainter being two stories away so were not nearly so bothersome.
Gradually Jane was lulled into a rhythm, and her thoughts went back to earlier hours, when she and Jock had been in the dining room looking at paint chips with plans to choose a color and buy the paint.  Then her thoughts went further back to the other reno projects they’d already tackled and conquered – without one hint of conflict.
When Jock’s father passed away suddenly just months before their marriage, and then Mom McDougall decided this old house was just too much for her, Jane and Jock were more than thrilled to take it on.  Jock was pleased at not having to leave his childhood home, and Jane was excited at the prospect of their own home into which they could infuse their own personalities.  So much nicer than having to rent, and live with somebody else’s ideas of color and decor.
Their plan had been to take one room at a time, starting with the ground floor (leaving the kitchen for the very end, though), then do the second floor, the attic, the basement, and in between tackling the outside during spring and summer months.  The house was structurally sound, having been well-maintained by Jock’s father and grandfather before him, and electrical and plumbing had been upgraded over the years as necessary to keep up with the demands of the times, so Jane and Jock’s job was mostly esthetics. 
The sunny, south-facing breakfast nook had been first – freshen the neutral paint color, put some new grout in the tile floor, hang a new light fixture, new valances on the windows and bamboo shades to roll down only when necessary to keep the room a little cooler in the hottest summer months, wicker furniture with bright cushions – easy, breezy.
The living room was a little more challenging – with no ceiling light fixture, lamps were needed throughout.  But Jane didn’t like the idea of needing to walk around turning on and off each lamp individually every time they used the room.  And they’d already had several gatherings, and knew that they enjoyed entertaining, and this room would be used frequently.  So, the answer had been to connect the lamp plugs to a wall-switch.  After that, again freshening the neutral color, refinishing the floor and woodwork, some new comfy furniture (over which Jane planned to ‘throw’ some quilt creations, and they had a gorgeous room that Jane was proud to usher friends and family into.
And then the dining room.  They started with stripping the wallpaper and were surprised to discover several layers, which took days to get off.  It was certainly interesting to see the design eras emerge as they worked their way down to the plaster.   This was the biggest surprise.  Apparently there had been some kind of water damage, and large portions of the wall had to be stripped out and replaced.  It was no wonder previous decorators had simply put paper over it, and then kept covering it up.  But Jock was game, and it had taken a few weeks to get the walls in shape for painting.  It was choosing this paint color that had started the argument.
‘But this room has always been blue.’  Jock refused to look at any other color chips.
‘Well, no not really, honey, remember the red paisley and the pink cabbage roses?’  Jane tried to reason.
‘Those were before my mother’s time – she always had blue.’
‘But blue in this north-facing room will just be depressing.  The room needs something lighter and brighter.  And I really don’t like blue.  We can paint your study blue, if that’s what you’d like.’
‘I’ll say it again, this room has always been blue.’  The discussion deteriorated from there – each determined to choose the color, until Jock wheeled around and left the room.  Jane started to follow, just to see him disappear down the basement steps – and then the hammering started.  It wasn’t like she’d not heard hammering from the workshop before, as Jock fixed little things around the house, but this was different.  It was so loud, and so continuous!
As Jane stood up from the sewing machine, gathering her block pieces to take to the ironing board, she became aware again of the sounds from the basement.  It wasn’t just hammering, there was some drilling and sawing happening down there now too.  ‘Hmm, wonder what he’s doing,’ Jane thought to herself.  But until he was ready to apologize….
Jane continued working on the quilt blocks, finding as her mother-in-law had promised, that other thoughts just simmered in the background, and eventually Jane got around to thinking about the color of the dining room.  She had wanted green tones in there – she thought a soft green would reflect the outdoors, and be a perfect foil for the mountains in the view through the bow window.  Besides, green was fairly neutral and would complement many other design elements.  Blue, on the other hand ………. Suddenly Jane had the answer – teal, very pale, not quite there, leaning a little more to the green, but still with blue undertones – yes, that could be it.  What a unique color, and would go well with any flowers or pictures.
Jane jumped up from her chair and practically ran down the stairs and into the kitchen.  As she reached for the basement door, it burst open and there was Jock.  ‘I’m sorry,’ they both said simultaneously.  And they were in each other’s arms, hugging and kissing and trying to talk all at once.  Eventually Jane told Jock her idea for a pale teal color, and Jock told Jane he thought a greeny-blue could work well.  And then they started to laugh as they realized that sewing quilts and hammering nails achieved the same thing – clearing their minds to be able to work through their feelings and begin to see each other’s perspectives.


  1. It's a wonder that any couple survives renovations! lol Been there a few times. I love the way you gave them their own ways to work through the tension. A great story, Peg. I'm so thrilled that you have taken this up and that we can share it.

  2. a beautiful tale...sometimes it just takes time apart doing something it!

  3. Wonderful story, Peg. And I totally agree with Brian.

  4. Great read, totally engrossing story. Well done!

  5. You kept me interested in what he was doing down there....very nice and a good lesson
    One thing:
    would you consider starting the story at:

    Jane headed upstairs to her sewing room..?

  6. Hey Peg, congratulations on your next step. I came over here looking for your story and found it on your blog list. Good for you. Your writing is great. This could be a book eventually, as you write with that in mind. No better way to lay it out than in sections. Those prompts can bring a lot of things to mind for sure. With my own writing I have a tendency to say with good news type stories. On one of mine I ventured a little into the unfortunate. Just like everything we get a sense of confidence that helps develop the skill and that is what both of us are doing actually. Great to have the support from each other. Blessings

  7. Very well done! When I was married the arguments over renovations never turned out as well as Jane and Jock's.