Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Signs of Love

by Sheryl Tuttle

Marta wasn’t afraid. Despite town folklore about the sudden spring storms and unnatural phenomena surrounding the infamous Moot lighthouse, she rather liked the beacon and her annual springtime treks to Lake Moot beach. Besides, the last supposed mystical occurrence happened more than 70 years ago with the alleged disappearance of a spinster librarian and a mysterious vagabond, the story of which Marta found heartwarming and quite romantic. It was this fascination with the lighthouse that compelled her to bring her boyfriends here when she was younger; there was something magical yet reassuring to Marta about Moot lighthouse.
Burying her toes beneath the sand, frigid water lapping against her calves, Marta caught her reflection. Frumpy old spinster. That’s what she’d heard some of the teenagers call her whenever she walked down Main Street to the five and dime. What did they know? She wasn’t frumpy, not frumpy at all! She kept her toffee colored hair fashionably styled, even cutting it into the newest rage, a “Farrah Fawcett” at her last visit to the beauty shop. And while not a trend-setter, she wore only the latest styles, and faithfully subscribed to Glamour magazine. So what if she had put on a few extra pounds? It wasn’t much extra, and she was after all, 45. A girl couldn’t maintain a reed thin figure forever.
Marta kicked the water, its ripples disfiguring her reflection and disrupting her pensive thoughts. She looked up the hill to the lighthouse silhouetted against the cornflower blue sky, its enigma alluring, and started walking the lake’s sandy shoreline. Just beyond the beach area, young cattail shoots emerged from the mud.
“Marta!” A voice shouted from behind. “Marta, wait up!” She turned and saw Hank running up the beach.
Hank caught up to her easily, and she felt the familiar pang in her heart at the sight of him. Hank kept himself in shape and still had muscles that rippled and teased her, reminding her of their younger days. He looked dazzling with his bare chest and lean body practically glowing in the sun.

“I knew I’d find you here.” He raised his eyebrows as Marta continued to stare, then smiling shyly, he said, “Miss Marta, I do believe you’re blushing!”
She felt the heat rise to her face, then reached down to the lake and scooped a handful of water, splashing it at Hank. Laughing, she turned and started running away. Hank chased after her, caught up and then pinned her in a playful embrace. She welcomed the comfort of his arms encircling her and squeezed Hank tightly before letting go.
They walked the shoreline, silently at first. Then her nerves kicked in and she started chattering. About the weather, what to plant in the garden, even her pet poodle and his ridiculous urge to pee on her petunias each year.  Finally, Hank grabbed her arm and turned her to him. “Marta, you owe me an answer. Let’s go sit under the Oak tree and talk.”
“Fine,” she said, and reached for his hand. “Our Oak tree? Where we carved our initials so many years ago?” Hank nodded.
Marta sat and leaned against the tree. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. If she tried hard enough, she could take herself back to a younger time, back when she and Hank were only sixteen. They had been high school sweethearts, inseparable; the couple everyone said would last forever. But when Hank turned 18, he registered for military service as he was legally bound, and when high school ended he was called to duty. He moved away and they promised one another to wait. She still had her promise ring.
And she had intended to wait all right, but when her friends Mary and then Barbara received “Dear Jane” letters, Marta panicked. Then Walter Fairway moved into town, with all his money and high manners. What girl could’ve resisted his charm? Anyway, Hank had returned to learn that Marta was dating Walter, and he left again without even speaking to Marta. He’d returned for visits throughout the following years, but he had Gladys with him. A wife! Marta didn’t think she could ever forgive him.
And now here they were. Practically picking up where they left off and at the very beach where they had spent many a summer day.  Hank pulled the ring box from his pocket and opened it for Marta to see. The diamond cluster sparkled in the sunlight.
“Last night you said you needed to think about it,” Hank said. “Well, I’ve given you the night like you asked. Now I’d like an answer.” He held the ring box steady. “Please.”
 “But marriage, Hank? At my age? Besides, I don’t understand why you left Moot and came back married to Gladys, God rest her poor soul.” Marta quickly glanced at Hank. “Sorry, I don’t mean to dredge that up. But you were the one that made me promise to wait, and then you didn’t. You know I can’t stand double standards.”
“Marta, that’s not fair. When I came back you were dating Walter. How was I to know it wasn’t serious?”
“You could’ve asked,” Marta answered.
“Yeah, I reckon. But you could’ve waited.”
Marta gazed out over the calm lake. In only a matter of months, the beach would be crawling with kids and their mothers seeking refuge from the blistering summer sun. Boats would populate the surface of the lake, forcing swells to the water’s edge as fishermen and beachgoers searched for the perfect spot, and Lake Moot would no longer offer the peace and solace of today. She hated the lake then.
“So, whatever happened with Walter?” Hank finally broke the silence.
“He asked me to marry him, but I said no. I thought long and hard, but I realized I didn’t love him.” She picked at some grass by her feet. “I would only want to marry for true love.”
“Of course,” Hank leaned towards Marta and added, “Well someone as beautiful as you must’ve had lots of suitors. Why didn’t you ever marry?”
“Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I was courted all right,” she said. “Do you remember Fred Perryman? From our class? The school janitor’s son?”
“Yeah, I remember Fred.”
“Well, I nearly gave my hand to him. He tried everything to sweep me off my feet. He brought me flowers and candy, and left me little notes professing his love. He used to take me to the drive-in movies almost every Friday night, even though I knew it cut into his weekly pay. Yeah, he was something else, he was.”
Marta knew part of her problem was that she was never sure of herself and always second guessing, always wondering if there wasn’t something better, or someone better just around the corner. She figured when the time came, or if the time came, she would know it. There was bound to be some kind of sign, a portent of bliss and rapture.
Hank leaned down and grabbed a long grass weed and stuck it in his mouth.  He looked at her quizzically and said, “You gonna tell me?  What happened with Fred?”
“Well, I liked him and all, but I just didn’t think he was the one. You know, the one to spend the rest of my life with, so I called it quits and moved on.“
They sat quietly, and a light wind began to blow.  The tall grasses flowed with the breeze, and the once-mirrored lake stirred. Marta watched as the blue sky turned gray. “Is it going to rain?” she asked.
“Yep, looks like it. Wanna take cover at the lighthouse or wait a little to see if it passes?”
She sat up straighter and looked towards the darkening sky. “There wasn’t any rain forecast, so maybe it’ll blow over. I don’t mind waiting.”
Hank reclined onto his elbows and looked skyward. Marta tried not to stare, but he was so handsome and rugged, and she wanted to spend her future with him if she could just be sure. He caught her looking, and she felt her face get warm. She hated how easily she blushed.
Large pellets of rain began to fall, dotting the lake top and speckling the sand. Hank grabbed Marta’s hand and pulled her up to her feet. “Come on,” he said, “let’s make a run for it.”
They ran up the hill like young lovers, hand-in-hand and laughing. Drenched and out of breath, they reached the top of the hill and the lighthouse. The tea room at the base of the lighthouse was closed, as were most of the businesses in Moot on Sunday, and they took cover under the restaurant awning.
“I love this place, but I always wondered why they put a lighthouse out here in the middle of nowhere, and one that doesn’t even work, mind you. What gives with this place anyway?” Marta asked. The storm intensified. Thunder boomed loudly, rattling the restaurant windows as brilliant streaks of lightning flashed across the sky.
 “Dunno,” Hank said. “But there’s lots of interesting stories. I know it’s not true, but I like the one that says if a guy and girl enter the lantern room during a storm, they will disappear to paradise and be together forever.” Hank chuckled, then became serious and pulled Marta closer. “Wanna try it, Marta? Wanna see if that one’s true?”
Marta freed herself and walked out from under the awning. Rain pounded her, but she didn’t care. She looked at Hank, then up the tower to the lantern room, its windows dark save for the bursts of lightning reflecting against the glass. She fairly did believe the stories, and she didn’t think inside the lighthouse was the place to go.
“Well?” Hank said. “Are you gonna stand out there and get drenched all day long, or you gonna come up to the lantern room with me?” He smiled, his dimples giving him an even more youthful appearance, and he held out his hand.
Marta looked up at the lighthouse again, but this time the windows were aglow from within, the beacon light luminous. She watched in awe. A happy augury for the future, she didn’t have to wonder anymore. With a nod of decision, she reached out and took Hank’s hand.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Even Better Than Organic!

To help with my new healthy eating lifestyle, I have found myself spending more and more time in the produce department at the grocery store. I've even forged ahead with buying organic, since it makes sense that less chemicals in the growing process can only mean healthier food. But what has happened is my grocery bill has went through the roof! Big time.

Ahh, but I've found something even better than organic. It's grow-your-own! And it's what's for dinner... and lunch... and even breakfast!

Green beans - on the menu for dinner
I'm thinking Fried Green!
Collard greens - delicious and nutritious
Strawberries with breakfast

It's been a real learning process to grow fruits and vegetables in Texas where the summer sun is truly killer (a veggie killer). We've learned to plant early, in a raised bed, and with good soil. We are reaping the benefits and loving every minute of it.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting Fit - The Last 5-10 Pounds

I've been working to get fit for 6+ months now, having started with exercise last fall and adding a healthy diet as a New Year's resolution. To date, I've lost between 15-20 pounds, so I know it's working. But it's working as slow as slow gets. And in everything I've read, they say the last 5-10 pounds are the hardest.

Some people say it's self-sabotage. Or that because you are close to your goal you ease up and become less disciplined. Others simply say the weight loss becomes so slow that you give up.

I'm determined to make it and to keep it off, and wanted to share some of what's worked for me so far and ask for your advice for continued success.

Here's what's worked for me so far.
  • Setting the clock weekdays for 1 hour earlier and using the time for a morning workout. I mix up the workouts too, some mornings doing yoga and ab exercises, other mornings cardio or workouts with weights.
  • Establishing my daily caloric output. There are a lot of online tools to do this, but my favorite is www.caloriecount.com. This site lets you plug in your body type and activity level, and calculates approximately how many calories you expend in a day. Then it gives you the opportunity to add specific activities, like yoga, bicycling, or cleaning for example. I'm sedentary, having a job where I sit most of the day, but I add in my daily workout and any additional physical activities (like when I spend 4 hours doing intense cleaning).
  • Once I know how many calories are being burned in a day, all I have to do is keep my caloric intake less than that number. And calorie count helps you track that as well (along with your nutrient intake).
Sounds simple enough. But it is hard. Hard to get up early in the morning when everyone else is sleeping. Hard to limit my caloric intake when I really would LOVE to have one of those girl scout cookies (actually I would prefer the delicious, best I've ever had in my life, coconut cupcakes that my neighbor baked and brought over recently).

So I guess the main thing is to keep plugging away at it, even after a day of blowing the caloric deficit or omitting the daily workout. The main thing is to get it right on a routine basis, and not sweat the mess ups.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Your Story - A Poem

Recently, my daughter was given an assignment to write a poem following the format of the Mother to Son poem by Langston Hughes. The theme was "life" and metaphor was required. What she wrote is so beautiful, that I had to share it here.

Your Story
by Katherine Tuttle

Well, Grace, I'll tell you:
Life is your story written in ink.
It has misspelled words,
And pages missing.
There will be times when you don't know what to write,
And there will be times when your pen runs out of ink -
But don't quit writing.
I've been correcting my mistakes,
And I've been turning and filling up my pages.
Keep writing because if you do,
You will be able to cross out your mistakes, or tear out the page,
And start the chapter over again.
Grace, don't stop writing.
Don't let the jumbled sentences get in your way.
Keep going.
Don't let your story be unfinished.
Don't put your pen down yet
Because your story is still ahead of you.
That is life, your story written in ink.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's Your Spiritual Gift?

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9

At church, several weeks ago now, our pastor preached a sermon that talked about spiritual gifts. It was a good and moving service, and I was quite taken aback when the pastor went around the room and individually named spiritual gifts that each person in our congregation was blessed with. Wow.

She really nailed my daughters. She named faith as a spiritual gift of my oldest, and joy, a gift of my youngest. What really surprised me was the gift she named for me. Teaching. Teaching? Really?

Funny, but when I was a younger working adult and went back to college, I wanted to get a degree so that I could become a teacher, but the counselors discouraged that choice, and so I focused on marketing instead. And my jobs since then have all been in sales-related fields. My passion has always been writing. So where does teaching fit into all of this?

But it does. Sales and marketing is a matter of educating a prospect on the benefits they will receive with your product or service. So I am teaching in my job. And as far as writing, it would be swell to think that something I wrote had an impact on someone in a manner that they felt they learned something.

So teaching as a spiritual gift is cool. And I hope to learn other meaningful ways in which to teach.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Reviews - The Time Traveler's Wife and The Giver

Since I am behind on numerous book reviews, I'm going to bundle a few together and keep them brief so as to get these posted as quickly as possible.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What I liked - the fascination with time travel and the relationship between Henry and Clare at various stages/ages in their lives.

What I didn't like - at times it became confusing and I found I would have to look back in the book to reorientate myself with the timing.

I do want to see the movie now that I've read the book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this classic young readers story about 12-year old Jonas, who is selected to be the Receiver of Memory in a community where roles are assigned and everything in life is orderly, predictable, same, and perfect. Or so the community believes. As Jonas receives memories of generations; pain and pleasure, warmth and cold, even color, he learns about and makes a life changing decision. Unfortunately, the ending is unclear and left to interpretation, the only reason I didn't give this story 5 stars.

Double thumbs up - it's kid friendly and a book I can enjoy even with my 10-year old!

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Years Resolutions for 2011

Anyone reading - please feel free to hold me to these. I appreciate your checking in with me from time to time to see how I'm doing and to keep me honest. I'll do the same for you if you like, just let me know in the comments.

2011 New Years Resolutions and Goals
  1. Get fit - enough so that I can wear a 2-piece bathing suit this summer (if I decide I want to).
  2. Eat healthier - less meat and more fruits and veggies - the closer to being how it is offered from the Earth, the better.
  3. Read the bible, cover to cover. Something I've always wanted to do and have started a few times, but never finished.
Realistic? I think so. Anyway I'm keeping it simple to better my odds of success. Too many years' goals get lost and abandoned, and I want these to stick. Good luck to everyone in the new year!