Tag Archives: Judy Dykstra-Brown Prose

A Roadtrip Through Five States (Cee’s Share Your World Prompt)

Click on any photo to enlarge all:

Today I’ve been a lazy passenger as Forgottenman has driven us from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. In one 45-minute period, we crossed 4 rivers: the Cumberland, the Tennessee, the Ohio and the Mississippi and saw two huge dams––the Kentucky and Barclay—both TVA projects I had studied about in the sixth grade. We have gone from 77 degrees in Huntsville to 53 degrees and rain. We’ve seen 13 dead deer along the interstate and over a dozen stalled cars as well as countless huge tire strips from semis—more than I’ve ever seen in a day of travel before, although Forgottenman thinks that is about par for the course.

The trees of every size, shape and variety as well as every hue of green, gold, yellow, red and brown have been spellbinding in their beauty. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a ride through an autumn landscape this varied and extensive. Would that skies had been sunny and clear, but nonetheless, it has been a wonderful ride. In a little over an hour, we’ll be home and I can share photos of my day. Until then, I’m gritting my teeth on this rain-slickened two-lane road with no shoulders and fairly heavy traffic. Forgottenman is a good driver and “Mother,” our GPS, has not led us astray so far, although I must admit she has in the past.

Now that it is nearly dark, the traffic has thinned and the puddles on the road deepened. I can hear the water splashing against the undercarriage, as though we are driving through a car wash. Bug splashes on the front window that I’ve been trying to shoot photos around all day have been abolished by heavy rain and windshield wipers, but too late, too late. A stiff neck slowly Improved over the past two days again starts to seize up in the tension over oncoming car lights, unceasing rain and deepening puddles.

I’m glad I’m not driving and glad a good driver is, although I am wishing he was not using the cruise control. We’ve had this discussion before with me maintaining that it should not be used in rainy weather, he insisting this is an old wives tale. Since I am neither a wife nor old (in some eyes, namely mine) I reject once more his statement. But he is driving and so I surrender the argument in his favor, not because he is right but because he is driving.

Forgottenman is anxious to get home so he can look at a map to try to understand why Mother has directed us off Highway 62 onto this hilly, winding tiny two-lane road. More of a technophobe, I never go anywhere without a map along, but he is more trusting of the powers of technology to steer him aright, in spite of a number of experiences in which she hasn’t. In less than an hour, all mysteries will be revealed. In the meantime, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend I’m anywhere other than where I am.

Ha!! Finally home seven hours after we started out from Huntsville. We unloaded the car in a light drizzle, thankful for the fact that it isn’t the heavy rainfall of the past few hours. Cold wet grass made us grateful for a dry carpet and relatively warm house inside, as well as Wifi and electricity so I can post this message. We had a wonderful time with old friends but there is no place like home.


Cee’s questions for the week:

Would you rather take a 2 week vacation with an organized tour or take a cruise of your choice? I’d rather take an unorganized tour–going where I wished to.

Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing? I lived across from the playground for my entire growing up years.  I loved swinging and hearing the sounds of the swings across the street when I was at home lying in bed or in the grass.

What is the most important thing that you ever learned ? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school) It is wise not to say everything you think and to think about everything you say.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. See above!! And, there will be more tomorrow.


For Cee’s Share Your World prompt.


girls on wall
My sisters Betty, Patti and me, back in my pre-crush years. I remember being very proud that my legs had finally grown long enough to cross! Not too successfully, by the look of me.


When I was very small, I was notorious for hating boys.  My eleven-years-older sister once came into the living room and I was running around and around a big chair.  “What are you doing?” she asked. “Chasing boys!” was my answer. My sister was at an age when “chasing boys” meant something else entirely, but she got my drift.

When I was six, a lovely southern lady moved to town who enlivened the entire town.  She taught ballet and acrobatics to the girls and square dancing to everyone age 6 to 76.  This only lasted for a year or two, but twice a month most of the town would gather in the fairgrounds meeting room to do-se-do and alamand left.  I was usually paired with a little boy who was in my first grade class.  One night, after an especially invigorating “trade your partner,” when I was once again hand-in-hand with him, he gave me a big kiss.

I can’t remember my reaction, but I certainly remember his mother’s.  Abandoning her “trade your partner,” she came flying across the dance floor to shake her finger in his face.  “Shame on you, Brian!” she said, “Shame on you!”  (Not his real name.)  She then grabbed him by the upper arm and jerked him off the dance floor to go sit in a chair by the wall.  I was left without a partner and so had to dance with Will Prater, a grown man who was jerky and severe in his movements and who nearly dislocated my shoulder every time he swung me around.

Brian’s mother’s fervor in upbraiding him worked.  He never dated a girl, let alone kissed one, for his entire grade school and high school life.  He did ask me to the prom my sophomore year, but unfortunately I had accepted a date with another boy the night before.  By then I had a pretty big crush on him, fueled by his third grade tauntings of ‘Mayor’s daughter, mayor’s daughter,” when my dad was, indeed, mayor of the town, as well as a lifetime of torments in study hall, where he would break my pencils or pass me notes upbraiding me for scoring higher than he did on chemistry tests .  In my town, teasing was foreplay, but unfortunately in this case, the foreplay led to nothing, since he never repeated his offer of a date, in spite of his dad’s best efforts.

By my junior year, I was dating a boy from out of town.  “What are you doing dating that White River boy?” chided Brian’s dad every time I ran into him on the street or in our little town’s one  general store where I had gone to run an errand for my mom or to buy penny candy or a bag of Russian peanuts (our name for sunflower seeds.) “There are plenty of good boys right here in your own town!”

I knew he meant his own son, and had I not been in the throes of first lust with that “White River boy,” that would have been fine with me, as my longtime crush had continued.  But, alas, Brian never heeded his dad’s hints, either, until my sophomore year in college when, both home for the summer from college in different states, he finally asked me out. There is no crush like the one where contact is long delayed. I remember one very hot and heavy kissing session before we both went back to our separate lives.

We both married older people with children.  Both became swamped in our own lives.  I see him now and then at school reunions and of course crushes rarely survive a combination of reality and the passage of years.  But everyone needs a first crush, and perhaps he doesn’t remember that I might have been his, but he has the distinction of being mine.  I wonder if he would be surprised.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “First Crush.” Who was your first childhood crush? What would you say to that person if you saw him/her again?<

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6 A.M.

A vividly red 6 A.M. glares out from an electric alarm clock on the side table of the bed.

“Carol!  Wake up! Do you know what time it is?”
“Not really.”
“Well, maybe if you opened your eyes, you could see the clock!”
“Mmmm. Hmmmm.”

He gives her a gentle swat on the bottom.

“C.mon, get up! I’m going for a shower so I won’t be here to nag at you.  You gotta get up now!”

The sound of his bare feet  leaving the room.  A door opens and shuts. Sound of a shower and an electric razor.  Then, he enters the bedroom from the adjoining bathroom, tucking in his shirt.

“Carol!  It’s time to get up! You’re running late!”

“What time is it?”
“Open your eyes and you’ll see!  C’mon. Open your eyes and here, I’ll help you scooch around and put your feet on the ground.  Now sit up.  And open your eyes!!”
(gentle snore)
“C’mon.  Right now!  Open your eyes.  If you don’t hold yourself up, I’m gonna let you fall down. So I’m letting loose, Carol.  Sit up on your own or you’ll fall down!”

There is a slight and muffled percussion sound as she falls backwards on the bed.

Dammit, Carol.
Okay. This is it.  I’m tired of your shit. I’m just going to let you stay in bed and miss a day of work without calling in.  You’ll lose your job and there goes the Hawaiian vacation!”
“Brad and Janet will be there, and Chet and Tina.  Pina coladas, sunburn, sand in their toes, hula lessons and moonlit walks on the beach–and we’ll both miss it all because you’ll be unemployed and we won’t be able to afford it.  Carol!  Get the hell out of bed!!!  Open your eyes and get up!”
“Mmmmmm. Hmmmmmm.”
OK!  That’s it. I’m giving up!  I’m going to work now. I’ll stop and get breakfast at Shorty’s on the way.  You’ve made your bed and you can lie in it–literally!!”

Sound of a door slamming, car revving and driving away. Carol slides her feet back up on the bed and pulls the covers over her head.  Gentle snoring sounds.

Seven O’clock.  Phone ringing.  Carol reaches out to her bedside table and answers it.

“Hi Carol.”

“Who is this?”
“This is your mother-in-law, dear. May I speak to Robert?”
“Your husband, dear. My son.”

Carol reaches out beside her, pats the bed.

“He’s not in bed, Roberta.  Try calling his cell phone and perhaps he’ll pick up from down below.  We had a late night last night and I’m sleeping in.”
“Okay, dear, sorry to disturb you.”

Sound of a phone being put back in the cradle. Almost immediate gentle snores. Twenty miles away, in early morning traffic, the gentle brrrrrrr of a cellphone is heard.

“Hello, Robert, where are you?”
“I’m on the road, Mom, about to pull into Shorty’s for a fast breakfast. What’s up?”
“You went to breakfast without Carol?”
“No, I’m on my way to work.  Carol decided not to go in today.”

Silence from the other end of the phone.

“Mom, are you still there?  What did you call me for?”
“Well, dear, I’m just wondering why you are going in to work on a Saturday, and why you didn’t call your dad to call off your golf game if you’ve decided to work instead!”

Sound of brakes screeching as Robert turns off at an exit and drives over the overpass to reverse directions.

(For an earlier response to this same prompt, go HERE.)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Groupthink.” Write a dialogue between two or three people other than yourself.


¿Quieres vivir en México?

IMG_1293In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.” What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given someone else that you’ve failed to follow yourself?

I’ve had several friends who have moved to Mexico after I did, and to them all, I offered this sage advice: “If you want to live in Mexico, don’t expect it to be the same as living in the states and don’t expect it to change just because you want it to. We all move here for the charm and the fact that it is laid back and less concerned with running everyone’s lives, but you also need to realize that the reason this is so is often a matter of disorganization and inefficiency. Mexico is a wonderful place, but if you are expecting practicality, reason and expediency, move to Germany instead. If someone had given me this advice before I fell in love with Mexico and let my husband talk me into buying a house here—would I have offered more resistance? Probably not. Herein, I offer than well-known advice: Do as I say, not as I do.

If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, you probably already know that I’ve been living in Mexico for 14 years and in that time I thought I’d encountered every illogical thing that could possibly happen, but silly me. When will I learn? A case in point. Three days ago, my doorbell rang. I called out to ask who it was and a male voice replied, “Correos de Mexico.“ The postman? In all my years here, I’d never seen one, at least on my street, let alone my house. Sure, I’d seen them buzzing around on motorcycles with their hot pink and chartreuse logos on their jackets, but it was only in the past 2 years that they’d started delivering mail to my house, and in that time, the only evidence of them I’d ever seen was a bill or two thrown over the top of my garage door—usually with tire tracks on them.

In April, I’d received a Christmas card that had been mailed from Australia on December 25; and on June 10, I’d received two more from the U.S.—six months after their posting dates! So, as you may imagine, I don’t have much confidence in the postal service in Mexico. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I threw a jacket over my nightgown and cracked my front gate door. “Identification?” the postman asked. I got my driver’s license, presented it, gave him two signatures and received in return—a speeding ticket for an infraction on April 15 of this year.

It seems that the government has decided that its a good idea to install cameras in certain vital and much-trafficked places such as the road to the airport and that I’d been caught on camera going 101 kph in an 80 kph zone. This is roughly equivalent to going 63 mph in a 50 mph zone. The resulting fine was 351 pesos, which would be halved if I paid before June 5, but increased to 500 pesos if I didn’t. I could pay at any of a number of given banks, Oxxo convenience stores or 7-11’s. So, I quickly jumped in my car and sped (oops) to my closest Oxxo, only to be told I couldn’t pay there because I hadn’t paid before June 5. But I hadn’t even received the ticket in the mail until June 23, I protested! Where was I to go now?  He didn’t know. Perhaps Guadalajara? It had no further information on the bill.

I drove home in frustration and consulted the local online bulletin board. It seems a number of people had received similar tickets in the mail, all were late and they didn’t know where to pay them. Some said the municipal building in Chapala. Others said Guadalajara. The dread Guad!!! The only times I’d driven there lately, I’d gotten hopelessly lost. I mean three to six hours lost. All the improvements and all of the signs added in the past few years seem to have only added to the confusion. ( It can’t be me, can it?)

Then today, the doorbell rang again. Once more, I threw a coat on over my nightgown. (It was nearly 10 a.m., but I was snoozing late, due to the fact that I hadn’t gone to bed until 3:30 a.m.) Who was it? Correos de Mexico. This time I grabbed my i.d. before I answered the door. Sure enough, another speeding ticket!!!! It was for May 6, 2015 and unlike the other one, it had been marked as mailed on June 15—but hadn’t been delivered until today, June 26. Its due date? June 24—two days ago. Then to thicken the plot, I realized I wasn’t even in Mexico on June 15!! My house sitter had been using my car and I believe this was the day she was going to pick up her boyfriend at the airport. Of course, I railed on to the postman who looked at me blankly. Still not his problem, I gathered. He drove away. I stormed into the house, dressed in 5 minutes and took off to Chapala to try to resolve the matter.

Due to the heavy Friday traffic of Guadalajarans trying to get an early start on weekend revelries lakeside, it took me about half an hour to drive the 10 miles or so to Chapala. I then stood in line at the municipal building, having a chat with a Mexican gentleman who held documents in his hand similar to mine. Were they traffic tickets? I asked in my unique form of Spanish. Yes, they were, he answered in perfect English. Aha! A sympathetic soul, plus one who understood English!!!

I started in on my story, trying to give the short and efficient version and ending with asking if his, too, were overdue. He didn’t know, he said, they were not his. Many ex-pats smarter than me or wealthier than me or lazier than me (or all three) hire locals to do their “official” business for them: paying taxes, registering cars—and evidently, paying traffic tickets. We chatted on until finally, it was my turn at the cashier’s cage. I tried to explain my problem in Spanish. The cashier tried to explain something to me in Spanish but I didn’t quite understand. It seemed as though she was telling me what I already knew—that I needed to have paid by June 5 and June 24, respectively, to get the 50 percent discount and to be able to pay at any bank or Oxxo or 7-11 store. Yes, but I didn’t even know a ticket had been issued on those dates, I protested—and, and­­–.

We could have gone on in this manner for some time if a gentleman had not popped out of a nearby office and explained to me that they were aware of the problem and that two more tickets would be issued for me to pay and these could be paid at any Oxxo, 7-11 or bank. Could I rip up these tickets? Yes I could. And I wouldn’t be fined even more? No. I wouldn’t.

I am home now, sitting and speculating about the efficiency of having to issue and mail new tickets rather than just letting me pay for the old one and giving me the prompt payment discount instead of the penalty. I am also considering the probability that the new tickets will also arrive after the cutoff date for payment. Another thing to consider is the trip my house sitter took to the airport to pick me up on June 8! Is another ticket having a little tour around Mexico before reaching its intended place of harassment? Will all three arrive at once? Will the postman know me well enough not to demand identification?

This long story is meant to illustrate two things. #1. That societies not based on efficiency, timeliness and logical process should not really institute a traffic fine system such as this. I don’t believe I need to discuss this further. #2. That if you have found it incredibly frustrating just to read about this little go-around, then Mexico is probably not for you. Sure, come to the beach for a week and sip pina coladas and margaritas. Go parasailing. Eat tacos. But, don’t drink the water and don’t actually move here unless you have the patience of a saint, the sense of humor of a late night political commentator and better Spanish than I do!!!

Raiding the Fridge: Leftover Salad

This same prompt was given five weeks ago.  If you didn’t read it then, here it is again.  While you chew on this, I’ll be trying to come up with a different topic to write on today!  Judy

Boxed Salad

The story of my life is like a salad–more palatable when someone else does the cutting up and the mixing. I don’t know what to leave out of a salad.  I put everything into it every time–lettuce chopped so fine it’s better eaten with a spoon, carrots, celery, purple onions, avocado, apples, walnuts, cranberries, green olives and croutons, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette. All chopped up and blended to within an inch of its life so that each bite contains a bit of each.  Delicious, yes, but not enough variety between bites, perhaps. All of the elements mix up so much it is impossible to taste the flavor of each.  They blend into a fresh hash that becomes another thing entirely.

And this is what my life is like, as well.  Everything is remembered in such detail that I can’t sort out the relevant facts.  No one thing stands out as being the thing to feature.  I can’t get the gist of events.  What does it mean–that year or more in Africa? Somehow, after a lifetime of reading books that  imply reasons for things, nothing in my own life makes sense anymore.

I try to look at myself objectively. What in her makeup made her fall in love with a man who would become her stalker? What makes her leave places where things seem to be working out fine to jump into a new location and situation where she is thrust once again into the role of stranger?  Does she think, perhaps, this time she will come closer to finding herself?  Or does she think it will be a chance to try out a new life without the censure of friends who expect her to be the same person she was yesterday or last year?

What writer more competent than myself could find the pattern where all these pieces fit together into a recognizable whole? Perhaps Barbara Kingsolver could determine more easily how I fit in to my time or Joyce Maynard could extract those details that would make my life read like a mystery. Anne Tyler could describe those eccentricities that make my family readable, even if they aren’t from Baltimore; and I could certainly use the help of Abraham Verghese in writing the portions of my life that took place in Ethiopia. But undoubtedly, these favorite writers are all embarked on projects of their own, so it is not likely that any will be forthcoming in helping me to solve the conundrum of my own life story.

It’s like all of the details of my life are jumbled together in one of those big boxes out in the garage that I haven’t opened in fourteen years.  Even if I could bring myself to open those boxes, how could I ever make sense of them?  Yes, there are all these little boxes as well–where I’ve sorted the very best details into stories or poems or essays.–but where do those little boxes fit within the shipping container of my life?

In spite of a lifetime of writing, I have to face the fact that I don’t have the skills to write my own biography. Perhaps my task was to get famous enough to prompt someone else to do the deed, but it is getting late in my life and that seems unlikely to happen.  My chances to become infamous are equally long past, or at least I hope they are.  I have no wish to become famous due to my misdeeds or eccentric behavior.  Perhaps it is enough to unpack these tiny boxes one by one on my blog–like little parts of the entire tossed salad of my life.  Not biography.  Just bites.

The Prompt: Ghostwriter–If you could have any author –living or dead – write your biography, who would you choose?

(If you’d like to see today’s answers to this prompt by other people, go Here)

On the Road in Sonora

 Busy day today…ten hours of driving and many adventures, beginning with the night before, when we ate at a wonderful restaurant/patisserie called Panama’s in Mazatlan.  Unfortunately, they didn’t serve any alcohol and Blue, the friend I’m traveling with, was dying for a glass of white wine.
Remember The TV show “House Party,” where Art Linkletter inspected purses from the audience members and gave prizes for certain objects if they were found in their purses?  I still pack a purse as though I expect to be picked in House Party!  So, I just happened to have had in my purse a flask given to me recently by my friend Dianne which I had stocked with a fine Anejo rum! Blue and I both ordered a pineapple-coconut blended smoothie and I spiked them with rum from the flask.  I had always wanted a flask, and I was feeling happy on both counts and then, as usual, overacted as Blue snapped a second picture with my camera.
So, we had a wonderful meal and afterwards, went in search of boxes of wine–easier to pack and Blue isn’t terribly picky about her wine, other than the fact that she actually has it–every night!  So, we went to several stores that didn’t sell wine before finding one that did…a large store similar to Target, but remember, we are in Mexico.  We stood in a very long line and finally got to the checkout stand…only to be told by the clerk that they couldn’t sell wine after 8 p.m.!!  We couldn’t believe it.  We asked if this was a Mazatlan law and she said no, just a rule of this particular chain store.

So, we went to a 7-11 store. Blue asked if they had white wine and the clerk just motioned at the wall behind her that was covered with shelves of liquor bottles.  Blue asked again in Spanish if she had vino blanco and the girl, who was playing a video game on her phone, again just waved at the wall, where Blue could see they had only red wine.  Off we went to search out another 7-11 store.  Same story.  Only red wine!  So, we retreated back to our hotel.

The next morning, because we had a very long drive, we got on the road early, but when we passed another Ley’s store (the chain that wouldn’t sell us wine the night before.) I asked Blue if she wanted me to stop and she said yes, so I went in to get batteries and met her at the checkout.  She preceded me in line, blissfully holding her two boxes of wine…unbelievably, to be told by the clerk that they couldn’t sell her wine before 8 in the morning!!!!  By now it was getting surreal!!  Or, like a sort of south of the border Candid Camera.

We left the store, shaking our heads, unbelieving.  Blue has lived in Mexico for 19 years and I have lived here for 14 and neither of us has ever heard of this!  Nonetheless, we proceeded to drive northwards and eventually, we came to another town.  It was our good fortune to see another Ley’s store right off the Cuota road and since it was now an hour later, I exited, knowing Blue was anxious to buy her wine.  This time I remained in the car, sure that I’d soon see her emerging triumphant from the store.  She did in fact emerge–but not triumphant. She opened the car door empty-handed.  ????  I couldn’t imagine what had happened this time.  It turns out that once again, she had been told that they couldn’t sell her wine before 8 a.m.  It seems as though unbeknownst to us, we had passed into another time zone and once again, it was earlier than 8 a.m.!!!

Certainly by now we should have gotten a hint that some force in the universe did not want Blue to have her wine, but we share a certain stubborn streak and so several hours later when we passed yet another Ley’s store in yet another town several hundred miles north of our last stop, we stopped again and this time she emerged triumphant with two boxes in her shopping bag.  We drove on and when we arrived in San Carlos and got our room, she was looking forward to her first glass of wine of our trip.

As I set the luggage out for the attendant to carry up the stairs for us (no elevator), Blue called out that she had to go get the wine that she had forgotten to remove from the car!  Two men who were just unloading their car called out, “Oh yeah, can’t forget the wine!”  Of course, Blue had to tell them the story, at which point they said, “That’s a law all over Mexico.  It’s a church thing–you can’t sell alcohol between 8 pm and 8 am.  When we tried to tell them we’d lived in Mexico for many years and this wasn’t so in Jalisco, they were adamant.  So, we let the matter be.  Blue was anxious to have her long awaited first sip and there is no arguing with some people.

Unfortunately, the wine was warm, there was no ice machine in our hotel and the hotel restaurant was closed, so Blue trooped across the road and paid 20 pesos for a glass of ice, then returned to the room and ahhhhh poured her first glass of wine.

I can’t quite duplicate the sound that issued from her mouth when she poured the wine.  She was at the sink out of sight from  where I was lying on the bed, but it was not a pretty sound.  Nor was the wine a pretty sight when it emerged from the box a bright orange color.  Obviously, something had gone wrong in terms of the procedure for wine storage in that store.  Perhaps the demand was not that great for boxed wine or white wine or perhaps no one else had been able to manage to buy it within the prescribed hours, but clearly, this wine so hard won was not to be the prize hoped for.

Something there is that does not want Blue wined.  She poured the wine down the drain and we trooped across the road to a wonderful palapa restaurant perched on a rock high above the ocean and had an adventure not involving white wine but again involving pina coladas, a fall off a bar stool, brash gulls and a toothpick.  But that is a story for another post.

Tomorrow, we cross the border.  The next time you hear from me, we’ll be in Peoria, Arizona, and you’ll get another chapter of our drive northwards.  Yes, we’ll be stopping for wine as soon as we cross the border.  No, I won’t be drinking it, but I’ll still be packing my trusty flask.  Thanks, Dianne!!!