Carrie Allen – “Sadie”

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Ever since I can remember I’ve dreamed about being a writer.  Over the years, visions danced in my head of creating novels, poems and short stories.  Yet, somehow something inside me always stopped me from taking that first step – even though I know I have much to say and write about – and I thought I’ll get to that later.

I love to read, especially fiction, getting lost inside a good story.  This is from where my inspiration for writing comes.  One of my favorite books has always been Catcher in the Rye, and to this very day my well worn copy still sits next to my bedside table, filled with underlined passages, notes and dog-eared pages, as I relished every moment at each read.  With this inspiration in mind, I’ve decided to start writing now and share my stories here.  I welcome contributions from those of you who also want to share your voice.  Just contact me!

Below is the first part of a set of serial short stories about a young girl named Sadie.  Comments and feedback are welcome.

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SADIE – It’s hot

Sadie sat and stared up through the branches looking at the faded blue sky peeking through patchy white clouds.  She heard a fly buzzing somewhere behind her. Flicking a twig off her leg, she slid down a little farther into the barrel of water.  It was hot.  So incredibly hot.  She thought she would melt.  This is why she filled the metal barrel with water from the hose and plopped down in it.  The water felt cool on her hot skin.  Even so, sweat dripped from her limbs that didn’t fit in the barrel and the heat was suffocating.  The tree gave her a little bit of shade.

She could hear her grandmother in the kitchen chopping vegetables, prepping for tonight’s dinner.  Her brother was down by the docks, trying to catch a crab.  He’d been at it for a while and was not interested in entertaining Sadie, he said.  Caleb was four years older and not much fun; he never wanted to play.  Sadie and Caleb had been at their grandmother’s house for a month and a half.  Their mother needed a break they were told.  She was weak and couldn’t handle their noise and demands.  What did they know?  Sadie could’ve helped her mom even if she was only eight. She knew how to make sandwiches and clean up the kitchen and she took real good care of her mama.  Still, they were sent away.

“Sadie!” she heard her grandmother yell.  “What are you doing now?  Look at that mess you’ve made!” 

“It’s hot,” she yelled back.  “What did you expect me to do?” she muttered.  Sadie looked at the mud puddle around the barrel and the sludge that was slipping down the hill towards the back door to the kitchen.  She had left the hose running so that the water would stay cool.  Her feet were covered in mud and it was smudged on her hands and legs, drying and cracking in the heat.  Her threadbare yellow dress floated up around her in the barrel and she pushed it back down into the dirty water.

Humming now, she closed her eyes and tilted her head up towards the sky.  One hand swirled the water and lapped it up towards her neck.  She was trying to remember as far back as she could when her mama was not sick.  As hard as she tried, she couldn’t. She wondered what her mama was doing at that moment.  A sadness enveloped her.  She longed for her mama’s arms and warm embrace and happier days.

Last year, try as she did, she couldn’t stay out of trouble.  She was real helpful and always trying to fix things.  She had good ideas – she knew that for sure.  Didn’t matter that not everyone understood them, like the time she collected the neighbors’ cats and brought them home to the apartment.  She thought the cats would be thirsty in the heat.  She found three but didn’t know they wouldn’t get along – that it would be hard to get them out before mama got home from work.  What a mess that was. 

Her mama had been so mad she locked her in the closet for hours and said she couldn’t control her so that’s where she needed to be. She said Sadie gave her a headache.  The dark had scared Sadie at first, but then she realized it was nice and peaceful. She could see her mama’s shadows on the floor where the light shown in under the door.  Sadie loved those shadows, her mama dancing by every time she passed the door.  They comforted her while she softly hummed and rocked back and forth in the dark.

A bird screeched and pulled Sadie back to her barrel of water and the heat.  The water from the hose kept rushing down the hill and the mud puddle was getting bigger.  She thought she should probably get up and turn off the hose, but the heat made her feel heavy.  She didn’t feel like it.  She’d get to it before her grandmother looked outside again.

As her eyes scanned the yard, she caught a glimpse of something small and purple across the stretch of patchy grass and gray hardened dirt.  She wondered what it could be so she pushed herself up out of the barrel, leaving the dirty water and deluge behind her, forgetting to turn off the hose.  She made her way over, tripping ever so slightly on a tree root, to see what caught her eye.  As she approached she realized it was a small, blooming violet.

She lay down on her stomach to look closer.  The violet had only one flower on a drooping stem with two small yellowish leaves.  Popping up out of a crack in the dirt and leaning over, the flower was straining to grow, and yet despite the conditions unsuitable for it to survive, it was still growing with determination.  “Look at you, so pretty and small.  Where is your mama to take care of you?” she asked in a quiet whisper.

 

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

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Carrie Allen – Snow day? What to do?

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As the school closings started to come in this afternoon because of the impending blizzard, my 12 year old daughter texted me at work to say there would be no school tomorrow so could I please pick up a few things up from the store.  For those of you that know her, you won’t be surprised by her forward thinking.  For those of you who do not, she is fastidious, loves to plan, likes things to be orderly, and is often a worrier.

Her list made me smile in its simplicity and intent: hot chocolate, marshmallows and waffles.  I knew at that moment she was picturing our snow day, with the white snow billowing outside in the frosty wind and with us warm inside, sipping cocoa and munching on waffles.  Her perfect snow day.

With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to post a few suggestions on things you can do on a snow day.

  1. Build a snow man, of course
  2. Bake cupcakes, muffins or cookies and enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa
  3. Pull out your art supplies, pens, pencils, paper, scissors and glue.  See what happens.
  4. Play a board game like monopoly or maybe a game of charades
  5. Shovel snow – don’t forget to help your neighbors who cannot shovel

How do you like to spend your snow days? Leave a comment below and please share.

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Carrie Allen – Dear Fish

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Sometimes something small grabs your attention during your morning routine that makes you pause.  While sipping my coffee and perusing theSkimm in my inbox, the quote of the day caught my attention:

“The fishes loved receiving this anonymous postcard from a fan!” – A California aquarium on some fan mail it received – and apparently read aloud to its exotic fish. The fish flipped.

I clicked the link for further details on what this could mean.  So happy I did.  A photo is below.  Someone took time to write out a postcard for the fish and the aquarium staff read it to them.  In case you cannot read it below it says:

Dear fish, You are the best fish ever!  Some fish are thought to be scary But you are great!

I love, love this.  Passion at its best in a simple form.  So to all of you, have a great day.  Some of you are thought to be scary, but I think you’re great!

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Cool Shiz

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This past week I’ve been noticing beauty in many things from the mundane to fabulous, from the specific, faded color of blue on a shed to snow-covered ghost trees on the mountain, and fireworks over the ski village at night.  There was a chihuahua named Princess dressed in pink sitting in front of us on the plane – cool?  Maybe…  She was better behaved than some.

This got me thinking about things that inspire in general.  I thought I’d pull together some cool shiz from this week and beyond.  Enjoy.

  1. Tiny Ceramics

On a plane a few weeks ago in the American Way magazine on American Airlines, I read a short piece on Jon Almeda’s tiny pottery.  I was intrigued and checked out his site.  They are gorgeous.  I love anything in miniature.   Here are a few images from his instagram page, which I love – tiny, beautiful pottery inside fruit!

2.  Snow Ghost

I had never heard of Snow Ghost trees before my love used that moniker when we were atop a ski mountain in Idaho in January.  The sheer beauty coupled with the name has left a haunting impression on me. They are quiet, with grace and beauty.  I could look at them all day.  Apparently they are covered in heavy accretions of ice, called rime, instead of snow.

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3. Blackbird Doughnuts

Doughnuts.  Who doesn’t love a doughnut?  Have you tried a gourmet one?  Boston has Blackbird Doughnuts, which creates unique gourmet doughnuts and uses brioche dough for their raised doughnuts and old fashioned recipes for their cake doughnuts.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Here are a few images taken from their instagram page.  Shiz is getting real.

4. Fireworks on a Ski Mountain

I believe I have only ever really seen fireworks annually on July 4th or at least in warmer months.  This week during our February break from school we got to see these lovely fireworks over the ski village at Schweitzer as the snow came down. It was magical.  I took a little video so you can see them too, complete with snow ghost trees in the background.

5. Princess

I will close with pictures of Princess, of course.  When I asked what her name is, her lovely Russian owner said Princess in a low sultry voice, barely acknowledging me or making eye contact, which was pretty cool too.  Princess remained aloof.

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – What’s love got to do with it?

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Tina Turner asked “What’s Love Got to Do with it?”  Well, pretty much everything.  In honor of this Valentine’s Day week, yes I made that up, I thought it important to reflect on love in our lives.  Every day – not just one day of the year.   There are many forms of love.  The deep, soul-stirring love for your soul mate, best friend and lover (which I am happily blessed with) to the profound love for your children, love for family, friends, and colleagues.  Exchanging kindness, even with strangers, is a form of love. Every person deserves love and wants to be loved and wanted.

Many people do not know the root of Valentine’s Day, some even think Hallmark made it up.  I won’t give a history lesson here but the root of it stemmed with an ancient roman pagan festival and grew into a Christian feast day, dubbed St. Valentine’s Day, in honor of a St. Valentine.  It was in the 14th century that this day became associated with love.

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Ironically it was Esther A. Howland, a female entrepreneur from Worcester, MA, who first started mass producing cards for Valentine’s Day in the 1850’s at the young age of 19.  I think that is noteworthy and pretty cool.  Prior to this handmade cards with ribbons and lace were popular.  Today I prefer handmade anything, but especially a valentine.

Putting aside the present day commercial face of Valentine’s Day, I think it serves as a reminder and opportunity to truly focus on love in its many forms. Sometimes it’s hard to show your feelings or to move past small irritations and to let your loving feelings rise up.  Try.  We all have people in our families who make it hard.  I have dreamed of sending certain family members this book:

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I challenge everyone to focus on love.  Make sure it’s genuine, heartfelt and full of meaning.  Seriously, slow down and hold your loved ones a little closer today, stop and really listen to what people are saying.  This is what life is about.  Connecting with others, feeling loved and letting others know we care.  It really isn’t about racing to your next meeting or the next big thing and thinking how great tomorrow will be.  Make each moment count and make today great.  Make an effort to love more, and as your relationships deepen, your life will expand.  Love is a selfless investment in others with great returns for yourself. I promise.

So, won’t you be my Valentine?

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – My own private snowy Idaho

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As the snow continues to fall over Boston, covering us in its soft, white blanket, I cannot help but also think of snow-covered Idaho.  Last year, after 28 years, I found my first love again living in Idaho.  Prior to this, I had no concept of the natural beauty of the state.

img_1647According to this site, Idaho is the 17th most beautiful state in the United States. Now that I have my own private relationship with Idaho, I am continually stunned with every visit as the Gem State shows me its many jewels.

Northern Idaho’s sheer beauty can be startling and take your breath away.  Snow-capped mountains, gorgeous lakes, quiet walks in the woods with towering trees all around and more.  Enjoy the tranquility of these caught moments. I sure did.

And a few poems by Robert Frost of course…

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
WIth no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost

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Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Lost in Translation to a Journey Within

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In the summer of 2016, not long after I started my new adventure working for the Cambridge Innovation Center, I headed off to Japan with my colleagues Tim (Founder and CEO) and Makiko for two weeks in Tokyo, with the intention of expanding our work there.

I arrived in Tokyo on July 30th.  Tokyo is fabulous.  I loved it, truly, even though Tokyo is the world’s largest megacity with a population of 38.8 million people.  I kept thinking about Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.

After a week in Tokyo, I was ready for something completely different. I felt a bit overwhelmed, unsettled and a bit closed in. I needed to set off somewhere for a few days that would help to ground me, give me the space I craved, and to experience something new.

I decided I would head to Kyoto, taking Shinkansen, the fast train.  I would stay at a Buddhist temple for the weekend and take a Zen meditation class.  I was nervous, truly nervous, but often fling myself head first into whatever is in front of me, not letting my trepidation hold me back. Emotions are complicated.

I was hopeful that with the Buddhist meditation class I would somehow journey inside, find quiet and my inner voice, maybe even something ancient and holy within me.

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Upon arriving outside Kyoto I noticed that it was Quiet.  So much quiet… peacefulness. Beauty. Bliss.  The opposite of the hustling traffic and people of Tokyo.  Even though the website had warned to not use google maps for the 10 minute walk to the temple, I did.

As I wound my way through tiny crooked streets, smaller alleys and a miniature walkway through a backyard, I realized I was trailing another woman following the same, odd, circuitous route.  I thought, surely she was headed to the temple too, and clearly followed directions as well as I do.  We smiled at each other and confirmed we were on the same path.

As it turns out, Liz had the same idea to spend a weekend in Kyoto at the temple and take the meditation class.  Liz (an American) had been living in Tokyo with her husband, who is in the military, for a year and a half.

Google maps took us to a location that was confusing and guided us to a door.  Everything was so quiet, we stared at the door, the door stared back at us … it was locked and had no signage.

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After a few minutes, a monk came out.  Excitedly we let him know we were here for the weekend and class.  He didn’t seem to understand. After some confusion and back and forth, he helped us understand, with hand signals and limited words exchanged, we’d come to the wrong temple, but as luck would have it we were not far off.  We were in a big temple complex.

We checked in and were assigned our rooms.  I decided to venture out to a restaurant called the Wonder Cafe for dinner. I saw Liz on the road and asked her if she wanted to join me.  She declined, she was running off to catch a bus to an outside market 40 minutes away, even further into the countryside.  How brave, I thought.

The next morning, I was up early and ready for the meditation class.  We lined up sitting, facing the garden.

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The monk first taught us about mediation and the importance of meditating every day for at least 5 minutes. He said the only thing that is unchanging is change itself. Impermanence, everything changes. We must embrace that and not dwell on the past or fret about what could happen in the future.  The outside world cannot impact our happiness.  Focus, breath and let change happen. We must quiet our minds, stay positive and focus on our breathing.  This helps with metacognition, which also helps with our emotional intelligence.

After the meditation class we had thick matcha green tea and biscuits as a way of prolonging our calm spiritual meditation.

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After the tea ceremony and class, Liz and I reconnected, as that morning we had decided we would leave the compound to explore Kyoto for the rest of the day.  Liz said she had met Natasja, another traveler from Denmark, after class and she would be joining us.

As I often do, I had played out in my mind exactly how the weekend would unfold.  I pictured mediation, and a calmness and quietness enveloping me.  I got that from the class that morning for sure; however, the unexpected surprise was in venturing out with two new friends to uncover what secrets Kyoto had for us.  Three women came together from different walks of life and different corners of the world.  We became fast friends.

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The day and ensuing fun unfolded in different ways.  We ate green tea ice cream, had an amazing lunch, hiked up a mountain, visited with monkeys, walked through a bamboo forest and ended the day at a tiny little restaurant and met new friends there as well.  We shared so many laughs, talked about our lives, who we are, where we came from, and about our hopes and dreams.

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All this packed into a day.

We enjoyed each other so much that we decided to meet in Tokyo the following week for more fun, which included a sushi conveyor belt restaurant and visit to a karaoke bar.  My journey to Kyoto, and within, led me back to Tokyo with fresh eyes and perspective.  In Kyoto I learned to open myself up to those around me more freely, to move past nerves of the unknown, and to live in the present.

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