Walk Like a Man

Author’s note: This was a writer’s prompt about identity.

The alarm clock rang and I hit it without looking. It fell to the floor with a loud bang, so I must have slammed it harder today. I hope it’s not broken.

As I was already awake, I decided to get up and start my day. Before putting my glasses on and still in a half sleepy daze, I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. That usually wakes me up.

I soaped up my scrunchie loofa with cucumber melon body wash and started washing. But as the hot water woke me up, I knew something wasn’t right. I looked down and screamed. My body had completely changed. I pinched myself once, then harder a few times to see if I was dreaming. I wasn’t.

Still wet and soapy, I quickly ran to get my glasses. I looked down again with 20/20 vision and screamed. I felt like me, but I didn’t look like me anymore. I was in the body of a man.

I dried off with a towel and grabbed my phone.

“Siri, what happens when you wake up in the body of a man?” I asked frantically.

“I found the following articles on the web,” Siri said. “Body changes when you sleep and the science of sleep.”

This was useless, but what did I really expect? It occurred to me I rely on that phone too much for answers.

Then I saw the time. I was going to be late for work. But how can I go to work like this? How can I go anywhere like this?

I phoned my boss to call in sick.

“Hi, this is Pat,” I said.

“Who’s this? Pat? It doesn’t sound like you,” she said.

I heard my voice aloud. It was much deeper, like a man.

“Uh, yes, I woke up with a terrible cold and can’t come in today,” I said.

“Ok, feel better,” she said and hung up.

Do I call a doctor? And tell them what; that I used to be a woman? No, that won’t work.

I sat there in someone else’s body for several minutes absolutely blank as to what to do. I decided I needed some brain food and time to think, so I grabbed my baggy sweats and my bra. But then, I threw the bra back on the bed. No, won’t need that, which is nice. Honestly, I hate wearing it every day. It pinches everywhere and makes my back scratch.

When I got up, I walked funny and nearly fell down. I guess the weight distribution is a little different. More bottom heavy, less top heavy.

I wobbled to the kitchen table, made some cereal and poured coffee from my automatic Keurig maker. At least one thing was the same.

I sipped the coffee and guzzled the cereal like never before. I must have been hungry.

How did this happen? And why? How do I get back to myself? Nothing came to mind. I popped open my laptop, but just sat there looking at the blank Google search. What would I even search for? Turning into man syndrome on Web MD?

Now I started to panic. What if I’m stuck this way? I wanted to cry. Do men cry? Can they cry?

I wondered what would be different if I had to stay a man? What would I get and what would I give up?

I‘d spend less money on clothes, make-up, jewelry and shoes. And it would take much less time to get ready. That means more sleep. That’s good.

I’d make more money for the same job. I think they’d have to give me a raise for being a man, right? I couldn’t get pregnant. Oh, but I could get someone else pregnant. Forget that, I don’t even want to think about how that would work now.

And no one would treat me like a dizzy blonde girl anymore. They’d actually listen to what I have to say. Well, maybe. After all, since I’m still young, I don’t know if anyone would listen anyway. But it would be interesting.

I’m obviously stronger, just look at the poor alarm clock. Would I be better at sports? And maybe I could open jars easier.

But then again, I’d have to buy my own drinks at bars now and pay for dates. That sucks. Oh and men have to be the breadwinner, right? Well, I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. I like my career. Wait, I wouldn’t even be a mom, would I?

Could I still watch Hallmark and Lifetime and read romance novels? Is that allowed?

What about dating? Do I still like guys? Can I like guys if I’m in a man’s body? Well, with politics today, I need to check the news on that one to make sure.  

What would life be like as a woman trapped in a man’s body? I always felt comfortable in my own skin. I was raised to be proud of being a woman and not to compromise myself for anything or anyone.

I guess I could get used to it, but I don’t think I’d ever like it. My natural instincts would always be off. I don’t know if I could feel right. And life would be so much more complicated.  

Then I felt tears rolling down my face. At least I can cry. That’s something.

When I went to get some tissues, I turned on the TV to put off thinking about this anymore.

I took the remote and started scrolling through the channels.

Oh, no; I’m obsessed with the remote control already. This is not a good sign. Am I’m going to completely lose my identity?

Flipping through the channels, I noticed they’re all either Hallmark or Lifetime. That can’t be. Oh, here’s a different one. The unicorns and flying horses’ channel? That’s not right.

I know. Last night I rented an old movie on the cable remote. It would be in my history.

Wait a minute! Victor Victoria was the last thing I saw before I went to bed. Maybe this is some kind of life imitating art thing. Maybe the Twilight Zone was real and the TV whammied me. Or what if it’s some kind of virus? I’ve heard of hormone changing therapy, is that contagious?

“Siri, look up hormone changing therapy,” I said.

“Pat, it’s time to wake up,” Siri said.

“Ok Siri,” I said and sat up quickly. I sounded like me. High-pitched and squeaky. Then I looked down. Everything was in the right place. Whew! It was a dream after all. No, it was a nightmare.

Thank God. After all that, I’m glad just to be me.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

The Duel with Alexa

Technology can be both blessing and beast. There are so many new things to learn, it can be intimidating. But I choose to think each technological improvement helps our lives. Where would be without the internet or cell phones? They have made life easier. And so began my duel with an electronic minx called Alexa.

It came with our home, so at first, I ignored it. The technician set it up so it would lock and unlock the front door on command. Big deal. I keep the door locked all the time, anyway. I was unimpressed.

My neighbors used it to play music. They liked it, but I have a jukebox with my favorite tunes. So, didn’t need it. Another neighbor wired his whole house to do anything electronic by mere voice. That was impressive, but to me too many things could go wrong; then your smart house would turn into a dumb nonfunctional house, leaving you trapped and sitting in the dark. No thanks.

But one feature caught my attention. It’s such a simple thing, but Alexa can keep your shopping list for you. So, when you use the last of something, you just tell her to add it to the shopping list and when you’re ready to shop, you can have it on your phone and use it at the store. Easy, right? In concept yes, but in practice?

So, I chose to embrace Alexa, for this at least. I’m not a technophobe. I actually consider myself a little above the average of the curve regarding technology, but with Alexa, I had a bit of a fencing match.

At first, I just kept saying “Add butter to the shopping list, add orange juice to the shopping list, etc.”

I hadn’t tackled the app, yet, but I figured I would have her repeat the list and I would record it on my phone as a text to myself. Good idea, right?

“What is on the shopping list?” I asked.

Silence.

My crime? I forgot to address her as Alexa each time. Lesson learned. Point Alexa.

“Alexa, add bran to shopping list,” I said.

“Ok I added bread to your shopping list,” she said.

“No, I said bran, not bread,” I countered. Silence.

Don’t speak so fast and annunciate. Lesson learned. But at least she repeated it back, so I know I was further than before. Another point Alexa and one point for me.

For a while, things were going well, we were communicating. So, I decided to level up. Since I purchased different things from different stores, I wanted to add shopping lists for each store.

“Alexa, add vitamins to Target shopping list,” I said.

“Adding vitamins to shopping list,” she repeated.

“No, not just shopping list, Target shopping list,” I said.

Oops, I forgot to say Alexa again. Point Alexa.

It took a little while longer, but eventually I figured out that I had to create the different shopping lists first, then add to them. Lesson learned. A point for me.

With that tackled, we were humming again. But there was one more mountain to climb. The Alexa app.

I downloaded the app and remarkably, there were all my lists with all the items I dictated. Yeah! I got this one on the first try. Another point for me. Right? Not so fast.

When I went to the store and opened the app, the items were gone. Now I was left at the store to rely only on my memory and yes, I forgot a few things.

Thwarted again, but undeterred, when I returned home, I looked at the app to figure out the problem. I even enlisted a YouTube tutorial to help. It turns out it was user error. It automatically checked the boxes of each item and I accidentally deleted them all. I won’t to do that again.

Luckily, perseverance paid off and Alexa and I developed a mutually beneficial relationship for the shopping list. I’ll call this one a draw.

And now I get to watch my husband going through the same fencing match with Alexa. Will I help him? Nope. Teach a man to fish, right? He has to learn the hard way. And after all, it’s a fun amusement for me.

Now I hear stories that Alexa is listening and recording conversations and watching and recording movements. I don’t about that, but just in case, I covered Alexa with a picture, so at least she can’t watch.

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

Sixth Stage

Eve sat alone looking around her empty house. It was deafeningly quiet. In the year since her husband died, it had been a whirlwind of must dos. She went through every stage they say and busily performed all the never-ending diligence tasks to punctuate the paperwork end of someone’s life. Now she confronted the last stage—to live her life again.

Starting over in new surroundings without the echos and ghostly reminders of her past life, Eve moved into an adult community with facilities and planned activities.

“Mom, you have to put yourself out there. There’s a lot of things to do here,” her daughter Carrie said, reading the club newsletter.

“I just don’t know what to do. I’ve never done anything before,” Eve sighed.

That wasn’t the exact truth. When Eve was younger, she was very active with volleyball, golf and tennis clubs and had many “parents of her kids’ friends.” But her social life revolved around her kids and family-type events.

And since the kids were long out of the house and a broken-down body made most of her former past-times impossible or obsolete. She was struggling with ideas to get started.

“It’s like the first day in a new school. I don’t know anyone and have forgotten how to make friends,” Eve said frustrated and defeated.

“The best thing to do is just show up for something, try anything. Friends will follow, but you have to try,” Carrie said and left the newsletter with Eve.

“Just try…” Eve said mimicking Carrie’s words as they lay like a weight on her chest. “It’s easy to say.”

Eve put the newsletter on her kitchen counter and stared at it for a few days, taunting every time she passed it. She picked it up and then put it down a thousand times, exasperated at the challenge of creating a new life.

Since she was eighteen years old, she did everything for and with her husband and family. Now, sixty years later, it was a mountain she never wanted to climb. She really believed she would go first.

Her family’s words rang in her head like church bells chiming the new hour. Find a hobby, join a club, just pick one thing.

“Just one thing,” Eve said and picked up the newsletter.

There were a lot of activities. Movie nights, crafts, cards, everything at her fingertips, but nothing to get her to cross the threshold into her next act.

“I need to be brave and just pull up my big-girl panties and just go there,” she said flinging the newsletter to the ground.

She got in her car and drove to the clubhouse holding her breath but determined to try. Walking around she passed the fitness room and noticed a few people on exercise machines. Not a match. She peaked into the arts room and watched some ladies pouring paint from dixie cups onto canvasses.

“Looks kind of interesting, but arts were never my thing,” she puckered her face and moved down the hall to the dance studio.

Eve admired those who could still dance. As a teen, she loved to be bop until she dropped at sock hops, but bad knees made that reboot beyond possibility.

After she walked past the dance studio, she was still hearing music. Curiously, she looked around with no luck. Finally, she asked someone where the music was coming from.

“Oh, that’s the choir,” a man said. “They practice in the community room.”

The choir? Those words resounded in her mind like heavenly horns announcing a king.

Eve was excited for the first time in forever. Music was a long-forgotten friend from a bygone era. As a child, she sang in church and school choirs. She became quite good and even ranked number one in a state competition as a soprano soloist. It was a youthful dream to become an opera singer, but marriage, kids and everything that goes with it became her reality.

She loved her family and had no regrets, but always wondered about the path not taken.

As she got closer the music became louder and her heart beat a little faster as her eyes and ears widened.

“Maybe this is what they mean when they say unfinished business,” Eve thought. “But I haven’t sung in years, I couldn’t just pick it up. Could I?”

Reaching the room, she shyly stood on the other side of the door listening to the melodious tones of the choral music. She closed her eyes to experience the sound and let the music wash over her. She let out a deep breath and smiled, recognizing one song from church and unconsciously sang along.

“You sing beautifully. Would you like to come in?” a women interrupted her haze and startled her.

Eve nodded as they lady showed her in and offered her a seat.

She sat down and looked around nervously. After a few minutes, she found herself singing. It was like muscle memory; she just did it without thinking. It was natural.

As the rehearsal came to an end, she felt herself smiling.

“I hope you come back. You have a very nice voice,” said the lady sitting next to her.

“Thank you. I will.” Eve happily walked to her car. She was home.

  © Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

The Case of the Deadly Dreams

Night 1

There he was laying on the kitchen floor. Next to him was the cast iron frying pan. But what happened? Who could have done this? I was sleeping; did I hear something? 

Barefooted, I ran toward the front door in my nightgown. It was still locked. Confused, I scurried around the house looking for an open window or unlock door. Everything was secure.

But how did the killer get in? And why?

Everyone loved him. Well, his friends did at least. He was the life of the party.

As for me, I wasn’t sure. Did I still love him?

It was a complicated question. To me, he was really two people. I remember the dreamy man I fell in love with. The man who swept me off my feet. The father of my children. Him, I loved.

But the man who questions my every word, ridicules my every idea and makes me feel less than. Well, him, I could do without.

Can I do without? I guess now, I must.

I hear something. It is the police?

No, it’s the alarm. Now I’m awake and he’s next to me. It was just a dream.

Night 2

There he was laying on the family room floor. Next to him was a knife. It looked like his prized hunting knife.

What happened? Who could have done this?

Dressed only in my robe and slippers, I ran into his den. The sheath for the hunting knife was empty. Yes, it was definitely his knife. I felt an unexpected chill and spun around the room. The window was open slightly.

That’s how the killer got in. But who would kill him?

Suddenly I remembered the fight he had with his business partner the other day. I heard them loudly arguing about the accounts but didn’t hear any specifics. Could his partner have killed him over money?

Then I saw a suitcase in the corner of my eye. I opened it. It was filled with money. Oh no, did he steal money from his company? There was a plane ticket in the sleeve. Was he going to escape and leave me destitute?

I heard a sound. Is that the killer? Oh no, is he still here? Did I see too much?

Terrified, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s time for breakfast. I’m hungry,” he said.

I sighed. It was just a dream.

Day 3

There he was laying in bed. Still. No snoring. No snorting. Not a sound.

I noticed he still had his clothes on. He does that sometimes, either too drunk or tired to change, so he just staggers up the stairs and falls into bed.

Next to him I saw some pills laying on the nightstand and scattered on the floor.  

Could he have overdosed? Would he do himself in?

No, it must have been an accident. These days he’s taking so many pills and with his eyesight going, maybe he made a mistake?

I looked down at the pills. They looked like his heart medication. Maybe he forgot to take them? The doctor warned him not to miss even one pill or he could have a heart attack. His health had been declining. His last checkup was not great. The doctor told him to turn his lifestyle around immediately. No booze. No sweets. No fatty foods, but he refused. He was a ticking timebomb.

I decided to clean up the pill mess and got dressed.

Climbing down the stairs, I noticed a half empty bottle of bourbon, empty glass and some empty candy wrappers on the table in front of the TV. He stayed up late watching a movie last night after I went to bed. When he drank, he often got the munchies.

I started to make his breakfast and set the table to eat. Every day he insisted on three poached eggs, bacon, sausage and toast with orange juice. While waiting for the eggs, I checked my phone and sent out a text to my friend to confirm our lunch appointment and returned a few emails for work.

Everything was ready, so I called for him to come down. I heard nothing. 

I went upstairs to wake him, but he wouldn’t rouse. I checked his pulse. He was dead.

Now… I’ll call the police. I’m prepared. I have something to tell them.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

A Miracle in Lighthouse Cove

I sit outside my church wondering if I should go in. I hear the melodic sounds of the congregation singing Christmas hymns. It sounds much better from here than inside. Together, they combine to create a singular chorus of joy and community. But from my pew, all I hear is offbeat, out of tune shrill from certain people in high and low tones drowning out the beautiful notes.

When the preacher begins the sermon, I barely hear bits and pieces of words. He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t exactly project to the last pew. You have to get to church early to get a good seat. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s his intention all along. Pretty clever.

As the door creaks open a bit, I listen. I think he’s telling the tale of the miracle birth of Christ. Lighthouse Cove could use a miracle like that right now.

My town is a simple sea town on the isle of Northhampton Virginia. We’re not even a dot on a map, but our lighthouse is very important. It lies at the entrance to the cove that leads up to Delaware and Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. Ships don’t stop in our small village, but they heed the lighthouse to find safe passage up the waterway. Without it’s continual beacon, they could lose their bearings and easily perish on the rocky land and miss the smooth secure bay waters.

For the last week, extra shifts of two men with binoculars were scheduled, searching the seas for one of our own, the Pearl.

She was a typical whitefish and halibut trawler run by a small crew of local men and boys. They went out to catch Winter Flounder for our annual town Christmas celebration. It’s my favorite time of year. The whole town gets together and celebrates with music and dancing. The feast of fish and vegetables with hot apple cider and the most marvelous cakes and pies anyone has ever eaten is legendary. But not this year.

The trawler didn’t return. For days, the men on the lighthouse have been watching and the women and children in the town have been worrying and waiting. They’ve been holding candlelight vigils on the waterfront after praying in the church every night for their loved ones to come home safely. They even decorated the church with anchor-shaped garland to honor the men who work in the sea to feed everyone.

As the head watchman’s daughter, I’ve had to act as the town crier more often than not. I sound a bell when the ships come in to alert the townspeople. And when any good or bad news regarding a ship is needed, my pa sends me into town to make an announcement. I don’t enjoy the job, but it’s my duty.

I dread telling these people the news. Pa and the others found some planks on the coastline. One was marked “The Pearl.” He told me to inform the others. I just don’t know how to say it. Should I burst in and blurt it out or wait until after the service?

I opt for waiting. I don’t want them to fret any longer, but a few more minutes of hope is better than despair. I won’t rob them of that. 

The preacher ended and I hear the short proclamation hymn followed by the final prayer. It’s time. I put this off long enough. I open the door slowly, trying not to make a sound, but I see a young boy caught me. He was playing with a toy while everyone was praying.

“She’s here!” he yelled and everyone else turned around, staring at me in sheer silence. Looking into their worried eyes, I tried to speak, but at first, no words came out.

“They found some planks washed up on the shoreline,” I said softly. “And one said…”

Just as I was about to finish, a loud humming sound came in the distance and distracted everyone. The entire congregation gazed at the large oak doors of the chapel, perplexed by the distant noise.

As it grew louder, it was clearer. It sounded like a group of men singing a sea ditty. I was shocked at the insensitivity and impertinence to disturb a solemn occasion with a silly shanty. I walked toward the door with the intention of hushing the men, when the big wooden doors flew open.

The congregation gasped in a chorus with their eyes widened. It was my pa and the other watchmen with several other men covered in black clothing. It was the crew of the Pearl! They made it.

The mass of people ran to individual men hugging them as the organ mistress played a happy Christmas tune. I was very happy to see the men alive and well, but I was puzzled.

I waded through the sea of gleeful smiles and tears and found my pa. “What happened?” I asked.

“It’s the darndest thing. They got lost in the fog and crashed on some rocks further north, but they nursed the boat back, even with a good chunk of her gone,” he told. “It took a while to find their way back, but they said the lighthouse shined their way.”

My heart warmed peering at the joy all around me. I was happy that I waited so long to speak. I don’t know what made me waver, but I was glad. I guess it was another miracle for Lighthouse Cove.

©2022  Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

New Kindle Vella Romance Series

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Love is powerful, fulfilling, and redeeming. It makes you feel a sense of comfort, peace and pure enjoyment in life. Like most things, when it’s right, it’s very right and when it goes wrong, nothing can make you feel worse. 

Does real love last? Can it last forever? And if it does, how do you know it? When do you know it? And is it possible to fall in love at first sight or is it a euphoric fantasy? 

Is it possible to look across a water cooler, a bar, a street or a crowded room and fireworks ignite or at least flicker?

The search for love is as curious to us as the need to know how people achieved great wealth. Both accomplishments, both sometimes seemingly unattainable. After all, when you meet a new couple at a party, often don’t you ask – how did you meet? We all have an insatiable need to know.

In this new Kindle Vella Series, the pheomenon of love at First Sight is celebrated. These are REAL stories of REAL people (the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and not so innocent) who at first meeting experienced sparks, fireworks, trumpets and lightning bolts and fell in love. 

Much has been written about love as one of the most encompassing and enlightening feelings that most people will ever experience. Different for everyone and yet mesmerizing and illusive for some who still believe in the depths of their souls or who just hope in their consciousness that at the end of the day, it can happen to us all.

The first three episodes are free and the following require purchased tokens. New episodes available regularly.

What If? Peace in Serene Scotland

Author Note: This was a writing group challenge to write a story with a fictional “what if” scenario about a historical time or event. I am enamored with history and the idea of alternate realities. In this incarnation, a time loop changes the scenario but protects the timeline. It’s interesting to consider how choices mold and alter events…

Surrounded by her loyal corgis following her every step, Lilibet walked along the rolling green and amber hills of her family’s Scotland estate looking for a buck. They’ve been tracking it for a week for a hunt later in the day.

The highland grounds of the Castle of Mey were her favorite place in the world. The early morning mists slightly levitating above the fields. The crisp smell of the heather waking up with dew. And the yellow sun gently rising from the horizon. It was a quiet and peaceful.

It was her twenty-first birthday and Lilibet’s mother, father, sister Margaret, and her new beau, Phillip, were all gathering for a family birthday breakfast before the hunting party arrived. They were all glad to be together once again for this momentous occasion.  

The war years were difficult for everyone, especially the royal family. It was a roller coaster of uncertainty, pain and heartache for years. When it began, in her shelter of their tranquil estate, the blitzes in London seemed so far away. She felt for the poor families and worried for her father, who moved to London to help her uncle, the king, and the prime minister deal with the war. Luckily, for the worst of the Blitz her father was in Churchill’s underground bunker. When they heard a bomb hit Buckingham Palace, they were certain it was the end.

For many nights, Lilibet, Margaret and her mother laid awake listening to the solitary night crickets in the deafening silence of safety, wondering what would become of their country and the world, while feeling helpless in the turmoil.

After the bombing ceased, her father and Churchhill worked together with the Allies to defeat Hilter, but her uncle, the king, was terribly shaken. The shell that hit the palace convinced him failure was the only possible result and he retreated into a debilitating melancholy state. He even dispatched Queen Wallis to Switzerland for her safety.

Churchhill didn’t trust the king or the queen, so he had agents watching them and his suspicions were right. The agents found the queen engaged in seemingly innocent parties and meetings with people who knew people the Nazi hierarchy. When they infiltrated from the inside, they uncovered the queen was trying to forge a secret treaty to spare England in exchange for information on the Allied plans.

Luckily they were able to intercept and squash the dastardly alliance in its infancy. The queen was escorted back to England under close supervision and she and the king stayed under house arrest in Windsor Castle for the remainder of the war to avoid any further unseemly conduct.

Once Hitler was defeated, her uncle was forced by Churchill and Parliament to abdicate, claiming health reasons, but only a few knew of their deep deception. Now with her father as king and her mother as queen, they faced the task of rebuilding the country and building the people’s faith.

Lilibet shuddered just thinking of what could have happened. She was disappointed and ashamed of her uncle’s cowardice, but proud of her father and his steadfast resolve to serve the people. The sacrifice of her father and mother resonated with her and inspired her to spend her life in service of the United Kingdom for the day she would be queen.

Walking back to the house, Lilibet and the dogs strode through the maze of the proper English gardens to admire the beautiful blooms her mother planted. Her mother Elizabeth doted for hours year after year to sculpt it to perfection. She paused to consider the dedication required to create and keep something so wonderful.

For now, her path was clear. She looked forward to minimal royal duties and a happy life in their serene Scottish home. Maybe one day she would be the proud Navy wife of her first love and raise a bunch of children, along with her dogs and horses. Maybe she’d become a horsewoman owning a stable of wonderful prize steeds. She always had an eye for a good horse and loved to care for them.

Eventually, she would learn the family business beside her father. But with the worst behind them, she felt content with her glorious future and ready for what it would bring.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022

What is Emotional Bullying?

Most people agree a bully is someone who physically assaults another by pushing, hitting, punching, grabbing, knocking books out of hands, stuffing someone into a locker or a dumpster, sticking a head into a toilet, etc. But physical bullying is not the only brand of terror; emotional bullying often leaves as many and deeper scars, especially since it’s not as easily detected.

But there’s debate over what is and isn’t bullying. Especially for some who have never been bullied, the outsiders and even insider’s view of bullying can be murky.

In its simplest explanation, emotional bullying is when someone makes another feel lesser, while asserting their dominance by belittling or giving orders or commands. And many people, adults and kids, don’t even realize they’re doing it. This can be a semi-regular or habitual occurrence, leaving no place for the bullied person to breathe.

Intent is communicated in words. “I didn’t mean that,” “you know what I meant,” and “you are reading too much into it” are arguments often used when someone verbally and emotionally bullies another, but in actuality may reveal that person’s inability to effectively communicate.  After all, communication, by definition, is when a message is sent from one point to another. But it’s the sender’s job to communicate the message to the receiver, not the other way around. If someone doesn’t receive your email, you don’t tell them they should have expected the email and should have intuitively known and understood the message that never came.

Differences of opinions can also degrade into emotional bullying. If you call someone “stupid,” most people would concur… that’s bullying. But what if you say… “you’re wrong,” “you’re making too big a deal of this,” or “you’re being too sensitive” –  is that bullying? Yes, it is. Those statements are directed at the person, not the disagreement. Opinions are in the first person… “I think.” If someone changes the opinion into “You don’t, shouldn’t, etc.…,” it exposes a need for supremacy to win the debate without merit by belittling the other’s opinion. There’s a difference between disagreeing with another and diminishing them.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and the right to disagree with another’s opinion, but no one has the right to tell anyone their opinion is less than. If I say, the water is blue and you say the water is green, that’s ok. It’s a difference of opinion. But if I say “you’re crazy, that water is blue, you don’t know what you’re talking about”…that’s bullying. Often people resort to bullying when they want you to agree with them and can’t get you to change your mind.

Psychologically, bullies declare superiority in physical or verbal forms over another to compensate for something lacking in their own esteem or to claim control. These people will sometimes use commands to diminish another while elevating themselves. Commands like “Forget it,” “Get over it,” “Move on,” “Get off of it,” “Don’t worry about it,” especially when prefaced by “You need to…” is one person ordering another what to do.

Anyone, any age can bully another and anyone, any age can be bullied. Parents, teachers, spouses, partners, friends, siblings, significant others or even strangers can all stealthily and even inadvertently cut emotional scars into others. This can cause resentment; lack of self-esteem and can fester into long-term issues which often lay dormant until they erupt, creating division which can break the person or the relationship. 

 Several tools can be used to prevent bullying…

  • Clearly communicate your message and intent in words; don’t expect another to understand your meaning if you don’t say it.
  • Stay on topic in disagreements and express YOUR opinion. Use “I” not “you.” And sometimes you have to agree to disagree or find a fair way to arrive at an agreement, like flipping a coin.
  • Respect everyone’s opinion and feelings. Only they can decide how they think and feel.
  • Don’t try to make yourself taller by standing on someone else.

It all comes down to this…making someone feel inferior can never make you superior.

Happiness is NOT a Warm RV

In a pandemic world of limited safe travel, two girlfriends and I decided to take an RV trip to visit another friend a few states away who was isolated, depressed and in need of a boost.

With the best intentions, we rented a small RV to minimize contact with the outside world. It was the perfect plan. We’d stay at RV campgrounds to sleep and reduce nighttime driving and we brought food, so the only stops were for gas once a day. But, if you’ve ever been trapped in a tin can for 72 hours with even very good friends, you’ll discover what I did – friendship has its limits and nerves don’t.

We tried to anticipate problems by agreeing to “going native.” With limited storage space and the normal accruements of three women, we decided room for food must be prioritized over makeup, hair styling devices and large luggage. We each were allowed one medium-sized duffle bag with three changes of clothes and would do laundry on arrival. This alone nearly torpedoed the trip.

My predisposed picture of an RV trip comes from wacky scenes in Lucille Ball’s movie, “The Long Long Trailer” where she is thrown out of an unlocked door into mud and pummeled with flour and other ingredients out of unsecured cabinets. Unfortunately, my lens was fairly accurate.

Our first hazard came quickly. Within a few minutes, we heard a piercing alarm, as the other two annoyingly questioned the newbie driver…“What did you do?”

After we pressed all the buttons to no avail and could no longer stand the stabbing noise, we pulled over and called the RV shop. The first of many calls with a quick fix that I’m sure had them laughing at we three dim old ladies. Turns out the carbon monoxide detector was located in the banquette table, right where any normal person would put their feet. Needless to say, this was not the last time that sound plagued us. What dimwit thought of that brilliant location for a heart stopping alarm?

We drove in shifts to give everyone a break, but driving the RV proved challenging. We all underestimated the crosswind and the wide load of the RV which had each of us frequently riding the rumble strips on the shoulder. The first time it happened, we were terrified, holding on for dear life and yelling at the driver, who was also screaming in fear. After we realized this was one of many perils on this trip, the horror subsided, but the discomfort didn’t. The road rash and bad shocks left an impression on our bottoms and our waning anxiety.  

Life inside the RV, or the rolling turd as I began to call it, was not much better. The first time we tried to make a sandwich, I was having flashbacks to the dreaded Lucy movie, but in real time. Standing and performing any job amidst the rumble strips and swaying cab took practice that geriatric ally challenged knees don’t favor. You get bumped and bruised a lot. Even simple tasks seemed difficult and required multiple attempts in slow motion. Just buttering bread you felt like a malfunctioning robot with a loss of full kinetic operation.

Then with one slight break for traffic, the bread, butter, meat and cheese slide off the counter like they’re fleeing while plastic cups, breakfast cereal boxes and other pantry items fall on your head from the cabinets above. Lessons learned. You need to hear two clicks on the cabinet to ensure they are locked, not one. And sit down when making a sandwich.

The slight braking mishap continued to be a cruel test, though. Anything on the table like cards, laptops, glasses and cell phones would regularly plunge to their doom with each press of the brake pedal, even light ones. And there was a lot of traffic. After day one, the driver tried to shout warning while the others gripped everything like octopi attempting to ride out an earthquake. Good thing there were cup holders for drinks or else we would all have been sticky and drenched.

Outside foibles aside, I think the most surprising annoyances came from inside the RV. Actually, three fifty-five plus women are not the best company when trapped. For the sake of brevity, I will list the infractions and save the commiseration. Snoring; CPAP machine noises; horrible driving (especially next to mountains); endless negotiation of the heat and cold settings which would never please anyone; and continual absentmindedness regarding turning on and off lights and water pumps, resulting in one odorous day with no water and no showers and several nights in complete darkness.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back and my head was the chattering. The unanticipated volume and clatter of the RV was menacing, to say the least. Everything creaked, rattled, banged, jangled and clanged, creating a symphony of irritating sounds. My headache began at one in the first hour and reached Defcon five proportions by day three. And because I was in the driving pool, I could only drink myself to sleep at night, which was never peaceful. I direct you to the previously mentioned snoring and CPAP machine noises. If I were a cartoon, my head would’ve been too big for the RV by day two.

And the loud unabated road noise caused every conversation to be at a volume of eleven. Loud one-sided cell phone conversations were aggravating, but the maddening prattle of nonstop nervous and bored chatter left me wanting to hurl myself out of the RV into the Smoky Mountains below to escape. My only measure of passive resistance was when driving. At least I could roll my eyes, make faces and silently mock them undetected. It turns out the wonderfully fun discussions we always had over afternoon wine or game nights turned into empty idle babble when forced in a continuous loop. Maybe wine does improve banter and friendships.

When we finally arrived at our friend’s house, I was tempted to rush out the door and kiss the ground for safe arrival, but I settled for being the first released out the door. I have a sneaking suspicion that even though our remote friend was desperate for company; we all were frantic to get out of that tin can.  The only problem, in a few days we had to go back home and do it all over again.

© 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

The White City

From her first step off the el train, Maggie’s eyes widened in wonder. The newspaper accounts and word-of-mouth tales of the grand White City paled in comparison with her green eyes looking at the real thing.

After seven years in America, she was accustomed to the sight of buildings tall enough to reach the sky, but this was different. It was magnificent – the most brilliant collection of crisp and clean white buildings she could imagine.

The expansive, elegant neoclassical Court of Honor buildings created u-shaped mirror of glistening reflection in the water basin in the center. Behind the sparkling fountain stood a series of roman columns topped with alabaster statues that overlooked the lakefront, as if standing guard. A giant glittering gold Grecian lady towered over the spectacle like a golden key welcoming entry.

Among the sea of black bowlers and straw hats, Irish immigrant Maggie and her new beau, Scottish arrival Davey McIntyre, moved in a daze marveling at the magical city created in less than two years to celebrate the 1893 Columbia Exposition World’s Fair.

Over the last several months, Maggie heard the other servants in her Lake Shore Drive household tell fanciful tales they read about of the beautiful and mysterious wonderland, wishing for a chance to see it with her own eyes. Her employers attended the grand fanfare of opening day and regaled the staff with first-hand accounts of the glorious firework display over the basin and the miraculous dusk illumination of thousands of electric light bulbs dancing to shed beams of light over the exhibitions, tricking nighttime back to day.

“What do you want to do first, me lassie?” Davey asked taking her hand. “I’ve a pocket full of nickels and the world is your oyster.”

                Maggie knew he saved for two months to spare the cost of several days’ wages to give his best girl this once in a lifetime experience. But with the train fare and the fifty cent per person admission, she feigned interest only in the free exhibitions to see as much as they could and save their pennies for a special ride or two.

                For hours, they viewed the art and beautiful pieces of grand china, glass, and glamorous textiles from all over the world. They walked through many pavilions displaying the latest innovations in machinery and invention, which were expected to usher in a new century of prosperity.           One of the most memorable was the hulking Edison tower of lights which was choreographed in time to the Blue Danube waltz.

                Touring “Little Europe” to sample the architecture, music, food and drink from abroad, Maggie felt a comforting warmth she hadn’t experienced since she left the Emerald Isle.

                “Try this beer,” she boasted, “Me dad said there’s nothing in the world like an Irish stout.”

                “Maybe, but it doesn’t top a Scotch Whiskey and a bag pipe ceòl mòr ,” he chided.

“If you don’t mind me saying, it sounds like when they killed the cow,” Maggie laughed.

And so started the playful but proud banter arguing which display was better, Ireland or Scotland. The tie-breaker was the Gallery of Beauty visit between the pretty Irish maid and the handsome Scottish lass. They finally agreed that the dainty maid would carry the day. At least they both got a taste of each other’s homeland.

The exotic Midway plaisance recreated the lands of the far east with realistic buildings, food, marketplaces, music and native dances.

“Can ya imagine the beautiful dresses that could be made out of this silky gold fabric,” Maggie wondered as she draped the cloth over her arms.

“Well, I can’t afford enough for a dress, but could ye make a scarf outta a wee bit?” Davey said as she smiled and nodded.

“Are you a seamstress?” a young girl standing next to her in the market asked in a harried voice.

“Well, me ma is a dress maker and taught me everything she knew,” Maggie boasted.

“Maybe you can help us.” She grabbed Maggie’s hand and whisked her to a nearby tent. There she saw a gaggle of young half-dressed Egyptian girls in revealing harem clothing.

“Fatima ripped her pantaloons in the last performance and we can’t fix them,” the girl said handing Maggie the garment, needle and thread.

The sheer fabric was tricky to work with and mending the break in the middle of the pant would take a skilled hand. Maggie learned to sew lace at her mother’s feet, so her needlework was second to none, In just a few minutes, she restored the tear perfectly.

The girls thankfully ushered Davey and Maggie into the tent to watch Little Egypt’s show in gratitude.

Most of the gossip about the fair surrounded the risqué costumes and “impure” indigenous dances by bellydancer Little Egypt. Her “hoochee coochee” dance was the hit of fair and equally scorned by the “church ladies” of the city.

Maggie was entranced at the astonishing way she could twist and move her body. But when she saw the enormous smile on Davey’s face, she said grabbed his hand to lead him out of the tent.

“Wait,” said a man standing next to the girls.  “Do you need a job? We could use a good seamstress.” He handed a confused Maggie a card and told her to come back tomorrow if she was interested. Maggie smiled and put the card in her purse, waving goodbye to the girls.

As dusk peaked, they cued for the soaring Ferris Wheel, a new engineering phenomenon. Rushing in with crowds of others, they garnered a perfect view through the metal webbed windows in the steel framed cab car to see the sun set on the unique White City and a day they would not soon forget.

(c) 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

Note: This is a short story adaptation of a small part of a new historical romance book Irish Eyes, which is book 2 to the Timeless American Romance series of books to be released in Spring 2022. Sign up for my email list on the home page to get updates and sneak peeks on this and more books.