Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Dinner with the Durrs

I recently read an interesting article about memorable Thanksgiving dinners. I got to thinking about the decades’ worth of Thanksgiving dinners I’ve eaten. Nothing really stands out because it was always the same fare—turkey and a thousand side dishes, as well as assorted cakes and pies.

Now best friend and sister Donna and I had a system when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. My family always ate early. Her family always ate late. So round one would be at my house and round two would be at hers. In early years of our friendship, Donna and I never wanted to be bothered with her younger brother and sisters. We’d go off in the living room and talk until time to eat. Later as time went on and everybody got older, it was fun hanging out with them and munching on chips and dip until the food was ready.

By seven o’clock (yep, seven) dinner was served. We’d all cram into the kitchen, hold hands and pray, then pile our plates high. It was the usual—turkey, potato salad, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls. Donna’s mother is the best cook. I patterned my own dressing and potato salad after hers. It took years, but I finally got there! A couple of years ago, as Donna ate from my table, she raved about my dressing. The Durr stamp of approval! We both want our cooking to taste like Mom’s!

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What I always liked about eating at Donna’s house was that I felt welcome and comfortable. Her parents never made me feel like I was an outsider, or that there was an unspoken boundary I wasn’t supposed to cross. I was expected over there, and it was always grab a plate! Once I remember taking a detour before I went over Donna’s. Pops, as I affectionately called her father, was quite taken aback. “You’re supposed to eat here,” he chided.

The first 3 or 4 years I was married, my husband and I would eat at Dad’s, then go to his mother’s house. I was wistful at first about not spending time with the Durrs on Thanksgiving.  At the Durr house, there is laughter, silliness, and a bond that goes back years and years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being with the in-laws—but it’s just very different. My husband likes the Durrs and they all like him. Lately I’ve just been meeting my husband at his mother’s house after I’ve spent sufficient heart time with the Durrs—my other family. The only thing that drives me nuts is there’s no football on the Durr television. When I can, I steal the remote.

Hmm, I can’t really think of any one memorable Thanksgiving at the Durrs. Same folks, same food. But it’s not about the food; it’s the people you eat the food with. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope it’s a fulfilling day.

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The Coolest Thing I Ever Wrote

alphabetI have been writing since second grade. Back in school, my mouth would water when the teacher would announce any kind of creative writing assignment.  I loved to write stories. The very first story I wrote was about some people being trapped in a salt mine. It was the coolest thing I ever wrote! My father was so proud he took the story to work. I’m sure his co-workers gave him the evil eye.

In fifth grade, my best friend Linda and I created a group of characters. They were kids like us. From the ages of 10 until 17, I wrote about those kids. My first story was 3 notebook pages, front and back handwritten. The last story I wrote was 150 notebook pages, front and back handwritten. I have just about every one of these stories, neatly tucked away in a box in the back of a closet at my father’s house. The very early stories are cringe-inducing, but some of the latter ones are actually pretty cool. I especially like “The Mystery at Lake Karu,” about how Stevie and Della’s family went to the lake to spend the summer. They came across an old Indian relic that brought bad luck to whomever had it in their possession. It had a lot of cool subplots too. It was the coolest thing I ever wrote!

I would never throw away anything I wrote, no matter how major or minor. I have the aforementioned stories, as well as writing assignments, old college term papers and even letters of complaint to companies. I’ve complained about uncaring doctors to crappy service to salesmen who blew me off at a car dealership. Boy, did that get a response! I could have bought a car for $1.50. That was the coolest complaint letter I ever wrote.  And on the flip side, I’ve written letters of praise and commendation. In my college days I even kept a folder of “Letters Written to Men.” I figured you never know when some of that stuff could be “repurposed.”

I stopped writing stories after college.  I actually got lazy about writing while in college. I remember taking a story Itypewriter wrote in high school, retyping it and turning it in to my college instructor. In high school, I got an A on that story. I was somewhat insulted that I got a college B on that same story.

I began to hate writing description. So laborious. He swaggered into the smoked-filled room, his well-tailored purple Versace suit hugging every ripped muscle. Meanwhile, she was watching from afar, her perfectly polished nails fingering the half-empty champagne flute. It was a shame the index fingernail was chipped. The moon peered down from the skylight, casting an eerie glow against the cigarette smoke. Who cares!? I don’t want to write all that. Can we cut to the chase here?

(He enters.)

HE: I knew you’d be here.

SHE: You think you know it all, don’t you? You only know in part.

HE: Tell me the part I don’t know.

SHE: You’d just forget, as always. You are proving you cannot be trusted.

HE: I’m sorry. I want to make it up to you. And The Society. Would you like another drink? Um, did you know that nail is chipped…

SHE: That is what I mean! Always dwelling on the insignificant! Charlatan and the rest of The Society…

(Shots ring out. He dives under the table. She grabs her gun and runs to the window.)

That’s another thing I love about writing. You never know what’s going to happen and how you can use it. When I wrote that silly descriptive bit, I just threw in the chipped nail. I didn’t set out to use it in dialogue; it just found its way in. Writing is so cool!

I’ve written scripts, ad copy, news stories, and magazine articles. I wrote some poems. (They normally were inspired by a break-up.)

That woman

She used to hold you so tight.

She would look into your eyes and smile.

She said she could kiss you forever.

But you said no.

I thought that was the coolest poem I ever wrote. I submitted it to a leading women’s mag. They promptly rejected it. I sent a letter of complaint.

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Yes folks, you never know where your words will take you. Sometimes you just have to follow their lead. This started off as me writing about what I love about writing, which morphed into stuff I wrote that I really liked, which got me thinking about stuff I hadn’t thought of in years. And I must admit that out of all the things I’ve written, I haven’t profited. I’ve made very little money and gained no acclaim. I admit that I haven’t always been focused on my writing. Perhaps I’ve taken it for granted, like it will always be here. But I want to encourage you fellow writers, whether you’re very successful at a writing career where you get paid handsomely, bill thousands and people know your name, or just write really great stuff and the back of the closet loves your work, embrace your gift and don’t lose it. Writing is power. We get results. We move people emotionally. We create worlds. Writing is the closest thing to being in control that you can get. Yet, somehow you aren’t totally in control. Your words are.

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Crossing the Finish Line

Never underestimate the power of a short-term goal.

Short-term goals give us something to shoot for in a nice attainable timeframe. I recently just achieved a short-term goal of participating in a 5k race. I’ve been working out for years and became extremely bored with my workout. So the Lord put it on me to do a 5K. Me? A 5K? I don’t even like running to catch my train. But I was intrigued, so I registered for an upcoming race.

That brought all new perspective to my workout. I was no longer bored. Now I was Officially In Training. I bought new running shoes. I never was a big treadmill person; elliptical was my usual cardio machine of choice. But now I was on the treadmill, working my way up to 3.2 miles. I started with 8 weeks to go. Working my way up to the 3.2 miles was uncomfortable. My legs felt heavy and my feet would get numb right about the 2- mile mark. Plus I was really sweating my hair out. It would be totally drenched! I decided I couldn’t worry about hair. Hair in place would not get me through my race.

My original plan was to power walk and finish the race in 45 minutes. But as I trained, I realized that if I want to finish in a “respectable” time frame and not bring up the rear in this thing, I’m gonna have to do some running. And what I discovered is that I actually CAN run! Wow! How cool is that? I started running/jogging and walking, and on the treadmill I clocked 40 minutes at 3.2 miles. I was quite proud of myself. I’ve never done 2 and 3 consecutive miles at any point in my cardio life. It was so gratifying to realize that I am in excellent shape and my years of working out are paying off. Now I know to some folks 3.2 miles is nothing, but for someone who’s never done it before, it’s a big deal.

Then I went to a very large trail not too far from where I live. It’s a 3.6-mile trail. At the 3.2 mark I looked at my stopwatch and got my heart broke. 46 minutes!? What? How could that be? I figured I’d finish faster outside because I wasn’t balancing on the treadmill. That’s when I learned that outside is slower than on the treadmill. Seriously? That’s bogus, as the kids say.

I did the trail once more before the race and did even worse.  I was nervous during the week of the race. The race info read that people are expected to be able to do a 15-minute mile pace, and those who fall way behind would be picked up and driven to where the faster participants were. I did not want to be one of those climbing out of the clown car.

Race Day dawned bright, sunny, and a cool 55 degrees. Perfect! I didn’t want to be hot out on the course. I was told that races are exciting because of the camaraderie with the people, and I would be faster on Race Day because of the adrenaline that comes with it. There was lots of activity going on, including banter from a couple of local TV personalities. There were other races happening that day too—a half marathon, a 15-mile bike race, and a 10k. The 5k was the last to line up. That was cool in and of itself; lining up at the start line with the others, everybody in their race shirts and official bibs that actually kept time.

The race course was through scenic South Holland, where the suburban residents were along the route cheering and offering cups of water and Gatorade. I started off running, then I’d drop down to power walking, then running again. Run, power walk/recover. Run, power walk/recover. By mile 2, I had started hating my life. Why did I get in this? I trudged on, my iPod blasting in my ears to take my mind off it. I can’t stop; I have to keep going. Now in the gym, I could have stopped. But not here, not now. Must complete, will complete.

I noticed that my feet felt fine; they didn’t feel numb! My legs didn’t feel like lead! I guess all my training and conditioning had paid off because now when it counts, I had pushed past all that. The finish line was in sight! I crossed it at 39:56!

How cool! What a triumphant feeling! To do something I’ve never done before! I ran a 5k race! I finished!

I hope this will be an encouragement to you. Maybe you too have become bored with the same ol’ same ol’. Do something different. You never know what you have inside you until you step out. Find a short-term, reachable goal and stick with it. Maybe it’s getting through one afternoon without eating sweets. Maybe it’s adding an extra 10 minutes to your cardio routine. Whatever your goal may be, stick with it and you’ll be crossing that finish line too!

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