Monday, September 5, 2016

I have finally set up a site for promoting my current project, "In the Trenches".  The site will serve to, not only promote my book, but to also seek out assistance and guidance during the process of getting it published.  I've been writing for as long as I can remember and have found some success in getting published online, but this is new territory for me.  I hope anyone who is interested enough in my writing to visit "Paint in in Words" will also visit "In the Trenches".  I will need a lot of guidance to achieve this dream, but even more so, I will need support.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day

     For so many, Mother’s Day is just another small holiday to celebrate with cards and gifts, but most women would prefer a few moments of undivided time with their children than any gift money could buy.  I often work on Saturdays, so last year while seeing patients the Saturday before Mother’s Day, I arrived at the home of an elderly lady I had been seeing for months.  I usually saved her visit for the end of the day so I could stay a while and visit after finishing her therapy.  I knocked then let myself in as I always did since she was unable to get from the hospital bed in her living room to the front door.  Two large arrangements decorated the dining table, a stark contrast against the dark paneled walls in the dimly lit room. The flowers were from her children—an arrangement from each of them.  My patient wasn’t feeling well, so we did only a few exercises before I sat on the floor beside her bed and leaned against the heavy, leather chair that was, as usual, occupied by a scrappy, mixed breed dog of some sort.  We spoke of the usual things at first—the weather and her favorite TV show, Bonanza.  Then, I asked if she would tell me about her mother and share some childhood memories with me.  She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, there was a spark of life I’d not seen there before.  She told me about her “mammy”, who smelled like Chanel No. 5 and oil paints on damp canvas boards.  I heard about her parents’ love story and a privileged childhood in a large family—one who gathered around the table for meals and spent summer vacations traveling to places I’ve only read about in books.  Then, she told of another love story—one that made her pause often and stare past me as she visited memories too tender to share.  A happy couple posed from behind a dusty glass frame on the wall beside the hospital bed.  The black and white photo could not conceal the sparkle in the young lady’s eyes.  The same eyes continued to stare past me now as the room fell silent.  I took her small hand with both of mine and squeezed. 

     “Thank you,” she whispered, “for this gift—for listening.  It’s been so long since I’ve gotten one so nice.”

     “But look at those beautiful arrangements.”  I pointed to the table in the next room, but she just shook her head.

     “Beautiful, yes, but no different than every other arrangement I’ve ever gotten.  And a stranger delivered them from the flower shop.  I’d rather one of my children show up empty handed than a stranger with a dozen roses.” 
     “Yes,” I agreed, “and I would give a year of my life for just one hour of sitting with my mother or grandmothers like this again.” 

     “I know you would,” she replied.  “Tell me what you miss the most.  Let’s give them the gift of remembering today.”                           

     I miss so many things about my mother, but it’s the small things-those often taken for granted until they are gone-that I miss the most.  The sound of her voice saying my name. Hearing my own voice saying, “Mama”.   She had a sweet voice that was a snapshot of her essence, and she always held back in a crowd yet drew people in.  Mama loved to laugh and surrounded herself with friends who brought out her playful side.  She didn’t keep a large circle of friends but, instead, pulled those she called “friend” close and nurtured her relationships with them.  I would love to have known what it felt like to be pulled into her tight circle—that place where I could see past “mama” to “Marcia”, but she was gone before I reached the age when this was likely to happen.  I missed something amazing, and I know this is true because all who called her “friend” still call her “best friend” to this day, even though their time without her has now surpassed the amount of time they had with her.

     As a child, it was like magic to watch Mama transform from “mother” to “daughter” when we reached that small white house in the woods, surrounded by hydrangeas and cedar trees.  She was Mama in the car, cigarette hanging loosely from her fingers as she sang softly along with the radio.  When we’d reach Stuttgart, her home town and that magical place in Arkansas that was, to us, summer vacations and holidays but to her still “home”, Mama would sit up a little straighter and begin pointing out landmarks to her childhood memories.  We already knew most of them since we heard the stories any time she could talk Daddy into making a loop through town.  Still, Vicki, Lori, and I would cross our fingers in the back seat, hoping Daddy would turn left instead of following the railroad tracks out of town and to the rocky back road to Mamaw and Papaw’s house.  I remember what it felt like to turn onto that gravel road—a right turn then immediately over the tracks.  Music from the car radio was drowned out by the popping and dragging of rocks underneath the car until we made the right turn for the home stretch.  The rocks turned to dust and hung in a thick, brown cloud behind the car.  When we finally turned into the driveway, Mama’s excitement from the front seat was tangible, contagious.  “Mama” became “daughter” as our grandparents took her again into the fold.  For the next few days, she was different.  Her childlike voice became even sweeter when she talked with her daddy, and her timid nature was replaced with the confidence of a woman secure in her position as “only daughter” to doting parents and “beloved sister” to her three brothers.  
     I used to watch Mama with my grandmother, Vera, and wonder, again, if the friendship between them happened to every mother and daughter at a certain age.  They laughed at the same things and each knew what the other needed before she had a chance to voice it.  They were playful together and even more playful when my aunts were also with them—calling each other by nicknames and turning a simple dinner preparation into a party that ebbed and flowed with the cadence of each new song drifting from the small brown clock radio on the kitchen table.  The best way to describe my grandmother would be to take everything that Mama was and turn it inside out.  Vera was vivacious and forever young as her body moved to the beat of a song and her mind drifted often to dreams just on the outer borders of her reality.  She spoke what was on her mind and carried herself with confidence.  She was tanned legs that ended in bare feet and painted toe nails.  She was always put together and kept her home the same way.  On the surface, she was smoothed out and tucked in, but beneath, she was a free spirit and often unpredictable.  In many ways, I related to her more than I did Mama or anyone else, except for one special lady who I also called Mamaw—my daddy’s mother. 

     My grandmother, Vira, was a blueprint for what I would one day become.  I’m not an exact replica of her because she was certainly an original.  The similarities were there, however, in the fine corners and slopes of the early framework.  Then, as maturity put its finishing touches on me, I could look at Mamaw Vira and see myself.  This wasn’t a physical resemblance but a spiritual one that allowed us to both perceive the world and express ourselves in the same way.  Vira didn’t just live life.  She experienced it, receiving each day as a new adventure, a venue to play in, or a new story to write. Thoughts flowed through her pen onto the page, arranging themselves into stanzas, lyrical snapshots of her past and descriptive illustrations of her future dreams.  She had a huge presence about her, and, though she loved being with people, she wasn’t afraid to be alone. Playing had nothing to do with age because age was of no concern to her. One of the greatest gifts I have given my children is permission to play at any age.  I was given the same gift by Daddy, who received it from my grandmother, as did all of his siblings.  Vira found ways to enjoy all of life’s little moments and knew how to bask in the afterglow of them, filling the pages of her notebooks and the hearts of all who would relive the moments through her words.  

     It was getting dark by the time I told my sweet patient goodbye and started my drive home.  I’d always enjoyed the long drive home for the time it gave me to think about the day.  I thought about each blessing I was able to give and all that I’d gotten in return.  I pondered the things that didn’t quite work for my patients and how I could improve on them next time.  On this day, however, I thought only about my last patient and wondered what Mother’s Day would look like for her this year.  Would she be alone with her memories?  No, I decided.  She could never be alone with them, any more than I could have been alone on that drive home.  Once again, I’d gone into a home to serve and left with as much as I’d given.  She’d invited me to share memories, to give my mother and grandmothers the gift of remembering, but she’d known all along that I would be the one receiving that gift.  It would be the last evening I’d sit on the floor beside that hospital bed, scrappy dog breathing down my neck, telling stories and listening.  My friend no longer needs me to listen—she is with those who put that sparkle in her eyes.  My gift to her this year is remembering, and once again, I will get as much from it as I give.  

Monday, March 21, 2016


    It was evening on a day when everything just felt right. I was in the back of a parked truck in our driveway with my two sisters, Vicki and Lori. Like most times when we played with Lori, Vicki and I were more than willing to go along with the games she made up for us.  This time, we were playing “One Tin Soldier”. We spent an hour memorizing the song then sang it together over and over while acting out the lyrics. Lori was the leader, and I was eager to please her. It was easy, however, to get distracted with Vicki constantly pecking me on the arm to get my attention—always to show me the current color of her new mood ring. Okay, I pecked her couple of times too. The rings were so amazing, and mine had stayed a brilliant blue the entire day. Blue meant that I was happy. Still, I felt a bit cheated when it didn’t change colors often the way theirs did. At least mine was stuck on blue and not black, the color that revealed anger or fear. We must have acted out “One Tin Soldier” twenty times before Mama called us in to eat dinner. It was hard to go inside with the strong, warm breeze just now blowing in, adding to the drama of our little plays. We were having pizza for dinner, though, and pizza was as good a reason as any to stop playing and go inside. Vicki and Lori tumbled from the side of the truck bed and started racing each other just as I stepped over the tailgate, pausing long enough to take a quick glance at my ring. A light green color hung onto the edges of the blue, and I had to reign in my joy for fear of chasing the new color away.
    Mama was just taking the second pizza from the oven when I made it inside.  My grandmother, her Mama, was bustling around the house like she always did. I raced Vicki to the bathroom to wash up for dinner while Lori lingered in the kitchen to sneak a pepperoni from one of the pizzas. Just as I pulled the towel from the rack to dry my hands, I heard her scream.


Then, Mama’s usually-calm voice, now laced with fear, cried,

    “Mama, come here—quick!”

Vicki and I ran from the bathroom to see what was happening just as our grandmother made it to the patio door and screamed.

    “Mama!  Where are you?”  My great-grandmother was the oldest of us all—four generations of women with no men to protect us from the monster outside our patio door.  Daddy was away, working on the pipeline in Alaska.  Had I made it to the window, I would have broken the chain.  I would have called out, “Daddy!”

    My grandmother pulled us all into a tight huddle in the middle of the dining room, like football players planning our next move.  I tried to hear what the adults were saying but could hear nothing over the loud roaring in my ears. It was a deep sound that I could feel as well as hear. It grew louder in direct proportion to my fear until I could feel nothing else. Just when I thought we would stand clinging to one another until we were killed by something I didn’t even have a name for yet, my grandmother began tipping over chairs in the living room and pushing us beneath them, as if mere pieces of furniture could save us. My great-grandmother stood, pressed into a corner across the room, unable to get to the floor.  I was trying to make eye contact with her when the air was suddenly sucked from the room and everything went black.  I feared it would be the last time I would ever see her alive.  Now, in total darkness, I tried to picture what the approaching monster must look like, but the image of Mama’s terrified face was all I could imagine.  The roaring in my ears was now a living, breathing thing, passing over us.  Still, I could hear my grandmother pray and Lori, whose only knowledge of tornadoes came from years of watching “The Wizard of Oz”, cry out,

    “Mama, is our house in the air?”

    The roaring finally stopped and was replaced with an eerie silence. I thought for a moment that we must be the only people on earth still alive—until the neighbors were screaming and pounding on our front door, jammed from the strong suction of the tornado as it passed. Someone eventually kicked the door in, and Mama ran to our linen closet to grab sheets and blankets for the cold, bleeding neighbors. My sisters and I were moved into Lori’s room where we sat huddled together until the cries from the living room stopped and everything went silent again. I should have been comforted by the fact that it was over, but all I felt was confusion from the knowledge that there were things in the world larger than the safety of our home—things that could bring terror into the faces of those who were not supposed to be afraid. Our uncle, who had shown up to make sure we were okay, entered the room.  A thin ray from his flashlight brushed past us then returned and rested.  Tightly clasped hands were still in prayer on my lap, and my mood ring displayed its new color proudly. My eyes snapped shut. I didn’t want to see the color for fear that my desire for it had caused the storm. Still, the image of what my eyes were too quick to miss burned behind closed lids. The brilliant blue was gone, replaced with the boldest black I’d ever seen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Whitesboro Writing Group accepted/compiled Halloween related stories from various authors and published them in an ebook, which released on Amazon 10/28. I have two stories in the book--"The Last Thorn" and "Dare" are the titles. I can't post a direct link to the stories due to contract rights, but here is a link to the book. I know it isn't "my" book and doesn't have my name on the front cover, but it's one step closer to the goal of having my own book completed and published. Exciting :) 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bunbury Magazine/The Last Petal

First Suspense Story Published
This is an extension of "Green Haze"

     The sable horizon reluctantly releases the magnificent harvest moon, and a mantle of darkness falls from a lone car as it creeps along an isolated road.  Shadows slip from the two silhouettes inside to reveal sun-kissed skin over young, beautiful bodies.  A subtle glow from the dash covers everything in green velvet.    
      The girl, high on Halloween candy and left over adrenaline, anticipates the rush of air, heavy with cotton and warm dirt, as she leans toward the open window.  The boy settles deeper into his seat and lowers the wheel, tapping out a rhythm as he watches her arm ride the night air.  She sings her own lyrics to the song, cutting her eyes over to see if he approves. The boy laughs at her through a haze of green darkness, warm air, and music. 

The rest of the world sleeps.
      “Where are we going?” she mutters, barely audible above the music.
He only looks at her and laughs, a low, growling sound that blends with the grinding bass melody of the song. She closes her eyes, seemingly unaware that she’s received no answer. 

So trusting. 

He clenches the steering wheel tighter and glances over at the girl. He has allowed himself to get too close to this one.  Her blond hair, stiff with hairspray and already tangled, whips back and forth in the wind.  As the car slows to a near stop, the hair settles across her face, leaving only her lips exposed.  With one eye on the dark road ahead, the boy leans over until he can feel warm air escape the small opening of her lips.  It smells sweet, yet stale, like the last petal that clings to a rose. So vulnerable.  He feels himself stir with excitement then retreats.  His usual anticipation is cloaked in dread, and his mind scrambles to make sense of the deception.    

She is no different than the others.  

      He pulls into a nearly invisible gap in the trees just moments after the landscape changes from open cotton fields to thick woods.  The girl sits up suddenly, a bit confused yet excited for a new adventure.

      “What are we doing here?”  She pulls her hair back and secures it with a band from her wrist.  “Eww, is it another haunted house?  I don’t know—that last one was too real.”

      “Be patient,” the boy replies, reaching over and pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear.  They pass an opening in the thick cover of trees, and his heart quickens at the sight of a small mound of loose dirt in the otherwise flat ground of the enclosure.  New grass has begun to cover it, but he still catches a glimpse of faded red petals beneath the new sprigs.  He glances down at a single rose on the seat between them, and a fresh wave of courage and excitement wells up.  He leans in to whisper, “I promise you will love this.”  Soft, tender petals brush the tips of his fingers just as a single thorn pierces the palm of his hand.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Regret--Published at Estuary Magazine


    It was only a small gap in the trees that separated us from the open field on the other side.  A halo of light hung inches above the top of the tree line, undulating to the irregular beat of music blasting from every direction and ricocheting before finally clashing somewhere in the middle.  Warm, sweet air brushed past me, propelled by something just behind the trees.  The soft earth surrendered underneath my feet and wrapped around my new shoes, the hay put out to control it already trampled and buried beneath the thick sludge.  As we neared the entrance,  I thought about the regret I’d felt the last time I passed through the opening in the trees, headed back to the car with an oversized pink elephant stuffed under my arm and a cheap KISS mirror in my back pocket.  Neither one was able to serve as a ransom for the one thing I didn’t have-the satisfaction of knowing I'd conquered my fear.
I won’t chicken out this year.
   I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I stepped through the gap in the trees-teetering between excitement and fear. 
   “Watch where you’re stepping,” Mama’s voice shot past me a moment too late as I tripped over one of the many black cables spread out on the ground, running from large trucks where generators roared, drowning out the music and screams as we passed. I scanned the crowd through gaps in the lines and between rides as they spun and jerked around me, but I couldn’t find what I was searching for.  Tired workers beckoned to the crowd with promises of cheap toys and even cheaper compliments.  Teenagers walked arm in arm with new love, pretending their parents weren’t keeping a close eye on them from the other side of the crowd.  Mobile food booths plastered with bright, weathered signs advertising funnel cakes and corn dogs ran through the middle of the rides and games.  Lines ran from each of them like spokes on a wheel.  I reached up and pulled on Daddy’s shirt.
   “Daddy, can I ride on your shoulders?”
   “No, Sherri, why can’t you just walk with your sisters?” he replied. 
I only stared at him, knowing that was all it would take for him to cave.  In one swift movement, he grabbed me from behind and raised me above his head, settling me onto his shoulders.  Almost instinctively, I hooked my feet behind his back and grabbed the top of his head to steady myself.  That’s when I saw it-right past the rainbow colored tent covering rows of fish bowls. Bonnie, a girl from my class, saw me and held up an arm.  Dangling from her clinched fist was a plastic bag full of water.  Inside, an unfortunate gold fish slammed against the sides of the bag as she waved.  I waved back as I looked over her head-just in time to see the circle of brightly colored horses, each suspended from its own golden pole, come to a stop.
   My arms relaxed and, while my hands began to move to Daddy’s shoulders, my feet slid apart to hang loosely at his sides.  Sensing my shift in position, Daddy reached underneath my arms and once again raised me above his head-this time to plant my feet on the ground.  Fear enticed me to stay, but regret begged me to go.  My nails cut into the palms of my hands as I clenched my fists tightly and ran-leaving both fear and regret behind.  I could feel Daddy chasing after me but couldn’t hear him calling.  I heard nothing but my own voice repeating the same three words over and over to the rhythm of the haunting pipe organ music as I ran toward it. 
It is time.
It is time.

It is time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Triptych Published

My first triptych,Green Haze, was published at Matterpress.

Green Haze

by Sherri Ellerman

Microsoft Word - Document5

Sherri Ellerman is an Occupational Therapist who spends her free time writing. She has had flash fiction stories published in River and South Review, Estuary, and 50-Word Story. Her article, “Five Steps to Consider in Romance Fiction”, was published at “Write Well, Write to Sell”, and her essay and podcast titled, “One”, was featured at “This I Believe”. She is the flash fiction editor for Liquid Imagination, a literary magazine.