It turned out to be a gift to myself

Photo curtesy of author

I knew I loved Sam and texting naked pics was not my style.

I was a feminist. And cautious.

As a woman who did outreach for street level prostitutes in Toledo, I saw firsthand the dangers of objectifying women and the ugliness of being a sought-after commodity.

I moved in with Sam embarrassingly fast. While I had many boyfriends in the past, no one ever called me easy. I was recovering from a five-year stint of personal hell from a trauma I don’t care to disclose. Yet, I chose to believe he and I had a bright future.

My staunch-Catholic…


It’s become a tradition

The author ignoring Hemingway’s staring problem. Photo courtesy of author.

For years, Lake Michigan beaches, nearby ski resorts, and majestic sunsets have drawn my husband, Sam, and I to Northwest Michigan. The quaint shops, fabulous restaurants, and scenic drives add to the allure, but nothing gave me a bigger thrill than fingering Ernest Hemingway’s hole.

I found it by accident

Sam and I wandered into City Park Grill in Petoskey for a late afternoon lunch and a couple of cocktails. We sat at the empty bar. It was late-Autumn, after the colorful leaves had already fallen — a lull in tourism until the snow falls.

The middle-aged bartender made our drinks as I admired the…


PERSONAL ESSAY/INSPIRATION

He gave me something far more precious

Photo by Dimi Katsavaris on Unsplash

We both needed some mending

I met Tommy in Ann Arbor at a place where broken people went to get fixed.

I had a few dents and scratches that were easily buffed and smoothed out.

Tommy needed his engine changed.

We got to know each other between treatments. There wasn’t an attraction between us, instead it was an instant friendship. I knew I’d stumbled across one of my people, a long-lost member of my tribe.

He felt it, too. Our paths crossed for a reason. This wasn’t random.

He was wickedly witty and intelligent.

He was also an alcoholic.

And he was homeless.

Tommy worked…


I think I set a world record

Photo by Anuja Mary Tilj on Unsplash

The invitation

My uncle called me a few weeks before Christmas on a Wednesday night.

“My church is having some inspirational speakers and music tonight. It’s the Catholic equivalent of a revival.” He chuckled. “Afterward, there’s going to be several priests hearing confessions. Wanna go?”

I made a face. “Sure.” I didn’t have anything else to do. His church was a couple towns over from mine.

I was in the midst of what I call “My Dark Years”. Five solid years of trauma, grief, fear, and depression. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was not treating myself very well. …


How confession was key to my mental health

St. Joseph’s Shrine’s stations of the cross in Brooklyn, Michigan. Photo curtesy of author.

It wasn’t the first time I had come to talk to this priest. We’d met privately a couple times before. I was going on my fifth consecutive year of pain, fear, and misery. There was no end in sight.

I clung to my torso with my arms crossed as if giving myself a much-needed hug. My ribs stuck out. I was malnourished — both nutritionally and spiritually.

Depression had a way of dulling hunger pains and twisting my stomach into a knot of hopelessness and grief. I wasn’t suicidal, but if something “happened” to me, I wouldn’t have cared. Maybe…


Fiction Friday

Photo by Felipe Salgado on Unsplash

I was tired.

I grew up in foster homes and have been chasing love, or the idea of love my whole life. The kind of love that is life changing. The type of love that inspires people to die for one another.

Yeah. That never happened for me. Probably because I am not what anyone considers pretty. I have a broad face with grey eyes and thin lips. My ears stick out — not like Mr. Potato Head, but bad enough. I’m not exactly ugly, just the type that blends in with the crowd. Unnoticeable. Completely forgettable.

Throughout high school…


Photo via Facebook.

St. Robert, Missouri is home to an out of this world pitstop located on historic Route 66, just off I-44 called Uranus. It looks like a little town of its own, but Uranus is not a real municipality. Louie Keen is the mastermind behind Uranus and the self-proclaimed mayor. He grew up with parents who were livestock dealers. The family travelled all over the country and Louie loved it when they stopped at roadside attractions. Now an adult with a childish sense of humor, he created his own.

It started with the Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store. Their motto…


Advice from a rockhound

Photo courtesy of author.

The beloved Petoskey stone. Nothing gets old about this 350-million-year-old fossil.

From Spring to Fall, millions of people come from all over the world to comb the shores of Northern Michigan in hopes of finding a Petoskey Stone. Memories are made during the hunt. Blue, cool, water licking ankles, toes touching sand, a breeze in your face … and then you see it … a rock looking back at you. Children and adults squeal with delight. There are high-fives all around.

But then, you get it home, intending to display your prized find and blink twice. Now it’s dry. What…


Fiction Friday

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

The invite came in the mail and I recoiled. Our 30th Class Reunion … dear God, why would I want to go to that?

Carl, my husband, grabbed my hand as I swore and threw it in the trash. “Whoa! This could be fun!”

Carl didn’t know I have avoided these stupid gatherings my whole adult life. Our little town … our small class of eighty … no way!

I would have to face Chrissy, the girl I’ve always had to compete with … the girl who always won.

Chrissy’s mother was gorgeous, of course. She’s the one who seduced…


Inspiring others to protect wildlife

Just a few of Don and Nancy’s purple martin nesting boxes. Image courtesy of author.

In the little town of Manchester, Michigan resides a couple with huge hearts. They share their beautiful yard with a bunch of bats, birds, and bees. Their labor of love is not only good for the environment, but delights and inspires other to do the same, if only on a smaller scale.

This year, Don Hieber, Manchester’s local bird aficionado, put out 126 nesting boxes for purple martins. He is believed to have the largest colony of purple martins in lower Michigan. Since purple martins are dependent on humans to provide nesting sites, his efforts are crucial to their population.

Tracy Stengel

Writer and freelance fiction editor. Find me curled up w/ a blanket of metaphors or at www.tracystengel.com. You can buy me ☕️ at https://ko-fi.com/tracystengel

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