Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Angels, Analogies, and Anthologies

I’ve known Robyn Campbell for several years. We first met each other through blogging and then she joined my online writing support group. Over the years, I’ve learned about her son who has Sturge-Weber syndrome. He’s constantly dealing with scary symptoms, tests, more tests. And she’s constantly dealing with making decisions between something with bad side effects and something else with bad side effects, or worse. As a parent, we want to fix our children. 

What do you do when there is no fix?

Recently, Robyn decided to put together an anthology to raise $ for the foundation Sturge-Weber Foundation that provides hope for the families of children who suffer from this disease. I wanted to be a part of it. 

To find out more, read Robyn’s post HERE.

As everyone wrote and revised and shared what they wrote, I started a stressful teaching job. I felt like I wasn’t helping as much with the anthology as I could have. Even with my busy schedule, I critiqued and was impressed by quite a few authors’ pieces. The energy from everyone amazed me.

Finally the time arrived for the cover reveal.

At the same time, I began dealing with someone who had a personal crisis. I thought of Robyn and her son many times over these weeks. I, too, often felt powerless to help and felt like I had no idea if any decision I made was actually the right decision. So much of my energy was turned inward.

I missed the cover reveal.

Slowly, the personal crisis seems to be ending. So here I am.

I want to get the word out that there's a wonderful anthology for children at a reasonable price in both  Paperback and Kindle. 
There’s some nice artwork in there too. As you think about supporting charities as the year ends, please buy this anthology and/or DONATE.

The Kissed by an Angel anthology includes 10 stories and one poem featuring children who are gifted or have special powers. Some are ordinary people, others are extraordinary, and several aren’t what they seem to be. Read on and be enchanted. Wander with us onto a magical island ship, uncover an amazing secret, and solve a very fishy mystery. Discover a World War II codebreaker, captivating garden, time machine, undercover agents, bug master, plus more. And meet a special boy who was kissed by an angel. This anthology benefits the Sturge-Weber Foundation. Children who have Sturge-Weber are born with a port wine birthmark, which varies in color and size, and stays with them their whole lives. “You were kissed by an angel” is how author Robyn Campbell explained to her son Christopher, who suffers from Sturge-Weber syndrome, about his tell-tale birthmark. He is the creative genius who helped choose some of the names of the characters, and he is our inspiration.

Pssst... my story has the magical island ship!

Amazon purchase details  HERE.

Thank you for your support. 

P.S.  For a thorough post by our editor, Lynn Kelly, click  HERE.

Sunday, November 15, 2015



Sunday gravy
On the basement stove

Family gathers
Clusters of cousins

Dining room for
Not for family

Plastic folding
Topped with market plates

No fine china
Set here
Who’s there to impress?

Aunts and uncles
While Grandma serves us 

Spaghetti’s perfect
With peas
I’m on Grandpa’s knee

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Do You Come Here Often?

Do You Come Here Often?

I’ve always hated this part.
“Lift your arm. Like this. Now rest your other arm here. Sorry, my hands are a little cold.”
The doctor presses her palms on my breast while I stare at the ceiling. I’m always worried the temperature of my hands will make my nipples stand up. Then this awkward situation will become all that more mortifying.
            Seconds go by. She concentrates on one spot, just to the right of my nipple. That’s never happened before. She checks the same area on the other breast. She returns back to the spot.
The doctor says the four words no woman ever wants to hear:
“I feel a lump here.”
My body feels like its made of little particles, and each one of them has just spread along the exam table. She keeps touching the spot as she asks questions. Did I notice it? I didn’t. When had I done an exam last? "Recently," I say. That’s all I say. I used to do them more often. I mean to do them. But I forget. What if I think it wasn’t long ago, but it was months or even years? The older I get, the more time has a way of speeding by. It’s like when I thought that wedding was two or three years ago, only to find out the couple just celebrated their five-year anniversary.
 Besides, when I push down, it’s all lumps. How do I know a lump is lumpier? In the past, when I was worried something was suspicious, I’d feel around it, and it sort of seemed the same.
The doctor measures the lump. She writes the information down. She says the number three. Three millimeters? Centimeters? Inches? I don’t want to ask. I had a baseline mammogram years ago. Could it be possible a tumor has been growing in my breast for these subsequent years, and I didn’t know it?
She makes me touch the lump. First I can’t tell. Then I realize it’s slightly bigger from everything around it. No, it’s definitely bigger. Here I am, touching my breast while the doctor watches, just minutes after my biggest concern was that I’d have erect nipples. How my perspective has changed. I came to this exam dreading the pap, worried about my cholesterol, wary of my blood pressure. For a long time, I’d forgotten to fret about my breasts.
The doctor tells me to change. She says she’ll return in a few minutes.
A few minutes is all the time I need to remember the conversation we had before the breast exam. When my long overdue check up hung in the air. And she found out that I’d been regularly having eye exams and dental check ups instead. And I’d asked if I should put off a mammogram for another several years because it was controversial for people my age. She assured me that an increased likelihood of false positives was not a reason to forgo the exam. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if yearly exposure to radiation could cause problems in the long run.
A few minutes is all I need to picture my uncertain future. I might lose my hair.  A chunk of breast. A breast. Would I get so sick that I’d have to quit my new job? I would if all the cancer metastasized all over my body. It happens to people. It can happen to me. And if it has, it’s my own stupid fault. Why did my fear land me in this situation? I knew other people who put off going to the doctor only to get bad news, and I’d shake my head. I knew people who’d died. And now here’s me.
The door opens. The doctor’s laughter tinkles and dies. Would she chuckle if she thought it was serious? Did she stop because lumps in breasts are common for her, and it’s not going to stop her from joking with her coworkers in the hallway.
She must see my expression. I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings, like blind panic.
“I think it’s a cyst,” she says.
She rattles on that I need to have a mammogram and an ultrasound. And then she wants me to return when I’m in the beginning of my cycle. Am I having the ultrasound to watch out for false positives or am I having the ultrasound because there’s a possibility it is cancer. Is she trying to calm me down or is she telling the truth? I so want to ask her. I want to confess why I’ve waited too long and explain that this isn’t the person I am. I know better and I’ve made a mistake. 
But I just nod. She doesn’t know me. After all, I hardly come here.

PSA: Check early in your cycle and check often... and visit your doctor yearly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Inbox

My Inbox

We’re past the time of
Return receipt requested
From slush pile to inbox
Right to spam.

I’ve initially been reviewed
While my submission’s been received
I should expect to hear back or
Not at all.

If they’re interested,
They’ll let me know
In other words, don’t call us,
We’ll call you.

Phone interview screenings
Lead to real in person views
Let’s play 20 Questions before
Mock lessons.

Like what we’ve read, so
We’re requesting pages
A partial, a full, a

The position’s been filled
Form rejection’s been sent,
Expiration date’s passed 
Like bad milk.

Crafted resume, cover,
Query, synopsis, pages
It’s all the same in the end
No, thank you.

I collect interview requests
Like business cards,
Third time’s the charm
Job offer.

As they like to say,
it just takes on yes 
Maybe’s an agent’s next...

One more try.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Haikus and Summer Notes

morning chill, midday
swelter, wind-swept dusk, crisp night
stars succumb to rain 

morning after road
puddles scar, a reminder
on this journey sought

white. barren. ink sketch.
bursts of lemon drop color
on lush green canvas.

sunset walk with dog
his nose never leaves the ground
I gaze at hushed sky

Summer Notes: 

My summer poems are not available on this blog because I'm entering a local poetry contest.

 Vine Leaves Literary Journal , where I'm a poetry editor, now comes in a print edition and will be published twice a year. 

I received a job offer in July, and I just started my job working as a special education teacher. I'll post when I can. 

Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, July 19, 2015



There’s all those cliché songs about time:
Time like a clock, precious
Time after time
Time keeps on ticking…

And at first it seems impossibly far
And you fear you’ll never catch up
And then you want to hold onto that time
But before long it slips away.

Then those “well meaning” busybodies
you want to throttle when they
tell you to appreciate time
because it goes too fast…

They’re just twittering
because they can’t wait
until you join them on the other side
where the sand’s settling on the

Bottom of the hourglass.
But you can laugh
Bitterly a little bit longer
Because your time isn’t up yet…

tick, tick, tick, tick….

Sunday, June 21, 2015


by Theresa Milstein

I turn from the television and glance at the clock.
I have thirty minutes.
One more show.
The TBS channel runs a steady stream of nostalgia: I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, The Brady Bunch. All before my time, though technically I watched them in reruns as a kid, so they’re a part of my childhood too. Adults look back at their favorite shows, and long for those better times. But were they really anyone’s good times?
A coffee commercial.
I need coffee.
I’ll grab some on the way.
Yesterday, I went to my English 101 class for nothing. It’s the third time we’ve been stood up. This time the professor collapsed in the parking lot. He’s got emphysema. The old man’s so addicted to cigarettes that he smokes a fake one during class. When doesn’t collapse, that is. Assistant professors get only ten minutes before we’re allowed to leave. Because he’s a full professor, we have to wait twenty minutes to see if he shows up. Thirty minutes to commute plus ten minutes to park and walk, plus twenty minutes to wait, times two equals… a big waste of time. I should quit smoking.
More commercials.
I have twelve minutes. 
What show’s up next?
I won’t get to watch it anyway. This morning I have math lecture. Not that there’s any point in sitting through it. I’ll be lost among the hundreds staring at the small man on stage. The only “help” comes from a recent Chinese immigrant who teaches my recitation. He stares inches from the board while he solves problems and whispers in a thick accent. When we ask him to slow down and speak up, he speeds up. What does he have to be nervous about? I’m the one failing math.
Five minutes.
I’ll sit through these commercials before the next show.
Then I’ll go.
Science is no better than math. On the first day, the old man on the stage told us, “I have tenure. This means I can f*ck a chicken on the stage and they can’t fire me.” I’d like to see him do that. I’d get more out of the class. On that first day, he also told us, “Look at the student to your left. Look at the student to your right. By the end of your freshman year, both of them will be gone.” I thought that seemed like a high dropout rate. But each week there are fewer of us.
I like this Bewitched episode.
Even though the “bad” cousin has brown hair like me.
Bad brunette twin on I Dream of Jeannie too.
At least the History professor’s class is accessible and interesting. Just like English, his class is in a regular room too. He sees our potential.  The first day he said, “This is 13th and 14th grade. It’s your second chance.” He always tells us we can make something of ourselves. While his pep talks are inspiring, in some ways I feel worse. When I applied, I thought the place was a prestigious alternative to a community college. Instead I’m the family black sheep at a former agricultural college. That’s irony, right?
Another commercial.
If I leave now and there’s no traffic, I can still make it.
I pull out a cigarette.
If trouble didn’t show up on Bewitched, Samantha would be bored. Why doesn’t she have a job all those episodes before she has the baby? It’s weird that all the women on these shows are stay-at-home moms. When I was a kid, most of the moms I knew stayed home. Now they’re all divorcing and working at garbage jobs, like my mother. That won’t be me. When my parents’ divorce finally goes through, my dad, sister and I will flee this hellhole. Then I can concentrate on homework without her screaming.
I don’t get why Samantha isn’t allowed to use her powers.
Jeannie isn’t either.
Who wouldn’t perform magic to make their lives better?
In real life, we can’t improve our destinies with a twitch or a blink. Life just keeps moving on and making demands, even if we’re not ready. I’m eighteen, and I already have regrets. In high school, I free time working or hanging with friends without a plan for life afterwards. Now I’m stuck. Most of those friends have gone away to college where they have new friends, new opportunities. I’ve been left behind.
I glance at the clock.
It’s too late to make it now.
One more show.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Left Behind

This vignette was included in Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #2
This photo seemed perfect for sharing it again.

Left Behind

Theresa Milstein

            Jen’s fingers trembled as she dialed the phone. If her friends could see her now, they’d call her pathetic. But she had to speak to him.
            “Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.” 
            Jen hesitated before speaking. Too long. The receiver beeped and she jumped in surprise.  She disconnected the call. Hit speed dial. 
            “Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.” 
            She spoke quickly so the machine wouldn’t cut her off. “Hello,  Michael? This is Jen. I just wanted to hear the sound of your voice again. I miss you.” She inhaled. “Can you hear me?  Where are you?”
            A beep signaled the call had disconnected. Although her heart rumbled like an engine, she couldn’t stop now. Had to say it. He had to hear it.
“Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”
“Michael, it’s me again—Jen. I know I shouldn’t keep calling. But what choice do I have? What you were thinking when you drove away? Do you even know? Did you give me a second thought as you flew out of my driveway? Your mother used to say…”
The beep signaled. She’d taken too long this time. Jen growled in frustration, stabbed the redial button.
“Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”
His voice taunted her, mocking her sorry state. This time, she didn’t bother introducing herself.  “This is all your fault. Did you think I’d lose it like this? We had plans, Michael.  Do you remember them?  You’re so selfish.  How could you do this to me?”
Jen sobbed into incoherence before the machine cut her off. It took her a few minutes to calm down enough to dial. She couldn’t leave things like this.
“Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”
Now his voice sounded like velvet—all animosity gone. Jen’s words cracked with sorrow and defeat. “Remember that day you made the picnic spread and surprised me with the ring in my fruit salad, and it was all sticky when you tried to put it on my finger? I can still hear you say, ‘This ring is a promise of forever.’ I trusted you’d keep your promise. I never needed a man to validate me. But after we fell in love, you became my present and my future. I don’t know who I am without you.”
This time, Jen cut the call. She closed her eyes, inhaled and exhaled. And redialed one last time.
“Hello. This is Michael. Please leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”
 “Michael, I placed flowers on your grave today.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Perfect State of Being

Perfect State of Being

Spirit             Mind            Body

Suspended in a State

of Wonder

A Work of ART

P             I            E            C            E


P            I            E            C            E

                                                                                                A Limb






My HEART Pumps Blood to those






Do YOU See my HEART?

Eyes are the [Doorway] to the SOUL.

Do YOU See my SOUL?

My MIND Fires








to purse 
my lips.

Do YOU long to Taste them


P            U            S            H            E            D

 Through my



Soft spheres


H            O            L            L            O            W


H            A            L            L            O            W            E            D








Beneath the Surface




Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Work for Free?

I'm on the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog 
answering the following questions:

Should we offer our work for free 
for others to profit from? 

When is it appropriate, when isn't it?

There's an interesting discussion going on there. Please join in!

Sunday, May 17, 2015



They stand
Butterflies in a net
Off cotton white
And satin black

Hair tamed
Braces on teeth
Gangly limbs
In soldier formation

We sit
Cameras in hand
Grays splayed
Skin creased

They wait
On cusp of flight
While ours crumple.
Such short splendor.

- Theresa Milstein

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Family History

Family History

The trunk of this family is lost to history
Photo fragments remain as shadows
Among anecdotal remembrances

Grandmother asphyxiated from appearances
Eldest aunt expired of embarrassment
While the youngest aunt died of denial

Uncle wallows in what could’ve been
Father perches atop it’s not my place
Above their ancestors’ termite rot

Their children and their children’s children—
Twisted branches spread far and wide—
Brethren brittle breaking, sisters snatching sky—