Friday, August 28, 2015

Funny Friday: Superhero Edition

Today’s post is August’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.
Grilled Steak and Pepper Pizza: thin crispy crust with a hint of smoky flavor, topped with fresh ingredients and dressed with toppings of your choice | Recipe developed by | #recipe #grilling #dinner #pizza

Here’s today’s picture. It was submitted by The Bergham's Life Chronicles.
Funny Friday, The Bergham's Life Chronicles |
1. I am eating this sandwich like a BOSS. Wait, make that like a Superhero.

2. Hey Mom, can you answer that Bat-Phone? I'm on my lunch break.

3. Just gotta finish my lunch, then I'll be leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Well, maybe after lunch AND a quick nap. 

4. Now wait a minute, there isn't kryptonite in this sandwich, is there?

5. This isn't chunky peanut butter is it? Everyone knows superheroes only eat smooth. 
And now for something yummy. In honor of this beautiful little superhero, I made a favorite of my kids when they were little, crunchy chicken fingers that are baked instead of fried:
Crunchy Baked Chicken Fingers | | #recipe #dinner
Crunchy Baked Chicken Fingers
Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Crunchy Baked Chicken Fingers
Printable Recipe

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
4 TBSP butter

*Slice the chicken breasts into strips.
*Mix together the sour cream, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and chili powder in a medium sized bowl.
*Add in the chicken strips and mix well to be sure the chicken is completely covered by the marinade. Cover tightly, refrigerate, and marinate for at least 4 hours but overnight is best.
*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Melt the butter.
*Pour the panko crumbs onto a dish. Individually coat each chicken finger with the crumbs. Roll them around to be sure they're completely covered. Place them into the prepared baking dish.
*Drizzle the butter over the chicken fingers. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked and has browned.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bless Me, Boys, For I Have Sinned

My kids gave me a compliment yesterday. Both of them. On the same day. I had no fever so I wasn’t delirious. And before you ask no, I wasn’t drinking either.

Clearly the only conclusion I can come to is that the world is coming to an end.

Next thing you know pigs will be airborne. But before I get smacked in the head by a flying pork chop, I’ve got a few things to confess.

Bless me, boys, for I have sinned. Fairly often, in fact.

*Remember all those times when you were little and relentlessly asked for fast food? Well, the truth is, I wasn’t really on the phone with McDonald’s and they hadn’t actually run out of chicken nuggets. Or cheeseburgers. Or french fries.

*While we’re on the subject, the playground wasn’t closed on Tuesdays. It wasn’t closed every other Wednesday either.

*There is no law that in mall food courts you have to eat all of your meal before you can order dessert. And that guy standing by the door wasn’t a policeman watching you to be sure. He was just mall security.

Orange Teriyaki Chicken | | #recipe #chicken #dinner
Orange Teriyaki Chicken

*I don’t actually have eyes in the back of my head, I spied on you. They didn’t call it stalking back then and anyway I’m your mom, I’m sure I could have talked my way out of it if you’d caught me.

*I found your missing money. Every time. It was in the wash. Every time. I don’t apologize. I know I taught you that infinitely important life lesson “finders keepers, losers weepers.” That one’s true, btw.

*You sucked at all of those instruments. All. You thought practice was torture for you? Why do you think I drink?

*I do actually know what happened to that toy xylophone. I threw it out. I’d do it again.

*I didn’t really sign you up for all those summer camps because I knew you’d want to go with all of your friends. More like I talked their mothers into it.

*Before you could tell time, when dad was away on business trips and it seemed like it was too light out for your bed time, it was.

*And once you could tell time, I pushed the clocks forward an hour. Sometimes two.

*The Easter Bunny didn’t really have a “naughty or nice” list like Santa Clause. As long as we’re being honest, neither did the tooth fairy.

*You were right, I had bought more cookies than made it into the pantry. But that was for your own good. You didn’t exactly love visiting the dentist. And he didn’t exactly rejoice in seeing you coming either, just so you know.

*Eating too much ice cream does not cause warts. Or herpes.

*The Pediatrician doesn’t give extra shots to kids who don’t eat their vegetables.

*I hadn’t actually been reading a sad book each and every time you had a school snow day. But those tears were real nonetheless.

*And while we’re on the subject, the truant officer doesn’t come and put you in jail if you don’t play outside for at least a few hours on snow days.

*All kids do not have to wear their underwear backwards once a month to remind them that in some countries families cannot afford underwear. Every now and then a mama just has to find ways to amuse herself.

*Cars don’t have ejection seats for boys who fight while mom is driving.

*And no, thunder is not G-d’s way of warning you that he’s going to send lightening next if you don’t quiet down.

Glad to have that off my conscience.

Bless me Boys, For I Have Sinned | graphic desigend by and property of | #MyGraphics

 Is it getting hot in here? I may need to ask that guy with the horns and the pitchfork to turn up the air conditioning.

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Orange Teriyaki Chicken
Printable Recipe
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp orange zest 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp chinese 5 spice powder

OPT: toasted sesame seeds

*Cut each chicken breast into 3 pieces of about the same thickness. Place in a bowl or a freezer bag.
*Mix the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds together and pour over the chicken. Cover for at least 6 hours and up to a day.
*Remove chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.
*To grill: Cook chicken over a greased hot grill until fully cooked and juices run clear.
*To bake: Place chicken in a lightly greased pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turn over and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked and the juices run clear.
OPT: sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fly on the Wall: You Picked Me What?

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 12 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.

Fly on the Wall | | #MyGraphics

Hubs: I cannot find my baseball glove anywhere.
Me: It's in the top of one of the lockers in the laundry room.
Hubs (coming out of the laundry room): Oh, I found it.
Me: Yeah, I'm sure it had nothing to do with me telling you where it is. What do you need it for, you haven't touched that thing since the kids stopped playing baseball.
Hubs: One of my clients asked if I want to join his league, it's just recreational softball, nothing too competitive. I thought I'd throw the ball around, see if I still have an arm. I know I can run the bases and I'm sure I can still hit a ball.
Me: Hit the ball? You won't be able to see it coming at you.
Hubs: What do you mean?
Me: Aren't you the same guy who was just holding  a paper up to the light bulb and squinting?
Hubs: Well, I could wear my glasses when I bat.
Me: Your reading glasses? Yeah, I'm sure that's gonna end well.
So what do you think the odds are that I'll be sitting in a hospital waiting room some time in the next month?

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

PurDude was late coming home from work. It wasn't a big deal but I was curious as to why he was late.
Me: Why are you late?
PurDude: Well, I left work a little late and there was a problem on the way home.
PurDude is now in the bathroom with the door shut and I'm standing outside it with my heart in my throat yelling through the door.
Me: DO NOT do that to me. What happened? Are you OK?
PurDude comes out and hands me a piece of paper: This is partly my fault and partly a misunderstanding.
Me (reading): What part of a speeding ticket is a misunderstanding?
PurDude: Well, the speed limit was 40. I thought it was 45.
Me: But you were going 55.
PurDude: Yeah, that's the "my fault" part.

  Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

 PurDude: That cop who gave me that ticket was a prick.
Me: No, honey, you were driving too fast and he gave you a ticket.
PurDude: He didn't just give me a ticket.
Me: What are you talking about?
PurDude: You know that lei I have hanging from my mirror? 
Me: Yes.
PurDude: He said it blocks my view and he gave me a warning.
Me: Well, he was right to mention it if he felt it was unsafe.
PurDude: He didn't mention it, he gave me a written warning. He gave me a ticket AND a written warning.
Me: Prick. 
Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

I was reading a friend's facebook status. She posted a picture of the beautiful bouquet of (weed) flowers her 4 year old daughter had picked for her. Awwww. So cute.
That afternoon the heat broke a bit and College Boy went for a walk. Not to be outdone, my son picked me a weed too.

You Picked Me What? | | Ditch Weed

Yeah, that's exactly what you think it is.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

So . . . speaking of my kid driving me nuts . . . guess who followed me on twitter this month . . .

Fly on the Wall | | #humor #funny

  Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

Taco Rice, an easy, flavorful side dish | recipe developed by | #recipe #rice

Taco Rice
Taco Rice, an easy, flavorful side dish | recipe developed by | #recipe #rice

Suddenly, a week ago, it was the day before PurDude was going back to school. I'm not sure how a whole summer went by in the blink of an eye, but then I'm not sure how his whole childhood did either.

Me (looking him right in the face): See, I'm not crying.
PurDude: Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts. Yup, there you go. Good job, Mom, you lasted 3 whole seconds.
Me: No, I'm still not crying.
PurDude: Really? Why is your face wet between your eyes and your chin?
Me: Well, my eyes are leaking. That's totally not the same as me crying.

And that, my friends, is when I got my last eye roll of the summer from this particular kid.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

And then the day came to send PurDude off. Ten hours on the road and the end result is that I won't see my son for months. 

After about 9 of those endless hours, the road signs seem to be reading your mind.

Fly on the Wall: A ten hour drive to drop off Purdude. Hell is Real | | #humor #funny


Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

Luckily College boy, who's local, is still around rolling his eyes at me. And I'm stupid enough to be giving him more reasons. Like the other day when I was standing in the office waiting for a recipe to print.

College Boy: Mom, you've been just standing there looking in one spot for a while, are you ok?
Me: Yes, just waiting for the printer to come on and print a recipe idea I typed out.
College Boy: It doesn't take more than a second.
Me: I know, weird, huh?
College Boy: Just guessing here, but are you sure you clicked "print".

I walk nonchalantly (ie: run) back into the kitchen to check the laptop. Where the print screen is sitting open waiting for me to click "OK". I click the box and abracadabra the printer starts.

College Boy (walking away, rolling his eyes): I don't even want to think about how long you would have stood there . . .

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

Hubs was outside doing some yard work. I generally let him do whatever he wants out in the yard, but I do have lilac shrubs growing along the side of our house and I'm very picky about anyone touching them. The one on the end gets more sun and tends to grow out of control.

So Hubs comes into the hallway from the garage with a giant pair of razor sharp clippers and yells to me in the den:

Hubs: Hey . . . OK if I clip your bush?

And I cannot tell you how happy I was to have had a pile of teenaged boys in the kitchen at the time.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

One of the perks of blogging that I never even imagined is the interactions I get on my Baking In A Tornado FB page both about my blog posts and just in general, like this one following last month's Fly on the Wall post mentioning Hubs' stop at the cell phone store to get his phone fixed (ie: turned back on):
Kelli: OMG! Your boys really know how to push buttons, don't they? One question about your husband, is he blind?
Well, I thought that was a strange and slightly insensitive thing to post, but I answered:
 Me: Ha, not blind, just severely tech impaired.
Kelli: I meant blonde. Damn autocorrect.
Me: LOL, actually he IS blonde.
Kelli: OK, that explains it.
Me:  LOL, one of my boys is blonde too.
Kelli: College Boy?
. . . and now I'm wondering if I actually do have a fly on the wall . . .

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Taco Rice

Printable Recipe 

2 TBSP margarine
1/2 cup vermicelli, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
1 TBSP cilantro
1 1/2 cups instant rice 

*Melt the margarine in a pot. Once melted and hot add the vermicelli and onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onion has softened and the vermicelli starts to brown.
*Stir in the chili powder and cumin just until incorporated. Then immediately add the chicken broth, salsa, corn and cilantro. Raise the heat slightly and bring to a boil.
*Stir in the rice. Cover and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until all of the liquid is incorporated into the rice. Stir before serving.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Day in the Life of a News Cycle

Have you ever just sat down and read through trending news stories and hashtags on social media? Well you should. There's something in there for everyone. It runs the gamut from the mundane to the absurd. But there's one thing it's always sure to provide and that's the entertainment factor.

One day, a few weeks ago, I decided to make notes on the many stories and hashtags and whatnots of the day, then come back another day and see where it all takes me.

Today's that day. Here's a representation of what I had noted:

Serious stories like the one about the surfer, Mick Fanning, who was attacked by a shark while participating in a surfing competition (Mick, that is, not the shark). The video is horrifying until you find out that he actually punches the shark in the nose and gets away.

There are "shake your head in disbelief" stories like Donald Trump defending his remarks about John McCain not being a war hero because he was captured and tortured for years. Trump, in his infinite wisdom prefers soldiers who did not get captured.

Oooh, I just thought of another use for that surfer's nose-punching skills.

And then there's the just plain bizarre, like the Fox news person who, when discussing the Mick Fanning story, suggests that the ocean should be cleared of sharks for competitions. I guess those kids who lost limbs this summer to sharks are fair game. But for a competition? We need to shore up our borders.  Move along, sharks, no entering without the proper paperwork. Someone needs to get right on that.

Sign this guy up to be Donald Trump's Vice President. A vision of a future of a filter-free America, that's a campaign platform, right?

A Day in the Life of a New Cycle: A humorous look at trending news stories and social media hashtags. | | #MyGraphics #humor #funny

There are stories that you just can't figure out why they're stories. Like the one about the man who ate at a Mexican food chain for 100 days in a row. I'd like to recommend him for a job as food procurer for the Trump campaign. I'm sure I heard Donald make some kind of statement about liking Mexicans. Time to put your money where your mouth is. Or to eat your words. . .

Another trending story is America's new fascination with tiny houses. People are downsizing. Way, way, way down. Like to 200 - 400 square foot houses. The old lady who lived in a shoe had no idea how trendy she'd be one day.

But here's something I would highly recommend. Do not live in a tiny house with someone who eats at a Mexican food chain for 100 days in a row. I'm thinking that could be lethal. And it's not like you can go into another room. You'd literally have to run out the front door. Take a tent.

Another story, a diner owner in Maine who defended herself in the media for yelling at a toddler who had been crying in her restaurant for close to an hour and whose parents had refused to leave.

Now I don't know about her experience but I had toddlers and seldom did I find that yelling at them is a successful strategy for achieving quiet.

A cookie? Now that'll do it.
PB Cup and Oreo Cookies: Two favorite treats meet up in one cookie. Crispy, crunchy and not too sweet. Recipe by | #bake #cookies

PB Cup & Oreo Cookies
PB Cup and Oreo Cookies: Two favorite treats meet up in one cookie. Crispy, crunchy and not too sweet. Recipe by | #bake #cookies

There was the story of a couple arrested for having sex in the fitting room of a store in China. although the store publicly distanced themselves from the incident saying they knew nothing about it, I think it's a genius marketing strategy. I mean, if I were trying on clothes and heard those kinds of sounds coming from the next dressing room, I pay pretty much anything to buy whatever she was trying on.

And yet I'd sure as hell steer clear of that clothes stall when trying on my next round of picks.

#NationalJunkFoodDay was trending on twitter on this particular day. This sacred holiday is, in fact, saved for just once a year? Who knew? Not my kids. And I really hope my boys didn't see this one. I'd like to decline the responsibility of trying to get through to them that every day is not National Junk Food Day.

The Mother of that guy who ate at a Mexican food chain every day for 100 days got away without explaining it to her kid so there is a clear precedent for not banging my head up against this particular wall.

#ExplainEarthToSpaceAliens was also trending. This one was so much fun. Basically, people were tweeting about how you would explain some of the behaviors we observe every day to space aliens. Hey, I can think of some fun ones.

Like mowing the lawn, watering so it'll grow and then mowing it again.

Or why "going commando" is something we're marketing on television.

Or Donald Trump running for President.

So there you go. A day in the life of a social media junkie's trending news. Have I convinced you to join in the fun? Or run screaming from that screen?

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

PB Cup & Oreo Cookies
Printable Recipe
1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup oreos, chopped (about 12 cookies) 
1 cup mini reese's peanut butter cups, halved 

*Cream butter, margarine and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
*Starting on the lowest speed until incorporated, beat in the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the chopped oreos and the halved peanut butter cups.
*Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or up to a day.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
*Roll dough into approximately 1 inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheets.
*Bake for 9 - 12 minutes or until they start to brown. Leave on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to cool completely.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Use Your Words: Fairy Stale

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

Use Your Words | | #MyGraphics

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I’m using: mountains ~ flashlight ~ fairies ~ fire ~ clouds

 They were submitted by: Stacy Sews and Schools.

Back in January of 2014 I found out that I have a successful children's storybook author and illustrator in my family. I thought, in the way that only I can, that I now understood the reason I'm not wildly famous, I hadn't properly identified my genre. I decided to tap into the talent that's clearly somewhere in my DNA and try my hand at a children's story. The result was a post called Fairy Tale.

The post was a success. I even had the balls guts to reach out to the author, Elisa Kleven, in a private FB message. I explained how we were related (barely) and told her about my (kind of, sort of) fairy tale. She either has a very good sense of humor or is exceedingly polite but she claimed to have enjoyed the story.

On my blog that post did so well that readers came to my FB page in droves telling me that I needed to write a book of fairy tales. They were adamant, both my friends and even readers I didn't know. I decided that I would do it. Humorous fairy tales would be different enough from every other blogger book out there, so why not?

And I tried, I really did. I wrote a story. And then I edited it. And edited it. And edited it. And when I was done I had about 3 words left. 

I put the project on hold.

When I saw my words today, "fairies" in particular, I thought it was a sign, try again. So . . . 

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, intelligent woman, a wife and a mother to two young boys. She lived and loved and laughed, had friends and parties, raised her kids.

This woman also had a secret, one that allowed her to live her life confident that nothing bad could happen. And her secret was this: she had a safety net. She had a fairy. 

It was not a unique situation for her. All through history her family had a long standing relationship with the fairies. Each female baby born into her mother's line was assigned one of their own. The fairy could be summoned, a wish would be granted.

But the woman chose to live a normal life; she took tough tests in college, ended relationships, went through childbirth, lived like anyone else and never called her fairy. Always knowing that if she really needed to, one day she could, one day she would.

What the woman did not know, had never been told, is that a fairy stays young and vibrant and happy through granting these wishes. This is their purpose.

From the time that they were little, her sons knew of their mom's fairy. They'd even seen their grandmother's zip in, wave her wand and grant many a wish. It was nothing unusual for them and often they would ask their mom to call her fairy.

"Mom, I want a sandwich and this bread is stale" or "I want chips and the bag wasn't closed tightly" the oldest would say "call your fairy". And the woman would refuse. She would buy bread more often, close the chip bag more carefully, no one wants stale bread or chips, but this was not a situation that called for a fairy.

Or the youngest would say "I don't want pork chops for dinner, I want Crusted Spicy Chicken Breasts, call your fairy." And the woman would refuse. She could make chicken tomorrow, but this was not a situation that called for a fairy.

Crusted Spicy Chicken Breasts | | #recipe #dinner
Crusted Spicy Chicken Breasts

Until, many years later the woman and her boys, now in their late teens, decided to take a day trip. This would be one of their last before the boys started college. It was a beautiful warm sunny spring day, perfect for a hike in the mountains

Hours later, far up the trail, it was now late afternoon and time to head home. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere the sky turned black. Clouds moved in, the skies opened up and they were soaked.

"We can take shelter under the rocks, try to start a fire, and wait it out" the boys said. But no, the woman knew that this could be a dangerous situation. This, now, this was the time. Finally, after all these years, she knew that she needed her fairy to zip in with her wand. She shut her eyes, concentrated, and silently summoned her fairy.

Up flew meandered the fairy. Slowly, unsteadily, dipping and weaving, thick glasses on her nose, hearing aides in both of her ears.
"Eh?" said the fairy, holding a hand to her eyes. "Is someone there?"
"I'm here" the woman said, grabbing the flashlight from her backpack and holding it to her face so she could be seen.
"Huh" yelled the fairy, fumbling with her glasses "Speak up, did someone say something?"
"I'm here" the woman yelled "and I need my wish".
But the fairy did not see her. The fairy did not hear her. And the fairy promptly disappeared.

Moral of the story: You can buy your bread more often. You can close your chips more carefully. But if you want your wishes granted, you do not want your fairie stale.

Links to the other Use Your Words posts:

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Crusted Spicy Chicken Breasts

Printable Recipe

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups tostito chips
1 cup fritos
½ stick butter, melted
*Cut the chicken breasts in thirds and place chicken pieces into a gallon sized resealable bag.
*Mix together the seasonings and the oil. Pour into the bag with the chicken and massage to be sure that all of the pieces of chicken are completely coated. Refrigerate from 4 hours.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 casserole dish.
*Finely crush the fritos and tostitos.
*Remove the chicken from the fridge and coat with the frito and tostito crumbs. Press the crumbs firmly into both sides of the chicken.
*Place chicken pieces into casserole dish, drizzle the melted butter over the top.
*Bake for 45 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the topping is browned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Storm Past. Chapter Four: It Ends Here

Today's post is the final chapter of an ongoing story. This is a piece crafted by a large group of writers, each author adding to what the last writers have contributed. The idea is that we all write the story but no one controls it. The challenge is for each writer to expound on or change the plot, putting their own stamp on the piece, while maintaining the cohesive integrity of the story.

Progressive Story Project | | #MyGraphics

  If you haven't read the previous installments or just  need a refresher, click here before reading on:

 Chapter one: Darkening Skies
Chapter two: Where There's Smoke
Chapter three: Worlds Collide

Storm Past, a Progressive Story Project | | #story #fiction

Up to date? OK, picking up the story where we left off:

Chapter Four: It Ends Here

Michele of Follow me home
Wrapped in the safety of Chase's arms, Maria laid in bed rehearsing every scenario possible in her head. She knew that come morning, her world would never be the same again. What could she say to her husband that would ever make sense? How would he react when she told him she took someone's life and then tried to cover it up? How could she ever spin any of her past and still end up having Chase still love her? She imagined him hating her every single time. She pictured her beloved husband picking up their perfect son and leaving her. Would they do it right away? Would they wait until she was arrested for murder? For arson? For fleeing a crime scene? It all made her breathless. She needed a drink of water. She needed air.
Walking through her dark kitchen, Maria felt comforted for the first time by the night. These were the precious hours she had left as a wife and mother. She held onto the silence as if it were a gift she'd soon have to give back. While reaching for a glass, Maria caught sight of a figure outside her window. He looked vaguely familiar. Searching her memory, Maria finally recognized the man as the home insurance representative she met earlier that evening. Would he still be working this late? Why was he in her yard? Moving closer to the window screen she noticed that he wasn't alone. He was arguing with someone.

"I told you it was an honest mistake!" the insurance rep said in a frustrated voice. "I thought the plan was rock solid. I was so sure!"

"Well, you thought wrong! You . . . you . . . idiot!" a second man said in a scathing voice. Maria froze she was paralyzed with fear. She could only feel her pulse in her head. That voice. It couldn't be. Could it? She forced her hands onto the sink for balance. Stretching her body as close to the window as possible, Maria could just make out the stranger's face. It was the monster from her past. It was Jeffrey.

"Do you know how long I've planned this?" Jeffrey seethed as he continue to scold the insurance man. "YOU! . . . You burned down the WRONG house!"

Maria gasped and was afraid for a moment that the men heard her. None of it mattered though, because just as Maria covered her mouth, the kitchen light turned on. It was Chase.

 Anna-May of Silence of the Mom

The men looked up, shocked by the light that just turned on. Maria froze, hand still covering her mouth. Chase came up beside Maria just after Jeffrey disappeared, but the insurance adjuster was staring at them. Chase immediately went outside.

"What the hell are you doing outside our house in the middle of the night?" Chase hissed at the man.

"Sorry, just finishing up from earlier. I have to inspect the surrounding houses, see if they give me any clues as to what might have happened. I'll be on my way now. Sorry to bother you." The guy was stumbling all over himself, but never took his eyes off Maria.

"What on earth could he get from looking at our house in the middle of the night? Something's not right with that guy. My spidey-senses are tingling . . . Hey, are you okay, baby?" Chase asked Maria as he wrapped his arms around her trembling body.

"I, I'm fine." She said as she turned to walk away. She couldn't believe that Jeffrey was outside her house. How had he found her? How had he survived that fire all those years ago. He was back to seek revenge and he didn't care who else he hurt in the process. He must know she was married and had a child.

Chase took hold of her arm. "Please don't walk away from me. You have to talk to me. Please tell me what is going on. I can't stand being shut out like this."

Maria looked into his eyes. She knew he was hurting, that he could tell something was wrong. This was it, she had to tell him. She had to come clean about it all and pray that he didn't leave her. Even if he didn't understand.

"I have to tell you about something that happened a long time ago . . . " she said, as she sat at the kitchen table.

"I was married before I met you. His name was . . . Jeffrey." She shuddered as she said the name. "I was very young when I met him and he was so good to me: he opened doors, bought me gifts and called all the time from his business trips to tell me he was thinking of me."

 "We ran off together and got married. I hadn't realized how often he was away for work until we were living together. He'd be gone for days at a time and I would miss him so much, but when I called he never answered his phone. He would text me back to say he was in a meeting or with a client, but I started to get suspicious."

"I honestly thought he was having an affair, but when he'd come home he was so loving and so responsive to me. I put those thoughts away to focus on being the best wife I could be. And then things changed. We moved suddenly to a new state. He said it was for work, but he seemed so stressed out about it and it was so abrupt."

"His attitude changed when we moved too. He began acting suspicious of me and asking where I'd been while he was gone. I was only trying to make friends, but he insisted that I stay home. He took my cell phone and insisted that I be home to answer the landline whenever he called. I wasn't trying to antagonize him. I only tried to ask how I was supposed to take care of the house for him if I couldn't leave the house." Maria took a deep breath before going on. "I certainly wasn't expecting him to strike me just for asking about groceries!" And she broke down in sobs on Chase's  chest.

 Melissa of Home on Deranged

As she inhaled deeply, bringing the sobs under control, Chase took her face in his hands and said, "I don't want to hear the rest of it. I don't need to hear the rest of it. I trust you, Maria, and I know you, and that's all that matters." As he finished the sentence, he pulled her into a kiss, one filled with passion as well as comfort. A kiss that answered the question burning in her mind: Chase would never leave her. He would never hurt her, and he would never take Ryan away from her.

Chase pulled back, wiping the tears from her cheeks. A small smile broke across his face as he whispered, "We'll take care of this. Tonight."

He rose from the table, picked up his cell phone and dialed a number. "It's happened. No, she's still here. Right, I'll see you in 20 minutes."

Maria's eyes widened. There was a touch of fear in her breath as she spoke. "You . . . you . . . what are you doing?" He smiled at her again, only this time it didn't touch his eyes. "We all have secrets, Maria," he said. "Lawyers know how to keep them well. I've been waiting for Jeff to reappear for years. After he killed my cheating wife in that damned cabin of yours, I checked the body in the morgue for myself. I knew he was coming and I knew I had to find him."

She sat in stunned silence. "But, how did you find me?" Chase let out a long sigh. "You made a mess of things that night, and I lost you for a bit when you went in the water. Luckily, you walked in a straight line, which made you easier to track." He explained how he showed her picture everywhere in the small town she found. "A new woman in town? With no family to speak of? You weren't as well hidden as you thought, he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Who are you going to see in 20 minutes?" she asked,almost in a whisper. He turned, a look of grim determination on his face. "The last piece of this puzzle," he said. "The closure that we've both been seeking."

Karen of Baking In A Tornado

Shocked, confused and betrayed at the thought of having built this life with Chase without having known who he was, and yet terrified of losing him as a result of whatever his plan may be, Maria sank to the floor in a daze. Despite the roaring in her ears, she heard it again: "ominous."

Maria woke with a start. She shot up in the bed only to be jerked to a stop. She looked down at her wrists, they were cuffed to the bed rails. Thick leather cuffs held her in place.

Fearfully, she looked around. Sparse. Locked door, soft walls, little furniture and what there was clearly had been bolted in place. Nothing metal. Nothing sharp. One person standing in the corner looking at her. Someone she hoped never to see again.

"I don't belong here," she thought.
And then a second voice, also in her head, "yes, you do."
. . . Jeffrey . . .

Dr. Enas Tonro spoke in a soft and calm voice: "It's OK, Marlee. We will take good care of you again, get your meds regulated. This is just a setback. It happens."

"Maria" she corrected.
"Marlee" he responded firmly.
"Where is Chase, Ryan?"
"There is no Chase, Marlee. No Ryan."

 That's when she heard it again. Softly at first, but it built to a roar:

"Ominous." That word kept going through her mind. She could not get it to stop. It was in her head, over and over again in a constant loop. If it didn't end soon she would lose her mind.

Unless she already had.

It's an honor for me to not only thank those who added their voices to the crafting of this story, but to highly recommend that you visit their blogs:

Lydia of Cluttered Genius
Steena of The Angrivated Mom 
Michele of Follow me home
Anna-May of Silence of the Mom
 Rabia of The Lieber Family Blog
Melissa of Home on Deranged

and me! 

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