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Sandy Reay


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 Learn About Sandy Reay Follow The Sinister Umbrella Share Your Stories You Are the Road, a Memoir 



©Rona Golfen, RonaPhoto a photograph of a tree silhouette with birds and dead leaves at sunset which has been stylized in Photoshop
©Rona Golfen, RonaPhoto

What inspires you? Please contact Sandy.



Anything can inspire you.

  • a photograph, painting, graffiti
  • a phrase you heard in a song, read in a book, or overheard in a cafe
  • the sound of birds, animals, insects
  • perfume or the aroma from an open window that reminds you of something your mother used to cook
  • a piece of jewelry or an old sweater
  • shelter from the sun or rain under a tree
  • rhythm of a train or a song wafting out of the windows of a passing car
  • the texture of a broken sidewalk or decomposing leaves under your feet
  • a memory or a dream

Check the News

Depth Perception *

Dream Inspirations

My Rock *


Sunbathing and Bats *

The Christmas Mouse *

The Crab Apple in a Cherry Tree

The Little Girl With a Book *

The Sinister Umbrella Part 1

The Sinister Umbrella Part 2

The Sinister Umbrella Part 3

The Old Traffic Ticket

Two Career Failures *

Writing Prompt #1


I really like your author website. I'm honored to have my tree photo on the Inspiration page. That and Creativity are my favorite pages. I love that your suggestions apply regardless of your chosen media.
Rona Golfen, RonaPhoto


Check out Sandy's song, Free Fall, and her poem, The Old Iron Hinge


Sandy Reay Author on Facebook Sandy Reay Author #Inspiration


Micro-memoirs from monthly newsletters are noted *


news: foot found in Yellowstone floating in a pool

Have you found any news stories that you'd like to share?
Please contact Sandy.


Check the News

According to KTVB News:

"A Yellowstone employee found part of a foot in a shoe floating in a pool in the park Tuesday. An investigation is ongoing and part of the park was closed temporarily."

If I wanted to write a crime story, this might inspire a great opening line. Feel free to click on the link to read more.


Sandy Reay driving British Racing Green '59 Triumph TR3 in a parking lot gymkhana


This story was featured in the July 2023 Newsletter.


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Have you raced cars or done anything else that took you out of your comfort zone?
Please contact Sandy.


Depth Perception

I watched a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about time being the fourth dimension. Unlike the three dimensions of space (width, height, depth), we can't move around in time. But if we could, we could travel in time.

I was born blind in my left eye. I have some peripheral vision, but I have no innate depth perception. In Junior High School, I had to make something for the Science Fair. I discovered optical illusions when I was in eighth grade. I faithfully reproduced them and explained why we see size differences of the same object with different backgrounds. Some backgrounds can fool us into believing a straight line is curved and make concentric circles look like spirals. Some can make us see the same object as different colors or size.

The following year, my view of optical illusions focused on techniques artists use to make a two-dimensional surface (width and height) look three-dimensional. I didn't get great grades on my projects; no judges or teachers thought I did anything special. I didn't know why I was fascinated by these illusions, but when I learned to drive, I had knowledge that helped me cope with my lack of depth perception.

Fast forward seven years. I married an engineering student who had a passion for racing cars. We bought a Triumph TR-3, and he raced it. We bought a real race car, and he raced it. I learned first aid, how to cut a driver out of a burning car, and worked corners. I staged race cars for entry on to the track and checked cars for problems that might cause accidents. But, I wanted to race, too.

My husband taught me what he knew. We started with gymkhanas—racing one street-legal car at a time. He walked me around the track designated by orange pylons (traffic cones) in mostly-empty parking lots and abandoned landing strips. After each run in our TR-3, he suggested ways I could improve my time: cut the corner closer in turn two, start accelerating sooner coming out of the slalom, and go about fifteen feet deeper at the end of the straight before braking for the turn.

Whoa! I couldn't see well enough to visualize fifteen feet. My brake point was a white rock on the right side of the track. “How much time is that?”

My husband was an engineer. I could almost hear the gears turning in his head, or the slide rule sliding. “About three-quarters of a second.”

My next run, I lined up with the white rock, counted “three quarters,” turned the wheel, and thought,“I'm going to die.”

But I didn't die. I learned I could go fractions of seconds farther than that.

I don't see depth; I experience it. I thought I was the only one until I read Jimmy Buffett's autobiography. When someone asked him how far it was to fly from Key West to Miami, he told them he measured the time by the number of songs he could listen to on the flight.

My world is defined by width, height, and time. Time is my third dimension because I lack the ability to perceive depth except by moving in it.

That makes me wonder about your world, the world in which time is your fourth dimension. If you had the ability to move around in time, the way you do in space, would you have a fifth dimension? What
would that be? How many dimensions would be possible after that?

Inspiration from a dream in a Sandy Reay post from Mar 26, 2012  

Dream Inspiration 1

In my dream this morning, someone had replaced all the clothes in my closet with bustiers and butterfly skirts. I had on a slinky black dress, lots of silver jewelry and the only coat I could find was a hot-pink wool blazer. ???? In reality, my idea of dressing up is to wash my jeans and clean the dog poo off my clogs.

What would a character who wore clothing from my dream be like? What kind of job would that character have? What kind of trouble would that character get into? Or, cause? What kind of goals, challenges, revelations would that character face?
Please contact Sandy.

Check out Sandy's story Damn The Dream, and her poem, My Dream.

Inspiration from a dream in a Sandy Reay post from Mar 17, 2023  

Dream Inspiration 2

I put a slab of steak in front of the dragon.

He raised his head and arched his eyebrows. "What do you want me to do with this?"

"Breathe fire on it. You know: do what you do!"

I fixed the rest of my meal. When I went back for my steak, I found the dragon with a full belly and sleepy eyes. "Where's my dinner?"

He burped. "You told me to do what I do. So, I ate it."


Does the story need a setting? Is there more to this story? What would you do if this were your dream?
Please contact Sandy.

Check out Sandy's story Damn The Dream, and her poem, My Dream.


My Rock

A faded photo of me 4-5 years later with our faded green oldsmobile
The faded green Olds 88, years later

This story was featured in the August 2023 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month,
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I'm writing a memoir about my relationship with my father:
You Are the Road That Led Me Home.


Do you have something you've had since you were young? Do you want to share your story?
Please contact Sandy.


My Rock

When I was a kid, eight or nine years old, Mom decided she wanted river rock in the flower beds. Mom was in charge of the house. Dad was in charge of the yard, and he grew flowers in the flower beds. But Mom prevailed, and we headed into into the mountains in our '57 two-door green Oldsmobile sedan. Dad turned from the paved highway onto smaller dirt roads, until he found a narrow two-track path next to a tree-lined creek.

As my parents and older sister loaded smooth stones into the trunk, I wandered off. Downhill. And found the prettiest rock. It was rough and jagged, with bright colors, and looked like icing had drizzled down it and hardened. I fell in love with it, but I couldn't pick it up.

I trotted uphill. By the time I got back, the back of the car barely cleared the high dirt center of the path, and my family was angry at me for wandering off. They had to wait for me, and I hadn't loaded any rocks.

“I found a great rock, Daddy. Will you help me bring it up?”

“No. If you want it, you get it up here.”

I ran downhill and pushed the rock. By the time I reached the car, my arms, legs, and back ached, my fingers were scraped raw, and one toe throbbed from the rock slipping from my grip and landing on it. “Isn't it pretty?”

“It isn't what your mother wants. If you want to keep it, put it in the car.” He pushed the lever that moved the back of his seat forward.

I had to lift the rock into the car. I don't know how I did it; maybe the weight of stones in the trunk made the car low enough. I smashed another toe, scraped my knee, and balanced the rock on the door sill. One last push, and it rolled onto the floor in front of my seat. I climbed in and rode home with my feet on the rock and my knees up at eye level.

When we got home, Dad stuck my rock in the front garden where everyone could see it. One of my sister's boyfriends told me what I'd found: a large chunk of petrified wood with a calcium liquid that had percolated through the rock and hardened into white crystals. He was surprised when I told him I'd found it in a creek bed in the mountains. I was surprised when he came back again and gave me a little rock collection in a small box.

Decades later, I took those little rocks, plus some turquoise and garnets that I'd collected, to a jeweler. She made a necklace for me from those little stones. I still have it.

When I married, the last item I took from my parents house was my chunk of petrified wood.

My father tried to stop me. “Where are you going with that rock?”

“You said if I wanted it, I had to get it up hill and into the car without help. I did. It's my rock.”

I've hauled that eighteen-pound rock to eight houses. Now, it sits on the wall that borders the patio, where I can see it from my kitchen window.

Ravens with a no parking sign on a cloudy day
photo ©S.L.Reay


A photograph of a parking lot on a rainy day. Two ravens are in the gravel and rocks above the concrete curb which is painted red with white letters: NO PARKING    FIRE LANE.

Above the F in FIRE LANE, a raven sits on a sign: No Rollerblading Or Skateboarding.

Some might call this image foreboding or sad. The ravens amused me by flaunting the law to park on the gravel and the sign.

Have you every taken a picture that tells a story?
Please contact Sandy.


red-haired Sandy sunbathing behind a bush on a grassy and rock-strewn hill near a dirt pathsunbathing and bats

a bat that found safety under a porch

This story was featured in the April 2023 Newsletter.

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Sunbathing and Bats

Thirty years ago, a friend invited me to a hot springs in in the mountains of southern Colorado on Memorial Day weekend. That was my first time in a natural hot springs, my first sweat lodge, and my first nude sun bath. My friend took the picture of me lying on a beach towel, reading. A co-worker once called me “a plant”—I thrive in sunlight.

As the sun set, my friend led me to a large communal hot spring. We sat in water up to our chins. My long hair floated around me.

My friend said, “Whatever happens, don't move.”

Flying things blackened the sky and darted down and around us. Bats. Dozens of bats, feeding off the insects attracted to heat from the water and our faces. No bat touched me, but the air from their wings cooled my face. They darted to my hair in the water, but not one got tangled. Mosquitoes love me, but not one survived to bite me.

Dusk faded to black, and the invisible flyers disappeared. That night, I believed in magic and fell in love with bats.

Ten years ago, I had my house covered with concrete board that looked like wood. The workers found a bat sleeping under the sun porch. I got home in time to keep them from hurting the little critter. Just past sunset, it flew away. The next morning, it was back with a friend. At dusk, they flew away: two bats swirling toward the gold fading clouds.

Do you have a story about wild animals?
Please contact Sandy.


Sandy riding in the front seat of an antique fire truck bringing Santa into a mall

Sandy in a homemade mouse costume in front of a Christmas tree

This story was featured in the December 2022 Newsletter.

If you want a short story delivered to your email once a month,
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The Christmas Mouse

I dated a man who ran a shopping mall. Friday after Thanksgiving, he brought Santa into the mall on an antique fire truck. I dressed in a mouse costume I'd made from a remnant of fake fur, a long-sleeve shirt, tights, black shoes, and eye-liner nose and whiskers. A Santa hat made me a Christmas mouse, and I rode in the fire ruck—wearing a heavy winter coat because it was cold outside.

I left the truck when Santa did, hid my coat, and handed out candy canes from a red and white stocking to the little kids. I posed for pictures and apologized to the parents of one child who screamed uncontrollably at the sight of a 5'6” mouse and had to be taken home.

Children and their parents followed me from business to business where I asked for jeans that would fit over my tail and tried on hats that did not fit over my mouse ears. I asked for mouse food in the pet store and ran away from the cats in cages, shrieking “Eek. A cat.” The sales clerks played along.

My friend asked me to go into a sporting goods store where a player from the Denver Broncos was signing autographs. On my way to the store, DJs from the local rock station yelled, “Hey, Miss Mouse.” “C'mon over here.”

I did. That was my mistake. They had microphones and speakers up on stands, and shoved a microphone in my face. “Hello, Miss Mouse. What are you doing tonight?”

In my best mouse voice, I squeaked, “Trying on hats and jeans.”

They smiled and laughed. “Where are you going?”

“To find the bronco.”

They talked about the football player and the store, and shoppers headed down the mall. I started to leave, and they stopped me.

“Why are you looking for the Bronco?” That was their mistake.

“Because I wanna go for a pony ride.”

The microphone vanished, one DJ hit switches, and the other hissed at me. “You can't say that on AM radio!”


photograph of a small crabapple tree growing out of the stump of a dead cherry tree
©Rona Golfen, RonaPhoto


The Crab Apple in a Cherry Tree by Rona Golfen, RonaPhoto

We had a Japanese cherry tree in our yard for many years, but it died several years ago. A neighbor cut it down, but left about 3' of trunk standing. I was going to have it cut down, but last year something started growing out of the top of it. This year we actually have a little crabapple tree complete with white blossoms. It looks pretty strange growing out of a dead cherry tree, but it seems to be thriving. It's so interesting to me that a crabapple tree can grow out of a cherry tree. So far the crabapple tree has what looks to be cherry tree bark. I don't understand how that works. I showed it to our rep from the company that takes care of our trees, and he said it might change over time. 


Little Girl With Book

This story was featured in the January 2023 Newsletter.

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I take a book with me when I know I’ll have to wait somewhere, like a doctor’s office, the car repair shop, or an airport. I have a to-read shelf that’s full of thrift-store finds and new books: secrets to uncover. Funny how that photo of little me with a book foretold the reader I would become.

Do you want to share your story of how you started reading?
Please contact Sandy.


The Little Girl with a Book

I found a photograph of me when I cleaned out my parents' house. I couldn't have been more than two or three years old. I don’t remember the dress or know what hill I’m standing on. I'm holding an old hardback book, not a thin one with pictures, but I have no idea what book or why I'm holding it. I wasn't an early reader like my older sister—she learned when she was four and sick. Mom sat by her bed and read to her, day after day.

Once, when I wasn't much older than I look in that picture, the lights went out and the skies grew dark. The wind blew over a huge tree that crushed the front porch of the house across the street. It howled and shook our house. Daddy called it a hurricane. I asked my mother to read to me. She told me to ask my sister. My sister sat close to the window, reading in what little light leaked through the rain-soaked glass. I begged her to read to me and sat close to her—as close as she would let me.

Mom took me to the library to find books. Dad took us to thrift stores. I prowled the dusty shelves of worn hard-back books and studied the faded colored pictures on the covers to pick out what I wanted to read. Twice a year, my sister and I got gifts. We told our parents what we wanted. They bought one thing that was similar to what we asked for (within our budget) and something we needed. Sometimes, Mom slipped in a used book (a thrift-store find or hand-me-down). The first year my sister went to college, Mom gave me two new paperback biographies: Jenny Churchill and Isadora Duncan. The covers were bright and shiny, the pages smelled like ink and adventure, and the spines had no vertical age lines. I was the first person to open those books.


The Sinister Umbrella: a black umbrella with bat wings and face


Is it a symbol or a metaphor? If so, for what? What would you use it for? Would it be something unexpected?
Please contact Sandy.

Do you want to know what's happening with this story?
Check out The Sinister Umbrella.


The Sinister Umbrella #1

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (translated by Edith Grossman) called an umbrella “sinister.” What would make an umbrella look sinister?

Later in the book, he wrote, “with his sinister appearance and his vampire’s umbrella.” Mystery solved.

I like the mystery of the “sinister umbrella,” so I will keep it. Perhaps I will add it to a story I started to write about a cafe table umbrella as a harbinger of magic. Yes, a sinister umbrella will make a nice touch in this story.

A vampire umbrella is intriguing, too—more than an umbrella for a vampire. A black umbrella with two broken spines like bat wings, and old-age holes, two revealing moonlight reflections like malevolent eyes.

Now that I have the visual image, I need to decide what to do with it. Is it literal? Does it turn into a bat at night? That's too easy.


The Sinister Umbrella: a black umbrella with bat wings and face

Do you want to know what's happening with this story?
Check out The Sinister Umbrella.


The Sinister Umbrella #2

Last month I wrote "Does it turn into a bat at night? That's too easy."

I surprised myself. I started writing the story, and realized that it needed something to add more tension: the umbrella that may or may not turn into a bat. It looks like one, and flies away, after years of clinging to a rusty table in the back of a courtyard. After that, it becomes a channel for power. Evil power.

I have mixed feelings about this. I like bats. One took shelter under my sunporch, and I had to protect it from the workmen who were putting siding on my house. (See Sunbathing and Bats)

So, I rationalize. It is not a bat. It is an old umbrella with evil powers that only looks like a bat when tiny lights shine through two holes in the fabric.

Is an evil umbrella that might look like a bat under certain circumstances a symbol of evil power?
Please contact Sandy.

penitentiary box  

The Sinister Umbrella #3

I played Sudoku to shut out the voices in my head, but a male voice interrupted me. "Penitentiary boxes."

I'm used to my characters talking to me. This voice didn't belong to any of my characters. And it didn't use words from any of the songs that live in my head.

I tried napping, but the voice woke me again and again. "Manitoba" (or something like it) and other syllables that may have been other names or languages.

What should I do with "penitentiary boxes?" I Googled it: solitary confinement cells, grim prison cells, cell blocks, and dogs sniffing cardboard boxes.

I'm going to put "penitentiary box" into the The Sinister Umbrella.
What would you do with it?
Please contact Sandy.


image of an old traffic ticket from Colorado Springs dated "1st Oct 31, 1998" citation for speeding


Have you ever found anything unusual in a used book?
Please contact Sandy.


The Old Traffic Ticket

I love old books, used books, with dog-eared corners, flexible spines, loose pages, hand-written notes and highlighted phrases. The books tell a story before you read the title.

Old books contain memories, sometimes in a physical form. I found papers and old photographs used as book markers. One book I found contained an old boarding pass. Before paperless tickets, these passes were issued at the check-in counter and collected at the gate. Someone went to the airport, checked in, but used the pass as a book mark. Perhaps the traveler got sick, fell asleep and missed the flight, or left the airport for some reason.

I wonder if I can turn a guess into a mystery story. What if that someone was a criminal, or unjustly accused of a crime, and that boarding pass was proof of their guilt or innocence? What if the person who found that boarding pass knew about the crime, and came forward? Or failed to come forward?

Fortunately, Google found no evidence of a crime involving the person on that boarding pass. I still wondered what happened? Sudden illness? A frantic phone call from a loved one? An accident, or a missed flight? I once dozed off in the airport in Naples Italy, and slept through the boarding announcements, which were in Italian. I'm lucky I woke up and noticed the lack of people waiting to board.

This traffic ticket is dated Oct 1, 1998. Tickets like this are common. Like boarding passes, they're turned in when the recipient pays the fine or fights the ticket. Twenty-three year old tickets are not common. Why was this ticket in the book for that long? The book looked like it had never been read. Did the recipient of the ticket hide it i a book? Did her heirs load up boxes of books and take them to the used book store? What else did they miss in her books?


First prize photo in photography contest

This story was featured in the March 2023 Newsletter.

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Have you ever had a door slammed in your face, only to find another door opened, with a better opportunity?
Please share your story with Sandy.


Two Career Failures

When I was in my 20s (1970s), I worked as a draftsman. A secretary and I were the only women in the building. She wore silver-hair sprayed into short stiff curls, starched dresses with floral prints, and long-sleeved matching sweaters like capes. I wore jeans, cotton-knit shirts, and tennis shoes.

My drafting table was in the office at the other end of the hall. The geologists assigned to the other desks in the room spent their days out in the field, writing in notebooks, collecting data for me to draw.

One day, Charles, a man from another office, shuffled into my office holding a camera. Remember Tim Conway's old man on the Carol Burnett show? That was Charles speeded up. I stopped drawing and put my chin in my hand, waiting for him to speak.

“Do something sexy.”

Sexy? Me? Oh, he was serious. I licked my lips.

He snapped a few pictures. I went back to drawing pictures of core samples at different elevations.

A few months later, Charles shuffled in with a trophy. “We won first prize.”

He handed me the picture.

“For that?!?” I think I yelped.

“Yes.” He smiled and held up the trophy with a camera and “First Prize” in big letters.

I put the photo down, and he let me hold the trophy. It had “Humor division” in small letters. My career as a model ended.

One of our projects was collecting data about water levels in a canyon near a ski area. My boss gave me access to our computer and a book about how to use the writing/editing program—it was nothing like Word. I took the user manual home and read it cover to cover. I became the resident editor expert.

I'd taken two night classes in computer programming: Basic, then Fortran. Some of my drafting work was repetitive: vertical rectangles divided into smaller boxes. With help from one of the computer experts, I wrote a Fortran program to draft the boxes. It lacked all the details I drew, but it was a start. With less than two hours of data entry, I could run my program and see the results on the monitor. Because we rented time on a computer in a different city, I had to wait one work day to have the printed results delivered—about the same amount of time it would take me to draft one page. If I refined my program, I could have it create a more complex design in far less data-entry time and improve productivity.

Excited about this breakthrough, I showed my boss.

“It'll never catch on.” He took away my user id.

I took another night class. My career as a draftsman ended when I found a job as a programmer.


photograph of the inside of car, one hand on the steering wheel, following a white car through an intersection. Two cars appear in the rear view mirror. White streaks and black patches in the sky indicate high speed at night. Red and blue patches of light might be from the flashing lights on the top of a police car

What's your reaction to this picture?
Please share your story with Sandy.


Writing Prompt #1

One of the writing groups I follow online posted this picture with a post encouraging us to write a a microflash story (at least 25 words).

This is what I wrote:

It was a short drive to the grocery store for marinara sauce and ‘shrooms. But the red and blue flashing lights on the police cars sent her brain into warp drive. When she woke up, she found herself strapped to a table in the sick bay of a star cruiser. Half way to Romulus 7.

Does this tell a whole story (in 55 words)? Or, does this read like an opening for a "real" story?