Serial Scribblings Part 1 – It All Started with a Boy

Serial Scribblings Part 1 – It All Started with a Boy

Introducing my new regular feature: the first edition of  Serial Scribblings!  I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know my characters, Leelah, Nic, Chaley, and Idabel, through future editions.  

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It all started with a boy.  Leelah marveled at the stupidity of her predicament as she stumbled over the tangled roots of a massive oak tree, it’s expansive branches heavy with leaves.   Probably so beautiful in the sunshine, it appeared sinister against the moonlit sky, slowly swaying in the dank breeze.

I followed a boy here, she repeated in her head as her stomach dropped, her face warming with new embarrassment.  A boy with whom she’d only spoken two full sentences in the six years she’d known him.   A boy who wouldn’t even speak to her if his friends were present.  A boy with whom she likely had nothing in common, who had no redeeming qualities, besides his unsurpassed, undeniable, golden-boy beauty, which had captivated her since the first day of sixth grade.  The very day when she noticed for the first time that boys weren’t quite so disgusting, coincidentally.   Now she would have to forget him.  What kind of story was that to tell her daughter one day?

A slave to her epic imagination, she’d pictured a first kiss under the stars, a sweet early summer wind rustling their clothes as they embraced, cold electricity darting through her stomach and up her spine, a shooting star racing above their heads as they finally parted.  She was mortified to realize she was like one of those women in those mindless romantic comedies they showed on basic cable over and over again.   She was a dumb hopeless romantic.  That changed tonight.  From this point forward she was declaring herself a modern romantic.  Hoping for the best, but expecting…well, to get lost in the woods.

Her first act as a newly minted modern romantic was to extinguish any hope that her perfect first kiss would ever happen.  Even if she managed to find the object of her obsession, she was eaten alive by bugs, pouring sweat, and her clothes were dirty and torn. He would recoil in disgust if he saw her. And anyway, shouldn’t her first kiss be with someone that she, you know, actually knew?  Not someone that she just stole glances at in hallways and on bus rides?  Someone who wanted to kiss her in public, in front of the entire school, not in secret?  A first kiss was forever.

She noticed a  dark figure darting through the trees, parallel with her.  It’s only a deer, she told herself, not at all convinced.  A distant splash from the nearby river made her jump, but it was a good sign.  If she could hear the river a trail must be close by. Something dark that appeared to have wings weaved between tall blades of grass beside her.  A bird flew overhead, momentarily filling the eerily quiet forest with its almost-human sounding call.  She should have been more afraid, but her anger propelled her forward, deeper into the dense forest, in search of the trail they’d somehow lost.  She was angry at the girl she’d left behind, injured, disoriented, and in horrible pain, all of which she deserved.  She’d taken everything from her.

But even as those thoughts made circles in her brain, she knew she had to go back.  The only part of her that was purely her mother told her to go back.  Slowly, as though her feet were stuck in a syrupy goo, she turned to retrace her steps.  Incredibly, she was going to find the one girl she never thought would need her help.

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Blogging 101 Day Fifteen: Create a New Posting Feature

So, a not-so-secret revelation about me.  I hate routine.  Besides work and some religious commitments, I like my life to be distinctly unscheduled.   Of course there are some things I have to do on a regular basis, like exercise for example.  But I’ll never be that girl that has a set Pilates class every Saturday morning at 7 am.   One day I may do Pilates, the next I may tackle a hike through nature with my dog at my side, another I may catch up on some reality TV while I crush an hour on the elliptical.

Besides my faith (and my husband!), the one thing that I’ve been involved with consistently is writing.  Short stories and novels specifically.  I’m sure, buried somewhere in the corner of a closet somewhere in my parents’ home, there is a bundle of crudely illustrated short stories and novellas dating back to my first grade year.    So, I thought to myself as I read today’s blogging 101 assignment, how hard could it be to write something new every week?

There are a few characters and plot points that have been knocking around in my head for a while.  Nicollette (aka Nic) a young mom suffering from mental illness, Leelah, her preteen daughter, and Leelah’s best friend, Sunny.  Throw in a mysterious death, a betrayal among friends, a few mental breakdowns, and I might have something.  It may lead to a novel, maybe it won’t.  Those scary commitments again!

So every Saturday morning, I’ll be posting a new story, usually a page out of one of the aforementioned character’s lives.  Maybe I’ll come up with a catchy new name for this weekly feature, but so far everything I’ve thought of sounds super-cheesy!  I hope you’ll stop by.  And as always, I’ll welcome your feedback!

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Claire Messud

the woman upstairs

I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

The sexist question above was posed to Claire Messud by Publisher’s Weekly regarding the main character in her book The Woman Upstairs and I absolutely love her answer.  She killed it.

Of course Messud wouldn’t have been asked the same if Nora were a man.  Male characters are allowed to be complex, brooding, frustrated, angry, downright brutal, and they are praised as anti-heroes or complicated bad boys.  Take some of those same characteristics and apply them to a female character and it tends to confuse people.  Why?  It’s completely perplexing to me.  Guess what world?  Women in real life are complex and complicated!

There are women who can be unspeakably cruel, even violent, like Amy Dunne in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (an extreme example, of course), but many of us have experienced the aggression of a truly horrible textbook mean girl.  Some mean girls reform themselves by the time they grow up, sadly others grow into meaner women.   In contrast, there are women who live with a simmering rage boiling right beneath the surface, like Nora. There are women who live with addiction, depression, obsessions, or other forms of mental illness. Rachel in The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Allison in All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner come to mind.  And there are girls who quietly, bravely, survive, or crumble, under terrible circumstances, like young Kambili in Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi or Pecola in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

I enjoy reading, and writing, about complex female characters.  I praise women who are brave enough to create them.  Maybe one day, if more women feel bold enough to speak about their dark histories, struggles, or eccentricities in the real world, people won’t find it so jarring to find a complicated woman in the pages of a novel.

As an aside, I actually would want to be friends with Nora, I think she would be interesting to get to know.  But I’m a complicated woman myself.

http://silverthreading.com/category/writers-quote-wednesday/

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Imperfection.”

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I view what some think are imperfections as quirks.  I’m super quirky.  To say I’m in touch with my inner child would be an understatement.  If you live in my hometown you may catch me lying on the ground staring up at the clouds with an expression of wonder on my face, running through the grass barefoot, jumping off the swings in my local park, eating with my fingers, leading a group of my friends’ kids in a game of hide and seek or a treasure hunt, dancing and singing down the aisles at the top of my lungs to a great song playing over the loudspeaker at the grocery store or pharmacy, reenacting scenes from my favorite goofy comedies (voices and all), and I never pass an animal in public without stopping to pet it.

I just told someone a few days ago I think our child selves are our real selves. Some may disagree, but it’s a truth to which I hold on strongly.  My child self was the happiest version of me.  And when I let her out as an adult, I’m happiest now.

Dumb Happy

i’m not like them/but i can pretend

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Inspired by If Sadness Was a Person by Huckleberry Friend

https://huckleberryfrienduniverse.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/if-sadness-was-a-person/

In my comment on this blog I mentioned the song Dumb by Nirvana.

I know music is open to interpretation, but in my mind, this song is about a person who can’t be sincerely happy without help, meaning some sort of mind-altering substance.  I don’t know what kind of substance to which Kurt Cobain was referring (or maybe I do, unfortunately), but in my case, it’s antidepressants, or what I refer to in my mind as my bottle of happy.  Without my happiness in bottle, I can’t work, or think clearly, or be creative, or hold a conversation with my husband, or friends, or play with my dog, or really do anything besides sleep.  Even with my prescription of happy, I can still have bad days.  Like today.   The clouds in my head are finally starting to clear and at least I can write again, but it’s already 3 pm and most of the day is gone.

There are some days when I wake up happy, like a miracle.  Practically leaping from bed, going outside to get pictures of the sunrise, cleaning the house, taking the dog on a long walk. planning outings with my husband or friends.  I wish I could hold onto that feeling everyday, even if it’s just dumb happy and not authentic happy, because it’s something.   Once I know what that feels like and then the same feeling eludes me for days it makes me wonder, what did I do differently that day?  Did I eat something especially healthy the day before?  Did I have a great endorphin-releasing workout?  Did I accidentally take the wrong dose of something?  But I have to accept maybe it was just a fluke and wait for it to happen again.  I make sure not to waste those days.

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hiking at sunset on a good day
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Most days my personality is pretty even-keeled.  I look forward to small moments that will make me laugh or smile or feel peace, quiet reflection in prayer and meditation every morning, a wise-cracking co-worker, my brother’s daily phone call where were reminisce about childhood shenanigans or the daily craziness that is his life, (he’s just one of those people who was born happy and I love him for it, my opposite) my husband’s funny stories on the ride home, the silly, goofy movies I play on a continuous loop in my bedroom and living room at home, private jokes with girlfriends shared over text or in person. I try and make the effort to see them as often as I can.  Not to mention spending time with children.  My friends’ kids never fail to get a giggle out of me. Plus, some of the things they say are so poignant and sweet and they don’t even realize it at the time.  And they aren’t shy about telling me how much the love me, nor I them.

I may not leap out of bed everyday, but I do look for little pockets of happy in small moments.  I am not sure sometimes if those moments are dumb happy or true happy but sometimes being happy is all that matters, even if you need a little help from a bottle.

Coin Flip

Open University Assignment – Start Writing Fiction

1.4 Portraying a Character-Activity 9

Make a character desire something, and make the desire his or her driving force. Write a scene or a summary that creates reasons why s/he can never have what s/he wants. (‘Three hours between planes’ is a good example of this.)

pitch-black-skies

It’s now or never, I think to myself as the train comes to a stop.  We’re at the airport, the end of the line.  All around me, sleepy passengers gather their suitcases and bags and depart the double doors.  Slowly, I rise from my seat, sling my light backpack over my shoulder and get off the train, stepping into the cavernous lobby of the Hartsfield Airport.  There’s so much going on around me.  People standing in line, waiting to get checked in on flights that I imagine will take them to exotic places.  Children crying, couples exchanging goodbye kisses, a man yelling at a ticket agent, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen wearing dark sunglasses indoors, dragging a wheeled designer bag behind her, striding confidently toward the escalators.  I think she must be a model.  All of the life surrounding me excites me.  It’s one of my good days.  I feel happier than I have in a long time.  I try and forget about the other side of the coin.

I pull out the ticket that I bought with the savings I’ve stashed away from my part-time job for the past year.  New York City. It’s been my dream to live there since I was a little girl.   To me, it was a fairyland I’d created in my head spun from stories I’d read and scenes from movies and television shows. Kisses in the rain, sun-dappled walks through Central Park under trees bursting with color, Broadway shows, proposals atop the Empire State Building. I’d already rented an apartment through the mail.  Two months paid in full.  I finger the warm metal of the key in my pocket and felt an electric thrill rip through me.  After the two months were up, I’d get a job, figure out what I wanted to do from there.  The important thing was, I’d be making the decisions.

My whole life since I was 10 years old has been on a routine set by someone else.  School then home.  Or school, doctors’ appointments, then home.  Now it was school, doctors’ appointments, work, then home.  I worked as a caregiver for an old lady.  I read to her, gave her lunch and dinner,  basically kept her company until her night nurse got there.  She’s the only one that knows that I’m leaving.  She told me she spent a summer in New York between her sophomore and junior years of college and it was the best three months of her life.  I told her two weeks before I was leaving so she could find someone else.  She promised not to tell my parents.  I was an adult after all.  I have the right to leave if I want to.  Once I land, I’ll call and tell them I’m okay.  Right now, as far as they know, I’m at school until 1:30, then at Mrs. Jackson’s until 7.  I am off the grid.  Freedom feels so delicious.  I do an excited twirl in the middle of the lobby, ignoring the strange looks I get.

I march up to the security agent and show my airline ticket and driver’s license, bouncing on my heels with an energy that my body can’t contain.  She looks a little like my mom.  Bronze skin, small brown eyes, hair dyed light brown and brushed back into a sensible bun.  Uniform immaculate and neatly pressed.  A woman that no one really notices until she makes a scene.

She eyes me and my ticket suspiciously.  I probably don’t look like a girl who would buy a one-way ticket to New York City.  I look like a typical subservient, respectful little black girl, which I have been, up until today.  I’m wearing a pastel pink sweater set that complimented my clear, milky brown skin, white jeans and sandals, my jet black hair was neatly straightened and swung down my back.  The only makeup I wore was clear lip gloss.  The security agent looks as though she wants to say something, to stop me, but I was 18 after all.  There is nothing she, or anyone, could do.  Reluctantly, she waves me through.

As I go through security, it starts.  My brain gets hot, my face starts to sweat despite the frigid temperatures.  I get confused with all the orders being barked at me.  Take this off, put this here, no not this line, that one, that’s not allowed, it’s not your turn yet.  As I slip my shoes back on and put my backpack on my shoulder again, I blink back tears.  I think about the medicine bottle I’d left behind, sitting on the dresser in my bedroom.  I’d reasoned that I’d get a new prescription once I’d gotten settled in the city.  I just wanted a few days to feel like me.  I want to feel the leap in my heart when I see the lights of Times Square for the first time, or the beauty of Central Park, or the grand Plaza Hotel rising above the treetops like a castle.  I want to close my eyes as I sat on the balcony of my apartment and feel the energy and hustle of the city.  The pills would only muddle all of that.  My mom watched me every morning as I took each pill religiously, but today I’d pretended.  I held it under my tongue, swallowed the glass of water, and spit it on the floor once she’d left the room.

I’m still determined.  I ignore the weakness in my legs, the heaviness in my chest.  I continue down the escalator, then to my terminal.  I feel it, rising in my throat.  The coin flipping.  I sit down at my gate, I curl my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around them.  I put my face into my legs and start to cry.  I try to be as quiet as I can, but I can hear myself getting louder and louder as though I have no control over it.  My voice seems to fill the terminal.  I know people must be pointing, watching, laughing.  But there’s nothing I can do.  I feel the ticket and driver’s license still clutched in my hand slowly slip away.  People are asking me questions, I think.  My head is underwater and on fire.  I don’t know my name or why I’m here, or where I’m from or if someone’s with me.  I can’t answer them.  Don’t they understand?  All I can do is sit here and cry and scream and wait for this feeling to go away.   Muddled voices “safety concern…unstable…cannot board…in no condition…”  In what feels like a few minutes, but what must have been hours, I hear my mother’s voice.

“Oh Nic, what have you done?” I look up and see the shame in her eyes, the crowd of people behind her, staring.  She hands me my pill and a plastic cup filled with water and I take it without question.  She holds out her hand and I take that too.  It feels cold and rough around mine as we start to walk out of the terminal, all eyes on us.

Get Happy – Conclusion

Today I get to combine two assignments in one.  First I revamped my blog based on tips from Blogging 101 – Day 2.

Next – Open  University Assignment: Start Writing Fiction 1.4 Portraying a character

Now present your new character in the four different ways outlined in Activity 7. Here they are again:

  • Make a summary of what the character is like.
  • Show him or her through appearance.
  • Show him or her through a habitual or repeated action.
  • Finally, show him or her through a speech in a scene.

*

swiss alps

There was a knock at the front door.  Sara had just stepped out of her dress and was about to pull on a pair of worn jeans and a t-shirt, preparing to meet up with some friends a few blocks away for a drink.  She wanted to spill all of the details of her date that never was.  Her eyebrows raised, she slowly approached the door as though there were some sort of deviant on the other side.  She never got unannounced visitors, especially this late at night.  Had the elusive Chet tracked her down and decided to apologize in person?

She padded across the dusty hardwood floor in bare feet and peeked through the peephole.  It was Amy.  Sara stepped back from the door and sighed.  Her sister was ready for round two she guessed.  Well, she was too.  She quickly whipped the door open and could tell she’d startled her, which pleased Sara the tiniest bit.  Sara just stared back at her, eyebrows still raised, as if to say, ‘Can I help you?’

Thirty miles away, in a sad little suburb in a sagging house on a toy-littered cul-de-sac, Amy and Sara’s mother, Helen, poured herself her fifth glass of wine of the night.  Her husband was settled in in his usual spot in front of the television in his armchair, laughing at some dumb, subtly sexist sitcom.  One of those where the wife is impossibly gorgeous and the husband is bumbling and overweight and goofy, but the disparity in their union is never mentioned.  Helen often wondered why the reverse was never portrayed.  A gorgeous guy dating an average-looking woman?  Perish the thought.

Helen stumbled upstairs to her bedroom, settled into her usual spot on her king sized bed that she usually slept in alone while her husband snored away downstairs in his easy chair, and opened her laptop.   She had a new email.  Unusual for that time of night.  She assumed her friends were already asleep.  At some point, after her girls had grown up and moved away, most of her social life had disappeared as well.  She hadn’t realized that most of her friends were ones of convenience, ladies she could talk to at school events and play dates as the kids ran around.  Much of being a parent was just sitting around with other parents, sipping bad wine and complaining about your husband.  None of the parenting books told you that, but it was true.

Now she was down to two friends she was in regular contact with.  An old college friend with whom she’d maintained her friendship throughout her marriage and the raising of her children, though it hadn’t been easy.  Marjorie was single and had never desired a husband or children.  It made things awkward when the girls were young, but now it was almost like things were back to normal.  They were both unencumbered, not that that meant her life was much more exciting.  She and Marjorie did little more than have lunches and talk about books they’d read.  They played around with the idea of taking a long trip together, just to the two of them, similar to an epic road trip they’d taken when they were 19, driving from their college in Georgia all the way to New York City on a whim to see some band perform.  But now, neither of them seemed to be able to make firm plans.  Maybe they both knew those days were behind them.

Her other friend was Nancy, a woman who was the mother of Amy’s long-time best friend, Amber.  They ran into each other all of the time, especially at all of Amy’s pre-wedding festivities.  Amy seemed to still be under the impression that Helen and Nancy were close, and always included Nancy and her husband whenever she planned family get-togethers.  The truth was, Nancy was a friend of circumstance.  She didn’t dislike her necessarily, they just had nothing in common beside their girls.  Whenever they were left alone they found that they had little to discuss with each other besides mundane things like the weather and fashion.  But sometimes they exchanged funny emails, usually stories about something Amy or Amber had done that confounded them or made them laugh.

Before opening her email, she checked Facebook and held her breath, hoping the first image that assaulted her eyes wouldn’t be that of her youngest, Sara, downing a shot of something dark and suspicious looking, which was usually the case.  But no, there was a picture of Sara in Amy’s living room, all made up, clearly Amy had done her makeup with a heavy hand, in a lovely dress that made her look like a cinema star from the 1940’s.   She looked like Helen 30 years ago.  The same chocolate brown hair; Helen’s mane was still lustrous and shiny but now tinged with gray, but she still had the long, lithe body from the Pilates DVDs she used religiously six days a week, and the wide green eyes that she’d bequeathed to both her daughters.

She stared back at her Facebook timeline.  Amy must have taken the picture of Sara.  Her mouth smiled, but her eyes told a different story.   “Off to a double date!”  Amy had written in the photo caption, followed by a million little smiley faces and other indecipherable emojis.  Sara looked beautiful, of course, both of her daughters were beautiful, but not quite like herself.  Poor Sara.  Helen knew this whole date thing couldn’t have been Sara’s idea.  Her lovely, free-spirited daughter.  She envied her a bit.  All that freshness and spontaneity and youth.  She did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  Unless Amy was involved.   She had a vision, many years ago, of sitting in Chastain Park chatting with Nancy and hearing terrified screams coming from the sliding board where Amy, Amber, and little Sara, only two at the time, had been playing.   The slide was for the bigger kids, too much for her baby Sara, but Amy had pushed her, only figuratively she hoped, until Sara had gone down all by herself, screaming and crying all the way.  She ran to Sara, where she’d fallen face down in the dirt  after the slide had propelled her little body downward at warp speed, wiped the dirt from her face, kissed her still chubby baby cheek and dried her tears.  Sara buried her head in her shoulder as she carried her back to the bench.  “What a baby,”  Helen had heard five-year-old Amy whisper to Amber as they’d both snickered.  Sara had quietly sniffled in her lap the rest of the afternoon.  Helen had wished since that day that Sara would stand up for herself more when it came to Amy; clearly she’d been bullied into this blind date business, but she tried to stay out of her daughters’ squabbles.

She went back to her email and saw the new message had been sent an hour ago from Amy.  It was link to a hotel confirmation for a resort in the Swiss Alps booked in Helen’s name, a package that included multiple guided hikes through the mountains, and a link to an airline gift card that would more than cover first class airfare for two.  She clasped her chest and sucked in a deep breath.  Amy.  She’d remembered her whispers.  Helen could still feel the weight of her smaller head against hers, years ago on this very bed.  She’d felt so lost, disillusioned with life and marriage and motherhood.  She’d had no one to confide in.  All of her mom friends seemed so happy and content.  Marjorie would have just said, ‘I told you so.’  She had been convinced since college that marriage was just a sham perpetuated by a patriarchal society set on keeping women from realizing their true potential.  Therapy was out of the question.  Sara was so young and running wild, never noticing her mother’s unhappiness.  But it was Amy who would crawl into bed with her and ask, “Mommy, what is it?  What’s wrong?”  And she’d told her.   Her 10-year-old daughter had been the only person with whom she could be honest.  Horrible parenting, she knew, but she also knew those clandestine talks had saved her life.

Helen forwarded the email to Marjorie and said, “I’m in.  Are you?”  She only had to wait five seconds before she got her response, an enthusiastic, “YES!!!”

Helen closed the computer, steadying herself, then stood  and made her way back downstairs.  Walter was nodding off in his chair, the television and the dumb sitcom still droning on.

“Walter!”  She shook the chair to rouse him.  Her husband stirred and slowly opened his eyes with surprise.

“I’m going on a trip with Marjorie.  To Switzerland.  We leave next week.”

“Errr…okay….” he mumbled groggily.

“And when I get back.  I think we should see someone.  A therapist or counselor or something.   Our insurance should cover it.  Maybe not a top-notch one, but someone.  I’m unhappy, Walter.  I’ve been unhappy for a long, long time.”

Walter looked confused.  He was a simple kind of guy.  As long as he had his family, his TV remote, cold beer in the fridge and money in the bank, he was a-okay.  It was one of the reasons she’d married him.   She knew he would be loyal and sweet, only needing her and their little family, nothing more.  Unlike her own philandering father.  But she wouldn’t think about that now.  That would be a story for the therapist.  The only thing she had to do now was pack.  She hurried upstairs, without stumbling, seeming to have sobered up completely, leaving Walter’s perplexed face behind her.

Back at Sara’s doorstep, Amy was still standing in the hallway, waiting to be let in.  Sara saw something that slightly resembled regret in her eyes, and reluctantly stepped aside so Amy could get past her.  She’d changed too.  She wore her gym gear, a light blue jacket, yoga pants and two layered multi-colored tank tops, her face scrubbed and her hair pulled back.  She was such a beauty, so ethereal-looking, with her naturally clear translucent skin, auburn hair warming her face, her cheeks red from the cold.

Amy stepped inside and started to look around.  Here we go, Sara thought.  She knew Amy would comment on the hastily discarded dress on the floor, the books scattered all over the couch and her bed, since her apartment was so small she could see through the open door of her bedroom from the foyer.  There were dishes in the sink waiting to be washed and dried, a basket full of clean laundry waiting for Sara to pick through and find a clean top to wear out.   But when she really looked at Amy she seemed to be seeing her humble little apartment for the first time.

And she was.  Amy was seeing the wall of bookshelves their father had put up for her, remembering Sara always said she wanted a wall of books in her house when she was all grown up.  A declaration she made after she saw the epic castle library in their favorite movie as kids, Beauty and the Beast.  She saw all of the keepsakes for her travels around the world, a framed photo of her and a friend in the Andes Mountains, stunning pink and aqua blue coiled sea shells, unusual-looking red and brown rocks saved from various hiking trips, white sand collected from a Thai beach in a bottle, the words Samui Beach scribbled on the glass.

She saw another shelf lined with a collection of used vinyl containing some of her favorite bands and an old-fashioned record player. A well-worn guitar leaned against it, which Sara had spent many hours learning to play as a teen, despite Amy’s telling her it was a waste of time. The living room had a wide open space of empty flooring, the only furniture was a small, dark red love seat with bright throw pillows and a side table.  Stepping closer, Amy saw the framed photo that sat atop it.  It was her and her sister, arms around each other, the ocean behind them, the wind whipping their hair around their faces.  It was during their last sister trip.  Two weeks before she married Steve.  Of course Amber had thrown her a huge bachelorette bash a month prior, but this had been a special trip just for them.  They’d gone to Miami and had the time of their lives.  They’d sunbathed every morning, gone running on the beach every afternoon, eaten and drank whatever they wanted, and at night, they’d danced to exhaustion.

She realized her sister was different and free and mysterious, all the things she wasn’t, but that was okay.

“What is it, Amy?” Sara asked, arm crossed, but her face softened a bit.

Amy put her bag down on Sara’s loveseat and pulled out a bottle of red wine.  “I’m here to drink wine and dance with my sister.”

A slow smile spread across Sara’s face.  “What??”

“Put on Nevermind.”  She was still giving her sister orders, but this one Sara didn’t seem to mind.  She went to dig through the album collection as Amy braved the messy kitchen to find two clean glasses and a corkscrew, not an easy task, but as she returned to the living room she heard the beginning strains of Lithium.  She handed a glass to Sara and started to play air guitar.  Sara shook her head and laughed at her dorky sister.  When the chorus hit, they both began to sing at the top of their lungs and sort of jump dance around the room.  As Amy danced she looked at her sister’s flailing body, her hair whipping all over her face as she sang, then pictured her mother on a mountaintop, her closest friend at her side, breathing in the crisp, cold air and sighing deeply, an expression of profound contentment on her face.  Amy said to herself silently, ‘So this is what it feels like.’

Blogging 101 – Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.

I blog inconsistently (hopefully this challenge will help with that) but I blog basically when I have something to say.  Usually something that made me overwhelmingly angry or sad or “incandescently happy.”

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I also blog because I love writing but I’ve never been able to do it professionally.  I blog when I have a story locked inside me that I need to tell. I have so many.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to organize all of the voices of the crazy characters in my brain and write a decent book.  One is slowly forming in my blog and on scrawled notes and journals scattered all over my house.  Once the story is complete in my brain, I’ll be able to finish it.

I’ve already self-published one novel, which was so therapeutic for me.  It wasn’t exactly autobiographical, but most of the characters struggled with a version of something I’ve faced in life.  Writing my way out of every situation made me realize I could do it in real life too.  I’d love to connect with fellow, like-minded writers and readers.  Everyone is welcome here.  I had so much fun with Writing 101. I look forward to going through this new Blogging 101 challenge with all of you and looking forward to more of the same!

Short and sweet today!  Can’t promise that in the future!

Baby Boom vs. 9 to 5

Don’t you hate it when something that was so beloved to you as a kid is ruined forever?  Maybe that’s a bit dramatic.  But it was sort of ruined.  Growing up, I loved the 1980’s film Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton, who is still one of my all time favorite actors.  I noticed it was on Netflix, and settled in to watch.  Watching films that I loved as a kid is wrapping myself in a blanket of softness and warmth. I smiled as the familiar 80’s soundtrack started, preparing myself to be lulled into a peaceful state of childlike contentment.  Then I started to get annoyed.

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Diane Keaton stars as a cold corporate executive, too busy to marry her long-time boyfriend or have children, who only cares about her career.  Then she inherits an absolutely adorable baby girl from her only relative, (!) suspend your disbelief for that one, miraculously discovers her maternal instinct, becomes all zen and peaceful and compassionate, moves to a farmhouse in Vermont, falls in love with the handsome small-town veterinarian, whom she will probably marry, and lives happily ever after. Ugh. Maybe this movie was considered groundbreaking in 1987, but today I couldn’t make it through 10 minutes. It is possible for a woman to be successful at work and not be a cold, withholding, rhymes with witch at the same time, a stereotype that is still perpetuated to this day.  As a married, childfree working woman, who isn’t sure when or if she’ll ever become a mom, this entire concept just rubs me the wrong way.  I have great relationships,  especially with my husband and extended family, including many nieces and nephews who adore me.  I’m not some soulless robot stereotype. I ended up switching over to 9 to 5, another childhood fave.  A screwball comedy featuring three women banding together to take down their sexist pig of a boss and getting well-deserved promotions in the long run?  That’s a story I can get behind.

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