Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fireflies- Part I

 Here's a little short story I've been working on... or the beginning anyway.  I'll post Part II soon.  Tell me what you think!

Fireflies (Part I)

He stared out into the dancing crowd adorned in their finest, the music and lights lapping at his senses.  No penny had been spared to conjure the magic in celebrating this wedding.  His sister glowed in her happiness with her groom twirling her about the dance floor, blonde curls bouncing.  She was the quintessential bride, blushing and all, and his baby sister had never looked so lovely to him.  He was happy for her, to say the least, but even caught in this dazzling place of love and light, he was drowning in numbness. Life had lost its allure.  Or perhaps he had just lost the ability to see it.  He found he didn’t even dare wish for it anymore.   The world’s small wonders just couldn’t be found in his monotonous daily commute between the corner of Adult Avenue and Responsibility Street.
But as the acceptance of his hope’s surrender washed over him, a sparkle drifted into the room, like a firefly on the breeze in the form of a beautiful woman.  She was draped in a dress of deep blue- the very shade of evening’s waking hour, with little flickers glittering in the low light of the ballroom.  Was it jewels or sequin?  He imagined it could’ve been the very stars from the sky.  She took his breath away.  As she swept in front of him, hips swaying to the music, he caught her scent.  It was the exact essence of a June evening- citrus sweet with just a hint of honeysuckle. The splendor of youthful summers surrounded him, seduced him, and he was instantly caught up in a time when every bit of life sparked wonder in his young eyes.
He was sixteen that final summer spent on his family’s country wrap-around porch.  He couldn’t fathom a time when the rickety swing there wouldn’t be his favorite spot, though it was that very September his father would take a job in the city, leaving these precious, simple nights as nothing but a memory.  He would idly sit on the swing, looking out at the edge of the woods with a strangely calming sense of anticipation as night fell. The tiny twinkle of the lightning bugs flashing and rising, blink by blink.  There was one, then another.  He could never resist their summons, and so with mason jar in hand, he would bound off the porch with a child-like enthusiasm in hunt of the magical creatures that could light his jar.  It was even by the glow of this bug lantern that he stole his first kiss, believing himself to be the sole charmer, but knowing now it was merely the hypnotic beauty of the fireflies.   
Hypnotic beauty. Yes, this Summer in a Blue Dress captivated him in the same way here tonight, shimmering and shining.  Her bright smile, her flushed cheeks, the gleam of her eyes, and the ravishing appeal of her body perfectly fitted in that dress; every bit of her capable of sparkle shone.  As his eyes followed her across the room, it occurred to him- each dusk spent on that porch was preparation for this very moment.  He knew he must catch her, even if only for a moment in her company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Practice is the Purpose

I find dialogue awkward.  That is, I find writing dialogue awkward.  There is a certain singsong-ish flow to a conversation created by voices and tones and facial expressions alone, involving senses much more complicated to convey in written word.  It is an art... and it is an art I am working to develop.

There is nothing quite so intimidating to me, in regards to writing, as transferring the lively characters dancing through my imagination and their exchanges to paper, except perhaps doing so poorly.  It is, however, in my experience, the very thing you dislike most or are most uncomfortable with which you should practice most ardently until you find mastery, or at the very least comfort.

Burpees are my best example in this moment, because so much of what I do now is relatable to the more palpable physical struggles of fitness and health. I don't know many people that don't have a love-hate relationship with taking a push-up and adding a "stand-up-and-jump" to it.  I realized very quickly in sweating through a workout that that which I hate most is where I needed the most training, and burpees were public enemy #1, as far as I was concerned.  The only way to beat them was to perfect my execution of them.  It's still a work in progress, but you get the idea.

I'm taking this approach to writing fiction, but more specifically written dialogue.  Practice practice practice.  Lucky for me, I have a blog as a perfect, and very public place to do just that.

I have spent many a night lately, as is evident by Little Wonders' explosion of random typed word-vomit posted, exercising various aspects of the art of writing.  I have scribbled notes on receipts, scraps of paper, and in several spiral bound notebooks tucked in corners of my home, car, and purse for years.  In the absence of pen and paper, I am grateful for a rather writer-friendly phone collecting my ramblings in electronic form.  I can't get enough, and honestly, it's about time I worked my way towards organizing this collection.

This is my explanation for what may seem like a blog full of words and posts lacking purpose as a whole.  Essentially, you are subjected to my self-assigned exercises.  I hope you find some enjoyment, if not amusement, in my nonsense.

And with that, I will leave you with last night's little assignment.  Five minutes spent creating an exchange between two beloved characters...

(Another excerpt from a novel I have yet to write.)

He grinned and gently brushed her cheek, reveling and reeling in the residual waves of their love made. 
“You’re glowing.”
Even in the shadows of the pre-dawn darkness, her smile shone in response. “It’s like the moon, my love, merely reflecting light from another source.”  She gave the sweetest sigh with a tender, blissful kiss. “It’s what you do to me.”
She snuggled into the crook of his arm as he found his way to the space beside her, like the final pieces of a puzzle connected.
“Oh no, love,” he whispered, taking in the honeyed scent of her skin. “It is all you.”
“Maybe,” she conceded with a wicked little giggle. “But then you are certainly the flint that sparks the fire within me.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Injuries and Scars

I quietly sat on the x-ray table, lead vest heavy across my belly and spotlight aimed at my troublesome right knee. The tech making polite conversation as she gave me directions, "Turn this way, just a bit," and "Hold this up. Now, be very still."

I silently obeyed, holding my breath as she stepped behind the window and snapped the shot.  As still as I was, my mind careened around all the possibilities.  Another injury. 

It hadn't been but a few months since I was sitting in that very room with a similar limb affliction; one right shoulder, overworked and under-rested.  At least this time, there was actually an identifiable incident.  I had been reaching for a kettle bell mid-workout, between the running and the squatting.  I hadn't even touched that darn bell yet.  I merely stepped and reached for it, twisting in just the right way.  Or I suppose I should say, "just the wrong way," as there I sat.  It's silly really, and believe me, I felt the ridiculousness of it all in telling the doctor as he examined my angry knee.

I listened intently as he went over the diagnosis; a simple sprained knee to be cared for with a brace, some rest, and anti-inflammatories.  But there was more.  There were "abnormalities" visible on the x-rays. Well, who doesn't love to hear a doctor say that lovely fear-mongering word- "abnormalities?"  He explained the existence of what appeared to be some sort of calcification on what he felt was a knee far too young to allow such a presence.  I was left with a promised follow-up from the radiologist, and a possible orthopedic referral, dependent upon their closer examination of the x-rays.  Of course, I don't remember the exact details of his medical monologue.  It's funny how I always believe I will remember every word, but as soon as I step out of the office, my brain is wiped clean with the exception of all the questions I wished I had thought to ask.

In the few hours that have passed since the appointment, I've teetered back and forth between a high-spirited optimism and plan for a quick recovery, and a disheartening pessimism of being held back from the activities I love for any length of time.

It's a minor injury.  No surgery required.  What a relief!

Minor though it may be, it will still keep me from my routine.  Workouts are my sanity, my remedy for more than just a calorie burn and muscle toning.

Yes, but five days' rest is nothing.  And then I'll be back at it, rebuilding my strength slowly, smartly, but surely.

Unless this calcification business is more.  Then what?

Then, I'll work with it, and stop trying to fight against it.  I can accept my knees never permitting an inverted lotus pose.

Ugh... I was planning to start my YTT this week.  Lotus pose?  I can't even do child's pose right now.

But, my body needs rest.  I'll rest it, and then start next week.  That's the benefit of choosing a program which allows practice and study in my own time.

And round and round I go.  No, really... I am this insane.

In the end, all I could think was how maybe I've made a mountain of this minuscule thing.  A minor injury.  I've allowed it to make me feel broken.  I don't like feeling broken.  I don't care for exposing any fleck of my fragility, physical or otherwise, though I am quite aware of each flecks existence.

The truth is, my fear isn't about this injury or its subsequent recovery.  It gives life to a much more personal and emotional issue deeply rooted and boldly growing from old scars split wide open by setbacks like this.  Clearly, they are wounds that never really healed.

Many, many years ago, I gave up far too much far too easily, and it haunts me still.

One memory rubbed raw and resurfacing most recently, is that of my rather brief stint in the Air Force; four weeks of boot camp training followed by two months of "Medical Hold," only to be sent home for migraines. This is a story many friends and family know, though I've always told it differently than it actually happened.

The basics are the same. I had been aimlessly floundering after the chaos of life led me down an unplanned path. In an attempt to pull myself out of the muck and find any sort of purpose, I proudly joined the U.S. Air Force.  The day after Christmas in 2000, I traveled to San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base from Houston.  I missed the initial TI verbal assault on the incoming buses, courtesy of a day long paperwork delay, but I was settled into my flight with all the usual "pleasantries" by the 27th.  I learned quickly and became the perfect little wall-flower, despite having the first bed just outside of the Sergeant's office and an easy target for a last name.  "Homer" had brought me nothing but grief since The Simpsons' debut in the fifth grade.  Fortunately for me, it went unnoticed amongst the 59 other girls in my flight.  By week 4, I thought I was golden, but the changes in diet, exercise, and sleep began to take their toll, and my occasional pre-Air Force migraines struck with a vengeance.  It wasn't ever long after Reveille that a daily monster would take hold of my poor pounding head.  I couldn't think straight, and suddenly "the perfect little wallflower" was missing marching calls and standing out like a cactus in the bare desert.  It wasn't pretty, and no one thanked me for the numerous extra "motivational push-ups" we were having to do in penance for my errors alone.  After several days in a row of brain torture and worry, I finally requested to go to medical call. The clinic doctor granted me a referral to the neurologist and an unwanted ticket to leave my flight for the "Medical Hold" Squadron until a diagnosis could be made and everything sorted out.  With this, I found my boot camp graduation delayed and my reserved spot at Shepherd AFB for my next phase of training given to another recruit, though I wasn't fully aware of it at the time.  Once again, my life's plans were shaken.

My first neurology appointment offered a migraine diagnosis, only pending MRI results to rule out worse possibilities.  And so my waiting began- waiting on appointments, waiting on paperwork.  Just a whole lot of "hurry up and wait."

A few weeks later, while making my way by bus to the base hospital, Wilford Hall, for my MRI and follow-up appointments, I passed the marching grounds where graduation preparations were in order.  My breath hitched.  It was my original flight's graduation day.  My graduation day... but not.  I maintained the military bearing as I was expected to display, but my heart broke right there on that shuttle bus as I watched the graduating flights march to the field in their dress blues- the uniform I was measured for, but never received.

It is here where the difference in the story I allowed people to believe and the actual truth diverge.

Perhaps it was riding on the emotional low of that bus ride when I felt my decision was made.  At my appointment that day, the neurologist made the official diagnosis and explained that migraines were typically a "no-go" for acceptance into the military.  He was, however, willing to make an effort to make a case for me to return to normal training along with a prescription to help ease the headaches. The choice was mine. Of course, I had certain anxieties about Warrior Week and other aspects of returning to training, but I truly couldn't see past those graduating flights marching all over my altered dreams to even consider amending the timeline to still reach my goals.  At that moment, I just wanted to go home.

And so, in the great disappointment of my imagined failure, I chose to truly fail by asking that doctor to send me home.

It took another 8 weeks for the paperwork to be properly gathered, but the decision had already been set into motion.  By the time I was reasonable enough to fully comprehend what I had done, it was too late. I told my family and friends that I wasn't given a choice, a fact most are reading for the first time only now.  The shame of disappointing them yet again with the truth of my ever-wavering resolve was too much to bear.  I couldn't shake my adopted role as a quitter, even if only I knew the truth, and it was my own fault.

I let that role rule me for decades, always letting that girl in the mirror forever harp on how I never finished anything I started.  So many times, I proved her right.  Then, little by little, I learned how to be louder and stronger than she was, taking one goal at a time, however small, and celebrating the hell out of it.

That nagging reflection is gone, but she is sadly not forgotten.  It is her ghost, her shadow I fear in moments of sprained knees and slightly-delayed yoga teacher training, knowing old habits are so easily resurrected.  I might be 36, but apparently 21 year old versions of myself still rattle me.

Still, I won't quit. Broken, sprained, calcified, torn, delayed... whatever.  I'll rest.  I'll get back up.  I'll continue moving forward, ever wiser, ever better.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow Blind

I'm currently reading The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.  I inadvertently read the sequel, The Wednesday Daughters, first while on Christmas vacation, but enjoyed it so much I couldn't stop to wait until I could find this one.  So, backwards I went, finishing the second first, then finding the first at the library this week.

The "Wednesday sister's" encourage each other to chase their dreams of becoming published novelists through the sharing of weekly writing assignments.  Though only on chapter 6, I think it is a brilliant practice, and having dreams quite similar to these ladies, I have been inspired to participate.

Today, I took an object (our snow covered fire pit) and wrote this fictitious little ditty about it, imagining it would come somewhere in the midst of a novel I have yet to write.

Snow Blind (An Excerpt from a Novel I Have Yet to Write)

I take a deep breath and follow a single flake, the fluffiest I can spot, as it falls from the sky, floating gently, changing direction ever so slightly, and I flinch as it tenderly hits the window.  As if this miniscule cluster of ice could hurt me somehow, or even reach me through the protection of the door.  It’s absurd.  When did I become so jumpy?  
I follow another, determined to hold my gaze, like a child in an intense round of “Made You Blink.”  With another breath, I lose sight of the second, and then the third, my frustration surfacing.  The fourth attempt is a success.  The flake sticks to the window, and I hold fast, but still I am unsatisfied.
“Quit while you’re ahead,” I whisper to myself.  Willingly, I obey and abandoned my insanity, giving in to the need to simply capture a moment of rest here on the floor at the backdoor.
It isn't long before my mind wanders off again.  Staring out into this blustery, blowing snow is as mesmerizing as the dancing flames of a summer’s end fire in our backyard pit; the ones we built just before the chaos of fall swept in.  I remember the last one vividly.  Fire-roasted and kid-blackened hot dogs, your favorite potato chips, fresh scooped watermelon, and s’mores.  You all laughed and agreed; I make the best ones, even though I never eat more than the remnants of melted chocolate and marshmallow sticky on my fingers.  I’d found the perfect ratio of graham to marshmallow to chocolate, made most efficiently for enjoyment at just the right ooey-gooey temperature.  Not too hot.  Not too cold. 
I catch myself smiling again at the very silliness of my own nonsense and obsessive behavior.  A perfect s’mores recipe? 
But it was a good night.  With the kids tucked snug in their beds, we enjoyed the fire’s last embers and a beer in our comfortable silence.  My hand in yours, you led me from the dying warmth of the fire to the kindling & passion of our bed.
A tear slides down my cheek.  That poor fire pit seems to have disappeared beneath more than just the two feet of snow now stifling its glow and memory.   As my mind drifts like the tumbling snowflakes, I wonder how we got here.  And how do we find our way back when we’re both wandering lost and snow blind?

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Broken Heart's Jar

This isn't my usual thing, but it's something that just came out one day, and I kind of liked it.

I broke something today-
Something that didn't belong to me.
I held it tenderly close for so long, 
As long as I could.
Was it years?
Surely longer.
Though now it seems it was mere minutes as I look upon its pieces 
Unintentionally shattered at my feet.
I don't remember ever feeling stronger,
Or so completely powerless.
And now I'm left staring blankly at the inevitable, heartbreaking destruction of it all.

But then, that must be the way of it.
As you grow in your own strength,
You release the burdens others place upon you;
To stand tall in the confidence you have painstakingly built.
I carried your "could haves," "should haves," and "would haves"
Day after endless day,
Always making more of it than you meant.
And in the end, 
It was my heart and my life
Or yours.

Southern Snow

Be gentle when teasing those of us south of the Mason-Dixon for our Chicken Little approach to snow!  Of course we close schools & shut down businesses for a couple of inches of the white stuff!  Obviously, the very mention of a blustery two foot accumulation will send us dashing to the store in a panic to strip its shelves bare of milk, bread, eggs, water... and wine.  Snow and icy covered roads strike tremendous fear into the darkest corners of our souls.

But do you understand why??

It’s true that winter storms occur infrequently in the southeastern states, but our reason for the tizzy is about much more than just not being accustomed to it. Cities, like Atlanta, are not equipped to handle a Snow-pocalypse, as we all witnessed last year, nor would it be in their best interest to prepare and budget yearly for a team of snow plows and the like for such weather!  The further south you go, the less likely it is that snow shovels, salt, or any other snow-battling weaponry will even be available to find at your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart or Home Depot.  Why would they stock their shelves with such things in the unlikely event that a blizzard would strike that year?  Also, though I’m no engineer, I’d be willing to bet that the construction of the buildings and roads of our charming Southern townships considers warmer weather in its structure planning for safety rather than cold, possibly making them ill-suited for plunging temperatures and the destructive powers of ice.

Yes, we know you northerners laugh at us for having a slightly higher ambient temperature and an inability to drive in ice and snow.  Although, I must point out the false confidence in your own winter driving abilities often astounds me with its disastrous endings. Perhaps news coverage of such accidents is the source of our southern fear. In any case, we don’t mind being the butt of your jokes.  In fact, I always find a good little giggle in the sad truth of your winter memes.  

Just remember, when temperatures soar to the not-quite triple digits this summer and your area issues an extreme heat advisory, striking fear into your own hearts, the tables will turn and we will all have a good laugh on you.