Friday, 14 December 2012

Mary Sue

The newspaper shuffled gently against itself as Michael folded it in half, then in half again. His kitchen smelled like hazelnut and muffins. Saturday was his “finer things” day and he never wasted a second of it. He would always get up at that perfect moment - when you don’t feel oppressed by the earliness but the air outside is still crisp. He would take extra time on his morning routine, as he imagined modern royalty or movie stars might, combing his hair and choosing his shoes. He looked himself over in the mirror while his coffee brewed and his muffin toasted. Then he’d eat slowly, reading a real newspaper, instead of the usual e-articles on his iPad. After all, it was finer things day.

After breakfast he’d walk. He’d choose a new section of the neighborhood each time; the new scenery and current world events trolling casually around his mind. He’d imagine that the stocks he’d read about going up or down were his. He’d imagine he owned the old stone house on the right; He thought about raising a hypothetical two year old, and wondered what the air smelled like during a riot in Egypt all full of dust and smoke and passion.

For lunch he’d stop to talk to Tom at the deli and get a cold sandwich and Elderflower presse’, then practice the “finer thing” that he’d chosen to improve in himself that week: art, music, etc.

But the absolutely finest part of the day was the evening. He and his closest friends would gather at one of their flats (tonight it was his). Charles and Rachel he’d met at school, Tim from charity work, and Anderson was a neighbor. They’d try new wines, listen to new music, and talk. The rule was that the meeting couldn’t go beyond midnight, but tonight they all forgot the clock. Tonight was bittersweet because on Monday Michael was leaving. The term was up along with his visa and while the times he’d gone abroad had enriched his education, they had also scattered his dearest friends across the globe. But for tonight, they had their custom; tonight he sipped his wine.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


  Behind the mountains to the East there are more mountains, and behind those, when the 15 bends around the air force base, for a moment you can see them. Rocky, dusty white peaks, brushing the clouds. They look lonely and far away, and they make me want to touch them.

  Pictures and peeks into places I've never been make me ache to explore. Photographs frustrate because I can't feel the sunlight and smell the air. Those mountains make me want to dive into the barren southern Californian wilderness, and drink in the wild beauty. The otherworldness. The emptiness.
  But I'm here, the artificial noise of the freeway pushing into my ears, the music turned up (pushing back), and buildings crowding against each other in the spaces between the fields of asphalt and concrete. I'm restless. How was it possible, just a few weeks ago, for me to be tired of change?
A sea to ride off on, a wilderness to get lost in, a mountain to climb up on. Anything! The songs and the stories press out against my ribs, nearly breaking my heart, but I can't hear their voices. I feel so full, and I feel like I could never have enough. I cherish this restlessness; the storms in my soul. I cherish the days I can feel fire and beauty and truth pouring out of my eyes; and I cherish the Maker that filled me with this spirit that feels too big for my skin, and who seeds my thoughts with greatness.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

STC - Non Fiction Love

The prompt was "tell the story of a moment that you felt supremely loved." I wrote two. One from my childhood and a poem about the Christmas gift Jon made for me (a hand bound book, titled: Things I Love to Know About You.)

 My parent’s bedroom was the door just to the left of mine in our tiny rectangular hallway. The bathroom was to the right, and my brother’s room straight ahead. Between my brother’s door and my parents’ was the living room - with it’s blue carpet, blue couch, and blue curtains. It’s probably around eleven o’clock, but it feels like that space in the night that seems absolutely timeless to a child. I never made it a habit to visit my parents at night. Just when I had really bad nightmares that I couldn’t shake off and when I was sick. Tonight falls under the second category... kind of. I’m somewhere around 8 years old, and I’m growing. Consequently, my legs feel like they are rotting from the inside and will fall off at any moment. Calcium supplements helped, but not immediately. I gently nudged Mom’s arm. She rolled toward me and mumbled. It was never difficult to wake her up. It was like she was always waiting on the edge of sleep, just in case we needed something.
“Mom, my legs hurt really bad.”
“Did you try to go back to sleep?”
“Okay. Let me get you your calcium.”
 I sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the shadows the hall light cast on the wood floor. She came back with a big pill and handed it to me, with her water. I didn’t have a problem swallowing it, but I hated the bitter taste it left in my mouth.
“Can you please rub my legs for me?”
She sighed and made room for me beside her on the bed.
“Can you tell me a story from when you were a kid?”
Lightly rubbing the worst spot, just above my knees, she began:
 “When I was your age I had a little grey pony named Dapples because of the light grey spots on her belly. I loved her, but she was so stubborn - pretty much every Shetland pony is. She would do this thing when the neighbor kids rode her: She’d put her head down when they were running or trotting and stop really fast and send them flying. I knew she did it so I could keep her head up, but one time I was riding her in the field behind our house, and she got her head away from me and took off. She went right under this tree branch and knocked me out cold. Grandma came out because she heard my dog barking. She found me waking up under the tree from the dog licking my face. It chipped one of my teeth and broke my glasses. We found Dapples, back in her pen, eating.
 I also used to watch cowboy shows a lot and they would always slap their horse’s rear when they put them away, so I tried it. Dapples kicked me right in the gut. I didn’t know it, but Grandpa was behind the shed watching the whole thing and laughing. As soon as I got my breath back I looked at her and said ‘damn pony.’ When I found out my Dad was there I thought I was going to get into so much trouble for cussing, but he never said anything about it or told anyone, except maybe Grandma. For weeks I had little hoof marks on my stomach.
 But Dapples wasn’t anything compared to King. He was a chestnut pony with a blonde mane and tail. He was the meanest and most beautiful pony I’d ever seen. He was so wild Linda, Judy, and I couldn’t ride him, but Grandpa hooked him up to the pony cart once and tried to drive him around. King took off running, just like Dapples would, but he took the cart under the upstairs deck on the back of the house and ripped the harness right off, smashed the cart, and about broke your Grandpa’s leg. We sold him after that.
 After a while your Grandparents bought me a Pony of America because they were more mellow than the Shetlands and I got hurt too often. I named her Miss Little Spots. She was a black appaloosa with a white spots on her rump. She was such a great little horse. I taught her to rear up like the Lone Ranger’s horse. Whenever I’d take my sisters for a ride, I’d make her rear and they’d fall off the back. Linda wouldn’t trust me after I’d done it once or twice, but Judy would always believe my apology, and I’d always knock her off again. Eventually Grandma made me break the horse of rearing because she was afraid it would fall back on me. To do that, I carried a little piece of garden hose with me when I was riding and when she’d jump up, I’d smack her between the ears until she stopped doing it....”
 My last thought before morning was how warm and soft everything felt laying next to her. Her skilled hands had lulled my aching bones to sleep.
 I don’t remember how many times I’d heard those stories and the dozens more from her childhood. I practically grew up in that little town in northern Kansas. I knew it’s geography like the back of my hand even though I only visited once. With these hours and hours of late night story telling, my Mom made it possible for me to live her childhood all over again with her as my best friend.

The Bandit
He stole a shadow’d glance
Of a shrouded, vast expanse.
The warp and weft of an inner scene
Observe and reflect: his chosen means.

He kept a journal, he made a book
Of every corner, cranny, nook.
A map, the anatomy of my soul;
He kept every habit and emotion’s roll.

My Bandit you must have no fear,
Your stealing glance has drawn you near.
Your story’s true, like the clearest bell
You’ve won the country that you know so well.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Body Image

I haven't talked to anyone but Jon about this stuff, but it's time to come out of the closet. For the last three months I've liked how I look. Not just a "these clothes look great on me" or "my eyes look nice today" but a no secrets, standing-in-front-of-a-full-length-mirror-naked, kind of like how I look. This is a new development.

When I was around ten years old I had this really 90's, floral print shirt with a metallic sheen that I LOVED. I thought it was the coolest shirt ever. Then, one day, I was walking by the mirror in my brothers' room and I saw it. The shirt was tight, and just over the top of my jeans there was a bulge. It stopped me in my tracks. I stood there, a little nervous, inspecting my pre-adolesent pudge. I have no memory of noticing something negative about my body before this day. I may have been home schooled, but I still knew that bulge wasn't "supposed" to be there. I was embarrassed. I wondered if anyone else had noticed. I changed shirts and never wore the floral one again. It was about this time that I started dressing in boy's clothes - the baggier the better. The feeling of hunger became a negative one, and I learned to suppress it. A few years later when I was thirteen my Mom casually asked me how much I weighed and I wouldn't say it out loud. I couldn't let others hear that I was up to a disgusting 120.

Once I hit my 20's I started working through some spiritual issues and as I became more confident inside, I stopped hating my outside as much. The big turning point though, was (surprisingly) right after I had Nathaniel. There was a tiny little shift in my perception of bodies. It had gone from "fat" and "skinny" to "pregnant" and "skinny". Since I wasn't pregnant anymore, I was skinny. It wasn't long before I started noticing things I didn't like again. I still thought my arms looked thick, and hated looking at my thighs and butt in the mirror. I wondered if Jon wished that I was different. I talked to him about it, and he said that I was beautiful but that I would never be able to believe him if shame was my standard.

It's been almost two years since I had my boy and took a step to get shame out of my life. Now, for the first time since that day when I changed my floral shirt, I don't want to lose weight. I have been working out a lot for no other reason than that I like how being active makes me feel. I've never, ever done that. For the first time, when I see a really thin woman, I can see that she doesn't look healthy instead of feeling like an ogre and skipping lunch. For the first time I don't avoid the mirror, or wince at a glimpse of my butt. I honestly like the way my hips curve out, and I don't mind the specs of cellulite on my thighs. I like that women's bodies look SO different, and I'm starting to get upset that we're shown that that's wrong - and tell each other (and ourselves) that it's ugly.

I am a small woman. I'm not overweight. A lot of people say I'm thin. My top (non pregnant) weight was 150. If you're thinking that I don't have any room to talk about being "fat", that I don't really understand, you're right. What I do understand though is what it's like to hate yourself; To get a sick feeling when you see the reflection of your body. My point is that shame and comparison KILL! They kill your spirit and your confidence and your beauty. It doesn't matter how much you weigh (or how much weight you lose), if you don't value yourself you will never feel valuable or beautiful to others. If shame is your motivator, it won't go away when you reach your "goal." Shame sticks around, and it's even tougher to get off than those last few pounds.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

STC - The Day The Music Died

The prompt was "write a story in which someone dies." I'm not particularly happy with my effort at it, but that happens. I did end up learning that I'm afraid. Afraid of "leaving". Afraid of pain. Afraid of unknown. This story ended up being an allegorical peek into the less appealing days of my inner life and I learned a lot (or at least admitted a lot) by writing it. I'm adding a little insider info at the end for those interested. Enjoy!

 Finnely was a surprisingly small little town, full of small houses and small shops. There were likewise, small schools, small cars, small roads, and even small pets. No one owned anything larger than a terrier. There was only one thing in this small little town that was big, and that would be the families. The bodies of the people themselves were accordingly small, but they were large in number. The least numerous family in town were the Shellhourns with a startling family of nine (eleven counting mom and dad, who would have liked more but hadn’t been able to get pregnant again after their youngest, Alice, was born). The vastest family happened to be that of the Mayor, Walt Winskey. At the ripe age thirty-seven, he and his wife Paula had twenty-eight offspring. On a good day, a Winskey family gathering would draw roughly five hundred people. A vein of fertility seemed to run through the Winskey line, but none had been so determined or successful as Walt and Paula in reproduction or profession. As I said, the families in Finnely were large. This is the point where the question of “where in blazes do they all live?” usually comes up. The answer is very simple: In their houses.
 Life in Finnely was very basic. There wasn’t the typical vicious cycle of small town gossip, and for the most part everyone was happy with whatever lot fell to them. People rarely became ill and no one had died of anything save old age in more than a hundred years. The only hint at restlessness was a small rift that was forming in the visiting habits of the townsfolk. No one really noticed this happening, but from my vantage point, we are fortunate enough to take in the whole picture. You see, over the last year the social habits of our dear Finnelyians have become bipolar towards the Shellhourns and the Winskey’s respectively. The first, though abnormally small in number, were extraordinarily kind. There were always more children playing on their street than any other because of Nora Shellhourns propensity toward baking and story telling. Mr. Shellhourn was often seen in the garage surrounded by his children and his peers working over some project or another. There was hardly a person in town who did not bloom a smile when crossing paths with a Shellhourn, but no one really noticed this. Conversely, while the Winskey’s were not unkind, there was no one that would call them charming, and had become somewhat isolated. They took little notice of anything that was happening outside of their surname, sporting a disposition and situation fostering the suggestion of aristocracy in their perspectives. There were more than a few people in town that were playing their best cards to gain acceptance into this exclusive club. No one thought of this as outre’ because no one really noticed.
  A while back, shops started giving discounts to Winskeys, and others would always add some extra produce to the Shellhourns’ order. Then it grew to the point that those same favors applied to people who were aquainted with one or the other family. Now it was so bad that many of the shops labeled themselves Win-shops and Shell-shops to denote their desired, if not required, patronage. The families themselves were starting to notice the separation. The Shellhourns urged strongly against such actions (solidifying the superiority of their goodness in the eyes of their friends) and the Winskeys just wrote it off as an alternate option for the unfortunate percentage of the population that didn’t care enough to be their friends.
  Cornelius Thunderbolt Winskey the 7th was the youngest of seven brothers and nine sisters. He was the great-great-grandfather of Walt and the oldest citizen of Finnley at the age of 97. Cornelius was nearly blind, halfway deaf and as dearly loved as any member of the Shellhourn family. He had outlived all of his siblings and friends, and even some of his children. On an average day, the aged man walked around the small town with his small dog, Chester, and dropped in on all the welcoming shopkeepers (his geniality and his name granted unbiased entrance). No one ever felt like the old man was giving them advice, and he didn’t feel like he was giving it either, but no one would argue that their days were happier and their income fuller after spending time with him. Overall, Cornelius was a very wise and a very popular old man.
  One warm day at the end of June, unbeknownst to Shellhourn or Winskey, an impromptu group of townsfolk gathered in the square. A Shell-shop and a Win-shop owner had gotten into a heated discussion over the price of turnips (and other various produce) and what Mr.Shell. or Mr. Win. would think of said price. Their voices escalated to shouts and crowds gathered on their respective sides. The debate gathered momentum quickly, and soon there were regular intervals of a lone, shouted point for or against, then a mass concurrence. The shop owners were speaking directly for either family now “Mr. Winskey hates Braeburn apples! He’s the MAYOR, and he thinks you shouldn’t keep them stocked!” “Well, Mr. Shellhourn loves Braeburns, and he thinks that this is still a free country!” If I had thought the shouting was at it’s maximum level, I was wrong. In a matter of moments the intervals of individual points had ceases completely and the sound was rising from a clamor to a roar, just like a wave rises before crashing down onto itself. There were fists shaking in the air and small fights breaking out where the seams of either group joined. Those small fights spread like water through a sponge and now the angry yelling was punctuated with cries of fear from mothers separated from children, or too-young boys thrown into the brawl.
  Once the morning broke over the small town of Finnely there were shattered windows and several smashed cars, but it was quiet considering the mob that had ribboned through the streets only hours before. The din had died down, quickly losing steam around midnight. More than once someone muttered the phrase “Not much harm done” in an attempt to grapple with the creeping shame on their way home and as the turnip fighting Shell-shop keeper turned the corner from the town square he did not see the pale, nearly blind, halfway deaf hand laying underneath the only overturned car of the night or the small dog curled sleeping on the pavement beside it.
  That warm day near the end of June was the day the town of Finnely suffered their greatest loss, but no one was sad because no one really noticed.
Note: The title is based off of Don McLean's song American Pie - a song about losing innocence in a way. This story is about that too, in a way, and I meant for Cornelius to represent that bit of me that holds the crazy bits together and helps them get along. Also, Cornelius means "Horn" and that was my obscure way of tying the title into the story.