Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candy Plots.

Nearly the entire floor was covered with our loot as my brother and I sorted our takings from the day's Trick or Treating.  The first step was to categorize everything:  chocolates, sours, gummies, loose change, miscellany.  The prep work facilitated the trading that would then occur.  Jim didn't really like things like Spree or Sweet Tarts.  I didn't want anything with nuts.  He'd get my Mr. Goodbars, I'd get his Sour Patch Kids.  Trades had to be fair and equitable.  There was no way I was giving up a full size Reece's Peanut Butter Cups pack that I didn't even like unless I was getting the same amount of candy in return.

For some reason on one particular Halloween, I ended up with an extraordinary amount of Brach's Butterscotch hard candies.  I loved them, but since I was only about 7, my mother really didn't like me eating them.  I come from a long line of women overly concerned that their children will choke on hard candies.  I knew I had plenty and figured no one would notice if I snuck one.  I gingerly opened the wrapper, doing my best to cover up the crackling of the plastic.  Jim was busy organizing his bounty by the order he'd like to eat it, so he couldn't care less what I was doing.

I popped the candy into my mouth.  It was sweet and buttery, just like I knew it would be.  There was that hint of slime around the very hard part that let you know it was sitting on someone's shelf a little too long.  I swirled it around with my tongue, letting it knock into my teeth.  Then I chomped down on it so my molars would dig in and get stuck, straining my jaw to release it.  Over and over I did this, enjoying the taste as much as the getting away with sneaking the candy.

The thing about getting away with it was key.  We were allowed to select one piece of candy to eat before bed on Halloween, once my mother declared everything was safe.  Getting to have two pieces when Jim only got one would mean that I was the ultimate victor.  I sat there thinking about how much better than him I was.  He wouldn't dare sneak candy because he was afraid of our parents.  But they didn't scare me.

"Hey, Jimmy!" I called out.

I was going to stick out my tongue and show him the butterscotch.  I couldn't wait to watch his face turn purple with anger and see him run off to tattle.  He looked up from where he was sitting and I moved the candy to the front of my mouth.  As I opened my mouth to speak though, the candy slid to the back of my tongue.  I tried desperately to bring it forward but to no avail.  It slipped down my throat.

I panicked.  I jumped up and grabbed my throat, trying to cough the yellow disc up.  Jim didn't know what was happening so he just went back to his sorting.

"What's going on in there?" Mom called from the kitchen.  I couldn't answer.  All I could do was cough.  I couldn't stop, but still nothing came up.

No one answered my mother, so she called out again.

"I think Michelle is choking," Jim said, completely unalarmed and never taking his eyes off his pile.

My mother came running in to find me coughing, red in the face, flailing my arms about.  She asked what I was choking on but before I could even attempt to answer she went off on a rant about how this is why we weren't supposed to eat any candy.  I showed her the butterscotch wrapper I had shoved in my pocket.

"You're not really choking if you can cough.  I'll get you some water.  That'll dissolve it."

She came back with a cup of warm water.  She made me sit on the couch and drink.  I could feel the hard lump in my throat.  It hurt, but at least I had stopped coughing.  More water was administered, until eventually the candy could be swallowed.

"Mom, my stomach hurts," I whined.

Glancing over with a dirty look, the lecture started back up.

"This is what happens when you don't listen."
"If you'd have just waited..."
"How many times have I told you not to eat hard candies?"
"You always have to try to make your brother mad."

All of it was true.  And that's when I realized that I had never gotten my authorized piece of candy.  With all of the commotion and water consumption, I didn't even notice Jim was chowing down on a Hershey's bar.

"Mom, can I have a piece of candy?"

The glare I received in return made clear her stance on the matter.  I sighed to show my disappointment and placed my water glass on the end table.  I cleaned up my candy from the floor placing it back into my plastic pumpkin.  I put my best pout on and endured more lecturing about how my disobedience meant that I didn't get to have the few fun things she could give me in life.

"Fine," I said with a huff.  I should have said I was sorry, but she was really starting to annoy me.  "I have to go to the bathroom."

"Yeah, well, you drank enough water," Mom said.  "Get ready for bed while you're up there."

I stomped up the stairs, still letting my mother know how angry I was at her.  I went into the bathroom and closed the door just a little bit too hard to further illustrate my point.

I reached into my pocket and retrieved the snack sized 3 Musketeers I had shoved in there while I was cleaning up.  I leaned on the door and savored every single bite, satisfied in the knowledge that I had won after all.

I'm linking up again with Yeah Write.  I couldn't ask for a better community of writers to hang out with.!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wanna Be.

We're coming to the end of the Pish Posh 8-week Challenge.  I've had a lot of back sliding going on these past two weeks and I haven't lost any weight.  I haven't been walking due to work and time constraints, but if I'm being honest, those are just excuses.  I'm good at excuses.  If there was an 8-week challenge to make as many excuses as possible, I'd probably do really well at that.

One of the things Pish Posh talked about this week is her commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle and her love of animals.  She writes for an animal rights group, which I think is wonderful.  I admire her resolve to be kind to animals in every way she can.

Part of the reason I admire it so much is because, while I truly in my heart of hearts believe that eating, testing on and otherwise using animals is wrong, I still eat them and wear leather and, well, I don't know what else but I probably do it.  I don't test on them though.  When I think about hurting animals because they are tasty, it makes me sick.  Case in point, this post.

I successfully was meat free (but not dairy free) for most of my pregnancy, but I started eating meat again when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around when I was 8-9 months pregnant.  After Nathan was born, meat was easy.  I hadn't practiced easy vegetarian cooking enough to have a routine and I fell back to old habits.  Even now, when I wish I didn't eat so much meat, I keep doing it.

Did you read this post where I very briefly state that I know I should go vegan for my health at some point?  I have a list a mile long of excuses why I don't.  Someday...  someday...

More evidence of my desire to eat less meat?

I have subscribed to Vegetarian Times for probably about 8-9 years.  This is what's currently hanging out on my magazine table.

Also, I bought some books last fall.  Note all the tabbed pages.

See, I told you I was a wanna be.  I have a lot of vegetarian intentions, it's my execution that leaves much to be desired.  Reminiscent of my work on this challenge, wouldn't you say?

You might be wondering what my point is in all of this.  My point is that we were challenged in this last week of the, ahem, challenge to have one vegan day.  That means no meat, dairy, eggs.  Nothing that comes from an animal at all.  

One day?  That's easy.

One day before Halloween?  Well, I don't know. {Here come the excuses.}

I was going to make it Monday when I'd be at work most of the day and not have to worry about feeding other people most of the day.  But with the storm that's apparently coming this weekend, I don't know what's going to happen.  If I lose power and have to eat everything we have quickly, I may not be able to be as picky.

I am committed, I promise.  Anyone reading this can follow up with me on it.

And in case anyone was really interested and was keeping track, I'm barely holding steady at being down 10 pounds since labor day.  I haven't had alcohol since 9/4 and I was walking every day except the last two weeks so we can hardly call that every day anymore.  

I'll try to post one last time about the challenge when it's over with a final wrap up post.  Thanks for reading along all these weeks.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Afraid of the Dark.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark.  But my son, his fear of the dark, this is ridiculous.

Let me back up...

Nathan didn't sleep in his own crib until he was 16 months old, and even then it was only for half the night.  Eventually he stayed in his room until 2 or 3am.  When we moved to our current home in June 2010, he started staying in his own room all night, which means until somewhere between 5 and 6am.

Bedtime used to be a nightmare.  It took me years, years, to get him to fall asleep within in a few minutes and stay asleep for most of the night.  I do this by standing with him.  Sometimes I hold his hand.

I am fully aware that this sets the stage for sleep issues and I'm not doing him any favors.  I understand that I'm not solving the problem long term.  But did you read his sleep history?  I'm tired.  It's been a long almost 6 years of messed up sleep and the pregnancy was no prize either so really I haven't had consistent good sleep since May of 2006.  You'll forgive me for aiding and abetting.

Anyway, since Kindergarten started, Nathan's fear of the dark, which started out normal, has gotten out of control.  He is now afraid to be in a well-lit room that is next to a dark room.

Exhibit A:

I took this picture, no flash, sitting on my couch.  It was brighter when he was up because the TV was on.  But he made me turn the dining room light on because it was too dark.  

Exhibit B:

Don't let his happy face fool you.  He was afraid to come into this room while I was in another.  Again, no flash here, folks.

I understand not wanting to walk into a dark room.  But a fully lit one?  Come on.

Also, see that round, gray thing on his far wall?  That's a Moon In My Room.  That lights up like a full moon and it, along with the light on his fish tank, a battery operated fake candle, a nightlight that projects SpongeBob's face on the ceiling, a spinning disco light and the hall light (that light from the doorway) all stay on until he's asleep.  And he's complaining it's too dark.  I could read in there it's so bright for crying out loud.

When he falls asleep I turn off the hall light.  The last few nights it's been back on by 1am.  Again, I know I'm not doing anything to stop his behavior, but I really just want us all to go to sleep.

He told me he's afraid of the darkness outside the windows so I close the blinds.  Other than that, he can't name his fear or expand upon it.

I'm at my wit's end.  I can't leave him in a fully lit room to do something else or else he's freaking out.  When (not if) he wakes up in the night he's afraid and can't go back to sleep.

On the one hand, I feel badly that he's so scared.  I hate that.  On the other hand, come on.  He is afraid in rooms that practically have flood lights in them simply because it's night.

My parents' approach for me was to shut up, suck it up and grow up.  It's dark, get over it.  I don't want to take that approach with my son.

I am, however, losing patience rapidly.

Anyone care to weigh in on this one?  Normal developmental milestone?  Turn on all the lights?  Turn off all the lights until he's desensitized?  (I'm not serious about that last one.)

If you have an idea, I'm open to hear it.  Also, if you'd like to chip in on the electric bill from 10,000 nightlights, I accept checks and major credit cards.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Think About Lemons.

I remember my first time like it was yesterday.  I was 22.

I was out on a date with my not-yet-husband to see Bob Mould at Irving Plaza in Manhattan.  We were really excited for the show since the venue was perfect for getting right up front by the stage.  We stood outside until the doors opened, having arrived early since the show was standing room only.

Once inside though, something inside of me went terribly wrong.  My shoulders and arms began to ache and my knees felt week.  I could feel my eyeballs start to sweat as chills raced down my spine.  I made a detour to the ladies room and it was all downhill from there.

When I finally emerged after what felt like an eternity, my not-yet-husband was quite concerned.  I told him we needed to leave but I couldn't explain why.  I couldn't see 2 inches in front of me and I had suddenly gotten the worst migraine of my life.  My stomach, now completely empty, continued to cramp and cause me to double over.  I was shaking, burning up and freezing at the same time.  I thought I was dying, but I couldn't fathom the idea of finding an emergency room.  I just wanted to get home.

I stayed in bed for days.  Every time I ate I got sick.  Every time I set foot outside, I was so afraid I'd get sick that I would go right back home.  I made it to a doctor who couldn't tell me what was wrong.  He was convinced I had been drunk or pregnant and gave me an antibiotic that clearly wasn't going to help my condition.  I went back to work, but wouldn't engage in any social activities.

When I finally felt well enough to get back to my therapist, she asked why I hadn't come to see her sooner.  She was certain I'd had my first panic attack and without any treatment I was having smaller ones ever since.  I was referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed medication.  I stayed on the medicine for months, but it never really solved my problem.  Therapy was great, but not much help when I was out in the world and about to melt down.

Someone suggested aromatherapy.  I learned that citrus smells, particularly lemon, can be helpful when battling anxiety.  I purchased a small tube with lemon essential oil that I carried with me everywhere I went.  When I started feeling anxious, I'd grab my tube and concentrate on the smell of lemons.  The deep breathing helped me relax and the feelings would pass.

For years I carried around that tube of lemon oil.  I learned to apply it to tissues, so when I was out at a client I could pretend I had frequent allergy attacks.  It was in my purse at my wedding and all through out the process of planning the wedding.  It was with me for the mundane activities that seemed to cause me great stress such as trying new restaurants, going out with friends and grocery shopping.

I stayed out of New York City as much as possible, as I was not looking forward to revisiting the scene of the crime.  But one night, an event came up and I had no excuse not to go.  Being afraid of going out didn't seem rational or like something I wanted to explain.  And with my terrible luck, that also happened to be the night I forgot my lemon tube.

We ventured down into the subway.  Between the noise, the heat and the smell I was certain my next big panic attack was imminent.  I took deep breaths, but not too deep because it was a NYC subway after all.

Think about lemons, I told myself.

I kept breathing and before I knew it, we were back off the train and heading back up to the street level.  I managed to make it to the venue in one piece, but after sitting down in the crowded audience, my anxiety flared once again.  My shoulders and chest started collapsing, my legs went dead and my stomach turned over on itself.  I couldn't get out of that room quickly and I couldn't sit there.  It was starting to seem like I was never going to be able to leave the house again.

Think about lemons.  Take a deep breath and think about lemons.

It worked.  I calmed down.  I ended up enjoying the show, stand up comedy.  Laughing all night, I forgot to feel terrible and be afraid.

I don't carry the tube anymore.  It dried up and I never bought a new one.

Whenever things get crazy, a room gets too full or I don't know what to expect, I think about lemons.  I think of their crisp smell, their sweetness and tanginess.  I think about taking a deep breath, inhaling the aroma and feeling it pass through my nose and straight to my brain.  My pulse slows, my stomach stops churning and my arms and legs don't feel so numb.  The dizziness subsides and I can make it through a few more minutes.

The anxiety never subsided completely.  I merely keep it at bay.

This weekend I have plans to meet friends at a bar for someone's birthday.  Our friends' band will be playing.  I've been to this bar to see this band before.  I don't have a sitter lined up yet.  I don't know what time we're going or what we'll eat for dinner before hand.  What if there's no where to sit? What if we get there too early?  Or too late?  What if there are too many people I don't know?

I need to stop thinking about the details.

I need to think about lemons.


Linking up with the Yeah Write Challenge grid.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Clearing.

She knew it was a bad idea from the start, but she didn't really see that she had a choice in the matter.

Carrying her heels in her hands,  she walked along the dark, deserted road.  Damn him, she thought to herself, because she wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for him.

Their date had gone well.  After the movie, when they were driving around town, the conversation was light.  Until he turned up that road.

The deserted road led to The Clearing.  Everyone knew what you went to The Clearing to do and when they got there, Richie only had one thing on his mind.  Janet had suggested they go for coffee instead, or that he drive her home.

"Let's not go to The Clearing," Janet said.  "I'm not ready for that.  I don't want you to get your, um, hopes up."  She giggled nervously.

Richie looked over at her from the driver's seat and laughed.  He only laughed; he said nothing.  Once in The Clearing, he put the car in park and turned towards Janet.  She could feel his icy stare boring holes into her own.  She knew what he wanted.  It's what they all wanted.

He leaned in to kiss her and she let him.  He reached up to cup her breasts, rubbing and smooshing them with his large hands, and she let him.  He put his hand on her thigh and squeezed.  She let him.  He slid his hand up, up into her skirt and tried to move her panties out of his way and that was when she stopped him.

"No."  She hoped she sounded calm and clear.  She hoped the word did not come out as the scream she felt brewing inside her head.

"Come on,"  he pleaded.  "If I go too far, just stop me."

"You went too far already.  I told you no.  I told you I didn't want this.  I told you not to come here.  Take me home."  Janet was fighting back tears as she smoothed out her skirt and adjusted her top.

"No.  You knew what kind of guy I was when you agreed to go out with me.  You know you want it and you're just being a tease."

When he leaned in again to kiss her, she slapped him.  She'd never hit anyone before and her hands immediately recoiled  to cover her mouth in disbelief of what she'd done.

Richie, alarmingly calm, started the engine.  He unlocked the doors with his left hand and pointed out the window with his right.

"Get out."

He was right about one thing, she did know what kind of guy he was when she started dating him.  But she ignored everyone's advice until now.  Knowing what she did of his past, she knew it was best to follow his order.  She picked up her purse from the floor of the car and got out.  As soon as the door was closed, he took off, leaving Janet standing in the middle of The Clearing.

After a quick look around, she saw that neither of the other two parked cars belonged to friends.  The walk down to the main road was only a few miles, so she set off.   There was a phone at the gas station right before the turn off to The Clearing.  She knew her father would be furious with her, but he would still come to get her.

It was only October, but the trees were bare already.  It had been cold, as if something strange was in the air.  Janet heard the caw of a vulture and looked up to find one circling overhead.  She wished she had worn a warmer coat or shoes made for walking.  She wished it didn't look so much like the kind of night where terrible things happen to girls walking alone on dirt roads.

A car approached.  At first it looked like Richie's, but the closer it got, Janet knew it wasn't him.  It pulled up ahead of her.  Having no where else to go, she walked towards it.

There was a young couple in the car, probably in their early 20s.  Janet assumed it was one of the cars parked up in The Clearing earlier.

"Need a lift?" the woman asked.  "Get in."  The doors clicked unlocked.

Janet looked behind her and in front of her.  She was still nowhere near the main road and the night was getting darker.  She pulled up the handle on the car door but wouldn't budge.  Tucking her shoes under her arm, she used the force of two hands to wrangle it open.  There was no interior light.  The car smelled of old clothes and rotting food.  Janet slid in anyway and pulled the door closed behind her, trying to be graceful so as not to offend.

"Thanks for the ride.  My boyfriend ditched me.  You can leave me at the gas station at the end of the road."

The car started rolling, but the driver said nothing.  They sat in dark silence all the way to Murray's Gas Station.  Janet jumped out, said a quick, yet sincere, thank you and ran towards the phone booth.  The car didn't move.  She pushed her way in, deposited a coin and called home.  Her father answered, his disapproval evident in his voice.

"Daddy, please come get me.  I'm at Murray's and I'm scared."

Before she could hear his reply, the line went dead.  She could feel something watching her.  Turning slowly, she noticed the couple from the car, leering at her and smiling in a most unfriendly way.  A bright red glow emitted from their eye sockets.  The man began to push open the door and suddenly everything went black.

I'm trying another fiction post over at The Speakeasy.  Please do come join us.  For the record, the red-eyed people are real.  I was just one of the lucky ones. Edited to Add: This post won (OK, tied) the Popular Vote at the Speakeasy! And I got this really cool badge for it! Thanks, readers, because it's you all that keeps me going!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On A Break.

This was week 7 of the Pish Posh Challenge and from what I hear, some people kept on going!

I did not.

After two weeks of sad-sack woe is me posts, I realized I needed a break.  My body needed a break, my brain needed a break.

I kept doing well with my breakfasts and lunches, but my dinners were awful (well, tasty.  and bad for me).  I did not walk at all.  I did not track my calories.  I'm sure they were through the roof.  I didn't have any alcohol.  So that's 2 of 3 goals that I stuck to.

I had planned to take off from the challenge between 10/19-10/21 to celebrate my anniversary.  We were going to go away, but we ended up not.  We did still ship the kid over to his grandparents because, lets face it, that's still kind of a vacation.  I think in the last 24 hours I have eaten as much as I have over the last 11 years of marriage and I still have 24 more hours to go so I should weigh 4,893 pounds by Sunday.  If I'm lucky.

This is short and sweet this week.  I'm going for a spa day today with my lovely husband, then we're having Indian food tonight.  The order of events was a conscious decision, you are very welcome, Spa Workers.  I've done a considerable amount of sitting on my ass watching things since yesterday and intend to continue doing that.  In fact, I'm going to go have a bowl of mashed potatoes for breakfast and get back to catching up on Children's Hospital.

On Monday I intend to beginning to kick ass again so that week 8, the final week, gets me back to that 10 pound goal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Luck Was On My Side.

My parents never got up in the morning, so my brother and I were always on our own. Mom was always tired, Dad was always hungover. The rules were simple: Play quietly. Don't use knives or the stove to make breakfast. Don't wake them up.

My brother and I shared a tiny bedroom that didn't even have enough room for two twin sized beds.  His bed was a "youth" size and mine was essentially a toy chest custom built by my father with my crib mattress thrown on top. We had a small dresser to share and one of those chests of drawers made out of cardboard that were all the rage in the dime stores of the 80s.

My mother couldn't stand to sleep in a room with my father because of her immense dislike for the man.  She chose instead to sleep on the living room loveseat.  My father, ever intent on tormenting her, took up sleeping on the large couch.  This rendered the living room, the only room truly large enough for two children to play in, completely useless to us.  Their bedroom, though vacant, was off limits. We were forced to play in the upstairs hallway just outside of our room.

One Sunday morning, I was 5 and my brother 7, we were playing one of our make-believe games.  The exact details are sketchy some thirty years later, but since the games were always more or less the same, I can offer the gist. All of our dolls and stuffed animals were involved, each with its own unique personality and back story. There had been weddings and divorces, some of them were related and others were just friends.

Our relationship to this crew was never quite clear. We could have been their parents or their human overlords, but more likely than not, we simply interacted with them the way the people interacted with the muppets on The Muppet Show. Everyone knew who was human and who wasn't, yet the mostly harmonious relationships were never regarded as odd.

Much of the morning had gone by without us waking our parents.  No fights had broken out, physical or verbal, and we hadn't grown bored of each other's company.  We felt triumphant and confident that our morning would be a success.

But our success was to be short lived. Our cast of characters was not enough and we decided to add Casper the Friendly Ghost and a band of evil spirits to the mix. I was working with Casper to outsmart the mean ghosts who had done something naughty.

I got it into my head that I would get rid of the bad ghosts by pushing them down the stairs. The problem with young children is that they don't understand the laws of physics.

 I was completely unaware that you cannot push a ghost, particularly an imaginary one, down a flight of stairs without you yourself falling down said flight of stairs.

As I tumbled and bounced, eventually coming to a halt by slamming my head into the wall at the bottom of the landing, all I could think of was how much trouble I was going to be in.

But luck was on my side, as was often the case for the younger, allegedly favorite child.

Thankfully for me, when the recipients of the 1981 Parents of the Year Award heard the ruckus, they only yelled at my brother for letting me get hurt. And then they went back to sleep.

I'm also linking up with the Challenge Grid this week, because I enjoy overextending myself.  Please click through and read the work of other writers on the grid.  Also check out the the speakeasy where my fiction piece is hanging out with the other pieces of fiction.

Meet Me Outside.

"Hello?" her voice croaked from lack of use.

"Meet me outside."  Click.

Mary replaced the handset, inched her way back to the armchair and took back up with her knitting.  She'd been working on the same afghan, night after night, for as long as she could remember. It was longer than any person could need and more than any sofa could hold.  Some was on her lap as she worked, but the bulk of it was heaped on the floor in a pile next to her little basket of needles and yarn.  She kept her eyes fixed on her project, glancing up only occasionally at the clock.  Behind her, the floor lamp gave off the only light, illuminating the chair and very little else.

Ring...  Ring...

Mary rose slowly, her joints cracking as she straightened her frail body.  She set her knitting aside on her seat and walked over to the desk on the opposite wall.  She pulled the chain on the lamp with her right hand, reaching for the phone with her left.  She raised the handset to her ear and cleared her throat.


"Meet me outside."

This time the caller did not hang up.  Mary could hear breathing and the chirping of crickets and the wind rustling through the trees.

"Who is this?"  Click.

She put the phone back once again and turned off the light.  She shuffled back to the chair, eased her weight down and resumed her knitting.  Several moments passed before the phone rang once again. She rose and returned to the desk, repeating all of the same motions just as she had hundreds if not thousands of times before.


"Meet me outside, Mom."

"Katie?  Is that you?"

"Meet me outside, Mom."


Mary padded to the front door and flipped on the porch light switch.  The door opened quickly with the force of the autumn winds.  Mary's white nightgown flowed and swirled about her ankles, her feet feeling the chill in the air through her old slippers.

"Katie?  Are you there?"  Mary called out gently, knowing Katie wouldn't answer.

There was still only the sound of crickets and wind.  Mary returned to the house, turned off the porch light, turned off the desk lamp and sat back in her armchair to resume knitting.  She  only completed a few more rows of the burnt orange blanket when the phone rang again.

Mary rose wearily, placing the knitting on the seat of her chair.  She returned to the desk, pulled the lamp on and picked up the receiver.


"Meet me outside, Mom."

Mary knew it was Katie.  It was always Katie and Mary never asked on the fourth call.  Mary set the phone down on the desk, the cord tightening and twisting back up on its own.  She headed back to the door and flipped on the light.  She held tight to the door as she opened it, expecting the wind this time.

She stepped out onto the porch, wrapping her arms around her chest to protect herself from the chill. She looked around, pushing her hair out of her mouth where the wind had blown it.

"Katie?" she called out, knowing she'd get no reply.  Katie was out there, but Mary didn't know where she would find her.  She shuffled down the steps, squinting to see beyond the reach of the porch light.

"Katie?  Where are you?"  There were never clues to where Katie would be and Katie never answered.

Scanning the ground, she finally saw the blood.  Several smaller drops at first, growing larger as Mary followed them.  She ventured farther from the house and into the night.  She stopped when she found her daughter.

Katie knelt on the ground, clasping the long chef's knife that was covered in John's blood. Her brother's body was splayed out before her, his torn shirt soaked crimson.  When she heard her mother approach, she looked up from the body to reveal her bloodied, tear-stained face.

"I'm sorry, Mom," the teen said through her tears.  She heaved the knife in the air and thrust it into her own chest.  She collapsed onto her brother, pushing the knife in deeper.   Her body rolled off onto her back as she choked on her own blood and the final breaths of life escaped her.

Mary lowered her head and walked back towards the house.

"I know you are, my darling.  Please rest now," she urged, all the while knowing she'd see her children again tomorrow night.

I'm giving fiction a try over at the Speakeasy this week.  Please click through and read other works of fiction and poetry.  Don't forget my friends on the Challenge grid either!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Punch Fear in the Face.

I'm going to ask that you indulge me a bit here.  I promise I'll get somewhere if you'll see it through.

Imagine I asked you to do me a favor and you agreed.  I requested that you go to the store and pick up some half-and-half for my coffee and you returned with a cup of milk you borrowed from the neighbor.  How am I supposed to react to that?  You agreed to the request and then you then did what you felt like doing which wasn't what I asked of you nor was it what you agreed to.

Let's run through the possible outcomes here:
1.  I suck it up and drink my coffee that now tastes like crap.  I resent you because if you had just done what I had asked and you agreed to, I would be happy.  Now I'm not and it's your fault.
2.  I could tell you that you didn't do what I asked.  You could give me attitude, tell me it's good enough and that I'm too demanding.  Again, I feel terrible because you've pointed out one of my flaws (holding people to standards) and you're upset with me.  Even if you don't give me attitude and you simply go back out to the store, I feel guilty for pointing out what you did incorrectly.

All my life I've been a people pleaser.  If roles were reversed, I'd have asked you what brand you like, the level of fat you'd like in your half and half and if your first choice is not available what your back up is.  This way, you see that I tried my hardest to make your coffee experience as pleasurable as possible.  If your coffee sucks, it's not my fault.  I did what I could.

I know this is insane, by the way.  However, if you came back to me with ANY half and half, I'd be happy.  Milk is not half and half, therefore I am unhappy.  And if you give me attitude and imply that I should be happy as both are dairy products that will, in fact, lighten my coffee, I will be further annoyed.  My standards are not as high as everyone thinks - I simply think that in very many cases, there is a right way to do something and a wrong way.  Milk does not equal half and half.  This is a black and white case.

The problem here is why can't people just do what they are asked and what they agreed to?

I hired someone to grout my shower.  He did, except for one spot where he didn't.  Now I am waiting for him to come back (on a Saturday no less, when we had to rush our showers because it will not be unusable for the rest of the day) and do his job correctly.

Someone asked me for my opinion on a separate matter.  I said that I thought the solution to the problem could potentially be found in a particular place and should be sought in that location.  That person did not seek the solution and then I was called into the matter again by another person only to have to repeat myself.  And when I said I didn't want to continue discussing until the research was done, I was given attitude and it was implied that I was in the wrong.

Whenever I ask my kid to do something that he is 100% capable of doing, he does the bare minimum coming close to what I asked but not quite there.  Then when I tell him he didn't do what I asked, he gets upset that I'm displeased with him.

In all three scenarios, the end result is the same. I feel like a shit-heel for expressing displeasure that someone did not do what was expected.  I feel guilty.  I have been told I'm too demanding and that I expect too much of others.  I have been told I'm a bitch.  I have been told that I'm mean.  I often end up doing things myself and then resenting the person who should be doing it in the first place.

I don't think that telling someone they didn't do what you asked them to do is wrong.  I don't yell or scream.  I have been known to use my so-calm-it's-scary voice, the one that you can never prove I said anything wrong or used a threatening tone or anything like that, but you know that I am done screwing around.  I do throw tantrums now and again, that is true, but usually that's when my first 12 attempts to get something done fail.

It's week 6 of the challenge.  The topic this week is punching fear in the face.  What am I afraid of?  Here's a brief list:

  • That everyone will hate me.
  • That in an effort to keep people from hating me, I will hate myself.
  • That I will never feel worthy of standing up for myself to demand what I need.
  • That I will be an angry, miserable bitch for the rest of my life.
  • That if I stop exercising so my achilles tendon heals, I will never get back to it.
  • That I will never feel rested again and I will always be too tired to do what I want to do.
  • That I will spend the rest of my mental capacity thinking about insurance and benefits and not focus on my writing because I'm too burnt at the end of the day to get much writing done.
  • That I have wasted all of my good years already and this is it for me.
Here is a list of things that I know about the above fears, lest you think I'm completely irrational.
  • I have a wonderful husband and a great kid so even if "this is it" things are pretty damn good.
  • My ankle won't stop hurting if I don't take care of it and I can take a break and I won't gain back all the weight.  I can also buy new shoes like I've been threatening to do for weeks and that will help.  But it requires being proactive rather than complaining.
  • There will always be people who don't like me, that's their problem. 
  • I don't have to please everyone and I don't have to do every thing myself.  
  • I can stick to my standards without being a bitch.
  • I can choose to be happy or I can choose to be miserable.  
  • My kid will someday sleep and someday I will too.  I won't be this tired forever.
  • I can find time to write if I want to make the time.  
  • Insurance and benefits was a safe choice career.  It doesn't have to be permanent but it does have to be for now.  
  • I'm 36, not 86.  This isn't it for me.
I guess my biggest fear of all is that when I get in this mood it's not going to go away.  That's never happened before.  I'll stop being in a rancid mood.  People won't bother me so much.  My patience will return.  I can get back to normal.  Until it passes though, it's such a chore to make healthy choices.  It's exhausting.  

I have to keep going.  The funk will pass.  I don't really have the energy to punch fear in the face, but I'll give it dagger eyes and hope it gets the point.

On to Week 7.  But first, I've been doing my 20 minutes 6-7 days per week.  I haven't purchased breakfast or lunch or had any alcohol.  

Starting weight: 162.8
Current weight: 151.6
Total lost:  11.2 pounds

I'm doing well.  I know it.  I wish I felt it.

If you got this far, thanks for finishing the post with me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Montross Avenue Bridge.

We were three young ladies, P, K and I, walking in the dark on a Saturday night.  To be more accurate, it was Sunday morning already.  We had made walks such as this countless times before.  Teenagers tend to feel immortal, but not us.  We were goth before kids were called goth.  We knew evil was out there.  There was darkness around us that we could feel, even if we couldn't explain it.  In spite of all of this, we were not afraid.

In the wee hours of the morning, we made our way, discussing all of the things we were interested in that could set a mind wandering in some unlikely places.  We weren't exactly looking for trouble, but none of us would have been disappointed in an event that furthered our beliefs about life beyond ours, parallel worlds and strange happenings.  It is that frame of mind, after all, that we felt strongly was necessary to allow us see these odd occurrences.  We were open to the experiences.  We welcomed them.

We rounded the corner to a bridge that connected the town we were in to the town we were headed to. Abandoned railroad tracks were below and a veritable forest grew from either side of them.  The trees grew so high, in fact, that they went up and over the edges of the overpass.  There was a sidewalk on only one side and guardrails protecting a pedestrian from both falling down on to the tracks but also from the road itself.  The lack of maintenance and landscaping, however, meant the protections were for naught and a pedestrian was forced to walk in the street.  To make matters worse, there were no street lights over the bridge, only some on each street at either end.  Once in the middle, there was only the moonlight to guide you.

We walked past a car parked on the opposite side of the street facing the same direction we were headed.  It was parked directly on the corner, illegally, a man sitting in the driver's seat.  We wondered why this person was sitting there, motionless in the shadows of night, with the car not running and no lights on.  We decided that three young ladies such as ourselves, out at such an hour, should make it a point to keep walking.

We plodded up the hill that lead to the foot of bridge.  In our hurry, we had stopped chatting to focus on getting to a residential area on the other side.  Our footsteps echoed.  The wind rustled the trees ahead.  Otherwise, the night was still.

I glanced over my shoulder and my friends did the same.  In that instant, and impossibly so, the car's high beams flashed on and the engine started at the same time.  The car began to pull up the hill, slowly at first.  The headlights flooded the darkness to reveal just how overgrown the foliage was in front of us.  There was no way we could make passage on the sidewalk.

We looked back again and the car was no longer simply driving across the bridge.  Rather, the driver had the car pointed straight towards us, just as we were forced into the road without the implied safety of the guardrail.  We ran like our lives depended on it.  As far as we were concerned, they did.

The car approached at an unsettling rate.  When we reached the area where we could get to the sidewalk, we were pushing and pulling each other off the road.  It was as though we had become one mass, one force striving to keep each other from harm.  Huddled and shaking, we turned toward the vehicle.  All at once, the driver straightened out and began to drive normally as though nothing ever happened.

We were out of danger, but not before we got a good look at the figure driving.  He was shadowy, almost gray.  His extremely curly hair was cut short.  His smile revealed brilliant white teeth, sharply contrasted against the darkness around him.  His eyes, though, his eyes were not eyes at all.  Deep in the cavity of his skull glowed a burning red light.

To this day, we all stick to our story.  We know what we saw.  Though no one believes us, chalking the sighting up to a misunderstanding or overactive imaginations, we remain certain that some sort of evil spirit, for reasons unbeknownst to us, tried to murder us on the Montross Avenue Bridge.
I'm linking up with Yeah Write with a spooky story of the unexplained.  Please click through to read the work of some other very talented writers.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Little Things

A Challenge Week 5 update.

Let me start out by saying that I was not emotionally equipped to handle the nonsense of this week.  I'll be blunt:  I started my period this week.  I was a hormonal wreck and I didn't feel well.  I have been exhausted.  I had a migraine and cramps and absolutely zero patience.

Monday and Tuesday are my long days at work which means I get an hour lunch which means those are my long walk days. Except for this week apparently.  On Monday at lunch while walking the track with a coworker, the school nurse called.  We decided to not start another lap while I called her back:  My son was hit in the face with a rock while playing.  But it was no big deal (!) and she just let me know just in case.  So, crisis averted.

But was it?

No.  Because while on a call at 3:20 with a very upset client (ugh) my mother in law who picked up Nathan from school was texting and calling like crazy.  When I called her back, Nathan was screaming in the background that his ear hurt.  So I left work early to take him to the doctor where he was diagnosed with "a whopper" of an ear infection.

Tuesday Nathan stayed home with his grandparents and I went to work.  But he wasn't quite well.  It was raining, so I had to do my walk in the basement of my office.  It wasn't fun.

I sent him to school on Wednesday, in spite of some tummy distress from his antibiotics and at 11:30, while on a conference call with my boss (who didn't know I ducked out and was still talking to me) and a client (who presumably didn't care that I ducked out) and several others, I got a(nother) call from the school nurse, this time urging me to come on down with a new set of clothes.  Enough said.

More work piling up, more sick kid.  No walk for Michelle.

Oh, and since I refuse to skip a week of Yeah Write, even when my plate is just too full, I cranked this out.  And I refuse to not answer blog comments and not read the other challenge grid bloggers, so clearly you can see how I bring half of my drama on to myself.

Thursday the work continued to pile and I continued to worry about another phone call from school.  I sent extra clothes, but that wouldn't get me out of picking him up if he was sick again.  We got through the day, but there was a mountain of homework that a grouchy, still not feeling well kid needed to catch up on and his fully menstrual mother needed to help him with.  My living room was a very unpleasant place.

Friday, I took a mental health day from work.  I was going to spend the morning writing and then pick up my kid at 12:30 for his half day.  There would be errands to run and stuff to do.  As I was eating breakfast, I noticed water had been leaking out of the shower and down my kitchen wall.  So less writing and more calling repair professionals.  I moved the drop ceiling to investigate and bits of the actual ceiling above fell on my head and into my bra.  By 10:00 my nerves were shot.

There was more stuff this week, but this post is too long and it's not bloggable stuff anyway, but just suffice to say that the fact that I didn't eat everything in sight is a miracle.

I did stuff my face with pizza and salad on Sunday, with just pizza on Thursday and with Burger King on Friday.  I did throw in 20 minutes of exercise every day, mostly kitchen jogs.  No alcohol still since 9/4.  I didn't get to add in weights this week, but I'll work on that next week.  I didn't eat take out for breakfast or lunch, but dinner...  Oh dinner...

The official numbers:
Start:  162.8.
Today:  153.  And yes, I'm shaking my fist at the sky that I couldn't lose that one more .2 lb to get to an even 10 pounds lost.  That is just the sort of kick in the pants that this week needed to end on.

So there you have it.  A rambly, ranty, diatribe on my shit week.  I did well considering and I'm going to cut myself some slack.  But not so much slack because that BK yesterday was inexcusable (but really, really salty and delicious) and that can't happen again.  And two pizzas in one week wasn't a wise move either.

Clearly I need to plan better for the little things so that dinner doesn't become a caloric nightmare.

Lest I sound like a bitter, cranky, miserable woman, there WAS good stuff this week.  9.8 pounds is nothing to sneeze at and that post I "cranked out" earned an Editor's Pick.  Hormones make me whine and cry and not look for solutions.  I feel better today.  I'll start looking for solutions today.

I'm going to start with some Wii Fit.

Now I need to catch up on all the other Challenge participants blogs.  I'll get to it.  I promise.  You should go read everyone's too.  I know all of us can use the support!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We Were Friends.

I checked the schedule to see who else was working my shift.  He was on until 6; I was starting at 3.

I fashioned a headband out of a bandanna and pushed my curls off my face to adhere, as much as I was willing to anyway, to proper food safety standards.  I put my foot up on a chair to tie my shoe and headed up front to start working.  On my way, I nearly ran into him in the narrow corridor by the walk-in freezer.

"Hey," I said, stopping short so we would not collide.

"Hey.  You're on today?" he said.  Of course he knew I'd be coming in.  Everyone checked the schedule first thing because a good crew would make or break a shift.  Maybe I was supposed to think he didn't care that I was there.

"No, I just felt like showing up in my uniform for no reason."  Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.


"Hey!"  I shouted, doing my best to sound offended through laughter.

"I'm kidding!" I knew he was but I pretended not to believe him.

Every time we worked together lately, this was our dance.  Rumor had it he had a crush on me.  I had a boyfriend and wasn't interested.  I maintained that I was doing nothing to encourage his flirting, but at the same time I knew I was doing nothing to discourage it either.  It was fun and he knew the situation.

All afternoon the squabbling and banter continued.  There seemed to always be a reason for him to brush up against me or full on knock me out of his way.  Every little girl knows that boys push you and pull your hair when they like you and just because he was 16, that didn't mean he had grown out of this style of flirtation.  And just because I was 18, that didn't mean I wasn't going to react.  I always pushed back, shouted at him or threw something, just let him know his actions had not gone unnoticed.  It was all part of the game.

At some point, I'd had enough nonsense.  It was time to get ready for the full shift change and I was growing weary of his antics.  I tried to yell at him playfully but my intentionally light tone didn't do enough to hide my annoyance.  I had upset him and felt badly about it.  He stomped off to the back to sulk and I followed.

It was fine for me to be tired of him, but I didn't want him tired of me.

He ignored me for a few minutes while I tried in vain to apologize.  I was just about to give up, figuring if he was that intent on brooding he could go on and do it then, when he started laughing.

"Good.  You feel bad.  That's what you get.  You're always so mean to me."  He was so proud of himself for getting me to beg for his attention.  I was furious.  How dare he make me look foolish?

"I'm mean to you?!  If I'm mean to you, it's only because you're an asshole, always knocking into me or being obnoxious.  You totally deserve it!"

He swung a wet, soapy dishrag in my direction and it was on.  I tried to protect myself from the rag while simultaneously wrestle it away from him.  He was much stronger than I was, so he always had the upper hand.  I grabbed one end of the rag so he couldn't whip it at me anymore, but he grabbed my wrist and squeezed it hard so I had to let go. I screamed in pain and tried to punch him.  It was the kind of altercation that started as fun but was beginning to get out of hand.

The roughhousing continued.  I tripped over a chair behind me and fell back against the upright freezer.  We were still attacking one another and he fell towards me.  He put his hands up to stop himself from crushing me, one on either side of my head.  Time stopped.  We were both breathing heavily.  My heart was racing, no doubt from the struggle.  He probably thought it was for him.

He was smiling and staring at me intensely.  I looked back at his blue eyes.  He was so close.  I should have pushed him off of me but I just stood there, arms frozen at my sides.

The sound of footsteps interrupted the silence between us and caused us to break our stare.  We bounced away from one another.  He went to put the dishrag in the sink.  As I breezed past my other coworker, I noticed her confused expression.  I looked up at the clock.

"It's 6.  Shouldn't you leave?" I asked him.  I was walking back up front before I even finished my sentence.  Why would he do that?  Why would he get that close?  I hopped up on the front freezer and sat there, the cold metal against my thighs, watching the traffic drive by me.

I heard the back door slam and I knew he was gone.  My coworker came back up front.

"What was that all about?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said.

He and I never talked about it.  We weren't really friends after that.
I'm linking up with Yeah Write's Challenge Grid.  There are more changes going on over there, so please click through, read the work of other talented writers and see what we're all about.  Join us, we'd love to have you!

Edited to add:  This post one an Editor's Pick on Yeah Write 77!