Sunday, February 27, 2011

according to plan?

This story is one I wrote during the summer (last summer or the one before that one...can't remember). I had made a pact with myself to write one story per week. This is from week #3.

Bobbie realized a second too late that the hurried gulp had been a mistake. A sip would have been just right. Of course, if she had heeded the warning flashing before her eyes, she wouldn’t have a burned tongue right now: “Caution. Liquid is VERY hot.” Bobbie wasn’t stressing the word “very” either. It really was capitalized. But who ever paid any attention to those warning labels?

She put the paper cup down and absentmindedly rubbed her burning tongue with one finger. Glancing around the coffeehouse, she saw an older man staring at her, a look of disgust on his face. Bobbie quickly popped her finger out of her mouth. “I’ll bet he’s never burned his tongue before,” she thought, taking in the dark suit and conservative navy bow tie.

Feeling rumpled, she tugged down her pale pink top, which insisted on riding up hips she meaning to slim down. Bobbie wanted to shed a few pounds, had been meaning to since the day she became engaged to Ethan, but life kept getting in the way. The eleven-month engagement had flown by, while her treadmill had collected dust in the basement. It had been a colorful blur of dress fittings, bridal registries, showers, her ever-present job, and house hunting. Before Bobbie had time to flip the “on” switch and run a few laps, she and Ethan were on a plane headed for the Bahamas. After that, life had settled into a new routine, albeit a very busy one.

And besides, Ethan liked her curvy hips. No one would ever catch her paying thousands of dollars for implants. And weren’t girls everywhere complaining about non-existent butts? She’d never complained about her glutinous surplus, as she liked to call it, a day in her life.

It was then that Bobbie noticed the coffee stain, stark against the white linen pants. She grimaced. Coffee, Bobbie decided, was her nemesis. No matter what she wore – satin, cotton, or birthday suit – she always managed to spill coffee. She scrubbed at the offending stain with a napkin. Seeing the nubby little grains of recycled napkin that littered her pants a minute later, Bobbie moaned. Throwing the napkin on the table, she gave up the pants as a lost cause.

Maybe if she didn’t move – didn’t drink her coffee, didn’t clean her pants – no more bad incidents would plague her day. Bobbie sighed softly and rubbed the paper cup with her thumbs. She was pregnant. How it had happened, she hadn’t the darndest idea. Well, Bobbie knew how it had happened. But she didn’t know why it had happened. She and Ethan were using birth control, for Pete’s sake. They had been since day one. She took a drink of coffee, forgetting yet again to make it small sip. The left side of her tongue joined the right in stinging pain.

Slamming the cup back down the table, Bobbie turned to stare out the window. Hot tears were forming behind her eyelids. She sniffed. Ethan didn’t know yet. But when he found out, he wouldn’t be happy. They were only on Year Two of the Five-Year Plan. Only hours after getting home from the Bahamas, Ethan had sat her down and they had discussed how to implement the Five-Year Plan. It was a complicated one involving many columns, goals, and one anticipated pay raise.

She had taken the test this morning after he had left for work. She honestly hadn’t believed it would be positive, buying one only because she had felt achy recently. When the tiny letters in the oval had popped up “Pregnant,” Bobbie had dropped the digital pregnancy test in disbelief. “No way,” she had said quietly, sitting down on the bathroom floor, “…no way.”

She knew Ethan would be shocked. Then he would be upset. Not at her, but at the company that made their birth control. “It’s defective,” he’d insist.

“It’s ninety-nine point nine percent accurate,” she imagined herself saying.

“That might as well be one hundred!” he’d shout.

“Well, it’s not,” she’d retort. “There still is that lone point oh-one of a percentage floating around out there.”

“Recall!” Ethan would yell.

“Dork,” she’d smile and they would hug each other, laughing at the conversation, themselves, and the fact that they were only pretending to be pregnant.

But this wasn’t pretend, Bobbie thought. This was for real. Ethan had always dreamed of having three children. He had been an only and Bobbie was one of two, so three kids sounded like the perfect plan to both of them.

“Built-in friends,” Ethan had said.

“No spoiled ‘only’ child,” Bobbie had teased.

And what about her? Ever since this morning, when the plus sign had flashed before her, Bobbie had thought only of Ethan, of his reaction to the news. She wasn’t sure what she thought. They didn’t have much in savings – maybe a couple of thousand dollars at best? Ethan’s Five-Year Plan was a combination of saving and spending. They put money into savings every month, but Ethan had also started a “Necessities” account for the sole purpose of purchasing big tickets items. These were things he thought they needed before starting a family: new furniture that hadn’t been handed down five times before making its way to them, a reliable car for her, pots and pans to replace the ancient ones willed to her by Grandma Jonesy.

A baby. Would he have curly hair like hers or straight strands like Ethan? Would her skin be dark like Ethan’s, or a light brown like her own? Would he be tall? Would she be well-endowed, like her happy mother?

Five-year plan aside, Bobbie felt excitement welling up inside of her.

She dug into her purse for the cell phone. Pressing the familiar keys, she listened to the phone ring once…twice…then -“Hey Bobbie, what’s up?”

“Ethan, honey? I’ve got some awesome news for you…”


Julie and I went to Biltmore Village for this shoot. Her husband Jake, who had 4% interest in having his pictures taken, graciously agreed to act as props assistant (he toted around a purse, books, even Julie's comfy Crocs!).

Jake DID agreed to pose for a few shots... ;) Not only are they cute together, but it's obvious they're best friends.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

GSWP - The Cut

A few words of introduction...

GSWP stands for the Great Smokies Writing Program. Our in-class writing is meant to take a moment and suspend it in time; these are not complete stories, yet. The prompt for this one was to begin with, "One summer night..." The first part is the real memory; the second is a fictionalized version of the memory.

One summer night, adventure beckoned us. It was a humid evening in July and I was in high school. The girls were straining to act casual, even as we flirted and laughed. Thin cotton tanks revealed brown shoulders and flip flops smacked loudly against blacktop. The guys, thumbs hitching up drooping jeans and voices jovial in the deepening dusk, made up our other half. It was Phil who made the suggestion.

“Why don’t we go up to the Cut?” he urged. As recent newcomers to the area, my sister and I peppered him for details.

“You know,” Phil said, “it’s that rocky ledge overlooking 240. The strip that separates downtown from the mall area,” he added, seeing our confusion.
Everyone was game, so we piled into a few cars and drove towards Town Mountain Road. I remember leaving the cars parked on the side of the road. We had pulled into a private community that was in the very early stages of existence - only a few houses were up - and the forested path began there. Pulling out my keys, I fumbled for the little light clipped to my keychain. A florescent gleam popped into being, casting eerie blue shadows on the rough path. We marched single file for an excruciating five minutes or so. I focused my entire attention on keeping my feet moving and making sure I didn’t trip.

Light beckoned and everyone picked up the pace, eager to be out of the woods. I gingerly stepped onto the rocky outcropping and stared. The mountain vista spreading before me was phenomenal. Cars raced below us, their lights a winking blur. To my right, I could see the silent buildings of downtown Asheville jutting darkly against the night sky. On the left, the colorful lights of the mall and its many minions wove a siren song, luring potential customers. And against all that loomed the mountains, darkly beautiful.

Our crowd settled into the rocks, bodies fitting neatly into seat-like ledges. One guy lit up, the orange glare of the flame harsh against the darkening sky. The stories started to flow, like wine at a socialite’s dinner party.

“Do you remember when we…?”

“Why did you ever…?”

“Hey, that was my car that night…”

This was a Saturday night at the Cut.

Photo from Rainbow Arts Review

“Just what do they think they’re doing?” said the woman. One heel began tapping the smooth wood planks. “Not only is it ten o’clock at night,” she hissed, “but those hooligans seem to have forgotten that this is private property.” Dark eyes were glued to the kitchen window, but manicured hands continued drying the wine glass she held. Back and forth, back and forth the soft towel went until… CRACK.


“Ellie, what’s wrong?”

“Pardon my French,” she said abruptly. Then, “It’s teenagers, Bryan,” she spit out. The man looked bemused. “They’re out there again. They just parked their cars and now they’re heading into the woods towards that rocky outcropping overlooking I-240. You see the light from their flashlights through the trees,” she pointed. Bryan came up and began messaging the stiff shoulders. “Honey, they’re teenagers,” he said. “And shoot, the Cut sure beats any movies out in theater recently. Talk about crappy story lines.”

“Bryan!” Eleanor snapped. “That does not change the fact that these teenagers are trespassing on private property; exclusive, gated, private property.” She emphasized the last two words, “that we paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for.”

“Aww sweetie, leave them alone. Didn’t you ever go somewhere you shouldn’t have? We all did it for the thrill.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” But she couldn’t help it. Memories gently nudged her subconscious, permeating the moment like a warm beach breeze. Eleanor let herself slip back, just for minute. She remembered running barefoot on sandy dunes, the wind whipping at her hair; ducking behind waving sea grass to avoid being spotted by the wealthy beach residents; swimming naked in the salty water; smoking in the abandoned lighthouse.

With a quick flick of her head, Eleanor chased away the thoughts. She wasn't seventeen anymore. Straightened brown hair fell quietly back into its place, along with that summer of memories. “Bryan, you’re a sentimental fool. I’m calling the police on them.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Off to the Beech

February --> should I start crying those winter blues? Nope, it's not March yet. March is for those pent-up, release-me-you-must winter blues. So then February = if life hands you snow, plan a ski trip!

From a few weekends ago...

My brother Gintaras

Katie's first time skiing. She was awesome! We had her going down a tricky blue square by the day's end!

Contemplating life

The breathtaking view across the street from Ben's house...

I'm secretly hoping that if we DO get more snow in the next week or two, Drew and I can make it up to Beech for round two. Western North Carolina has been hit with breezy spring weather all this past week...and it's February, for crying out loud! That just tells me there's probably a good snow storm right around the corner...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Made in America

I just watched a clip on ABC about American made products (ABC is challenging itself to furnish an entire room with American made stuff). 1979 was our peak year for producing products, but we've been in a downward spiral since then. If every American spent $3.33 dollars per year (per YEAR!) on American made products, the income generated would produce 10,000 jobs.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

writing: my personal burden

My first writing class is over. And I'm slowly coming to the realization that it may indeed be The perfect class for me. I signed up for a 10-week course with the Great Smokies Writing Program called "Stretching the Truth: Creating Fiction From Life." Not only does the class meet mere blocks from my apartment (perk!), but more importantly, I think it's going to really draw me out of my shell.

I hate putting myself out there. If something smacks of personal advertisement, I'm sprinting down the road in the opposite direction. When it comes to writing, I have an extremely difficult time NOT comparing myself to everyone else in the class (college, anyone?) and then finding my work lacking. To me, everyone's work always seems more polished and creative. So I'd rather just not show anyone my work, unless I've spent hours and hours on it first. It doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist (how did you guess?). Today, the teacher gave us a prompt, inviting everyone to write about their earliest memory. After ten minutes, we were told to fictionalize the truth, either re-telling the story from another character's perspective, creating new characters, changing the setting, you get the picture. I would've given my kingdom for a laptop. I hate seeing dark slashes of ink covering my writing...but they're inevitable. I like to perfect, to change. So when the teacher says, "Ready, set, WRITE!" I'm worried that what I produce won't be perfect enough.

I'm hoping this class will teach me to a) abandon my inhibitions, b) stop putting myself down, and c) lie. Yep, you heard me right. I am a very honest person, always have been. I enjoy creating fiction, but the honest Joe inside of me is always pointing a finger and keeping me from creating, well...made-up stuff. So this class should be perfect. I'll be using facts to twist, turn, lay this way and that...and create fiction. If you're lucky, I may even post some of my work here before it's gone through hours and hours of study, editing, reflection, editing, self-criticism, and more editing. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

veggin' out

Drew and I love grocery shopping. Especially when we're hungry (heck, the brussels sprouts look DELICIOUS when it's 7PM and I haven't eaten dinner yet). But today, we had an entirely different sort of shopping experience.

We spent a good fifteen minutes in the veggie section of Ingles today, stocking up. Our fridge (which has never looked so full before - how did we spend less $$ and bring home more food?) houses lettuce, scallions, zucchini, apples, lemons, grapefruits, onions, sweet red peppers, carrots, ginger, frozen peas & corn, celery, and cilantro. Our cabinets are full of garbanzo beans and white kidney beans. Our snack of the choice for the next three months is unsalted, unbuttered popcorn (that sounds gross, but it's actually quite delicious. I'm picking up some hot sauce on Thursday...I'll bet you it'll taste even better then!).

I feel a little dumb admitting that I've always admired a toned stomach. Is that dumb? Anyway, I've always thought that a toned tummy would be a nice asset, but I've never had the motivation to do anything about it. We work out a few times a week and our diet includes homemade, healthy foods for the most part, but if a recipe calls for heavy cream, off to the store we trot. I enjoy making desserts during the weekend (have you ever made chocolate icing that calls for one entire stick of butter?) and our meat portion is usually bigger than the veggie portion (I saw a chart at my doctor's office that had the plate divided into 3 parts - meat 25%, carbs %25, and veggies/fruit 50%).

So Drew and I are taking the health plunge for the next 3 months, starting today. Drew wants to lose some weight (which apparently is easier for guys than girls...did you know that? Talk about an annoying fact of life. He told me that the female body hangs on to its body fat much more obsessively than the male body ) and I want to exchange some body fat for muscle. I'm hoping that also translates into a tummy that's slightly more toned. We're eating healthier (that translates into more veggies, less meat, and no sweets) working out more (that means 3 days at the gym consisting of 30 minutes of cardio and 15-25 minutes of mat/exercise ball stuff and 2 days at home doing 30 minutes of floor exercises). We're also checking out the nutritional facts on our food (calories, amount of sugar, fats, etc.) and trying to reduce our food intake.

I'm relating this not to brag (no siree, this is going to be rough - I'm a sweets girl all the way). I figured if I post this on cyberspace, I'm accountable to all of you. China boycott, anyone?!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The kiddo inside

Everybody has an inner child. No matter how hard you try to stuff yours in, the kid eventually springs out, eager to jump, clap loudly, and spin kart wheels around you. My inner child usually manifests itself through my mispronunciations (oh yes, the "g" on my gnome and gnat is not a silent one!); my obsession with Play Doh (yes, I spent half an hour today fashioning braids, balloons, and who knows what else while the five-year-old diligently performed surgery, removing toilets, boogers, and all sorts of other ludicrous objects from the prone man's abdomen. "Operation," anyone?); handing out nicknames to people like it's something I'm paid to do (who does that?)...just to name a few.

Drew's inner child is friends with mine because we're nothing alike. In a good way. He's a puzzles & science man. While natural phenomenons amaze me, they tickle him silly. A reaction that occurs naturally will leave me stumped, but Drew will get very excited and launch into an explanation of why and how the said reaction is happening. I love my opposite man (and his goofy inner child ;)!

We got our usual box of ice cream from Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary this past Christmas. Drew found the bag of dry ice at the bottom and decided to have fun with it. If you dump the brick of dry ice into the sink and pour piping hot water over it, ka-bam! You get beautiful, flowing steam. We even held up Trixie so she could get a front seat view of the marvelous phenomenon. She was not impressed.

Not sure what I think of the cool, yet weirdly gross looking bumps. Lumps?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who would've thunk?

I really appreciate creativity and a sense of humor when I find it in unexpected places. Who says that the label on a can of olives has to be boring? Or that the inside of a Magic Hat bottle cap can't inspire a lift of the lips? I loudly applaud those mysterious someones who go out of their way to make a product just a little more interesting.

This can of olives offers two for the price of one. Check out the ingredients AND the strip of green at the bottom (Can't see the fine print? CLICK!).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A foray into self-portraits

There are times when I'll take a whole bunch of pictures. I hurriedly edit a handful and put them up somewhere, then let all the others collect dust on the....well, you know what I mean. It's Saturday night, so (besides basking in the weekend glow) I'm digging through the archives. These are from a few months ago.

the sound of silence

I sat still today for five minutes. I wasn't praying, I wasn't even meditating; I was simply trying quietly and listen to God.

It probably won't shock anyone to know that half of my time was spent attempting to block out the thought particles that ricocheted my way at a ridiculous speed. I was not giving God much time to talk to me. Seriously, my crazy thought process went something like this (actual time of thought process: 3.4 seconds): I attempt to listen to the silence --> I notice the comfortable, soft noise of the old Victorian that I call home --> I'm hit (certainly not for the first time) with the thought that my apartment is awfully dry in the winter --> I think of the peace lily perched on my mantel --> I remember Drew asking if I'm still watering the plants, because he's given them H2O three times already --> Should I water the peace lily? It's probably dry --> SHOO THOUGHTS! I go back to nothingness.

Sheesh. Talk about an exhausting five minutes. While I don't consider myself to be the most technological person in the world, I do have a car, cell phone, and laptop. I check email daily and maintain a facebook account and blog (wow, really?!) and as everyone is well aware, all these things can be so incredibly a bit time consuming. I have subscriptions to several magazines (Cooks Illustrated, Whole Living, and National Geographic, to those who may be wondering), will occasionally click on the tantalizingly worded news link on my Yahoo homepage, and I've got at least two books on my nightstand at all times. I have a penchant for organization (but sometimes only after the mess has exploded around me...), hobbies galore, and I have a hard time sitting still. Moral of the story? I like being productive. In fact, you could just say being busy = being me. So spending any time in silence is not only hard, but sometimes impossible for me.

And yet...I think it's important not to get caught up in the rush. You know, be able to sit down and just enjoy a moment...of silence. Maybe even five moments of silence?

I can't think of silence without this awesome song coming to mind...

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

~ Simon & Garfunkel (the latter quite possibly being the name of a future cat of mine)

So take a minute today. Or tomorrow. And be still.