Epic Fail (AKA How My June Went Off the Rails)

Hi! Remember me?

First, let me say kudos to all of my Writing 101 friends who have completed their assignments (or came closer than I did). I have so enjoyed this course and the opportunity to write. I am thankful for meeting some nice folks who have given me valuable feedback and by returning the favor I have found some cool blogs to follow.

That being said, I completed maybe half of the assignments. In the real world, that would earn me an F. So, my first F!

Luckily this is not a brick and mortar institution and I have no real grade hinging on my performance here. Though, I am disappointed that I didn’t keep up. I will eventually catch up. I do have ideas for several posts and I will get to them.

I don’t know if this counts for any of the assignments. Maybe I can use it for the free writing exercise. I think I can do whatever I want so that sounds good. Yes. Free-writing. Check.

So, June. My kids go to a summer camp program at their school district for the entire month of June. They are entertained from 8am-3pm and get two meals. It is quality, fun child care on the cheap. This program is full every summer. Each grade level has one day a week for swimming (walking to the town pool, swimming, lunch in the park, walking back to school) and one day a week for field trips. And these are nice field trips, too. Not lame ones. They also have Friday movie days and water days and all kinds of special events that are impossible to keep up with. Two kids = two schedules. So every day, I am trying to figure out which child needs to wear a swim suit under her outfit (swim day, water day), which one needs to pack a lunch (field trips, swim days) and which one is eating at the school, which one needs to wear their special camp t-shirt (field trips) – which leads to trying to FIND the t-shirt – and which one needs money for something (the answer: they ALWAYS need money for something. The school is a money pit). So you can see how I lost my mind.

Then my husband finally nagged me into going to a long, long overdue GYN appointment. Ladies, I’m sure you know what I mean. I am busy and not really chomping at the bit to schedule my yearly exam. I avoid my yearly exam at all costs. I have two breast lumps. If I were 25, no one would be that worried about them. But at forty, everyone treats me like I have one foot in the grave. So I got my first ever mammogram, my first breast ultrasound (and second and third), my first visit to a breast surgeon and my first biopsy. This ate up the second half of June. Appointments, tests, waiting for results. I had good days where I barely thought about it and I had bad days where I would cry at the drop of a hat. My attitude initially was: I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time to get sick. Of course, eventually I thought about my own mortality and that is a sobering thing. I worried for my kids and my husband. I worried about the financial toll that a cancer diagnosis would take. Thankfully, in the end, everything came back benign. I have fibroadenomas and I am declining surgical removal. They are just a part of me. Call me lumpy. I am no worse for wear, save for a very bruised frankenboob.

Late last week, my husband went for an eye exam. He decided to switch doctors, to see the eye doctor that I recently saw. He has type 1 (juvenile or insulin-dependent) diabetes. He was diagnosed as a teenager. So he had retinal imaging and a dilated eye exam. He has signs of diabetic retinopathy (the eye changes seen in diabetics that eventually lead to blindness). This is the first time he has been told this. He has been diabetic for 25 years so we expected this at some point. And he’s 40, so we know complications will probably start soon. But it was still a blow. Diabetic complications were always a someday problem when we were younger. Its easy to forget about them when he is young and strong and healthy. I think I even thought that maybe he would be lucky and not have to deal with them. You know, magical thinking. Everything will be okay. Rainbows and unicorns. Head in sand. Unfortunately, reality has reared its ugly head. So we are doing our research and he is making some lifestyle changes in an effort to slow down this process as much as possible.

I have other excuses. My mother-in-law had surgery. My mom was diagnosed with cataracts. Work was incredibly busy. We thought our water heater went out. I stressed for a day about how to pay for a new one. Turns out it needed to be reset after a storm made our electricity blink.

June was not my friend. Well, actually the first half of June was pretty good. Make that: the last half of June was not my friend. I am glad to see June leave. I am hoping July will be better.

 

 

Twelve

Writing 101: Day 11 – Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. Today’s twist: pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

 

I pedaled my ten-speed down the gravel road as fast as I could, leaving a dust cloud in my wake. Almost home. I glanced over my shoulder to see him gaining on me. I leaned down over the handlebars and tried to will myself to go faster. I veered to the right.  I sped down the steep, paved driveway and leaned left as it wrapped around the back of the house. I stomped the brakes and came to a sudden stop. His bike immediately stopped next to mine.

“I beat you!” I gloated.

“You had a head start.” Nick said.

“Wanna shoot some hoops?” I asked. The driveway behind our house was the perfect size for a half-court game. My dad had attached the backboard to the back of the house, positioning it at just the right height. It was above the garage doors and below the big picture window that looked into our dining room.

“Maybe later. Wanna go to the lake?”

Nick was my neighbor. Well, sort of. There was an empty lot between my house and his. It was a flat, grassy field perfect for playing tag or a pickup baseball game. I had lived there my whole life. Nick’s family moved in when he was five and we became inseparable. In the years to come, our relationship would change. He would become my first crush and my first kiss. We would share many firsts. But that particular summer, things were still uncomplicated. We were twelve years old and we were best friends.

We were country kids. We lived ten miles outside of a small town in the midwest. Our large, gated community was mostly woods and lakes. When you drove through the gate, there were two roads. The upper road was where Nick and I lived. It had about ten houses and it dead-ended into the woods. The lower road was much longer and it wound around behind the upper road and led to three different lakes. The homes on the lakefront were generally fancier and more expensive than those on the upper road. Most of them had permanent residents but some were for vacationers.

During the summer, the parents would go to work during the day and the kids would run the neighborhood. Back then, kids roamed outside from dawn to dusk, never spending much time indoors. We generally didn’t check in with our parents until suppertime. We used to travel miles on those gravel roads between the lakes and our houses. Sometimes we would ride our bikes. Sometimes we would walk.

That day, we hiked down to the first lake. There were lots of kids already there. Music blared from a boom box. Some kids were playing volleyball in the sand pit by the boat dock. Most of the kids were in the water – swimming, diving, floating, inner-tubing. Nick and I spent all afternoon in the lake. As the lakefront moms called their kids inside, we headed home waterlogged and sunburnt.

After supper, I played basketball behind the house. I practiced jump shots, free-throws and lay-ups. Nick came over when he was finished eating. We played HORSE. We played one-on-one. We played until it was too dark to see the ball and then we turned on the floodlights. Eventually, mom called me inside.

“See you tomorrow,” Nick called as he jogged home across the empty lot.

 

 

 

Dancer

Writing 101: Day 8 – Death to Adverbs

Today’s prompt: Go to a local cafe, park or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind. Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post.

 

I marched out of the bookstore and into the bustling main corridor of the mall. People hustled all around me. As I strode to the next store, I saw her.

She wore jeans and a t-shirt and could have been invisible in the crowd. She was not invisible. She danced, arms above her head, hips swaying. She twirled and then waltzed backwards. She spun again. She floated down the hall and back again. Her long, dark hair bounced as she moved. She threw her head back and closed her eyes. She never stopped moving.

 

Shoes

Day 7: Give and Take

Today’s prompt: Write a post based on the contrast of two things – whether people, objects, emotions, places or something else. Today’s twist: Write your post in the form of a dialogue.

 

“Darling! Over here!”

Who was that? Were they talking to me? I looked at my husband to see if he had heard it too. He just kept walking through the mall, pulling my hand. I stopped and turned toward the voice.

And there she was. The most beautiful pair of black strappy three-inch heels that I had ever seen.

“Yes, you! Hello darling! Come over here.”

I took a step back toward the store window, pulling my poor husband along with me. A confused look crossed his face.

“You look like a sophisticated woman who could use a pair of heels. I bet you have a dress in your closet that would be perfect for me.”

I cocked my head. She was right. I did.

“Don’t listen to her. I know a runner when I see one. Come check me out.”

I turned my head toward the second voice to see a pair of running shoes. I definitely needed a new pair of running shoes. Mine were falling apart.

“Don’t be silly. Look at those legs. Add a short skirt and me and my three inches and she will look amazing.”

“And how do you think her legs got that way? She’s a runner. I can make her run farther and faster and therefore make her legs look even better.”

“Whatever. You will just get all sweaty and stinky.”

“And you are just going to make her feet hurt. I bet she couldn’t get through one evening wearing you.”

“Darling, what about Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome there next to you? I bet he would love to see you in a sexy dress and high heels. That would make for a fun evening, am I right?”

“Please. I can see that he put a ring on it so she obviously doesn’t need your help in that department. And besides, this is about her. Not him. I can make her feel better by contributing to her health and fitness.”

“Fitness, schmitness. She wants to look hot and I can help her with that. I can make her look so good all of her friends will be jealous.”

“Nothing will make her friends more jealous than losing weight or getting toned. Swimsuit season is right around the corner…”

“Um… sweetheart?” I felt a tug on my hand. My husband was giving me an odd look. Oh, yeah. He’s still here.

I turned back to the window and put my hand up, showing him my palm. “Shhhhhhh. The shoes.”

He rolled his eyes. “Okaaaaaaay. Well, when you’re done, I’ll be at the electronics store.”

Rusty

It was a Friday night after a long week, a long day at work and a long drive home. I walked into my house to find an uninvited, unwanted guest. Well, he was uninvited and unwanted to me. My husband had brought home a houseguest without consulting me at all. And this houseguest was not temporary, he was to become a permanent part of our household. His name is Rusty and he is a three year-old brittany spaniel.

Confession: I am not a dog person, never have been. Its not that I don’t like dogs, dogs are fine animals. I don’t care for dogs in my house. Most dogs I’ve known in my life have been loud, hyperactive, messy, destructive and smelly. I know, dog people everywhere are throwing things at their screens and calling me names. I understand. Dogs have just never been my cup of tea. I’ve always been a cat person.

Not to mention, I have always felt that taking on a pet is a huge responsibility and not something to do on a whim and most certainly not something to spring on another person without notice or against their wishes. So to say that I was unhappy with this turn of events would have been an understatement.

I kept my eye on Rusty the first couple of days. I was kind and tolerant of him but I didn’t go out of my way to welcome him with open arms.  It was obvious that he favored my husband and stayed by his side whenever possible, laying at his feet or curling up next to him. When my husband came home, Rusty greeted him enthusiastically, his joy at seeing his favorite person evident in his body language. Rusty would follow him from room to room, just wanting to occupy the same space as his best friend.

My kids took to Rusty immediately. They showered him with love so he bonded with them quickly as well. He would lay next to them and watch them play. He was gentle with them, as if he realized that they were smaller and more fragile than my husband. He would lay next to them and put his head in their laps. At night he would go between their two bedrooms, sleeping next to one bed and then the other.  I started to notice that not only did he want to be near them but that he also took a protective stance when he was around them.

Rusty quickly began to win me over. He was a very well-behaved houseguest. He was fully trained, so he did not have any accidents on the carpet. He did not bark or chew. He didn’t even smell that bad. When it was time to go outside, he would sit very patiently and calmly, waiting for the leash to be clipped onto his collar. He had a very calm demeanor, very reserved. He even got along with our cat, Gracie. He was really unlike any other dog that I had known. He liked to be around me, but also seemed to know exactly how much space that I needed. I noticed an intelligence in his eyes, an ability to assess.

One day, he was laying next to me and he gently put his paw on my arm. “What’s he doing?” I asked my husband.

“He does that. He wants you to pet him.”

I looked into his eyes and it was almost like I could see into his gentle soul. I pet his head and he immediately rolled over and exposed his stomach. I gave him a belly rub. And just like that, we were friends.

Rusty has been with us for a couple of months now. We go on walks and runs together. I give him daily hugs and belly rubs. I don’t mind when he curls up next to me or wants to jump in the bed with me. He is a cuddler and absolutely shameless about it. I love watching him with my kids. He so openly and caringly accepts their love (even my 5 year-old who sometimes, in her excitement and exuberance, forgets to be gentle). He shows quiet but fierce loyalty. He has so completely and effectively carved out a place for himself in this family with such grace that it has impressed me.

And he has done what no other dog before him has been able to do. He has made me a dog person.

rusty

 

Day 6 prompt: Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

Best playground ever

Today we found the best playground ever.

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A local family spearheaded this playground in memory of their daughter, Melaina. A statue of her stands at the entrance.

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My kids loved the music toys because well… genetics. The wonderful thing about these is that as children play them, the bells and chimes can be heard as background music throughout the park.

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Some of the cool toys…

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A slide with rollers!

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Some of the contributors…

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My favorite is “Ride on, little dude. Ride on.”

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This truly is a magical place! I forsee many trips there with my kids.

Notes

My phone chimed, signaling a text. It was Josh.  I had been putting him off for over a week. I might as well get it over with. I texted him back and told him he could come over.

I walked down the hall and stopped at the last door on the left. A weight settled over me. I took a deep breath and then another. With a heavy sigh, I pushed the door open and entered Nick’s room.

Nick had called it his “music cave,” where he played and wrote music. Sometimes his band would come over and jam in there. After he died, I had spent very little time in that room. I avoided it to be honest. The memories were too much, the wounds were too fresh. The room was just too… him. He had spent so much time holed up in there with his guitar that you could almost still feel his creative spirit.

The guitar. It was right where he left it, in its case leaning against the wall. It had been Nick’s prized possession. He had been teaching me to play it but I hadn’t touched it since his death. When Josh asked me if he could buy it, my first instinct was to jump at the chance to get rid of it. Maybe I needed to get rid of all of these things. Try to start moving on. The thought of that seemed overwhelming. Cleaning out, moving on… well, that was a finality that I wasn’t ready for.

I ran my fingers over the case, remembering the feel of it. I gently laid it on the floor, popped the hinges and opened it. It really was a beautiful guitar. He bought it because it was the best, even though it took him a long time to save enough money for it. I was shocked when he let me use it during our lessons. But he offered it willingly and he was quite patient as I struggled through the frets and chords. Always patient. Patient, loving hands that would cover mine and guide them along the strings.

I closed the case quickly. Too many memories. Too much pain.

I went to his desk, thinking he had some picks in a drawer that  I could give to Josh. His desk was a mess. There were papers and notes everywhere. I opened a drawer and began to rummage. No picks. I opened the second drawer and stopped short. I pulled my hand back as if it had been struck. I may have stopped breathing for a beat. In the second drawer was his writing notebook. It was full of pages and pages of song lyrics that he had been working on. He had taken that thing with him everywhere. It had been like an extension of him. Seeing it laying there was like a punch in the gut. Next to the notebook, was a small box. The box was full of paper. I realized that they were all notes that I had written to him over the years, back before everything was email or text. Little handwritten notes. We used to leave them all over the house for each other. Some were just a simple “I love you” and others were full-page pledges of love and devotion and hopes for the future. He had folded up nearly every damn one of them and crammed them in the little box. As I pulled them out I could tell that they were weathered, that they had been folded and unfolded many times. Oh my God. Overcome, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.

The doorbell rang. Josh. Dazed, I shuffled to the door. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He was a little thinner but he still had his gorgeous long hair. His face was a little drawn, his eyes were sad. His eyes widened a little when he saw me and I realized that I must look like a hot mess… wet, puffy eyes and still clutching the little box of notes like it was made of gold. He took a step toward me and embraced me tightly. He rubbed my back and held me. I cried even harder.  He murmured in my ear, “I miss him too.”

We stood like that for several minutes. He finally released me and I wiped my face with my hand in an unsuccessful attempt to pull myself together. He was on the verge of tears too.

“Sooooooo,” he said, letting out a heavy sigh, “I’m guessing that you aren’t going to sell me that guitar today.” His voice was light and teasing, trying to lighten the mood.

I smiled but I doubt it reached my eyes. “Josh, I just don’t think I can.”

He nodded. “Its okay. I thought as much.” He studied me for a second. “Can I see it?”

“Sure.” I stepped aside and he entered the foyer. I shut the door behind him. He was already headed down the hallway and toward Nick’s room. He had spent a lot of hours in that room, too – working on music and the occasional night sleeping on the couch after a big fight with Angie.

He stopped when he entered the room. He looked at me and I could tell he was also having a hard time keeping his emotions in check. The air in the room was so heavy, as if the memories hung there like a mist.

He went over to the guitar and ran his fingers down its length. “May I?”

“Go ahead.”

He sat down with it and began strumming chords, tuning it as he went. It was nice to see it in the hands of a skilled musician again. He began to play random songs. We sang. We talked. We shared memories. At least an hour went by. He finally laid the guitar back in its case and ran his hands through his hair. The music had calmed him but he still seemed like a burdened man.

I went to the desk and pulled out the writing notebook and handed it to him. “Here. I’d like you to have this.”

He looked at me like I was giving him the keys to the kingdom. “Are you sure? Don’t you want it?”

I gave him a sad smile. “No, I think you should take it. He’s got a lot of stuff in there. Maybe you could work out some songs. He’d want you to have it.”

He hugged it to his chest and stood up. “Thanks.” He found my gaze and held it. “Really, thank you.”

“Thank you for coming by. It was nice to hear music in this room again. And it was nice to see you. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own grief that I forget that other people loved him too… that they are grieving him too.”

He hugged me again. “Any time,” he said with a smile. “And when you decide to pick up where you left off with those guitar lessons, call me, okay?”

“Definitely.”

As we reached the front door, he studied me for a moment and said, “Oh yeah… Angie was asking about you. She was thinking of having a girls’ night, just the two of you. Would you be up for that?” I saw hope in his eyes, trying to nudge me back into the social circle from which I had withdrawn.

I breathed out a sigh. “Yeah. That sounds good actually. Tell her to call or text me.”

He gave me a big smile and turned and left, hugging the notebook to his chest the whole way.

Pay It Forward

I walked along the busy street, hustling from one errand to another. I stopped to answer a text when I heard my phone chime. As I set my bags down by the storefront window, I noticed an envelope propped against the glass. It had no writing on it, no postmarks. I looked around, expecting to see its owner nearby. Nada.

I reached for it, an inner debate waging in my mind. Its not yours. What if its important? What if its private? Well, it shouldn’t be out on the street then.

I snatched it up and opened it. A simple note:  Smile. You are beautiful. Pay it forward.

I laughed as I put the envelope back on its perch. Challenge accepted. I picked up my bags, ignored that text, and walked on with a new energy. I knew exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do.

 

Day 5 prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply and you wish it could be returned to the person to which its addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Be succinct. Use as few words as possible.

Girl, Put Your Records On…

vinyl-record-player-adamr-freedigitalphotos.net

 

Music is often the fuel that drives me. Music can connect us and inspire us. It can liberate us. Songs have the ability to unearth long-buried memories. Songs are emotion put to music. They make us feel a certain way. In fact, sometimes I love a song for reasons that I can’t put my finger on other than the way it makes me feel. Lyrics can sometimes speak directly to our hearts and imprint themselves on our souls. Songs can make us laugh or cry. Everyone has a life soundtrack. Think about it… often our most significant life events are tied to music. Let’s take a listen to my soundtrack…

Track One: Grow Old With Me by the incomparable John Lennon

We sat on the bedroom floor of my apartment, CDs scattered around us. I had my wedding planner open on my lap, taking notes and scratching things off of lists. He gave me an exasperated look and told me to just pick a song. I was taking this too seriously. No, it has to be just right. This will be our first dance as a married couple and we will remember it for the rest of our lives. It has to be perfect. I consulted the list and popped in the next song. As I played it, we listened – really listened- to the lyrics. He took my hand and I saw his eyes soften and yes, he teared up. We both knew we had found THE ONE. The lyrics speak of commitment, promise, future, growing old together and facing life’s challenges together. It spoke to both of us. We ultimately went with the Mary Chapin Carpenter version. At our wedding reception, my husband cried as we danced to this song. To this day, he still cries when he hears this song.

Track Two: You Are My Sunshine

Somewhere in the fog that was the early days after my first daughter was born, I remember waking in the middle of the night and hearing my husband’s voice coming from the nursery. I groggily stumbled out of the bed and into the hall. I looked into the nursery and saw him holding her, rocking in the rocking chair. He was singing to her in a soft voice, almost a whisper. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away. It was a heartwarming sight watching that big, tough man cradling and singing to such a small infant with so much love. That became his go-to song with both of our daughters. I heard that song so many times during their childhood. That was the song he sang when they couldn’t sleep or when they were sick or when they were afraid of monsters under the bed. I take comfort in knowing that when they are adults they will hear that song and think of their dad.

Track Three: I’m Yours by The Script

The Script is one of my favorite bands and I love their lead singer’s voice. But there is some kind of magic in this song that goes beyond that. The first time I heard it, I cried. It is lyrically beautiful – raw and honest emotion. I still cry when I hear it. It just speaks to me, knocks on the door of my heart. Maybe its because it reminds me that we all have bruises and scars. We are all bent and broken.  Sometimes the path we take through life is crooked and complicated. But we all deserve love. And true love – love that accepts us as we are – will let us overcome. Love is salvation.

 

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song. Just go ahead, let your hair down.

What songs are on your life soundtrack?

 

Credits: Girl, Put Your Records On written by Corinne Bailey Rae, John Beck and Steve Chrisanthou

You Are My Sunshine: credited songwriters Jimmie Davis, Charles Mitchell; original writers may have been the Rice Brothers, who sold the rights to Davis.

Photo by adamr at freedigitalphotos.net

 

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Day 3 prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life. What do they mean to you? Twist: Form a daily writing habit – 15 minutes of uninterrupted writing.