Dear Me

Dear Me,

I’ve been thinking about you recently and all we’ve been through together this year. As you know, it’s not much fun to sit and reminisce by yourself, so I decided to share the fun by dropping you a line.

It all started back in January – do you even remember it now? It seems like forever ago. Remember how you had your year all planned out and organized, like you always do? There was a grid for your anticipated blog posts – one per week, each. What on earth were you even thinking??? I have tears in my eyes right now from trying not to laugh out loud! I’d better get myself under control before my office-mate thinks I’ve finally lost it. If only you knew back then how far you would come this year on the blog front. All I can say now is I’m just glad you stuck with it, despite the painful learning curve.

That’s not even the best of it. Think back. Remember your novel writing plan? You agonized over how much time you should allot to each book. Goodness, gracious – you even “researched” it! You know, you’ll never get that time back. I can’t help but giggle a bit at your naivety. Thankfully, though, you eventually came to the realization that you were procrastinating, despite how “necessary” and “productive” it may have felt at the time.

I remember the very moment you realized you were holding yourself back. After that, you just picked a draft and started to write. That’s when the magic happened. Of course, it’s all well and good to have that under your belt now, but it’s also important to remember those very humble beginnings so you can recognize the organization trap before you fall into it again. Keep it simple, just write.

Unless we’re talking about Twitter, of course. We both know how that little experiment worked out. Live and learn, right?

I must admit that I was pretty impressed at how well you kept up with the “I Write in 2018” challenge. As I recall, you signed up on a whim in late December because it “seemed like a good idea”. Well, now we know that it actually WAS a good idea. It gave you just enough accountability to keep the momentum rolling, with regards to contests and reviews, yet it didn’t suck up all your time. Plus, socialization (even the electronic version) is more important than you seem to think. We might need to keep working on that.

Socialization aside, I must say that 2018 has been a mighty good year for us, especially considering that it isn’t even over yet! I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish.

Take care,

Your Self

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Word Count: 456
Written for: A contest called “Dear Me” where you write yourself a letter from the future to refer back to during the year in order to stay motivated toward your goals.

It’s a Sign

Like many Americans, hubs and I made the pilgrimage to the holy zone of solar eclipse totality, neatly bisecting our country on August 21st, 2017. Newscasters had assured us during the weeks leading up to this that traffic would be a snarled mess. Drive times were expected to triple. A week’s worth of provisions was highly recommended.

Hubs was really looking forward to the trip. I was along for the ride. Pups was just happy to be there.

We headed out on Saturday morning, intending to travel three quarters of the way to our chosen destination and crash at a friend’s place. We would tackle the last part of the journey, sans dog, in the wee hours of E-Day. Hubs had wisely decided not to share with me exactly which wee hour we would be departing. That information was classified as Need to Know only. We both understood it was for the best.

Less than an hour into our three hour journey, I saw a freeway sign declaring,

ECLIPSE AUG 21
TRAFFIC TO OR
EXPECT DELAYS

So far we had been spared any unusually heavy traffic, but I knew that our miles were numbered. So did hubs. I wanted to get a photo of this sign to put in my “Eclipse Album,” which would take up precious space on my Google drive and never be viewed again. I was too slow, though. The sign passed before I could even open the camera app. No worries. It was a long drive; I knew there would be more opportunities.

I was right, there were more opportunities, at least four, maybe five. Each time either I saw it too late, or I didn’t have my phone (which is my camera) at hand, or I couldn’t get the app to cooperate in time, or there was a truck between me and the sign at the crucial moment.

Eventually, the signs changed to:

ECLIPSE AUG 21
EXPECT
HEAVY TRAFFIC

Around the same time, I began to realize that this casual snapshot had turned into an obsession, not just for me. As we neared our exit, we approached a perfectly placed sign, directly over the center lane. As luck would have it, traffic began to thicken at the same time, creating the ideal situation to grab a perfect photo. I could have gotten it, too, if I hadn’t put away my phone. I just missed it.

I didn’t even have to ask. Hubs offered to get back on the freeway in the opposite direction and come around again so I could get a second chance at it. I accepted that offer. For the next several minutes, my phone never left my hand. The camera app was open and I snapped a random photo every few seconds to make sure it didn’t get bored and go to sleep on me.

We circled around and approached the sign, both of us on high alert. Traffic wasn’t thick enough yet for us to stop, but I had plenty of time to line up the shot as we rolled slowly under it. I snapped several just to be safe. Mission accomplished, we continued on to our destination, satisfied that we had finally captured that pesky sign.

That evening, I scrolled through the photos to choose the best one, but they were all about the same. Glaring orange fragments of letters were scattered across a black background. Some shots showed most of a word, with the rest scrambled. Others were just digital chaos.

I took it as a sign.

New Diet

Hunger pangs were attacking me full force by the time I left the office. I was taking a late break in order to avoid the lunch rush at the post office. Hubs and I had been traveling and I needed to pick up our held mail. It seemed like a clever strategy until I saw the parking lot. I was eventually able to find a parking spot and took my place at the end of the line.

As I began to ease myself into the zombie-like mindset that’s required for survival in such situations, my eyes took in my surroundings. Three clerks were each busy attending to customers at the counter. Another dozen assorted bodies stood in a zigzag fashion, each silently waiting for their chance to advance three feet.

Miraculously, I caught the eye of a roaming clerk who had spotted the pickup tag in my hand. This allowed me to subvert the line, pick up my mail, and stop off at home before rushing back to work. I just needed to drop off my loot and grab some food to take with me back to work. I was starving.

I unlocked the deadbolt and stepped over the threshold just in time to hear an ominous sound. My gaze traveled down the hall, abruptly stopping at a closed door. The office was back there. Also the dog bed. This was not a good sign. The only reason that door would be closed is if Charlie had rolled in a pile of poop at the park again and his dog-walker was trying to contain the mess.

I tossed the pile of junk mail on the couch as I flew through the living room and down the hall to find out the extent of the catastrophe. Charlie stood in front of the recently installed back door contemplating his work. Rays of sunlight shone through the pretty frosted glass, enhancing the shine on the pile of vomit. I tried not to breathe while I opened the door and sent him outside. At first he wouldn’t go, reluctant to pass over the puddle he had created, but he finally  relented.

Next, I dashed to the kitchen for cleaning supplies and then returned to confront the powerful odor of the slimy mess. I cleaned and mopped and then used special biological odor foam to kill anything I had missed. Charlie’s bath would have to wait until later; I needed to get back to work.

Pulling into my parking spot, I realized I wasn’t the least bit hungry anymore.

Space X

We gathered up snacks and sunscreen and headed out of the hotel room door just ahead of the approaching dawn. The sign next to the blue, kidney shaped pool caught my eye. It announced that this hotel was first owned by the original seven astronauts. We didn’t know that when we checked in, but it fit perfectly with today’s adventure. We were on our way to see a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center.

As soon as hubs heard the news that Space X would launch the Falcon 9 during our Florida vacation, he began scoping out viewing spots. There were two strong contenders and Jetty Park was nearest. We idly wondered how many people would be joining us there at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning.

Driving toward the park in the pre-dawn light, down a narrow road lined with palm trees, we saw a building crossing the road a few blocks in front of us. It took a moment to register that this was a cruise ship, it was so incongruous with the setting.

Turning right at the end of the road, we joined a short line of cars stopped for a toll booth. It looked fancy, perhaps a gated community or a private club. I secretly wondered if they would turn us away. One by one, each car was allowed to pass. Finally, it was our turn. Hubs handed over fifteen dollars in exchange for a bright yellow rear view mirror tag that had been edited with a fat black marker to reflect a price increase. Perhaps it wasn’t the exclusive club I had imagined.

Once inside, we followed the gently curving park road past the gift shop/restaurant/changing rooms and rounded a bend to see the vast, flat, park laid out before us. Cars already lined the beach side of the road. We took our place among the orderly row of vehicles lining the other side of the road. Two dozen or so cars had arrived before us.

Not much notice had been given for this launch; it only appeared on the schedule two weeks prior and details were scarce. All we knew was that the Falcon 9 was to launch a spy satellite into orbit and then return to the nearby landing pad to be reused. This launch was unique not only because of its payload, but also because the landing site was rarely close enough to see from the launch area and not all prior landing attempts had been successful. Nobody knew if this would work and we would get to watch the whole thing in person.

Settled into our spot with most of an hour remaining before the launch window, we watched a hundred more cars roll in and claim their places on the grass parking strip. There was no way to tell how many were there for a day at the beach and how many were only interested in the launch.

With the car shielding us from the chill of the morning, we broke out the cherry turnovers and beverages. Meanwhile the sun overcame its shyness, revealing a thin scattering of low clouds. Hubs finished breakfast first and, feeling restless, got out to have a look around. I enjoyed the shelter of the car for little longer. I watched him cross the road and find a rock to perch on. Dozens of people loitered on the rocky strip of beach around him. Most were glued to their phones, aside from frequent glances across the channel. It was sunny now, but it was early and there was a breeze. Still, it wasn’t nice to make hubs sit alone while I cowered in the car. I zipped my jacket, crossed the road, and joined him.

There was a strange blend of boredom, excitement, and anxiousness. Several people were listening to the NASA station on their phones, hubs included. Not long after I arrived, we heard the words “twenty-four hour recycle” and with that the launch was called off. They would replace the faulty sensor they had discovered during pre-launch checks and try again tomorrow.

The weather changed immediately. A strong gust relieved me of my hat and sent it skittering across the rocks. Hubs acted fast and captured it perilously close to the water. Fat raindrops pelted the fleeing nerds as they filtered through the parked cars. We were soaked by the time we climbed into ours, even though it was just across the park road.

Back in our cars, we watched every vehicle in sight begin to inch their way toward the exit. We no longer had to wonder about who was there to see the Falcon 9 mission and who was there to play at the beach.

By the time we had made our way out of the park the rain was a distant memory. Hubs and I headed back to the hotel, disappointed but hopeful that tomorrow would be successful. We were glad we had decided to spend an extra night in Cocoa Beach.

The next morning we gathered our things and headed back to the park to try again. There was no line at the toll booth and fewer cars were parked when we arrived. We were not surprised. It was a Monday morning and we suspected that many of yesterday’s hopeful viewers were back at work this morning or had flown home after yesterday’s aborted launch. Another change from yesterday was the presence of a news van. An interviewer was already set up and chatting with spectators when we claimed our parking spot. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky this time, but it there was still a strong breeze.

This time we got out of the car right away and explored the park. It paid off when we spotted the jetty for which the park was named. A sturdy concrete bridge stretched almost to the end of it. There were so many bodies clogging the path, I wasn’t confident we could find a spot. This was clearly the place to be, though, so I led the way onto the bridge over the jetty and hubs followed.

The wind increased the further we got from land, whipping my skirt into a frenzy. It was warm out, despite the early hour, but I left my long jacket zipped to keep me modest. I tilted my hat to shield my face from the film crew as we navigated through the crowd, elbowed our way to the railing, and took our place among the hopeful. The sun was up now and together we stared at the low hill in front of the launch pad.

The launch window opened and hubs consulted the live feed. Bored with staring at the hill, my attention soon drifted to the conversations around us. Many of the spectators appeared older than us and I overheard tales of various launches people had seen over the years, including the space shuttle. Hubs and I just waited quietly.

We were both staring at his phone when the crowd became quiet, signaling us to look up. I was momentarily confused because I could see the stationary rocket on the screen of hub’s phone, but it was also airborne. Then I realized the feed was slightly delayed. At first the rocket seemed to be hovering just above the hill with flames shooting back toward the earth. As I continued to stare, I could see that it was inching upward. I was surprised at how close it looked, considering we were seven miles away. We watched the ascent until the rocket was too small to see.

The crown thinned a bit after the rocket faded from view and I wondered if perhaps those leaving were not aware of the second part of this mission. Surely, they could wait a few minutes to see the first stage attempt the landing. Hubs and I continued to follow the live feed until it blacked out to preserve the secrecy of the mission. Then we waited.

I looked around and admired the wide jetty below us constructed from brown boulders. Then I glanced at the clear sky. Nothing. I admired the simple yet sturdy architecture of the bridge we were on. Then I glanced at the sky. Empty. I scanned the horizon and spotted two ships in the distance, then allowed my eyes to drift back to shore along the waves. No rocket. I appreciated that our viewing spot was safely above the sea spray from the waves crashing against the jetty. Then I checked the sky. Nothing. On the other side of the jetty stretched a sandy beach scattered with early morning beachgoers. None of them were looking at the sky, so I did. All I saw was blue sky. Eventually I closed my eyes and filled my lungs with the ocean air. The Atlantic smelled much less salty than the Pacific that I was used to. I took another peek at the sky and found the rocket I was waiting for.

Nine minutes had passed since we watched it take off, now stage one was returning to earth. It was coming right for us, and fast! Fight or flight kicked in and despite the strong urge to get out of there, I held my ground because I was there first. I was beyond relieved when the rocket deferred to my authority, landing on the pad instead of on the walkway over the jetty. At the very end, it disappeared behind the hill.

We turned toward shore, nothing left to see now but a boring hill. Then two deafening booms rolled over us in quick succession.  The remaining crowd collectively ducked and turned to look toward the landing site looking for smoke or debris. Previous landing attempts had failed. No one was breathing. The sonic boom had faked us out. Our heart rates returned to normal as hubs and I yet again turned our attention to his phone screen. The delayed feed showed us a perfect landing. The mission was a success!

Saving the World

I did not go to yoga class this morning. I didn’t go yesterday either. I briefly contemplated this lack of self-care as I sat in my light-filled, cinnamon-scented kitchen, savoring each gooey bite of warm cinnamon roll. Pristine slices of bright green honeydew melon watched the carnage from the side of the plate. It was obvious they weren’t in any immediate danger.
It was an electronics filled morning. The wall-sized television in the living room provided a constant stream of one-sided conversation. Much like that one friend who won’t shut up, but rarely says anything memorable. The TV cannot be seen from the kitchen, so my laptop and phone kept me company on the table, providing the visuals I needed to distract me from confronting my poor choices.
Some guilt must have seeped through the electronic barrier I had put in place as protection from my thoughts, because an hour later I found myself pulling the locked door closed behind me and walking down the driveway, right past my car and onto the sidewalk. Apparently, I was walking to work today.
It was a good day for a walk; the weather was improving, but not yet hot. I looked like summer in my fashionably cuffed jeans, black leather Mary Janes, and bright white tee-shirt with just enough decorative trim to pass as work appropriate. I carried my shiny black crocodile-patterned designer handbag past the construction on my street, turned the corner, and headed two blocks over to the slightly nicer neighborhood on the ridge. That’s where I encountered the first human beings I’d seen all day. We greeted each other with tiny waves and quiet hellos, although we did not know each other.
I continued along the ridge to the staircase most recently made famous by the muggings of school children by an as yet un-apprehended thug. A fellow area resident had thoughtfully hung a plastic grocery sack at the corner of the railing at the top of the stairs to collect trash in. As I passed, I noticed that there was much more debris in the general vicinity of the bag than actually in the bag. It crossed my mind that I had misidentified a ghetto basketball hoop for a trash bag.
I found myself fantasizing about what I would do if confronted by a mugger, as I picked my way gingerly past the broken glass and abundance of discarded tall boy beer cans littering the stairs. I’m not great at shutting up. I’m not great at tolerating injustice. On the other hand, pain and/or death do not appeal to me. I consider this question regularly when I descend this staircase on the way to work. I still do not have an answer.
I emerged from the staircase without incident, then pressed the button to activate the walk signal just before the light changed. Perfect timing! I always feel like I’m somehow on display when I have to wait at that corner for the light. Only I wasn’t really just in time, I guess, since the “Don’t Walk” signal continued its red glare. I defiantly crossed anyway.
Working my way toward the uphill portion of my commute, all I could see was the trash edging the sidewalk. More beer cans, a flattened straw summer hat, an old sponge, the ubiquitous cigarette butts, more broken glass, this city dweller detritus did nothing to brighten my walk. Did no one take pride in their neighborhood? Was I the only one who didn’t want to live in a dump? I did not belong here, surrounded by garbage, in my chic outfit and designer handbag. These thoughts swirled in my brain, dampening my mood.
Approaching the corner where my ascent begins, I saw a pedestrian across the street. He had almost reached the corner where children congregate in cooler seasons to wait for the school bus. He looks just as out-of-place as I feel, carrying with him an industrial looking orange dustpan and broom. He stops at the corner and begins to puts his tools to use.
In the last ten minutes, I had been discouraged by my surroundings and increasingly disappointed in my neighbors. During those same ten minutes, one of my neighbors had found opportunity in those same surroundings and taken action to benefit his neighbors. I was grumbling about the state of the world while he was saving it. I realized in that moment, to my dismay, that I’m part of the problem.

Beast

The long, black, infected claws of time have finally pierced my carefully constructed armor of youth. They sink deep, slashing quickly and vigorously through my tender innocence. The savage destruction so swift it takes my breath away. A brief moment of stillness following the attack allows me to recognize what has happened. Horrified understanding floods my brain. Intense, searing pain follows, urgently spreading its way along the wounds. Agony radiates out from each point of penetration, following the length of the nerves, blooming each into exquisite awareness of all that has been and is yet to be. In the end, body ravaged and soul extinguished, loved ones will grieve my loss, but time will carry mercilessly on.

I should not suffer alone, victim after victim will succumb to this beast’s insatiable appetite. There will be no survivors, but we, in our misguided efforts to distance ourselves from this monster’s attention, continue to create the fuel it feeds on. Like dandelions in spring, spreading seeds of hope far and wide; each sprouting and growing and blooming before being sliced into unrecognizable pulp by the relentlessly whirring mower blades. We continually deliver new lives into the world, then shelter them from the horror of their fate. We pretend that all is well, even when our fairy tales and nursery rhymes allow the careful observer a glimpse of the hidden truth.

Last week, I was young. Then my armor was pierced, now I am old. I fought the beast for longer than many, but in the end we all fail. Now I bear the crushing weight of all those accumulated years. Age has finally caught up to me and it is very angry. Over the last week it has made truly extraordinary progress.

The brutal onslaught began with a two-word text message. “I’m pregnant.” I was not so naïve that I did not understand this as a possibility. My healthy, independent daughter is considered by current medical standards to be in her prime years for childbearing. What I had willfully chosen not to consider thus far, was that this proved scientifically that I must have somehow become old enough to be a grandmother. Misfires are sparking throughout my brain as I type this; the concept is so foreign to me. It is true, though, no matter how impossible it seems.

Within days, that evil, uncaring, bitch time had reset all mirrors to highlight and reflect back details of appearance associated with the elderly. My middle has reshaped itself into my most prominent feature, rather than my least. Tiny fissures in my skin a week ago are now jagged fractures tearing apart my face. Shiny, golden strands of hair reflect back as ghosts of their former selves. These cosmetic changes are just the beginning.

The battle is lost on the inside, too, as age has its way with me. This past week has been filled with debilitating hip and back pain, contributing to insomnia. I enter rooms and open drawers with no memory of why. That knowledge only returning once I have left again. My elders cackle evilly through their dentures, lipstick feathering out from cracked lips, as I share my sorrows. Oh yes, they knew. They knew all along. They were just watching quietly with their cataract clouded eyes, patiently waiting until time finally discovered me and launched its attack. Now they sit back and watch the show, a brief distraction from their own lost battles.

There may still be years ahead, but the joy, wonder, and carefree exuberance of youth is forever lost to me, another victim to the vicious touch of time.

Author’s Note:

While I did present this in a dramatic fashion, the events and conclusions are true. When did you first realize you were old? Share your story with me in the comments.

What Have I Done?

We’ve reached that time of year when we reflect on the past twelve months and make plans for the coming ones. Gingerly Me is a few months old now and a routine has mostly worked itself out. Here’s what’s been done and what’s left to do.

2015 Accomplishments

  • Began writing stories (September)
  • Researched the business of writing
  • Created website (November, went live 12/1)
  • Created 9 blog posts (plus 3 unfinished drafts)
  • Submitted 4 stories for publication

2016 Goals

  • Build readership
    • Arrange for guest post(s)
    • Spread the word about the blog
  • Build professional network
    • Find writing blogs/businesses to associate with
    • Join a local writer’s group
  • Submit a piece for publication each month

January Goals

  • Let Facebook friends know about Gingerly Me (not sure why I’ve been keeping it secret)
  • Create tracking system for submissions
  • Consider ideas for a book
  • Submit something for publication

Happy Birthday!

My baby blog finally made its way onto the big wide web today!
It all began about two months ago, when I decided to write a story. Times have changed since a paper and pencil were all you needed. Now, in order to share my story with you I must have a platform. Part of that platform is this webpage. According to the powers that be, the minimum for this platform would be to provide you with my photo and contact information. How fun would that be?
Instead, to make it a little more interesting, I will be sharing short stories and documenting my experiences as I learn to navigate the modern world of writing on my journey to fame and fortune.
Please join me on this journey, its bound to be interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions along the way.
Thanks for stopping by!