A Quick Trip to Hot Springs

I don’t consider myself adventurous. I mean, I have had some adventures. Remember that time, Rob made me rappel into a Cenote in Mexico? Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?

Adventurous Lauren

Despite my lack of adventurous spirit, the week before school started, I decided it would be fun to take all three kids on a trip to Pisgah National Forest and camp out. Did I mention Rob wouldn’t be there?

We planned a quick trip–just drive up Tuesday, campout, possibly go tubing on the French Broad River, or go to Chimney Rock, then come home the next day. I had Chromebooks to pick up, schedules to view, and virtual open houses to attend at the end of the week for the kids.

We found a campground online called Rocky Bluff Campground. This put us about three hours away from Charlotte, and on the other side of Asheville. The trip there went well. Liam had a slight panic attack on the mountain roads. He doesn’t like heights either. When the GPS told us to turn left into the campground, I wondered how that would happen, since by all appearances we were on the side of a mountain, but the left magically appeared. The campground had wonderful stone work, and flat areas to pitch tents. Plus the other campers were at a safe distance, which also made me happy. The only minus was that we had to walk down stairs to bring all of our items to the campsite.

Also, my lack of camping-by-myself-experience led to some trouble putting up our pop-up tent. But we finally got it up, and we were all proud of ourselves.

Liam was hot and scarred from the drive by this time. Also, our tent platform was located in a shade-free area.

After we set up the tent, we went into town. Hot Springs is known for, well, hot springs. And we didn’t want to go to the springs, because they were in a spa, and also it was like 95 degrees. So instead, I blew money at the local store buying the kids lots of North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, and AT gear. Plus, Liam purchased a kazoo. Let’s just say that kazoo-player Liam is pretty talented and can match the tune to any song on a three-hour ride home.

Liam in the French Broad River

After the store, we went over to the welcome center. There a nice gentleman told Hailey and I that we could go across the street to find out about tubing, or drive 10 minutes up the road, and over the mountain, to find a trail that would run along the river. We chose the trail and planned on tubing the next morning.

Hailey in the French Broad River
Caden in the French Broad River

After the river adventure, in which I was not adventurous, we headed back to town to see if we could go tubing. We could not. The river was, in fact, too high. I was not upset about this at all. I wanted to go back to the campground to make sure I actually knew how to start a fire. So we made our way back.

When we made it to the campsite, I set up the propane stove and made hot dogs, plus corn. We also ate a lot of junk food, and played Uno about a billion times, while Caden took a nap. Liam was my savior as far as the fire was concerned. He made it, kept up with it, and we even had s’mores.

Liam, the fire starter
Liam, pretty proud of that raging fire!

Then the fun really came. Nothing will make you feel older than sleeping on the floor of a tent. I had a cushion to go under my sleeping bag and everything, but it did not help. First of all, there was a 10 year old who has no clue what personal sleeping space is. And then, Caden kept getting up, because his nap earlier had messed up his bedtime. Then it started pouring. I think I finally fell asleep at 2 AM. And I woke up at 6:30.

When I woke up, so did the kids. And they asked if we could go home. I asked if they wanted to stop at Chimney Rock, and they said no. And you know what, I was okay with that. It made me realize that trips are about the experience, spending time with the kids, and having fun. And camping–it makes you exhausted. I literally spent the rest of that day in bed watching Netflix.

I am hoping in the years to come, when my kids think of this period of COVID-19 and quarantine, they will remember these times we had together. These times I took them on an adventure, and we spent some quality time together. But you know what they’ll probably remember the most? Stopping by McDonald’s on the way home!

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Seas The Day

First a completely unrelated anecdotal story. Last night, Rob and I went to bed sort of early. Our daughter, H, is a non-sleeper. She’s 10. We used to call her Vampire Chicken Princess — it’s a long story. Anyway, she has been decidedly sleeping on our floor since we moved to Charlotte. We want to start locking the doors.

Imagine it. 2 AM. Sleeping soundly. Dreaming of hot men or ice cream, or whatever floats your boat in a dream. All of a sudden, the light goes on and someone screams, and Rob and I sit straight up and both start screaming, looking back and forth at each other, and then realizing it’s H. I’m guessing she was sleep walking. No idea.

Seas The Day. Seize The Day. Carpe Diem. What does it mean? Certainly not starting your day by waking up screaming at 2 AM.

I began running attempting to run again. The other day, I ran at the greenway, and the whole time I huffed and puffed. I see other runners, and they look like it’s the easiest thing to breathe and run. I can tell you–it is not. Sometimes, they’re not even breaking a sweat. I think these non-breakers of sweat must be some type of new super heroes or something. I certainly do not fit in the same category.

Even though I’m slow and sound like I’m drying when I run, I get a lot out of it. For one thing, it helps me clear my head. When I run, my mind catalogs thoughts and ideas. I notice flowers, trees in blooms, and also the sound of the death rattle in my lungs (ha ha, just kidding). So the other day, when I was jogging, walk/running, dying, I looked over at the fence and found this Seas The Day rock. My first thought: that pun reminds me of my dad. My second thought: Seize the Day.

What does it mean to seize the day? To make the most of the present moment. The present is a present. I think during these COVID-19 times, I have thought a lot about my past and the future. The future is so uncertain that it can leave me feeling hazy. It is hard not to look at the future when the whole world as-we-know-it seems to be falling apart. And the past. The past just haunts you. It is good to have nostalgia sometimes, but it’s not good to dwell.

As humans, I think we are always looking for more, more, more. We look to our past to teach us about the present, but sometimes we get lost in the rose-colored tint of our memories which are often mixed with imagination. Our memories can lie to us. They can tell us something was so wonderful or perfect when, indeed, it wasn’t.

Thinking too much about the future makes you forget about today. I confess, I am one of those people who gets lost in the past and making plans for the future. I try to live in the present, and since COVID-19 I have been better about it. It is easy to take life and people for granted, but this whole experience has put a lot into perspective for me.

I miss my parents and not being able to see them. I did not realize how much seeing them once a week really brought balance to my life. I am throughly enjoying my time with my kids. And for their part, they have been pretty good. They do chores, almost regularly, and there have been very few fights where I thought one of them might kill the other. I call that a victory. These are precious moments in their lives and mine that I will look back on and think of fondly one day.

Seize the Day. Remember the present rapidly becomes the past. Don’t get caught looking back too much and miss what’s happening right in front of you. When you focus on the present you make way for a better future.

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Fly Wars 2020

This blog post is dedicated to my husband, Rob, who has an intense hate for house flies.

Being little is not easy. I like to buzz around the world, interjecting myself into a group. I always try to be inconspicuous, but people aren’t easy, ya know? First of all, they’re big. Giant, to be exact. I mean, it’s sort of crazy that people have feet and stomp around their BIG houses, eating their BIG food, and talking with their BIG voices. Then these humans have the audacity to go around with these things they call magazines trying to slap the life out of us. Come on, give me a break. I have three eyes for a reason.

One day the people were celebrating something. All these beautiful bursts of lights filled the sky. The humans seemed happy. They ate a lot of food. The humans left the doors wide open. A lot. The man human with black hair, but mostly balding, went in and out with food. I landed on a hot dog once, but the humans shooed me away. I hate being shooed. No one likes us flies. It’s the biggest disaster of my entire existence. Oh to be liked–how wonderful would that be?

The man human hated me. So I buzzed right into his house and laid my eggs. Humans can’t see fly eggs. They are tiny. One thing about us: we’re prolific. In total I laid about 150 eggs over a few days. I knew the humans would kill some of them. That’s what predators do. But then I flew around the kitchen. You should have smelled the smells. Roasting hot dogs, Chinese food, crusty leftovers on the plates in the sink that no one bother to wash. A fly dream. I bided my time, hiding in the laundry room occassionally and drinking from the water rings left on the tables from the kids’ glasses.

Finally, the babies emerged. And the mostly bald man went crazy. He and the bald woman talked about something. But who understands humans? They seem to talk and talk but never get anywhere.

I managed to evade the sticky tape, but a lot of my babies were murdered by it. Then the man started spraying a noxious fume. He would chase after me and the babies with a magazine, or a shoe, or anything he could lay his hands on. It was all out war, I tell you.

But somehow I managed to escape, out the door. Left the wonderful smells. Left my remaining babies. I can only hope they managed to escape a slow, painful death at the hands of the balding man.

I moved on. I’m still looking for another place, maybe more wonderful. Maybe a place more tolerant of flies. A place where I can fly around, eat, and be at peace.

Who knows though, maybe one of my children is still in that house, biding their time, looking for the right partner, and getting ready to start the cycle all over again.

A fly sitting on a cake
By: Petr Kratochvil (Website)

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Not__________Enough

Not pretty enough. Not skinny enough. Not smart enough. Not fast enough. Not talented enough. Not good enough.

Little Lauren

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I’m not enough. These are the mantras I’ve told myself about myself for years. Self-doubt and a crisis of confidence have haunted my life. I am not sure why, but from an early age I felt a little less than. Part of it was the alopecia and not knowing how to deal with it. I mean, my mom brushed and put barrettes in my hair to hide my bald spots until I turned twelve. Part of that hiding made me hide who I truly was, probably even from myself.

I think for a lot of my life I have been scared to tell people what I really think or who I am. I am sure this has impacted my friendships and relationships. I’ve been scared to assert myself (my husband would disagree with this, and probably my children too because I’m comfortable around them). I told myself to just be kind and people would like me. But sometimes being kind means getting stepped on and not being true to yourself. There is a middle ground for sure.

I told myself a lot of negative messages about myself, while assigning perfection to other people who probably tell themselves a lot of these same messages too.

Not skinny enough. I always had an athletic build in high school–I played tennis and it was pretty much my life. After high school, I packed on the pounds. Freshman 15? More like Freshman 45! I have always struggled with my weight and let it define me. And why? Weight has nothing to do with my talents or my personality, but people do look at weight and judge a person. I have done it myself–looked at an obese person and wondered how they got there. And I’m not skinny, so that ain’t fair at all!

Not smart enough. As a kid, I went to one of the most prestigious schools in Montgomery, Alabama. I felt like a complete idiot. Everyone there seemed smarter than me. I struggled, especially in math, and was so embarrassed by this that I often hid my grades from my parents. I also had two older sisters at the school who seemed to do fine. Of course, one of my sisters studied her butt off, and I never did that–I sort of had this fly by the seat of the pants attitude about life. And it ended up working for me…until it didn’t.

Not talented enough. I have always loved to write. As a kid, I wrote these long stories mostly about people growing up in the Civil War Days. I had a huge obsession with Abraham Lincoln and triplets. I wrote most of my childhood, but I never felt talented enough to turn the writing into anything. I let other people’s ideas of what I should do influence me. I felt like my writing talent was not enough to make anything substantial. I told myself this even when I published a book, and after that book went out of print.

Not fast enough. A few years back, my sisters decided we would all run a half-marathon together. I said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I do not run.” Well, sibling pressure is real, y’all. I ended up training for 20 weeks, hurting my foot, you name it, but competed and finished the Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. But I’ve never been fast. I trained all that time and still had trouble with pacing, keeping up with my sisters, and increasing my time. I told myself I wasn’t fast enough to be a real runner.

Not pretty enough. I have never looked at myself and thought I was pretty. As a child, I struggled a lot with self-image. I had alopecia, and kids made fun of and bullied me. I struggled a lot to look in the mirror and think the person looking back at me might be beautiful. Everyone always told me I had a beautiful smile. But I just couldn’t see what people saw in me. And when I lost all my hair nine years ago, I struggled again. I had a hard time confronting the emotions that came with that loss, and thinking that grieving the loss of my hair might make me self-centered or something like that. I rolled with the punches. I told people about alopecia. I feigned feeling confident. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

So how do you go about changing the not enough into a great big ENOUGH? Start changing the mental dialogue. It takes practice, and sometimes I fall into the same pattern of telling myself I’m not enough.

When I look in the mirror now, I try to think about how easy it is not to have to deal with hair. I can go bald, and I don’t use that much shampoo. When I run, I think about how strong my body is getting. I think that speed doesn’t matter as long as I’m continuing to run the race. When I write, I can acknowledge my talent. I had to stop thinking about what other people might be thinking of me, and start thinking about what I should and could tell myself.

SMART ENOUGH. PRETTY ENOUGH. FAST ENOUGH.

TALENTED ENOUGH.

Still not really skinny enough, but hey I’m working on it.

GOOD ENOUGH

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I’m Back

I am trying to start writing again. I wrote for about fifteen minutes earlier today, in between work and child care–really more like teenage care now. Like most people from the United States, we are still stuck at home. I’m hoping the masks requirements start reducing COVID-19. Until then, the kids and I will be at home doing remote learning while I try to work, and Rob tries to work too. And I try to write again. Because I have been missing my writing–time to pick up the ink and quill.

We have had a wonderful time all together mostly. Nothing like spending time with your family 24/7 to show you how much you need them. We are exploring our new home of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are really liking what we are seeing. There are several great day trips from Charlotte, and I am starting to explore them with the kids. We also were able to get away for a few days to Todd, North Carolina, just north of Boone to a wonderful place called Camp Big Fun.

This past week it has been hot! We’ve had heat indices up to 105 or so. I decided to take the kids to Hooker Falls. It’s in the Dupont State Forest, about two hours away from our house and close to Asheville. What an incredibly beautiful place! The water was freezing cold, but oh so refreshing!

Son Number 1 at Hooker Falls

I have also spent hour upon hour of playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. This may seem like a colossal waste of time, which might be better spent writing, but actually I have been playing with some family members and we usually talk while playing. It’s been fun to catch up with them and live on an imaginary island where you can make millions of bells by selling turnips. Also, my little character pretty much looks amazing in any clothes, including bear costumes and princess costumes so that’s a plus!

The title of this post while seemingly simple was inspired by Poltergeist, which Son Number 2 and I watched together. Did you know Poltergeist is rated PG? This movie scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid, but as an adult not so much. Still such an amazing movie.

I’m hoping to start posting a few times a week again. Not all of my post will be about writing. I will probably write about whatever I’m thinking about that day, or whatever issue I wish to further explore. I hope to delve into some short fiction again too, and I want to further explore this story idea I’ve been mulling over. I may post bits and pieces of it here too.

So what have you been doing with your free time–if you have any–since COVID-19?

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Thoughts on the Situation

Today, I am really trying to schedule. Yesterday was the first day I felt restless. I think it’s because we were supposed to go back to work and school from Spring Break yesterday. We started homeschool, and after a few complaints and hiccups it went better than expected.

I wonder what my children will think about this strange time in their lives when they’re older. Last night, Darling Daughter asked about her birthday part in May. I told her it might not happen if we still have to stay in. She then went on to tell me COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. Who has she been listening to? I told her that we have no immunity to COVID-19. That it is worse than the flu, because it can spread more quickly. I told her the flu has been around for years, and therefore we’ve built some natural immunity to it.

My heart does break for my kids.. It’s so hard for them to be isolated from their friends. We are dealing with this on top of our whole life changing as we move. None of us can say goodbye to people we’ve known and cared about since we’ve lived in Alabama. That’s tough.

I took the dogs for a 2.3 mile walk today. They enjoyed it, and hopefully they won’t bark at every car that drives by. Many people in our neighborhood are having work done on their houses, and my dogs think it’s their natural duty to guard our house from everyone. I love my dogs, but they can be annoying.

I am going to start writing again. I’ve been brainstorming the last few days, and I think I have some direction. I feel like this whole situation is teaching us to put life into perspective. Writing has been important to me for most of my life, but I continue to put it on the back burner. Why is that I wonder?

Is it worth it to be so busy and have no time for people? I’ve Facetimed and Marco-Poloed (is that even a word?) so many people this week. Humans are social animals, and even though I like alone time I’m missing social interaction. My kids are chatting with their friends all the time. We’re having dinner together every night (and breakfast and lunch sometimes too). We’re truly and deeply connecting with one another again. I am so happy I have five people in my household. I feel deeply worried about people who are weathering this by themselves. I’m also worried about our government’s inability to compromise, put aside their differences, and actually help the American people who are suffering right now. There is so much to worry about. There is also so much to be thankful for.

Yesterday, I had a mini-meltdown. And afterwards, I focused on the kids. We played Red, Light, Green Light in the backyard. Then we went to the baseball field and played a game. There was no one there. We ran bases and hit, and chased the ball. That made me think about how lucky we are to be alive and to have each other. It also made me feel less restless and to thin about how sometimes the simplest things in life are the most important.

Stay safe and stay home, my friends.

 

A Great Big Time Out

I’m feeling like this whole stay-at-home, social-distancing, is a great big time out for our world. Have you seen the stories about the reduction in air pollution? About the canals running clear in Venice? Our world is healing. This morning, I went outside at 6:00 AM, because my body still thinks I need to wake up early. The birds were chirping. The sun was starting to come up. I stood out there and I listened to the birds call to one another. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with air and just let myself be. How long has it been since I just stopped and listened to nature? We are so busy every day. We don’t take the time to do the things that really matter. This is a time to reflect, to just be, to live and love, and to recuperate from the hectic lives we have all been living. A time of healing for nature and for us as a people.

Today, after the sun came up I enjoyed my coffee and a book. Then I went for a 1 mile run and a 1.8 mile walk with the dogs. I came home just as the first fat drop of rain fell. Hubby asked how my walk was and offered to make brunch. Then I put on a dress and attended church…online. Reverend Frazer reminded me that we can use this opportunity to think about mortality and the existence of mortality in life. And also to just be there for one another. Leave notes in each others mailboxes. Be there for your family. Navigate and commiserate. We will get through this.

Scheduling Life

Today, I woke up early and I made a schedule for myself. I figure binge-watching The Last Man on Earth is not my best use of time. When stuck at home, a schedule gives you some sort of purpose, right?

So my schedule consists of walking dogs — Check! Did this at 8:30 — we went 2 miles.

Having Darling Daughter’s Distance Learning from 10-11:30.

Lunch from 11:30-12:30

Free Time from 12:30 – 2

Cleaning/Chore Time – 2-3

Done for the night?

I haven’t figured out the after 3 part. Some things I need to add are looking for a job in South Carolina/North Carolina and packing. Somehow I think finding a job is going to be more difficult with this recession coming. I’m having a lot of feels and anxiety about Hubby being the sole bread earner around here. I know a lot of people are going to be in the same spot as us.

Yesterday, the ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health) basically closed Alabama. Restaurants and bars can be carry-out/takeout only. Daycares closed. Public beaches closed. Non-essential doctor’s appointments need to be rescheduled. I’m having the feeling my kids are not going back to school this school year. This worries me as they’re not going to be able to say goodbye to their friends.

I realize this is the new normal for pretty much everyone in the U.S. and other parts of the world. I’m hoping with people starting to take this seriously we can flatten the curve, but I do think this is going to change daily life around America. Hopefully it is a wakeup call to Americans about the state of our healthcare, and also the lack of sick leave in this country. I realize Hubby and I are luckier than a lot of other people.

Quarantining While Moving With Three Kids

I haven’t blogged in some time. I have been so busy with my job, and then life changes. We found out in August my husband’s company was relocating us to the Charlotte area. We were excited, but also nervous for our kids. We have been living our life this year in anticipation of this move over the summer. We have found a house. And then everything changed. Overnight. We are still moving, but what do the logistics of this look like now? What happens if there’s a shelter-in-place order? Will all the pieces fall together? And what about my kids? How are they going to react.

Last Friday, we received word the kids’ schools would be closed until April 6th to try to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

At first the kids were excited. It’s like an unforeseen vacation! My oldest said, “Yes! No school!”

Fast forward, and even though the boys are still officially on Spring Break, Son Number One said, “I miss school. Wait, isn’t it still Spring Break?”

Son Number One loves his friends. He’s 15. He is also worried that he won’t be able to see them before we move. My heart is breaking for how their world is changing so rapidly. Also, I have no idea how I’m going to teach this kid Algebra 1 if school doesn’t reopen? He will be doing loads of Khan Academy. Being an extrovert during a quarantine is difficult.

Son Number Two so far has loved his iPad. And because we are still on Spring Break, I’m letting them veg and have fun this week. Next week, we will start some kind of school or structure, even if it is only 1-2 hours long. He suggested we play Calvin ball last night. Calvin ball comes from Calvin and Hobbs, where the rules are made up as the game goes along. The kids seemed to love the outdoor time. He is also taking a Pokemon drawing class online. This is a nice diversion.

Darling Daughter has distance learning starting today. She attends a private school, and her school sent home all her books and a packet, along with instructions on what to do every day. She wanted to start it the day we brought it home. She has been keeping in touch with her friends via FaceTime and also through Roblox. She seems pretty unaffected by this so far.

Hubby is working from home starting today. This will be hard with three kids and a wife. The good news is, we are making pretty much all our food. I’m trying to keep to an exercise schedule: walking or running. The dogs are loving having us home! I will keep you all updated through this, and as things change. So far, we have enough supplies and enough toilet paper!

Love Will Break Your Heart

What’s wrong with the world is the romantic comedies, Aida thought.

She’d watched Moonstruck a million times. She loved when Ronnie said, “Love don’t make things nice. It breaks your heart. It ruins everything.” Because that’s what Aida thought about love. Of course, in the movie Ronnie and Loretta ended up together. It wasn’t like that in real life. Aida knew that much was true.

Gabe died on a Monday eighteen months before. He had been sick for years. And yet, Aida still thought about him all the time. In the shower, she washed her hair and had conversations with him. Shampoo. Gabe, I miss you, why’d you leave me? Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I didn’t have a choice. Conditioner. Come back to me. Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I can’t. Love will break your heart.

For a while, Aida thought she had gone crazy. And for a while, she thought maybe she was talking to herself. Then she started reading about telepathy. She and Gabe were connected by a string. String theory, she’d never learned that in college, but knew it didn’t involve talking to your dead boyfriend through your mind. Could you really have telepathy with someone who had already left the earth? Aida wasn’t so sure.

On a Friday night, she sat on her couch with a bowl of homemade popcorn, watching Moonstruck for the thousandth time.

“What I need is to break the connection,” she said aloud to her cat, Ringo, to the ghost of Gabe, and to Loretta on the T.V. screen.

In bed that night, she stared at the popcorn ceilings. She thought about how much Gabe hated those popcorn ceilings. We should smooth those down, he said. I don’t want a big project, she had said. Now his scorn of the popcorn ceilings blossomed in her heart. She thought of his face, the feel of his hands on her body, before he had left her. She imagined a silvery blue string, and she cut the string. She imagined him flying into outer space as if he were an astronaut free falling away from the spaceship, floating further and further into oblivion. As his face disappeared, she sobbed and cried herself to sleep.

She woke up looking at the popcorn ceilings, and promptly threw up, just barely making it to the bathroom in time. The scum on the toilet haunted her, but she didn’t have the energy to clean it. She crawled back into bed cocooning herself in the warmth of the comforter. Sometimes she thought she could smell Gabe in the comforter still. Once she came across one of his half-eaten candy bars, hidden in the top of the kitchen cabinet, and she bit into it as if eating it could bring him back to her. That was when she first thought she was crazy.

She stayed in bed for three days, calling into work and working through delirium mixed with hysteria with a touch of vomit. On the fourth day, she woke up, showered, put on clothes, and pulled a brush through the rat’s nest that had become her hair. She drove over to the Home Depot on 51st Street and walked in. At first she didn’t know why she had driven there. It seemed as if some invisible force had led her to the Home-Do-It center.

“Hi, I’m Bryan, how can I help you?”

Bryan had sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes. He had a smile like Ronnie in Moonstruck. Aida smiled back at him.

“I need to get rid of my popcorn ceilings. Can you help me?”

“Sure, come with me.”

Aida opened her eyes and stared at the white expanse of smooth ceiling above her head. She turned over in her bed and put her arms around Bryan’s waist. He turned toward her, and he kissed her lips.

Thanks Gabe, for showing me how to wipe the slate clean, she thought, as she snuggled against Bryan and fell back into the arms of sleep.

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