P is for Party

Who doesn’t like a good party? Today is my son’s 7th birthday. We had a wonderful time celebrating at the gym with fourteen of his friends! We invited his whole class, and had a great turnout. Now we have tons of new toys (time to get rid of the old ones).

Liam is a Lego lover. He wanted a Ninjago Party.

I went a little crazy when I ordered the cake, but I think it turned out great.  We don’t do a lot of “big” friend birthdays, mostly just family, so it was fun to splurge on my middle child a little bit!

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The top part was vanilla, and the bottom was strawberry (Liam’s favorite). I have photos from the actual party, but I’m not going to post them as they have other people’s kids in them. Needless to say, they had fun tumbling at the gym, jumping on the trampoline, and just generally being kids.

And here’s a video of Liam doing what he loves to do best, putting together the Ninjago Lego set we gave him for his birthday.

I loved birthday parties like that when I was kid. Did you have BIG birthday parties when you were growing up? Do you have big birthday parties for your kids, or do you mostly do family parties? Share in the comments!

Oliver

I was going to post a longer piece I wrote, “Oberon.” It’s about 1,000 words, but I really need to work on it some more. I originally wrote it for Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds Flash challenge, but I decided not to post it, because it needed more than 1,000 words.

Instead, I wrote a story about Oliver today for Flash!Friday. The setting had to be in a kitchen. And here is the photo prompt of a Prison Guard from the public domain.

Prison Guard

Tuber Tears
@laurenegreene
209 words

“Oliver, chop up the onions,” Momma said.

She stood near the stove, stirring the soup. Poppa was on duty again, and had been for the last two days. Momma worried about him. The phone was secured to her ear, the cord cutting a trail through the kitchen.

“Oy, weapons made out of pencils. That’s what killed Solomon, I heard. Ian’s job is going to give me a heart attack. I swear, I’ll kill him if gets hurt and leaves me to fend for these eight kids on my own.”

Tears streamed down Oliver’s face. He wiped his eyes with the sleeves of his shirt. His sister toddled in, and Oliver pushed her out of the galley kitchen that seemed crowded with him, Momma, and the voice of Aunt Tessa coming through the phone.

“Is this enough?” Oliver asked, his eyes red-rimmed.

“Why you interrupt me? No—we have to take some up to the prison too, Oliver. Keep cutting and keep your snot out of the food. Tessa—yes, sorry. Why God didn’t grace me with a girl before number six is beyond me.”

The tears burned his eyes now. He thought of Poppa with a pencil stuck in his neck as he scraped the onions into the soup.

No Doubt

No Doubt is a band formed in 1986. Vocals by Gwen Stefani. They have had several hiatuses, but the band is still producing music.

When I was in high school, I loved the song “Spiderwebs.” The song is actually about someone stalking her, or not giving up on pursuing her.  I had one of those. I ignored his phone calls for two weeks, because I was afraid to confront him and tell him I didn’t want to date him. My poor college roommates had to make up lies and excuses for me, because I simply wouldn’t face the conflict that I was creating.

Instead of no doubt lately, I’ve been having loads of doubt. I’ve been doubting my writing talent. I’ve been doubting whether I’ll be able to make it one day as a successful writer. I started a new novel, about a month ago. I wrote about 7,000 words, and I abandoned it. I thought I’d try my hand at outlining, because I hear it works so well. Well, I couldn’t figure out where the book was going. My books are character-driven not plot-driven, and I think this is why I tend to be a “pantser.” My characters take me where I need to go. I usually have a good idea of beginning, middle and end in my books, but not a full outline. I think outlining made me doubt my abilities, plus medical issues I’ve been having have sucked energy from me, and going over the edits from my editor on “The Devil Within.” I know she’s trying to help, but jeez, it’s hard to have someone pick apart something you’ve worked so hard on.

I had never had such crippling fear when it came to my work before. Okay–I shouldn’t say never. For years, I wouldn’t finish a story. For years, I wouldn’t let anyone read my stories. My fear right now is more related to success or maybe lack thereof. Or maybe, I’m scared of success.  Deadlines, editing, sending it back, proof-reading, formatting. Writing is not an easy job, and it doesn’t just involve writing. It’s a lot of work on top of my day job, my three kids, and life in general. When I’m writing, I feel happy though. I feel like the voices inside my head are quieter. I can write dilemmas into my characters, and stop questioning my existence so much.

I’m going to shut the door on my doubt, and walk away from my stalker, fear.  And I just want to give a quick shout-out to my friends over at Writing Wenches. They listened to me whine and complain yesterday about how blah I was feeling, and gave me tons of support.  What an amazing community I’m part of!

Make Me Proud

Yesterday, I wrote for Flash Dash. This is a new challenge on the Flash!Friday page, in which you have only thirty minutes to write a flash piece up to 30 minutes long. The first sentence was supplied. As I looked at the sentence, the father/son dynamic came to mind. It could have easily have been a father/daughter dynamic. As a kid, I felt like I was constantly striving to make my dad proud. I also felt like he was critical, and it hurt.  Now, I know that’s just his personality and he is proud of me. I explored that theme a little bit in my story yesterday.


Make Me Proud
@laurenegreene
395 words

Winning was all that mattered. But, unfortunately, I was a born loser. I couldn’t even hit the ball off the tee when I started tee-ball. My father shouted from the stands, blaming everyone but his loser son.  And the losing streak continued. My father, a wolf of the banking world, could not stomach my losses.

At my basketball games in middle school, shoulders slumped over my chest, keeping the bench warm, I cringed as my father shouted at Ryan Peterson, the star.

“Come on Ryan! You got this. Four more points, and they’re beat.”

Then, I think he started coming to my games only to see Ryan.  Silent meals, as I speared cauliflower and my Dad recanted Ryan’s winning moments. I sank further and further into myself. My mother’s sidelong glances couldn’t even save me from the fact that my father was overlooking me.

I joined drama on a whim. Everyone has to be good at something, right? Turns out I’m good at stabbing Mercutio and rinsing imaginary blood from my hands.

Back at the dinner table, I recited my monologues to the tone-deaf ears of my father. He rambled on about how the basketball team missed me.

“Missed my what, Dad? My prowess of securing the bench to the ground?”

“You should have seen it. I thought for sure we were going to lose, but then a foul was called, Ryan got the free throws, and as the ball was being bounced up the court, Teddy Andrews—do you know him?—stole the ball and threw the winning shot. It was something else.”

The peas felt squalid and heavy in my mouth. I ate them, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t get any blueberry cobbler. And my mom makes the best blueberry cobbler.

“My play’s on Tuesday night,” I told my mom the next day.

“You should tell your father.”

“Why? He won’t come.”

Friday night, costumes littered the stage. Everyone rushed around, practicing their lines one more time. When the curtain rose, the lights glared in my eyes. I couldn’t see if my father was there.

I recited my lines, stabbed Mercutio.

“THAT’S MY BOY!!!  THAT’S MY BOY!!! Look at that. Did you see the flick of that knife?”

Peals of laughter rang out around us, but the show must go on.  At least I knew he finally thought I was a winner.

Laurel

I’ve always been partial to the letter L. My dad’s name starts with “L,” my name, and my son’s. When you’re in pre-k and learning your letters, you get so excited when you see the letter that belongs to you. “L is for Lauren! That’s me!” I’ve seen this over and over again with my kids. The recognition of yourself in something abstract.

Today, I wrote for Finish That Thought about loss. Loss of something you once had is hard to cope with.  We’ve all been there, whether it’s losing a loved one, breaking up with a boyfriend, or something more (as is the case with my protagonist). I feel like I’ve been lucky in my life, but still I’ve experienced a lot of loss.  It’s part of life, learning how to cope with grief, and move on to find what else life has to offer you.

Enjoy the read!


Passing Storm
@laurenegreene
446 words

“It is not uncommon to get melancholy when it rains,” the therapist said, drumming his pencil against his pad.

Yellow, legal pad, Laurel thought to herself. She could almost taste yellow, like a burst of sunshine in her mouth.

“I get so blue. You know, when I walk outside, and I can smell the ozone—that’s what it’s called, right? I can feel the drops on my skin, the tiny hair follicles rising to greet the rain.”

“It’s called SAD,” the therapist said.

“And I used to read. Now I listen to the characters in my favorite books. I hear their voices trickling from my boom box—I still have one of those—but the problem is, they don’t sound like how I’d imagine them.”

The therapist cleared his throat. She heard the tinkle of ice cubes against his glass, and she imagined him picking up the glass, pressing it to his dry lips, and taking a sip. She imagined the glare of the newborn sun, born of the rain, and scattering rainbow spots over his white walls: green, orange, indigo, violet, and red. She was forgetting a few, but couldn’t figure out which ones.

“Are you ready to talk about the accident, yet?”

She heard the thunder, and she knew she was premature in her thoughts of the storm’s end. She settled into the couch, rubbing her fingers along the edge of the leather fabric: smooth and soft.  She always thought about the accident, but had yet to speak about it. Every day, she woke up in a black world and opened her eyes to a sightless world. In her dreams, she could see. Colors were vivid, dripping their peaceful hues, like a childhood book she had once read.

“I know it’s stupid and part of denial, but one day I think I’m going to wake up and be able to see.”

“It’s very common to have these thoughts, even when you know they’re unrealistic.”

“The sun will come out, and I’ll feel it on my skin. I’ll look up into the sky, and I’ll be able to see birds flying. I’ll see all the colors of the rainbow instead of just imagining them. The blue of the sky. The world is full of colors that I can’t see anymore.”

“Talking about it helps, Laurel.”

“Will talking about it help me get my vision back? I don’t think so. I escaped, that’s all that matters. It was just a passing storm,” Laurel said, running her fingers over the couch until she found her purse.

She stood up to leave the room.

“See you next week?” the therapist asked.

“Not likely,” she said, with a laugh.

Kindergarten

My youngest is taking a test to try to get into the magnet school for Kindergarten today. I can’t even believe she will be going to Kindergarten next year. All my kids went to daycare from the time they were 18 months. I never cried when my boys started Kindergarten. But, I can already tell I’m going to cry when she starts next year. She is such a Momma’s girl, and she’s supposed to still be a baby. Hold your babies. They don’t stay babies for long!

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J is for J K Rowling

My oldest son has been seen these days with his head securely hidden behind this book:

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A single mother at the time, she wrote in cafes while her daughter slept (Wikipedia).  Oh and by the way, her name is pronounced Rolling too. If it was Rawling, it would have an “a.”  No matter if you like Harry Potter or not (I did, but I never read the last book–I’m not a series person), you have to admit that J K Rowling’s story is an inspiration to all writers.

We’ve all heard the rumors. The way to get published in writing is to be a) super connected with the BIG 5, b) live in New York City, or c) have loads of money and buy your way in. Well, I’m not leaving Alabama, then I’d miss awesome events like the rattlesnake rodeo.

Rowling used her imagination and drive to keep going despite being rejected by 12 publishing houses initially.  She did what it took. She wrote. She persisted. And she became a success.

I’m not sure if every writer has a dream of being a best seller, but I know every writer wants their work to be read. (After they get over that scary phase of I show my work to no one.)  Without an audience, there is no one to find joy in the words you’ve created.  There is no one to laugh and cry with you as you take your characters on their journey. Without an audience, you’ve just put words on paper, but with no one to read them they don’t hold much meaning.

I hope one day I hit the big time like J K Rowling, but until then I’m going to keep on writing.

Intuition

I’ve always been one to trust my intuition. If something seems off, then I leave the situation. I think that’s why I’ve succeeded in surviving unscathed as long as I have. I haven’t ever been in a situation in which I feared for my life, or felt like I might be killed. Sure, I’ve ended up in situations where these things could have happened, but I always trusted my instincts enough to remove myself from the situation before something bad happened.

Once, when I was in high school, a bunch of us went down to a place called Thirteen Bridges. Supposedly, if you walk across all thirteen bridges then turn around when you come back there are only twelve. It’s one of those haunted in Alabama places, where teens loitered to imbibe, hang out, and partake in various other sultry activities.  It was also private property, but that never stopped us from trespassing.

The night we were there, it was so dark, and we hadn’t brought flash lights. We were walking blindly, just chatting and having a good time. All of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Guys, we need to turn around and go home right now.”

My boyfriend joshed on me and told me to suck it up. They wanted to walk all the bridges. My friends tried to cajole me.

“Come on, Lauren. Let’s go. Don’t be a party pooper.”

“I’m not going further. We need to turn around.”

I can’t explain how, but I knew we shouldn’t go any further. We had walked all the way to the ninth bridge. We turned around and started walking back. We passed some youths with alcohol. When we reached our car, the police were waiting. They gave us a slap on the wrist and told us to get out of there.

The next day, my boyfriend and his friend drove out there. They were determined to walk all the bridges.  He called me that afternoon.

“Lauren, you have some crazy intuition or something. The tenth bridge had fallen in. If we had kept walking we would have walked right off an incline.”

Trust your intuition. It’s usually trying to tell you something!

And for my fictional part of my post, I wrote for Flash!Friday today.  The character was supposed to be a spy (again, I have no experience with writing spies. I took a different route). The photo was of a bum holding a coffee cup. Enjoy!


Undercover Ops
@laurenegreene
210 words

A good spy must trust his intuition.

Coffee cup is pouring over with change today. I jiggle it just to hear the clink of coins against each other. I smile at the worker bees. The great masticators missing instead of secure in my mandible.

I catch the eye of the next passerby and before he can step off the curb into the safety of the street, I yank him toward me by his coat sleeve. A ticket floats to the ground—the rays of sunlight gleam off its shiny surface.

“Let go of me,” the man says, trying to reach for his fallen ticket and escape my grasp.

“I know who you are, but do you know who I am?”

The man pulls away and brushes off his coat as if I have contaminated him. George runs out from the Italian market behind me.

“I’m sorry. He means no harm. Old fart thinks he’s an undercover operative or something.”

“Well is he?” the man asked.

“I’m Agent P! He’s the one, George. Wrestle him to the ground.”

George shakes his head, hands the man his fallen ticket, and they both walk away. There’s always tomorrow. I shake coffee cup, and the next man drops a dollar in. My lucky day.

H is for Hughie

Being a parent is hard. I should know. I have three little kids. Kids don’t live up to their parents’ expectations. They’re not born to fulfill their parents’ lost dreams or to make their parents’ lives better.  They’re born to live their OWN lives. They need to be guided and loved and accepted for who they are. For a long time, after I realized my oldest son functioned differently, I felt lost. I didn’t want life to be harder for him. And sometimes–a lot of times–HE makes his life harder.  All I can do is show him love, support, and get him the help he needs when he needs it.  Kids need to feel like they’re loved for who they are, unconditionally. Parents need to be able to set aside any misgivings they have to achieve that properly. And I bet you’re wondering how this relates to “Hughie.”

Well today, I wrote for Microbookends about Hughie, whose father can’t or won’t accept her for what she is.  It’s a sad tale, but someone in Hughie’s family (probably his mother) obviously accepts her for who she is, as witnessed by the objects in her room. The bookends were “play” and “boy.”


Born a Boy
@laurenegreene
109 words

“Play ball, Hughie,” Dad said.

The metal bat crashed against the innocent heads of the dolls. Porcelain shards littered the room like a murder scene: one eye, half a smile, and a broken nose.

Hughie, in her princess bed, grasped her bunny lovey as she pulled the covers up to her chin.

The acrid smell of alcohol stung her nostrils as Dad stumbled toward her.

He yanked the bunny out of her arms and threw the window open. Hughie and Dad watched as the bunny fluttered like a feather then landed on a rock below.

He spat the words. “I’ll never call you Lily. You were born a boy.”


I know my kids will go through that period where they hate me, and they blame me for every mistake in their life. I’m okay with that, as long as they know I love them and that I’ll accept them.

Here’s a picture of my three little monsters. You can so get a hint of their personalities from this. Oldest is in the stage where he won’t smile. Middle is silly. Little is sweet (and she has a sweet in her mouth too!)

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Gigi and Gipop

I know this is supposed to be a writing blog, but without my grandparents, Gigi and Gipop, I’m not sure if I would be a writer.  When I was in 4th grade, Gigi sent me “Tuck Everlasting.” I remember trying to read the book and hating it. She usually was so spot on in the books she sent. Every year, she would send a book and while I think a lot of children would have hated that, I absolutely loved it. Reading was my life.  It took me about three more years, but when I finally read “Tuck Everlasting” it became one of my favorites.

I read it with the kids a few years ago, and as suspected it was too old for them. They need the life experiences of crushes and they need to rid themselves of the girls are icky stage before they can understand that book.  My grandparents persisted in sending us books, even into our twenties. I have a fine collection of leather bound classics thanks to them. I give them credit, and my parents for being an avid reader, which led to me wanting to write.

I usually spent a week or two during the summer at their house in Florida. They always had a dog, which I loved because we never had one growing up. My favorite dog was Zelda the dachshund. Guess who she was named for? They also had a white dog at one point, and he was so cute but so very hyper. I think at some point they had to give him away because he started biting.  At their house, they never turned the TV on. At night, after Gigi killed me at a game of Scrabble, they would watch what I called “the boring news” aka “The McNeill Lehrer” hour, so I had a lot of time to read, use my imagination, and explore on my own.  They also took me to the Junior Museum in Tallahassee, Wakulla Springs, antique shopping, to the mall, and maybe most importantly, Gipop let me out a gallon of whatever flavored ice cream I wanted.

I have tons of memories of them, but unfortunately few photographs. Most of those are at my parents’ house. Gipop passed away a few years after I graduated from high school. By that time, they were living in Tennessee, and I drove home for his Memorial Service.  Gigi carried on.  She lived to be ninety-five. She read every single day of her life. A lover of words. I still think about both of them every day.

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I love this photo, because it looks like Caden (my son) has a huge arm. That’s actually his cousin’s arm in the background! This is Gigi at her 95th birthday party.