Making Changes

Did you know there are people who have lost weight and gotten fit since Covid-19 started? I hate those people. Just kidding–sorta. I really do hate those people sometimes.

My whole life I have struggled with weight. I have never been a small person. In high school, I played tennis and had an athletic build. Of course, most of the time I looked bigger than I really was because of the clothes. I still can’t believe some of the things we wore in the 1990s.

My mantra this week is to do 5 things a day on my list. Since coming home in March, I’ve had a hard time with motivation. Blame this on my ADHD or something, but I find it hard to get off the bed, or stop binging Netflix. I have consistently walked with my neighbors. I’ve also consistently made excuses for why I packed on 15 pounds. I can tell you why I gained weight: I ate and drank too much and I didn’t move enough.

In that past, about 9 years ago, after my daughter was born I lost about 60 pounds. I did this by eating less and moving more. I know I can do that again. I am back to the same weight I weighed 9 years ago when I decided to lose that weight. It’s funny, because I consistently told myself I would never be that weight again, but here I am.

I know weight doesn’t make a person, but the truth is I feel better about myself when I weigh a certain amount. I can breathe better (I have asthma). I can keep up with the kids more. I’m happier with my body and my self image. Those are important things toward my overall happiness.

I’m sick of doing nothing, so instead I’ll do something.

Today my 5 goals:

  1. Ride my bike
  2. Clean the kids’ bathroom
  3. Write/Blog
  4. Spend Time Away from my phone and with My Husband
  5. Log my Food All Day

I think it’s important to recognize when changes are warranted and to start making them. As a person, we all grow and change as we move through life. I spent a lot of time at home once COVID-19 changed all of our lives. I am a homebody, and this is where I felt most comfortable. Unfortunately, it meant my life became more sedentary without me even realizing it. So I’m going to change for me!

Here’s to living life with purpose.

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Everything…and Nothing Sometimes

My attempts to blog more frequently have been thwarted by my attempts to do everything…and nothing sometimes. Virtual school takes up a lot of time. Not like I’m going to school, but I have to do a lot of follow-up with my kids to make sure they’re turning things in. I’m still not sure they’re actually turning things in all the time.

COVID-19 is so strange. I have been home more in the last 6 months then I probably have been home in my adult life. When I go to the CVS to pick up something, it feels like a REAL outing! Also, my husband and I are together ALL the time. I told my sister I think I have seen him more these last six months then the first 16 years of our marriage. I used to actually go to work. Now I just go downstairs to work.

Some days I do everything and some days I do nothing. Productivity during the time of COVID is hard. It’s like there’s a little voice whispering to me on certain days that streaming 9 hours of television and drinking too much is okay. And then I have what I like to call guilty days where I decide I will turn over a new leaf. On these days, I go for a run, log my food, get all my work done, read, and spend quality time with my kids. I need more guilty days in my life.

I have over the last few months been wondering if I am suffering from depression again. I went through a bleak period a few years ago where I had some familial issues. Those were dark times. I worry on days when I am feeling particularly low, but then I think of all the extenuating factors. First, the whole world stopped in March of 2020. And the U.S. couldn’t get its head out of its ass long enough to put policies in place to stop the spread or at least slow the spread of COVID. Then there became a lot of social unrest (granted–it’s about time). And don’t even get me started on politics. And then the kids had to do virtual school. Oh, yeah, and we moved away from our family and had to make new friends, move into a new house, and start all over. These are big life stressors.

My whole life I have grappled with the big question of why we exist. When my kids were born I knew I existed because of them. Holding my newborn son for the first time felt so eye-opening. But as months and months stretch on I wonder what my specific purpose is. I think about how I could have been so creative during this time. I could have really tuned into my writing, and I wonder why I chose instead to binge watch every single show on Netflix. I would like to live a purpose-driven work, but sometimes it just seems like so much work.

I met someone the other day who said her purpose in life is to make fun. Or maybe she said to have fun. I mean, how amazing is that? Sometimes I think as human beings we are too hard on ourselves for living our lives, for not being perfect, and for not being okay all the time. I struggle with my sad feelings, thinking I have such a great life that I should be happy. But what is happiness without sorrow? It simply does not exist.

Photo by vi Media on Pexels.com

I wake up each and every day with hope. I have my cup of coffee. I read or watch a little television. And then I tell myself that whatever I do today will be enough. That some days I’m capable of doing everything. And some days I’m capable of doing nothing. And that’s okay.

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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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Introspection

I haven’t been writing at all. Truth is, my life is good and work is good and all things seem to be falling in place…except the writing. I always have this guilty feeling about not putting words on paper. I start to write a story, then I give up.

I have a teenage son, and it drives me nuts when he gives up or is not motivated. But, yet, here I am. Failing to write for the umpteenth time in my life. Living the life of the tortured aspiring writer. Can I call myself a writer if I’m not writing?

It’s Christmas time, and we have done everything Christmasy. We have made gingerbread cookies (today), seen Santa, wrapped presents, bought presents, gone to Christmas parties. We’ve given to others (money-wise, present-wise, service-wise, and through my job). Life is good.

Why is it when life is good the words are hard to flow? Today, I felt a little limerence or nostalgia for the past. I went into the garage, and I opened up a cabinet looking for the cookie tins. I thought I’d look in the boxes of my writing, letters from people-from-the-past, all the things from college. But then I thought, when I do that it usually makes me sad. Or maybe sad is not the right word, wistful, maybe? Who knows what word I’m looking for.

I’m a keeper of things, much to my mom and my husband’s chagrin. I have my journals from childhood. They read like this: It’s Wednesday. I played with Meredith. Tonight for dinner we are having grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Oh, and they are all addressed to Jon, because I named my journal after NKOTB Jon. To be 12 again.

Then my high school journals are all about my first boyfriend J and my second boyfriend, also a J. And how I don’t know what to do. And how I’m failing geometry, but too afraid to tell my parents. And about feeling lonely despite being surrounded by people. The life of a teenager.

And in college, there’s this sense of not knowing what to do next. Of being swept up by the moment, and so idealistic, and thinking I can do anything, but HOW? And again, the obsession with a boy, P. I stopped journaling after I met Hubby. Put down the pen and paper and delved into my life. I stopped writing in full for awhile, until my 30s, after kids were born, and I had a mini-breakdown, and things started to get to normal again. Then I realized writing is an outlet. Writing is a source of release of all the stresses, all the anxiety, all the sadness, all the happiness, and all the success rolled from one day into the other and out the ink of the pen (or the keys of the keyboard, as it were).

I look back on my journals and think about how young and naive I was. I think about all the time I wasted being obsessed over people who were no longer interested in me. Such wasted moments when I could have been living in the moment. And why? Who knows. I look at my past, and I know I felt a deep sense to belong. A lot of my life I felt out of place, not in sync with the people around me. Wanting too little or wanting too much. Being in the wrong political group. Being too loud. Or being too silent. Feeling like people around me didn’t have the same big questions I had about life, philosophy, religion. And I know everyone feels this way sometimes. I know as human beings we have this deep need to feel a part of a group, and to be part of something bigger, and I know that’s okay. And finally, at this stage of my life, I’m starting to feel comfortable with me again. Comfortable in my own skin.

And thanks to some friends in a baby group I’ve been part of for 15 years, maybe I now feel like it’s time to start journaling again. Sometimes seeking the deeper inner parts of yourself can be refreshing and not debilitating.

It’s time to pick up the pen again.

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Dog Parks, Writing, and Kavanaugh

I met a dog named Dog today. I took Son Number Two to the dog park. Dog was a sweet old dog. His owner said she’d gotten to the age where she just names her dogs “Dog” and her cats “Cat.” I liked it. It reminded me of Because of Winn Dixie for some reason.

Son Number Two always gets hurt when we go to Shakespeare. Shakespeare is a park that has a Fine Arts Museum and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, a outdoor amphitheater, a dog park, and lots of green space.

But for Son Number Two the following things have happened at Shakespeare:

  • Fell and broke his wrist
  • Fell and his head hit a hard stone, causing a small bullet-sized wound on his head. The wound went all the way to his skull
  • And today–got bitten by a dog at the dog park. I didn’t lose my shit. My dog, Jazz, has nipped a kid before. She can be a bad dog. This dog had just bit another kid though, and then went after Son Number Two. And he did the grab and started to try to shake. I don’t know what set him off. Son Number Two and I were on the way out of the park.

He is okay. He is currently at movies with his dad and brother. They’re seeing something I don’t want to see so I’m having alone time.

My writing is non-existent. My sister wants me to write about my alopecia for The Moth. I also need to be writing and submitting, but I’ve been so busy. Plus, I have thank you letters for work to write, and PTA minutes to write. So much to do.

I wanted to comment on the Kavanaugh proceedings when they were going on, but didn’t have the heart to, especially with the way things went. I am worried for women. I am worried for America. I am watching The Handmaid’s Tale and it suddenly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities that women’s rights could be erased. I believe women when they say they’ve been assaulted. False accusations are rare. But in the U.S. we still have this blame the victim mentality. And then Kavanaugh played the victim. I don’t want to get political, BUT I don’t think respecting women and listening to them is a political issues. I think we need to learn how to teach our young boys to be gentlemen and that sexual assault is bad. We need to change the narrative.

Signing out–hope to write more. I plan on posting some stories soon, you know, once I start writing them again.

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I Held Your Heart Once

Here’s a short story (748 words) I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below:

I Held Your Heart Once

“I told you this was a bad idea!” he shouted.

Yeah, as if the entire idea had been mine. We sat in the house on the gray floor, my fingers almost completely numb. I wanted to shove a knife under his ribs. I plastered a faux smile on my face.

“You start the fire then.”

“Fine,” he said, grabbing the stick and the stone from me.

I studied El’s face as the light in the windows began to recede and the bitter wind howled. His cheeks were gaunt. When we’d left they’d been full of meat. Now, we both looked like shadow people; skinnier than we ever should have been. The lines of dirt on his cheekbones would have made him look like a football player if he were bigger. But now they accentuated the emaciated look of his face.

I tried to blow the blue out of my fingers.

El shouted at the stick as if it had ears.

I went to the door.

“What the fuck are you going to do, Mare?”

“Going somewhere else. I mean we’ll freeze to death in here.”

“It’s safe and it’s warm.”

“It’s not warm.”

“It’s warmer than out there.”

I looked out the window. The ferocious snow fell barricading us into this desolate place. We were stuck, and it was my bad idea that had brought us up here. I thought there’d be food, maybe canned goods. But when we opened the door a vacuous wasteland of dust greeted us. The back window had a crack letting in a constant stream of cold air and snow. No wood, except for wet, snow-bound logs sitting on the crumbling front porch. I could feel El’s hostility aimed at me like an arrow.

“I mean who the fuck goes up the mountain. We should have been going down.”

My heart felt like a worn stone in my chest. I stood by the door, not opening it, with my back to him. He struck the rock against the stick. Heat remained aloof. There was friction in the air but not enough to start a fire.

“My hands are numb,” I said. I turned toward him.

He put the rock and stick down and looked at me. I could see his old face hidden in his new one. The old face I’d fallen in love with. His eyes which had looked cold softened and his face crinkled into a smile. His smile warmed me up, and I felt the once familiar spark. The one that had been missing for awhile now, the one that reminded me that I’d held his heart once.

“Come here.”

I stood still.

He stood up and walked toward me, measured steps through the dust of the room. He pulled my shirt off before I could say no. His hands on my breast warmed me up. Body heat, the natural generator. He took off his shirt and grabbed my hands. He warmed them with his, rubbing them together like the stick and the stone. He placed my hands on his chest.

He slid down my pants then pulled down his. I shivered, and he wrapped his arms around me. We were like two unlit pieces of coal trying to catch an elusive spark. I felt him enter me and shivered again. We had not made love in ages.

“I don’t have a condom.”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t.

Our bodies moved together filling the cabin with warmth. I imagined soft lights. I imagined a rope bed with a soft mattress, blankets covering us. I imagined the smell of chicken cooking in the oven. I imagined our children.

When I blinked, I felt his hip bone against my inner thigh. I’d never felt his hip bone before. The barrenness of the cabin stole my fantasy. He moaned and I squeezed my arms around him trying to find the heat in what should have been passion. I didn’t want the fantasy of what we once had to end. But he pushed hard, climaxed, and rolled off of me. The frigid air pierced my sweat-smothered skin. El sat with his back to me and took up the stone and stick again.

I had been wrong to come here. He’d held my heart once but it has since shattered like an icicle.

A sudden spark rose from the stick. El lit the wood then turned to look at me with fire in his eyes.

The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Snow Mountain

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Rejection

 

I received my rejection from the Master’s Review yesterday. SIGH. 

Curses, rejected again!

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Here it is in all its glory:

Dear Lauren, 

Thank you for sending us “I Held Your Heart Once” for consideration in our Flash Fiction Contest. We really enjoyed reading your writing, and are flattered you chose to submit to us. This is one of our most popular contests, and we thank you for your patience while we read through all of the submissions. 

I am sorry to say that your submission was not selected for publication. It is clear that you are a very talented writer, and your piece stood out from the pack. Unfortunately, we had to decline some excellent stories, but we are grateful for the chance to read such high quality work. 

We wish you the best of luck with your writing and look forward to bringing you more wonderful stories. Part of our aim is to support great work from new writers and we consider every story we read an effort toward that goal. We couldn’t do this without you. We hope to read more of your fiction in the future. 

Thank you again, 
The Masters Review Team


In case you’re interested in reading my rejected piece, I’ve republished to this blog: https://laurengreenewrites.com/2018/09/06/i-held-your-heart-once/

What a nice rejection. I mean, honestly. I’m a very talented writer. I know this. I just can’t seem to get actually published. The thing about writing is that there’s constant rejection. A rejection letter can send you for a loop. I knew that story was good. It just wasn’t what the Master’s Review was looking for. That’s their loss.

So how do you deal with the rejection of not getting published? Maybe you take a drink. Or go for a run. Then you start writing again. Or you send out that piece that maybe didn’t work for the Master’s Review to someone else and wait for the next rejection letter to roll in…or if you’re really lucky, an acceptance.

I like to think about how J.K. Rowling was rejected a billion times before she became a published writer. I also like to think about how much I enjoy writing and sharing it with others. And about how sometimes my writing is just for me. That I need to write to be fulfilled, and if I’m never officially published then I’m never officially published.

Roll with it, baby.

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Summer Break

Everyone needs a break, including, apparently, this author. I’ve been quite busy.

First, I went here:

Disney 1

The famous author and her husband.

I’m sure you can figure out where that picture is from. My husband and I spent our 15th Anniversary chasing kids around Disney. We also were able to enjoy it with my sister-in-law, her two kids, and my mother-in-law. Fun times! I’m a big goof, and I LOVE Disney. It is one of my most favorite places. Kids and adults have fun there. I also did it right, and we didn’t start going to Disney until my youngest daughter turned five. The food. The rides. I think it’s all great. If you haven’t been on the new Pandora ride, you need to drop everything, book a trip and go down. It was hands down my favorite. And walking through the line, the gardens were absolutely beautiful:

Disney 2

Then I came home, and I started concentrating on my short story. Okay, I’ve written about two sentences on it. I really started concentrating on eating better, running, and avoiding writing again. But, I decided I needed to start writing again today. I’d like to enter my short story into the Masters Review contest, but that’s due July 31st, and I’m not sure if I will have it finished and edited by then. I entered their flash contest, but winners will not be announced until September. The waiting game–it’s real, y’all.

I keep thinking there will be a time in life in which I will be able to just write. Or, you know, fit it into my schedule. I do a lot of procrastinating. I tend to have to set mini-goals or sprint to write. Once I start sprinting, I usually get on a roll and can keep going. So my goal this week is to sprint once a day and finish my short story by next Wednesday. If I can do that, I may possibly have enough time to edit and submit it.

I hope to continue sharing some of my short pieces with you all, and I plan on getting back to posting about once a week.

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Journey of Words

antique-black-and-white-business-209257

Yes, I’m a writer. I know, I know–I haven’t been writing as much. For awhile, I wasn’t writing at all. I’ve been thinking about ancient history a lot this week. You know, memories down the lane. I’ve been doing some soul-searching, but not in a nostalgic sad kind of way. More in a way that’s helping me come to terms with some of my decisions about the past. And of course, some of this is ending up in my writing, because you know that’s what writers do. For some reason, these thoughts and the books I’ve been reading: The Last Time We Met, Less, The Princess Diarist, heck even Born a Crime, made me think I needed to set my book in Buenos Aires.

And it’s strange. I feel like I’m traveling there again in my mind. I went to Buenos Aires in 1999. I had just turned 20. This was almost 20 years ago (I’m getting old, peeps). Their currency was still tied to the dollar. Everything was super expensive. I had a astrophysicist cabbie who couldn’t get a job because unemployment was through the roof. I walked by a Jewish synagogue frequently that had armed guards, because there’s so much antisemitism in Buenos Aires they were afraid the synagogue would be bombed. I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car, and then the driver get out and yell at him in Spanish for being in the way, while the pedestrian writhed in pain on the sidewalk by my feet. My friend P’s host family called their Doberman Pincher gay, because he was such a nice dog (I wasn’t appalled by their use of this word as derogatory then, as I surely would be now). He would sit on your lap whenever you came into the apartment, because he thought he was a lap dog. I would watch game shows and Spanish soap operas with English subtitles to learn more Spanish with my “sisters” Sol and Paz (the daughters of my host mother).

I saw a country in love with Evita Peron still. A country suffering but beautiful. The colors of La Boca. The market square. The pigeons. Luna Park and Jamiroquai. The mothers of the disaparecidos protesting in the street, still looking for their loved ones. A country where you could sit in the park and have yerba mate then risk your life at the hands of a cab driver (why do they make lanes anyway)? I saw how much family meant to Argentineans. Young women stayed home until they married. Even my crazy host family had their extended family over once a week. They laughed, drank, ate, and loved. A city that awoke no earlier than 10 and when to bed no earlier than midnight!

I think, now, experiences like these are wasted on the young. How I love to travel. How I wish to go back to Buenos Aires and see how it’s changed. Is there still a little cafe/bar on the corner of Manual Ugarte and Cabildo where I sat and talked to a boy I’d later fall hopelessly (emphasis on the hopeless) in love with until 2 AM? Where I sat with friends and tipped the waiters so big they looked forward to our arrival every evening? Is that place still there? What about the laundromat that would pick up and wash my clothes, fold them, and return them to me? I swore they were shrinking my clothes, but I was really just gaining about 30 pounds on empanadas, alfajores, and full fat milk.

Someone asked me over the weekend what type of books I wrote, and I didn’t know what to say. None. Half-finished books? Books about love and loss and unrequited love and abuse and family and women’s fiction and southern literature and maybe literary fiction. We love to categorize everything, but I feel like I get into my writing the most when I just do it without thinking about what it actually is. When is springs forth from some burning internal question I’m trying to answer.

Writing is a lot like traveling to me. I can go back to Buenos Aires. I can picture myself there. Transporting my characters to worlds I’ve been but also to places I’ve never been. An exercise in empathy. A way to answer unanswerable questions or at least get closer to explaining them to myself. But mostly just cathartic. A journey to a better understanding of the human existence, this universe we call home.

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