Hello Again

It’s been awhile. I have had a lot going on in my life. All good things, really.

Here’s an itemized list of my month of August

  • Kids started school. On August 6th. I mean, why? Super early. But, honestly, the routine has been good for them.
  • Hubby went out of town and came back on August 6th. Then he went out of town on August 15th for a week. This meant I had to go it all alone (with some help from my awesome mom and my awesome niece).
  • I started a new job on August 15th. Did you notice how that coincided with Hubby going out of town? Yeah, perfect timing! HA
  • My sister came into town to visit. I spent almost every night hanging out with her, except when she went to see Phish with my husband.
  • My sister and I drove up to see my other sister one weekend.
  • We went to the beach.
  • There were about 12,000 back-to-school nights, PTA meetings, and one conference.

I love my new job. I’m no longer in banking. I’m in education. And I’m working for a non-profit, which is seriously awesome and I feel more fulfilled in my life. That’s super important for me, I think. It took me a long time to make a leap out of the safety of my banking job, but I think I did it at the right time. I ultimately feel happier and more satisfied.

I promise to start writing a weekly blog. I will be continuing my race series, and adding some short stories. Maybe one of these days I’ll have time to work on my novel again.

But for now, I just wanted to say hi and that I’m around even though I’ve been quiet. August is just an insanely busy month.

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Weak Spot

I haven’t been writing—for weeks now. And my escape of running has fallen by the wayside too, because I have a stress fracture in my foot. I’m the kind of person who needs an outlet, or I get depressed. I need to write my worries away, solve problems I don’t understand, or run to clear my mind.

My foot is almost healed, and it’s only been about a week and a half of no running. This makes me think it is/was a weak spot on my bone and not an actual fracture. Weak spot. I have a lot of weak spots in my life. I have a lot of times I don’t feel like enough. I hem and haw over the fact that I couldn’t be two places at once, that my house is dusty, and that my children’s nails are not trimmed. I worry they are growing up and I haven’t been present enough. I worry I’m not feeding enough love into my marriage. My marriage is a constant worry, because it represents companionship and love.  Sometimes I think I take advantage of my husband’s good graces or take him for granted.

Thinking about the weak spot in my foot made me think about how sometimes we let weakness cripple us. We let those weak spots in our life fester, build up, and turn into a fracture. We let weaknesses in our marriage grow until they become raging gaps or chasms that cannot be crossed. We let weak spots define who we are.

Reading about stress fractures, I learned that often when the weak spot heals in your foot it is stronger than before. A revelation to me. Sometimes things have to break down before they can be made whole again. Marriages often cycle through weak spots before strengthening. I wonder how many people have left in a weak spot, when all they needed was a few dedicated weeks to heal.

A few years ago, my marriage broke down. We were not in a good place. We were both to blame for this breakdown. We both had selfish needs to fulfill. I left the marriage. I didn’t leave the house, but I explored my wants and desires. I started exercising a lot and taking myself away from the house, because being in the house was too tense and painful, and I couldn’t stand to look at my husband’s face. I spent time with friends, gallivanting around, and figuring out the me within.  I was lost, but I didn’t know it. During this time, I felt strangely and hugely alive. I felt like I had awakened from a dream and realized the reality in which I lived was not the reality I wanted to be living.

My husband rallied his family and mine around him. He talked to them as I pushed myself further away. I felt alone, manipulated, and betrayed by the people I loved. I wanted more than anything for my family to stand behind me and to understand why I was hurting, but I don’t think they did. At first, I wallowed in the weak spot of my life. I was depressed and filled with hurt and rage. I wanted to make that weak spot deeper just to feel justified in my stance on my marriage. And slowly, through walking out and finding myself the weak spot began to heal. I began to see my husband’s point of view. I saw just how much we had been hurting each other. I told him it hurt me that he’d gone to my parents and tried to get them on his side. I understand now he was trying to save the family. I understand now that he was hurting, and didn’t see it as a betrayal. I told him it hurt me that he hadn’t told his mom and his family the whole truth about his actions.

But I chose to forgive and rebuild. And he chose to forgive me (I’m guessing, since we’re still married).  And we began to rebuild by communicating. We began to rebuild by focusing on the good in our lives, instead of focusing on the bad. We built up the bone around the weak spot until the foundation was deeper and stronger than before.

I learned by finding myself that I can give of myself to my marriage even if I’m not always getting what I want. Marriage is, after all, a compromise. I realized how much my husband does for me and how much he does for my kids. I realized that no one is perfect, and I can’t ask that of him. I also realized that no one is a mind reader, and therefore making a marriage weaker by not communicating is certain to bring on a non-repairable fracture.

We are both human, and we both have wants and needs. Our wants won’t be entirely fulfilled by each other. That’s impossible. We still have bad days, and we will continue to have bad days as long as we stay together. No one’s marriage is perfect, but we can provide each other with companionship, warmth, love, respect, and someone to come home to.

I strive through my writing to find some inner piece of me, some weak spot, and try to fix it before it becomes a break too big to heal. Much like my marriage, my writing takes work. And I could not do that without the reinforced strength and bond of my marriage partner.  We’ve been together fifteen years now and married for thirteen. I hope we have much more time to get to know each other, to let go of our hurt and our past, and to build a stronger foundation than the wobbly, weak spot where we were founded.

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School Girl Crush

Yesterday, I wrote a scene for a work in progress about a childhood crush. In this yet-to-be-named novel I’m writing, the man had a childhood crush on a girl who spent the summers with him in Cape Cod. At a certain point, she never comes back. He spends his life tracking her down, and then stalking her until they meet again under strange circumstances on the METRO in Washington D.C. This scene had me thinking about my own crushes through my lifetime.

When I turned 12, which was a lifetime ago, my dad decided he wanted us to have family time by learning how to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Yes, I had a privileged youth. I remember the nights we spent in the pool, learning how to breathe underwater. I also remember the book I was handed to study up on SCUBA, because all SCUBA divers have to pass a written test, even the twelve year olds.

Lauren SCUBA

That book with its blue cover sat by my bedside as I simultaneously thought of boys and played with Barbies. I had entered that time in my life where my body was changing and I was going through puberty, but I still loved my dolls. I straddled the line between childhood and adulthood, not sure where I belonged yet. As an aside, I also wore a heck of a lot of Laura Ashley jumpers. Twelve year olds today do not dress the way we did in the early 1990’s that’s for sure.

When the test day came I stared at the problems, and they looked like gobbly-gook. In all truth, I think there was a whole lot of Algebra. Math wasn’t my forte, and I hadn’t even started Algebra yet. (Now they seem to start it in Kindergarten, but then they didn’t).

And so, Phil, a tall, buff, blonde dive-pro at the shop sat next to me and gave me hints. He knew I knew the rules and how to dive. He just needed to give me a little bit of encouragement, so I could pass. And pass I did, with his help.

I’m sure dive-pro Phil knew I was in love with him. I made it blatantly obvious. I followed him around like a puppy-dog. I asked for him to be my dive partner on numerous occasions. I thought, me, a twelve year old child had a chance with this grown-up twenty-five year old man.

And Phil, knowing I was a child, dealt with it in such a nice way. He was kind. He didn’t blow me off. He never belittled me or was condescending. I’ll never forget, on one of our dive trips—I can’t remember if this was in Florida or in the Cayman’s—my mom burst her eardrum. I wanted to go back out in the water, because I was looking for sand dollars. So Phil went out with me, and he dragged his knife through the sand so we could find our way back to the boat, and took me out to a whole colony of sand dollars. This meant so much to my twelve-year old heart. He dealt with my school-girl crush with such grace, but he also gave me no allusions that he reciprocated (thank God—I was just a child).

Now I’m a grown-up, and I know the crush on dive-pro Phil was an adolescent awakening to the world of love and romance for me. It’s funny thinking back on those days and remembering how young and naïve I was. I had many more crushes after that, and I’m sure people had crushes on me. That’s just the way it goes. But the thing that makes crushes feel so poignant is the impossibility involved that doesn’t exist in a loving relationship. A crush is just that, a crush, and if it never moves forward it wanes and dies and both parties move on with their lives.

I don’t remember how I felt when I heard dive-pro Phil was getting married. I remember thinking it was logical, because he was an adult. But being only twelve or thirteen years old, it didn’t hit me the same way as other crushes who rejected me, who went on to get married, who left me when I felt like I needed them the most, or who moved on when they should have for the benefit of us both.

The thing about crushes, as illustrated in this story, is that they can teach you about love. Dive-pro Phil looked at me as a child, someone he could help teach to dive. He mentored me, and taught me about kindness, which is such a huge aspect of love. And he did it in a way that was appropriate, even knowing that I had a school-girl crush on him. I’ve learned a lot from all the crushes I’ve had, because pain also brings insight. I moved on and I learned how to apply that knowledge to my relationships, and now to my marriage.

Interestingly enough, another Phil came along when I was in college, and I thought I loved him so much. I put him on a pedestal, and I didn’t walk away even when he hurt me. I didn’t walk away even when I started hurting him. He was my best friend, my confidante, but the truth is a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us because we didn’t know how to communicate our deepest feelings with one another. It made the time we had together thrilling and fun, but it also made it hurtful, confusing, and frustrating. It took me a long time to move on from Phil2, and my relationship with my now-husband suffered because of my grief associated with losing my friendship with Phil2 and the possibility of what could have been between us. Once I processed all those heavy emotions, my relationship with my husband grew.

Crushes crush. They’re intense, yes, but they’re meant to end. Relationships bring a whole new level of love to your life, one that grows and changes with time. A crush is fleeting and not meant to last forever, but a lesson for how to love in your true and meaningful relationships.

Who was your first crush?

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Choices, Procrastination, Overbooking

Today, I made a choice to work on yearbook for PTA. I made a choice at the beginning of the year to be the Yearbook co-chair, and no matter how much I may regret that choice I committed myself and therefore must do it! The thing is, I usually like doing creative tasks, like design the yearbook. But now, I feel like it’s one more thing I added to my list when I should have made my focus this year writing and running.

I started out this year gung ho about writing. And as other humans may know, sometimes that insatiability at the beginning wanes with time.

For instance, when you meet a new person and fall in love, all you can think about is that person. 24/7 you are thinking about them, fantasizing about them, and wanting to talk to them over and over again about everything under the sun. You literally cannot get enough. You think the feeling will last forever, and suddenly without warning you’ve been married for fifteen years, and that person you used to feel so giddy about is scratching his butt on the couch and peeing all over your guest bathroom floors. Honeymoon over.

The same thing happens when we take on a new endeavor like writing. When I first started focusing on my writing, all I wanted to do was write. I loved the feeling of writing. I loved the rush it gave me when someone praised my work. But then, I hit a roadblock, and wham! I stopped writing.  Why? Because writing is hard, and a writer has to make a conscious effort to choose to write, even on the days when that writer feels like the writing sucks. Even on the days, when the writer writes 1,000 words and promptly hits delete. Even on the days, when she feels like no one is buying her work. Writing is hard and full of roadblocks and rejection. So how can we stop the roadblocks from holding us back in what we want to achieve in life? How can we go forward with our writing when we feel overwhelmed?

  • First, stop choosing everything else over writing. Stop blaming procrastination. Procrastinating is a choice.  Once you realize this, it’s easier to think consciously about moving on from that procrastination and choosing to write especially on the days it’s hard. People have praised me for having written two books saying, “I can’t believe you do that, have three kids, and a day-job,” but the truth is when there’s something you want to do and love to do then nothing can stop you from doing it. So don’t let yourself stop you from doing it simply because it’s hard.
  • Don’t take on more than you can chew. I need to listen to this advice. I think in our world, we’re expected to do so much. Be a working parent, go to all the school functions, volunteer, make food. But don’t. Seriously learn how to say no. I didn’t say no enough this year and probably overextended myself. Don’t add things to your life if you don’t have the time to commit to them.
  • Prioritize: If you’re striving to be a writer, get published, or finish a novel then make writing your priority. Get up early and write. Stay up until midnight to write. Just write so words can get on paper and you are achieving your goals. Make choices that are conducive with this lifestyle, instead of making choices that will sabotage your end-game.
  • Give Yourself Grace: Being someone who has dealt with depression for most of my adult life, this one is very important. Everyone needs weeks and sometimes even months to regroup. Sometimes I do this by watching hours of Netflix. Then I won’t watch TV for months, and I’ll refocus on my writing or my reading (which by the way helps you be a better writer).
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help: I think we humans tend to think we live in a box and that our experience is individual from everyone else. The truth is, we’re part of a larger society. We have other people we can depend on when we need it. My husband is a huge supporter of me. He makes my life easy at home, often doing laundry, cooking, and generally picking up the slack. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have his help (live in a pit). And the thing is, I know I can always talk to him when I’m feeling down, or when I’ve been procrastinating for months, or when I think nobody will ever read my book again. The truth is, being a writer is hard and can be discouraging, so having someone who can talk you out of the deep pit of despair is awesome. Having people who say, “You need to write,” is inspiring and it helps motivate me to do what I want again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because true friends want you to succeed.

This post is as much a reminder to myself as it is to my audience on what I need to do to stop letting life get in the way of achieving my dreams.

What do you think is your biggest hindrance to your goals?

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Forgiveness

Maybe I’m just sappy and sentimental, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my life this past week or two and how much I’ve grown this year as a person. My life has not always been easy, and I’m sure those of you who know me personally know how much I’ve struggled in the past few years. I’ve struggled to find myself. I’ve struggled in my marriage. I’ve struggled in my relationships. I’ve struggled with the ugly “D” word: depression.

Today as I drove to work I felt happy and fulfilled as I reflected back on my year. And I realized the reason I felt happy was because I intentionally chose happiness.  As I lay in bed last night, talking to my husband, I said, “I love myself so much. And if you can’t love yourself then you can can’t love anyone else, right?” “Right,” he said. He’s not much of a talker. But I’m sure his mind was thinking something like, here she goes “self-philosophizing Lauren again.” But it’s true. It takes self-love in order to make yourself happy and in order to be able to give back to others.

A couple of days ago I posted on a few boards I’m a member of asking people to state the theme of their year. The answers were insightful, interesting, painful, sad, tragic, funny, happy—all rolled into one. And it made me think about how all of those adjectives describe life and are what make it worth living.

My theme of the year was forgiveness. First I forgave myself.  Then I forgave my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and anyone who I have ever perceived as doing me wrong. But it started with ME. I forgave myself for all my faults. I forgave myself for feelings of love I can’t control. I forgave myself for living in the past too often. I forgave myself for yelling at the kids, having a short fuse, not saying no enough, being too busy, not reaching my goals when I wrote, and for failing to clean my bathroom often enough. I forgave myself all those little strings of self-hate that build up inside of us and make us unhappy with ourselves. And it was hard. Self-doubt crept in. Guilt crept in. Sadness lay sickly sweet right below the surface of my skin.  It was a process—much like grieving and moving on. I back slid. I fell into depression, but I realized where the depression came from, worked through it, and didn’t let it trap me.

I wrote with a vengeance for the first time in years. I soaked up everything I’ve learned in my meager 36 years and put it on paper. I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I missed old friends. I reconnected with old friends. I grieved relationships whose seasons had expired but found happiness in the temporariness of those relationships as well.  And through it all, I realized forgiveness is key. Letting go of the need to control. Losing expectations of others while maintaining expectations of yourself. Making yourself happy and choosing to live in a way that’s giving to other people without feeling the need for reciprocation. Telling myself that I’m doing the best I can and loving myself for it. That was my lesson for 2015.

What is forgiveness you may ask?

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

I don’t want to be a victim of myself anymore. I don’t want to blame others for the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to not pursue my dreams because pursuing them is hard. I want to be able to let go of the negativity and stop living in a permanent state of self-hatred. I want to love myself for who I am and realize that flaws are what make us beautiful as humans. I want to love other people, all of their flaws and scars and human-stuff and realize the only person I can control is myself and be okay with that.

This year, I decided to stop feeling guilty for my own feelings. Instead of embracing guilt, hate, and anger this year I chose to embrace love and it changed my whole perspective on life.

If you can’t forgive yourself then you can’t forgive others. We all have baggage. We have all been hurt by the people we’re closest to. We can use hate, guilt, and ugliness to drive stakes into our own hearts, our marriages, the lives of our children, or we can turn it around and be compassionate, loving, and we can give to others even when it’s so hard to do. This is forgiveness.

Live your life with love and you’ll be rewarded with love. Live your life with hate and all you’ll get back is hate.


 

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Expect Less, Live More

When I went to Midwest Writer’s way back in July (it now feels like eons ago), someone said to make a name for yourself you have to blog. She/he (all the faces blurred together-sorry for vagueness) said readers like to hear from authors consistently, so set up a blog schedule and stick to it. Well, obviously I’ve fallen short in that category. I intend to blog three times each week, but sometimes things happen (like lice, or vacation, sick kids, sick me, anxiety-ridden can only sit on the couch and watch seventeen episodes in a row of How I Met Your Mother type days). But it got me thinking about expectations.

A few years back, I felt unhappy. And during that time, I found my love for writing again. I started writing for catharsis, to heal old wounds, and new. I wrote to rid myself of feelings I deemed wrong or inappropriate. I wrote to find solace from within myself. I wrote so I could function every day and not curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a corner even though some days I wanted to. Back then, I held myself and everyone around me up to sky-high expectations. And it was a nightmare.

Unrealistic expectations of others only serves to further unhappiness in yourself. When one has expectations of other people that those people don’t meet, then one is stuck in a state of disappointment. How can you be happy when you’re constantly disappointed with others? Expectations become a little like mind-reading. Come on, we all say we’re not mind-readers, but the truth is many of us expect others to read our minds. Many of us expect others to fill the void within us. Many of us expect to achieve happiness from other people, instead of searching for it where it really exists: inside ourselves.

When I really thought about this—letting go of expectations—I thought it was ridiculous. I mean come on. My whole life, I’d been trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, to my bosses’ expectations, to my teachers’ expectations, and to my own unrealistic expectations of achieving perfection. I wanted my marriage and life to seem perfect, and in the end I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. When I realized this, I sank further into the dark pit of oblivion called depression. And I had to pull myself out, one layer at a time. I had to realize by letting go of expectations that I had what it took to make myself happy and to spread that joy around.

You see, having expectations for yourself is okay, as long as you don’t set the bar too high. I have goals and expectations for myself on a daily basis, but I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I know failure is an opportunity to learn.

It took me a while to learn that pegging your expectations on others, well, that doesn’t work. It destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys happiness. Now when I reach out to a friend, I do it because I want to. Sure, in a perfect world, it’d be nice for my friends to always reciprocate. But I know when they don’t, it’s because they got busy. I’m not catastrophizing about all the reasons they don’t like me. I’m done obsessing about where they disappeared to when they didn’t call. Because all these things—they’re crazy-making, not happy-making! If you really want to know whether someone is your friend or not, then be there for them, and see if they give back from the deepness of their hearts. Talk to them. Put the phone down and meet them for lunch. Tell them how you feel. Stop guessing and expecting other people to read your mind!

The only person in this life who can make you happy is you. Let go of your expectations for others. Give because you want to give, not because you want someone to give back. I promise, if you do this you’ll see the world differently and it might even make you happy. Hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Have you found happiness? Have you found ways to let go of your expectations? If you’re a writer, do you write for happiness?


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Xs and Os

I haven’t shared my flash fiction in awhile, because I haven’t been writing it as much. Between promoting The Devil Within, editing Little Birdhouses, and writing my no-name work-in-progress I haven’t had time. But this week, I decided to write for Mid-week Blues-Buster.

The song this week is Little Blue One by Cowboy Mouth, which is an upbeat song about a sad subjectWhen I heard this song, after not having listened to Cowboy Mouth for years it took me back to a crowded concert venue in Atlanta in the late 90’s or early 00’s, where I’d gone to visit my childhood friend, Stacy, at college. I hadn’t heard them before I attended the concert with Stacy and Andrea and a few other friends, and I immediately liked their music.

Fair warning: the subject matter is about divorce or the end of a relationship.

Here’s the song if you’d like to have a listen:

So here’s the Dear Jane letter…


Xs and Os
554 words
@laurenegreene

Dear Jane,

The dream again. Your face. But when I wake up you’re not beside me in the ocean swell of what-used-to-be our king sized bed. The room wreaks of your ghost. I pretend not to think of you. I tell my repetitive thoughts to still the image of you in my mind as I pour two cups of coffee instead of one for the third time this week. Without thought, I pour the second one down the drain. I think about picking up the extra cup and smashing it against the wall, but instead I set it in the sink and think about how you would have told me to “just put it in the dishwasher.”

The photos of you and me in the Caymans eating turtle soup. The smile on your face is eternal. You don’t live here anymore with me, but every waking moment I have to tell myself you’re gone. Today, I’ll take the photos down. It’s been six months, and I know you’re not coming back. I’ll put them in boxes, and I’ll wrap them up, and it will be like our life together never existed. That’s what you wanted.

When your text pinged my cell at 2 AM, I had to stumble from the couch where I’d fallen asleep watching Geraldo. I knocked the half empty bottle of wine onto the rug. You remember that rug, don’t you? We spent four hours debating on whether to get blue wool or the checkered cotton at Pottery Barn. I, like the sales clerk, wanted to gouge out my eyes with knives before you’d make up your mind. Back and forth. Wishy washy. That was always your way. Maniacal laughter erupted from my lips when I thought how ironic it was that this rug, your baby, your precious, had been left in my incapable hands. It’s in the green trashcan waiting for pickup on the curb now. So long sucker.

The laughter turned to tears when I read your text. “I want an annulment.” The words stung. Married for six years and just like that you wanted to pretend we didn’t exist. Well maybe you didn’t exist, but I did. I waited for you, lost in your blue world of depression as you were. I stuck with you when no one did. I made sure they pumped your stomach. I made sure you didn’t die on the pink title floor of our bathroom by sticking my finger down your throat. Covered in your puke and half-digested pills, I helped get you to the hospital. I saved your life…literally. And I helped you find your way. Even if that way was away from me.

So, my little blue one, now that you’ve found your way you want to pretend that none of it ever happened? Move on, put me behind you and that period of your life when you couldn’t control yourself. You couldn’t control your emotions.

The answer is no. I’ll grant you a divorce, but not an annulment. Because not every day was filled with vomit and fights over rugs. I walked on the beach with you. I kissed you under a gazebo. I imagined our life together, complete with babies, and I thought I’d be with you forever. I can’t pretend that never existed.

Xs and Os, the answer is no.

–John


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Thought of a Day: The best way to help a newbie author like me is to read, review, and recommend their book!

Break From Reality

Last week, Hubby and I had a break from reality. It was much needed, and even more than I needed it to be. Despite the timing of The Devil Withinonce we were away we let everything go. In my writing journey, over the last few years, I’ve become a social media guru. You pretty much have to in this day and age (yeah–I sound like a grandparent). I use twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to promote myself as an author and promote my work. The nicest part of the vacation was our decision not to use technology while we were there, except to Facetime or message the kids.

Our eldest told us he wouldn’t miss us. Because he’s ten and all. But he did. He tried to Facetime me a lot and then if I mentioned him missing us he’d say, “No, not really.” When we pulled into our garage a week later, he was the first one through the garage door and he flung himself into my arms. It’s nice to be missed.

I recommend a get away like this for anyone who hasn’t done it. I came back refreshed and ready to write again. Now I’m focusing on editing Little Birdhouses and promoting The Devil Within. Fairly soon, I’ll have some swag to give to you. It’s getting real, y’all!

And don’t forget. If you sign up for my newsletter at http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a free signed copy of The Devil WithinThe winner will be announced in the July 31st edition of the newsletter.

Here are some photos from our trip, just because I think everyone should go to Punta Cana. The Dominican Republic is the sixth largest exporter of cocoa in the world. And their chocolate is wonderful, and their people are amazing, and if you haven’t been to a third world country and left the resort you should. It’s an eye opener, and it makes you grateful for everything you have.

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The Instigator

I wrote “The Instigator,” today for Finish That Thought. The thought was “If only I’d gotten her ten minutes earlier,” but I changed up the pronoun. For the special challenge, I had to include a word starting with each letter of the alphabet. Here you go! Once again, I am incapable of writing a happy story.

The Instigator
@laurenegreene
478 words
If only we’d gotten there ten minutes earlier.

“Bear plus food do not mix,” my wife said, when she saw the ravaged campsite.

We’d been watching the sunrise at the top of the peak when the bear attacked. While the sun spread its glorious hues of ultra violet rays over the earth, the bear tore into the freeze-dried packs my wife, unknowingly, had left out beside our packs.

“Rats, I wonder where it came from.”

“Oh, I don’t know, let’s see, the zoo. We’re in the middle of the freaking Appalachian Mountains, Jessica.”

“Jeez, Quint, you don’t have to yell at me.”

We had decided to take this trip, a two week hike in the Appalachians, as a way to repair our marriage, but instead of the bonding experience we had been looking for, the vacation had mirrored our tumultuous relationship.

“Maybe we should call Lyle to come pick us up,” Jessica said. She had the map spread out, sitting cross-legged in the dirt in front of the tent. A torn half empty bag of freeze dried beans stood by her Merrells.

“I’d never get in the car with that guy again, xenophobe that he is.”

“Oh come on, Quint. He’s harmless. What’s our other choice?”

“We stop in the town up the road, buy more food and keep going.”

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing this whole time, keeping it going, despite a clear lack of sustenance?”

I hated when Jessica got all hoity toity on me and created analogies about our relationship. It was a side effect of her psychological practice. Psychologists have their own disease: know-everything-itis. She was staring through the map instead of at it. I sat down on the dirt next to her, and offered up the comfort of my arm, but she scooted further away from me. The Great Divide. Hurt pride, but I shook it off. I’d gotten so good at doing that.

“Here, this little town. Kunkletown. Funny little name, and not too far.”

“I wonder if they have cell service there,” Jessica said, as she folded the map and stuffed it into her back pack.

“Why?” I asked, but she just shook her head.

We wordlessly took the tent down and packed our bags. Stillness rose between us, like the quiet of the sunrise, only an hour before. In that moment, hope had sprung to me like the dawn of the new day, but the bear had dashed all of that making the tension stand between us like an unwanted lover.

Kunkletown was a nice little town. I stayed there, getting myself together for two days after Jessica left with Lyle. I thought maybe I could move to this little town that housed only a church, a few houses and a general store. Then, maybe I could find the hope I had lost in one moment on the trail.