Me Too

Trigger Warning: This post discusses sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

So #metoo is trending on Facebook and Twitter today. The thought behind #metoo is that “if all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I think it’s important that it says “people” and not women. I didn’t write #metoo on my Facebook page, but I’ve been sexually harassed. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a woman on this earth who hasn’t been.

I’m lucky. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted. I put myself in some precarious situations as a teenager so I count myself lucky. I had one incident happen to me as a child. My sister’s friend, a girl, used to take me into the closet and dry hump me. She was two years older than me. And I hated her with all my might. I also felt endlessly guilty about this situation. But I never told my parents…until last year. Was that molestation? Assault? We were fully clothed, and while she was older than me she was still a child. I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about it. But I do know, whenever that particular friend would come over I’d get upset. So it affected me, and it’s something I still think about today.

I had another experience in college. My Junior Year, I took an Environmental Science class. I sat next to this guy, pretend his name was Bob, and I thought he was kinda cute. I was also pining over not-my-boyfriend at the time, but I thought Bob might be boyfriend material. Boy was I wrong. Bob became insistent that we study together. Okay, I thought. We met at Mary Graydon Center and studied for a bit. After awhile, Bob asked if we could go to my house. I said sure. I should have been weary, but I’d never really been distrustful of a guy before. I guess I surrounded myself with guys who never gave me a reason to mistrust then. Perhaps I was naive. Bob came over, and we went up to my room. And he immediately started kissing me, full on making out, and then put his hand under my shirt. He was pushy and insistent, and I said no. I pushed his hand out from under my shirt. He didn’t rape me. I told him to get out, and he said, “Oh, come on.” I told him that I didn’t just have sex with random guys that I saved that for relationships. He was pissed. Literally pissed and angry, but I eventually got him to leave. During the time he was in my room to the time he left, I was scared of him. And things could have ended differently. Bob never came back to that class. I think it was after drop too, so I’m pretty sure he failed. He was embarrassed by his behavior, as he should have been. No woman should ever have to feel that way about a guy. A lot of girls are not as lucky as I was in that situation.

Here’s the thing: we need to teach our boys to respect women. We need to tell them that a woman’s body is her own, and it’s not public property for them to touch. We need to tell them that no woman is going to respond to you in a positive way if you are catcalling her. We need to teach them that forcing a woman is wrong. We need to teach them that a relationship takes two people and that in order for women to be okay with having sex it has to be mutual. We need to teach our boys that assaulting is never okay. That if they see someone harassing our assaulting a girl they need to speak up. Don’t be complicit.

We need to empower our girls. We need to let them know that their voice matters. We need to let them know it is their right to say “no” even in a committed relationship. We need them to know that being forced is NEVER OKAY. We need to tell them that they have a voice, and they should use that voice to tell the men in their life how they feel. They need to tell men when they want to be touched and when they don’t want to be touched. They need to speak up when they’re assaulted. We need to help them not to justify a man’s behavior when he’s in the wrong. A lot of us do this. I know I am guilty of it.

I used to have a friend when I lived in Maryland. I was young…25…and had a boy baby. She got pregnant for the second time and found out it was a girl, and she was horrified. I said to her, “I’ve always wanted a girl. They’re a mom’s best friend!” And she said, “But girls get raped and assaulted.” I thought, at the time, it was the strangest thing for her to say. But you know what, it’s true. Girls get assaulted. Girls get harassed. And people sweep it under the rug. Or worse, they blame the victim. I want to scream every time I hear, “But she was wearing.” Who gives a fuck what she was wearing? No one deserves to be raped. Our girls deserve better. And it’s time to make a change for our next generation. It’s time for women to speak up and say it’s not okay for them to be treated that way. We are not second class citizens. We have rights, and Our bodies are OUR bodies not anyone else’s.

It’s time for things to change.

#metoo

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Embracing My Mess

I’m trying to get myself organized. Today’s post was brought to you by the article in the NY Times Making a Marriage Magically Tidy. I read the post, and then I posted it to my personal Facebook page.

My sister responded, and I quote, “…did you write that article under a pseudonym? That part about the panty liner was hilarious!! Well, we do the best we can, right!”

We do the best we can. That’s what I tell myself on Saturdays when I’m binge watching Netflix but should really be cleaning. Let me tell you, my floors will never be fit to eat off of. There will probably always be a layer of dust on by bookshelves. There will be crumbs on my table. My kids’ toys will be littering the floor until the sad day they ship off to college.

I read that book mentioned in the article, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I rolled up my clothes and put them in drawers. I felt whether clothes sparked joy in me or not, and the ones that didn’t were given away. I threw away A TON of stuff, donated things, and basically went on a mad-cleaning spree for about a month. In Kondo’s book, she said something like (and this is paraphrasing because I read it over a year ago) “no one who has gone through my program has ever relapsed.” Well she never met me.

Several things I learned from Kondo’s book:

  1. She probably has severe OCD
  2. Her siblings most likely hated her growing up – she organized and threw away their things
  3. I’m inherently missing something that makes me want to keep things neat and tidy
  4. When I start to clean I always end up finding a box of nostalgia and falling into a state of schaudenfreude. I find that inherently not worth it. But also could probably fix this problem but just tossing my old memorabilia yet there’s no way I can actually let go of that stuff. Catch 22.

The thing about me is I am at both extremes. When things are neat and tidy, I freak out if people so much as put one thing out of place. It’s a problem. It’s easier for me to have organized unorganized chaos than to deal with the crazy that comes out in me when things are neat. Maybe this comes from being a perfectionist. Or maybe there’s just something wrong with my brain.

Plus, I’ve read the news: kids growing up on farms with dirt have better immune systems and less allergies than other kids. I’m just giving my kids a leg up. They have zero food allergies–that’s something, right?

Seriously though, sometimes I think I need an intervention. I’ve been trying to tidy up my room for 12-18 months. Something always gets in the way. Over that period of time, we culled the toys in the kids’ rooms and helped them clean theirs. But I have a mental block for cleaning out my own shit. I’d like to talk to Helen Ellis about how she got through that mental block. Did podcasts do it? Because I get obsessed with those for like a week, and then move on. Perhaps I have adult ADHD. That would explain why I can’t freaking finish anything to save my life, including my novel, and why I jump from one thing to another. And why I’m such a major underachiever even though I have idealistic dreams of being MORE!

I guess I’ll start this weekend by going through my closet. Then again, I’ve been telling anyone and everyone that I’ve intended to do that for the last eighteen months. Some things never change…

Messy Room

What end of the spectrum do you fall on? Are you tidy or messy? Have you been both? How did you change your ways?

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The Tree

Here’s another one from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds challenge of the week: write about a tree. I had a hard time with this, because I’m writing about a tree in my current novel. I wanted to share some of that novel, but I’m intent on having it published some day. At first, I thought I’d bypass this challenge, but this idea came to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Tree — 924 words. 

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Running. Feet pounding the ground. Ashton ended up where she always did, in front of the great big oak tree. The branches spread out like giants’ arms against the clear blue backdrop of the Southern sky. She placed her hand on the trunk and felt the warmth of the tree.

When she had been just a girl, her dad had strung a tire swing to the big horizontal branch. She had swung, laughing, and pushing her head back against the wind. She looked up at the green leaves as they danced in the sky. The tree held life. Her life, a memory of her fleeting childhood existence.

When she and Deke married, they took over the land. Then her dad got sick—lung cancer from too many cigs smoked as he herded cows into the dust. He held on for two weeks after the doctor diagnosed him. Ashton’s mom moved to the back room. She let Ashton, Deke, and their clan of little children take over the house. Ashton liked to listen to their bare feet on the wood floors. It reminded her of her childhood where there was always too much noise and clatter in the small farmhouse.

Ashton held her hands up to the tree. She rubbed the silkiness of the green leaves.


“You know, Ashton, this could all be yours one day,” her father had said, one day when he pushed her on the swing.

Ashton had laughed her high-pitched little girl laugh, tossing her blonde curls into the wind, feeling like she could fly away.

Her father stopped the swing. He kneeled down in front of her and took her small, soft hands into his rough, calloused ones. His blue eyes twinkled in the fading light of day. He smelled of Old Spice and cow manure, the smell of Ashton’s childhood.

“I mean it. You’re the one. This is the place.”

A rustle of wind blew through the tree, and it seemed to wave at Ashton. She looked up at the tree and could almost feel it wrapping its life-giving warmth around her. Her dad squeezed her hands, then hugged her. He started pushing the swing again.


“I want to put a tire swing up for the girls,” Ashton said.

“There?” Deke asked, pointing to the tree as they walked toward the wind.

The girls had stayed home with Ashton’s mom. The memorial service had been two weeks ago already. Ashton’s mom had taken to wearing only black and making pies: peach, apple, pecan. There were more pies than they could ever eat. The sting of Ashton’s father’s death still took her breath away. The tree gave her the air she needed to breathe again, to feel again.

“I was thinking about selling off this acreage to the Boyers’,” Deke said.

“Oh,” Ashton said. She looked at the tree, and it seemed to bow its head in sadness.

“We could make some money. Put it in a college fund for the girls. This farm just don’t produce as much as it used to.”

“You can’t.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because that tree is important,” Ashton said, pointing to it. The tree seemed to stand up a little taller, the leaves danced against the bright light of the midday sun.

“Don’t be silly, Ashton.”

After dinner and the girls’ baths, Ashton sat in the living room with her mother while Deke read to the bouncing girls who had wired themselves up, slap-happy before bedtime. Ashton knitted while her mother ate a piece of peach pie a la mode. They conferred and agreed. Ashton kissed the urn on the mantle before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Ashton ran to the tree. Running made her feel so alive. She hugged it and swore it hugged her back.


“I met someone,” she said.

“Who?” her father asked.

She sat on the tire swing, holding the worn ropes, her keds firmly planted in the dip her bare childhood feet had made on the ground.

“His name is Deke Malloy.”

“Irish, is he?” her father had joked.

Ashton, in the full throes of adolescence, rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m in love, Dad.”

Her father smiled, held her hands, and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“I think it’s about time we took down the tire swing,” he said.

“Oh Daddy, I love this old thing.”

They both looked up into the branches of the old oak tree. It had seen so much on this land for the last hundred years, so many people coming and going. Ashton could feel its spirit. The next day, Ashton’s father removed the tire swing. Five years later, Ashton and Deke married.


In the afternoon, they all dressed up. Ashton and her mother wore blue, the color of the sky, and her father’s favorite.

“I guess I didn’t realize how important the tree was to you,” Deke said.

Ashton’s mom held her hand. The little girls followed along, picking daisies they would later make daisy chains with. Ashton could almost see the outline of the tire swing. She looked at the tree, and she thought she saw her dad there waving at her. She smiled, and held up her hand. The tree waved back.

Under the tree’s shade, she and her mom struggled to open the urn.

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” Ashton said.

She poured her father’s ashes into the dip her childhood feet had made. The leaves of the tree waved in the wind, and the ashes swirled a little then settled into dust. Ashton smiled, imagining her daddy standing there, her hand securely in his. She put her arms around her mother’s waist and around Deke’s squeezing them close to her and looking at the wonder of an old oak tree.

“Now about that tire swing…”

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Doubt and Faith

When we first moved back to Montgomery, the question we heard the most was, “What church do you go to?” My husband was taken aback by this question, because he’s from the redneck state of the North: Rhode Island. I wasn’t surprised, having grown up in the Bible Belt, I knew living in the South is synonymous with church-going. God and college football are the two things most worshiped down here. (War Eagle!)

We weren’t godly in those days. We started going to my parents’ church because they were there. Plus, we needed an answer to the question so the Southern Baptists didn’t try to convert us or the Church of Christ goers. Or the many other churches that stand on every corner in Montgomery. (Our church stands directly across the street from another church–only in the South)

I grew up Episcopalian with a good dose of skepticism. My husband grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school, and felt done with it all by the time we moved here. I went through a long period of non-belief. I questioned whether there is a God. I questioned whether Jesus was just a man. I have a questioning soul, what can I say? I’m a writer.

We moved a few years ago to a new church that we love despite a few setbacks and misunderstandings. Despite my questions, I wanted to raise my kids with the church, especially in the South where it is not only a religious experience but a social one too. I think it would be inherently easier to have faith than to question it all the time. I struggle with this part of my personality, because faith provides solace. People who have a love of God and Jesus can find solace in their faith when someone dies or something terrible happens in their life. I think that’s an amazing thing. I also think part of my reason for initially turning away from the church is because of the judgment I see in so-called Christians. I have read the Bible and studied it, in Catholic school, and on my own. I see a kind and loving God. I see a God who is accepting of all his people, not just a select holier-than-thou few. I want my children to have the power faith can bring to their life. I want them to believe more than they doubt.

I was asked this year to teach Sunday school. I’ve taught before to a handful of kids at Grace. I knew there would be more kids at the Ascension. I questioned my ability to lead children in the eyes of God when my heart and soul still question. But I thought maybe I had been led to this moment, to teach these children, and to find the love of God together.

I have not been quiet about my doubts to my children. I want them to have faith, but not blind faith.

When they were attending an Episcopal School, my middle son said, “Mom, isn’t God the best?”

And I said, “I’m not sure if I totally believe in God.”

And my son said, “Then I need a new Mommy.”

I told him, “No. You can still love me even if we have different beliefs. Not everyone believes in the same things, and that’s really okay.”

I needed to be honest to him in that moment. I like the faith he has. I love that he believes in God, but he needs to know it’s okay to love those who don’t believe in God too. He needs to know it’s okay to love those who are different from you and who have different beliefs.

I like to think about Doubting Thomas when I have my doubts about God. I think about how Jesus showed Thomas that he was alive. Aren’t there miracles in everyday life that prove the existence of something bigger than us? Is this God showing us his presence?

Doubting_Thomas001

Jesus made an important impact on the Israelites and continues to impact our culture and world today (obviously). His good works show us how to live as Christians. My times of doubt come more from the ability of some people to twist the Bible into some perversion to further their own agenda. Then I become angry with how organized religion can accentuate hate. It’s times like that I feel like I could turn away from the church again.

In Sunday School this past week, I helped out. We went over the Genesis 2:4-3:24 Chapter where Eve hands Adam the forbidden fruit. We talked about God’s love. We talked about how it would feel to be cast out of the Garden of Eden.

My nine year old son raised his hand and said, “Yeah, but what if God’s not real anyway?”

Maybe he is like me and has a little too much of Doubting Thomas inside of him but maybe that’s okay.

What do you think? Is doubting normal? Do you have faith? If so, how did you come to it or was it something you feel is inherent to you? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Luck of the Draw

I wrote this in response to this amazingly, powerful article called Ketchup Sandwiches and Other Things Stupid Poor People Eat by Anastasia Basil. Make sure when you read this article, you click on the YouTube of the two people going at it in the grocery store as a man attempts to buy food for his children (who are present) using food stamps. 

I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

I remember when I was a kid sitting at the dinner table and refusing to eat my peas (I hated peas—still do).

My dad said, “Lauren, there are starving kids in Ethiopia.”

“Let me go get an envelope,” I said.

If there were starving kids in Ethiopia they could have my peas as far as I was concerned.

Little Lauren

Little Lauren didn’t love peas, but loved big white bonnets and fancy dresses!

My parents made it a point to tell us we were lucky. We were lucky to be born in the United States and to have enough food on our table. Things they didn’t tell us that were also true: we were lucky to be born white and well-off, especially living in the South. My parents always said they weren’t rich, but we had plenty. I didn’t know what it was like to go without. We had name-brand foods, and when we wanted Guess jeans and swatches to fit into our new private school scene, my mom could go out and buy them for us. Privilege.

We were lucky, because we didn’t have to go all the way to Ethiopia to be hungry or poor. One could simply look in West Montgomery to see the generational poor that lived there. Children born of poor parents, being raised poor. Children who were made to feel bad, and still are, for depending on food stamps. Children whose parents worked two jobs just to put food on the table. Children whose parents were addicts. Children whose parents wanted to give them the world, just like my parents did, but couldn’t afford to do so. All of those things, I was lucky enough to be born without.

Some people don’t believe in luck. They believe in predestination. I’m guessing they think God thought they were special and made them the child of someone rich, while the people born into poverty were destined because of some sin? I’m not sure how that works exactly, because I’m Episcopal and don’t believe in predestination. Was I predestined to be the daughter of a doctor? What makes me more special than the child born to a family who can barely scrap it together?

I’ve never understood people who look down on the poor. People who say, “Oh, they should get a job.” I want to ask them, “Have you ever been in their shoes?” Do you know what it’s like to have to choose whether to buy your child new shoes or to eat tonight? Do you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids, “Hey, I’m sorry but we don’t have enough food to have dinner tonight? We don’t have enough money to buy your Type 1 Diabetes medicine. I can’t send you on that field trip, because it costs $20, and I don’t have that.” I don’t know what that’s like, because I was born lucky.

My kids have had much the same experience as I did growing up. I don’t have as much as my parents, but we are well-off. Teach compassion. Have your children volunteer in a food bank. Show them that poor people are people too, with hopes and dreams just like them. Understand that being born poor does not make someone less of a human. It makes them a victim of their circumstance. In this country, being born poor really does dictate whether or not you’ll end up being poor. Talk about the American Dream—it barely exists. Talk about the luck of the draw influencing outcome in life. I basically hit the jackpot. My kids did too. We won the lottery of birth.

So next time you think poor people are scamming the system, maybe you should take a step back and look at where those thoughts are coming from. Because chances are, your bias as someone born lucky is affecting your compassion for those who weren’t born as lucky as you.

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Education Smeducation

Last night was one of those nights where you cringe as a parent. Son Number One had a soccer game at 6:30 which meant we wouldn’t be coming home until 7:30ish. All the kids did their homework before I came home so we had dinner, and then we went to the soccer game.

Son Number Two had to work on a catapult, study for spelling and math, and then study for two other tests. Did I mention he’s in third grade? Before we left for the soccer game, he lamented about school. “I’m just a kid. I have too much homework tonight. And I have to study so much.” He cried, real tears people. And it made me wonder: what the fork are we doing to our kids (thank you Kristen Bell from The Good Place, that’s now my favorite non-cuss word)?

I sympathize with Son Number Two as we wrapped up our catapult and crammed spelling words in and finally sat down to read at 8:30 PM last night. School isn’t fun anymore. It’s standards and tests. And funding. And it’s not about educating the kids anymore. It’s about schools meeting numbers and making test scores. It’s about politics that hurt kids, drive continued segregation in our schools, and take funding away from the schools that need it most. Our children are learning how to take tests. They’re not learning how to think creatively and socialize and get along with peers anymore. Perhaps they get some of that in Maker’s Labs or STEM classes if they go to a school like Son Number Two’s where they’re lucky enough to have it. Heck, my twelve year old art-loving child doesn’t even have an art class at his school. But perhaps the real travesty is there isn’t enough time for play. For kids to be kids. Not only at school, but also at home.

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Most of our children don’t even have recess, or they go outside for 20 minutes a day tops. Children need a mental break to be able to keep working. When was the last time you sat at your desk for an hour? Even adults need mental breaks. At work, we socialize. We get up and walk around when we need to retrain our brain. These breaks allow us to refocus when we sit down to do our work again. Can’t we give our children the same benefit?

When I was a kid in the 1980’s, we played all the time. I went to Dannelly Elementary. I remember spending time outside on the baseball field playing games, and hanging upside down from the monkey bars for what seemed like hours on the playground. On rainy days playing four-square or jumped rope in the trailer (I’m from the South People–double-wides have a lot of uses). Somehow, teachers knew appropriate development included plenty of play and movement. I’m sure we had homework, but I don’t remember feeling stressed when I was seven years old or nine years old. I remember having plenty of time to come home, ride my bike, play in my backyard, to be a kid.

My education in the ‘80s wasn’t perfect. I don’t think I learned fractions until I was 18. I somehow missed that coming along. I had a huge gap of knowledge, but there didn’t seem to be anyone to point out to my parents that I struggled with math. I also had low self esteem, because I was bullied for having alopecia. These were things I mostly kept to myself as I have never been one to rock the boat. Perhaps, I should have learned long ago that rocking the boat sometimes leads to beneficial change. But, I did develop social skills that benefit me in life.

Look at successful people: most of them have wonderful social skills. If we don’t value play and socializing in our school system, our children will not learn how to work together. They won’t learn the right way to socialize and get along with others.

I’m sad my kids are stressed. I’m sad they’re growing up not loving school. Yes, I think it’s normal for middle-schoolers and even high-schoolers not to like school. But elementary? It should be fun. It shouldn’t make a nine year old cry on a Monday night because he’s stressed out. That’s good for no one. I’m not sure what the solution is, but what’s going on in our system right now is not working. And something has to change.

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Living With Harmony

Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.

Living With Harmony (1,025 words)

Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.

At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.

Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.

Their relationship grew and eventually they married.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He’s a fixer.”

“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.

“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.

But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.

Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life.  And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.

On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”

“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.

Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.

“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.

“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”

Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.

The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.

“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.

“Working on a tough project?”

“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”

Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.

“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”

He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.

“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”

“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.

“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”

“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.

That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”

As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.

The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.

“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”

“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”

“Well have you looked at it?”

“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”

“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”

“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”

With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.

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Another Time, Another Place?

For a long time I felt like I had been born in the wrong time period. When I was a kid, I had imaginary friends named Jonathan and Thomas. They were my brothers who time-traveled to me from the Civil War era. I knew where our house was: under a large mountain, a log cabin, where I lived with my brothers and my mom while my dad was away fighting. I kid you not.

I played with Jonathan and Thomas next to the blue hydrangea bush in my backyard on scorching hot summer days. I felt like they were real, maybe even ghosts, but probably they were just the result of my already overactive imagination. I loved anything Civil War when I was a kid. I had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. I used to dream I was married to him, because after all I’d be a better spouse than Mary Todd. Then I told people, I thought I had been Abraham Lincoln in a previous life. I read anything about Lincoln I could get my hands on. My favorite poem, read on the lap of my dad, was O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my writing would sell if I had been born in a different time period. Like, what if I had been a contemporary of Jonathan and Thomas instead of just their sister who lived in the rocking 1980’s future with big hair, jams, and all! Maybe I’d be a famous 1860’s writer, writing about the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. Because right now it’s damn hard to get published.

Here is a list of what it takes to get published in the year 2017:

  • Living in New York – I read once where an agent said New York City is the only place to live if you want to be a serious writer — No thank you.
  • Devoting every dollar you ever make to marketing your book and then some
  • Not having a working wage
  • Somehow acquiring an agent even though you have no writing contacts – it’s all in who you know, people, and I know noone
  • A finished and polished manuscript
  • Your first born child
  • Your tortured soul for all of eternity

No, but seriously, it’s hard to get published. I used to dream I was one of the Bronte sisters. Or Jane Austen. Some of my favorite authors are long dead. Katherine Mansfield—totally awesome. George Eliot—God, if only something like Middlemarch would sell these days. I’m in the wrong field. You know how some people say God is dead, well I think literary fiction is dead. Or at least I have no fucking clue how to market it to an agent and get it sold. Maybe I should start writing young adult vampire books. Or cat books.* There seems to be a great market for those.

Jane_Austen

Jane Austen

So I made a list of pros and cons for living and writing in the 1700s or 1800s.

Pros

  • Not much competition – a lot of people did not know how to read or write. Basic literacy could make you a success!
  • A lot of time – with no electronics there was a lot of spare time if you weren’t birthing babies.
  • There wasn’t technology to aid in procrastinating or distracting you.
  • Love has it all – romance sells, people! Who doesn’t want to hear about someone looking for the love of their life.
  • Epic novels with seemingly no plot, romance thrown in, a little bit about how the fields were doing, and what dresses people were wearing were all the rage.
  • Tragedy was an everyday part of life so people liked to read about it, and we know I love to write about tragedy and darkness!

I would have fit in, people, if it weren’t for the cons…

Cons

  • It’s hard to get published unless you pretend you’re a man – take George Eliot. I mean, I thought she was a man until one of my high school English teachers set me straight.
  • You’re probably going to die young of tuberculosis or some equally horrible disease.**
    • Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1923
    • Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817
    • Charlotte and Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1855 and December 19, 1848 respectivefully.
    • Virginia Woolf committed suicide — authors still do this in amazing abundance, because a large majority of them are tortured souls – do you know that?
    • George Eliot lived to the ripe age of 60 and succumbed to kidney disease.
  • There wasn’t technology to help you research.
  • Word-processing didn’t exist. Talk about hand cramps. And if you had dysgraphia, forget it! You’d never become a published writer.
  • Bad eyes – writing by candle light and reading all those books in the dark. Atrocious. I already have bad eyes, I’d probably be blind by now if I lived back then.
  • Men – they cramped women’s style by not wanting them to do anything but care for the kids that they were continually popping out. Plus they had an advantage by just being born with a penis. Heck, they still have that advantage today, but it’s gotten a little bit better. At least I don’t have to pretend to be a man to get published.

So maybe being born back in the good ole days wouldn’t be so great. I guess I’ll keep trucking along. As long as I have one reader then I qualify as a writer. Because to me, the most important thing is my audience.

Do you think you were born at the wrong time?

*I love young adult books, vampire books, and even books that feature cats as main characters. Cats are awesome, solitary, independent creatures. 

**All information was found on Google & Wikipedia. 

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Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Today’s story is another flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog over at TerribleMinds. The assignment was to write Good vs. Evil in whatever genre we chose. I chose Southern Fiction. I had a hard time coming up with an idea for this, as I don’t believe in purely good and evil. Walking the dogs today, I thought about this character Henny who I had been thinking of writing, and the story came to me. Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought! Thanks!

Pride Cometh Before the Fall (795 words)

Henny bent down to pick up the pecans that had fallen from the trees. She loved pecans, hard on the outside but soft on the inside, just like Papa. Papa’s hands had calluses and his face felt like leather, but he had a soft kind spirit that made Henny prideful.

Mama always said, “Pride cometh before the fall.”

Henny knew it was a Bible verse but whenever she thought of that phrase she thought of Mama’s hard, grim face and puckered lips.

The bag of pecans rustled against the tire of her bike as she pushed it through Mr. William’s pecan grove. She almost had enough.  When Mama baked pies with Henny some of her worn-outness disappeared. Sometimes Mama would soften like the dough, laughing and smiling as they kneaded it, creating something out of nothing.

“Henny, you run out now and get some pecans from over at Williams’ place so we can have a sweet pecan pie tonight. Shoo—go along now,” Mama said.

Henny knew she had been sent away because it was her little brother’s nap time. Mama said Henny could make more noise than a heap of Indians. Henny couldn’t sit still either—that’s what her teachers said. She had an abundance of energy she somehow could not deplete. Papa liked to tease her and would say, “Henny, it’s a wonder your battery ain’t never run out.”

Henny heard a rustle on the far side of the pecan grove. She rolled her bike through mountains of nuts stepping gingerly to avoid crunching any pecans underneath her feet. What she saw made her eyes grow big. The Klan—just about six or seven of ‘em. Her heartbeat sped up making her feel light headed. She put the kickstand down, and hid behind a big pecan tree.

Two men with white pointed hats held a black man by the arms.

“Don’t do it,” the black man screamed. “I din’t do it. I promise. Lemme go. I got a family.”

The Klansman leaned close to the black man and whispered in his ear. The black man looked like he peed himself. Henny stood still with fear. Another man came from the distance carrying a length of rope. They all looked like little toy soldiers. Dressed all in white there was no way to tell who was who. The black man wept. His eyes were red with tears.

He prayed out loud, “Dear God, please save me.”

Henny repeated his prayer. “Dear God, please save him.”

The men switched places, and the tallest Klansman made a loop in the rope. He cut a piece of it with a knife and tied the black man’s arms behind his back. The black man began to shuffle, hysterically trying to get away. The tallest Klansman dropped the knife but kept a strong grip on the rope. He pushed it over the black man’s head and tightened the loop. By this time one of the other Klansmen had climbed the tree. They hoisted the black man up and tied him there. The Klansman in the tree jumped down. There was noise in the distance, like a gunshot. The Klansmen looked around, but Henny couldn’t see their eyes. All seven of them stormed off into one direction, probably looking for the source of the distraction.

Henny’s eyes filled with tears. The black man was not dead. He hung there, struggling for breath. His hands remained tied behind his back. He gasped for air, the rope slowly digging into his neck, and turning his face as red as a tomato. His whole body swung with the effort to escape.

Henny made sure the white-robed men were gone. She tiptoed out from behind the tree.

She grabbed the knife the tallest Klansman had forgotten on the ground. It felt familiar in her palm, but she had no time to think about it. She shimmied up the tree as fast as she could. The black man’s eyes finding hers as he struggled to breathe against the tightness of the rope. She started sawing into the rope as fast as she could. Harder and harder until clunk, the black man was on the ground.

He coughed, grabbing at his neck. Henny looked down from above. She could see a red ring around his neck. She wanted to throw-up.

“Thank you, little girl. Thank you.” The hoarseness of his words made him hard to understand.

“You better run,” Henny said.

He nodded, rubbing his neck, and took off.

Henny climbed back down the tree turned the knife over and saw the inscription.

“To Papa. Happy Birthday. Love Henny.”

She sunk down to the ground and began to cry. The wind rustled in the trees as pecans fell to the ground like bullets. Fall was coming.

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Failing At Life

Last year, Hubs and I went on a vacation to Mexico. We try to do vacations on our own at least once a year. I’m a travel fiend, and I also think it’s good for a marriage to have time to reconnect with each other without children being present.

We drove to a Cenote one day to rappel into (scariest but most amazing day of my life), and on the way back to the resort we drove through some small Mexican villages.

Descending into the Cenote

Our tour guide said, “I know you look at this and see poverty. I know you look at this and feel sorry for these people. Please don’t. This is the way they live. They have a simple way of life, and they are happy. They have everything they need: food, shelter, water, and love.” In essence, those people who look to us like they have nothing actually have their priorities straight.

We have gotten a lot of things wrong in the United States over the last few decades. We have also gotten a lot of things right. I love our country but sometimes I think we tend to focus on the unimportant things. To feel fulfilled and nurtured, we need social connection.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been failing at life. But, honestly, I think it’s our way of life that is failing me. It’s not meeting my needs. It’s making me feel far away from people. It’s literally making me lonely. I think we all need to step back and take a good, hard look at our lives and realize what’s really important in the end: love and family. Because we shouldn’t only feel connected to one another on vacation.

iPhones were invented as a way to help people connect socially, but they achieved the exact opposite. Now, we use our iPhones to shut one another out. How many people do you see every day walking around staring at a screen instead of what’s around them? I do this too. I come home from work every day, and my children are glued to their screens. We make them put them down for dinner, and lately, only because I needed and wanted a change in our family dynamic I’ve been doing other things with them at night to show them my love. Children thrive off of attention. When they don’t get it, they turn to electronics thinking it will feed their deep biological need for love and nurturing BUT IT DOESN’T!  Our families feel further apart than ever as we partake in technology, loving our electronics more than the living breathing people who should feel like they are the most important part of our lives.

And schedules. Work has become the driving force of America. That’s what happens in a capitalist economy where everything revolves around how many THINGS one person can buy. No thing will make you happy. People, with their cellphones, can now be reached 24 hours a day. They don’t know how to put their work away and truly relax. They are always available. This creates needless stress to them and to their families. Because while they might be available to work they are not emotionally available at home. It’s very hard to maintain a true presence while having one foot in the work-world and one foot in the domestic-world. Neither gets your full attention. Mistakes are made at work, and at home families suffer from lack of enough quality time with one another.

Parents, including me, over-schedule their kids and run ourselves ragged trying to get them everywhere, even as they juggle a job and their own social life.

Yesterday, I took Darling Daughter to OT at 2 PM (feeling bad I was missing work–trapped between two worlds that demand so much of me), came home for about an hour, did homework with the kids, took Son Number One to tutoring, and then met Hubby at the soccer field to pick up Son Number Two and Darling Daughter so we could eat and see a friend play. I didn’t get home until 9 PM, and by that time I was so riled up that I’d made myself angry. I shouted at my Hubby because I over-scheduled my day and felt worn ragged.

I wonder what kind of effect our always-on-the-go-no-down-time lifestyle is having on our kids. There’s no time to sit and reflect on life. Kids are bored without electronics. They need to be constantly entertained and so many of them don’t know how to have a real-life conversation unless they’re doing it through FaceTime. It’s no wonder people feel isolated and alone. It’s no wonder mental illness is on the rise.

We can learn something from that small Mexican village. What’s most important in life is meeting basic needs and LOVE. We are social creatures, and we thrive off of interaction with each other. Babies have failure to thrive if they are not treated with love, touched, hugged, and cared for. Why is it so hard for us to understand this lesson and bring it into our Western way of life?

Lauren and Hubs Ek Balam

Hubs and me at Ek Balam

When was the last time you stopped and enjoyed the little things? When was the last time you looked up from your phone to experience a moment of awe (the sun rising, the moon glowing, the waves crashing on the beach?)? When was the last time you sat down with your family, put away all the electronics, and really enjoyed one another? 

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