Two Posts in One Day? Who is this Alien?

To keep the blog or not to keep the blog? That is my question. I don’t maintain it as much as I probably should. It would definitely work better for me if I updated with more frequency, but I’m stumped by the common dilemma, “What do I blog about?” Though I’m a writer, I’m not an expert in the craft. I’ve spent many hours learning about it and continue to do so, but I wouldn’t tell you how to do it.

The trend I’ve been noticing with authors is that they have been using their Facebook pages as their blog. This seems to work out well for them and I think that has a lot of merit. The things I’ve chosen to write about on this blog have been things that are important to me and that my characters would find important, which will make more sense to you when you meet them.

I am constantly thinking about what to write about, but not all that inspired to do it. My sister recommended a Tumbler account since it’s slightly longer than a tweet and I do tweet with frequency.

I suppose it remains to be seen. Navigating the vast borg of social media and figuring what works best for you takes time, so we’ll see where I land.

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The Weekend House

Growing up, I just knew when I became an adult I’d have a weekend house. I thought this was the norm because my grandparents had a lake house in the town where we lived. It never occurred to me that my parents didn’t have a weekend house somewhere. I just assumed the lake house was everyone’s. My grandparents lived just outside New York City and had bought a cabin “in the country” in Northern New Jersey. I have great memories of that house growing up. Each year one of my cousins, whose father was in the Air Force, would come spend the summer. On weekends, all the other cousins that lived in the area would gather at the lake house for a weekend of fun and frivolity. Every Saturday night, our grandfather would take us down to the lake to go fishing; not that much fishing was actually done the crate of grandkids in tow, but the attempt was made and appreciated by his adoring minions.

After my grandmother died, my grandfather didn’t go up there anymore. Various other family members would go, but it wasn’t the same. It came time for my grandfather to sell the house right around the time I was getting married and the house was offered to me. My grandfather was willing to just deed it over to me, but instead of causing a total uproar within the family, my father came up with a fair price (much lower than market value, but enough for my grandfather’s needs) and my husband and I became the new owners, furniture and all. I decided on what I wanted to keep and let my family members plunder the rest. Unfortunately, the house was built as a summer house and in order to live in it year round, it needed quite a few renovations. So we gutted it and it became a cozy country home. Of course, the time came when we wanted to have a baby and the house was too small and it finally got sold to a stranger.

I never let go of the dream of the weekend place. My husband and I have always had decent jobs with decent salaries. When we decided to move from New Jersey to Virginia, we were able to maintain northern salaries on southern cost of living. This enabled us to pay off debt and create a very nice savings. Just last week, we took that nest egg and made a nice down-payment on a condo in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where we like to go to get away from the urban sprawl of Richmond where we live. Advantageous for me is the fact that the condo comes turnkey ready, once again, with furniture, appliances, utensils, pillows, even a vacuum.

This weekend is the condo’s maiden voyage. It’s not a cabin at a lake, but it’s on top of a mountain at a ski resort and there is a lake. It’s a different feel, but different is okay. Friends and family are lining up to stay. The cabin slept 12, but the condo only sleeps 4. My son’s childhood memories will have a different feel than the lake – instead of fishing and swimming, he’ll mostly be snowboarding and tubing, but with any luck, he’ll have his own fond memories of the weekend house.

Purgatory

Alicia Walker sat down on the black-cushioned bench and clutched her purse to her breast. She knew she would be spending the better part of her day sitting right in this spot, but unfortunately, it couldn’t be helped. Like most of working America, she had to run her errands in the evenings and weekends. If this little incident had happened during the summer, she could take care of going to the mobile phone store during the day when they were slow.  She looked down at the ticket in her hand, number 76 looked back at her. With a sigh, she looked over to the red digital counter on the wall, number 36 laughed back. When, oh when, had America become so dependent on their cell phones? If hers hadn’t fallen in the toilet, again, she could be home on this beautiful Saturday morning enjoying some peace and quiet.

The bright fluorescent lights cast a sterile mood on the store. White walls, free-standing, wrought-iron racks full of the latest and greatest technology. Everything was streamlined and one color. All the benches were black leather; the counter, a screaming red. Nothing fancy. Nothing particularly aesthetically pleasing. Nothing to keep your gaze from all the electronics lining the walls. You had nothing but product to look at.

All the employees wore the same golf shirts and khaki pants. The only thing distinguishing them from their co-workers were their name tags. No fancy hair styles, jewelry, or overdone makeup. The focus of the store was the product.

Alicia cringed as she looked around at the other patrons of the store. They all looked resigned to the same fate of waiting in purgatory. The mobile phone store was probably the only place in America with a longer waiting line than the doctor’s office.

“Damn, number 76, huh? I’m stuck up at 80.”  Alicia looked up to see a handsome gentleman smiling down at her.  His sun-kissed blonde hair and green eyes, gave him a disarming appearance.  There were laugh lines around his eyes and when he smiled, she could see it reflected in his eyes. A genuine smile, not something polite that you gave the person you had to sit next to for the next indeterminable amount of time.

He gestured to the spot next to her. “Is this seat taken?”

Alicia slid down the bench to make room. “Go right ahead.”

She knew what he’d see when he looked at her. Brown hair, brown eyes, no outstanding facial features; nothing that would make her memorable after their time here was up. Nothing that would interest a man that looked like he did. Just the same plain old Alicia that ultimately turned off all her previous boyfriends. She had never been a flashy girl; never had any work done. She was who she was, but lately, it hadn’t seemed good enough for the male species.

“I hate Saturdays at the mobile phone store,” the man said. “I’m Adam.”

“Alicia.”

“Too bad they don’t go alphabetically, huh?”

“Yeah,” Alicia laughed. “It’s too bad.”

“I wish I could come during the day, but I’m a lawyer. You?”

“High school math teacher.”

“Ah.” Adam reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a deck of cards, holding it up to her. “Mind if I do something with my hands for a little while? Downtime makes a guy in my job nervous.”

Alicia shook her head and looked up at the digital counter. They were only on number 38. Adam began to cut the deck, shuffle the cards, cut the deck, shuffle the cards again. She supposed it was better than a nervous twitch or leg bouncing that would have shook the whole bench and quite possibly have made her motion sick.

“Are you going to do card tricks?” Alicia asked. That might not be such a bad way to pass the time. Since her phone was water logged, she couldn’t partake in America’s new favorite past time of staring at her phone and hoping to hell she didn’t have to make conversation. She’d even forgotten her book in her car.

“Not any good at them. My job is smoke and mirrors, but damned if I’ve got the sleight of hand for an easy trick like find your card. I was going to play some Solitaire.” He turned and straddled the bench they were on. “Unless you play poker? You probably don’t play poker. You don’t look like the type.”

“Oh, and why is that,” she asked. “What type do I look like?”

Typically speaking, Alicia wasn’t a go-getter when it came to men and dating. She just didn’t have the confidence in herself. She was a math teacher, for crying out loud. Who found math interesting but other math teachers and accountants? She found it intriguing, but it certainly wasn’t as exciting and sexy like the law.

“A nice, wholesome, All-American girl.” Yes, that was exactly what she thought he’d see. He looked down at his cards splayed out before him.

“Oh, and so are teachers too square for poker? Is that it?”

Adam looked up and smirked. “They don’t often pop up in the dark rooms I play in.”

“Those rooms must be reserved for shifty, smarmy lawyers.”

“Ouch, touché.” He cleaned up the cards and began to shuffle and cut the deck. “Texas Hold ‘em?”

“Five-card stud,” Alicia shot back and raised her chin in defiance. After all, it was the game she was good at. Even her brothers didn’t want to play against her anymore. Dressed down in jeans herself, she turned and straddled the bench herself, putting her purse down at her foot in easy sight.

“Chicken,” Adam mocked.

“If I win, I get to wipe that smug smile right off your face, lawyer.” She could afford to be snarky with him, since there was no way a man like him would be interested in a woman like her; one that blended in with the scenery, according to the last man she’d gone on all of two dates with.

“Deal. Just as long as you’re not going to make me do some ridiculous new math any show my work.” They shook on it.  “And if I win, you go to dinner with me tonight.”

That wasn’t something she expected. She thought it was awfully forward, but she’d been out of the dating pool so long that maybe it was exactly the way things went nowadays. The last date she went on was with a fellow colleague and they’d spent the entire dinner talking shop. As a matter of fact, Alicia couldn’t remember the last time she’d dated anyone outside her profession. Is that what she was destined for in her romantic life? A terminable sentence of never being seen for what you were outside your classroom? Was Adam ever seen for what he was outside the courtroom? What was he outside the courtroom? She found herself wanting to know. Maybe this smart-mouthed, cocky lawyer was exactly what she needed to shake her life up a bit.

Alicia raised an eyebrow. “You’re awfully bold. How do you know I’m not married?”

“I suppose I don’t,” Adam said. “But I don’t see a wedding ring, so my superior powers of deduction led me to believe that you’re most likely not married.”

Damn. He had her there. She thought he might be a good lawyer. He picked up on details. She didn’t even think to look at his hand for a wedding band, which incidentally he did not have. She imagined he had already formed a rudimentary opinion on everyone in the store already.

“Lucky guess,” Alicia said.

“I’m a lawyer and a poker player; I can read people pretty well.” He began to deal the cards. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Then dinner shouldn’t be a problem, should it?”

“Why would a lawyer want to be seen out in public with a wholesome, All-American teacher?”
“Maybe I’m trying to soften my image.” He shuffled the cards again and began to deal.

Alicia blushed a bit when he looked up at her through his lashes and grinned, though that did make more sense to her.

“I didn’t ask if you were married.” She picked up her cards, doing her best not to react at what she was given.

Adam finished dealing the cards, placed his hands on his jeans-clad thighs and looked up at her.  “I’m not, nor am I seeing anyone at the moment.”

“What a surprise!”

“You really aren’t as nice as you look, are you?”

Alicia chuckled as she studied her cards.  Two eights; a possible full house, trip eights or four of a kind. Things were looking pretty bad for the lawyer’s dinner plans. She was a little disappointed by this. Alicia looked up at Adam as he calculated his strategy, watching his body language. Damn, he had no tells. His face was serious. No twitches, no tics, no reaction of any kind. She thought he might be a killer in the courtroom.

“Are you a litigator?” Alicia asked as she motioned for the second round of cards.

“I am.  Why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” she shrugged as she peaked at her next card; it was a five. Alicia glanced up at the digital clock on the wall as Adam looked at his new card.  They were on number 42. She looked at Adam and considered his appearance. Faded, frayed jeans, a NASCAR t-shirt and flip flops; not at all the weekend attire she imagined on a successful lawyer. But then again, hadn’t she just gotten annoyed that he assumed she was some kind of square, boring girl based on how she looked? Which, incidentally, was exactly what she was?

“How come you’re not dressed like a lawyer?” She asked.

“Are we supposed to run around on our day off in a three-piece suit?” Adam smirked, glancing back up at her.

“I guess not.”

“I’m not a rich lawyer, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m an assistant prosecutor. You and I probably have similar salaries.”

Alicia doubted that.

“Need to fold now?” he asked. Alicia wondered if that was a loaded question. Did he think that maybe she wouldn’t be interested if she didn’t think he made a lot of money? One minute she was a prude; the next, she was a gold digger? All her brothers were blue collar workers. She knew what it was like to work hard. She was a teacher, for crying out loud. She worked days, nights, weekends, holidays, tutored over the summer. Money wasn’t everything in life, at least to her.

“Of course not,” Alicia replied tersely. Were they talking about poker anymore? Adam dealt the next card face up; another five. Again, Alicia studied him for tells and, once again, didn’t find any.  He was a frustrating adversary. She could always spot the tells of her five older brothers.  Maybe that was because she knew them so well. If she got to know Adam better, would she find his tells? Would her brothers even approve of a guy like Adam?

“All right. Last round. Ready?” Adam smiled and Alicia nodded, not noticing the fact that she was now chewing her lip. Suddenly, she wasn’t too sure she wanted to win, but the next card was another five.

“Ha!” Alicia said revealing her cards that were turned over. “A full house!”

“Not so fast,” Adam laughed. His cards revealed four of a kind.

“You’re kidding me!” Alicia groaned. “Did you palm one?”

“Nope. I just play with cold, hard skill, just like the courtroom.” He gave her a quick and obvious once over. “And other places.”

“Ugh!” Alicia said with an eye roll. “You’re that type of guy.”

“I’m a guy; we’re all like this. Do you like seafood?”

“Yes,” she said with exaggerated annoyance that she definitely did not feel.

Adam took out a business card and asked for her address. When she gave it to him, he told her he’d pick her up at seven.

They looked up at the digital clock; number 47 glowed back.

Adam looked back at Alicia and smiled.  He picked up the cards, shuffled, cut, shuffled, cut. “Now do you want to try Texas Hold ‘Em?”

Running

I started running about this time last year. My son decided he wanted to run in his elementary school’s 5k fundraiser. Up until this time, I had never really run before. Not since high school anyway, and quite frankly, I took the C in gym so I didn’t have to run. It was a fair trade off in my opinion.

So when my kiddo first brought this up, after my husband and I got over our shock that he wanted to do anything that resembled actual exercise, I said, “Great! Daddy’s run marathons. He’d love to run it with you. Right, dear?” My husband’s response wasn’t what I was hoping for. He told me that he had signed on to marshal the course and couldn’t run with our son. My little manipulator – I mean, child – looked up at me with the puppy dog eyes and I found myself agreeing to run a 5k.

Me. Who doesn’t like to be uncomfortable. Me.

I downloaded the Couch to 5k app, which was extremely helpful, dumped a ton of money on shoes for both of us and hoped for the best – or at least, a finish. My son was then plagued all month by injuries. He got bit by a spider, which swelled his ankle and he couldn’t run. When he recovered from that, he sprained his ankle and couldn’t run. So he had very little training. I kept going.

Despite my son’s lack of training, we still “ran” the race. I had lovely visions of crossing the finish line together with my boy and celebrating our accomplishment. In hindsight, I should have shared this vision with said boy as about 50 yards before the finish line, he and his friend decided to sprint it out using a higher octane fuel than I had left in the tank and smoked me. Kodak moment shattered.

But I continued to run. My sister-in-law asked me if I wanted to run a 10-miler with her in October. Because she must have gotten me while I was I don’t know, drunk or asleep, I apparently agreed. Why? I don’t know because I don’t like running.

That’s right. I don’t like running, and yet, I said I’d run a 10-miler. While training for it, my husband said, “If you can run 10 miles, you can run 13.” The Richmond half marathon and marathon were a mere four weeks after the 10-miler. So I signed up.

Why? I don’t know because I don’t like running.

But I trained for these races. I brought our Siberian Husky with me, who loved running – correction. I run. She trots jovially along next to me and hardly works at all because I shuffle along at a 14 minute miler. But she gives me what I need: frequent stops. My fluffy little friend stops often to go to the bathroom and gives me just enough time to catch my breath and stretch my muscles a bit.

Friends look at me like I’m crazy because this most definitely messes up my time. But I don’t run for time. I don’t even run to clear my head like so many others claim running does for them. And I certainly don’t run because I enjoy it. Because I don’t.

I run because I can’t deny that it makes me feel great inside. I breathe easier and that’s valuable to me, as it should be to everyone. I can’t deny that it’s an effective form of exercise.

I finished the 10-miler in 2 hours, 7 minutes and the half in 3 hours, 8 minutes. What did I learn?

I’m a 10k girl. My ankles were in so much pain after both those races that it was days before I could put weight on them and not bite my lip in agony. Because of this little side effect, I took the winter off.

That’s right. I took the winter off from running. I sure did. I don’t like running.  So why on earth would I do it in the cold? I got the insurance on the half because what if it rained? If I don’t like running, why would I do it in the cold and rain? I was fully prepared to have trained all that time and then not run the actual race at the risk of being even more uncomfortable than running already made me. Treadmills make my ankles hurt, so I took the winter off.

But now it’s that time of year again and I’m registered for a 10k at the end of March, so it’s time to get back out there.

Only it snowed last week and my trails are covered. So I’m starting a little later than planned.

The Writing Chair

I follow one of my favorite authors on Facebook, who is currently driving from New York City to Florida to pick up her favorite writing chair for her new apartment in New York. Some of her followers questioned the importance of said chair. Couldn’t she just buy another one, or find one that was similar to it, or maybe find one that was, dare they say, better than this one specific chair?

I thought, “Clearly, they are not writers.” Okay. That sounded kind of elitest. Clearly, they did not partake in an activity that required a lot of sitting, or time pondering thoughts for long lengths of time. Because when I read of this writer’s quest, my first thought was, “Hell, yeah, I’ll drive from New York City to Florida to get my favorite chair!” I don’t know the circumstances of why this chair was in Florida and not in New York already, but I can say with confidence, that my chair would follow me for sure!

Now, my chair is no great shakes to some. Here it is:

 Image

It’s thirteen years old. Over the years, it’s been positioned in different rooms and different windows, so it’s discolored. Two Siberian Huskies have likewise tried to make it their own, so there are some stains that just won’t come out. Occasionally, it smells and then I have to shampoo it. Other than the discoloration, the upholstery held up pretty well. There are no holes in the chair and pillows are still decently stuffed. I’ve considered reupholstering it, but that’s kind of pricey. I’ve tried slipcovers, but I can never find one that fits right.

But I will never get rid of it because it is the most comfortable piece of furniture I have ever encountered in my entire life.

When it comes down to it, that chair has seen me through many years and many things. When I was pregnant with my son, I lived in it. It was perfect to lean against one side and elevate my feet on the other. It holds me when I’m sick, along with any animal that has come to keep me company. My son now parks his butt there when he’s sick. It’s seen me through late hours of school work, movie watching and writing. I can be in this chair hours and hours and hours, days, entire weekends, and never have to shift positions. I am always comfortable. My son and I will read there together and we both fit just fine. It’s just a good chair.

So, it’s not the prettiest chair around. It’s showing its age. But it holds up and it’s still here, which is more than I can say for the accompanying couch we had with it. I made the quilt that is hanging over the back of it. Together, they both welcome me whenever I have the time to curl up with them. It’s my chair and my woobie. And I, too, would drive any distance to retrieve it!

On Being a Wino

Yeah, I’m a bit of a wino. I used to work in a small winery in New York State in the tasting room. Best. Job. Ever. It was a second job for me. I’m a work at home mom, and this provided me with the perfect outlet to get out of the house and be around adults and a have adult conversation. People who come to wineries aren’t there to talk about their kids, they’re there to talk about wine. They’re there to either talk knowledgably about it or learn about it.

I miss that job. I’d still have it today, but for the fact we relocated seven hours away for my husband’s job. Sure, there are wineries here in Virginia, and the people seem personable enough, but this one was home. These people were my people. That feeling of acceptance is hard to find.

This little winery takes itself just seriously enough. The winemaker is good at what he does. He’s not afraid to experiment. It’s a small, respectable operation. Their wines have won numerous awards in the region. It’s a very successful, part-time business. They could very easily make it their careers. They’ve got the equipment, the staff, the marketing, the location, the word of mouth, and the product to grow the business into something bigger. But they don’t want to do that. They love wine. So they don’t want their hobby to become a job, or something that might bring them extra stress. They want to keep it fun. That’s why I can’t bring myself to go work for another winery in my new home. I have the experience and know-how to be hired quick. I can talk the talk and walk the walk no doubt about it.

But I’m unconventional.

See, I know that whether you spend $7.99 or $799 on a bottle of wine, there’s no guarantee that when you open it up and taste it, you’re going to like it. If you spend $300 on a bottle of Chateau Pavie because, well, hey, it’s Chateau Pavie, and aren’t prepared to pour it down the drain when you open it up and hate it, then you should stick to drinking cocktails. Because the reality of wine is, you could love and hate both a cheap and expensive bottle of wine. It’s all about your palate, not what somebody tells you is good. That’s what they think is good. Or what they think they’re supposed to think is good.

There are so many bottles of wine out there that unless you’re sitting down with, like, Andrea Immer, nobody you’re drinking with is going to be able to tell the price of the wine you serve them by the taste. Nobody. I know this to be a fact. I’ve drank with lots of people and quite a few sommeliers in my day.

Having said all that, I buy what looks like I’ll like. It might be a $7 bottle, it might be a $20 bottle, it might be a $30 bottle. I usually don’t go above $30 and that’s usually only for a special occasion. I try to keep my stuff under $20. I also buy what I’m in the mood for. Currently, I’m on an Argentinian Malbec kick, can’t get enough of it, even if it’s in August.

I’m a terrible blogger

Hey look! A blog post from me! Don’t choke now. I know it’s pretty stunning.

I have a confession to make. 

I’m a terrible blogger.

I’m always thinking about blogging, and I’m always thinking about what I can blog about. But yet, here my blog sits unattended. Yes, I know all of the wonderful things blogging can bring me. And how hard is it really? It’s just a few words a couple of times a week. Apparently, it is hard for me! Months pass between posts. I’m a very bad girl.

But I’ve got an idea now! You may not know this about me, though I think I have posted it before, but I’m a Creative Writing – Fiction major. This term, I’m actually taking a writing class! I’m not taking some general requirement history, literature, science, technology stupid thing. No, it’s an actual writing class. So, I’m thinking maybe I’ll start posting some of the (very) short stories here that I’ve been writing in the class and maybe every now and then, something else as well. 

I’m not sure that my terrible blogger status will improve, quite frankly, as every minute of my day is claimed, but know this. I have the best of intentions! Yeah, yeah, I know. Where have good intentions ever gotten anyone?