Friday, October 30, 2009

A Horrible First Kiss

I was fourteen (almost fifteen) when I had my first real, and extremely bad, kiss.

My friend Abby* was spending the night and we had two of our guy friends over while my parents were out. There was music playing on the stereo, something totally pop and early ‘90s I’m sure. Abby and Randy were egging Allen on to dance with me, hold my hand, kiss me. Allen had recently become Abby’s ex-boyfriend and was Randy’s close friend. We all hung out together often.

Both Allen and Randy liked Abby and I liked both Allen and Randy, of course.

I can’t remember exactly how it went down, but in my memory Abby and Randy spent the entire evening trying to get Allen and me together. At one point, Allen and I were slow dancing to whatever was on the stereo, the two of us alone in the living room with the lights low. I draped my arms around his neck and he wrapped his arms around my waist, his hands on my lower back. A few inches taller than me, he bent his head down a bit so that our foreheads were pressed together as we swayed to the song. He said something that made me look up into his face, and when I did, he kissed me. Not a soft peck on the lips, but an open mouthed, almost violent kiss, his tongue stiff and thrusting in and out of my mouth like a lizard’s. I didn’t know what to do or how I was supposed to respond, so I closed my eyes and let him probe my mouth until he was finished. In the dark room, even with my eyes closed I couldn’t miss the flashes of a camera. We were caught on film for all the world to see. When we stopped kissing, we opened our eyes, smiled at each other and then yelled at Abby for taking our picture.

It didn’t take long before I discovered that Allen only kissed me because he thought it was what Abby wanted. He was trying to get back into her good graces so that she would date him again. I tried with all my might to make him like me the way he seemed to like her, but in the end, that kiss and the few that followed were gladly tossed into the recesses of my memory, replaced by much better kisses and, eventually, much more sincere boys.

*All names were changed to protect the innocent (and guilty).

This is my response to the prompt, First Kiss, at Creativity Corner, a new series of creativity prompts at Write Out Loud. If you'd like to join in, write your own response to the prompt and then head over to Write Out Loud and leave a link in the First Kiss comments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo: I'm Doing it Again

At this time two years ago I was considering taking the leap into the world of NaNoWriMo. Eventually I decided to jump in, and came out the other side frazzled, wondering where November went, but almost 40,000 words closer to my first novel. I'm still working on that story, but this year I again found myself thinking about diving into a month of writing wildly.

I don't have a new novel idea yet, but I'm considering giving it a go anyway. If I can't come up with a fiction plot in the next four days, I might do an unofficial version of NaNo and either dedicate the month to finishing my first NaNovel or to working toward 50,000 words of the memoir I've been playing at for the last three years. Whatever I decide to do, you can be sure I'll keep you posted on my progress here.

Are any of you considering or planning to participate in NaNoWriMo? Do you have a solid plot prepared or are you planning to wing it?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Appreciating Me

It's Day 1 of Week 3 in my Gratitude Journey. The Gratitude Challenge for this week is to be grateful for who I am. As someone who holds herself to the highest standards and rarely feels she's good enough, this week will certainly be an interesting exercise in letting some crap go.

Today I'm supposed to "appreciate and give thanks for [my] unique personality, skills and talents." In some ways that is an easy task. I know what I am good at and I know that I have positive characteristics, that I am unique and talented. At the risk of sounding conceited, I know I'm smart, kind, compassionate and a good writer, among other things. But just writing that stuff down immediately triggers a long list of qualifications: sort of smart, usually kind, generally compassionate, pretty good writer. I start thinking I'm not as good a writer or as smart as so-and-so. I wasn't very compassionate the other day. Those things I thought about that stranger weren't very kind.

It's easy and common to judge myself harshly. It is real work, a rare occurrence, to allow myself to be grateful for all the things I am without worrying about all the things I am not. I'm going to try, though. Today I am going to pay attention to the things I like about myself, the things I can be proud of, the things that make me who I am. I'll leave the judgment and self-deprecation for another day.

What qualities and characteristics make you who you are? What talents and skills can you claim and be proud of--without wishing you were better at or more of something?

If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses

I'm about half-way through Week 2 of my Gratitude Journey via The Gratitude Challenge, and this week's exercises have been focused on paying attention and staying positive--two things that most American's seem to have problems with. (And when I say most Americans I'm pointing directly at myself.)

While the exercises for the week weren't specifically written ones, I thought I'd take some time here to explore what I've been discovering as I practice being present and positive.

I'm really grateful to have all five of my senses.
A few nights ago I was making dinner and I really paid attention to how my senses heightened the experience. There were the sounds: the sizzle of oil and the crackle of onions as I tossed them in; the rhythmic sound of the knife slicing through the vegetables and then hitting the cutting board. The smells were rich and tempting: onions, apple and curry, all earthy and sweet. The feel of the strength in my hands and arms, their repetitive movement as I chopped, stirred and tossed reminded me of all the things I can do because my body is healthy and whole. As I spooned the mixture into a bowl, the slightly varying shades of beige and yellow, shads that would normally blend together and seem dull, were bright and vibrant. And the taste--oh, the taste--how something so simple could combine to make a satisfying and nourishing meal amazed me.

Walks can be meditative, if I let them. Today, I used my lunch break to walk to the post office. It's a gorgeous day here in Maryland and I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the sun. The breeze was the perfect contrast, cooling me before I got too hot. I could smell the blossoms of fall foliage and the decay of early fallen leaves. The sensation of my feet hitting the sidewalk in time to the song I hummed made me smile.

Choosing to be present helps me to be positive. By paying attention to each moment, I'm learning that just as the positive moments pass, so do the negative ones. I don't have to be bogged down by negative feelings or frustrated by less enjoyable moments. Instead, I can experience them and let them pass, knowing that a new moment is already on its way.

It seems this week has me looking at my life through rose-colored glasses. Things won't always be happy or perfect or exciting, but somewhere amidst whatever I'm experiencing I now know that I can find a glimmer of gratitude to keep me going.

What sense experiences make you grateful? How can being more aware of these experiences help you live in a more positive way? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Friday, October 02, 2009

In Recognition of My Internet Community

It's the beginning of Week 2 of my Gratitude Journey and today's Gratitude Challenge is to write 5 thank-you notes to people who deserve some recognition. While I'm not going to type out my notes here (I'm still not quite sure which people I'll be recognizing), I thought it might be a good time to write a thank-you note of sorts to my internet community.

The fact that I have been able to "meet" people that I truly connect with without ever seeing them face-to-face, or in most cases even talking to them, never fails to surprise me. And yet, there are at least a dozen wonderful human beings who have become important to me since I began reading blogs, and later, participating on Twitter. These people not only share their lives with me, but they talk to me about things we have in common, are willing to honestly and open-mindedly discuss the things we don't agree on, offer up amazing advice, and gladly accept and provide support whenever it's needed. They may not sit down across a table from me for coffee or chat with me everyday, but I'm proud to call them my internet friends.

I hope that one day I'll meet them all in person. Until then, we'll continue to "tweet" one another, read and comment on each other's blogs and exchange emails or phone calls. If I could have these people around the corner, I'd certainly choose that. But just having them at all is a blessing I'm truly grateful for.

What thing, person, place or moment makes you most grateful today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Picture of Gratitude

Yesterday's assignment for The Gratitude Challenge was to call someone I hadn't talked to in a while and tell that person how much I appreciated her. It didn't take long for me to decide who I would call and what I would say. I'll keep the details between me and her, but suffice it to say that when she didn't answer and I had to leave a message I was actually happy. Knowing that she would listen to my voice after a harried day trying to run a family and a business, I was almost giddy with joy. My voice and the appreciation I expressed would hopefully be a wonderful ending to a stressful day.

Since the assignment for yesterday didn't really involve writing anything down, I hadn't planned to blog about it at all, but then I saw today's assignment and realized the story was connected to what I've chosen to share today. It's a picture of two things that I'm truly grateful for: my cell phone and my computer.

Without these two objects that I generally take for granted, I would be disconnected from so many of my family and friends. That woman I called yesterday? We're lucky to see each other and talk in person twice a year. But with my cell phone and my computer we can get in touch with one another at a moment's notice. I can reach out to my friends in Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, California, or New York. I can hear my mother's voice every day if I want to. I can send my sister an encouraging email as soon as I hear she's feeling down.

Sure, without my cell phone and computer I'd still have paper and pens and envelopes and stamps, but I would have the tender voices of friends and family when I most need them. I wouldn't have their near-instant emailed (or Tweeted) responses to my questions and concerns. I'd be lost and lonely without those two pieces of technology...and I don't even want to imagine what that would feel like.

What thing, person, place or moment makes you most grateful today? If you'd like to take The Gratitude Challenge, you can start any time. Just visit the website and sign your own pledge. You can also read more about what I'm grateful for by following my Gratitude Journey.

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