Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember (Black shoes)

Weekly Writing Challenge

I was very young.  Young enough to be wearing a white plastic bib that curved upward at the bottom to catch stray bits of food.  My parents and I were seated at a small round table at breakfast in the dining room of our house in Rochester, Kent.  My Mum to my right and my Dad, opposite.  He was a Naval officer and wore shiny, black shoes.  The memory resurfaces in monotone, not sure why.  Our carpet had a seventies feel with wild swirly patterns and the wallpaper matched in its garishness.   I remember distinctly bending over to the right to peer under the table at my Dad’s shoes.  He polished them every night, you see.  Spit and polish he called it even though he always used proper Kiwi black shoe polish and brushes for the first go-round.  When he was satisfied with the quality of his work, he would pull from his polishing kit bag, a tan colored cloth with red edging.  It was the softest material and he’d wrap it around his index and middle fingers, spit on his shoes and polish once more.  He was not the most emotionally available father but he knew I was watching with veiled curiosity so when he was absolutely done, he would show me the last little bits of polish that the brush had not removed.

He was going to work that morning dressed in his black jumper with the gold stripes on the shoulders, a white shirt, black tie and black, perfectly ironed trousers.  My Mum and I were new to the country and I believe these were stay-at-home days for she and I.  My Dad was probably eating fried eggs, bacon and toast.  When I leaned over to check out his shoes, I think I smiled:  confirmation that I’d have my Mum alone to myself for the day instead of sharing her with a stranger.

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Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Daily Prompt: The Road Less Traveled

Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.

If I had not decided then and with full certainty that I would return to America, I would have continued to struggle in all areas of my life.  It was August 1998 and I was in a state of spiraling decline.  Debt collectors were calling, relationships were plenty and short-lived and my job was hanging by a thread (not through any fault of my own; it was a company-wide threat).  Too many times, I was brought to my knees on the living room floor, sobbing; wracked with fear, shame, sorrow, loneliness and confusion at the age of twenty-eight, feeling as though I had no-one to turn to.

If I had not changed my life path so radically, I would have been forced to search for another job in another office with another keyboard to tap at.  No doubt I would have stepped into another ill-advised romance with some man onto whom I thought I could pin my hopes and dreams.  My pay would have been far less than my previous job and so I would have had to foreclose on my lovely new flat and move to a bedsit.  My car was old and I would not have been able to afford to get it fixed (it needed a lot of work) nor would I have had the money to buy a new used one.  But, public transport in England is highly populated so taking buses would not have been a problem.  I had a lot of credit card debt so bankruptcy might have still been a viable option unless I could have found a way to pay them off gradually.  However I lacked discipline and clarity and would have taken the easy route without learning any sort of lesson at all.

I do not think I would have been content.  And likely would not have quit smoking even though I certainly couldn’t afford it.  I might’ve splurged with the occasional batch of weed or if it wasn’t available, I would have pushed all of my problems to a remote corner of the mind with alcohol.  Would I have married and had other children?  That’s a tough one to envision.  I don’t believe I would’ve met anyone that shared a mutual level of sustained attraction.  However if I did, it wouldn’t have lasted and it’s likely that I’d have one child and become a single parent.

It would have been a tough life.

Fifteen years later I see through wiser eyes that I did have friends that would have supported me but I was very much withdrawn and in such a dark place that being alone and desperate felt like home.  And no matter if they did help in one way or another, it was destined that I sink down as far as possible in order to gasp up through the surface with a life-changing decision.  And it was the best one I have ever made.

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Liebster Love

My husband drove the car yesterday while the rest of us settled in for the two hour car ride to the beach.  It was our first daytrip of many for the summer and although the forecast seemed a little ominous, we were happy to go.

We decided on a new destination this year; my husband’s old stomping grounds and it did not disappoint. His phone did the navigating while I tootled around on mine:  Facebook, CNN, Scrabble, WordPress, Weather, Gmail, Liebster Award, Facebook….wha…??  Liebster?  A Liebster nomination for me?  I had seen the award bandied around but assumed it was given to bloggers with more longevity than me.

My fellow blogger zeelikestowrite has humbled me with her nod in my direction and I would be honored to answer the eleven questions she has posed.

1.  Describe in two words what a world without WordPress would be like.

Less connected.

2.  When did you start blogging and why did you decide to start?

I began blogging in January of this year.  My husband was more gung ho about creating his own but he convinced me to start one too.  I will admit that at first I felt conceited and wondered not why I shouldn’t do this, but who would actually read it and find what I have to say, interesting?  Also, I was concerned about it becoming more of a diary than a journal about my journey with insights to share.

3.  What is your favorite possession, and why?

It was the spring of 1977, I was seven and living in Kent, England.  I was sitting among the clover on a  large swath of grass opposite our house searching for a four-leafed clover, not with any determination, just sort of  leafing through patches left and right.  To my surprise, I found one.  I plucked it and ran inside to show my Mum who brought down from her jewelry box an old locket she had.  It was on a long gold chain and was shaped like a small ball which unscrewed to become two halves.  One half was filled with glass so that it became a magnifying glass on the outside and the other half was hollow.  She placed the clover in it and gave it to me to keep.  I still have it.  It’s been opened only a handful of times over the years because the leaves, although dry and brittle are all still attached to the stem.  As for the why, I think simply because it’s a keepsake for the happier moments during my little years.

4.  Which author would you like to interview and what would be your first question?

Anne Tyler.  Ms. Tyler, what things inspire you to come up with the first seed of a story?

5.  Which book, already published, would you like to have written?

Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

6.  What is the most adventurous food you’ve eaten?

In the mid-eighties, a girl in school came back from South Africa with what she said was ostrich.  I took a tugging chew but couldn’t confirm if she was telling the truth.  Other than that, I think I had emu at an Australian-style restaurant.  But who knows, it could’ve been some kind of domestic pet for all I know.  I do love Indian food though and that can be quite adventurous.

7.  How often do you check your stats on WordPress?

Honestly, not very often.  I get email updates regarding Likes, Comments and Followers.  If, however, there were more detail in the stats such as City, State and Domain Name I’d be all over it like shit on a stick.  I have another blog on Blogger.com that is linked to Google’s Analytics website and from there I can see everything that satisfies my ego.

8.  Where do you do most of your writing, and why?

Believe it or not, I do all of my writing at work.  It’s rather cushy because although the company I work for is large, it is based in Europe.  My boss and I man a very small office on the East Coast, however he travels extensively which leaves me by myself for weeks at a time.  I do my work and with my free time, I write.  I have lovely visions of writing at home during the summer evenings when the kids are in bed and my husband is watching telly but we like to sit near each other at the end of the day and talk and laugh and watch our shows.  So I get creative with a view of trucks driving past and the Delaware Memorial Bridge in the background.  Suits me fine.

9.  What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve not been writing long but have been given plenty of advice.  So far, the best has come from my Mum, a published writer herself. She reviewed my first short story and warned me of ‘purple prose’ which I think a lot of newbie writers feel they need to include.  This is why I like Friday Fictioneers; those 100 words have to convey so much, it’s excellent training in curbing unnecessary waffle.

10.  What was the most embarrassing moment of your life?

I thought I’d had it with on-air mishaps or farting in the delivery room but the most embarrassing moment (although definitely much larger than a moment) happened earlier this year at the One Act Festival.  I was in a two-person play and had performed in it twice before about two months previously.  The Festival draws community theatres from around the state and the winner proceeds to the Eastern States Theatre Festival (or something like that – the next bigger one).  I changed one small detail at the start of my monologue and the whole play went down in flames.  For me, there is nothing as mortifying as being onstage knowing that something has gone horribly wrong and being unable to find a way to jump back in again.  The spotlight seemed brighter, the silence poured all over me and my poor teenage castmate could only stare at me helplessly.  It was terrible and I felt stung by it for days.  Even now, it’s difficult to tread over again.

11.  What country would you like to visit, and why?

French Polynesia.  Because my husband and I haven’t taken a vacation in eight years.  If we could go anywhere it would be here, specifically Bora Bora, to a thatched-roof hut on the water with no television, no wifi, no phones, no computers.  Just sun, sea, sand, fruity alcoholic drinks, delicious food and each other.

Thank you for the nomination.  I can only continue to grow and develop as a writer because of what’s in my heart, my mind, my soul and by having WordPress as my platform for creativity.

DP Challenge: A Manner of Speaking

I should like to preface the following by informing you that at one time, I actually did speak this way. I grew up mainly in Plymouth, England and people from Plymouth are known as Janners. So here goes some phonetic Jannerspeak with occasional swearing.

Monologue.

“Ahreeet! Me nem’s Lisa, om eighteen and ah lives in Plimuff. Ah goes collij wiv me mehts and we haves a reet laff, we duz. Mind you, it’s borin as shite so we goes out on weekends, lyeek. Me meht ‘Chelle asks me, “‘ere, where you going to?” and argoes, “om goin’ pub” and she goes, “it’s orribow doen there, come wiv me doen Jesters” and argoes, “you’re fockin cheeky you are ‘Chelle, you just wanna see that byee, Darren!” and she goes, “ya tehhken the fockin piss or wot?” and ah gives her aggro but we goes anyways and ah tells her she’s gutta buy me fegs to mehk op fer it. So we gets to Jesters and ah says “‘Chelle, it’s dead in ere, innit” but she’s lyeek, lukkin for this Darren bloke so she ken chat him op, lyeek. Om gutted, oyam, so ah gets a pernoe and coke at the bar. Om finkin wot kinda meht is she anyways, flippin mentoe she is. Jes lygat, she’s gone and om finkin I can’t be assed! Then this bloke comes up, he’s reet bladdered alreddy and it’s not even nine o clock, luks lyeek ‘e’s bin on a reet bender. ‘Ee sez, “‘ow’s you? What’s yer nem called? You’re elluva gorgeous burrd, you are” and argoes, “fock off, you!” and ‘ee gets all gobby, sez ah wuz gaggin fer it so ah leaves and goes doen chippy, gets sum grub and tehks a taxi ‘ome. Ah seez ‘Chelle at collij the next day and ah give ‘er what for, sez she left me lyeek billy no mates. I sez “It’s lygis, you does it again and om goin’ out wiv Sandra instead.” And ‘Chelle turns around and sez “Nah. ‘e wuz reet gormless. Won’t ‘appen uggen. Fancy a bevvy later?” And ah smiles and argoes, “lovely jubbly, ‘Chelle.”

Take it as it comes.

I’ve lived here…

plymouth2

Plymouth, England

and here…

cville

Charlottesville, VA

and many, many other places in between. Currently, I live here…

de

Delaware

It’s been a gypsy kind of life, minus the caravan. Although, I’d love to have one of these…

Gypsy Caravan

…in my back garden, all nestled in some tall overgrown grass with some hollyhocks and foxgloves. Imagine lounging on the steps during a warm fall evening with a glass of chilled white wine and some noshy things to nosh on. Mmmm…

Anyhoo…yes, I’ve been picking up my stakes and throwing them down all over England and the United States. Made such a mess, you could probably track me down in Borneo if you wanted to. Not going there though, too many creepy crawlies.

My Dad was a Navy man, you see. British Navy, if you please, which meant moving from one Naval married quarters to the next, until I grew out of the primary (elementary) school years and needed a place to buckle down with regularity. And that’s how we ended up in Plymouth, England. Actually, we’d lived there twice before during our early years (that was a fun time – leaving a school at the age of five only to return five years later? All the kids I knew had grown up and around each other. Nowhere else have I ever felt quite like the outsider as I did during the final year in that school.)

Anyway, yes, during my secondary school (middle) years, I lived in that house in Plymouth for six years.

And here’s where I just blew my own mind across the desk. That is the longest I’ve ever lived in a house. From the age of twelve to eighteen. I’m forty-three now and the most I’ve stuck down roots in a house, not a town – a house or apartment…would be three years. Sometimes, I know my up-and-moves came from possessing a restless spirit. Sometimes it was circumstance; a broken relationship here, a job loss there, eviction notice or a condemned house (yes, that happened) – they all necessitated a move.

Just to backtrack a second, it’s probably safe to say that in my entire life, I’ve never settled down. My Mum’s marriage fell apart around the time that I was born (fabulous!), so was forced to find where she could in terms of housing. As a single, working mother in the early 70’s, I’m sure it was no easy feat. She’s told me over the years how she met my Dad (not my “step dad”, because he actually went one step further and adopted me) at a Halloween party when he was docked in Norfolk, VA and how she was sort of her friend’s wing girl, except it was my Mum who met her “One.”

So, at two and a half, I moved from the States to England. New Dad. New family. New environment. A lot to adjust to, right? Even as a toddler. These days, there would be much care taken for the well-being of the toddler and the family as a whole. But back then, there were no outreaches, no helping hands, no sympathetic groups. You had to get on with it. Stop yer grumblin’ and get to work!

Here I am now with two kids of my own; both in elementary school and one not far from the middle. I was adamant before the oldest started school that they would not be shifted and shipped around like me. That they would have a stable education and that they would grow up in one house. Images of my son bounding in after some extra-curricular activity, of my daughter standing on the beautiful butterfly staircase before going to prom…

stairs

…Yes, these very stairs. This was our house, the one we dreamed of living in until the kids went to college. Buuuuut….circumstances outside of our control forced us to move, and move, and move again. And, quite frankly, that gorgeous house should never have been ours. It was out of our league.

I know kids move around all the time. And kids are resilient. Kids bounce back. That’s what everyone kept telling me when mine had to bear the brunt of switching schools. They took the changes in stride, shed a few tears, balked a little in the mornings but on the whole, seven months in, they’re doing just fine.

I turned out fine too, despite the lack of concern for my true well being as a toddler and the subsequent trauma that occurred which might be a bit too personal for sharing. That, and I’ve recovered quite nicely from it so why dredge it all up again, right?

We have more house moves on the cards, I know for a fact and with each one, I become more weary; I wanted to plant those roots and watch them grow (excuse the French Kiss line) a long time ago. I actually really like where we are; it’s the first time in a long time that a place feels like home.

So, circumstance might have some control over the situation but how I deal with it and how my family sees me dealing with it is the most important thing. I just wish I hadn’t unpacked ALL the boxes in a fit of “Goddamn it, I’m fed up with living my life in boxes, I’m going to open up everything and put everything in its place,” when we moved in.

Lisa…