Throwback Thursday: Hello, My Name Is

This was my very first post. I agonized over it, edited it, and squinted my eyes as I finally pushed “Publish.” It first arrived on June 25, 2017.

Enjoy.

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“Welcome to our little engagement.” A middle-aged woman smiled up at me. She was dressed like a 50’s commercial of a housewife at an evening ball. “Please, find your name tag and join the group.” She gestured to the table in front of her with a well-veined hand ending in Avon-pink fingernails. Her smile was practiced and her actions just slightly exaggerated.

I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to see a camera crew. But, no; there was just a normal wall, various potted artificial trees posted at two unobtrusive doors, and an empty, dark hallway beyond the open doors.

I turned back to the white tablecloth of name tags with their friendly hostess. She smiled graciously again, waiting. Looking down at the options, I was not certain which name was mine. What sort of party am I at? I wondered as I read over them.

“Perhaps,” the woman began, reaching forward and brushing slightly against her rose corsage, “This one, dear.” She picked up a sticker and proffered it to me in the light grip of those nails. I took it, read it, nodded slightly at her expectant look, and adhered it to my chest. She held out her hand for the backing, and smiled up at me as she disposed of it somewhere behind the rectangular table and her folding chair.

“Refreshments will be served in half an hour. Please enjoy yourself before then.” I had been dismissed. She stared at the doors behind me, where I could hear the sounds of more guests approaching. I took one last look at her vintage updo; large, starburst earrings; and rouged cheek. Then, I stepped around the table and into the room beyond.

Intentionally-dim lighting shadowed a small open area with more of those artificial ficus clumped artistically round the walls. A few other women were standing idly: one, drawing a drink near a white tableclothed food area; two chatting with feigned reactions of hilarity at the opposite end of the table; a final woman looking pensive as she meditated on the fine silk leaves of the east wall’s foliage.

I walked slowly toward the drink area as well, though I was not really thirsty. I tried to walk in a way that looked graceful and confident. I knew that I really looked barely-stable and uncertain. As if to make that point, my left toe caught on the floor and I stumbled somewhat. No one seemed to notice and I successfully drew closer.

I stopped and examined the table settings, using that as an excuse to also smooth down the cotton dress I seemed to be wearing. The punch and its drinker were to my left; the chatting women and plant-studier were to my right. A pile of clear plastic plates sat in front of me and various stratifications of empty cake plates, platters, and bowls led eventually to the conversing couple.

“Hi! I’m Confident in Public but Not in Intimate Relationships,” an unexpected voice to my left said. She was a perky and -yes- confident voice. I envied the self-assured tone and slight Southern drawl of her enunciations. Turning to see what face was associated with this introduction; I was greeted by a mid-length, auburn bob curling slightly around a friendly, open face. The hair and face were attached to a slender woman sporting a dress much like my own, in a bold shade of red instead of my pastel blue. The exact words she greeted me with were written boldly on the white square sticker attached above her left breast. She was the punch-drinking woman, and was standing next to me with a hand outstretched expectantly. Her other hand was holding a cup full of red drink.

Not having another obvious option, I took her hand. She applied just the right amount of pressure; a grip that was comfortably, confidently tight but also soft and gentle. “Ah,” she nodded, as I released her tight grip quickly, “I see.” She had read my name tag. I blushed and moved my eyes away from her direct gaze. I pretended interest in the laughing women, who took that exact moment to pause awkwardly in their falsely familiar exchange.

Confident took a sip from her cup, and studied the other women with me. She swallowed and nodded toward them. “That’s More Creative Than Logical and Talks Too Loud. They’re fun. You should go introduce yourself.” She studied my tag again, and generously added, “I’ll go with you.”

She started forward purposefully, and I trailed behind. I tried to imitate her gait without looking like the circus monkey I was certain I resembled.

“Hi, Creative. Hi, Loud,” Confident greeted the women. They smiled and turned to Confident expectantly. “Anything happen while I’ve been gone?” She teased. They laughed; Loud’s a noisy, irritating imitation of sincere gaiety.

“I’d like you to meet my new friend,” Confident gestured to me, standing hesitantly to her right. I saw their smiles fade a few levels as their focus turned on me, then a few more as they made out the words on my sticker.

“Hi,” I said, trying to sound like I hadn’t noticed the dimming effect I’d had. A bit too late, I held out my hand to shake theirs. They reciprocated, in turn. I knew my grip was not as perfect an act as my “friend’s,” but I attempted to imitate the feel of hers as I touched hands with silvery-clad Creative and orange-dressed Loud. Having completed this ritual, we all stood around idly wondering what to do next.

“Well,” Confident supplied finally, “Don’t let me interrupt you two.” She smiled and winked at them. “I know you were having a great chat just now.” The others looked relieved, smiled back at her, and nodded in agreement.

“Oh, yes,” Loud answered emphatically. I saw Creative step back very slightly though she still looked at her companion with pretended pleasure. “Creative here was just telling me about a very funny friend she met back on her first day of college.” She laughed annoyingly again; Creative joined in, more quietly and less annoyingly.

“Sounds great!” Confident responded, adding an assured giggle of her own. I smiled weakly. “We’ll go pop over to see Introvert. Then maybe you can tell us all about it when we come back.” They nodded agreeably (“Sounds good!” Loud exclaimed.) and we continued on to the artificial plant and a quiet brunette still appearing to examine it.

“Hello, again, Innie,” Confident said as we approached the last woman’s area. A petite, long-haired woman of some mid-age turned slowly to blink at us through round eyeglasses. She smiled slightly and intelligently at the space between us.

Confident failed to catch Introvert’s eye. Shrugging, she laid her punch-free hand on my shoulder in a friendly manner. “My friend here just arrived so I brought her over to meet you.”

The small woman turned her body to me, and I was able to read her label: Introverted Intellectual. I smiled. This was always a sort I could speak with, at least somewhat. The conversation depended on whether I had any experience with the topics she had, and how conversant she felt at the time.

As I mused, Introverted frowned and studied my name. I felt a compulsion to turn or hide it, and she was only the fourth person to be introduced to me.

Introverted’s small frame stayed slightly hunched forward, almost seeming to give to the weight of her hanging hairstyle. Her head and glasses pointed upwards to meet my eyes. “I’m pleased to meet you,” she told me softly, sincerely.

“Pleased to meet you,” I replied, pleasantly surprised but also cautious. I knew no one was actually pleased to meet me.

I caught an action from my peripheral vision: Confident taking another casual drink to fill the silence. “Ah,” she began. Introverted and I politely turned her direction. “I see some more ladies have arrived.” Confident nodded toward the door and we looked as well. A party of four or five newcomers was clumped around the hostess’ table, plus two more just through the door. The green, pink, gray, turquoise, brown, white, and yellow movement was a garden of blowing flower tops.

“I’ll just pop over and settle these folks in,” Confident continued. She smiled at me; I timidly returned it. She smiled at Introverted; she was still studying the entranceway. “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll be back again to introduce y’all later.” Confident walked off confidently, ready to bring her necessary order to those tangled weeds.

Introverted and I relaxed in the brief silence and shared solitude. I wondered how many more people I’d have to meet, and who would have to meet me, before the distraction of food.

“Your blog is like lounging around the house and watching TV, maybe picking up some sticks in the yard. It’s you, and you have a casual vibe going on. A book is like going out for a big evening. You want your hair, nails, and makeup right. Maybe you spring for a new dress, which is like your cover art.

“You may not like the work that goes into it, but you’re going to like the reception when you finally get to the party.”

-C.S. Boyack, “So it begins

Happy Second Blogiversary!

I’d like to interrupt everyone’s regularly-scheduled program to acknowledge my blog’s second birthday. It’s growing up so fast!

2 Years Blogging

Two years ago; I timidly typed, edited, edited, edited, edited, and edited my first blog post. The idea behind it came from a dream. I stressed so much about what people would think and how many awards I would garner from its publication…

I also set a goal to publish a blog post every day. To get myself going, I re-posted thoughts and stories I’d originally written for Facebook.

After a few months, I broke out and started swimming on my own. Everything I type is original and formed solely for the blog these days. If not, I note otherwise.

I’d like to thank Charli of Carrot Ranch, Geoff of TanGental, James of The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Mental Health Blog, Stephen and Fionnuala of Fractured Faith Blog, Nitin of Fighting the Dying Light, P’Arc of Peregrine Arc, and Frank of Frank Prem Poetry for giving me opportunities to share my writings to their sites. You helped me feel my creations might be valuable.

I would also be remiss in not acknowledging all of the friends and fellow writers I have made since beginning. You know who you are, especially since I know I’d miss specifically naming a few due to Pregnancy Brain. Thank you for e-mails, complimentary messages, sarcastic comments, and camaraderie.

And (unless I forgot anyone else), thank you to my real-life friends who actually read what I write and don’t shun me publicly. You’re the best.

Christmas Musings

I am the fifth to admit that I overdo things. That’s better than last, mind you, though not as good as third might be.

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I delude myself that I am simple, efficient, and practical. I only own a Pinterest account because I had a writing job that involved saving pictures for crafting articles. I eschew the latest fashion or home-decorating trend. My children receive rules and guidelines but no sort of life-planned-out Supermom schedule. And, despite being in this Stay At Home Mom profession for over a decade, I do a terrible job at housekeeping in general.

I’ve decided I’m trying to get fired -but that’s a side topic for another post.

Back to fifth place: I’ve had a busy two weeks. In fact, we need to go back at least three months because events then affected the crunch of now.

Not that I voluntarily hurt my tailbone in a really really really bad way. I did, however, schedule a surgery on November 6. I also neglected to remember that Thanksgiving was on the fourth Thursday and would therefore arrive not-too-long-after that surgery. Then, I forgot that we all usually attend The Festival of Trees… which precedes a holiday most of the world celebrates… and that led to a service project for the boys’ principal, an annual Christmas newsletter to be sent with cards, decorating for Christmas, a son’s birthday party (with a theme and guests), and cookie-making and distribution.

Congratulations on getting through that last paragraph. You can rest, here, with me.

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Even though I do not re-label juice boxes for birthday themes, I tend to take on a lot at one time. I also have a high standard of perfection. Maybe I think things are more exciting that way?

I mean, I not only did everything in that too long; didn’t read paragraph, I also have been trying to uncover the house from the molding lump it degenerated into whilst I was recovering/ignoring it. Add shopping for presents and food, plus wrapping all the gifts for everyone, and my cup runneth over six feet below the surface of the well.

I mean… I spray-painted Costco milk boxes to look like Minecraft blocks. My Christmas newsletter was a paragraph for each of seven well-known poems, incorporating bits of A Visit from St. Nicholas AND news about each family member. My cookies were all from scratch.

Maybe I really am one of those Supermoms, just one who sometimes wears pajamas in public ’cause I love my comfort.

Maybe everyone overdoes his life, and it’s not just me.

…Tell me it’s not just me?

 

This week in review, because I’m taking tomorrow and the next day off. So, there!
Wednesday, December 19: Down-Home Marital AdviceWhat’s your take?
Thursday, December 20: The day my kids got out for Christmas Break. So… I got the days mixed up and posted The WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly and Gerard!
I also apologized for messing up, in The Most Sleep-Deprived Time of the Year.
Friday, December 21: Skinwalkers, XLVI.
Saturday, December 22: Christmas Cookie Limericksterrible rhymes about my baking exploits.
Sunday, December 23: This post.

I also almost thought about planning on the possibility of catching up on my Reader’s Feed. If you see that I left a comment way back on December 12, then I finally have. My apologies if you’ve felt slighted in the meantime.

Vance’s First Party

Little Vance hid behind his mother’s cape.

“What’s wrong, Vance?” his teacher asked. She kneeled, scratched at an ear, and peered at him.

Vance shivered.

“I think he’s shy,” his mother said. “This is his first Halloween party.”

“Owooooh!” the teacher howled. “Perfectly understandable.”  Rising, she said, “Why don’t you pick a scary story from the cauldron, and we’ll read it.”

Vance shuffled forward. He removed a favorite.

“Ah! Attack of the Garlic! Excellent.” Pawing it open, she began reading.

A mummy, ghoul, and another vampire joined Vance on the rug. Maybe this party wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

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Written, tested, tasted for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty

“Let’s all sit down,” Rob suggested, as much as a suggestion was from his direct way of speaking. He coughed a bit before preparing to talk more and guided Wil to a seat on the plasticine couch. He then moved to his usual plastic and metal guest chair. His family turned and looked up at him expectantly.

Rob rubbed his face. “Wil,” he said, “Read your other letter. I need to talk to Jakob.” Jakob looked surprised and glanced up from his arms-on-knees slouch at Wil, Cynthia, and Rob. Wil was about to ask what he needed to say to Jakob, but Rob held up his hand. The same hand bent to gesture at her papers and he gave her a pointed look.

Wil looked down at the second part of her mail that she hadn’t read yet, a note folded haphazardly. It was the same way Wil often put things into envelopes: folding first; then realizing it wouldn’t fit, trying to crease the pages in various ways, and finally stuffing it in. Finding an edge, she opened the letter and spread it out on her lap.

To a background of deep voices occasionally rumbling inaudible words, Wil read the following:

Darling Wilhelmina,

How are you? I hope you are well. I also hope this letter does not shock you terribly. I don’t even know where to begin, so I will just start writing what comes to mind. Hopefully, you will understand.

I didn’t mean to have you. I mean, I was happy thrilled that you were born but I was not intending for that to happen.

I met Rob Winters your father when we were both young, at some party or something. Yes, a party. He was so very serious, but he asked me out on a date. Perhaps you are too young to be told about this sort of thing, but sometimes adults go on dates and end up drinking doing some things and then you find you’ve slept with them at their house even though you didn’t really like them that much. I find this happens a lot with me, but, well, let’s talk about you again, Dear.

That’s it, Wilhelmina: I had you. When you were first growing inside me, I thought about adoption. You know, finding one of those cute smiling couples who really want a child and can’t. But I knew you would be special. I even tried to keep you for a while after you were born but realized I couldn’t.

I gave you to your father -dear old boring dependable Rob, and told him that you were not to be told about me. I didn’t want to stress you out, you see.

The thing is, now I am older and I think I could meet you.

Maybe you don’t want to. -I know! Let’s think about this for a while. I’ll send another letter in a while and maybe you’ll want to talk then.

Please?

Sincerely Love Yours
-Guinevere Greene

P.S.
Just in case, my cell phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. -G.G.

Wil stared at her birth mother’s curvy letters, allowing an elephant’s worth of information and emotion to sink into her mind. From a distance she admired the extravagant, looping signature, the fancy words, the tone.

She looked up. Rob and Jakob had finished; Jakob’s expression looking a bit stunned but trying not to. Cynthia lay calmly, looking at her with concern.

For once, Wil felt nothing.

 

Continued from Fifty-Nine.
Keep reading to Sixty-One.

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.

Mental-ity

I don’t read re-posts. We-e-e-e-ell once in a blue moon I will.

Accordingly, I don’t like to stick them into my own blog (the one you’re currently reading). I often read great things I’d like everyone else to see as well, but feel like I’m stealing someone else’s brilliance and pasting it over my lack of writing anything for that day.

‘Tis true, however, that I’m sometimes at a loss for time because of my dear, sweet, distracting children. Summertime’s here, which means they’re wild and free and completely under my tutelage.

I can be creative, though. I can! I’ve written some wonderful things. Some of those are contributing posts over at The Bipolar Writer.

If you haven’t been over there, go right ahead and check it out. If you’re lazy like me and don’t want to bother, I’m doing you a solid and pasting an article right here that I wrote back in April. It’s titled What’s So Normal About Labels?

 

I was conversing with my dear, oblivious husband the other night. I’d had an epiphany about my negative perspective of everything. Beginning to expound, I said something about depressive people thinking one thing, then moved on to try to finish with what other people thought.

The hubby helpfully suggested, “So, you mean what normal people think?”

Normal. People. They’re not normal. They just like to be called “normal.” Pshaw, I say.

Given that there are probably just as many wizards -er, mental illness sufferers out there as “normal” homo sapiens, things really seem to indicate that they should have the nickname, and we should be called normal.

What can we name them, then? How about “Aberrants?” “Defects?” “Outsiders?” or “Vulcans?” -You know, because they clearly aren’t feeling human emotions, so they’re overly serious aliens.

All right, all right. I’m sure we can come up with a more flattering name. In our spare time. Perhaps we can brainstorm during that extremely small window of time when we’re awake, and the sun and distractions are not.

Got anything yet? Yeah, not a good time for me, either.

Since coming over here to James Edgar Skye’s enlightening blog, I’ve felt a lovely camaraderie. It’s like the dark little corner of the party actually had people hiding there that I just couldn’t see before.

“Oh, hi!” I whisper to a fellow curled-up body. “Depress here often?” We cry a bit together, agree that cynicism is the best outlook, and part ways when one of us pretends to need a drink.

Since this discovery, I’ve been wondering how many people out there fit into one category or the other. Confirmation bias keeps telling me that most people struggle with mental illness. As I said, doesn’t that mean weshould be normal?

Checking out a more reputable site than my own mind, I learned that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s freaking high. Despite all these people hanging out in closets or staring morosely into the bottom of glasses, that still means that MOST PEOPLE (4 of the 5) are not.

Dangit.

I guess we actually are the ones out of our Vulcan mind. But that doesn’t mean that I want to be grouped in the dark corner, apart from those who think they don’t have problems.

If they’re “normal,” that makes us “abnormal.” And we ARE NOT abnormal. We are fighters. Deep feelers and thinkers. We are authentic, strong, emotional, real -and tired of being labeled as defective.

Eureka! The real problem here is that we need a label besides all the others slapped on by those 4 out of 5 liars.

I vote for Human.

So, you Vulcans: listen up. We’re not broken. We’re not useless, imperfect, or crazy. We are Human.

Now, fellow Humans: get out of that corner, and let’s show them what we’ve got.

Go ahead; I’m just going to grab some punch.

Following Dreams

I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.

Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.

Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve got to go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.

Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.

I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

Party of One

Woman

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

 

Flash Fiction Entry