Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zero for Love by L.K. Killian



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the 
worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!




Z is for Zero for Love
by
L.K. Killian   

     My friend Susan and I have been driving for almost six hours.  We’ve returned from our annual teacher convention in Mobile.  Thank God for air conditioners in July.    

     “Let your seat back and take a nap.  I’ve got this,” Susan says as she lowers the volume on Lynard Skynard’s  ‘Free Bird’. 

     “Thanks, but we’re only an hour from home.  I’m good.”  I do take her suggestion to let my seat back though.

     While I lie back, my mind travels back to where it always went for the past year. 

     I missed Ethan.  We had a big fuss right before I left for a week of workshops.  He didn’t call me, so I didn’t call him, the whole week.  I hate it when we argue about the same subject -- his drinking.  It goes deeper than that.  He admitted to being an alcoholic.  My parents were alcoholics and I swore I’d never get mixed up with an alcoholic.  I swore, on a Bible!

     You would not believe how much I missed him.  All too soon, Susan turns down my road.   I can’t wait to get home and call him.  I might drive over and see him.  We pass down my tree lined driveway and …oh happy day…his truck is parked at my house and there he sits on my steps.  He wears the red checkered shirt I love.

     That’s the same red shirt Ethan wore the first day I saw him.  My new neighbor was doing a remodel on the old farm house before moving in.  A black haired carpenter with a red checkered shirt and blue jeans kept running a circular saw.  Board after board.  To this day, to me, the noise of a saw is like the Sirens calling Jason and the Argonauts.  You can’t help but answer the call.

     One day, EZ, that’s what I like to call him, looked up and saw me watching.  He waved.  I felt like a teenager with her first crush.

     I knew it was corny when I did it, but I couldn’t help myself.  I made a pan of brownies, put on fresh make-up, fluffed up my new perm, and took them next door to my new neighbors.  I heard the circular saw grinding from inside the house.

     A half pint of a man with a beer can in his hand, answered my knock.  He had oily brown hair and washed out blue eyes.  I could smell the beer on his breath from where I stood on the porch.

     “Hey, my name’s Debra.  I’m your neighbor and I’ve brought brownies for you and your wife,” I gave my brightest smile.

     “Great.  My wife, Cindy, isn’t here right now.  I’m Roy.  She loves brownies.  Come on in and meet my dad and carpenter friend, zzzz.”

     I didn’t catch the name I had been waiting for days to hear.  I said, “Excuse me, what’s his name?” as I followed him into the house and on toward the kitchen.

     “Zzzz.” He repeated.

     What was wrong with my hearing?  I hated to ask again but I was desperate to know the name of the tall, skinny, god-like creature I had fallen for from afar.

     My neighbor stopped, turned around to face me square on and said, I call him EZ but his name’s Ethan Simpson.”

     Is that not THE most wonderful name? Not John, or Paul, or Barry. Ethan. Such a strong name.

     By now, we were in the kitchen and I was introduced to Roy’s dad.  He was an older gentleman, short like his son, except heavy in the belly area.  I surveyed the room.  Where was this Ethan, young deity of my dreams? 

     “Hey Ethan, come on out and meet my pretty, new neighbor, Debra.”

     A thin, long legged man unrolled himself from underneath a cabinet.  I tried to prevent a big old smile from consuming my face, but I just couldn’t do it.  When he stood and stretched to his six foot plus some inches, I just stood there like a goof ball.

     Have I mentioned my second divorce had been finalized two years before and I was just now finding myself ready to get back to dating?  Having no luck, I hated to admit.

     “Glad to meet you, Debra.”  His black eyes swept up and down me.  He had a full black beard.  I swear he could have been a pirate captain and I would have sailed away with him right then and there.  One of those ships with huge billowing sails. Or a lumber jack.  Maybe Old Spice would hire him to make their men’s cologne commercials, and I could be a tester.  His voice…smooth, warmed molasses, a deep resonance that would rumble in his chest had I put my hand there.

     Heat rushed to my face.

    “She brought brownies,” Roy interrupted my thoughts.

     “I don’t eat sweets,” Ethan said.  Of course he didn’t.  How could you be that thin and eat brownies? 

     I’m sure the grin was still stuck to my face when he released my hand.  A feather’s touch of crow’s feet creased the outsides of his wonderful eyes.

     Roy shuffled around the kitchen a bit, bringing me out of my stupor.

     I should have been looking at Roy but instead I looked at Ethan. “Well, I just came by to say hi, and welcome.” 

     After that, we dated for a wild, glorious six months. He introduced me to the Eagles and Pink Floyd.  I found him to be so very thoughtful and charming, when he wasn’t drinking.  He morphed into a knuckle-dragging monster when he was.


     I yawn, stretch and turn to Susan.  She’d put up with me talking about him all week long.  I’m sure she felt relieved to dump me and my things in the yard and then take off homeward to her husband.  She said I’d missed Ethan so much that it made her lonely for her husband.

     He’s here.  I watch as he pushes his tall, lean frame up from my wooden steps to come and help me get my bags out of the car.  He opens my door, takes my hand, lifts me to him, and then he kisses me sweetly, right there in front of Susan.  His gentleness causes tears to fill my eyes.

     Then, the car door opens and I turn to see Susan getting out of the car.  She walks around to open my door.

     “Sorry sleepy head.  I wish you could have slept longer, but you’re home now.” 

     I jerk to see there’s no truck in my yard, no Ethan on the steps, and no one to welcome me home.  I turn my head to hide my tears, and think…let me just add this to the on-going score -- zero for love, one hundred and one  for alcohol

****



L. K. Killian is a retired school counselor who loves writing Flash Fiction.  She belongs to the Flash Dance writing group at Writers Village University.  If you liked this story, you might also want to read her two books:  Journey to Rome and Hadrian’s Rome.  You can find them on Amazon and Smashwords.  Her blog page:  http://lkkillian.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Youth by Alayna-Renee Vilmont



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the 
worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!





Y is for Youth 
by 
Alayna-Renee Vilmont

When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.”---
Margaret Atwood

They say that youth is wasted on the young.  Specifically, it is Oscar Wilde who said that, but across the centuries, it has become attributed to the universal they--- they meaning people who undoubtedly know more than you do.

It isn’t until you are no longer young that you begin to believe in the wisdom of the universal they, those who have sought the road less traveled long before you and arrived scarred, bruised, but relatively unscathed. It is at that certain point in your journey that you find yourself crying into your pillow for the yesterdays that can never be revisited, and for the tomorrows that may never happen.

They say to live in the present moment, as much and as often as you possibly can. The past does not matter and the future is not under your control. They say a lot of things, all designed to keep you peaceful and happy and not weighed down by the anxiety of the world, most of which is tantamount to a desperate search for denial.

They tell me I am still young, still beautiful and high-spirited enough that I must know I have my whole life ahead of me. This leads me to conclude that they are bad at math, in addition to being trite and possibly insincere. Half a lifetime can never be a whole lifetime, no matter how much energy you devote to the present moment.

They say youth is wasted on the young, but they are merely repeating the sad lament of an adventurer who died at the age of 46. There is never enough time, and Oscar Wilde was of course right. So much of it is wasted that “living in the present” is rarely anyone’s natural state of being.

I know this, because when I open my eyes every morning, it is not the present that haunts or torments or delights me. Inevitably, a memory from the past that comes flooding back. There’s that time I woke up in a good friend’s bed on New Year’s Day, snuggled under a comforter with a broken heart and three large dogs. There’s the morning when I was 15 and it was snowing outside my window, and darkness was broken by the sound of the radio lighting up, playing “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” as a preamble to the school cancellations and delays.  There’s that day that started with the boy I had loved for so long across such a distance snuggled beside me, in a strange room, a strange city, intoxicated by a sense of disbelief that a new life could begin so easily. There’s that time I woke up dizzy and hung over and not quite sure where I was, or how I arrived, or why I had the type of friend who would let me take a ride to nowhere with two strange men who were good at samba dancing. There’s the mornings where the pitter-patter of the rainfall stir the heart, and I think of love and loss and adventure, and I am so utterly thankful to be free and alive and life anything but expected. There’s that day that started with the tears that accompany goodbyes before the suitcases were even packed, and freely flowed every 20 minutes, at the slightest provocation. There’s the time I traveled a million miles to meet someone I’d known a lifetime, and the chaotic journey ended with endless hours of tears and conversation and connection and watching the sunrise half-coherently in one another’s arms. There’s that day everything changed and I knew I would never be the same, but faced with the choice to simply remain motionless and wish myself out of existence or to start again, only one was really an option.

I never know, really, what I will see when I open my eyes. I do know it is never the present, because when the present is truly special, I am again a five year-old child reluctant to close her eyes. When it is not, sleep is a refuge, the sort of place where one can dream without consequence or bitterness. It is never a world put on hold too early by illness and loss and difficulties presented to one still too young to cope without falling to pieces, yet old enough to know better. When I open my eyes in the morning, I am a different version of myself. There is a song in my head, a memory in my heart. For a moment or two, I am trapped in every relevant experience in my life I would not trade for the world. Sometimes, it is the smallest detail, but it is unbearably poignant.

Youth is always wasted on the young because there is also a sentiment of invincibility that accompanies the search for experience. By thirty, you’ve already learned to measure life in how many good years you have left. You no longer feel shocked into silence by the news someone your age has died. You no longer feel invincible, and wonder how you ever could have been so oblivious. After all, death has no age restriction. You might depart the world at 8, 48, or 88. The very young and healthy and relatively well-adjusted never consider this, not seriously. There are tragedies, of course, but tragedies are the rarities which happen to others. A year is a lifetime, not 364 of a limited supply of days. By your third decade, you start to wonder if you will have enough time, after all. You wonder if you have been loved, if you will be remembered. You wake up blissfully stuck in a memory, rather than excited for the day ahead, the endless array of possibilities waiting to be explored.

I do not always recognize the face that stares back at me. More and more, it is beginning to remind me of my mother’s face, although we look little alike. It is just slightly hard around the edges, although wrinkles and the more obvious vestiges of time have yet to show. It is not as small, not as delicate, not as hopeful. It is a face that has seen and learned and felt and has stories to tell, but one that is still vain enough and self-centered enough to want to be found beautiful, alluring. It is a face that is neither young nor old, but stuck in the middle of time. It represents neither the past nor the future, and is never quite certain what to be.

It is just an ordinary face, one that is meant to live in the present, but instead vacillates between the past and the future a hundred times a day. It does not know how to simply be. It has not learned the art of acceptance. It has not yet processed the wisdom taught by experience. It looks back on experience for its own sake, and looks forward to experience because without hope and enthusiasm, there is little left.

An overly precocious and emotional child who grew into an angst-ridden teenager and subsequently, a vivacious 20-something with a wild streak the length of Route 66, I don’t think it occurred to me that one day, I would have to learn to be a middle-aged woman. In my mind, I am still 18, and sitting on the couch in a college dive bar willing to give vodka cranberries to a girl who wouldn’t resemble legal age for another decade. There is a long-haired boy with a stud in his nose sharing my couch, and I sit comfortably between his legs. We dream together, my head resting on his chest, watching the world go by. We talk endlessly about poetry and creativity and dreams and adventures, and how it is so sad the way some people say these are the best days of our lives. We melt into one another, fusing in the way only the young and vulnerable know how to connect without inhibition, listening to strains of Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails and bands with one word, catchy names full of frustration and feeling. We don’t always understand the unintelligible, but we can share the sentiment. Later on in life, the lyrics will come to mean something, but we do not know that. We quietly watch the people around us; friends playing pool, a girl passed in the quad in a heavy make out session with a guy who looks as if he’s wearing pajamas, an introverted type with a book in one hand and a beer in another, studiously avoiding a roommate. It is never about the sex, the recreational drugs everyone pretends not to see, the slight euphoric buzz that comes from weak drinks and an untainted liver. It is never even about the music that you will remember so fondly a decade later, or the conversations you’ve never forgotten, even though you don’t know why. It is about the connection, the ease in which you and another person become the same, although you may be completely different.

It is about knowing that never, ever, will you be thirty. And if you are, you’ll have figured everything out. You will have lived lifetime after lifetime in that intervening space. You will have traded in mellowed-out connections for an attractive, accomplished spouse, and over-used retro furniture for the beautiful home or condo or penthouse that’s always in the back of your mind. You’ll know who you are, and spend less time wondering where you’re going, because you will have already been.

It is about having no clue that as you pass thirty and head bravely towards the next milestone, and the next, you and your new friends will trade stories about the old days. You will dance and laugh and feel a little melancholy when that song that your seventeen year-old self loved comes on, and you will feel slightly strange that it is on the “classic hits” station or “90’s flashback weekend”. It is about not knowing that you will see your parents grow older, your dreams turn into other unexpected realities, and you will still have no idea where you are headed regardless of where you have been. Nothing will be as you imagined, but you will still be young enough and courageous enough to begin imagining all over again.

It is about not knowing that one day, the face that stares back at you from your mirror will be a stranger’s face. It will inevitably become an adult’s face, your mother or your father’s face, and you will wonder at the illusion. It is about not knowing that youth will always be wasted on the young, because there is this treasured and brief period of life where there’s no need for mantras such as “Live in the present moment” and “Avoid fear, enjoy the now”.

It is about not knowing there is always an end to every story, but at the beginning, you can’t imagine how it will turn out. You’re merely insatiably curious to discover the journey. Halfway through, you wish you could start back at the beginning and recapture every detail you failed to appreciate along the way, because now you know better. You know there is still another half to go, but you’re suddenly terrified at how quickly the paragraphs fly by.

After all, everyone is reading a different story, but the final page is always the same.

*************************************

Alayna-Renee Vilmont is a freelance writer, blogger, performer, and modern-day Renaissance woman currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, is a poetic anthology based around the many facets of human relationships and experiences. Alayna is also the voice behind Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek, which has been entertaining readers since 2000. She maintains an active presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and almost every other form of social media out there. Alayna has previously appeared on this site, winning last year’s flash fiction contest. If you’d like to follow the adventures of this modern-day wayward muse, please stop by and visit at www.jadedelegance.net




Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Xavier Road by Dixie Barnes



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!


X is for Xavier Road – Living the Good Life?

by
Dixie Barnes

Growing up on a farm in north central Kansas in the 1950s, my life was a kaleidoscope of experiences and emotions.   One of my favorite places to be, in good weather, was up on the very top of the bluffs behind our home.  Formed by long ago glacier activity, these hills were a playground for me and my siblings, a pasture for our cattle and horses, and in some instances, a great place to sit and reflect on our lives and dreams.

My dad believed in everyone pulling their fair share of the load, from the time we were in school, until the day we left home as adults, we had our chores to do.  We fed and watered cattle, hogs, horses, and sometimes chickens. 
We quickly learned not to let the hose spray water on the pigs’ ears, because then they would flap those ears back and forth to get rid of the water that trickled down inside their ears.  The muddy water, feces, and odorous dirt would fly into our eyes, ears, hair, and even our mouths if they were open. It was horrid, and required a complete shower before we could enter the house.
 
We carried buckets of grain and slop, (a mixture of garbage, water, and grain) to pour into long troughs for the hogs to eat.  We had to run fast with the buckets, because once the hogs saw them, they would run after us, and would pin us against the troughs trying to get at the treats we carried. 

The cattle were fed bales of hay, which my sister and I carried from the barn to the long hay feeding troughs.  During the winter months, sometimes we were carrying the hay up a very icy slope.  It would have been great to have had knee pads and pads on our backsides, as we landed quite often and hard. 

One of my favorite jobs (NOT) was to muck out the hog pen.  My dad would use the front end loader on the tractor to scoop the mud/feces/urine up from the pig lot.  My sister and I were assigned the odious job of scooping the corners of the pig lot into the loader with shovels and spades and pitchforks.  I lost more boots in the quick sand-like muck.   Sometimes we wound up sitting down in that slop, again requiring a bath before entering the house when we were done for the day.

I think my absolute least favorite job was to crawl inside the grain dryer and scoop out the corn that did not drop from the inside of the dryer at the end of the season.  The corn smelled fermented, and there were maggots crawling around in the corn.  We used sticks and twigs to push the rotted corn through the holes in the bottom of the dryer.  I was so glad when I grew too large to crawl inside the dryer.  I think that dryer was the reason I became claustrophobic, and to this day cannot stand the thought of being enclosed in small tight places.

During the summer, we were given machetes and corn knives and sent out to the outer regions of the farm to chop weeds and thistles.  This was hot and dirty work.  I had allergies and hay fever, so much of my time was spent scratching and sneezing.  One of the ways my parents kept us in line was to threaten to send us out to chop weeds in the summer time.  “If you’ve got so much energy to fight with each other, go chop weeds for an hour.”  We usually stopped fighting immediately.

Chopping thistles was painful, the plants had sharp barbs, which scratched and poked us when we tried to grab the stalk.  We had to chop off the heads, put those in a can, chop the stalk down and put those in buckets, and then dig out the roots, also to go into another bucket.  Our dad disposed of the buckets of thistles.

My dad was a hoarder of iron.  He had tons of old iron tools, equipment, implements, and automobile parts stacked in piles around the property.  When the weeds grew up through the iron, he would have us move the iron to another clean spot, so he could mow.  We carried the iron, steaming hot from the sun, with gloves on, but still managed to cut our legs and hands. 

Not everything was hard or bad on the farm, though.  We always ate very well.  Mama was an excellent cook.  People would always ask for her sticky buns and fruit pies. Her homemade chicken and noodles was a staple at family gatherings.

She was good at sewing also.  She made most of our clothing, and we wore a lot of hand-me-downs from cousins.  At Christmas, we might get a new blouse or jeans that were store-bought.  Oh, we were in hog heaven!

She always raised a garden, and we helped weed and water it.  One afternoon, we were weeding in the strawberry patch, and heard a loud hissing sound.  We looked behind us and found a huge bull snake coming our way.  That snake was furious and coiled up to strike. Mama sent us into the house, and stood her ground against the snake.  That snake didn’t have a chance.  With just a few well-aimed strikes, she removed the snake’s head.  She used her hoe to pick up the rest of the snake and hurled it outside of the garden.  We don’t know what riled the snake, but it wasn’t going to strike at anyone else ever again.

Since our house was right beside the bluffs, we often had uninvited visitors.  Snakes, scorpions, spiders, fire ants, and every other variety of creepy-crawlies tried to share our home.  I remember falling asleep at night counting the spiders on the ceiling. 

My brothers and my sister and I loved riding bicycles on the gravel road at the end of our drive.  We would ride in precision drills, making figure eights over and over.  Many visiting kids tried to ride fast down the hill to our driveway.  Many of them crashed.  The steep incline of the hill, combined with loose gravel, caused a lot of wrecks.  Thankfully, no one was ever seriously injured.

Our pasture held a lot of mysteries for us.  We went sledding down the hill in the winter, we hiked and explored the various ravines in the summer. There was a natural spring in one of them. The water wasn’t that good to drink, though. It ran through a lot of clay, so it was rather muddy.  We found arrowheads and fossils, and rocks with Indian carvings in that ravine.  There was one huge fossilized rock where we each carved our name and the date, I think it was 1958.  That rock is still there today, but the carving has pretty much eroded away as has the fossil images.   One winter, some high school boys asked permission to create a sled run down the hill near that ravine.  The snow that year had been very deep, with some drifts over 20 feet deep.  The boys worked and worked, and came to use it a couple of times.  The temperatures stayed cold, so the snow remained there for weeks. My mom suggested that we invited some friends over for a sledding party.  So I got on the phone, invited a lot of friends, and told them to invite more friends.  We had almost 75 kids and adults sledding down that hill that day.  Everyone was having a great time.  Then my dad came and said that my mom had refreshments at the house for anyone who wanted them.  She had made cookies and cocoa.  I’ve never had so much fun in my life.

I look back on my life on the farm with mixed feelings.  There were bad experiences, of course, with all the dirty work we had to do, and some bad storms that scared the living daylights out of us.  But as I grow older, I remember a lot of good times.  We had privacy. We could sunbathe outside without nosy neighbors trying to steal a peek. We had good food.  We learned about life, from watching the animals, we learned about teamwork, and we shared a love of family that we still share today.  My dad is now gone, but his legacy of thriftiness is instilled in all of us. My mom still lives there alone, with my brother checking on her daily.  Would I go back to live there? Probably not.  I’m not that fond of snakes, spiders, and scorpions.

But I survived Xavier Road.

****


Dixie Barnes began writing when she, at ten years old, wrote her first short story. Her passions: a love of writing, art, crafts, family, two shih tzu dogs, and jobs. At this time, she is between jobs, but looking for part time work.  She worked as a nurse for over 23 years, but has recently retired from that career. She draws on her life experiences to create her characters and stories.  She writes poetry, essays, journaling, fiction, and has three novels in varying stages of completion. She has been a mentor in the F2K course at Writer’s Village University.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for What is a Survivor? by Bree T. Donovan



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!




W is for What is a Survivor?

by

Bree T. Donovan


Firstly, my apology to Mysti for my being such a bad little elf as far as this assignment goes. I had every intention and desire to fully participate, but then LIFE derailed me! But, my own small struggles of late provided me with more food for thought on my chosen topic.

There were so many people I was inspired to write about. Their faces came to me like a beautiful collage; all the people who had taught me invaluable life lessons- showing incredible courage and strength when I would have fallen under the weight of such heavy burdens. These people are, in no particular order: Steve Prefontaine, the young runner from Oregon who accomplished more in his all too short 24 years of life than most do with twice the time. Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor-escaping death while a mere teenager. As a man, Professor Wiesel writes novels exploring the true nature of love, peace and hope. My mom, who endured several serious surgeries over the years, divorced a cold and unloving husband after thirty-three years of marriage, and came through breast cancer. She is beloved in my hometown and for good reason.  My best friend from high school, and sister of the heart who I still can’t believe is a “grown up” with two beautiful daughters. I can honestly say that I have never heard her say a mean word about anyone, no matter how bad times got for her, and as for all of us; times got bad!



I find a common thread connecting these people. They have fought to hold on to life no matter what life threw at them. But, also they survived because death simply wasn’t an option. Ironically enough, I learned this from the suicide support group I counseled years ago. These fragile souls knew all too well what it meant to literally stand on the thin, breakable line that separates life and death. Some where pulled back by a friend, a gracious stranger, or just happened to fall back on the right side of the line. Many times, merely going through the motions to make it through one day is an incredible act of endurance for them.

I look at what appears to be the height of the pendulum’s swing on each side, and I realize the distance is not so vast. My ‘heroes’ that I mentioned did indeed fight valiantly for life. I carry them around with me like a jar of fireflies. But, those who at first glance would seem to be looking to death as some kind of beacon are also fighting for life. They are climbing up from the bottom of the darkest well. They are flailing against the pull of the strongest tide, loneliest silence, biting hunger, sweet temptation of pain, and the weight of substance, body.

What is a survivor? Ultimately, it is for our own selves to answer. For me, a survivor is each one of us who lives encased in this human flesh, tied to this good and delicate earth and still rise each day with the intention to make it through. 

****

 Bree has been a ‘Jill of many trades’ over the years. Some she has loved more than others! She has been a music teacher, animal advocate and educator, aspiring author, and is currently working on her MA at Rutgers University. Bree is sure that if she floods the universe with enough positive thoughts, she will get that horse farm and animal sanctuary she has been dreaming of most of her life.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Victim by Tara Fox Hall



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!




V is for Victim
by
Tara Fox Hall

I have been a victim. Credit card theft, bullying, stalking, low self esteem, jealousy, dysfunctional family dynamics, even anxiety and extreme fear of social situations. But this post is not about me. It’s about everyone, because everyone in his or her lives at one time or another is a victim.

None of us set out to be victims. As children, we are born with a terrific kind of innocent yet unbridled sense of power. We can do anything at 5 years old: be a ballerina, a fireman, a police officer, an artist, a football star, even a famous supermodel. Our sense of personal limitations knows no bounds.  We are going to do GREAT THINGS not only in the future, but this very day. Then sometime early in grade school, we discover that we really CAN’T do everything we think we can. If we’re well adjusted, we simply keep trying until we find something we excel at, and take pride in that ability. If we aren’t—like moi—our once carefree spirits sink like a lead balloon, and we need some therapy and training to become well adjusted enough to cope, then to thrive.

Life isn’t kind; it’s a hard journey. The old adage that anything worth getting is pretty damn hard to get is very true. There have been stories all month on this AWESOME blog called Unwritten¾Props, Mysti! J¾about overcoming various forms of adversity, be they disease, bad family situations, mental health, or environmental factors from Internet trolls to bad luck to financial hardship.  All these wonderful people at one time or another were victims; these are their stories of fighting back, of slaying the dragon after a long and arduous battle, and standing atop its corpse, triumphant against the background of the setting sun. Everyone reading this probably has a favorite tale from their own personal experience about overcoming their own personal monster, if not horde of monsters. Sometimes the evil energies that beset us seem to attack one after another, with no respite. But fighting them off is just the beginning, because those battles we wage change us, even if we win. Deep down inside, part of us remains the victim, even standing atop that stinking corpse.

Some would argue that what we carry away from a battle is a good thing. It reminds us that we can face adversity and win. Others would say that there is an epilogue to the battle, which involves a process of letting go of all of it, so we can move on with our lives not hauling any emotional baggage.  I’m not going to argue for either of those points. Whichever works for you¾maybe a mixture of both¾is likely the best path.   My Sandman author Neil Gaiman said so eloquently in one of his collections, “It is sometimes a mistake to climb. It is always a mistake never even to make the attempt <because you are afraid of falling>.”  Bette Midler said it even better in her song, The Rose, an ode to those living in past pain, that they might not close themselves off to new joys: only “two cents” is to not let the residue of fear that remains behind inhibit in a negative way.  As


It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live.



It’s very easy, coming off a bender of battles, to close yourself off and decide its much safer not to take chances on people or new situations. It’s very easy to give up on love, when your heart is badly broken. Fresh wounds lead to a hunkering-down-safe-mode by way of rationality. It’s a healthy response to learned fear. Just don’t stay there, once the danger is passed.  Life is a journey that should be enjoyed, not just survived. Live each day as if this is all there is. And never forget you are capable of GREAT THINGS.

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Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, action-adventure, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.


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Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Ugly Girl by Priya Rao



Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!





U is for Ugly Girl

by

Priya Rao

Every school has it. That fat, ugly, hopeless girl with the huge nerdy glasses, sitting alone at the back of the room, lonely and desolate. In my elementary school, it was me.

If I'd had one dollar for the number of creative nicknames my classmates came up with for me, I'd have been a millionaire by now. My typical school day would look something like this-

6 AM- Wake up, brush teeth, wonder what new names I'd get called that day.

8 AM- School assembly. Stand at the back of the line, by virtue of being the tallest girl in class. Pull and chew at my pigtail.

9 AM- Trip over two desks as I make my way to mine, by virtue of being the most awkward girl in class.

12 PM- Lunch. Sit hunched and alone in a corner, wondering why no one wanted to be friends with me.

2 PM- Bus ride. Again alone, trying not to cry as people laugh and make jokes.

Repeat the process for a year. It's kind of like being stuck in a particularly unpleasant Groundhog Day loop.
It's worthwhile mentioning here that all this happened when I was in the fifth grade. I'd just moved to Delhi, India's capital. For a girl like me who'd been brought up in a conservative southern household, Delhi made no sense. Apparently it's not cool to wear your hair in two pigtails, or to have your skirt pulled down to your knees, or to be the teacher's pet and get the highest marks. It's not cool to have read Shakespeare before having seen the latest movie at the multiplex.

I was a dancer. Scratch that, I am a dancer. I'm trained in the classical art form of Bharatnatyam. I'd won medals and was regularly praised. But now, I learned that if you don't hip-hop, you don't fit in.

I tried it. I enrolled in a hip-hop class. But then I learned something that devastated me more. If you're even slightly overweight, no amount of hip-hop will make you fit in.


I cried buckets of tears. I wrote dark stories. I didn't want to be the ugly girl. I didn't want to be the source of amusement to cruel boys when the teacher's back was turned. I thought there was nothing I could do.

And this is where the story of my life takes a sudden U-turn. I don’t know exactly how, but I reached a point where I realized that I needed to stop going down this dark emotional roller-coaster I'd embarked upon. I was going to get off the ride anyway, one way or another. I could make the choice to leave myself, and have my dignity intact. Or I could be thrown off, and admit that my inner demons had won.

I made my choice.

I finally opened up to my parents. I told them how the bullying got to me. I told them how the teasing had knocked down my dreams of being a worthwhile, inspiring girl. I wondered if they'd change my school, confront my teachers about the bullying, or (even though it's nearly unheard of) take me to a therapist.

One out of three isn't really bad a guess, is it?

My parents came to school. They fought and made sure that the teachers got to know about what was really going on inside the classroom door. But they didn't make me switch schools. And they definitely didn’t think I needed counselling. They wanted me to learn to confront my problems myself, and learn how to beat them.
In the summer of '08, I enrolled in karate classes. I joined an art camp, a swimming class and a journalism workshop. These ventures made me realize how much more there is to life than being labelled the ugly girl with the glasses. I learned to broaden my outlook and accept who I was. I didn’t need to conform to the dictates of a society which was itself in chaos.

I couldn't control my eyesight, but I could start reading in better ventilated places so as not to worsen it. (A little more news on that front- I undergo eyesight corrective surgery next year, after I turn 18). I could give the excuse of genetics, or I could try to keep fit with regular exercise. I couldn't control what others thought of me, but I could control what I thought of myself.

I realized that I thought of myself as someone worthy, talented, and inspiring. I am a dreamer. I am a fighter. I have something to offer the world. Slowly, the stories I wrote began turning into something more uplifting. (Almost to the point where almost nothing I write has too much sadness anymore. I write for escape, and it shows.)

And by the time sixth grade came around, I no longer sat down and took the 'ugly girl' taunts. Because I'm not ugly. Not at all. I ignored them and went on my way. I reached out to people, and I began to make friends. Slowly but surely, throughout the year people began to see beyond the skirts and the belts. They saw through the pimples and the awkwardness. And I began seeing myself in a new light, along with them,
Six years down the line, I'm a karate black belt. I play the piano, I take part in tennis and swimming tournaments. And I write. I've won prizes for my essays and poems. I'm an avid debater. I'm still the teacher's pet, but that's fine. I haven't gone back to dancing yet, but it's on the cards. That's mainly because I find myself with too much to do and too little time. (This post is a perfect example- I’m so late in submitting it.)


Most importantly, I've begun to make friends. I moved away from Delhi a few years ago, but this time the move didn't affect me as much. I learned that life is what we make it. I wouldn't change a thing about me, no matter how 'ugly' that new red scarf is. I'm happy, and those who can't accept that my life is busy and fulfilling have no place in it anyway.

Is high school different? In some ways, yes. I graduate next year. So far, I've learnt that there are still shallow people who like you based on what you wear and who you hang out with. But there are also people who talk to you because they think that poem you wrote was special; that the fact that you both like the same TV shows is cool; that because you listen and are there for them it means that they need to be there for you. There are smart, incredible people who want to change the world for the better. Starting now.

There are so many people I owe this metamorphosis to. I’ve graduated from a shy caterpillar to a butterfly ready to take on the world. No one comments on my appearance any more. I’m proud to think that by changing the way I thought about myself, I was able to change the way others thought about me as well.

You can't tell me I'm not beautiful. My seven-year old brother told me just the other night- 'Priya, you're so wonderful. Some day, I want to be just like you.'


****


Priya Rao, also known in cyberland as MistyFalls, is a 16 year old girl whose one wish is to be able to drown in chocolates all year long. She’s been reading since she was three, writing since the last two years, and been dreaming of Chocoland since- forever, really. She’s taken part in, and won, writing challenges such as two NaNoWriMos, one Camp NaNo, one Script Frenzy, and so on. An avid debater and (seemingly) na├»ve, she wants to become a lawyer and make a difference in the world. Piano enthusiast, practitioner of karate, youth debates- she has many varied interests. She lives in Hyderabad, India, with her parents and an adorably fluffy animal who’s also known as her 7 year old brother, future boxing champ.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Toxic Boss by AJ Joseph

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

T is forToxic Boss
by
AJ Joseph
In June of last year, I left the company that I had set up with my ex-boss turned business partner. It was difficult to leave a company I’d help start but I couldn’t stay in a place where I was being worn down emotionally every single day by someone I used to call mentor. This was the second time I had parted ways with her.
The first time was two years earlier when I’d resigned from the consulting firm she’d set up. Then, I was just a lowly employee, the most senior consultant. When I handed in my resignation letter, I told her that I needed to help my recently retired parents move back to my hometown and that I’d have to stay with them for a bit till they settled. This was not entirely true as my parents were perfectly capable of doing the move themselves and had everything mostly dealt with already. The real reason I left was because I was drowning in her toxicity and the only way to leave was to lie. Everyone who had left before me, left with some version of a lie. I found out later that we all chose lies that she wouldn’t be able to use to convince us to stay because that’s what she does, she’ll take your words, and twist it, and turn it until all you see is a gift and the next thing you know, you’re retracting your resignation. I know, because it happened to me.     
It’s difficult to adequately explain what she’s like to people who don’t work for her because when she’s out and about meeting with clients, she’s the epitome of friendliness and grace, a social butterfly. In the office, she rules with an iron fist and a razor sharp tongue capable of making you feel that your worth is less than an amoeba’s.
There was one time, when we were organizing an office do for associates; she’d told us that she would take care of the catering. We all breathed a sigh of relief. On the day itself, 2 hours before the event, she asked when the food would be ready and we looked at her, our eyes widened. No one wanted to remind her that she had said she’d take care of catering, though eventually I did, knowing that she would not admit she forgot. True enough, she said that she’d not said such a thing so now we had to scramble to go to the nearest mall and get food and drinks! And even when that was done, she criticized our choices – “Why did you get this cheese? Why not the other sort? Are we only going to serve these drinks? Did you get ice?” I stood there, trembling with rage and told her that this was the best we could do since it was last minute. “Don’t get so emotional,” she replied.   
She has this ability to make you feel smaller than a grain of sand. I was never enough, no matter how much I tried and to my detriment, I kept trying. I tried for nearly 10 years to be the person she wanted me to be. By then, I didn’t even recognize who I really was and what I really wanted.
And even when I decided to leave, it was a path filled with thorns. She accused me of deceiving her because she assumed that when I decided to go into partnership with her, I’d be with her forever. She had plans, she told me, plans to get her doctorate and now that I’m leaving, I’d upset her plans of that as well. I had turned her life upside down and she’d make me pay. I compromised by not leaving in the next 3 months as per my contract but in the next year. The weeks that followed that declaration were filled with painful silences, she rarely came into the office and she avoided my gaze. 
When I eventually left, I felt a sort of lightness. I had been in a place where I was suppressed and subjugated and that marked me. More colleagues left after I did and one of them (braver than I ever was) told her that she was giving her 24 hour notice because she didn’t want to stay any longer than that and experience more ill treatment. A few of us who once worked with the Toxic Boss still keep in touch and now we can laugh about our past work experience and we’d say that we’re all suffering from a sort of PTSD which I think is partially true. Work shouldn’t be traumatic but working with the Toxic Boss was that and so much more.
I still have dreams where she’s in it and shouting at me for no reason but at least, in the morning, I wake up and she’s gone.        
****
 
AJ Joseph is a bookaholic, semi-insomniac, unsuccessful recovering javaholic, but most importantly a writer. She is currently in the process of reinventing her life around her first love: words. She blogs about her writing adventures at wordsfromsonobe.wordpress.com