Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

In this week’s photo challenge, share your take on the idea of room — it could be an actual room in your house, a favorite gallery in your local museum, a cubicle at work. You could also take this challenge in a more abstract direction, and show us where you feel like you have room — or lack it.

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This was my first ever brand new car, and I drove it everywhere!  It took me places I never thought I’d go and actually enjoy myself (you know, for a city girl), like up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas where you saw all the stars at night and hear the deer munching on the apples outside your window.

To me, the world was wherever I found myself in.  If all else failed, there was always my mind palace…

Which takes me to the next picture I took while sitting in LA traffic right by the take off and landing strip at LAX.  Though it might be a bit constricting inside that car, I always knew it would take me anywhere I’d want to go (within driving distance, of course).

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The next picture is of the Taos, New Mexico skyline.  I have so many other pictures of the skyline but this was the one I could grab quickly without having to reduce resolution in another program.  This was in the outskirts of Taos, where people lived in earthships outside of the grid.  All around us are sage brush and at night you heard the coyotes howling.

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Another view of the sky, although this one has been cropped to center the walkway with the cross.  Writing often means I’m cooped up indoors the entire time so getting outside is really important for me – even though I don’t get to get outside of the city as much as I’d like.  But when I do, I go for places where I can see the sky and smell the trees.

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One of my favorite rooms that I wished I could have spent more time in was this master bedroom at the Phoenix earthship, also in Taos.  I loved the red adobe walls with mica that glistened.

It was so cool, temperature-wise, inside that room because part of the area where the bed is located is bermed against and partly under a hill of sorts, to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  And oh, the bed was divine.  I could have just written in that room all day – oh, and do other stuff, too, of course.

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Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

In this challenge, tell us how you fell in love with books and writing.

In my childhood bedroom, a shelf hung over my bed, and on this shelf were the classic titles such as Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and even a collection of limericks.   My mother was a fan of Readers’ Digest books, and she may have bought every single one advertised in the mail.  My bedroom served as the storage area for all these books that she kept buying, and there was even a locked wall cabinet where she stored all of them – encyclopedias, abridged story collections and more.  Sometimes I’d sneak the key and open it, and read about supernatural hauntings from one book, and how to make fondant from another.

One day, either my mother ordered me to dust the shelf or I was  grounded for something I’d done that I have no recollection of, but something made me reach for the top of that shelf.  And at the top of it where only dust resided, one well-worn book had been tucked away, its corners bent, and without a cover to tell me what it was.  I was ten or eleven years old then, and this book would shape the way I preferred my stories and even the way I write them now.

The epilogue of this cover-less book talked about a man people had long forgotten in a country called Corteguay (fictional, of course).  His name was Diogenes Alejandro Xenos, a name which would be shortened to Dax as he gets older, and how, as the story opens and he is a child, bandits come upon their family home, kill his mother and sister, and he escapes into the jungle.  He grows up to become an outlaw, a playboy and even a powerful generalismo of his country.

I devoured that book from the first page to the last, not really understanding some parts but comprehending enough.  In an era before Facebook, YouTube and Google, I learned about sex, drugs, , death and power.  The book, if you haven’t guess it yet, was called The Adventurers and it was written by Harold Robbins.  I never knew who owned it, but after that first chapter, I did not care.  I ended up hiding the book myself, so that whoever stashed it away up there, would not find it when they came back.

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The Adventurers by Harold Robbins from Glorious Trash

I would seek out all Robbins’ books after The Adventurers, though I had no problem doing so, for whoever had left that book on my shelf, had left a few more – The Pirate, Stiletto and A Stone for Danny Fisher. Who knows?  It could have been my mother, who didn’t think Harold Robbins was a good fit for all her Readers’ Digest Selected Book collection.

By the time I was 14, while my friends were enamored with Harlequin and Mills & Boon romances, I was into more adult fare – James A. Michener, James Clavell, and Robert Ludlum.  I also began writing – by hand on legal-sized sheets of paper that my grandfather still had long after he retired from his legal practice and then with a typewriter someone gave me (and probably regretted, since I typed till 3 am most days) for Christmas.  In high school, my stories found their audience among my classmates and one of them almost got me suspended because of its adult content.

Sometimes I yearn to find a copy of that book again – with its cover this time – though I really am in no rush.  I have the digital copy of it, and for now, should I ever lose that spark of writing, reading those first few pages should be enough to send me back in time, and back into my writing.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.

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Fleur by tcbflyr

Age is a double-edged sword.  Just this week, my client told me about Noah, and how he lived to be 900 years old.  She said that he also preached to the people for 150 years about how a flood was coming, even though they all laughed at him and thought him crazy.  I tolerate such talk in my sessions sometimes, because I know that in an hour or two, I’d forget about it.

Then tonight, I learned that someone I knew from high school, and who I probably rubbed elbows with during the last ‘reunion’ party I attended two years ago, passed away suddenly last month.  They held her memorial in a city just an hour away from me, but since I’ve been away from FB and haven’t really been in touch with high school friends, I never knew about it.  And while I may not have been close to her at all, the knowledge of her loss jarred me with its raw power.

It was like a poison, seeping through my bones, seeking permanent residence after waiting for a way in for so long.   And that’s when the reality hit me – even though my father died last year and I should have been thinking such thoughts then, but didn’t.

We’re all going to die.  The only question is when.

I may not live to be 900 years old like Noah, and regardless of my general optimism about such things, neither would I probably live as long as I’d really want to – which would be till my 4-year old is grown up and I know that he will be alright.  Once upon a time, I thought I was invincible, and that I had nothing to lose, and that I could do anything I wanted.  But things changed the moment my son was diagnosed with autism, even if it was downgraded to a mild case, or at best “autistic-like”.

Suddenly that idea that we all know about – that we are mortal  – became more real than anything else in the world.  Suddenly it had power – so much power that it has made everything I do tainted with that dreaded thought that I could die any time – even in my sleep.

And what would happen to my little prince then?  Who would take care of him?  Most of all, would he even remember me?  Would he even know that once upon a time he loved me or that I loved him with every fiber of my being?

Then I ask myself why I had a child so late in life – because having a child at 40 is late in life, no matter how much I sugar coat it and say it’s not. I ask myself why I didn’t think far ahead enough  – that when he’d turn 20, I’ll be in my 60’s.  But I just never did think about it then.  I was probably too immature to think things through the way I think and worry about them now, simply because age, when paired with mortality, is no longer just a number.

It’s a state of mind.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes

In this week’s writing challenge, you’ll write a post using three photographs for inspiration.

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Photo by Velvet Madrid

It was her regular haunt, a place where she could sit beneath the hanging flowers and listen to the tiny frogs splashing in the water in the nearby pond.  No one knew of this place – at least not her friends.  This was her secret place, a haven where she could enjoy her cappuccino, power up her macbook and just write.

Write till her cappuccino grew cold and she’d need another cup along with something else to fight off the caffeine shakes if she waited too long.  Maybe a muffin, if she wasn’t feeling like having an omelet or fried eggs and ham, for the latter usually left her stomach feeling weird.

The cats would watch her as they lounged on the steps, doing what cats did best beneath the shade of the hanging flowers.  They did nothing else, the languid heat seeming to melt them onto the cement steps where they’d stay for most of the morning.  By the time the sun would steal into their shady spot, it was time for them – and her – to go.  Back to the hustle and bustle of her real world, where most days except for the days she found herself here, she could barely hear her thoughts.

But this was a treat – yes, it was.  And as she sipped her cappuccino, smelling the sweet scent of hanging flowers all around her, she smiled.  She still had some time.  Yes, a little bit of time to herself.

And she would make every second count, she thought, just as the tiny frog that had been hiding beneath the shade of the lily pad emerged, and hopped into the water for a swim.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Object

The clock is loud, its tick-tock echoing somewhere in the room.  When I find it, it’s inside the entertainment cabinet, its battery slowly running out for the digital readout for the fourth city – now unnamed for its label peeled off a long time ago – is blinking, like a light about to go out.

Hoping that the battery compartment hasn’t rusted, for it’s probably been at least four years since I’ve replaced it, I flip up the lid and sigh, relieved, that the compartment is fine.  When I change the battery – it takes only one – the tick tock becomes louder, and I remember one night long ago when I had a lover over and he complained that he could not sleep because of the damn clock that kept on going and going and going.

It’s my father’s clock, I told him.  He got it as a business gift or something a long, long time ago.  I was probably only a teen.

Well, it’s too noisy, he grumbled.  I can’t believe how you can sleep through that.

Well, I can, I said.

Well, I can’t, he said.

Well, you can go then, I said.

Well, I will, then, he said.

Well, good-bye then, I said.

And so he left at around 3 am.  I remember, because that’s what my father’s clock said.

It’s a small thing, about 6 inches wide by 3 or so inches high.  It has a square face that tells the current time, while on either side of it are digital times for Paris, San Francisco, New York, and if I remember correctly, for the one whose sticker came off, Tokyo. It was a gift to my father by some one who worked for Evergreen Line, a “unified common trade name for the four shipping companies of the Evergreen Group,” or so says their current website.

I remember seeing it on my father’s desk when his company was still very successful, when he owned not just a gentleman’s club, but also a gas station, and during Christmas morning, we’d get into his Mercedes and his driver would take us through the city where people waited for him at certain places to give them their Christmas presents – money and a sack of rice.  And I’d like to believe because I must have heard it somewhere as a child, that he also once owned an island that disappeared when the tide came up – hey, the Philippines has over 7,100 islands.  The story could very well be true for I have memories of him taking us along with all his business friends and I was so excited that when I slipped off the inner tube, I thought I could just go down onto the bottom of the ocean, and walk to the shore.  And I’d like to believe that for one minute, when he was truly powerful, when people really did look up to him because he was, at one time, rich, that he really did own that island, that he really did business with the Japanese – and that one of them bothered to give him a little token of their gratitude.

And that now, I have that token.

It’s the only thing I have left of my father, really.  He died last year, poor and surrounded only by very distant relatives, with none of his children close by –  and I was so lost in writing and fangirl politics to really allow myself to grieve the loss of the man I really loved, no matter how flawed he was.

I still haven’t done all the grieving.  I haven’t even started.

Next week, he turns would have turned 70-something, I don’t even remember his age because in my mind, he’s never aged.  In my mind he’s always smiling, always telling me to not worry about the small things, to always do good any way I could because there was always someone worse off than I was.  And that though he may not have anything to leave me in money or property any longer, now that the days of wealth for him were long over, he did his best to give me an education, whether I took advantage of that gift or not.

Most of all, his greatest lesson for me was to listen; he said that it was the hardest thing to learn in the world.  And he’s right, it still is, especially for me.

And so I like the tick-tock that I hear through the house.  I may have kept it hidden for over four years, but this morning, I pulled it out of its hiding place, relieved to hear it still ticking, replaced its battery so I can keep on hearing it.

So I can keep on listening.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

I wish I could make things better, and make your pain go away
I wish I could tell the people who never stop to think before they speak
that they hurt more than they claim to help
With words about things that they don’t even know the details of
With callous opinions of the same things that they have no clue of

I wish we didn’t feel like we have to have to have to belong somewhere
because we already are part of something much bigger
than this collective we’ve found ourselves in
But maybe it’s human nature to want to belong
Maybe it’s in our bones to want to sing the same song

But even I’m not too daft to see how everything has changed
I’m not so naive not to recognize that things will never be the same again
that the time has come for us to move along
The rift has widened, just like you said
It’s time to move on.  This place is dead.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly Writing Challenge: Love in the 21st Century

For this challenge, we want you to write about 21st-century love. We encourage you to get personal and share your own story, but if you don’t want to go that route, we welcome commentary, opinion, and even humor pieces on your definition of love in this modern age.

“I’ll never meet anyone,” Sharon lamented as I emerged from the bathroom.

My roommate was sitting by the kitchen counter sipping on a diet cola, her white wifebeater shirt hanging loose in front of her. Thank goodness she was wearing her sports bra beneath it because her double D’s were straining behind the fabric. The shorts she wore were loose and unshapely, doing nothing to enhance her figure. But we were both at home, and there was no one to impress.

I had just spent the whole day at the beach playing volleyball and I was exhausted. And sunburnt.

I’d known Sharon for the last four years. She was about seven years older than me and had once been jilted almost at the altar – let’s say the night before the wedding – when her fiancee ran off with her best friend after bumping into her at a Journey concert. Suffice it to say, she hates Journey with a passion.

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“Why don’t we go out tonight then?” I suggested.

She shook her head. “But then you’ll get all the attention.”

“Why the hell am I going to get all the attention?” I asked incredulously. “You’re the one with the boobs.” And judging from experience, boobs always got the attention.

“You’re exotic.”

“You mean because I’m, like, Asian?” I asked. I wasn’t exactly Asian. More like Southeast Asian. “That’s not a criteria for getting attention really. We’re in the South Bay. Everyone here likes white girls just like you.”

Ever since we met, Sharon always threw in the ‘exotic’, ‘dark-skinned’, or ‘tanned’ card as an excuse for not getting anyone to notice her whenever we went out together. It so wasn’t true, but what could I do? She was absolutely convinced my skin color was the only reason that men noticed me – men who included her former German roommate who used to come knocking at my door at two in the morning professing to be my best friend after I drove his drunk ass home in his brand new Cabriolet without never having driven stick shift before.

Believe me, thirty miles of driving the Santa Monica freeway with foot frozen on the accelerator and someone else’s hand on the stick shift and fearing the sight of red rear view lights in the cars in front of us is one hell of a bonding experience. And you never want to stall anywhere, not with a brand new car.  Not in any car.

Sharon shook her head. “No, they like exotic girls like you. Besides, you’re not shy at all.”

Well, I had to agree there. But even Sharon had to concede that a few beers or cocktails made me a lot more fun that I already was (at least according to her). So it’s not really all me then.  Maybe it’s more the alcohol.

Maybe she should just drink more, I thought.

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“I just want to find a nice Jewish guy,” she began. “Maybe I should go online and try those dating sites.”

“You should!” I exclaimed, wondering why neither of us had ever thought of this bright idea.  I only had about three girl friends who met all their partners through online dating sites.  Why not Sharon? “Let’s go to the computer right now and get you started.”

Sharon shook her head, a horrified expression on her face. “I can’t do that. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go online to look for a date. I bet they’re all just geeks and nerds online.”

“Well, there’s really only one way to find out,” I said.  “And that’s to try it for yourself.”

I dragged her to the computer and we sat down. After a few keystrokes here and there, we ended up on a dating site called American Singles. There were other premium sites out there, but they all required a fee to join and Sharon wasn’t about to pay any of her hard-earned cash towards finding a partner.  At least, American Singles was free to join for the first week.

“Okay,” I said, going to the screen that would begin a new page in Sharon’s life – or at least, her online life. “Let’s start with your profile.”

Sharon shook her head again. “Can’t you do it first? Then we can both check out the guys who check you out and make sure they’re not perverts.”

“I thought you were worried that they’d be nerds and geeks? Which one is it?”

She made a face. “It’s just that I can’t imagine some cool guy going online to find a date. I just can’t. They could all be weird.  Or they could just be losers.”

“So you want me to set up a profile with my picture just so you get to see for yourself that none of these guys are perverts or nerds or geeks?  Or losers?”

She nodded. “Exactly,” she said. “And when you get to know them and if I like them, you can introduce me as your friend. Besides, you’re more photogenic than I am. And you’ve got a much better smile than I do.”

“Maybe it’s because I smile more than you,” I said, turning my attention back to the screen where at least it wouldn’t have something negative to say to me at every turn. “You should really try smiling more. It actually works.”

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Three days later, I had four dates lined up. I was meeting all of them at a local coffee shop that I never frequented as much – in case someone I knew from the beach would show up at the same place and wonder what the hell I was doing with geeks, nerds or perverts. As we agreed, Sharon sat a few tables away to observe the ‘subject’ and help me should I be in a bind.

While it sounded like the perfect arrangement, the one thing that we never considered  was that while I was olive-skinned, with almond-shaped eyes and long dark hair, Sharon was white as a sheet, had short cropped hair and other than the double D boobs which made her slouch her shoulders forward to hide them and totally ruin her posture, we were totally on the opposite side of the spectrum. If a man were to choose my profile over thousands of other candidates, wouldn’t part of the reason be that I didn’t look anything like Sharon?

Wouldn’t part of the reason be because like she said, I was “exotic?”

The first two men who showed up – one at a time, of course – fell under the category of nerdy and geeky. They were nervous as heck while I was simply as bubbly as can be. After all, I wasn’t doing this to find a partner.

Sharon shook her head with the first two candidates, and within twenty minutes, I dispatched each one by saying that I had to go because a girlfriend was having some boyfriend issues. Of course, Sharon’s job was to call my phone from where she sat.

“Can I have your number?” The first two men had asked me and I had to learn the difficult task of saying no. This was clearly something I hadn’t anticipated but I was glad to be rid of them, and equally glad to know that I could say ‘no’.

No offense to geeks and nerds out there, but this was an experiment and I was the guinea pig.

The third one came right on time. This one was smarmy and made the hair at the back of my neck stand on end. Half way through the conversation, he said, “I really like you. When can I see you again?”

“Um, never?” I croaked.

“You’re joking, right?” He smiled and touched my hand, which I promptly removed from the table. I glanced towards Sharon with a look that said help me, but she was busy reading the local paper. I was on my own.

“You do remember that thing I wrote you about me, right?” He continued and I shook my head. I had read so many emails since I had put up my profile on that damn website, my head was spinning. “The thing about me being married,” he said. “You do know that and it’s okay with you, right? That’s why you’re meeting me now.  I thought you knew that this was just for fun.”

“Um, no,” I said. “I don’t remember reading that bit because I sure as heck wouldn’t be seeing you if you were married.”

By the time I peeled his eyes off me, I had had it. And Sharon did, too, but only because one of her favorite afternoon shows was coming on and she wasn’t about to miss it.

She had just proven her point about online dating sites and the men who frequented them. If we had had a bet before we started the experiment, she would have won on all three of the men I’d agreed to see. “I’m so glad you chose a neutral place,” she said as she got up and got ready to leave. “I’m so done with this online shit.”

“Done?” I exclaimed. “You didn’t do anything. I was the one who put my own photo up online, made up my profile and then set out to meet these men.  You couldn’t even help me with that last one!  He was a swinger!”

Sharon shrugged. “Still, it proves my point. They’re all nerds, geeks and worse of all, perverts who go on these online dating sites.” She sighed sadly. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get to meet someone now.”

Then she got up and started to walk away.

“Wait,” I said. “There’s one more guy.”

Sharon glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go. Judge Judy is on in five minutes,” she said, pouting apologetically. “Just send him off like you did the other three.  See you at the house later, okay?”

I sat back down and ordered another cappuccino. I had purposely chosen a table that faced the entrance so I’d see every person who walked in. I’d even get to see them park their car and observe them before they got to see me. With the first two men, it had been nothing more than a game, but the third one totally creeped me out and I was just about done with this experiment.

Besides, what on earth was I doing? I wasn’t short on dates on Saturday nights. I wasn’t the one sitting at home watching television every single day pining over the man who left me after his friends took him to a Journey concert for his bachelor party – only to meet the right woman there, the night before his wedding?

I mean, I wasn’t actively dating, although I had a large group of friends and just about every night, we partied. Every weekend we partied on the beach, and then that party would move on to whichever house was closest and whoever got the keg delivered before ten at night.  Then the following day was all about finishing the keg.

I leaned back on my chair and sighed. This was a disaster. I couldn’t believe I had allowed Sharon to talk me into this. What if someone I actually knew and partied with was also on American Singles? That would be embarrassing!

He came in while I was deep in thought about what I would say to someone if they ever found my profile online. Would they buy the ‘just experimenting’ bit? Somehow, I doubted it because if someone ever threw that line at me, I’d know right away they were shitting me.

“Hi,” he said and I looked up, almost choking on my coffee.

He was tall, blonde and muscular. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen and he folded his long legs under the table as he sat in front of me. And even if I wasn’t actively looking for a date, I found myself thinking about how I would like this specimen under me, above me, and just in general all over me.

“I’m Greg,” he said, as we shook hands. “You must be Beth. You’re much prettier than your profile picture.”

I blushed. He was smooth, this Greg.

“And you’re nothing like yours,” I said, remembering the photograph of a man with the nerdiest rimmed glasses I had ever seen. Actually, you’re a freakin’ Greek god, dude, I really wanted to say, but I had to keep up appearances. He could also be a serial killer, for all I knew.

“I do that so that people don’t get the wrong idea,” he said sheepishly.  “I’ve met two other women and they were totally so unlike their photographs.  More like ten years out of date.”

I laughed.  “I almost did that,” I said.  “But then I’d have to arrest you for soliciting a minor if you did bite.”

Greg smiled.  “I really liked our phone conversations and our chats, Beth. You’re quite funny and I like that.”

We spent the next two hours talking over coffee and croissants. We talked about everything BUT the one question that both nagged us the moment we met. As we closed in on the third hour, I finally had to know.

“Why did you go on American Singles?” I finally blurted out. “I mean, look at you. I don’t think you have a problem finding dates.”

Greg smiled, lowering his eyes shyly. “You’ll never believe it if I told you.”

“Try me,” I said. “I just got propositioned by a married man looking for an affair today, so I’m game if you are.”

“I actually did all this as an experiment…”

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The original DPchallenge ended here, but after rereading it, I realized it needed some sort of resolution. So it continues below. Simply click on the page numbers to take you to the rest of the story.