Writing101 – Day Twenty Prompt

Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.

A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

How long is long? That’s entirely up to you to decide. You can go with a set number — 750, 1000, or 2000 words, or more (or less!). Alternatively, you could choose your longest post thus far in the challenge, and raise the bar by, say, 300 words, 20 percent, three paragraphs — whatever works for you.

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So here’s the truth.  Although I have a lot of stuff, I don’t “treasure” most of it.  Frankly, considering the way I treat many of my objects, someone could reasonably say I treasure almost none of it.

That’s a bit harsh.

I did read a few others’ entries to get an idea of what they treasured and as I always am by other people’s honesty, I was in awe.  And like many of you, what I really treasure most tends towards the abstract and ephemeral (my marriage, love, freedom, my intelligence, a great cup of coffee).

Maybe I’m late in posting this because I was really rather embarrassed by the one thing I treasured.  It seemed petty, and privileged.  And having recently been called “privileged and condescending” my thinking went along the lines of – “you can’t write about that – how privileged and condescending of you!”

My inner critic is a bitch.

But bitch, sometimes you have to be happy with what you have.  I am blessed to have this and everything else in my life.  I don’t know if it’s just plain luck that I have it, or as a result of hard work and choices that I and others made, or a combination of both, but for sure I’m blessed.

Let me tell you a little story.  Really.  I promise.

I got married for the first time in 1981.  I know – some of you weren’t even born then!  Strange, huh?  Even I think that’s a long time ago, but when I was living it, at age 23, well, I was 23.  So I was young and the world seemed to stretch out infinitely, as it always does for a 23-year-old.

My husband and I didn’t have any money.  And there wasn’t anyone to pay for a wedding, so we made our wedding invitations and announcements, an aunt of his baked us a cake and someone else did the flowers, and I wore a nice but flowered dress.  We had gone ring shopping at a local jewelers and he had bought me a pretty gold ring that had potential to be modified for diamonds in the future.  He wanted to design his own wedding ring, so he opted not to get one at the time, which was fine since I couldn’t afford a ring for him.  I think my gold band (which wasn’t plain by any means) cost around $450.

We were married for about seven years total.  At the end of the marriage, no diamonds had been added to the ring, and he never got a ring for himself.  What we had to show for our marriage was our son, who was two when we separated, and a lot of debt.  We never owned a house or had any other financial assets.  Our son was truly our only asset.

I was single for almost two decades after this.  Single’s great – I highly recommend being single.  Actually, I recommend being single before getting married, if you can work it out.  I obviously have lived portions of my life backwards.

I thought I was an old maid at 23 and was wanting desperately to get married, so when I was asked, I said yes.  It wasn’t a terrible marriage, but I was young and he, although five years older, was also not terribly prepared for it either.  We both loved our son, but not each other.

Being single after having been married is much more problematic.  I did enjoy it, parts of it, and blessedly, I never became bitter over men and relationships.  I knew so many women for went through a long protracted “men are pigs” phase and some who never went beyond this.  But in fairly short order, I was able to meet people and date on occasion and even have a boyfriend or two.  Most didn’t meet my son as he was growing up.  I had a few more serious relationships over the years, but none took beyond the dating phase (even the one I have written about on this blog never got to the living together stage).

I met my current (and last!) husband in 2004.  I almost didn’t meet him at all, actually.  When people ask us how we met, I usually am open about it and will be here.  Why not?  You won’t judge me, right?

We met on match.com.  There, I’ve said it.  We are one of those couples. Just not as photogenic.

Now to back up a bit, I have to say that I was an early adopter of online dating.  When all my friends were saying, “oh my god, you’ll meet serial rapists and end up in pieces in dumpsters” (maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic), I was having coffee with nice but not eligible matches.  I learned the art of saying, “I don’t think we’re a match” and meaning it which was a way to not have to say, “it’s not me . . . it’s YOU.”

And I got to get rejected some of the time, too.  I’m not that fabulous, after all.

The fact is – most of the guys I met online were perfectly nice.  Some were abject weirdos, true, but the vast majority were just guys working in places where it was hard for them to meet women.  And I certainly didn’t want to date in-house, either.  Lawyers?  Forget.about.it.

So I learned a lot about the online world – how to navigate it, who was a possible, who wasn’t and a million other little things that only online daters learn.  The big one – the one I tried to adhere to 100% of the time – was “meet early.”  I had a few occasions early on of forming emotional attachments in the online sphere prior to meeting and then being terribly disappointed when I finally met them.  Or there was zero chemistry in person, and here I was acting like a silly schoolgirl online or on the phone (or worse, much worse.)

The other little rule that most women know of is what I call the two-year rule.  Which is that most men need about two years after a divorce before they are a decent catch again.

So when I got a wink from my future husband, I read his profile and it was – recently separated, in the process of divorce.  In other words, not even worth meeting for about, you know, the next 24 months. 

Not that he was looking for another wife or anything.  He was online to meet someone nice to go to dinner with.  I’d been at the singles game a whole lot longer than him, obviously, and was open to a re-marriage, but that certainly wasn’t his initial intent.

So we wrote back and forth once or twice and then I did the “let him down easy” email, saying I didn’t think it was a good idea since, of course, he was so newly single, blah blah blah.  He wrote back and said how disappointed he was in reading this and had looked forward to getting to know me.

Life is funny, isn’t it?

Because at the time I was flirting and writing online with future husband, I was also sortof dating a guy I’d been hung up on for quite a long while, and also, to add to the mix, kindof dating another guy, a lawyer! (ooooooh, those damn lawyers – so pesky).  Actually sortof was a lawyer, too – but when I was dating him, he hadn’t quite passed the bar yet.  Sortof was “perfect on paper” – divorced, yes, but as long as I was – with only one child who, like my son, was mostly grown up.  Kindof was divorced over two years with two younger kids.  So both of these guys were much more suitable than future husband was.

But sortof had another girlfriend (that’s why he’s ‘sortof’) and really wasn’t available to me.  And kindof?  Well, kindof and I had a so-called romantic weekend away which he mostly spent on the phone with his ex-wife, reminding her to do this, and helping her with that, and playing referee to the kids.

After the end of that fiasco, I re-evaluated and re-considered, and said yes to a phone call and then yes to meeting future husband.  I figured it couldn’t have been quite as bad as these two knuckleheads, sortof and kindof.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t as bad.  In fact, it was good.  And got better over time.

In 2005, he asked me to marry him and I said yes.  And he inquired as to whether he should surprise me with an engagement ring, or should we go together to buy it?  My answer was “I think you know me by now.”  Nodding he said, “we’ll go shopping together.”

One of the fun things about living in a big city is that they have all these districts, and Los Angeles is not alone in this.  Downtown, where I’d worked off and on for many years, has a wonderful jewelry/diamond district.  My elderly Aunt B has bought many a piece of jewelry from there, and it’s known that if you want a bargain, you go to the district and “never buy retail!!!”  First rule.

I’m sure they do surveys of who are the primary vendors in terms of country of origin, but after having spent some time wading through the shops and open air stalls, I would say it’s someplace vaguely from the Middle East – either Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, even Armenia, too.  Probably a fair number of Turkish vendors.  It’s quite the experience to shop there.

We did do a few smart things prior to shopping – I looked at a lot of ring styles, and schooled myself on diamonds and other stones, and then we went retail shopping at the mall to get a feel for prices and styles that were “off the rack”.  I found one ring designer that I liked and even found a style that I loved.  The retail store that carried his work had the ring and it was pretty expensive.  Of course, the expense would include adding the main diamond to it.

So that was the background and then we hit the diamond district.  Eventually we found a shop where we told them what we were looking for and what type of diamond we were looking for.

This woman was amazing – she found the designer online, the ring design and basically she made a slightly different, but similar, ring for me.  As she showed us diamonds, I saw one that I liked and then she showed us a bigger diamond.  The bigger diamond was slightly over two carats and the price was significantly higher.  I knew it would look better in the ring and with my hands (since I’m not a small woman), but it couldn’t be my call to spend more money.

But future husband said yes.  Immediately and without hesitation.  He could afford it and he wanted to buy it for me and that was that.

So it was a few weeks later, we went back to try on my ring and I’ve worn it ever since, even before we got married as I opted to have a single ring that is both engagement and wedding ring, not a separate engagement ring.

My ring is one of, if not the most, treasured physical possession I have.  It is beautiful and unique (main square two carat Aascher cut diamond with two sapphires and pave cut diamonds in a white gold setting) – I have literally never seen a ring like mine anywhere.  It looks at once antique and vintage (that’s the sapphires, as they were used a lot in rings in the 1920’s), and very modern.  And it fits me to a T.

Yes, it cost a lot.  And I don’t care.  I am blessed to have been given it by a man who I treasure and love (even if he pets me sometimes a bit too much).  And yes, I bought him a wedding band, too, although the cost for his band versus my ring was on a magnitude of about 50 to 1.  I got the better end of that deal, I guess.

But I think he’d say he got a good deal, too.  For after a long marriage to a woman who he had loved and treasured but who had many demons of her own that got in the way, he was just happy to be in a marriage with someone who laughed at his jokes and enjoyed his company.  Who appreciated him and allowed him to be his most creative self.  Etc. etc. etc.

So we both got a great deal.  I had to take a chance on someone who didn’t look so “perfect on paper” but was perfect for me, and he had to amend his sights from just dinner to a lifetime of dinners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing101 – Day Nineteen Prompt

Okay – a Challenge?  Well, for someone who isn’t too keen on publishing free writing – yep!

At least 400 words (oh….that’s hard…..yeah, right.)

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So I was writing in my journal this morning about competition and what I think about it.  I’m still unclear.  I don’t consider myself a competitive person because I never was athletic or played sports, but of course, that’s a big fat lie.  I continually compared myself to others in the classroom.  With grades and test scores and all that stuff.  In fact, it was so toxic to my sense of self, that I think I’ve been putting up a big defense against it.  Telling myself I’m not in competition with someone else.

But it’s right here in my house.

Hubster is writing, too.  We have a joint blog but I don’t write on it a lot anymore – I’m over here writing away.  Since he’s also writing everyday, he’s actually written and finished a first draft of a novel.  It’s pretty good for a first draft – I’m reading it right now.  And I’m kindof jealous.  I’m also proud.  I’m also happy for him and even for me – if we can sell this, great.  Maybe make a few shekels – maybe not.  Plus, he’s had fun with it.

But mostly, I’m in awe.  He’s shipped something.  I’m not so great at that.  I guess, in a bigger sense, now that we’re both retired, we’re trying to find good things to do – and some of them cannot be the same things.  I’m trying to practice my writing although I don’t have any end game in mind.  I’m not working on a novel.  I wrote over 50,000 words on one a couple years ago during NaNoWriMo, but I’ve never finished it.  I just wasn’t sure about it, after all.  Who would read it, I wondered?

And maybe that’s part of the problem – part of my sense of jealousy or competitiveness and comparison.  Can we both be good?  Can we both just use writing for whatever reasons we use it?  Do we even have to like what the other person writes?

I’m the one who wants some space – he comes over and touches me, pets me.  I like it – mostly.  But sometimes, like a little kid, I’m like – too much!  Leave me alone.  I don’t want to be left alone entirely, I just want a little bit of breathing room.  And now we’re both writing?

I’m not going to figure out the ins and outs of marital stuff in one writing, I know that.  It always feels dense and uncomfortable and faintly irreligious – I love this man.  I do.  But I need to spend time alone.  I get up earlier now to go downstairs, to write in my journal – behind a closed door.  He writes in his office, behind a closed door and I type away upstairs.  Usually that’s enough space, but sometimes . . . it just isn’t.

I wish I had a good template for how much togetherness was optimal – how much we can do the exact same thing and have it be our own.  And not be each others.  I don’t have that template.  I lurch forward and backwards – come closer, go away.  Leave me alone, I miss you.  I get withdrawn and then I approach.  He looks hurt when I pull away – then I come forward and repair.

I want my work to be better, but then I realize how petty and childish that sounds.  Then I want to retreat and just stop writing entirely.  I want to keep mine secret, so he won’t read it.  But he’s not invasive.  That was my mother.  She was unable to give me any privacy and that’s not the case now.  I guess I do tend to judge him guilty for her earlier crimes.

Okay.  So he’s not my mother.  You think I’d know that by now.  But there it is – it’s an old feeling.

He’ll probably read this.  I don’t want hurt feelings over my own bullshit, so I hope he keeps it in context.  My best self wants him to succeed – and wants me to succeed, too.  My worst self is petty and feels wanting and scared.  I don’t want to operate from this self and sometimes I do.

I hate that I’m human some days.

 

 

 

Writing101 – Day Eighteen Prompt

The Challenge:

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

Note:  You’ll see I mostly stuck to the “script”, but thought my version a bit more intriguing, shall we say?

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Brother.

Such bullshit.  I hate, hate, fricken hate all the BS coming from inside.  Who gives a flying whatever about Kim’s booty?  Or Kanye’s latest rap song?

I’m heading outside to get rid of my stupid sister’s BS show TMZ.  The Moron Zombies is what it should stand for.

I sure as hell hope I’m not a lame-o like her when I’m sixteen.

As I’m sittin’ there, I hear what sounds like an ambulance, but as it turns the corner I see it’s a Sheriff’s cruiser.

Whoa.  Somethin’s happening in our little neighborhood.  Nothin’ ever happens here.

Well, not entirely true.  Nothin’ ever happened her ’bout three years ago.  But when the mill closed and they started makin’ those clothes in wherever the fuck they make them – China, or India or a place that’s spelled Sri but pronounced Shree Lanka – a lotta people lost jobs.  A lotta people in this ‘hood that is.

Mostly folks who graduated high school, started work and liked to drink beer ev’ry night and on weekends.  Mostly nice guys, y’know?

Now it’s just sad.  Lots of guys still out of work.  Lots of people have left the block – there’s a bunch of apartments empty.

I know this cuz my friends and I explore every so often.  Great place to stash cigs and beer.  We can just be ourselves without big brotha and big sis lookin’ over our shoulder at every little thing, all appalled cuz we swig a beer now and then.  Last time Bobbs showed up, he had one of his big brother’s doobies, which was a first for me.  Man, I couldn’t stop coughing.  Ugh.

Here’s what I know – no matter what happens – I’m outta here in a few years.  I’m goin’ to college, not beauty school like my idiot sister – who calls it es-the-titty-an school.  Nah, that’s what I call it – course, last time I did, she threw a plate at my head.  Missed.  Cuz she throws like a lame-o.

So nothin ever used to happen here.  Now . . . well, now we have idiots doin’ all sorts of shit up and down the block and a few blocks over.  Sellin’ drugs, some kids in gangs, people bonkin’ each other over the head with frypans, and even a shootin’ and knifin’ here and there.  What a fucking mess.

But through it all Mrs. Pauley’s been here.  She was here from way before I was on the planet.  Too bad about her old man, though.  Had a stroke – gone in a flash.  Dead before the ambulance came, that’s what I heard.

She’s a real nice lady.  Pretty old.  But lively, y’know?  Doesn’t act all mean – “get off my lawn!” – or nothin’.  In fact, she’s more like to have a plate of chocolate chip cookies on her porch, and welcome you to have one on your way home from school.  Not every week, okay, but probably once a month or so.

So real nice.  And I hear tell that she even likes some rap music.  Least that’s what she told Kev and Gigi when they asked her.  I guess they thought she’d say she liked the waltz or somethin’.  But no, she said she liked Michael Jackson and that white kid Em-and-m and someone else, i dunno.

I hate rap.  Stupid.  But y’know, I don’t understand it, so maybe one day, I’ll be cool with it –  but I doubt it.

It’s been kinda weird since the Mister died.  He was always workin’ on his car and stuff.  They got along okay, I guess.  No fightin’ or anything.  But they also had those boys.  Six of ’em.

Geez.  Bad enough we have three girls, although of the three, I am the coolest.  I can’t imagine havin’ more kids in the family, especially the size of these apartments.  We have to share a room as it is – least it’s just me and Mads now.  Just so mom and dad can have a bedroom to themselves.

You know, there was a rumor about Donnie.  It was going ’round that Donnie was runnin’ with a tough crowd, tryin’ to become made in some stupid gang.  Good grief, man.  You got parents.  You’re not like some orphan kid or somethin’.

Anyway – part of it was he was s’posed to be holdin’ some drug crap or the drugs themselves and be sellin’ to the neighbor kids.  Kev said that Donnie tried to get him to try crack.  Uhhh.  No fuckin’ way.

That shit’ll kill you.  Ev’rybody knows that.  Donnie told Kev he could try it for free and all, see if he liked it.

Kev didn’t say it, but I know he was scared.  I’d be, too.

Donnie never said boo to me, but this was a year ago and I was a little kid, like 11.  And after this, we heard his parents got wind of it, and they threw him out.  On his ass.

Well, I guess the old man did.  Mrs. Pauley always had a soft spot for the big overgrown brat.  Don’t know why.  He was a thug, a criminal, man.  Headed down the wrong path – do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I haven’t seen him in the ‘hood for months.  Course that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around, just that I’m not watchin’ for him.

Kinda weird, actually.  Most of those boys don’t come home or visit their parents.  Some days I think – when I leave, I ain’t never comin’ back.

But I bet I feel different when I’m older.  Geez – Susan is always comin’ to visit, bringin’ that snot-nosed brat of hers.

I don’t mind being an Ant, it’s just weird, is all.  I’m too young to be around babies.  And she stinks – a lot.  Maybe Susan never learned to diaper her proper like.

So here I am, the cops are flashing their lights and banging on Mrs. Pauley’s door.  I notice out of the corner of my eye, that Gigi, who’s a big snoopy girl (don’t tell her anythin’ you don’t want the whole class to know – trust me on this) is out of her door and sitting on the steps of her building.

Hey, I nod in her direction.  Shit, she’s comin’ over.  Crap.  I don’t mind her when Kev’s with her cuz he’s cool, but she’s just a jerky pants.

“Hey, Lexi,” she’s casual like.

“Geeej,” I respond, as casual as her.

“So . . . what’s going on over there?”

“Dunno.”

“Well . . .” and here it comes.  Rumor mill central.

I heard that Mrs. Pauley was actually in on it . . .”

“Oh come on, bullshit.”

“No, really.  She’s been in on it from the beginning.”  In on what?

I turn and flash her a vicious look, lowerin’ my voice:  “Look.  You are so full of it.  We’re talking about Mrs. Pauley.  She bakes us cookies for crap’s sake.”

“Hand to God!”  she looks all wounded, so maybe she ain’t just blowin’ smoke up my ass. Now, I gotta find out.

“So what are we talkin’ ’bout here?” I might as well be open, since really, I’ve no idea what she’s blatherin’ about.

“Selling drugs.  With Donnie . . .”

What.the.fuck?

And then it makes sense.  The Mister was incredibly pissed off.  The day he threw out the kid, it was a big scene on the block.  Clothes, his crap – all over the postage-stamp green they called a lawn (yeah, right).  It was, don’t let the door hit you on the ass, kiddo.  Asta la bye bye.

But Mrs. Pauley seemed okay.  She didn’t act all P.O.’d.  In fact, she just sat there.  For all I know, maybe she was baking some POT cookies!

I can’t really hear what’s goin’ on over at the Pauley’s, but I see the cops leading her out the door and kindof stuffin’ her into the backseat.  What?

I see the handcuffs.

Maybe what the Geeej is saying is true.  I turn to the girl and say,

“Who told you?”

“Who else, idiot?  Kev.”  Kev is her brother and he’s 15, in high school.  He’s the one Donnie tried to get hooked.  “Donnie told him.  He was real proud of his mama.  Said she’d be around for any orders he might have.  Kev also said he could be one of the runners on the block, if he played his cards right.  Could make him a LOT of moolah.”

Whoa.

Maybe that would ‘splain it.  The teens who were chummy with Mrs. Pauley.  Maybe they were workin’ ‘tween her and Donnie or those gangbangers he was hangin’ with.

I don’t know how it all works.  Shit, I don’t wanna know how it works.

Man – this was a day when I learned a pretty big lesson – people aren’t always what they seem.  Maybe Mrs. Pauley waited until her old man was dead ‘fore she got involved; maybe she needed the money; maybe she just wanted to help her kid out.  I don’t know why she would do something like this.

But there’s a bunch of stuff that adults do that is just plain fuckin’ puzzlin’, y’know?