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All posts for the month January, 2013

On being a bombshell.

Published January 28, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another two pounds lost; I am ecstatic!  I am celebrating personal achievement because when it comes to “The Biggest Loser” competition at work, I am far from being in the lead.  Rumor has it that someone lost seven pounds, and that another participant completed a four-day fast to boost his or her start.  I am not that competitive; winning would be wonderful, but if I lose every week, I will be happy.  The competition is more of a motivating tool than anything else.  The monetary spoils of victory will have no value when measured against how I look, how I feel, and the confidence I will gain.  Although, I might just be saying all of that to make myself feel better about my inevitable loss – only time will tell.

Whenever I mail anything, which is not all that often in this digital age, I am always reminded of that scene in the movie “Grease,” where Marty is sending a letter to her boyfriend in the Marines, so she sprays the exceedingly feminine stationary with her perfume.  Personally, I believe that to be a wonderfully romantic idea.  Just the other day I found myself in the local post office, sending a copy of my novel to a friend and included a short letter.  I penned a heartfelt note using a ballpoint pen filled with royal blue ink onto fashionable stationary, with a black and white paisley boarder around its edges and matching envelopes.  As I licked the edge of the envelope flap to seal it, I thought about what a sensual, intimate gesture it would be leave just the tiniest trace of lipstick around an edge; the faintest clue of my physical existence.  Naturally, this train of thought led me to the scene from the aforementioned movie, and I wondered if lipstick on the envelope and perfume lightly but noticeably scenting the stationary would work, or if the subtlety of it all would be lost on a man.  Do they notice such things?  Would the thought and planning that went into such a gesture be used to evaluate it?  Does anyone ever truly receive back the effort he or she put into an endeavor?  I think it’s a wildly romantic idea; there’s real optimism in the belief that a complete and total return of an emotion exists.

That makes me think of the fictional character Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I just ended reading the book with my sophomore students and it is officially my favorite novel of all time.  Its themes and romantic imagery and brutal honesty, with its undeniable cynicism watered down by the an almost untraceable strong hope, reminds me that I am inadequate as a writer (but who isn’t when a novel like The Great Gatsby is the novel against which all others are measured?) and that, like Gatsby, I am terribly lonely and clinging to memories from years ago, formulating schemes based on those ghosts of my pasts and inevitably setting myself up for disappointment and devastation.  That is not to say that I am depressed and delusional – just hopelessly romantic, no matter what the cost.  Some call this naivety, but I believe there is an honorable and dignified kind of stoicism in still believing in the good of people and the power of love, as trite and cheesy and impossible as it may seem.

I did not intend for this entry to be so “deep” (for lack of a better word), but it is a beautifully and bitterly bright Sunday morning and I am on my second cup of coffee.  I feel much like a validated author this morning.  I think the cozy, intellectually stylish sweater I am wearing helps, too.  All I need are thick-framed glasses and all the time in the world, and I could be the perfect picture of writer.  Appearance is half the battle, after all.

Speaking of, the goal of this week’s way to blast my blubber was to “adopt an avatar.”  This goal was remarkably effortless to meet because I have been adopting an avatar every day of my life.  I never see myself for who or what I am, but for who or what I would love to be: a bohemian, artistic intellectual, with the matching wardrobe and accessories.  However, as I become more of a woman and less of a girl, I am tending to gravitate more towards elegance and an understated kind of drama.  I have all of these plans, hopes, and dreams about my future.  I want to be in love with a completely brilliant, brooding, and eccentric man.  I want to be thin with straight, white teeth.  I want to be a wildly successful writer.  All of these wants (that are almost suffocating desires) are within my reach if I am willing to put in the work.  I need to go out more so I can meet new people.  I need to call the dentist and schedule an appointment.  I need to count my calories, keep a food journal, and exercise.  I need to promote my book.  These aforementioned needs are most often rationalized away, pushed aside, and delayed in their realization because currently, I am frustratingly lazy and unfortunately unmotivated.  I watch too much television.  I play too much computer solitaire.  I eat too much.  I sleep too much.  I don’t write enough.  I don’t read enough.

If I want to be a bombshell, I should be a bombshell.  So, my new avatar that I will use to motivate and inspire me on my way to weight loss and creative success, will simply be known as “Bombshell,” and she looks a little something like:

gwenidol

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bombshell

Whining and seeking pity are wasteful; a waste of time and a waste of words, which are my two most precious resources.  I need to be about it.  There are no excuses left.  I did earn a full-time teaching job.  A company did publish my book.  My life’s pieces are not going to come together of their own accord and produce a pretty, little picture.  I have to engage my own destiny and put the puzzle pieces in their proper positions.

This is not a revelation or a realization; it is only restating common sense.  I want to live up to the compliments I receive.  The psychology teacher said I looked great, that she could tell I was dieting and exercising, and that it was paying off.  I cannot be a fraud; I have to put in the work.

A respected English teacher complimented my writing.  She said my voice was strong and entertaining, and that my attention to detail was strong.  A math teacher asked me to sign her copy and I was too touched to write anything spectacular.  I hope it was what she wanted.

If I want to be a bombshell, then I should be a bombshell.

If you want to be a bombshell, then you should be a bombshell.

On a rough week.

Published January 20, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, to be sure.  From the beginning, I knew that it would be exhausting because of parent/teacher conferences and I did feel especially drained, and I suspect that to be the reason why I felt particularly emotionally vulnerable.  I was uselessly anxious and worried about an observation that has yet to occur and find myself increasingly unsure of myself.  My confidence wavers not only from day to day, but from class period to class period.  I console myself by shrugging it off as part of the onslaught of nervousness that it is the first year of teaching, but in my darkest moments, I worry that I am not emotionally or intellectually cut out to be in education.  I do not want to live my life endlessly yearning for Friday or for June; I want to be happy and even more than that, I want to be loved and feel wanted.  With this emphasis on the simple things, I surprise myself by being so taken and so absorbed by the smaller complexities of American life; bills, societal pressures and expectations, employment, etc.  I know I am not the only one who feels this way or has these concerns, but I find little comfort in that.  Is it because I am narcissistic?

On December 21st, the basketball hoop in our driveway fell over onto my car and cracked the windshield.

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It was not, though there were those who believed otherwise, the end of the world.  But then, nearly exactly a month later, the basketball hoop fell over onto my car again, with strong winds being the culprit, and completely shattered my windshield.

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Tiny shards of glass wink in the light from the dashboard and the front passenger seat.  It cannot be driven, and it will cost around $200 to have it replaced.

Apex rejected my short story for publication.

No radio station has called me back about my request for an interview, and the library has not returned my call or my e-mail.  I know I have time, but what if my novel is never successful?  What if I am not meant to be a best-selling novelist?  Can I live with mediocrity?

All of these negative ponderings that gnaw at the corners of my mind like some kind of feral, diseased rodent threaten to overtake me.  I verge on succumbing to the depression and futility, but then there are small moments that save me.  I prayed for snow, and though only a very few flakes fell, I was content because I was awake and outside to witness it.  In the middle of my walk, the flurries landed in my eyelashes and on my fingertips and I smiled bravely, beautifully, and triumphantly up to the heavens.

I have lost seven pounds.  Speaking of my diet, the goal this week was to limit alcohol.  I usually do not drink very much, but this weekend, I was invited to a birthday dinner and allowed myself two glasses of wine, which is more than I usually have.  No harm, no foul; the dinner was a lot of fun and I felt like I belonged there, which means more than extra fat around the middle.

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My friends are still supportive of the novel, and have provided with me positive reviews.  Whether or not these reviews are entirely honest is a point for debate but is also inconsequential.

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The music of Bruce Springsteen always makes me smile.  Today, while walking, I listened to a few songs and though I had been crying, the tears dried up quickly, and so did the frustration and helplessness I felt.  Just a few growled lyrics to a simple, optimistic melody can make me feel like I am infinite.

I am writing again, easing myself back into a daily routine.

 

You win some, you lose some.

On a good week.

Published January 14, 2013 by mandileighbean

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And so closes the first full week of the New Year. As part of one of my three resolutions, I am going to lose a substantial amount of weight by the time 2014 rolls around. To aid me in that endeavor, every week I am adopting a new strategy in addition to my regular routine of walking and counting calories. This week’s addition was incorporating a fun workout, something that is so enjoyable that I wouldn’t realize I was even working out. Such mental trickery has never worked for me, but I must admit that dancing really is an entertaining way to burn calories. The article that provided me with “52 ways to blast your blubber” from The L.A. Times suggested Zumba because it is wildly popular and usually, you can attend your first class for free. For me, I decided to keep it cheap and private, and used “Dance Central 2” for the Xbox Kinect in my own home. Three times this week, with the third time being today, I played this video game while burning calories with a smile on my face. The music was great and the game has a “fitness” option where I can choose for how long I work out, and at which kind of pace (interval, warm up, cool down, crazy-calorie-burning-not-for-the-faint-of-heart). There are other games in the series too (hence the “2”), so I can mix it up.

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(I hope I look this cool – I know I don’t always feel this cool while dancing)

I must admit that I am having difficulty in getting radio stations to respond to my e-mail efforts. I am incredibly polite and professional in the message, and attach the press release with accompanying art, and a synopsis of the book. It’s only been a week of trying but so far, no go. This upcoming week, I am going to reach out by telephone first. When I called to follow up with one station and spoke with an incredibly helpful woman, she suggested calling producers and/or on-air personalities to begin networking. I figure since that information is beneficial and was obtained over the phone, I better start calling first. Makes sense, right? Wish me luck!

 

I am submitting short stories. I am hoping that now that I am published, there will be a greater interest. I want to dedicate more time to writing and get my priorities in order, especially since I want to be a writer full-time … eventually. I envision myself writing in the upper bedroom of a log cabin by a lake in some remote location preferably in the northeast of the country. Is that weird?

 

I am going to see more of people. I am not going to let work, exhaustion, or other frequently employed poor excuses keep me from living and not wasting one second.

 

I hope someone finds this inspiring.

 

“We will get by. We will survive.”

– “Touch of Grey,” Grateful Dead

On counting stars and cents.

Published January 9, 2013 by mandileighbean

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Obviously, I could not let the King’s birthday pass without some recognition, so this one’s for Elvis Presley, the greatest romantic hero ever born.

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I have been going for a walk every morning at 4:00AM as part of one of many New Year’s resolutions.  Honestly, I might as well as go for a walk at 2:00AM as there is no sign of the sun or the promise of morning visible so early tis time of year.  But seeing the moon hanging so low it seemed as if it could be picked right out of the sky if I only had a ladder and access to a roof, and looking up to see the myriad of stars strewn across the sky like diamonds against velvet (as if the sky’s only purpose for being present was to accentuate the stars) are great ways to begin a new day, let alone a new year.  Though the residential street I traverse upon for 2.46 miles is quite dark, the soft glows of incessant televisions and the harsher streams of outdoor lighting lessen the possible treachery of the road, and set my mind reeling.  What kind of person falls asleep with the television on, and what kind of friend does not mind?  What kind of family has a bevy of halogen lamps scattered about their home’s perimeter, activated by motion?  What could they possibly be trying to detect or spot?  And who the hell goes for walks at four o’clock in the morning, gazing into unguarded bedroom windows to see what she can see?  The cold weather does not bother me, nor does my breath exiting my nose and mouth in tiny puffs of vapor.  The stillness and silence and darkness do not bother me either.  I worry that sometimes I am most comfortable alone, standing singularly along the edge of life as a mere observer.  I am terrified that I may be content with only watching.  I also worry that realization makes me really, really creepy.

My first royalty check came in the mail recently: a whopping $72.18. But hey – everyone has to start somewhere, no?
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On dreams and beef and teeth.

Published January 6, 2013 by mandileighbean

dreams

Dreams, more often than not, are weird and bizarre.  However, that does not mean that dreams are useless.  As a matter of fact, dreams are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me.  Some are more easily and more readily adaptable to contemporary fiction than others, but I suppose that depends on the skills and talents of the writer.  For example, I had a porterhouse steak, bone in, for dinner.  I do not usually eat beef with bones, so consuming the meal proved difficult  Strands of beef wedged between my teeth and I sucked at them, employed toothpicks, and brushed my teeth numerous times to remove the bothersome food particles.  When I climbed into bed that night, I realized I had missed a few strands of meat and worried about it obsessively  before eventually falling asleep.

As a result, I think – I mean, I have no background in the study of dreams, psychology, or anything of the like, I had a dream about my teeth.  In the dream, one of my back teeth in the upper row was incredibly loose.  I was investigating the issue employing the plethora of mirrors in the family bathroom.  Gingerly, I touched the bottom ridges of the tooth and when it wiggled freely at the contact, I decided to yank on the tooth, just extract it from my mouth and be done with it.  Gripping the tooth firmly between my thumb and forefinger, I pulled with as much strength as I could muster.  Not only did I remove what might have been a bicuspid – maybe it was a canine? – but I also removed the whole inner half of my face, all the muscle, tissue and veins and oddly enough, it greatly resembled the porterhouse steak I had endeavored to eat for dinner.  Horrified, and clutching my recently removed innards in my hand, I rushed to my mother, begging for compassion and to be consoled.  All she said, in all her motherly wisdom, was, “Ain’t that something?”

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Everyone, or a vast majority of everyone, makes a resolution come the new year.  My resolution, which is entirely unoriginal, is to lose 40 pounds and to have my teeth fixed, both of which I have already discussed in this blog.  To this list, I would also like to add being interviewed on the radio at least five times in order to promote my novel.  The easiest of those three aspirations is losing weight, as I have done it before and only need to rely on myself (which can be dangerous).  Correcting the issues with my teeth will technically be easy as well, but one must consider the timing conflict (ideal appoint times are usually during school hours) and the pain that is likely to ensue.  It will all be worth it, I’m sure, and both will be beneficial to the promotion of the novel.  In selling my novel, I am essentially selling myself, and I am offering the best me there is, both physically and mentally and emotionally and intellectually, then I believe I will encounter “no” far less often.

 

But I digress; the reason why I mentioned the resolutions is because I firmly intend to keep you updated on my progress.  Also, I read an article in the L.A. Times that describes 52 ways to blast your blubber; a different activity for every week of the year.  I will share these with you as well, in hopes that some of you will accompany on this journey and discuss your progress with me, as well as what proved most difficult.

 

Stay gold.  And keep dreaming, even if it breaks your heart.

On rain and lines and four-year-olds.

Published January 1, 2013 by mandileighbean

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For Christmas, I had the brilliant idea of taking Jimmy, my nephew and godson, to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  When Jimmy opened up the box on Christmas morning with a printed ticket for Platform 9 3/4 inside, he was less than enthused and looking back, that moment should have been a great indicator for what the trip would be like.

The morning of the excursion was sunny but chilly.  Jimmy hadn’t been feeling well the day before so I was not sure if he would still want to make the trip, but when I woke him up, he bounded out of bed and got dressed quickly – all by himself, without any help from myself or his Mimi.  The night before, I had invited Sammy and she said she wasn’t sure.  That morning when I asked her she said no and that she was sick.  I asked her one final time before heading out the door and she said no, that she really didn’t feel good.  Just Jim and myself packed the car and headed out, in search of a gas station to fill ‘er up and some breakfast to fill up our tummies.  In the midst of the search, Sammy called and asked that I turn around and pick her up.  I agreed because we were not that far and it would be much easier tackling a four-year-old at a theme park with two adults instead of just one.

The thing about Vero Beach is that once a traveler gets himself turned around, it is nearly impossible to become righted, unless of course that traveler is a seasoned veteran of the highways and byways and lanes and courts and streets and drives.  I am not versed in the geography of the city, so I inevitably turned down 22nd Avenue instead of 22nd court, and made a right onto 4th Street instead of a left onto 4th Lane.  I had wanted to be at Universal Studios, a trek of one hour and forty-eight minutes from Vero Beach, around 9:30AM.  With the failed attempt of locating a gas station and the debacle that was returning to the house to pick up Sam, we didn’t get on the road until 9:00AM, and there was still the matter of finding gas and breakfast.

I used the GPS application on my phone to locate a Dunkin’ Donuts and the one found was conveniently – or so we thought – located beside a gas station.  However, when we pulled up to the pumps, we realized that most were out of order.  There was a gas station just across the street, so we decided to get breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts and fill up nearby.  Jim wanted to eat inside and seeing as how the day was really all about him, I acquiesced to his request.  In hindsight, what a mistake.  The employees of the eatery were incredibly rude and probably incredibly bitter that at this point in their lives, they were still only cashiers at a donut shop located within a convenient store off a local highway.  I ordered a large, iced mocha latte but the establishment was all out of large cups.  The cashier had already rung me up and was incredibly disgruntled and annoyed that I was indecent enough to order a large drink without first checking to make sure there were large cups.  Sam’s order took forever and was gross, as was her coffee.  Jim was all smiles though, so we managed to salvage some enjoyment before painlessly filling up next door and hitting the road.  Again, in hindsight, the mishaps should have served as a warning for what the day was going to be like.

We were parked and exiting the car from E.T. section 363 around 11:15AM.  We were hours behind schedule and paying the price for the delay as the park was bustling with people – it was remarkably crowded.  Jim’s excitement was contagious enough to curb my anxiety and we made our way towards the Islands of Adventure theme park.  There, we had to wait close to an hour to purchase tickets but that was not so bad; I felt better with tickets in hand.  We marched straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter … and were essentially denied.  That particular enclave of the theme park was packed to its maximum occupancy.  Attendants were handing out standby return tickets – tickets for patrons to return hours later and enjoy the park.  No one felt particularly like waiting, so we figured we would enjoy other parts of the park and just come back later.  We looked around for what rides were nearby and decided that Jimmy would get the biggest kick out of the Jurassic Park ride.  Fighting the crowd like salmon swimming upstream, we got to the beginning of the line to find it completely vacant and although that seemed promising, the ride was non-operational, and that was why no one was on line.

Fuck.

Shit.

Balls.

Sammy had the inspired idea of checking out the super heroes’ section of the park because Jimmy loves – I mean absolutely adores – Spiderman.  When we arrived at the start of that line, the appropriately decorated, electronic sign announced that it would be a 160 minute wait time for the ride.  Refusing to be deterred a third time, Sammy, Jimmy and I chose to wait on the massive line.  Jimmy was a perfect angel.  How any four-year-old could wait three hours with the patience of a saint is an enigma to me.  He feigned sleep on Sam’s shoulder and did some climbing, but man – he was amazing.  Sammy and I made small talk with the surrounding families and friends, disposable companions that are particular to lines.  Most were from Alabama, which was interesting due to our familial ties, all were friendly, and ALL were impressed with Jimmy’s patience.

Jimmy was amazed by the Spiderman attraction and after having some pizza for lunch, we decided to bite the bullet and wait on line for Harry Potter World.  We made more friends, tried Jimmy’s patience some more, but once we were inside, the look on Jimmy’s face was worth it, absolutely worth it.  I bought him a wand and candy and we looked through all the shops and stores.  Ollivander’s was far too crowded, but Jimmy was excited to look through the windows and loved how excited everyone else was.  We waited on another three hour line to get inside Hogwarts Castle but Jimmy’s pure enjoyment and exhilaration made the whole miserable experience of being caught in a downpour and waiting nine hours in lines not so bad.  It was the best Christmas gift I have ever given and have ever simultaneously received.

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