Manchester

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On remembering and being thankful.

Published December 29, 2014 by mandileighbean

“Death ends life, not a relationship.”

– Robert Benchley

A beautiful and brilliant man once asked me if I knew what the poet Robert Frost said about life.  Embarrassed, I had to admit that no, I did not.  He told me that Robert Frost said that it goes on; life goes on.  I could only agree because it is a fact and who am I to argue with Robert Frost?  The conversation continued as both he and I commiserated about those minor tragedies and somewhat larger frustrations that so often plague humans as time passes and as life goes on.  I did not give his words much thought.

Until today.

A year ago today, I wrote a blog post which was viewed over 1,000 times, which seems impressive when one considers my average views rarely top 20.  However, that statistic becomes decidedly less impressive when one realizes the views came from mourners and I did nothing creative or noble or bold or entertaining.  I lamented the loss of a wonderful woman and inspiring colleague.  I am glad, and I supposed I could even say proud, that those words offered comfort and empathy to those who were suffering the pangs of such a shocking and brutal kind of grief.  But time steadily marched on, as it always has and always will, and the post, those words were forgotten as acceptance and healing and coping began.  I thought about the absence of my colleague nearly every day since then, rubbing the charm on the Alex & Ani bracelets we purchased in memory of her, but the post and what I had written never really crossed my mind.

And that realization particularly strikes me because since her passing, I have been able to understand her in ways I never thought I would, or even could.  I now teach in her classroom, two sections of the Honors program she built and perfected.  The task is daunting and I constantly worry that I’ll disappoint.  There’s always a special kind of pressure for an alumna who returns to her alma mater to teach, and that is excruciatingly increased when that same teacher is asked to fill the shoes of a beloved, intelligent teacher who passed suddenly.  On the bad days, when the lesson plan goes awry and I feel stupid and small and incompetent, I sometimes silently curse her because I childishly wish she were still here for the selfish, awful reason of relieving me of a burden.  Luckily, those selfish, bad days that I am greatly ashamed of are few and far between.

More often than not, I raise my eyes to the sky and send her a prayer of thanks.  This woman, who is no longer with us, is continuing to make her presence felt – is continuing to teach and inspire.  This year, I am taxed with teaching works I have not read nor studied, the first of which was Hard Times by Charles Dickens.  I should tell you that Charles Dickens was never a favorite of mine.  I considered him overrated, tediously verbose and a generally uninspired writer.  I shared in my students’ misery as we began to read and analyze the prose together, but then something wonderful happened.  We all grew to love the work; our seminars were intellectual and passionate.  The students became more cultured with such a staggering work under their belts, and I became a better teacher – I discovered that I could be an example for my students and that I could not groan nor complain when faced with an unfamiliar work, but had to persevere and connect with it to entice myself to analyze and interpret all it had to offer.  And I only learned this because my dearly departed colleague added the novel to the curriculum.  In true teacher fashion, she challenged a student to rise to the occasion.

Being in her room and sharing some of her experiences, I am seeing life in a new way and for the most part, doing so has made me extremely happy, has made me extremely appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to work in a field which I treasure, and to do so with people who are kind and generous and patient and enjoyable.  I am finally beginning to feel more like a woman instead of an insecure teenager who would much rather run into her bedroom and cry into her pillow while blasting melodramatic music when things get rough and the road gets rocky.  All of this I owe to Tara Gardner, and so this is not a weepy, “in memorial” piece.  This is a thank you letter to a woman who passed a year ago, but whose life was so full and vibrant and inspiring that her legacy is very much alive and those who care to will absolutely benefit from it.

I think back to the beautiful, brilliant man and what he told me.  And I suppose that yes, life does go on.  But I don’t think it does so thoughtlessly, marching like a cold solider across a barren burning field of battle.  Life goes on because it has to, because there are things to be learned, experiences to be valued, love to be lost and won and shared and forgotten, people to hold and scold and remember fondly.  And, I think, because those we have loved and lost wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you, Tara Gardner.  You are loved and missed, but please know that you are still teaching and that you are still doing so with amazing skill.

On being woefully unprepared.

Published December 29, 2013 by mandileighbean

sorrow

I’ve noticed that as I go through life, I truly take so many things for granted. I’m not just talking about the big ones, like that I’ll wake up in the morning and have breakfast and people who will love and support me, but the other things, the smaller things, too. When I walk through the heavy doors of the high school where I teach, glass framed by sturdy metal, I take for granted that the people I see every day will be there every day. I assume that just as I woke up, showered, dressed and arrived, so did everyone else. I fall into the comfort of complacency and a routine established back in September. I say hello to the principal’s secretary in the main office as I sign in and continue to the back and check my mailbox. Usually, a colleague representing the math department will be using the copier and we will exchange the polite and proper pleasantries as I silently and internally curse myself for not having arrived earlier to hog the copier, which may in fact be the only one working in the building at that given moment. Mailbox checked and copier in use, I proceed through the rear door, back down the hallway I came from, to my classroom to unlock the door and prepare for the day. The little things in that litany are things that could mean more than I’ve ever imagined.

For example, a beautiful, stylish and incredibly knowledgeable English teacher had a classroom across from mine. In between periods, as we both stood by our doors to greet students and ask students to remove their hats, we would roll our eyes in commiseration at the more difficult conglomeration of students we were charged with educating. I would ask about her children and her resulting hectic weekends. The conversations were pleasant, polite, and more often than not, I’d return to my classroom smiling and laughing because she had a wicked, witty sense of humor. Indeed, she went as far as to aid my father in essentially humiliating me during parent-teacher conferences because she thought it’d be funny to see me squirm. She was a real riot.

I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to accept me because I respected her so damn much. She was the kind of woman I’d be proud to be, had even hoped to be. Balancing a social life and a career with a beautiful family, being so well-dressed and knowledgeable without being pretentious or aloof – she was a wonder to behold, and I know I was blessed and privileged to share a department, let alone a hallway, with her.

I took for granted that I’d see her on Monday when we all returned from winter break, refreshed and perhaps already eagerly anticipating spring break. I took for granted she’d be there, just as I was there.

But this wonderful woman who meant so much to her family, friends, colleagues, students, and athletes passed away this morning. Those of us left behind are devastated by the tragedy and senselessness of losing someone so young and beautiful and brilliant, and we keep repeating statements like, “But I just saw her … but I just talked to her … but I was just saying” because we took for granted she’d be there and in doing so, were woefully unprepared for the day she is not there. According to Philip Roth, that’s the real human tragedy: being unprepared for tragedy. That is what we are; unprepared to say goodbye, and unprepared for how hard her absence has already and will continue to hit us.

Rest in peace, Tara Gardner. You were loved and will always be loved, just as you will always be missed.

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On personally defining success and nostalgia.

Published November 17, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was exciting as far as my blossoming writing career goes.  I had an author event on Thursday, November 14th at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.  The event was sponsored and essentially put together by the Literature Club, specifically because of Sara Pease, who is a former student of mine and a simply wonderful human being.  There were about twenty people in attendance, most of whom were attentive and asked the best questions I have had the privilege of answering.  I was able to sell seven books and talk to some truly interesting and supportive young adults.  It was a wonderful experience and it made returning to work on Friday SO HARD.

Last night, which was Saturday, November 16th, I was able to occupy a vendor table at Ladies’ Night Out at the Manchester Firehouse in Manchester, New Jersey.  I sold five books and was able to engage in highly entertaining conversations with fellow vendors.  I shared my table with D.O.V.E., which is an organization that helps to empower female victims of violence.  It was a serendipitous pairing, considering the content of Her Beautiful Monster.  It was a great evening, and I was truly humbled by my friends Heather, Ali, Kasey, Melanie, Marie and Jenna who showed up and have done so at every available opportunity.  Though I only sold a total of twelve books and minimally increased my audience, everyone has to start somewhere and these experiences helped to confirm for me that I need to be a writer.  It is a goal I need to work harder towards, because it helps to me to feel fulfilled, complete, and just plain happy.  In the following months, my goal is to be interviewed by a newspaper that serves a large population (like the Asbury Park Press) and send queries to agents, who would also help in marketing.  Speaking of marketing, my friend Kalie invited me to attend an event with her on Wednesday that provides ideas for marketing in viral markets and on social media sites (I believe).  She brought up the important point that networking is key.

Wish me luck, and enjoy this week’s writing prompt.  🙂

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6: “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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I am a sad, silly and lonely girl.  I imagine a woman would be wiser and stronger, and refrain from indulging in simple fantasies she plans on forcing to be recurrent.  The latest is this: graduation night will be a beautiful night near the latter part of June.  The moon will be full and bright and hanging high in the sky.  Its beauty will be lost on me, unfortunately, because I’ll be inside the high school, dutifully stationed at my classroom door.  I’ll be stuck handing out official, important-looking, white, large envelopes to the robed miscreants, academics, athletes, everyone in between.  The envelopes will contain various certificates and documents that become so much useless paper in lieu of graduation itself, and of all the accompanying promises and freedom and optimism intangibly included therein.  As such, students will not be rushing to obtain the envelopes and will have to be reminded and redirected several times by the faculty members in attendance.  Blue and gold robes will whip and ripple around sneakers and outrageous heels, slapping and clicking respectively through the hallways as sloppy hugs, final goodbyes, and well-wishes are doled out.  As it grows late, the number of students whirling about in flurries of excitement lessens considerably and the building borders on being empty and desolate and lonely.

 

I will sigh and fall back against the classroom door, keeping the door open while lazily allowing the door made of composite wood to support my weight rather than my understandably aching feet.  I pray I will have lost the weight and that my skin will be clear, or at the very least, clearer than it is now.  I’ll be observing the few remaining students and faculty members milling about, a mere observer whose mind is one million miles away, on to the next silly fantasy as the last thousand never ever came to fruition.  Someone will approach from behind, out of my view, to unintentionally capitalize upon the element of surprise.  He will gently clear his throat and simultaneously become unexpectedly and wildly unsure of himself.  To release the building nervous energy, he will shove his hands deep into the front pockets of his worn jeans, covered in orange-colored dust from fascinating roads less traveled in America, so that his calloused fingertips (worked to the bone, strumming guitars and banjos, gripping the wheel too tightly) bend against the fabric of the lining.  He’ll gently clear his throat, embellishing the strong and solid muscles of his masculine neck and jaw, and say, “Hey Andrea.”

 

Startled from my reverie, my closest and most constant companion, I’ll turn quickly but it’ll feel like slow motion, like trying to move fast in a dream, once my eyes take in his image and my brain comprehends who is standing there.  I am certain I will feel fifteen.  Breathless and deliciously confused, I’ll smile and lamely offer, “Hey.”  In a moment or so, I’ll (hopefully) come back to myself and break out with a radiant (well, as radiant as a smile can be when it’s caged by braces) smile and ask how he’s been.  I’ll already have some idea courtesy of creeping on Facebook and the gossip of mutual acquaintances.  I’ll know he’s been living a bohemian life I’ve always dreamed of, that he’s braver and more wonderful than my adolescent self had ever even dreamed of, even though he had been my schoolgirl obsession for years.  He won’t go into all of that, though.  He’ll keep it politely simple and appropriately simple and only say that he’s been good and doing well.  He’ll ask me how I’ve been and I’ll answer in an extremely similar fashion, lifting my upturned palms as a sort of half-hearted shrug and to indicate how absolutely bizarre it can be to work in the same high school we graduated from.  He’ll smile and let his gaze fall to the floor beneath us, seemingly perfectly content to stew in the impending awkward silence.

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I, on the other hand, have never been so suave or comfortable in my own skin, nor will I ever be.  I’ll need to smash it, to break it, so I’ll do what I never wanted to and bring up the past in all its embarrassing nostalgia.  How could I not, given the present company, our history, and current setting?  I believe he’ll only laugh and shrug it off.  His cheeks will color slightly, resulting from excessive, juvenile flattery and perhaps guilt stemming from the playground torture and adolescent cruelty he inflicted upon me.  Indeed, his grin will ultimately fade and his eyes will rise to meet mine.  His face, so uniquely handsome and so simultaneously beautiful in its stoic sorrow from many troubles and burdens I only ever guessed at among whispering girlfriends, will be set.  He’ll ask, “Do you remember what I wrote in your yearbook?”

 

Shock and nausea will be my immediate response.  My mouth will go dry and I’ll choke and sputter when I ask, “Do you?”

 

He’ll smile, but it will be so muted that I will doubt its authenticity.  “Of course I do!  I didn’t write it lightly.”  There will be a gut-wrenching pause to allow the tears to gather and prick at my eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he’ll say.  “And I didn’t ignore the e-mail you sent me, either.  I’ve just been busy and then I thought –“

 

“Stop,” I’ll command and demand.  “You don’t have to, you really don’t have to.  It’s whatever; I mean, it is what it is, and I don’t know why I sent that message.  Did it completely creep you out?  I’m sorry.”

 

Kindly, he will smile and say, “No, it didn’t creep me out, not at all.”  Another awkward silence will descend and though I will positively squirm, screaming inner, secret prayers for it to end or for me to just die, he will be graceful and effortless in his charm when he says, “You look good.”

 

My face will flush and I will find a spot on the floor incredibly interesting suddenly, and concentrate my gaze there.  It will be in an attempt at being coy and feminine and flirty, but I will be too chicken shit to meet his gaze, so I will be unable to determine its effectiveness.  The lack of eye contact will by no means be a lack of attention.  He will undoubtedly captivate me and rob me of my breath, the way he always did and, most likely, always will.  Grinning, I’ll thank him for the compliment and eagerly return it in a fashion more embarrassing than charming or even sincere.  He’ll nod his head in a charming, gentleman’s way.  “Thank you,” he will say with a slight Southern drawl he never had before that I will suspect him of faking for the moment.  After all, I won’t feel so guilty or so lame if him and I are nothing more than a couple of liars.

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The inability to know what to say next will become unbearable for the both of us.  He’ll hurriedly mumble that it was good seeing me, that it was good to catch up, and he’ll hope to see me around, and then he’ll be gone.  Nothing ever really changes, not even within my precious illusions and foolish fantasies.  But, I’ll shut my eyes tight and envision him somewhere down the line, embellishing the encounter more so than I’ve done in creating it.  He’ll tell of an imagined conversation which lasts and lasts until we’re actually asked to leave by the custodial staff.  He’ll say I suggested moving the conversation to a local, popular restaurant where we stay until we are again asked to leave.  We’ll say our goodbyes beneath unforgiving fluorescent lights in an empty parking lot.  I smile when I think of how he’ll lie and tell his attentive listener that he reached out to touch my face and I yielded completely to the touch, a victim of parting and sweet sorrow and all that ancient, literary jazz.  He’ll say, “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

nostalgia

On trusting … and letting go.

Published October 13, 2013 by mandileighbean

This weekend, I slept and slept and slept.  I feel guilty for being so wildly unproductive, but I rationalize the guilt away by consoling myself with the fact that I’ll be supremely busy next weekend.  Still, I feel sheepish because I should be writing.  That being said, I did finish this week’s writing prompt, so that is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00PM at Manchester Branch of Ocean County Library is my first author event.  I am nervous and honestly terrified no one will show up and I’ll be laughed at.  That may not be a rational fear, exactly, but I’m sure it’s common for young authors.  Wish me luck.

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #4: “Let go.  You can trust me.”

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Were Jayme ever asked how she came to be in the current position she was in, she did not believe that she would ever have an answer.  Jayme was fully convinced that life has an increasingly bizarre way of leaving one stranded, that the cosmos would arrange themselves to simply screw with unsuspecting human beings.  At this very moment, she was just such a victim as she was unable to pinpoint or adequately describe what had led her to the rooftop of an impressive building in the heart of Manhattan, cold concrete scratching at the back of her bare calves as she was backed up against the ultimate age.  The wind whipped viciously, strands of hair stinging the sensitive skin it lashed, and she was bent at an outrageously uncomfortable angle, nearly a perfect ninety degrees backwards, so that her back was not guarded by anything and would meet the sidewalk with a sickening sort of splat if (when?) she fell.  The only reason she had not met her demise via the concrete and asphalt and impact was because she was clinging in a clichéd, desperate manner to the rough and calloused hands of a man.

 

The man was not someone she knew or had even seen before.  All Jayme remembered was that she had been returning from lunch, from some trendy restaurant just a few blocks away, and had been doing her utmost to return to the office on time.  She had her elbows discreetly perpendicular to her sides, creating space among the masses to walk a clearer path and thereby proceed faster.  She had been only a door or two away from the impressive building which housed the publishing firm she worked tirelessly for when the man had stopped her.  He had a winning, charming smile and no pamphlet to hand over, which Jayme thought confirmed his credibility of being sane, normal, and rational.  Upon reflection, however, Jayme did note that his hair had been messy and askew, which should have been a sign that something was off.  And, the more she thought about it, the intense lines should have been a sign as well because although the features of his face were clearly defined with bold lines, everything inside was something sort of fuzzy because it was ever changing.  It was possibly indicative of his inability to complete a thought, or to be anything other than clinically insane.  But Jayme had not had these misgivings when it mattered, so when the man asked her why she was in such a rush, she had stopped long enough to smile and explain her lunch hour was rapidly drawing to a close and she did not want to be late.

 

His eyebrows shifted slightly to display his confusion.  “You’re rushing to get back to work?”

 

Jayme had laughed to display her own confusing at his confusion.  “It’s not that uncommon; conscientious workers often do their best not to be late.”  No longer intrigued or entertained, she made to step around him and continue on, chalking up the encounter to nothing more than a crazy New York story that happened so often, really, that crazy became a misnomer; it was normal.

 

He had stopped her with a strong and steadying hand on her arm.  It had not been a threatening gesture, but it certainly was not what she had been expecting.  She looked up at him with squinted eyes and parted lips, anxious to ask many questions.  He said, “Don’t you think you should be rushing towards something else, something worthwhile and everlasting?”

 

Jayme knew she should resist any desire whatsoever to engage him in conversation because she knew he was only spouting so much existential hoopla.  She could not help herself, though.  Maybe it was something is his eyes, dark and wild and free, or maybe it truly was what he was talking about, the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary which could be incredibly meaningful and life-altering.  So Jayme asked, “Like what?”

 

“Come with me and I’ll show you,” he said.  He took her hand in his and began to lead her.  Jayme could have planted her feet, could have resisted and been dragged, could have screamed for help.  But she was helpless against the romanticism of it all; a handsome stranger urging her to make her day count.  What if there was some invaluable lesson to be learned, something beautifully optimistic that she could then pass on?  What if this truly was one of those moments that mark the end of the mundane and the beginning of fulfillment?  So Jayme willingly followed him into the building they had stopped in front of.  She went with him onto the elevator and had been slightly disappointed when they rode it all the way to the stop.  There was something predictable and cheesy about it.  Was this some kind of lame, extended metaphor?  Because if it was, she truly did not have time for such anti-climactic antics.  When the soft ding sounded their arrival, and the metallic doors slid open, the strange man led her out into the hallway and to their immediate left.  Her curiosity was turning to impatience, and that quickly transformed into apprehension when she realized they were about to burst through the door clearly labeled roof access.  Her steps started to stutter and she began to verbally express her doubt and her fear.

 

“Hey now, wait a minute; where are we going?”  He did not answer and Jayme was not surprised but she was not deterred, either.  She continued her chain of questions, her self-soothing rambling.  “I do not want to go up on the roof.  Let me go now, seriously.  I’ll start screaming if you don’t stop and then you’ll be in a world of trouble.  The cops will be here so fast, your head will spin, I promise.”

 

Jayme’s questions were unheeded and the progress was not impeded.  When he met the door, he kicked it in.  Was he terribly strong, or was the door terribly old, with rusted hinges and weak joints and whatnot?  She hoped the latter proved to be true.  They stepped through the doorway into the dazzling, blinding sunlight and he abruptly turned to face her.  He took her by the shoulders, firm but not threatening, and pushed her backwards.  Jayme was now terrified and she was screaming, twisting her head left and right to try and see where he wanted her final destination to be.  She tried to resist, tried to move against him, but he was so strong and she was so scared that coordinating her weak and trembling muscles with any kind of directive thought proved exceedingly difficult.  He pushed her until he had backed her up against the edge, until there was literally nowhere else to go but over, and then hurtle towards death.

 

He grabbed her hands in his in a painful grip and pushed against her until she had no other option but to lean back.  Jayme was leaning back over the busy, city street below, freely screaming and crying and waiting for the inevitable end.  The wind whipped and the traffic sounded farther than it actually was.  Her ears felt as if they were filled with cotton and her mouth had gone dry, despite the streaming tears and snot slowly beginning to leak out of her nose.  There was nothing pretty or glamorous about facing death.  She was snotty and sweaty and pleading just like anyone else would be.  Jayme closed her eyes and shut her mouth, realizing that reasoning was futile because one could not talk to a lunatic like a normal human being.  Moments that stretched forever passed.

 

Then Jayme felt hot breath against her ear.  “Let go.  You can trust me.”

 

Jayme’s eyes shot open.  The shock had sobered her up and brought her back into the actual moment rather than the fear of the future.  He was smiling so kindly, but clearly his intentions were not good.  If she let go, she would die, plummet to her death and become nothing more than smashed and splattered guts and bones and blood on the sidewalk.  How could he ask this of her with so gentle a smile?  What was this madness?

 

But seeing no other alternative, Jayme let go.

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AUTHOR EVENT

Published October 7, 2013 by mandileighbean

21 Colonial Drive

Manchester, NJ08759

Telephone:     732.657.7600

 www.theoceancountylibrary.org

Suzanne Scro,     Branch Manager

September 24, 2013

OCEAN COUNTY      LIBRARY

Connecting People … Building     Community

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTACT: Maria Colon, 732.657.7600 Ext. 4524

mcolon@theoceancountylibrary.org

 

 

MANCHESTER BRANCH LIBRARY TO HOST

BOOK TALK BY LOCAL TEACHER/NOVELIST

 

MANCHESTER, NJLocal author, Mandi Bean will be on hand at the Manchester Branch Library on Tuesday, October 15 starting at 7:00 pm to talk about her novel, Her Beautiful Monster, published last year. This author’s first book, a thriller, tells the story of a young woman who is obsessed with romance and finding the perfect man for her. After she meets him, he gets murdered. In the midst of the emotional tailspin that ensues, her world changes, and she enters into a struggle in which must discover the truth about herself and those around her in order to save her life, her heart and her sanity. Copies will be available at the event for purchase and signing. Mandi is an alumnus of Manchester Township High School where she now teaches English.

 

This program is open to teens and adults, free of charge. Please go online to www.theoceancountylibrary.org or call 732.657.7600 to register.

 

The Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library is located at 21 Colonial Drive in Manchester Township.

On the fact that yearbooks never lie.

Published July 22, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.”
– Dave Matthews Band

Life, for a complete and utter lack of a better adjective, is crazy.  As people, we experience and live through events that make and/or break us in varying degrees of intensity.  We feel triumph in finding a parking spot near our destination in a crowded city.  We feel triumph when we finally land that dream job or finally purchase the dream car.  We can be devastated if we miss out on an incredible deal.  We can be devastated when we get into a car accident or misplace something valuable.  Every human has major and mini crises throughout the day; there is no revelation in such an observation, but I think what strikes me is how often these events occur and how differently each individual reacts to a particular set of circumstances.  Because of problems within my immediate family, I have been doing some soul searching and deep thinking as of later, and as far as rationalization and understanding go, this paragraph is all I could come up with.  The kick in the proverbial pants is that there is no explanation for all of the things that happen.  And what’s more, even if there was, people would reject what was in front of them in search for something better, something more suited to what they want it all to mean.  Is that cynical?  Am I losing faith?

I finished the first chapter of my next novel, which is currently titled Moody Blue.  I feel proud and accomplished, but I am worried that I rushed the ending of the chapter.  I printed a copy for my mother to read; she helped me edit my first novel and it was only after I took her advice that I was published – and on her birthday, no less.  She’s my good luck charm.

I am currently scheduling an author talk and signing at the Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library for sometime in October or November.  I think this latter half of 2013 is going to prove to be an exciting time for me.  Between you and I, I need it to be better.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I went for an ultrasound of my gall bladder last week, and the results came back clean.  My doctor, and my best friend, and my mother, all seem to think it is stress that is tearing my insides apart.  This makes sense to me, especially when I think about how many nights are restless, and how often I toss and turn, unable to escape my own head and the endless list of worries.  I am even beginning to have horrible dreams.  Most recently, I had a dream that featured someone who is dead and has been dead.  In the dream, this person was in a darkened bedroom with only the light from the blaring television and perhaps a bedside lamp.  I do not know if this was inside a house, or an apartment, or what – the surroundings were completely unfamiliar.  As a matter of fact, the person did not even look familiar, but I understood who it was and I knew that this individual was supposed to be dead.  I was in the bedroom, but I had no desire to be there.  It felt horribly wrong and it was bizarre.  The blanket and sheet were pulled down and away so that they pooled near his waist and his bare, pale chest and loose stomach were exposed.  On his chest and stomach was balanced a large glass bowl and two tall glasses.  I made to move them, to pick them up and carry them to a kitchen somewhere.  I was hesitant in approaching because his eyes were only slightly closed.  It was like he was awake and aware, and only pretending to sleep.  I think I called out to him and said his name once or twice.  But I was scared and so I ran, only grabbing the glass bowl which turned out to be full of water (so were the two tall glasses), and the dream ended as quickly as it began.

My father knocks on bedroom doors before entering, even when he know there is no one inside.

Thursday, I traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to listen to Stephen King have a conversation with some pretentious blowhard.  It was 103 degrees, and I walked around Hartford in that ungodly heat in a panic, looking for somewhere to quickly eat before the event began.  I arrived ninety minutes later than I had planned because of horrendous, horrific traffic.  I ate a restaurant called Hook and Ladder, located next to the firehouse.  The décor and atmosphere were great, but I was really disappointed in my grilled cheese sandwich.  I can’t believe I broke my diet for that.  But the event was awesome; King is a brilliant, accessible mind.  He shares my passion for the Boss, believes in God, and believes that love can be and should be and most often is limitless.  Ali from MSU was there, but we didn’t get a chance to speak.  She purchased a copy of his newest book Joyland, pre-signed, for $200.  I used to be that dedicated.  Or maybe I am just more fiscally responsible than I used to be.

There were fireworks that night.  So many cars were pulled over on I-84 to watch them explode.

I hit another 90 minutes of traffic traversing onto the George Washington Bridge.  Such is life.

But I promised in my last entry to accentuate the positive.  So, here goes nothing: I lost seven pounds in my first week of dieting and exercising.  I spent a birthday with two absolutely amazing friends in Brooklyn after surviving the drive in.  I was totally enchanted by Brooklyn and developed a crush on a friend’s neighbor, which is exciting and fun.  I have that story to tell, in my overly romantic way, for next week’s blog.

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Stay golden. xoxo

On making every breath count.

Published December 5, 2012 by mandileighbean

condolences

A classmate of mine by the name of Jessica Bongiovanni passed away last night after battling osteosarcoma.  I hadn’t talked to Jessica in years and admittedly, during the time we shared in high school, I was closer to her younger sister, Kelsey.  Jessica was an athlete and a scholar, and both attributes followed her to college and beyond.  Not only was she smart and talented, but she was a natural-born leader and incredibly supportive and fiercely loyal to those she loved.  I, however, pay these compliments without any intimate knowledge of Jessica and her relationships.  I remain confident in these statements based on the writings of others and on the writings of Jessica herself.

As she waged her brave battle against osteosarcoma, Jessica updated a blog.  She kept it on WordPress.com (http://jessicabongiovanni.wordpress.com/), and without fail, each entry was honest and written with a subtle optimism and quiet kind of strength.  Despite losing a leg and going through lung surgery and postponing a wedding, Jessica never really put her life on hold.  What’s more is that Jessica never ever wasted a single second.  Even when the knowledge that her seconds were numbered could have oppressed her, Jessica rose above it and faced it.  She took it for what it was, faced it with a smile, and carried on.  Jessica’s honesty and her bravery have inspired many and I am proud to include myself in that number.

To be honest, I was apprehensive about dedicating a post to Jessica because I did not know her that well.  But I hope my doing so inspires someone else the way Jessica inspired me.  She wanted her story to be shared and wanted to help others.  Jessica was an amazing individual and her passing is untimely and tragic.  There is nothing I can write and nothing I can do to ease the pain of those who knew and loved her and will certainly mourn her.  I do hope that those grieving can take solace in the fact that in the short amount of time she had, just twenty-five years, Jessica really did impact lives, some of which belonged to total strangers perusing blogs on the internet.  I know that she has touched and inspired me, and I vow not to let a single second of my life pass by where I am not incredibly grateful, filled with love, and taking advantage of all opportunities.

 

Thank you, Jessica.  You are loved and you will be missed.

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