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On new optimism.

Published January 7, 2017 by mandileighbean

“The future’s just a fucking concept meant to keep us from being alive today.”
– “Six Feet Under”

“New Year’s is so weird, the way it makes you think about time. I think that’s why people put so much pressure on themselves to have fun.”
– “Modern Family”

Two posts in the same week from me? It’s been a while; my apologies. I know multiple new posts from me are unheard of (despite my many resolutions); something great must be happening.

And I can assure you that it is.

But let’s be real and start from the very beginning of this year.

Suffice it to say that on December 31, 2016, I let myself hit rock bottom (which is somewhat appropriate, bottoming out on the very last day of the year). I was the fattest I’d ever been and was utterly alone aside from the cat, which does little if anything to make the situation better. It was the first New Year’s Eve I remember ever being alone, and as a result, I went to bed well before midnight and completely missed the dawn of the new year. I mean, I was struggling to keep my eyes open at 9 pm.

Which is completely unlike me; hence, it was – and still is – time for a change. I made a list of everything I hope to accomplish in 2017 (lose 40 pounds, market my new book, learn how to paint, learn how to play piano, learn how to ride a motorcycle, update this blog every Wednesday [while getting back on schedule this upcoming Wednesday … some habits are REALLY hard to break], attend writing conferences to jump start my creative career, create a book trailer for my upcoming release) and so far, I have followed my schedule accordingly.

But to what end?

My newly optimistic (like the throwback to the title of the post? I’m clever in 2017!) foundation was rocked severely when a tragedy struck my workplace just as we all welcomed the new year; a sixteen-year-old revolutionary, a young woman who was as brave and confident and smart as anyone I have ever had the privilege of meeting, passed away suddenly, unexpectedly. The death of someone so young is tragic for so many reasons; it feels like the death of hope, and it’s a stark reminder that the future’s never promised or guaranteed. And this young lady in particular is a most grievous loss because she personified promise and potential. She was never hesitant to give her opinion, which was most definitely a good thing, because she was fucking smart. She had purple hair, she was enrolled in the AP Language course as a junior, she participated in Drama Club in such a delightful, enthralling way, and she just really lived – she gave life a run for its money in her brief time on this spinning globe in a way most of us never will.

Now, the old me (sorry for the seemingly cheesy and inauthentic avalanche of bullshit you may be anticipating now that I’ve used that phrase; but PLEASE stay with me because I’ve never been more REAL in my ENTIRE life) would have eaten my feelings and grotesquely used personal tragedy as an excuse to stuff my face and not move. I would have stayed as I am because it’s easy to simplistically label the world a cruel place and want nothing more to do with anything of it. It’s a defense mechanism to disengage and not try, and my juvenile and unhealthy tendency to revert to dramatics when shocked or rattled has always enabled me to return to this defensive mindset.

Sure, shitty things happen; that’s life. But that’s not all there is, so I embraced the future. I reminded myself that life isn’t as simple as good or bad. A life can’t truly be measured until it’s over, so I planned on continuing to try new things and make changes because my life isn’t over.

So I applied to the St. Augustine Mentor-Author Workshop. It’s pretty exclusive; you have to apply before you can register, and it’s a small-group atmosphere with the specific intention of helping accepted authors get published by a commercial publishing houses. The cost to attend and participate is nearly $3,000 (which I certainly don’t have) but I thought I’d apply anyway so I could say I tried and, obviously, I didn’t think I’d be accepted.

But then I was; I fucking was!

The ONLY problem is the cost, so I became really ballsy and started a GoFundMe campaign. Now, I hate asking ANYONE for ANYTHING (especially money; people get weird about money) but I had WONDERFUL SUPPORT from so many friends, and I currently have 3,649 people who have “Liked” my Author page on Facebook – if each individual gave just $1.00, I’d more than make my goal. And I need to say I tried; if I fail, fine – but I have to try. So I made the GoFundMe page on January 5th, around 5 pm. Making the campaign was surprisingly quick and easy. I also e-mailed Michael Neff from the St. Augustine Author-Mentor Workshop to ask about the last day to register so I could develop a calendar, a timeline (the actual event is at the very end of February). I’m still waiting for a response, but I am ENTHRALLED to announce that my campaign TOOK OFF! Before I went to bed that night – THE FIRST NIGHT – I was nearly one-third of the way to my goal! Friends, family, former students, people I’ve lost touch with have ALL donated in amounts from $5.00 to $300.00! I am COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED by the generosity. love and support from so many different people. The love is UNREAL. I feel like George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

I’m really starting to believe this could be the beginning of something NEW and AMAZING and BETTER. I NEVER thought the GoFundMe idea would work as well as it has so far. At the time of this post, I currently have $1,870.00 of $3,000.00. And it’s all because I took a risk and asked the universe. And I’m thinking it’s also because of Mollie Belasco, the young lady who passed, and her inspiring, wondrous, and all too brief life.

So here’s the link to donate: https://www.gofundme.com/expanding-my-writing-career

And here’s a writing prompt for you sit back and enjoy – the first of the new year!

 WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #1.2017: A company representative returns from a sales trip claiming to have met the devil.

 Frank Turner was already loosening his tie as he slowly trudged back to his desk after having been out of the office for five days on a business trip. He’d been out of the state as well, far out on the Western coast. He threw his briefcase thoughtlessly, almost recklessly, onto his desk, not giving a good shit about the papers or mug or the entire cornucopia of supplies that made up office living; no, office survival. Assorted supplies and a picture frame went tumbling to the carpeted floor, making enough of a commotion that most of the co-workers within ear shot turned and looked with shocked, anxious expressions.

“What’s the deal, Frank?” hissed Nicole through gritted teeth. She raised her eyebrows for emphasis, to impress upon Frank that a cool, calm and collected demeanor was highly valued in the work environment and currently, he was none of those things. She was going to continue scolding, but one look at Frank’s pale, contorted face was enough to shut her up.

“I’m sick,” Frank moaned. “I’m real sick. I think I might die.” His last words came out as a half-strangled sob. His emotions and all of the thoughts raging inside him overcame him, and Frank slumped into his chair and let his head fall to the desk cradled only by his thin, trembling arms. He was sobbing unabashedly, weeping like a woman.

Nicole was horrified.

“What do you mean, ‘dying’? Frank, what’s going on?”

He offered no reply, but cried and cried, big heaving sobs. The shocked, anxious faces of their coworkers were creeping closer now, crowding in around them like morbid looky loos at a car accident. Nicole felt the uncomfortable pressure of their presence and immediately resented it. She sprang into action and collected the garbage pail beside her desk before quickly moving to Frank’s side and dropping to one knee. She rubbed his lower back and said, “Frank, please, you’ve got to talk to me. Calm down and let me help you, if I can.”

“I’m beyond help. I’m a dead man,” Frank choked.

“What do you mean? What are you talking about?” Nicole was panicked by Frank’s desperation.

“I’m gonna be sick,” Frank bellowed. Abruptly, he fled from his chair and left it spinning as he hurried to the men’s room. Nicole rose to a standing position slowly, using most of her energy for thinking. With Frank’s physical presence removed, the uproar began to die down and the small space was soon filled with keyboard clicks, murmured conversations and ringing telephones. Nicole had been waiting for just such a return to normalcy and once it arrived, she discreetly strolled to the men’s room. She looked to her left and right to see if anyone was watching – no one was – and then ducked inside.

Frank’s ravaging sobs echoed loudly against the tiled walls and tiled floor. Nicole turned to lock the heavy pneumatic door to make sure no one intruded and then hesitantly called out, “Frank?”

There was a moment of stunned violence. Then Frank’s heavy, subdued voice said, “This is the men’s room, Nicole. You can’t be in here.”

Nicole smiled weakly but Frank didn’t see; he was locked in the farthest stall opposite the farthest urinal. She took two steps forward, emboldened by his rationality. “Frank, it’s okay. I’m just here to talk to you and check on you. What is going on, man? You’re acting…,” she paused, searching for the right word while trying to be delicate, but all she came up with was, “crazy. You’re acting crazy.”

“Maybe I am crazy,” Frank sighed. He offered no elaboration, and Nicole was growing impatient.

With a little bit of an edge, she said, “You have to let me know what’s going on, Frank. You can’t just barge into the office all hysterical and expect me not to want to know why, or expect to not try to help you.” Nicole took a breath and softened. “I’ve been sitting across from you for six years, Frank. You can talk to me.”

There was only silence and Nicole was afraid all was lost. She slapped her open palm on the wall of the stall nearest her and turned, ready to walk out and leave the little shit to figure out whatever was ailing him on his own. She stopped and turned back when she heard the click of shoes on tile. Rounding the corner of the line of stalls, Nicole saw Frank emerge from the last stall. He was sweaty and pale and entirely disheveled. He looked like he was in agony, in absolute misery, and Nicole’s heart hurt at the pitiful sight. His eyes were red-rimmed and his eyebrows were furrowed. The lines of his face were hard and sharp; whatever it was plaguing Frank Turner, he was in it. He looked to Nicole. “You’ll think I’m crazy.”

Nicole smiled in a small way, this time so Frank could see. She hoped it would diffuse some of the tension. “Try me,” she encouraged.

“I met the Devil.”

Nicole was shocked into laughter. Not wanting to be insensitive, she quickly recovered and covered her mouth. She leveled her gaze at Frank with a very serious expression. “You’re going to have to explain.”

Frank’s immediate response was to turn and retreat into the bathroom stall he had so recently exited. Nicole thought he was crazy, Nicole had laughed him, and so would everyone else. He had never felt more alone, and therefore more terrified, in his entire life. He collapsed onto the porcelain throne without an ounce of royalty about him, and then allowed his body to fall to the left, resting against the stall wall. He started crying again; what else was there to do?

Nicole knew she had fucked up, so she walked slowly but with purpose towards Frank’s stall. She paused just before the open door and only poked her head into the stall. “I’m sorry, Frank. Your response wasn’t anything I was expecting, that’s all. I didn’t know what else to do, so I laughed. I’m an asshole, I know.” Frank stared at her in complete agony and misery, and Nicole’s brain became fixated on the phrase “man on fire.” Frank looked like he was burning alive and in a grim way she would never admit aloud, Nicole thought that might be fitting given what he had just confessed to her. Frank only stared, he said nothing, so Nicole took a few more steps into the stall. She kneeled before Frank. “Please tell me what happened.”

Frank swallowed hard and then gasped for air. Was he burning or drowning? Did it matter? So long as there was pain, did the intensity of that pain validate or nullify its own existence? Frank didn’t want to think, so he decided to talk and to occupy himself with the explanation, the wondrous, fantastical explanation that was simultaneously horrifying and terrifying so that Nicole wouldn’t even believe him. But what else was there to do? Just cry? Frank closed his eyes, stayed slumped against the stall’s wall and said, “The first night there, after some bullshit ice-breaker workshop, they served a really nice dinner. I’m talking lobster and baked potatoes and hors d’oeuvres I can’t pronounce. I was looking to chow down, but I wasn’t really looking to make friends, so I claimed a table in a far corner and was perfectly content to be alone. It was an open bar, too. I was gonna stuff my face, drink until I was dizzy, and then stumble back to the room and call it a successful first night. I had a plan,” Frank insisted as his voice shook. He used his sleeve to wipe his eyes and nose. He sniffed loudly before continuing his story.

“But this guy, this fucking guy, comes and sits right next to me. I mean, goddam, he was practically on my lap. And he’s all smiley and greasy in a three-piece suit that was more than my monthly mortgage payment, and he was so good-looking. I know it’s weird that I noticed that, but think about how physically perfect this guy had to be for me to notice and to fucking be impressed.” He sobbed loudly. “I admit it, I was impressed. As creeped out as I was by his obvious lack of concern for personal space, I was so impressed. His teeth were white and straight, and his hair was elegantly and fashionably disheveled, like he used a fucking ruler to determine what strand fell where. Looking back, I realize how precise and calculated it all was, how awfully manipulative, but in the moment, it was all effortless and … and,” he struggled momentarily for just the right word but finally decided on “cool. He was just cool.”

Suddenly, Frank rocketed forward and let his forearms rest on his thighs. His posture was still all tight and jerky, and his expression was grotesque in its suffering. “I wanted to be him, you know? When he started talking, I wanted to just nod politely and blow him off, not encourage him in anyway. But within five minutes, I was fucking captivated, man. I was laughing and he was laughing, and then he was slapping me on the back and we just kept drinking and laughing and drinking and laughing.” He covered his face with his hands and cried. Nicole was wide-eyed and confused. Was Frank about to come out to her? He had a wife and kids, and Nicole wasn’t sure if she was worthy or responsible enough for the burden of such a weighty secret. She was about to just walk out and let fate take its course, whatever course that may be, but Frank inhaled sharply and kept talking.

“So the place is emptying out, like really clearing out, but him and I are still there, still yucking it up. I think I was even wiping my goddam eyes from crying from laughing so hard when he turns to me, serious as a heart attack, and asks, ‘What is it that you want from life, Frank?’

“I laughed and told him I was too drunk for introspection, but he persisted, he was insistent. So I told him I’d love to make a million bucks. I’d pay off the house and credit card bills, set Dennis and Jenny up for college at least a little bit, and take Michele somewhere really nice that she’d never been before, like Paris or Rome or something. He asked to see pictures of my family and like a goddam fool I handed them over without a second thought. He looked at them, and this was the first time I noticed something was off because he didn’t just look at them, but he really fucking studied them. He brought the pictures up real close to his face and tried to bore into their souls. I kind of snatched the picture back and was all determined to bid adieu when he tells me he can make it happen. He told me he could give me a million dollars, no questions asked.”

Nicole squinted her eyes skeptically. “You believed him?” She was starting to believe that Frank was in some real financial trouble now, maybe he got robbed blind in some kind of scheme, and she was in no position to help. She’d had Ramen noodles for dinner the past month.

“I was drunk!” Frank roared defensively. “I didn’t know what to think, so I entertained the idea and I kept talking. He said there was only one catch, that I only had to do one thing once I had the money.”

“What was that?” Nicole asked.

Frank swallowed hard again and finally met Nicole’s gaze. He was white as a ghost with a green tinge around his edges, like he could spew vomit any moment. “I’d have to kill someone I loved,” Frank said. His voice was cold and without tone or rhythm; it was mechanic and robotic, like he was saying something he’d rehearsed. “And if I didn’t, he would. He said he would kill someone I loved. Then he started laughing like a fucking lunatic and promised I could keep the money either way. All I had to do was shake his hand.” Frank broke down again and Nicole moved to rub his back. She tried to hush him, tried to soothe him, but it seemed futile. His wracking sobs caused his body to heave and Nicole thought he might just pass out from the effort.

“Frank, did you shake his hand?” Nicole asked tentatively, thinking some confession might help Frank, might be cathartic in some way.

“Yes!” Frank exploded. “Isn’t it fucking obvious that I did?” He screamed in desperation, in fear, just a guttural, animal noise. “When I looked into his eyes to see if he was for real, something happened to me, Nicole. So I tried to look somewhere else, and I did, but only for a second. There was this odd birthmark on his wrist that caught my attention. It was all red and lumpy but kind of small. It was circular but had lines inside it. It might have made sense and been decipherable but I felt like I had to look in his eyes. I looked back up and … I can’t explain it and you wouldn’t believe me even if I could explain it, but something happened to me. It was my body that shook his hand, but it wasn’t me. Does that make sense? How could I agree to something like that? It wasn’t me.” Frank was pleading his case, desperate for Nicole to believe him. He needed some kind of validation.

But Nicole was becomingly increasingly suspicious and terrified. Had Frank killed someone? Was that where the extreme emotional display was coming from, some sort of unimaginable guilt? The only thing keeping her in the stall was the very plausible possibility that Frank was confused or wrong. What in the hell kind of a story was he telling, anyway? She leaned away from him, but she asked, “So what happened next, Frank?”

He had collapsed his chest onto his thighs. “I shook his hand and he laughed but it was scary. I knew I had to leave so I high-tailed it back to my room and just collapsed into bed. I slept in my suit and everything.” He looked up at Nicole. “The next morning, when I was sober, I showered and dressed and drank about a gallon of strong coffee, and I found the guy responsible for registration. He had a whole list of names of everyone who was there from every firm. I told him the guy propositioned me to kill someone for him, that the guy was dangerous. He asked me the guy’s name, and I told him, and he checked his list. He checked his list over and over with me standing right there and there was no Lou Sever on the list. He even let me check. When I couldn’t find anything, he said it was probably someone just fucking around and went about his business like nothing was wrong.”

“Did you call the cops or anything?” Nicole asked, striving to be rational and logical.

“I couldn’t, Nicole; I wasn’t even sure if the guy existed,” Frank said with disgust. He was unsure at the moment if he was disgusted with himself or Nicole. He supposed it could have been both. “So I went to the workshops that day, every single one even if I wasn’t technically signed up, and I looked for this guy. I searched high and low, talked to people and asked questions. I hung around the hotel bar like some pathetic loser, just waiting and watching for him to reappear. But he never did, Nicole. I never saw him again.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” she asked slowly, cautiously.

Frank laughed but without humor. “You would think so, especially when there was over a million dollars in my checking account. There were no recent transactions listed in my account summary and when I went to the bank, they all acted like I was insane, like the money had always been there. Michele called me and she was ecstatic. I tried to explain to her what kind of money this was, dangerous money with no sort of trail, but she was already on the way to spending it. And the worst part, the absolute worst part, is that she kept thanking me, like I had worked hard, or done something noble and righteous for this sudden windfall, but I didn’t, Nicole. I didn’t do anything good for that money.” His head fell into his hands.

“You didn’t do anything at all, Frank,” Nicole said. “You just shook some sick fuck’s hand while you were drunk. You tried to give the money back, or at least investigated, but everything was working in your favor.” Nicole grinned. “Maybe it’s a reward.”

“Not from a guy like that,” Frank protested with a deep pout pulling his lips down. “There’s no reward. For a few days, I thought like you, like maybe it was all gonna come up roses or something, I don’t know. I was almost happy flying home, and I let myself think about the future and how easy life would be. It was gonna be so nice,” Frank sobbed. He wiped at his eyes furiously. “But when I got home, Nicole, nothing was easy or nice. It was all completely fucked.”

“What’s wrong, Frank?”

“Michele took Dennis to the hospital because he was real sick. It was sudden and devastating and they’re saying he won’t make it. And he has a new fucking birthmark on his wrist,” Frank said, looking to Nicole with dead, empty eyes. “He has it, Jenny has it, Michele has it, I have it. We’re all going to die.”

Nicole jumped to her feet. She started to slowly back out of the stall. “Frank, I-“

Frank slowly stood. “I only came to work today to do the one thing to stop all of this. I have to kill someone I love.”

“Frank, be serious,” Nicole pleaded. Her voice quivered in its weakness and she kept backing up until her back slammed against the cool, tiled wall of the men’s room. “You just … we need-“

“I love you, Nicole,” Frank said and it was at that moment Nicole saw the blade in his hand as it just so happened to wink in the harsh fluorescent lights.

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On being a big, fat liar.

Published February 13, 2016 by mandileighbean

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Two weeks ago, I went to confession. The line of sinners was surprisingly long; I assume the snowstorm from the previous weekend had kept the faithful at home and away from the church, so everyone was playing catch up. That’s why I was there, at any rate. But there’s something about being in that intimate, sacred setting that always compels me to spill my guts. Maybe it’s a simple effect of being raised Catholic, a kind of Pavlovian reaction to the whole ceremony, but I like to believe it’s more than that, like it’s a sign from the universe that my faith is real and working, and that this kind of spiritual purging is healthy and necessary. Whatever the reason or motivation, when it was finally my turn to enter the confessional and the heavy, cloth curtain swung shut behind me, I dropped to my knees and told the priest everything that had been burdening my soul. I unloaded my emotional baggage, carefully and delicately removing every piece of troublesome ego and holding it up to the light to reveal all the intricacies. I think the popular nomenclature for such an event is “word vomit.” At the end, I was breathless but felt somewhat lighter. I also felt guilty and ashamed, truly humbled.

And the priest laughed. He laughed loud and long and hard.

This may seem like a harsh reaction, but please trust me when I assure you that it was completely warranted. My life, as of late, has turned into quite the melodrama. To protect the innocent I won’t go into details, but if you could me a favor and think of the most ridiculous plot line from a daytime soap opera – that’s my life. That’s how I’ve been living. To hear it out loud, to finally speak about it all, was somewhat amusing. I was on the verge of laughter myself – sometimes we laugh to keep from crying, no? So the priest was in no way a villain. His laughter subsided, and he told me I was certainly in a “sticky situation.” He promised he would pray for me.

The priest promised to pray for me. That’s how dire my situation is.

I hope this anecdote helps illustrate why I haven’t been keeping to the resolutions I made so boldly before the new year started. I’m the worst, I know, but I’m trying.

I hope you are all trying to, no matter the endeavor.

You’ll be hearing more from me soon; I promise.

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On making it big (in relative terms).

Published February 23, 2014 by mandileighbean

Hello all! I hope your weekend is passing enjoyably.

My author event on Tuesday was a definite success. I’d like to thank everyone who registered, attended, shared links, and patiently tolerated my shameless self-promotion. Walking into the beautiful Toms River Library to where the event was set up – with a podium, posters, a table with a tablecloth – I forgot who I was for a second. In that glorious moment, it didn’t seem possible that such blessings and wonderful opportunities could come to me and yet, there they were.

It was a wonderful evening and again, I’d like to thank every single person who helped to make it happen in whatever way he or she chose.

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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 celebrating being happy.

Published February 3, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another week over, another four pounds lost!  I literally could not be happier right now!  All the denial and all of the grumbling are paying off!  I am not sure where that leaves me in the standings of the competition at work, but honestly, who cares?  I don’t need the money if I lose the weight!  Also, I’ve purchased an Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer, as suggested by the LA Times article, “52 ways to leave your blubber.”  Ideally, the average human being should get up to between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day.  I think I can meet the goal, especially when I start introducing brief intervals of jogging to my walking regimen.

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This week’s theme seemed to be self-improvement as I found myself at the dentist, too.  It had been the first time I’d been to the dentist in well over a decade.  The sterile smell of the office clashed terribly with the sleek, technologically advanced atmosphere; for a moment, I could have believed I was walking back to a tanning bed rather than a leather chair.  I had a full set of x-rays taken and my teeth were cleaned.  Good news: minimal tartar buildup and only one cavity!  I also can have braces put on that cannot be seen even though I don’t qualify for Invisalign.  Bad news: I have a baby tooth that never fell out so that has to be pulled, and the dentist mentioned removing my wisdom teeth, but wants to wait until I meet with the orthodontist because there is a slight chance that might not be necessary.  All in all, the appointment was not as horrifying or painful as I had imagined.

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I also purchased a car this week!  It is a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible.

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It runs great, the heat works, and the inspection is good until May of 2014!  The airbag light started coming on today, but my dad (who has been a mechanic for years and years) does not think it’s anything to worry about.  I hope he’s right; I tend to have bad luck with cars, as previous posts can testify to.  Last night, my family and I – minus my little brother who is at the age where he would rather be with friends than family – celebrated my new car at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!  It is nights like those that help to remind me how blessed I am to be surrounded with love and support, and reignite my desire to be a part of such a loving support system for others.  That sentiment goes hand in hand with the Gospel reading from Mass, which I attended earlier today:

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My friend Eric and his mom enjoyed my novel!  Eric sent me a message to let me know, which was sweet.

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I have compiled a list of local booksellers to begin visiting in April, when the weather is warmer and the school year is winding down.  I want to set up book signings and readings and whatnot.  Wish me luck!

Love and be loved.  Love and life are all that matter. ❤

On statistical success and all the other kinds, too.

Published December 1, 2012 by mandileighbean

I just finished The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, and I highly recommend it to everyone; absolutely everyone.  That book is remarkably beautiful and NEEDS to be read.  It is poignant, original, and genuine.  The juvenile was unappealing at first, but this novel is masterfully crafted and every element is incorporated for a wonderfully and remarkably literary reason.  Green is gifted, truly, and the story and heart within transcends target audience, age, gender, etc.  Everyone and anyone should read this book.

“But you keep the promise anyway.  That’s what love is.  Love is keeping the promise anyway.  Don’t you believe in true love?”
“…the definition of humanness is the opportunity to marvel at the majesty of creation or whatever.”
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed.  I think the universe is improbably biased towards consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.  And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it – or my observation of it – is temporary?”

– Excerpts from The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

As of Wednesday, November 29th, I have sold 34 print copies of my debut novel Her Beautiful Monster, and 12 eBook editions.  The eBook number only includes Kindle versions, so I anticipate that number will increase.  Also, I have been receiving positive reviews from colleagues and acquaintances and it means everything to me.  I am so touched and so proud.  I sent signed copies with personal notes to Maeve and Mike, the real couple that inspired the couple in the novel, and to former professors, Dr. Bronson and Dr. Nicosia.  Dr. Nicosia received his, and had an e-mail sent to the entire English faculty at Montclair State University.  He is a remarkable man and I am honored to count him as a mentor.

On rings and shackles.

Published July 5, 2012 by mandileighbean

I know that everyone makes the following claim, but I really do have the greatest friends in the world. No matter how much time passes, or how much distanct between our locations, nothing ever changes. We always care about one another, always thoroughly enjoy the time together and always pick up wherever it was that we left off. My friends are some of the greatest people, truly amazing and inspirational, and I am incredibly proud of their accomplishments and to have them in my life.

I know that my last couple of posts seems to have been penned by Debbie Downer; there’s been an emphasis and crippling loneliness and uncertainty. Thankfully, I have friends that support and love me, and continually give me proper perspective. I want to be more like them and see them more often. I love them.

PROMPT: A married couple sets out on a six-month adventure, living on their boat while sailing from port city to port city.

PIECE:  John eyed the golden band encircling his ring finger.  It had been just over a year since he had waited at the end of a seemingly endless aisle for Mary to take halting, poised steps towards him.  Her dress had been extremely long and exceedingly traditional – the whole ceremony had been remarkably traditional.  Mary had rationalized her somewhat antiquated and anachronistic choices by explaining how really, everything was just how it should be, all according to some greater plan with an outline elusive to mere mortals and exclusive to greater powers.  With a placating smile and reassuring nod, he had seconded all of Mary’s decisions and encouraged her, no matter which way her mind and mood led her.  John assumed being supportive was the way to go – weddings were for women, who had dreamed of their excessive, special day since the time they could talk.  Who was he to get in the middle of things and demand that it be scaled down, that it be more intimate, and that it be real, rather than rehearsed to perfection?

The honeymoon had also been all Mary – the place, the itinerary, the food, the clothes.  She had meticulously planned every single aspect so that when it came to breathing, John was compelled to eye Mary first, to make sure he was exhibiting the same kind of rhythm at the same times.  He didn’t feel suffocated or controlled; at least, he didn’t admit to anyone that he felt exactly that way.  When he flipped through the pictures from the honeymoon, and sat through the tedious home movies recorded on the trip, John scrutinized the smile frozen in time and wondered if Mary suspected something was amiss.  His teeth were showing and his eyes were narrowed from the effort, but John was sure that if anyone, least of all the love of his life, were to look close enough, they would recognize the con.

Thus time had passed, with Mary calling the shots and John dealing with it.  Mary advised him on his dietary choices to keep him trim and fit, offered suggestions as to what not to wear and what looked best to make sure he always looked handsome and even handled the money, so John wouldn’t have unnecessary anxiety.  She was beautiful, strong, independent woman and it baffled John as to why she even kept him around.  Indeed, as of late, John wondered more and more about Mary’s motives for the marriage and making the relationship permanent.  Did she love him?  Did she love to control him?  Did she think him weak and submissive?  Did others see him that way?

One night, as John reached for a second, hearty helping of macaroni and cheese, Mary coughed ever so slightly.  He turned to her, immediately feeling guilty, and Mary flashed him that knowing smile.  Her full lips curled just enough to make a difference in her expression and seemed to say, “You know better, and I know you know better.”  Any other night, John would have laughed, blushed and returned the food.  That night, he flicked the serving spoon and the creamy, orange and delicious helping of macaroni and cheese caught Mary straight in the face.  She had screamed with surprise and then became stock still from the shock.

“I’m a man, Mary,” John said.  “I can think for myself.  I’m a sentient being, same as you.  If I want to eat more macaroni and cheese, I will.  I thought you married me for a husband – for a partner.  I want you to be my wife, not my mother.”

Mary did not move nor did she speak.

John ate a second helping.

Later that night, after Mary had washed her face and gotten ready for bed, she climbed under the covers beside John.  It was clear that she had been crying.  “We need a change, huh?” she asked.  John turned to her, but said nothing.  “I think it would do us good to get away from everything and everyone, and get to know each other again, right?  We got stuck, John.  Both of us were trying so hard to please everyone but ourselves and that’s silly.  I mean, that’s stupid.”  She looked to him.  “What do you say?”

The next morning, they arranged everything so they could live on John’s boat for six months, traveling from port to port.  It was going to be quite an adventure.

So John sat on the dock, contemplating Mary and their marriage, scrutinizing the gold band which had once been a shackle and was now more of a promise.

“Ready?” Mary called from somewhere behind him.  He turned and she looked radiant – tanned skin, long, blonde hair and authentic smile.  She held her floppy, woven hat on her head with her left hand and pointed at John’s boat with the other.  John rose.

“Ready, “ he answered, and Mary’s hand ceased to point and reached out for his.

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