Wedding

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On battling bullshit.

Published December 31, 2015 by mandileighbean

newyearnewme

It’s the end of another year. We’re all preparing for the onslaught of “new year, new you” messages and postings, and I know the majority think such verbiage is cliched bullshit. I was such a believer until I sat down to draft this blog post.

The endings and beginnings of life often prompt us to be introspective, and as a writer, I’m hopelessly narcissistic, so at this time of year, I do nothing but think about myself, talk about myself, and write about myself. I think we’re all allowed some selfish moments if they are to truly be reflective and endeavor us to be greater.

There are lots of things I hate about myself. One of the more depressing aspects of society is that we all can do this, and that we all have done it, and that we all will most likely continue to do it, and that is list our failings. My favorite kind of humor is of the self-deprecating kind, and my favorite kind of gathering is a pity party. I’m not revealing these less than appealing parts of myself to elicit sympathy or to begin to construct a false kind of humility to make my self seem more creatively eccentric. Hand to God, I’m just trying to let you know that I get it, that I understand, and that I’ve been there too. There are days where I absolutely and unequivocally hate myself.

But there are also days where I’m not so bad. There are days where I am downright awesome and a sheer pleasure to be around. In 2016, I am going to acknowledge more of those days. And in that same state of mind, I’d like to share my favorite thing about myself. What makes Mandi Bean worth anything is my childlike optimism. I could list all the disappointments of the past year, but I could also list all the times I’ve been pleasantly surprised, when I’ve fallen in love – yet again – with this spinning globe, with humanity, and with the endless opportunities for romance and adventure this crazy, miraculous life offers. As such, I am totally buying into the “new year, new me” bullshit. I will be a newer, happier, and healthier version of myself in 2016. Those who roll their eyes in derision and/or disbelief are free to do so; that’s their right. But as for me, with a smile and a deep breath and a pleasantly unfamiliar sense of determination, here is how I am going to make 2016 my banner year:

  1. I will, as mentioned previously, focus on the positives. Every day, I will find something to be grateful for and I will put it in writing, so I can’t lie to myself later.
  2. I aim to lose 60 pounds by December 31, 2016. I’m the maid of honor for my friend’s wedding, so there’s extrinsic motivation, but more importantly, I want to be beautiful. I want my outside to match my inside, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve got going on in there.
  3. I am going to be a writer. I’ll update this blog faithfully, market my published work, work harder to get my second manuscript published, and seriously work on a third.

Three promises to myself. I can do this. I will do this. I will forgive myself when I stumble along the way, and I will encourage others endeavoring to become the best version of themselves.

Here’s to a happy, healthy New Year.

xoxo

newyear2016

On objections.

Published July 15, 2015 by mandileighbean

“Love is a book that never closes.”

I need to stop drinking spoiled milk.

A respected coworker of mine read the manuscript for Moody Blue and told me she enjoyed it, believed it had merit and promise. She readily commiserated with me about how every literary agent has been rejecting me. I received one such rejection in the mail yesterday, which makes it seem very official and makes it sting just a little more. Well, I think it was a rejection – just my query letter sent back to me in a self-addressed stamped envelope; feels a little like suicide. It’s an odd feeling to be rejected by one’s own hand.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #25: “I think I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Though we cry, we must stay alive.”

canterbury-cathedral-stairs

Gerard was sitting on the last of the long, stone steps that led to the solid, impressive-looking double doors of the church. Blood from his mouth and nose stained the front of expensive button-down shirt. His mouth had finally stopped leaking crimson, but his nose was still dripping. He had been watching fat, scarlet droplets fall and explode onto the concrete between his feet, which were stuffed into shiny shoes. Carefully, he prodded at his swollen, bleeding nose. Gerard winced from the pain. He thought it might be broken and he nearly laughed aloud. That’d be perfect, just fucking perfect.

What a sight this poor devil made for the casual passerby; some unapologetic sinner cast away, nearly sprawled out on the cathedral steps, bruised and bloody. A humorless smile stretched his thin lips as he cautiously felt around his left eye, which was puffy. A black eye was rapidly appearing and though he probably deserved it, all of it, it didn’t make the sores better. If anything, it made it worse. He hugged his knees, bringing them close together, and rested his aching head upon them. He thought about what had happened, relived every aching, humiliating moment, just like he would from time to time for years after, until he gave his last breath. He lapsed into these deep thoughts and lost his surroundings.

“Holy shit.” The words were drawn out – each syllable was emphasized. The voice broke Gerard’s reverie, startled him to attention. He perked up and saw Frankie walking towards him across the parking lot. She was his best friend – only because she was his only friend – and she was smiling ruefully, like she was only moments away from gleefully shouting, “I told you so!” Gerard supposed he deserved that too, just like everything else. As Frankie neared, she stated the obvious. “You look terrible,” she said, seating herself beside Gerard, but two steps higher so her knees weren’t somewhere near her chin. She stretched out her legs, perfectly content to be where she was, perfectly content to blatantly ignore the dramatics and their consequences in favor of the sunshine. Gerard thought it indecent.

“I survived pretty good, actually. You should see everybody else.”

“Had to fight your way out of the church, huh?” Frankie asked, snorting laughter. “Makes sense.”

Gerard shut his eyes tight in a lame, cliched attempt to block everything out. He tilted his head back so the sun could shine against his face to perhaps calm and soothe him. In a tired voice, he said, “Look Frankie, I only called for a ride. I didn’t ask for-”

“For what? A lecture? Well, too fucking bad,” Frankie growled. “You told Ronnie you could handle it, promised her you wouldn’t make a scene. And what did you do, Gerard?” She was met with silence. After a few moments, Frankie roared, “Tell me what you did!”

“I objected!” Gerard fired back. His eyes shot open and he spun to face Frankie, aching, spinning head be damned. “I stood up and objected, just like in the movies! I waited until the priest asked, and then I jumped up and told the whole goddamn church and everyone in it that I still loved Ronnie!”

“Why?” Frankie asked. She was pushing it, but didn’t seem to care. She never did. “Why would you do that after -”

“Because I thought it would work, obviously!” It was Gerard’s turn to interrupt. “That was my plan the whole time!” He pointed an accusing finger towards Frankie. “And don’t you dare act like you didn’t know! Don’t play shocked and innocent with me, Frankie. If you really didn’t know, you wouldn’t have warned me against going.”

“I don’t know why I even bother,” Frankie said. She sounded disgusted, but she wasn’t yelling anymore. “I should just save my breath because you never listen.”

Gerard turned away, sheepish and ashamed. He looked down at his trembling hands, eyed the minor scrapes, defensive wounds. Truth be told though, he didn’t really fight back. How could he? He was wrong. Done fighting, he said, “You were right, Frankie. You told me so.” He took a second to compose himself, to try and keep his voice from cracking. “Can you please take me home?” He failed – the evident tremor in his voice roused compassion from Frankie. She squeezed his shoulder.

“Of course,” Frankie said. She got to her feet and moved to stand before Gerard. She offered her hands. He hesitated just a moment before accepting the offer. Frankie pulled him up into a standing position and as the moved to stand beside one another, Gerard slung his arm around Frankie’s shoulders. To help Gerard gain some stability, Frankie looped an arm around his waist. Together, they began wobbling towards Frankie’s car. Gerard squinted against the bright sunlight and licked the right corner of his lips. He could still taste blood.

“So,” Frankie began because if there was ever silence she would always be the one to break it, “who beat the hell out of you?”

Gerard smirked but hung his head. “Kevin,” he answered.

“That fits, since he’s the groom and all,” Frankie conceded. “But honestly, I had my money on Mr. Gates kicking you in the balls.”

“Ronnie’s dad? No way – that guy loves me.”

“Even now?” Frankie asked, skeptical.

Gerard considered. “Well, he didn’t exactly stop the villagers with the pitchforks, but I wouldn’t say he encouraged them either.”

Frankie snorted laughter. “So what now?”

Gerard sighed. “I don’t know,” he confessed.

On continuing to “dream, baby, dream.”

Published April 28, 2013 by mandileighbean

It is time to catch up with my life; frankly, it has been long overdue.  Every single weekend in April, I have had some obligation – all enjoyable, to be sure – that consumed my only free time, so to speak.  With the conclusion of this weekend’s activities, I have a moment to breathe and collect myself, smooth the wrinkles from my clothes, wipe the crumbs and debris away, and tuck bothersome strands of hair behind my ear.  I have a precious few seconds to compose myself before Monday starts.  It is a wonderful feeling I missed more than I believe I realized.

The first three weekends of this fourth month of the year were all about furthering my professionalism; three workshops dealing with subject matter and the future of the teaching profession.  As I said, all of the workshops were useful and I loved meeting colleagues from all over the state, but this last weekend was my favorite because it was filled with love, friends, and romance, and it inspired a few daydreams to implement when I am in danger of bleeding out from boredom.

Friday night was Christine’s wedding and it was breathtaking.  I genuinely believed I was witnessing some sort of fairy tale brought to life before me.  Christine looked positively gorgeous and as twilight fell upon the meticulously manicured grounds of the estate, I felt all the wind rush around me and out of me, vacating my lungs like rats on a sinking ship.  I know it is a crude analogy that does not really fit with the rest of the image, but I suppose that is the point, precisely what I’m going for.  I feel sheepish admitting, no matter how silly or common it may be, that in that moment of Christine’s complete happiness and beauty, I succumbed to a sudden, vicious and crippling attack of loneliness.  There I was, surrounded by all the things in life that should be celebrated and that make all the unfortunate events in between worth it, and I could think only of myself and only of the negative.  I am not proud of it, but there it was all the same and unsure of what else to do, I cried.  I cried for how pathetic I am, for how beautiful Christine was, for how happy her and James were and are and always will be, for the friends around me, for the lights and the decorations and the love and the smiles and the good food – I cried for all of it.

leeweddingleewedding1 leewedding2

Saturday was Liz’s bridal shower.  It was held at an adorable place called Café Paris in Metuchen.  I went to the shower straight from the hotel where I stayed at for Christine’s wedding, so I looked less than spectacular, especially since I had fallen asleep without washing my face.  Mascara caked inside my eyelids and as a result, my eyes were bloodshot.  I can only imagine what kind of first impression I made.  I would be more horrified but since I knew the people I was sitting with, it could have been worse.  Lauren, Lindsay and Christina are all happily in love, and Meghan is planning her wedding.  I slung back mimosas.  Tim and Liz are two of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege, honor, and blessing of meeting.  Both – Tim in particular – shaped me into the woman I am today.  They introduced me to an amazing organization and collection of people that taught and inspired and supported me more so than I ever deserved.  Tim and Liz getting married is evidence that sometimes, good things do happen to good people and that love is alive and well.  It makes me happy and it makes me cry.

lizshower

Today, during mass, the priest blessed a couple who had been married for 60 years.  I turned to my little brother and smiled.  I wonder if he thinks it’s weird that I’ve never brought anyone home to meet Mom and Dad.  I wonder if what he wonders even matters.  I wonder if the blessing was a sign from God that it is going to happen for me one day, or if it was just a coincidence that I was surrounded by marriage all weekend.  I wonder if this all stems from that hormonal time of the month, a beer or two too many, watching “When Harry Met Sally” alone in an empty hotel room after the wedding, or because my next novel idea is about an engagement that is wrecked irreparably.  Do I want to wreck it because I am bitter, lonely and resentful, or because I honestly think the plot is entertaining?

I worry that I am a broken record; I know this is not my first blog entry of this nature and I am can confidently guarantee it will not be the last.  Is that a bad thing?  Am I throwing another spontaneous pity party?  Am I sticking to what I know because it’s comfortable?

 

I need to start living – meeting new people, experiencing new things.

On supernatural distractions.

Published July 6, 2012 by mandileighbean

Missy and her family are visiting from Virginia.  They came up for a wedding, and will be staying through the weekend so Jimmy can celebrate his fourth birthday with us.  Missy, John and Jack will leave on Sunday, but Jimmy will stay for about a week.  I’m very excited but – as to be expected – I’ve been distracted from writing.  Simultaneously, I’ve been inspired by the film “Fright Night,” starring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell. You’ve been given fair warning: the following probably sucks, as I’m trying something new without giving it my best effort.

Good luck.

PROMPT: “You know, they invented a word for guys like him.”

PIECE:

“You know, they invented a word for guys like him.”

Cheyenne sighed and ran her hands along her wearied face.  She was definitely too young to feel so fucking old.  Maybe Marley was right and it was all part of the territory, but Marley being right was the worst thing in the whole entire world – she’d be wildly obnoxious about it.  “I get it, Marley.  We’ve had this conversation a million and one times – you’re not telling me anything new, or anything that I don’t already know.  So essentially, you’re not being helpful and unless you’re going to help, shut up.”

Marley bit the insides of her cheeks to keep quiet and crossed her thin arms over her chest.  Cheyenne had insulted her – best friend or not – so Marley would let Cheyenne turn the whole place upside down on her own.  Why would she help a bitch on a wild goose chase?  She wasn’t dating a monster.  She raised an eyebrow and watched Cheyenne derisively as she wrenched open cabinets and pulled out drawers, letting their contents clatter to the floor.  “What are you even looking for?”

“I’ve already told you,” Cheyenne answered sharply.  “He needs a medallion about the size of an old subway token.  It has a bat on it, and he needs it tonight because the main guy is coming for it.”

Marley’s mouth dropped open.  “Are you saying there are more coming here tonight?”  Cheyenne did not answer, but she did considerably slow her frantic searching.  “Oh, fuck that!” Marley erupted.  “It could be a bloodbath!  He’s putting all of us in some serious danger!  They could kill us all!”

Cheyenne turned slowly to face Marley.  Her clenched fists and deep breathing showed that she was battling a swelling rage.  “James wouldn’t do that, Marley.  He would never –“

“What happened to Sam?” Marley asked, interrupted.  Both young women knew exactly what had happened to Sam – he had been killed – murdered – about a month ago.  There had been a severe misunderstanding about Sam’s intentions towards Cheyenne and how those intentions affected both his attitudes and actions towards James.  In essence, James was convinced that Sam was coming for him, so he struck first and even though Sam had been brave and fought long and hard to defend himself, it had all been for naught.  “Please, Cheyenne, let’s end this!  I know he’s one thing to you, but to everyone he’s not trying to fuck, he’s something else.”

Cheyenne wiped her eyes.  “It’s not just that, Marley.  You know it’s not so vulgar.  We love each other.”

“He can’t love you or anyone, Cheyenne.  He’s a monster, a literal living and breathing monster.”

“Marley –“

“There’s a word for guys like him, Cheyenne.  There’s a word for draining the life from someone and not feeling an ounce of remorse, rationalizing murder because it’s necessary for existence.  If he were human, he’d be a sociopath, but he’s not human, is he?”

“No,” Cheyenne barely whispered.

“So what’s the word I’m thinking of?  You need to hear yourself say it.  You need to come to grips with reality.”

Marley sighed.  “I know – the word is vampire.”

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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