2.28.2011

where i write.


Six hours a week, between art history and literature classes, I sit in a coffee shop in my college town, with nothing to do but write.

My mind buzzes excitedly on the walk over. Half a mile doesn't seem a long jaunt, until temperatures have dipped into the negatives and wind speeds have jumped to double digits. I've often spent the last moments of class selecting what I'll write about, and in an attempt to distract myself from the penetrating cold, I mind-pen the first three sentences on the brisk stoll, sometimes even whispering them aloud when I'm certain there's no one around. When I reach the coffee shop, my eyes search for my table near the window, bathed in sun: is it taken? On occasion dishes have been left behind on its thick, dark table top after a lunch rush, and I cheerfully carry them to the back of the shop...happy to see my table free of lunch-time hustle. Then I cozy in, pulling out a journal or laptop, and while overlooking a bustly intersection right off campus, let the words flow.

Those are my favorite, and most productive, times of day. In those few hours, I'm not a girl who needs to do her dishes, or must make a run to the post office...I'm just a random girl in a coffee shop. Free of responsibilities, giving her a freedom of mind. Home is rarely inspiring. There are closets to sort, laundry to wash, treadmills to conquer and bills to pay. But when I'm stranded in my little scholarly town, over an hour's round trip from a run to Target or the mall, I'm simply paused in time with nothing but a laptop, a coffee and a crackling fire.

Last week didn't allow for any of those times, hence my quietness after my last post. Cancelled classes, a sick day, on-campus errands and the like kept me from my coffee shop all week, and I've missed it so. The daunting task of documenting Chapter 2 of my little story took a backseat, as I didn't have those precious, quiet hours in the coffee shop where my mind-voice is the loudest. Although, my home enjoyed the reallocation of those six hours, as I dug into deep cleaning and purging my closets and drawers.

Where, and when, are you most inspired to write?

2.22.2011

love stories: chapter one.


My knees were showing.

I adjusted the grey cotton dress, squirming in my seat to pull a hem over the my pale kneecaps . I’m not a dress-wearing, knee-showing girl… a wrong bend, an uncalculated gust of wind and a girl could find herself in a compromising position, like I’d nearly been just minutes ago as I ascended the puddle jumper’s stairs. In fear of flashing the young baggage boy below, I clutched the skirt of my ruffled dress, fighting against a swift summer breeze. Too risky for a small-town Midwestern girl like me. Embarrassed as I recalled the near flash, I drew my rosy cardigan tight , clicked the seatbelt across my hips and gazed sleepily out of the hazy oval window to my right. Pressing my forehead against the foggy glass, the cool felt calming against my head, which had started to spin. I strained, trying to peer through the early morning darkness, but I could see only my reflection in the window.

Who was this girl? The girl who wears knee-length skirts and boards planes at 5am…where did she come from? Was this me? A character that invests in a passport and jets off on an international trip with a boy she’s never met? I couldn’t decide if I liked this girl. She was certainly spunkier, more adventurous than the conservative worrier that had ruled my mind previously. And I’d had nearly forgotten to care what others thought of my newly sprouted spontaneous spirit. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this new mindset might get my heart broken.

The small plane navigated slowly through the maze of red and blue runway lights, then steadily picked up speed until its wheels had softly risen off the pavement and tucked themselves neatly inside the aircraft. My clammy palms unclenched themselves from the elbow rests, the way they always did once I found myself airborne.

You forget how beautiful home is, until you’re hovering above it, speeding in the opposite direction, I thought silently. Several hundred feet below me laid my parent’s small ranch-style house, the one in which I’d grown up, the playground my elementary-school girlfriends and I gossiped in late at night, the empty street where I’d sprawled out, stargazing, with a boy who had broken my heart years earlier. Two blocks and two decades of memories seemed so small now.

“It’s a real small flight, honey, but if you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask, ‘kay?" the flight attendant interrupted my nostalgia. "Where you headed today?” she smiled, as she checked my seatbelt.

“Okay,” I said, nervously stalling. “Um, I’m going to Boston, and then to Ireland tomorrow,”

“Oh my gosh. You hear that?” she called out to the man two seats back. “This lil’ lady is going to Ireland! I’ve always wanted to go. Are you going alone?”

I could feel my face heat. In my younger years I embraced the spotlight, and happily sang, danced and recited lines for crowds of family and friends. But since entering my twenties, spotlights led to anxieties, and my insecurities multiplied the moment I felt eyes on me, as though everyone around was inspecting, picking apart my body and mind.

“Oh no,” I paused. “With a friend.” It was much easier to tell a half-truth than the whole.

The whole truth of where I was headed, and with whom, was long winded and sticky, and had begun six months earlier on a snowy February night. Curled up on my couch in my comfiest and least flattering pair of sweats, I’d spent that Saturday night staring desperately at a set of paints, wishing I felt inspired enough to lift brush to canvas to complete my homework. Blessedly, a phone call from my Californian best friend had interrupted my attempts at self-motivation. Becky was, as always, on a mission. That night's mission consisted of playing Yenta. Her husband’s close friend, Gabriel, was visiting while on leave from Iraq, and she was determined to secure Gabriel a romantic interest before he returned to his base in Baghdad.

“Bec, I’m kind of seeing someone!” I had protested, laughing at the idea.

“Blah, blah. It’s just a friendship, the guy is going back Iraq. Come on. Cheer him up.” she’d teased back.

I’d obliged, and we exchanged information. Weeks passed. Then an email from Gabriel, letting me know he’d returned to Iraq, had meant to write sooner, hoped I was very well. I replied, and quickly we began a pen-pal friendship. He wrote to me during long, dusty days spent at a desk in Baghdad, I wrote him during late night homework breaks from mixing paint colors and washing out brushes.

Short of our mutual friends, we had nothing in common. But, therein laid the beauty. One of us had experienced most anything imaginable, or had interest in most any topic. He was 33, and I 23. He’d traveled the world in the Navy, and I didn’t even possess a passport, but had done my fair share of US travel. He was a tech nerd, and I was a creative spirit. He was raised Catholic, and I Lutheran. Neither of us were easily offended, and we could talk about most everything…no subject too taboo, no answer too embarrassing. And he was the sweetest listening ear over the course of months of emails, reassuring me that recently being thrice-dumped was no reflection on me. I was lovely, and these men were likely dogs. He’d listened as I waxed poetic about my dreams to someday visit Ireland, and possibly live in Europe.

And then, one day…that question:

“What would you say if I offered to take you to Ireland this summer?”

He’d sweetly twisted my arm, promising I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. He would take leave from Iraq and meet me in Boston so I wouldn’t have to stress over my first trans-Atlantic flight to the Emerald Isle. We would just be friends on a vacation, he said, and after all…even if we had an absolutely terrible time…wouldn’t it make a great story? It had been three months since I’d answered yes, and nervously penned a passport application.

The piercing rattle of the plane’s wheels on the runway shook me back to reality, the interior suddenly felt small and pressing. Air from the vent above me slowed and I started to sweat nervously. My stomach, during the course of the flight, had shifted into my lungs, leaving me unable to take deep breaths. Trying to steady my breathing, my weak legs and wobbly emotions, I gathered my things, double-checking my passport pocket as I proceeded up the aircraft aisle, repeating in my head what had become my in-flight mantra: It’s just a vacation. It’s just a vacation. It’s just a vacation.

But, as I turned down the hot August jet way, adjusting my weighty carry-on, I knew it wasn’t just a vacation. He would be there, the man who had sent me several bouquets of flowers, waiting inside the terminal and there was no turning back, unless I'd like to reboard the plane and continue on to Tallahassee.

At the end of the long tunnel, I could see him, my pen pal. And his smiling eyes said it all.

2.21.2011

week of stories: the beginning.


It was one year ago today, that Gabriel and I became friends + pen pals. On Friday, I found a small box on my doorstep and raced inside, grasping at sticky packaging tape and revealing a wrapped package and folded note. It read:
Dear Bethany,

I couldn't have hoped for a better time over the past year, except that we would have had more time together. But, I know we have a lifetime of adventures to come. Here's a little something to show where we were the night everything changed.


I love you,
Gabriel
Inside were two books, gorgeously bound historic photos of my city, Eau Claire...and of Santa Cruz. The cities we were in the night we became friends. My city is close to my heart. Although barely noticeable on a map, the city holds more memories than I thought possible. Flipping through the photos, I spotted photos from the 20s, taken just blocks from my apartment and beautiful snapshots of families from decades ago.
 

My heart started churning over this reminder: Document the past lest it be lost in the future. For six months I've been prodding myself to write about my time with Gabriel, the first week we spent together. It was a mere seven days, yet a whirlwind of travel and romance. Just months ago, memories of it were crisply ironed into my mind. But, in time those crisply pleated memories have become lightly wrinkled, and as months pass, I'll struggle more to remember where we were, what was said and felt.

So, it's time to write it out. Welcome to this week of stories, from day one to day seven.

Tomorrow: Chapter 1. :)

2.18.2011

beauty in chaos + giveaway winner.


In case you've not been watching the news, Wisconsin is in chaos right now. Chaos, I say! (Catch up a little here, if you'd like to know.) All of my classes had walk outs, and I as waited in the halls, "Cancelled Class" signs were tacked up on most every door. From my third-floor perch, sounds of excited protests wafted through open windows, as students held signs proclaiming, "Honk if you love your teachers!"

Meanwhile, I've busied my mind with creating the packages I promised to anyone who requested one. It's tough to keep my mouth shut. My very conservative family + peers would certainly disown me if I truly spoke my mind on the issue. And, in the process it might come out that I voted for Obama. Gasp. There it is. Well, I might as well start looking for an adoptive family.

On to more exciting things:

The winner of this amazing Mama Bag giveway is.....gorgeous Emily of Blissful Inspirations! Emily, drop me an email at wwrinserepeat@gmail.com with your address and the bag will be shipped to you!

Thank you so much to everyone who played along, and an enormous thank you to Beverly of Remember Me Knots for gracing us with your creation!

2.16.2011

the proverbial honeymoon is over.



We've loving titled Gabriel's last trip home: The Point In Which We Lost All Mystery. Unlike normal budding relationships, in which unsavory parts of personality, self and life can be concealed through a glitzy veil of formal dates, high heels and passage of time, long distance relationships do not allow such luxury.

Don't misread me: it's not that I dislike it. I mean to say: It's quiet different. For us, it's three weeks spent together...non-stop. In sickness and in health. Dolled up and in lumpy pajamas. Through jet lag and broken suitcases. When spending 500 undivided hours together, the realities of day-to-day life tend to tumble out...hiding any unpleasantries is nearly impossible. During our last trip,  we had our first fight, I was sick twice, he saw me multiple times without make up, we washed laundry together while I cringed about the reality of it all and we bickered over directions.

It's rather like three weeks of marriage. Not at all like normal dating, but the truth is: I rather love it. Having a partner, I adore, even during those anything-but-romantic moments. And  afterall, he did do the laundry...and although I loathe the idea of a man washing my skivvies, I was pleasantly surprised by his willingness to housekeep.

We've embraced our mystery-free relationship, and cringe much less at those earth-shattering moments of reality...often teasing each other with a:

"Babe? Are you ready to kiss our very last bit of mystery goodbye? Here goes..."

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Do you remember that moment...the one in which you knew you'd crossed into reality, and most all mystery was gone from your relationship? Do tell.

2.15.2011

mini-giveaway winner...and everyone wins (a little)!


The winner of yesterday's Valentine's mini-giveaway is:

Laura from Rambling Novella! Dearest Laura....email me at wwrinserepeat@gmail.com with your address, and I'll send these darling postcards your way!

And if you didn't win...but commented yesterday, midst a less-than-ideal Valentine's Day, I would still love to send you a tiny cheer-up package. Really, really love to. I'm not wealthy enough to send the whole 100 postcard she-bang to each of you, but I am certainly able to part with a few of my postcards + a lil' treat. Shoot me an email at wwrinserepeat@gmail.com, and I'll drop a package in the post for you this weekend!

Don't be shy, ladies...you completely deserve it! :)

2.14.2011

happy valentines...a mini-giveaway.


Last week, I made grandiose promises about sharing the story of how Gabriel and I met. And I will--within the next week. (And thank you for your excitement over hearing the tale!)

But this weekend, as spent a weekend of relaxation with a close girlfriend, I started to think about Valentine's Day. And love. And how, in my single years, Valentine's Day was an entirely terrible day of not receiving flowers at the office, lacking dinner plans, aching to return home to sweatpants and polishing off an entire pizza alone. (Color me embarrassed...but it's true.) But, a sweet Valentine or a small gift from a girlfriend made those wretched 24-hours salvageable.

And so, instead of schmearing more romance on a day which I'm certain millions of girls would rather spend hiding under the covers...I would like to host a mini-giveaway, open to anyone whose Valentine's Day is kinda sucking the big one. The prize? These super sweet Cover Story Postcards, featuring 100 of Penguin Publishing's best covers + books. I received them as a V-day gift and am loving them...I'm sure you'll enjoy, too!


(photo via anthro)

Single or not single, if your V-day is less than ideal, please do leave a comment today letting me know. You don't have to bear your soul, unless that's therapeutic for you...in which case, the doctor is in.

I'll post the winner tomorrow.

Deep breaths, disappointed V-dayers. This too shall pass! :)

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And don't forget to enter the big giveway, open through Thursday!

2.11.2011

giveaway with a new friend: remember me knots.

A few months ago, when I joined in a friend’s Facebook conversation about a Dr. Seuss-themed Christmas tree, I had no idea I’d meet a crafty gal named Beverly, and become fast virtual buddies. She started reading my blog, I began stalking her darling handmade boutique.

Might I formally introduce you to her boutique?

Readers, meet Remember Me Knots, the shop where Beverly creates beautiful treasures, handmade with loads of love. Just like you tie a knot on your finger to serve as an important reminder, Remember Me Knots custom creates super special items meant to remind you of a unique time in life. Your own sweet little remember me knot.

(How cute is she?!?)

Here’s where Beverly is different: She specializes in custom orders only—those dreamy items rolling around in your head…the gifts that are nearly impossible to find premade. Maybe it’s a blanket for your adorable baby. An apron for your first home. A purse because gosh-darn-it you’re fabulous and deserve it. (You totally do.) She loves to bring those things to life, taking careful notes of colors, textures and looks you love…creating exactly what your heart desires. And then it’s yours: Uniquely yours for ever and ever. Not only was it handmade with so much love, but it's also unlike anything you'll see walking down the street!

And guess what? Lovely Beverly is giving away one of her creations...a chic Mommy Bag made just for this occasion, for one lucky, lucky, lucky reader!


If you’re a mama, this cheery bag would be a priceless addition to your hip little life. Such a pretty place to stash those nooks, burp cloths and countless items you carry oh-so diligently. If you’re not a mama (like me), plan in advance…because wouldn’t you love to gift this to a mama-to-be at her shower?

 
Are you itching to win? You’ve got one way to enter, and an opportunity for a bonus entry:

1. Click over to Remember Me Knot’s Facebook page and get your “like” on! Drop a comment on this post let me know you’re following RMK.

2. For an additional entry after "liking", share this giveaway via your blog, and comment once more to say you’ve spread the word.

This giveaway is open through Thursday, February 17th, with the lucky winner to be announced on Friday, February 18th. But, in the meantime, if you’re looking to custom order your own bag, apron, set of pillows, baby items…or anything you can dream of…you can contact Beverly at beverly@bpennstudios.com, or visit her website at remembermeknots.com.

Happy Weekend, sweet readers...get busy likin' and commenting! :)

2.09.2011

a piece of ireland.


I mentioned in my last post that I'd gifted Gabriel one square foot of land in Ireland. Jigga-what-what?, you all said.

Gabriel and I met because of Ireland (technically, we hopped on a plane together in Boston, then headed to Ireland...details, details), and it's all a bit of a long story. But, I've been told it's a good one. So, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'm hoping to relate our little love story next Monday. Perhaps you've been reading long enough that you already know. Perhaps you'll enjoy. Perhaps you'll vomit. Either way, I'm writin' it so come prepared.

Anyway, we have a special place in our hearts for Ireland and often ogle little Irish cottages we dream of owning. Of course I cannot buy the man a cottage...but I could buy him a little land, right? So I started digging. As it turns out, there are tons of places that offer novelty land for sale by the foot, for $35-$50. You own the land for 20 years, and clearly cannot do much with it...but they do welcome you to visit it. I selected this one, simply because it was the closest to the city that stole our hearts and our first kiss. Two weeks later, they sent me a map showing the exact location of our foot of land, a legal certificate, lots of photos and the history of the location.

It's like owning a star...only you can visit it. It's equally ridiculous, but a touch more earth-bound.

He loved it--and I don't think he was lying, because he got rather teary, after telling me how perfect it was, and then carefully packed the framed certificate away in his bulging bag to take to Iraq. But he'd never admit to the teary-eyed appreciation, I'm sure. (Or maybe the tears were disappointment? Preparing for years of cheesy gifts? Hmm.)

Happy Wednesday. :)

2.07.2011

impatient romantic.


Is it Valentine's Day yet? I've decorated and I've crafted. I've baked, and resisted all but two cookies. I've care-packaged and I've mailed.

And now I'm just ready for it. Even though I have no reason to be excited: Gabe and I had faux Valentine's Day together in January, before he flew back. He ordered me flowers from the living room, while I was in the kitchen. From the kitchen, I bought him 1 foot of land outside of Killarney, Ireland where we fell in loooooove.

I'll be spending my V-day at the gym, then watching a movie in film class...no romance for me. But I'm still ready to don my sparkly red headband from Gracie and down a package of conversation hearts, without an ounce of guilt in sight.

In the meantime: Be sure to check back this Friday...I'll have a super exciting giveaway! I'll give you a hint: It is being custom-created as I type this. And it's gonna be cute. :)

2.04.2011

wavy lady.



When my trusty curling barrel became hair spray encrusted, sluggish to heat, then finally refused to light up on Tuesday, I knew it was time. As I stood in Target's beautyland,  surveying the ample options of heated tools, I felt mighty gutsy given my latest accomplishments:
  • I've maintained a wildly healthy eating plan for the past fourteen days, breaking it only to eat two Valentine's cookies and eight conversation hearts.
  • Life has been soda-free for over 48 hours, and I have met my water quota every day this week.
  • I've hired a personal trainer, and am already feeling the benefits.
So, gutsy I went, as I stretched tall to pluck the Revlon 3-Barrel Jumbo Waver from its high perch, and pushed away all fears that I'd end up like an electrocuted poodle. For years I've longed for waves, but with my hair's curly, frizzy and course nature I'd never been successful. I had a good feeling about this, though. On my way past the cosmetics, I snatched a tube of bright red lipstick. Confidence in a tube. Just what a girl needs.



The completed look...I LOVE. It added tons of volume to my hair, which often falls flat, and I believe I'll finally be able to pull off headbands. I will tell you this: The beast is a lil' heavy...it's one scary looking appliance. Don't be intimidated, though. After a few minutes, I got the hang of it, and it was so much more fun than my ol' curling iron. It might be just the key to that beachy-carefree style I've long lusted after.

Oh, and: Gabe and I had a Skype date last night...he loved my hair and my new lipstick, telling me several times that I looked gorgeous. I confessed that I was wearing sweatpants underneath the desk. He didn't care. :)

--------------------------------------------

I'm off to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate my dad's birthday. Unfortuantely our budget didn't allow for a more....tropical...celebration, but I love any excuse to break out my suitcase, so I'm excited nonetheless.

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever you do, may it be lovely. :)

2.03.2011

taking it off.


Yesterday I went balls to the wall and admitted that I've gained 16 pounds in the past 6 months. This is part two in my War on the Wiggle.

I've never been a physical girl. When I was in elementary school, I prayed for snow, rain or whatever the heavens could send that would keep me classroom-bound during recess, chatting with friends or getting lost in a book. And, while I played a few sports in my teen years, I loved sitting the bench. It meant I could daydream, rather than attempt to show physical agility and aptitude to a crowd full of mothers and peers. I'll admit it: I don't much like to move. I love me a book, a laptop, good conversation, some TV or a nap. And if there's food involved: I'm so there. That's right. I said it.

When I began my weight loss journey, I compromised on my love of not moving and did what all good chubby people do: Signed up for a gym membership. I've had that gym membership for two years, a membership utilized only around the 27th of each month, as I convince myself that the twenty-two dollars I've just paid in gym fees was a worthwhile expenditure. Or when I eat too many slices of chocolate cake.

You see, the gym is a culmination of everything I fear: Tight-fitted clothing, moving infront of others, scales and physical aptitude. Oh, and those token bronzed hot chics working out in their sports bras. Machines I don't understand. Charts telling me I'm overweight. Did I mention the hot chics in their bras? Everything about the gym leaves me feeling inferior. One hours of streaming messages that I'm just not thin enough, fit enough, attractive enough...I'm just not good enough. It makes me want to run far away to a land filled with books and doughnuts.

But, the past six months of slow and steady weight gain have proven to me that a formerly chubby girl cannot stay healthy on diet alone. Last week I did what I've been thinking about for years: I finally hired a personal trainer. No more inferiority. I need the gym. Of course my trainer looks like a supermodel. Of course. But, together we set up a plan for me to tackle alone this week, and next week I'll begin my hour-long training sessions twice a week. I need help. To be held accountable, to be guided, and pushed when I say I can't. 

I already hurt in places that are awkward to talk about. I cannot imagine what next week will bring.

But truly, it hurts so good.

2.02.2011

eating for two.


Did I get your attention? Great. Cause I've been eating for two and I might look pregnant.

Oh, wait. Not pregnant. I'm just in love.

But, incase you're new around here: I've got a boy in my life. He's wonderful. He comes in three week waves, a few times a year, on leave from Iraq. Yet this I've noticed: The more days I spend with him, the more weight I gain. After we met in August, and spent three non-stop weeks globetrotting together, it was a comfortable eight pounds. A little frightening, yes, but I stayed calm. After we reunited for another three weeks in January...another eight pounds have crept back.


It's certainly not his fault he that can eat whatever he'd like, and not gain an ounce. It's not his fault that ordering appetizers and dessert is second nature, or that the food he leaves on his plate just happens to be my kryptonite. But I'm not sure how to handle cooking and eating for two.  It's not as if I can say,


"Darling, I know you spend 330 days a year in Iraq. Eating terrible food, living in sandy hell. But you see: I have no self control and therefore request you eat only salads in my presence."

The man is a saint. If he'd like to bring home an enormous red velvet cake, he certainly deserves it...and a quart of vanilla ice cream. But after he leaves, the cake lingers as does my reignited taste for caloric indulgences. For now these temptations only come in three week quakes, but the month-long aftershock contributes to the weight gain. I'm planning to be with him for some time, so I must get a handle on eating for two before I've had to discard my entire wardrobe in exchange for larger jeans and a dissatisfied countenance.

Advice needed: What are your secrets to creating a food-safe zone when sharing your life with a guy, roommate, friend, etc. who doesn't battle weight gain? (Or lack of self control?)

And for heaven's sake...please tell me I'm not the only one who's fallen victim to love weight.

Tomorrow: Part II of my battle of the bulge.

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