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Gathering

Ah, summer. The season of road trips, iced tea, and adventures is officially here. The climbing temps always get my heart aching for California and the beach. Visions of Reef flip-flops and Coconut Lime Verbena lotion begin to creep out from memory to the forefront of my mind. My Jack Johnson station on Pandora is played on a daily basis and Mango iced tea is always by my side.

In my late High School and early college years my family would visit the San Diego area every summer. Those were happy times. My brother and I became best friends with the shared mission of surviving mom and dad’s embarrassing displays of tourism taking pictures of every seagull we came upon, metal detecting on the beach, and riding the giant blue harbor tour floating bus thing. From the tide pools at Point Loma we’d watch the surfers perfect their craft. My mom had to go into every tacky souvenir shop filled to the brim with preserved alligator heads, shot glasses, and tee shirts. We ate freshly baked cookies at Seaport Village and I bought journals from The Upstart Crow.

But my fondest memories are of all the diners we ate at. My parents always loved going to Denny’s. When we were little my brother and I collected the baseball cards they gave away with every kids meal. So in CA we naturally gravitated to the familiar diner. One trip we stayed in the Hotel Circle area and discovered The Waffle Spot; a cute little diner attached to the Kings Inn. The decor – purple and blue with medieval themed breakfast food characters – was hopelessly goofy and I loved it! They served plate sized waffles with great melted blobs of milk and white chocolate. Their icon, Sir Waffelot, smiled up at you from the coffee cups glad that you took a sip of the freshly brewed goodness. I still need to get out there so I can buy a mug with Sir Waffleot on it!

In honor of summer and all the good memories it brings back I’ve decided to focus on my story about the diner with the abandoned baby and the WWII vet. The diner is largely based on The Waffle Spot. I want to give it all my warm sparkly feelings about California and create a setting of glowing light and hot coffee poured from pots with brown handles for regular and orange handles for decaf. To inspire creativity I’ve been gathering all the items that remind me of those days, writing down as many memories that will allow themselves to be conjured, and Googling all the places we visited.

Here are some photos of my inspirations! Hope you are having a great summer creating new memories! Peace, Love, and Surfing!

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My collection of seashells found and bought over a span of ten years

 

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A page from a scrapbook I made about one of our trips.

 

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From left to right – a postcard bought at the Del Coronado Hotel, the coolest little deli on Coronado Island complete with surfboards hanging from the ceiling, my favorite photo of my brother at the Balboa Park amphitheater, Roxy all the way!

 

 

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I read this book every summer. It’s like having coffee with a friend while listening to his surf stories.

 

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A collage I made for a culture studies class. Obviously I picked surf culture 😉

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Why I Write

Last week and part of this week were pretty much a creative waste. I wasn’t able to write anything because my mind was consumed with worry about things I truly have no control over. While procrastination and worry are nothing new in my world, I was struck by a distinct contrast between the times I do create against the times I don’t.

When I was posting consistently I felt happy and free, empowered, somehow beautiful, feisty and unique. This last week I’ve been quiet and agitated, fearful, short-tempered, eating Advil like candy, and obsessed with aging – just an all around joy to live with.

How can I swing from one extreme to the next so easily? Please don’t say it’s because I’m a woman. Please, just don’t. No, it’s because writing is me and when I don’t write some deep part of me is starved.

I needed to investigate this a bit more so I wrote this list.

Why do I write?

* Because I feel the most comfortable in my skin when I’m writing.

*Because writing is the only thing besides falling in love with my husband that feels like breathing.

*Because a lot has happened to me that I don’t understand and writing gives me a room I can sort it all out in.

*Because there are dear friends and vicious enemies living inside me who need to become a reality each speaking their own voice.

*Because I get bored if there is no puzzle to solve and storytelling provides the ultimate puzzle.

I’ve also been worrying about not posting a lot and if my content is relevant to anyone. I greatly enjoy getting Likes and Follows (thank you so much!) But is that the purpose of what I’m doing here? So I had to ask myself who this blog is truly for.

It is for that lonely girl I used to be who believed she was useless and stupid with nothing of any importance to say. It is to give her the voice she wasn’t ever allowed use.

Thank you for walking with me on this journey of mine! I’m glad you’re here.

 

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Going with the Flow

Can I be totally honest you? I have no idea what I’m doing.

I went to school for Fine Art and failed English 101… twice. I can’t organize or prioritize to save my life. There are bits and pieces of stories scribbled on scraps of paper shoved into journals all over my house. There is no map for where I want this blog to go and I should probably post more than I do.

When we were working with the High School group at our church my husband gave me great advice just before I left to help on one of their missions trips. He said, “Nothing is going to go as planned. Nothing. You just have to go with the flow.” He was so right. But that’s a whole other story.

It was great advice and I actually use it a lot. I’ve given up trying to push my brain into a mold it wasn’t created to fit into. Instead I’ve learned to go with its flow. Yeah, it’s messy and scattered but at least it’s free.

For instance, I’m working on three separate stories right now. Logic would say focus on one at a time. But I’m excited about them all. So I’m writing three stories at the same time.

Would you like to know a little about them?

The first is about an old house that sits behind a large iron gate at the corner of Ash and 34th. Roses bloom brightly along the north gate. The sun is warm here and it heats up the leaden paint of the grand Victorian issuing a scent of age and forgetfulness into the air. A lonely girl who creates people by drawing them in her sketchbook lives here. She’s the only one in her family who isn’t afraid to climb the ornate staircase to the floors above even though the house has forbidden it, or so she has been told.

The second story takes place at a small diner in Hotel Circle, San Diego. The mornings are always misty here due to the fog that rolls in during the night. Gravel in the parking lot crunches beneath tires as sleepy-eyed tourists park their cars for breakfast before a long day of sightseeing. The hostess always wears a starched white shirt and a flower tucked behind her ear. Waffles puddled with white and milk chocolate are the diner’ s best seller. An abandoned baby was found in the lady’s room here making a WWII vet a hero once again. The regulars drink black coffee and give 95-year-old Clive a hard time for making his poor caregiver sit in the corner while he eats at the bar because, “Dammit, I flew a fighter jet over Germany. I can damn well eat breakfast by myself!”. Everyone loves Clive.

The third story begins in a small Irish fishing village.  The locals here don’t speak of the mysteries that dwell in the crumbling castles dotting their countryside. Drew laughs at their superstitious ways. Yes, he’s a seasoned fisherman but he never bought into the ghost stories. Little did he know the girl that just arrived in town who is plagued by seizures at one o’clock everyday holds the key to the ghosts in the ruins. And she has no idea of the comfort she’ll find in Drew’s kind eyes, gentle smile, and arm full of mysterious tattoos.

 

Hope you’re like what I’ve got brewing so far! Stay tuned for developments as I continue to go with the flow!

Featured Image credit: Astrid @blackpoppies

 

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Searching

It’s happening again. I feel lost in the present and afraid of the future so my mind is frantically flipping through the past. My body sits here in the sun.  Birds chirp in the trees overhead. My fellow customers of the coffee shop chat with each other creating an incoherent bubbly sound that competes with the rush of traffic on the other side of the fence. Brilliantly colored flowers smile from terra-cotta pots placed haphazardly around the garden area. I can feel the chair beneath me supporting my weight. I can feel my feet resting on the brick pavement and feel the sun warming my back.

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But I’m not really here at all.

The book lying open in my lap smells of age and the decay bibliophiles can feel in the back of their throats. I fly back in time to the old bookshop in downtown Mesa with the grumpy owner who sits behind the glass display counter. He grunts a hello after the bell above the door jingles my arrival. He doesn’t really care that I’m here and that is fine because I really don’t want to talk to him. I’m on a mission. Past the tall shelves of Arizona history, past the glass cabinet with a handful of first editions including Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of OZ, past the antique typewriter and the small replica statue of Rodin’s Thinker, lies my desire – the youth section. I need to find that last volume to complete my Anne of Green Gables series. It won’t actually be read – the first three books were dearest to my heart – but I want to feel the deep satisfaction of completion as I rest my eyes on their numbered spines.

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But before I can reach the aisle a high, sharp scent hits my nose dragging me away from the bookstore then dropping me in the middle of my parents dinning room. Great white lilies cover every available surface, their pervasive scent stings my nose and threatens to suffocate me. I know my mother is lying in bed in the room across the house. I know she will need me to give her the pain meds soon and help her empty the drain tubes. The cancer was found early. For that we were all thankful. But she was still afraid and had both breasts removed  anyway. Every minute after the first min – sitting in the doctor’s office staring at the sun forcing its way around the closed blinds listening to the doctor’s prognosis issue from her mouth in slow motion – was violent to me. Strings I never noticed before ripped apart from inside me as we waited for the doctor to emerge from surgery, as I brought her to every follow-up and reconstruction appointment, as I watched my dad try to help her when the meds wore off and her breaths came only through wet sobs, as I saw the scars trying desperately not to think about what loosing such an integral part of womanhood felt like. Enough, I cry. Enough! Please, bring me somewhere else!

The fates aquiesce and I am back in a garden. But it is a garden different from the one I began in. There is an old house with wooden shingles to my back and a two-story antique apartment to my right. I remember aching to climb the stairs to see what treasures were nestled behind the windowpanes. There is a mosaic of a teacup embedded in the brickwork patio and two halves of a teacup are glued to either side of the houses windows conjuring images of Alice stepping through the looking glass. Alice in Wonderland is of course the theme of this coffee shop taking residence inside this 1920’s bungalow. The place is brimming with bookshelves, tables, and mantels all overflowing with books and random antiques. There are far too many items to dust so the owner simply gave up and the whole shop now resembles Miss Havisham’s  cobweb strewn wedding cake. I love this place in this moment in time. Here ghosts sip tropical iced tea while the elderly couple in the corner hold hands and the devoted Tuesdays and Thursdays types furiously on his laptop. Here I am safe, far from the cancer. Here I can hear my dreams again. Here hope isn’t faded but blooming and alive. Here my artist heart whispers of things yet to be created. It tells me that even though I can’t see the future, I can begin to create parts of it.

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Something seeps down my arm – the warmth of the present. The bird’s songs continue to pull me back into my body. My iced tea is almost gone but I don’t remember drinking it. Today is a beautiful spring day in 2017. A good day to begin to create a future of hope.

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Character Development: Jake

Have you ever seen a mood board? It is a collection of photos, illustrations, fabric swatches, really anything an artist/designer finds inspiring when they are creating a project or body of work. I LOVE them! If I could I would have entire walls in my house dedicated various mood boards, but I’m afraid I ‘d look like a Jerry Fletcher so I confine my inspirations to apps in my phone. No one would worry about my sanity that way 😉

I have several collections of images representing a few of my developing characters. In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about spending time with your characters letting them develop as you talk with them. I’ve spent about two years with Jake. He’s a mysterious one, not willing to let himself be read in one simple sitting. I’m still learning about him but I wanted to share with you the fragments of him that I’ve discovered over that time.  (Please, don’t hesitate to let me know if I’ve miss credited any of these photos)

Meet Jake!

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Photo credit left to right: mobilehomestead, indieteen, Rebecca Calzada

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Source: wanderlusteurope

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Photo credit: Kevin Livingoodweheartit.com

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Photo credit: z-arb, f-u-g-i-t-i-v-v-o

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Featured image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/nishe/23342780290/

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A Summer Long Ago

It is 5:30 in the evening. I’m cooking tacos for dinner in my blue and white kitchen while my husband and little daughter play in the other room. I’ll be forty in a handful of years; a thought I keep trying to push away despite its persistent stubbornness. How did I get here, to this age? Have I done enough? Have I squandered my life up to this point? Doing my best to ignore the approaching milestone I flop a square of ground beef onto the steaming surface of the skillet. The meat crackles and spits hot oil. I close my eyes trying to calm the rising anxiety.

A familiar scent begins to drift up slowly winding around my head – browning meat. It makes me dizzy as it beckons to something forgotten lying deep inside me; my brain shifting from the present to memory then back again. The scent succeeds throwing me back through the years landing me somewhere in the 90’s.

Sun reflects off the surface of the pool water warm and bright. The sharp scent of chlorine hangs heavy on the hot air. My younger cousins are playing in the pool splashing one another. Soon they’ll get out and dry themselves by running around the small yard with blades of grass clinging to their wet feet. I squint against the brilliance of the day as I get comfortable on my grandma’s patio chair. She needs to replace these chairs; their weaving has frayed and the plastic arms have turned brown from the sun.

Two of my uncles are drinking beer while they barbecue burgers. Again, the meat crackles and spits. I can’t make out what they are talking about but it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t ever interested in the adult’s conversations that typically revolved around dissatisfaction with their marriages. Somewhere deep inside I believed love could be better than that. I’m glad I was right.

Smoke from the grill snakes its way up through the branches of my grandmother’s great orange tree. She told me once that my grandfather planted it for her back in the 60’s. My brother and I used to climb that tree when we were younger pretending the ground below was a flowing river of molten lava. I remember scuffing my new sneakers with the rainbow sunglasses against the bark, chiding myself for not taking them off before ascending into the leafy canopy. When I grew tired of the noise and bustle of the big family I would climb those branches up to the roof, clear away the piles of spiky dried up orange blossoms, and sit perfectly still listening to the birds sing their songs.

The sun shines pink through my closed eyelids. I’m wearing my favorite Roxy tee shirt with my taned legs tucked under me. Silky fuchsia petals of a hibiscus flower tucked behind my ear complement my long blond hair. I am a surf princess landlocked in the middle of the desert with dreams of riding waves with my California love. When I go back home today I’ll grab my beat up secondhand surfboard and practice in my own pool. So far I can get on the board, paddle, and stand for a few seconds. Those few seconds are pure bliss surpassed only by riding real waves in Maui on my honeymoon with the California love I did end up finding.

Sounds of laughter in the next room pull me back to 2017. The meat has burned in the skillet while I was away. But it doesn’t matter. My husband enters the kitchen smiling at the smoke hovering about our heads. He’s amused that I have been time traveling again. Tonight we’ll have pizza instead of tacos.

 

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Writer’s Notebook

I’ve always been amazed at the way good books become a part of us, their stories and characters sinking into our memories somehow becoming real in that secret place.

During my college years I had a nagging feeling of not knowing who I was and attempted to find myself on the shelves of my favorite bookstore. Whenever the uncomfortable questioning feeling creeped into my heart I’d drive to my local Borders bookstore. As the glass doors glided open and the scent of paper mixed with brewing coffee surrounded me, the dread began to evaporate. The brightly colored book covers smiled at me beckoning me to them, “You’re in this one! Or maybe in this one!” I would drag my finger across the wooden shelves scanning the various spines while hope bubbled within me.

There were a few pieces of me hidden in Anne Shirley, Vianne Roche, Jane Eyere, and a hand full of others, but I never completely found my whole self. There was a story inside that I just couldn’t find on those beloved shelves. It gnawed at me for years yearning to become a reality until I found a quote by Carol Shields. She said, “Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.”

So I have decided to write it; the gnawing story that never went away bursting with old houses filled with spirits, brave and conflicted characters, seemingly unbeatable evil, and unstoppable hope.

But my mind is a very messy unorganized jumble. In an attempt to sort everything out I’ve started a Writer’s Notebook.

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In this notebook I can organize plots, themes, characters, settings, and inspirational photos into designated folders. It is compact so I can work away from home. As I write this I realize a laptop could do the same thing, but I don’t have access to one…so…the Writer’s Notebook 😉

I’m already in love with my little notebook and am really excited to see what emerges from its pages!

 

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