Friday, September 25, 2015

New Fiction

“That shit makes me bat shit crazy. We've got no fear, no doubt, all in, balls out!” Nickelback blared at DEFCON 1, jolting Chrys awake with ass-kicking attitude, exactly as she’d intended.
While every day is technically the first day of the rest of your life, this adage held particular poignancy for Chrys today. During a routine annual checkup last week, Doc Jane had found a lump in Chrys’ right breast and had immediately sent her for a biopsy. Now, eight days after that fateful discovery, at ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning in May, Chrys would receive the results of her biopsy.
Faced with the possibility of a life-threatening illness, initially Chrys had panicked, her mind going to worst-case scenarios and what-ifs. She didn’t, however, spend much time enmeshed in self-pity. All too aware that a foreshortened future may be in the cards, Chrys had shaken off the fear and shock, making a deliberate choice to be passionately present in each moment, determined to wring every ounce of joy from each day.
Confrontation with her mortality left Chrys contemplating her could’ves, would’ves and should’ves, and so she had spent the last several days making a list. In essence, she created a bucket list, and this sunny spring morning in Boston seemed to Chrys the perfect time to begin paring down her regrets and making new memories.
Entrenched in the noisy minutia of the daily grind for the better part of her 30 years, a prospective cancer diagnosis had suddenly and almost violently yanked her life into clear perspective. In the past, there never seemed to be enough hours in a day, but Chrys was committed to slowing down, to recognizing and appreciating life’s simple, everyday blessings. In the past, having often felt restrained by the perception or judgements of others, she wished to become more uninhibited and impulsive, truer to herself and free. She also resolved to life outside her own bubble and develop awareness of those around her. Chrys would make a point to be kind and helpful to others with no expectation of recognition or reward.
With a whimsically burdensome name like Chrysanthemum, Chrys had always been a little different. But now, acutely aware of how fleeting life could be, she would do what she damn well pleased with whatever time she had left. So, from the skin out, Chrys dressed herself in happy: racy black lingerie with sexy garters and silk stockings beneath her favorite Levi’s, a burgundy cashmere sweater, diamond earrings more suited to a dinner party, and risqué black hooker boots. Wearing an eclectic mix of favorites, her waist-length mahogany hair curled and makeup on, she felt sassy and confident—a solid foundation for any day.
Exiting her brownstone, Chrys strolled leisurely toward Alberto’s, already anticipating a sweet and creamy mocha latte, realizing how nice it was to not be rushing to the office this morning, her head down and mind on the many tasks she would need to accomplish. As many times as she’d been there, she’d never truly appreciated the coffee shop’s welcoming ambiance. She smiled as she took in the old-fashioned awning shading the recessed doorway, the window boxes dripping with spicy petunias and deep green ivy, and the wrought-iron benches which provided a lovely place to rest. Chrys simply stopped for a moment. She closed her eyes, raised her face to the sun, and just breathed, basking in the uncomplicated bliss of the moment.
Mocha in hand, Chrys ambled downtown toward the oncology center, appreciating the sensual slide of her stockings beneath her jeans and the staccato click of her boots on the sidewalk. Up ahead she noticed an elderly man slumped on a bench, looking sad and alone, wearing a navy-blue “Korean War Veteran” hat. Surprised at how quickly opportunities were presenting themselves to her, she strode purposefully over. “Good morning, sir,” she said warmly. Smiling genuinely, her green eyes sparkling, she nodded respectfully toward his hat, “I noticed your hat, and I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for your service to our country.” The old man, peering up at her with watery eyes the color of old denim and warbled, “Young lady, you don’t know how much that means to me today.” Reaching out her manicured right hand to shake his large, once-strong hands, Chrys leaned forward pressed a soft kiss to his wrinkled cheek, murmuring, “I hope you enjoy this gorgeous day, sir.” The wizened soldier proudly straightened his shoulders as he watched the stunning young woman continue on her way, feeling pride for the first time in a long time. 
Feeling markedly accomplished and inappropriately cheerful considering the circumstances, Chrys finished her mocha with a last appreciative swallow. Glancing at her iPhone, she noted that in thirty minutes she’d have answers. The waiting had been difficult, and she’d found the combination of imagination and Google to be her worst enemy. The oncology center, a chrome and glass monstrosity, loomed authoritatively across the street.

A frisson of awareness stopped Chrys dead in her tracks when she spotted the startlingly handsome doorman—dark hair, swarthy skin and built like a running back. Like a heat-seeking missile she identified her target, feeling impulsive and unstoppable. With a toss of her lustrous curls, she sauntered across the street, toward the unsuspecting man. Oh, hell yes. After all, she had promised herself to let go of her inhibitions, she thought to herself with a smirk. Everyone should be fortified by a kiss before seeing the oncologist.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Since early childhood, I have aspired to be a published novelist.  I have recently dusted off this closely held desire and am learning to write, taking steps toward that elusive dream.  What I am beginning to realize is that my love and satisfaction can and should be found in the process itself and not be dependent upon perceived successes or failures.  Discovering methods and finding unique ways to translate my words and thoughts into writing that can be shared brings me great joy in and of itself.  It truly is about the journey and not the ultimate destination.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reaching for a Dream

For as long as I can remember, I envisioned someday being a writer. By the time I was six, I had written and illustrated my first book, entitled “Harry the Caterpillar,” a painstaking creation of marker and crayon, written on plain white paper, held together with ordinary staples and extraordinary dreams—a book in which I had absolute and unwavering confidence; it would not only be published, but would be the first of many achievements in a long and illustrious literary career.

At what point during the process of “growing up” did this closely held aspiration go by the wayside? When did I begin to lose the determination and courage to reach for this dream? This wasn’t a loss which happened all at once. I have no black and white recollection of a time in which my desire to write diverged and took different form. Instead, this future in which I had once been so certain was slowly sidelined—caught, if you will, somewhere in the gray area between the boundless possibilities of childhood and the day-to-day responsibilities of adulthood.

As an adult, even when this precious vision was recalled, there was always fear associated with it—fear of rejection, of failure, of being found wanting—which prevented any progress toward my goal. After all, my dream could not be shattered if it remained forever in the safe, achromatic, what-if landscape of the past. Yet, in never taking the first step toward becoming a writer, I have consistently denied myself the chance to see where that road could lead.

I have realized recently that my challenge lies less in being deemed by others a successful writer and more in finding the fortitude—the effortless confidence and sense of self which was once so abundant—to take that first step, to embark upon the journey towards making wistful memories reality, to put forth my very best effort, and to take pride in having done so.

Surely it would be better to take up this challenge, to grasp it with both hands and be thankful for the opportunity to do so —perhaps not achieving my ultimate goal to become a published novelist—than to never try at all. I know with certainty that I do not want to awaken one day an old woman, pondering times gone by, regretful of chances not taken and opportunities wasted. I do not wish to be that old woman, peering backwards through time, eyes clouded and memories dim with age, trying to recall a long-ago ambition, once vibrant and true, vaguely wishing I had been more self-assured and not sold myself short.

Today, I reaffirm this promise to myself: I will rediscover the audacious and intrepid child I once was and my ambitions will no longer be impeded by cowardice. I will dream and I will write.

From Frazzled to Fabulous - older piece, bit of new polish

The minivan screeched to a halt just as the cacophony of whining, screaming children, ringing-but-missing cell phone, and yapping dog reached an insanity-causing crescendo.  It is amazing how, due to the six o’clock witching hour, chaos can escalate to such an extent in the two minutes it takes to get from the soccer field to the library.

I’d like to say my life isn’t always this helter-skelter.  After all, there’s the occasional naptime when my breath can be caught, and sometimes, when the little…darlings are in bed for the night, relaxation can be had in triplicate:  red wine, dark chocolate and a trashy romance novel.  But, for the most part, this is life and escape, though cherished, is fleeting. 

Reality — that bitch — must find it hilarious that I am sneaking up on thirty.  All right, truth be told, there is little sneaking going on.  Next week, the big three-oh and I will be all over each other like white on rice.  This scenario wouldn’t be so bad were it not paired with the afore-mentioned harum-scarum, three-inch roots, and my current physical state — the misshapen result of an unfortunate combination of gravity, life stress, stress chocolate and childbirth — which, in a pathetic attempt at obscurity, I attempt camouflage with baggy clothing.  Despite the long-held, deep-rooted certainty that somewhere beneath all of this I am a highly desirable sex goddess, my love life shows a distinct lack of Prince Charming.

With my four-legged child behaving like a public nuisance inside my illegally parked van, my two-legged terrors — always one step from disaster — doing their damndest to push each other down the library’s cement steps, and my never-quiet inner monologue ping-ponging could’ves and should’ves mercilessly around my poor, tired brain, it is nothing short of a miracle that it even made an impression.  Normally, I would have scoffed at the too-good-to-be-true promises which leapt from the green and white flyer pinned to the bulletin board by the library’s front door, but, at this particular moment in time, it grabbed me like a savior’s hand grabs a drowning woman. 


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A Work in Progress

Consciousness returned slowly and painfully.  She opened her eyes, or at least thought she did, seeing nothing but complete and utter blackness.  She wondered briefly if she was, in fact, dead.  Despite the unnatural position of her limbs, blood burned through her veins, pulsing painfully in every bruise and confirming that death had not come for her, though she almost wished it had.  Her agony was like a substantial, living thing, lending a magenta aura to the obsidian of her stifling prison.

The sticky, sweet smell of molasses thickened what little air there was, making it difficult to breathe, and only partially masking the pungency of blood, pain and fear. She fought for air, each breath a thousand shards of glass in her damaged throat.  Her struggle caused the burlap feed sack in which she hung, cruelly suspended from the barn rafter, to twist and swing, back and forth.  Each motion made the rope creak and groan, the sounds harsh and loud in the deep silence.  

She knew with absolute certainty that if she didn’t escape, and soon, she wouldn’t live to see tomorrow, so she reached for the knife hidden in her boot, breathing through the pain that such movement brought.  With a quick tug, the blade was free and she began slicing through the sack.  Each slice brought cool air into her lungs, and with each breath she grew more clearheaded.  Finally she was able to wiggle her feet and legs through the hole.  She had just lowered herself to the floor when hinges squeal in protest as a door was opened. 

Her heart began to pound and she looked around desperately for a way out.  There! A window!  Wrenching it open just as his heavy footsteps thundered toward her, she threw herself desperately toward the opening and into the unknown. 

Sybil bolted upright, her nude body bathed in a cold sweat, taking great, gasping breaths.  Silvery moonlight shined through her open bedroom window casting an eerie light on the tangled mess of blood-red sheets against pale, white skin.  With a shiver, she shook off the sheets and reached for the small, leather-bound book on her nightstand, hopeful that journaling the all-too-real and increasingly distressing dreams would loosen the hold they were beginning to have on her waking life. 

For several weeks, sleep had become something Sybil dreaded, knowing that she would awaken with a racing heart, feeling desperate and terrified, her sleep disturbed multiple times each night.  Though the dreams themselves varied widely, the feelings they inspired were almost identical.  Instead of waking refreshed and well rested, she awoke tense and exhausted, often unable to go back to sleep. 

Sleep deprived and feeling anxious, Sybil grabbed her favorite robe and, wrapping herself in its warm and comforting softness, settled at her antique desk to recount her latest dream before the details faded.  

Quick Bio - Creative Writing 101 - Winter 2013

My name is Jodi, and I'm a book-a-holic.  I've read four books in the last two-and-a-half days!  Probably a contributing factor to writing my bio at the eleventh hour.  I’ve been feeding this voracious hunger since second grade, when I first read “Black Beauty” and truly fell in love with books.  To this day,  there's little I like better than endless steaming mugs of coffee, a fleecy blanket, and a loaded Kindle in a quiet house.  

In part because I have a 13-year-old daughter who’s a bookworm, but also because part of me is a perpetual adolescent, I've read scads of young adult novels/series in the last couple of years.  Basically, though, I'll read anything.  Did you know there are actually directions on a tube of toothpaste?!  "For best results, squeeze from bottom."  

I have what Buddhists call "monkey brain.”  My mind is a whirling, brightly colored maelstrom of fun, imaginative things, deep thoughts, big ideas, and plans for the next great thing.  I'm interested in virtually everything, I love to learn, and I'm a fount of random, mostly useless knowledge.  Unfortunately, while my well of inspiration never runs dry, I often lack true ambition and follow-through.  
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but thus far some form of passivity has left that dream shelved and unrealized, a dusty someday.  As this is my first class of any kind in more than ten years, I'm a little scared and a lot excited…or maybe it’s the other way around.  In any case, taking the first step toward a long-held dream feels great, and I'm looking forward to stretching my wings and seeing where they take me.

Christianity, Me & Past Lives

I was sitting in a middle pew to the right of the dusky-rose carpeted aisle. Midmorning sun shone through stained-glass windows, illuminating peaceful biblical scenes. Dust motes made visible by incandescent rays hovered silently in the musty air. I fidgeted with the hem of my second-hand blue dress, anticipation coursing through my six-year-old body and making it difficult to sit still as I waited for my very first grown-up sermon to begin.

A sweeping hush fell over the small-town Maine congregation as the minister made his way to his modest pulpit, townsfolk dressed in slightly ragged Sunday best showing reverence with their silence. I remember neither how the sermon began nor any specific details, only the concomitant feelings of disappointment and rage. What stands out clearly is the acute passion that swept through me, burning fiercely hot, like a forest fire that consumes pine trees in an unstoppable rush, leaving nothing unchanged. I do not recall the exact details of what brought on this all-encompassing paroxysm, only that it was a biblical story of non-believers being killed, an apologue lacking empathy and inferring that those who didn't worship the "one true God" were beneath good Christians and that death, suffering, even burning in hell were their inevitable fates.

Conspicuously offended by the unfairness of such teachings, distracted by the maelstrom of questions crashing through my mind--an unremitting tide of disbelief and soul-deep fury which made little sense--I disengaged from Christianity from that day forward.

Intellectually, I understand that there is so much more to Christian dogma than a judgmental bigotry and close-mindedness which all too often have led to marginalization and bloodshed. The majority of followers are simply good people of faith choosing to worship in a certain way. I know this. But somehow this knowledge hasn't stopped me from feeling irrationally offended by Christianity. I could be enjoying a new song on the radio, but as soon as I realize its words are about God, I am compelled to change the station. Religious postings on Facebook? I hide them from view. Friends talking about a bible study they attend? I grit my teeth to keep from rolling my eyes. Paradoxically, I find churches alluring--like sexy, six-inch stilettos two sizes too small; I'll never be able to walk in them, but I covet them anyway.

Recently, I have felt stirrings of my own spirituality and have embarked upon a metaphysical journey, one of self-awareness and discovery. I was led first to a book about past lives and karma, a book which resonated deeply and made so much sense to me. A few months and several coincidences later, I was in Maryland for an Akashic Record reading. I wanted to know: Why I have always been so knee-jerk offended by Christianity in this life? What I found has helped me begin to make sense of my profound hatred of many aspects of Christianity.

According to my reading, I fought in the Crusades as a Christian warrior defending Jerusalem, only to become disheartened when I found that the church I fought for was not the one I grew up in, the one with the benevolence and love of the Christ. Instead, what I loved and believed in was corrupted and used as a weapon to support man's greed and thirst for power. Through the ages, I have been a part of various Christian sects, always becoming disillusioned and ultimately leaving the church. With this
knowledge, I am now beginning to unravel the complex knot of my psyche and am on the path to acceptance and peace.