What’s WRITE about Ashley and Ashleigh

0b0a7436-2We all do it.  We put up inspiring quotes on our instagram feeds, or Facebook statuses.  You know the kind…the ones that say something like, “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes,” and are spray-painted on the sides overpasses or broken down barns.  Then we feel really cool, like we’ve put something fabulous and a little hipster into the world, and we go on with our days.  We talk the talk, but we rarely walk the walk.  We scarcely inconvenience our own lives, or move our own feet enough to be real reflections of our cyber selves.  We’re virtual saints, but nothing about that can actually be felt by human skin.

Just the opposite, however, is true about Be The Change Boutique owners, Ashley and Ashleigh.  When first landing on their website, before taking in the array of cute tops, jewelry, and other odds and ends, a famous Ghandi quote travels the screen.  It reads, “be the change you want to see in the world.”  And in Ashley and Ashleigh’s case, they’ve done it.  They earn the right to tout the well-known phrase every day, and they’re doing so from a tiny shop hidden in a slight-framed cranny on King street.

The two entrepreneurs, who have been besties since sharing a cubby in the first grade, sell merchandise with a mission.  They only carry lines of apparel, accessories, and knick knacks that give back.  They feature lines that provide aid to underprivileged men, women, and children around the globe, right here from the cobblestone streets of Chucktown.  Among their favorite lines is “The Stitch,” a simple $5 roll of distinct orange thread meant to be sewn on clothing items to raise awareness about sexual abuse.  A subject often taboo, the stitch starts a conversation about how important it is for such victims to obtain therapy and support to take their lives back.  Proceeds of “stitch” sales fund counseling for sexually abused people from all walks of life, and was founded by a man who owes his very existence to the recovery he was able to achieve in therapy.  How can we all not want to get behind that?

I first met Ash-ley/leigh duo just before Christmas when they hosted a benefit to collect toys for the children’s hospital at MUSC.  I was humbled by these women immediately, and had to know their story. I asked Ashley number 1 where her inspiration to take on such a project came from.  She passionately told me stories of how she was so affected by the people of Uganda on a trip in her early twenties, and how they use craftsmanship to make money for their communities.  She eagerly praised the other Ashleigh for hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice, and uprooting a life in Maui to start the venture with almost no questions asked.  She spoke of it as though it was a no-brainer for both of them.  You just do good where you see the chance to do it.  But, what I see are two hearts of gold.  Without a profound empathy for others, the loudest calling will never be heard.  If people do not care, they do not respond.  But not with these two; the horn sounded, and they came running with arms open.

I implore this amazing LowCountry community to stand with these women.  Let’s support this boutique when we stroll down King Street.  Let’s not only look fabulous on the outside, but also on the inside.  And let’s do this without the goal of feeling good, but doing good.  Let’s lace up our shoes, lay down the signs, and actually act.  Let our dollars go to educate, elevate, and emancipate.  Ashley and Ashleigh have the lantern in hand, lighting a great path.  They shine brightly, from their hearts over their wallets. The light, so strong, has reached out and warmed my skin, the seeped into, all the way to my heart.

by Lorna Hollifield

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Visit 218 King and see for yourself!

Visit http://www.bethechangeboutique.com

https://www.facebook.com/bethechangeboutique/

 

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Seedlings

germinating_seedlingI had a blogger reach out to me yesterday to ask the age-old question, “where do you find inspiration?”  She went on to explain to me that she loves blogging and writing for her local paper, but feels that itch to do more.  She hopes to write a novel, but has no idea where to begin.  Sound familiar?

I preface what’s to follow with this:  There is no correct answer.  Everyone has a unique process, and it’s usually the thing that comes most natural.  It’s often from some medium that makes you feel alive and creative.  However, if you’re having trouble recognizing what that is in your life, I have a few things I hope will help.  I promise that if you truly desire to write, it’s in there already.  Sometimes we just have to go fishing for it.

Because I am a human being, that’s where I start first.  For me, the voice shows up before anything else.  I have no plot, no setting, no secondary characters.  I usually start with one small notion I find fascinating and start exploring it.  Accents, locations, smells, intentions….everything else is born in time from this tiny little seed.  It might start as small as picturing the first person that pops into my head, and just writing a list of adjectives about him or her.  I’ll often see a character’s face the first time while listening to a great song.  I’ll purposefully put on music that makes me emotional, and just start going stream-of-consciousness on the keyboard.  It doesn’t need a point….that grows later too.  The one thing I make sure of is that a being is speaking.  I might later realize that voice died years ago, or is inside a cat….but I start with something that had consciousness.  Life.

If you’re just more setting driven, and need a picture to get yourself going, there’s a simple fix there too.  You don’t have to buy season tickets to The Met, or hop a plane to Paris.  Just google “pretty landscapes,” and start scrolling through the pictures.  Write down which emotions the depictions evoke…then start writing about the person who’d be feeling that way, or the person who’d fit in a picture you like…or who wouldn’t fit.  One of these seedlings will eventually take root.  Once you hear a character’s voice, it’s going to keep talking.  It’s going to tell you where to take it.  Don’t be afraid to step into it’s shoes, give it the ol’ first-person try.  Be it.

Do you plan every word you’re going to say to every person all day long?  No.  You run into people, or circumstances, and you respond.  Your character is no different.  Make a live thing that interests you, and just write.  Eventually that character will stumble into some drama…but it has to actually get to it.  It has to move.  It cannot stay still, or it does nothing.  And the only way it moves is if you do.  Make your fingers dance….start scribbling.  For God sake’s don’t over think  it…first thing with a pulse that comes to mind.  There’s a reason it came first.  Write about it, even if it sucks.  You will stumble onto something that won’t.  In the beginning, there are only small sparks.  Nourish them for a fire.

Here’s a prompt for you today to help you get started:

Every night before you go to bed you see her standing there by the mailbox.  It never fails.  At 10pm, there she’ll be, barely visible through the dim moonlight.

And go! (Use all five senses)

Good luck!

The Day We Were Americans

Six days before one of the most infamous elections in US history, in a time when there had never been a wider trench between Democrats and Republicans, when an unspoken cold war breathed its icy breath down each of our red, white, and blue spines…the curse of the billy-goat was broken.  And without our realizing it, a nation came together, if only for a fleeting moment that tasted like cracker jacks, and smelled like cotton candy.

Let’s roll back the clock to 1945.  Come with me…Sinatra on the radio, Pin-ups on the walls, and Wrigley Stadium pregnant with the roars of the fans.  William Sianis rolls into the stadium on the north side of Chicago with his smelly pet goat.  After many complaints about the odorous beast, he is asked to leave.  At which time he declares, “Them cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”  And they didn’t.  Not a World Series.

Flash forward 71 years.  Rihanna on the radio and the walls, Wrigley Stadium still pregnant with the roars of the fans…it’s 2016.  A new war, one that has nothing to do with Nazis or surprise attacks, fills our lives.  Bitter diatribes are at every turn.  Our smart phones in hand, we peruse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….any platform we can, to find a supporting argument for our passion or our venom.  We all worry about the future of our nation with different moral compasses, different lifestyles, and different core beliefs.  How will any of us ever feel patriotic again in these unsettling times where we all, regardless of our affiliations, seem to know this year will define a new future?  We all sit under the curse of the elephant and the donkey.

However, Wrigley Field is unchanged.  Criticized for not updating, that emblematic red marquee still ushers the fans inside.  The ivy-covered walls stand proudly as elders of the National League.  The hand-turned score board reminds us of a time when technology wasn’t king, though few of us have enough candles on the birthday cake to remember such a time. I certainly don’t.  I’ve experienced it only as folklore.  However, the outdated field reminds us of the great AMERICAN pastime.  It is one of the last remaining simple things we have…and man, don’t we need a little simplicity?

On November 2, 2016 all men and women, of all races, religions, and political parties held their breaths collectively.  Could the Cubs, still under the billy-goat’s spell, get that last out in the 10th inning?  Could they win the game, so long and painstaking, that it had now carried over into November 3rd?  Could the billy-goat be wrestled to the ground in the wee hours of that Fall night?

Indeed he could, and with one swift throw, and a man out at first, it happened.  The players stormed the field, pairing laughter with tears.  They were boys again, jumping up and down, for the love of the game.  The crowd thundered with praise and all men stood together, singing the song of the full-grown bear.

I don’t know the outcome of the election yet.  I don’t know what our country will look like just months from now.  However, I have the tiniest hope that we are all still Americans.  I hope that when we take off our baseball caps and put on our suits, or uniforms, or badges, that we remember who we were.  It took the Cubs 71 years to tackle that goat, but they broke the curse.  I now have but a shard of faith that as a nation we can wrangle a donkey and an elephant.  I’ve seen it now, in my own lifetime, with my own weary eyes.  There was a night at Wrigley field, where we were all Americans…and it was sweet.

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Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

 

 

Mason Jar

I know how to end up in a bathtub, in the dark, drinking whiskey out of a mason jar on a sunny Friday afternoon.  I know exactly what it takes to decide that instead of going to a Reggae festival with all your friends, you will instead, put on dirty pajamas and listen to only the most sorrowful 90s music.  I feel guilty even as I write this because I know that people have gone through far worse than what I have, but it doesn’t temper the sting.  I take slight joy in that I’m typing this with a possibly broken finger.  Maybe that makes it a little more legit?

I got my hardest rejection yet today.  A literary agent that I stalked at a book signing had been going back and forth with me for about a good 8 weeks.  I mean, he was it.  I felt like a sophomore in high school who just went to third base with the quarterback.  I thought we were going places, but then it didn’t work out.  He told me how incredible my writing was, and how impressed he was with the revision he’d specified for me.  He told me my persistence was immeasurable, and that my passion would carry me.  Then he told me he couldn’t go on my journey with me.  I’ve heard it before, but not like this.  We were so close.  I mean, there had been some serious discussion.  Didn’t that count for something?  I knew this was it.  And the worst part is how grateful I am to him for all of it.

So tonight I’m having a pity party, where I’m the guest of honor.  I get to ask why them and not me.  I get to think of all the hours…the blood, the sweat, the tears.  I get to fantasize about what might have been, and wonder why I wasn’t chosen. I get to relish in that awful, but magnetic feeling of self-destructing for a minute.

I might let my dogs sit with me as long as they’re melancholy enough.  I don’t want to see any tails wagging.  I don’t want people to build me up, or tell me it’s meant to be.  I don’t want anyone to nonchalantly write off my latest failure.  I want them to let me have it, let me bathe in it, and let me listen to 20-year-old R.E.M. (though I may switch to Collective Soul in a few).

Tomorrow will be different, because I know there’s a sick part in me that likes the pain.  Tomorrow I will find more events to attend, more agents to query, and more people to connect to.  But for tonight, it’s whiskey out of a mason jar. Why a mason jar?  Probably just for the poetry.  Probably so I feel a little closer to the romance of feeling like a loser.  You fellow writers know what I mean…

I’ll go back to rose` from long-stemmed glasses tomorrow.  But tonight…tonight is for pity.  My mother always told me, “Take a day.  Cry, scream, piss, and moan.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Just make sure it’s only one, though. You get a day.”  I think I’ll cash in.  Tonight is for me..me, my pity, and my mason jar…

 

 

….and maybe Johnny Cash just to make it worse

Cleveland Tears

Writing is a hard, hard, thing to be in love with.  To actually sign a great agent, have a book sold at auction, get a great editor, or see any materialization from the labor is far-fetched.  Writers have to believe in long shots going in, nothing but net, in the ninth hour.  We have to believe in exceptions to every rule, records being broken, and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows.  We have no choice but to believe in leprechauns and unicorns, centaurs and demigods.  If we don’t, then what do we have?  A mental condition, maybe?

Last night when my heart was pounding out of my chest while I watched game 7 of the NBA finals, I saw a centaur leading a supportive cast of unicorns.  I saw beings that were supposed to be men, find the animal, the regality, the x factor inside, and defy statistics, odds, and wrathful warriors to become champions.  I saw a man of 6’8, 250, morph into a beast of immeasurable proportions.  I saw his teammates grow wings, and fly. I saw a labor of love and passion begin to spin, snowball, and catch on fire.  I saw a city who hadn’t seen a victory in over 50 years  finally get to celebrate the fruitions of faith.  I saw a team become the first in history to ever deliver that victory from such a deficit.  I saw a group of players become more fierce when 99% of people out there wouldn’t have seen the point of stepping up, and would be ready just to try again next time.  They were down 3 games to 1, with 4 needed to win.  They were in an arm wrestling match with their knuckles almost touching the table.

As a writer, I feel like it’s part of my job title to inspire people, to give them a reason to hope, to make their next breath worth while.  We’re the dreamers, the innovators.  What I realized last night though, is that we need fodder.  We have matches, but have to have some sort of flint to touch that fire to, and start a blaze.  I was given that spark last night by these individuals who didn’t just talk the talk.  They proved it.  They did the impossible, and gave me hope that I can too.  They stepped up and showed me irrefutably that rejection, criticism, and low low odds DO NOT MATTER.  They wrote a memoir that I will forever reference when I need to remember how to fight.  With every jump shot, free throw, impossible block, and wood-burnt elbow sliding across the floor, these men wrote a story that I’ve been moved to put words with.  It is them, running, sweating, and dribbling all over my keyboard right now.

What I’m saying to the Cavaliers is not only congratulations, but THANK YOU.  Oh, thank you from the depths of my weathered writer’s soul.  Cleveland wasn’t the only one dreaming, hoping, needing a sign.  I needed it.  My trench mates needed it. Because of your performance last night, a young writer in South Carolina, no more than 5 feet tall, with manuscripts begging for the shelf time, has hope.  More than hope.  Defiance.  Courage.  Refusal of quitting.  I will play game 7, and I will fight until the buzzer sounds because YOU did.   What you’ve done doesn’t end on the court.  Your tears of joy have filled the building, swollen it to capacity, and now seep out.  Your dauntlessness has spilled onto the nation, and it’s a tidal wave.  Hold hands and take your bow, enjoy your title…the rest of us have some work to tend.  I hope when mine is done I will cry Cleveland tears, the ones that still stain the Golden State arena today.  I hope I will cry the tears that only come when daring to be great, the tears that only come when achieving the impossible dream, the tears that come from pure uninhabited need for greatness.

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Picture courtesy of NBA

The Gremlins Speak

I never expected to like writing sequels.  I’ve never been a reader of series, and have been almost against them all together until this point.  I tended to like the finality of a book, and close the door.  However, when I finished my latest project, my characters wouldn’t shut up.  They’d habitually wake me up at 3 a.m. just to hear themselves talk.  The accents, the wit, the condescension…They.  Would.  Not.  Hush.

“Shut up.  I haven’t even published your first novel, yet.  Leave me alone,” I’d scoff, flipping my pillow to the cold side.

“We’re not interested in your excuses or business.  We’re here to talk, so write,” they’d reply.

A writer knows, you’re never in the driver’s seat.  If the gremlins that run the show in the creative side of your mind say go, you go.  You don’t sleep, you don’t silence them, you don’t put them off.  You open up the lap top and start dancing. And 5, 6,7, 8….

Here’s what I learned from my gremlins as of late…First, don’t declare things like ‘I don’t write sequels.’ Never say never to the creative process.  Second is, it turns out I like sequels afterall (as long as they’re organic).  I’ve written about and spoken about, on many occasions how nostalgia is one of my favorite emotions to prance about in.  There is nothing more eery, or more deliciously satisfying than a familiar fingertip from yesteryear reaching out to stroke your shoulder again.  That half happy, half sad, partly close, partly unreachable place is where romance and magic live year round.  When we visit on holidays, we consider staying to find that we simply cannot.  My sequel, a whopping 30 years into the future is giving me a chance to wallow a little.  Thanks, Gremlins.

The moral of this post is that we have to remember that we don’t create the stories.  They’re in there, and they just use us to get out.  If we hold them in, we may miss our moments to get the glory from their tales.  And, oh, don’t we want that.

Writer in Waiting

I don’t want to say that the waiting is the hardest part.  I think that would be awfully naive of me.  However, it isn’t one of the easy parts.  I’m anxious all the time, with some combination of dread and excitement churning beneath my feet like rudders on the boats I watch everyday in the Charleston harbor.  It makes me move in all kinds of directions, none I feel like I have any say over.  I check my email every half hour, and patrol my social media platforms like a peace-keeping soldier.  I look everywhere I can for updates hoping for that whisper I’ve dreamt about.  I hope for some sign of success, just of a hint of it from somewhere.  Silence.

I went to a writer’s conference in Alabama about a month ago.  It was one where Chuck Sambuchino (editor of Writer’s Digest) stands up and tells you all the reasons you can do it, but also how hard it will be, then gives you all kinds of ideas for self-promotion.  The Alabama Writer’s Workshop was a good conference.  I took a lot away from it, but the two most important things were only about 3 X 2 inches in size.

I got to pitch two amazing literary agents at the very end of the day.  I was scared to death.  I knew nothing of one of them except that she was the most sought after at the conference, and that I’d have a lot of competition.  The other referred to herself as a “dream crusher” during one part of the conference, at which point I narrowly escaped wetting my pants.  However, despite my fear…God, guts, and a “go get ’em” from my husband gave me the gumption to walk in there and pitch as hard as I could.  I walked away with full manuscript requests from both.  I smiled when I took the cards from their hands, adoring the thin slip of paper like Gollum does his precious.  What they didn’t witness was when I walked into the hallway, burst into tears, called my husband, and told him I’d hit a homer.  It wasn’t as though I was signed on the spot, or my novel is being published tomorrow, but for me… after a 6 hour drive, and the blood, sweat, and tears…that baby soared out of the park.

Now I’ve sent everything to them.  It’s been a month, which I know is normal.  And it’s killing me.  I stand in the stadium alone, the cheers fading, watching my ball sail over the fence.  It’s out of sight.  That run is over.  Now it is time to wait for my next at bat, and God-willing , hit one more.  Every night I dream of the second my phone rings, or my inbox has that message I’ve longed for.  I channel that moment, meditate on it, and pray for it.  I write.  I pace.  I wait.  I walk into to Barnes & Noble and sniff the insides of the pages of the ones I can tell are fresh.  I am married to this dream, and I cannot breathe an easy breath until one of the gatekeepers of the world I’m in love with comes knocking at my door.

I know this isn’t the hardest part, but it’s my hardest part today.  I know I’m going to see my baby covered in red editor’s ink, and be told to make a million changes.  I know I will swallow my pride 973 more times, and kiss the pinky rings of more elders than I can count.  I know I will cry.  I know I will worry.  But bring it on.  Bring that to my doorstep, because today I wait.  I’m cold in the large shadow of the body I want to join.  I’m a gladiator unafraid to take the arena, but scared to death of being on deck forever.

I don’t know how to put this to bed, to have my cheerful happy ending where I realize it’s ok to wait, and that it will never be more exciting than it is now.  I have those days, but not today.  Today I’m awake, and I’m warmed up.  I’m wearing the home team whites, and I am ready.  I am at the plate waiting for someone to hurl that curve ball and let me swing like hell one more time.  This time, maybe, just maybe if the wind catches the ball just right, I’ll land on the shelf, where I know there is an empty spot drawing me like a moth to light.

But for tonight, no matter the heat in my bat…tonight, I wait.  Tonight I will fall asleep on home plate.  I am a writer in waiting.

 

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Flowers and Sunshine

I used to wonder why I always want to write when I’m angry.  Why do those things that twist around like metal from a ravaged junkyard find a way of spilling out of the fingertips?  What is it about the angst, anxiety, worry, and fret that makes creative juices leave the safety of simmer and start to boil?

I used to think maybe it was romance…writer’s tend to be the worst kinds of romantics.  The chicken or the egg theory applies here.  Did our love of writing make us romantic, or did our romanticism make us write?  For the kind of writers that have to write…that need it to cure the ulcer that comes from too much pleasure or pain–they are the latter.  Romanticism came first.  Then, we found a way to express it.  We found a way to find the words that evade us when trying to strum our vocal chords at once.  These rare feelings come at times when it’s hard to walk and chew gum at the same time. As eloquent of speakers as we may be, willing the throat is one request too many.  We write.

The hardest emotions that roll around deep, enjoying the bowels of the mind, and relishing in the moments when the tedious tight rope shakes–those are the one that tickle the keyboard.

I’m pissed.  That sounds simple, but it’s the right word.  I’m pissed off to the uttermost.  It’s not so much important what it is about, than it is I have to say it. I have to convey it, unleash it.  I want the kinesthetic feeling, exercising those fine motor skills, that makes me feel every ounce of it.  Then maybe I can shower that feeling away–but for one splendid moment it robs from me all of my innovation, all of my passion, and all of my words.  Maybe it robs me of nothing.  Maybe that’s why anger makes for the best writing,  The verve it creates, the synergy with the written language lets something ugly become beautiful for a moment.  Maybe this isn’t my dark side, but the optimist in me, forcing shit into art.  Perhaps I’m giving some dead thing a pulse again…the part of me that departed while I was so pissed off.  I feel just a little more flowers and sunshine already.

The Grown-Up Wedding

     It was about this time of year in 1998, give or take a few weeks…I was 12 at the time, and think I had just kissed a boy for the first time a matter of days before. It was the kind of kiss friends shame you into then watch with intrigue until their turn rolls around.  Strange how thinking about it still reddens my cheeks, but makes me laugh at the same time…

     It was about this time when my second cousin got married in Atlanta.  We drove the 3 1/2 hours to get there, which felt like the road trip of a lifetime to a bored pre-teen. I was excited to see my older cousin, whom I thought was so smart and beautiful, as well as my favorite great-aunt who was always the chic one.  However, I wasn’t so excited to be holed up in a hotel room with my Mom at the time.  I was feeling like such a kid, and I was itching all the time.  I didn’t know for what, but I remember this trip in particular, I wanted to be older.  I wanted it to be exciting.  I didn’t want the usual pleasantries that used to make me smile…my, how’ve you’ve grown…you’re a big girl now…look at those adorable cheeks.  Those were compliments for children, and I could stomach no more of them.

     The wedding was in a gorgeous old house in one of the fabulous districts near downtown Atlanta.  There were servers offering up hors d’oeuvres and champagne in the half enclosed room that smelled like a peach candle I’d once sniffed in the lobby of a hotel at the beach. It was dusk thirty, and the winds ushered in the southern spring air that was perfumed just enough.  Everyone wore fancy dresses, and the band played something I later heard while watching Casablanca. I was at an adult wedding, and that I liked.  I also like the dress I was wearing, which almost gave me an A-cup.

     My mother let me have a sip of her champagne and I wasn’t sure if I thought she was the best mom in the world or she was now going straight to hell for what she’d done.  But hey…I got champagne, and was starting to feel like one of the real people.  I started floating around the room, eyeing the crowd, looking for someone to charm with my sudden dose of confidence…and then found him at one of the food tables.

     The boy from Vancouver was a relative of the groom, and an usher in the wedding.  I’d noticed he was handsome during the ceremony, and had also noticed he was way too old for me.   I’m sure I lingered at the food table to get a better look at him, not dreaming he’d speak.  He turned around and peeked over his shoulder at me.

     “You, know, you look like Britney Spears,”  he flashed a white smile.

     “You know, I’ve heard that,” I tried to be cool, surprised I had even spoken back.

     We went on to talk for several minutes, and I was acutely aware it was because he was talking to me…I hadn’t just followed him around like a lost puppy.  He was an older boy talking to me…probably the first time I’d been noticed in this way. He wasn’t being creepy, and certainly kept his distance…after all, he was 16.  We both knew it.  I got the feeling though that he wished I’d been just a little older, which then, was all I needed to feel special.

     My mother and Aunts chuckled at my obvious crush I tried to hide when back at our table. They’d been watching me yacking away from afar, amused at this side they’d never seen.  They were careful to needle me about it only just enough.

     I spoke to Vancouver a couple more times…then in an instant I was back with my mother; it was time to leave, and it scared me.  I felt connected to this other human in some way, but I was a 12 year old headed back to North Carolina.  He was a 16 year old headed back to Canada.  My mother told me to go say bye, but I decided not to and followed her outside.  I heard a whistle from behind me.

     “See ya later, Britney,”  he called out.

     I smiled and threw my hand up as casually as I could make it look, and walked away like it was nothing.  Although I had a strange gut-wrenching feeling that first showed-up that night too.

      Back at the hotel my cousins and I went night swimming, and I’ll never forget how big the moon was shining down on the pool.  It was a sticky, steamy night, and I felt like the air I was living in.  Somehow the look of that moon, though…it gave me hope…maybe I’d see that boy again.  Maybe I’d find others like him.  But then, and just then, I realized I was growing up, and it had never been so exciting.  I could hear my cousin yell out, “Marco,” but for me, there’d be no “Polo.”

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     And I never saw him again.  He was a flicker of a moment at a grown-up wedding that with but a few sentences let me know it was time to come of age a little bit.  To that, at now 28 and happily married, I still smile.

The Camelback Scar

It was hot…very hot.  Maybe if Spring had arrived on time in North Carolina instead of playing hooky until mid-April, I would have been more prepared for the Arizona heat.  However, late-March was still being pretty cruel to the southern states.  A sixty-degree day was looking pretty sexy.

The day we decided to climb Camelback Mountain, the giant pile of rocks that pops out of nowhere upon entering Scottsdale, the sun rose laughing at us.  It knew our destinies, even if we didn’t.  I assumed it would be fine…after all, I’m from the land of humidity.  I’d take the dry heat and leave it crying like a little girl when I was through.  I’d been going to the Pure Barre Studio for two months now, and was feeling pretty cocky about my lower body strength too.  I threw on some yoga pants, a hat, and a smile.  I was going to go walk the little trail, with my little smart water in hand and have a dandy day.  I was already thinking ahead to what kind of beer I’d grab afterwards.  A good day loomed.

My husband and I had ventured out west to visit a friend and her husband while he was in Spring Training.  My friend, Susan, my husband, Kimsey, and I decided to hike one day instead of go to the game.  We started trotting up the ankle of Camelback, swinging our iPhones, chatting about where we’d be eating dinner later, already salivating over the famed butter cake. 

It got a little steeper, and we panted a little bit, as expected.  The conversation started trailing, and we were feeling a little proud we were now conquering the tourist attraction, breaking our tiny sweats.  We got to the first overlook, patted ourselves on the back, and took our first rounds of pictures.  Honestly, I thought our mini journey was almost over.  Then I look over and see Susan, perusing a sign with her eyes widening underneath her aviators.

“What?”  I mosey over.

“Holy shit,” she scoffs pointing to our only warning.

I then reviewed the sign informing me that about 75 people per year get rescued off the mountain, that it only gets harder from here, and that I should be carrying with me about ten safety items I did not have.  I glanced down at my sports bra that supported my phone more than anything and looked over at my husband who held the bottle of water the three of us were sharing.  I then took inventory of the little chart that showed how steep things would get.  It looked like a line graph of Mark Cuban’s income stream.

“Umm-Can we do this?” I asked wondering if we were insane.

Somehow we decide we can, and while putting the rising temperature out of our heads, begin the real journey. The first truly scary stretch we came to went practically straight up and touted a slick metal hand rail for us to hoist ourselves with.  I didn’t know if I could or would do this.  I was no experienced hiker.  Frankly, I was afraid.  Somehow, at the same time, I was more afraid of turning around and starting back down that mountain like so many others were.  So, I just started doing it. My hands were sweaty and at one point I thought I would fall backward and boosted myself off another man’s shoe while my husband pulled me up by the arm.  After that, I got a newfound strength.  I just wasn’t going to be afraid.

I climbed several more segments of uphill formations, surveying which rocks to grab, and deciding whether to go upright or on hands and knees. I drifted from right to left, deciding which side would accept me.  I coughed sand out of my lungs and embraced the sharp stones that attempted to leave their marks on my shins.  I no longer thought of the summit, or why I’d come in the first place.  I just thought of the moment, where I was, where to put my foot, and the strange pleasure it gave me the harder it was.  I was disappointed and exhilarated at once each time the trek worsened.   I wanted it to be hard.  I wanted to get marred.  I wanted to sweat.  I wanted to raise hell right back at the sun, and I wanted it to hurt.  I was climbing of the hump of the camel’s unforgiving back now.

This attitude wasn’t like me.  I’m not the girl who camps in the wilderness, or jumps into dark water.  I don’t climb rocks or go on solo kayaking trips.  I don’t do these things.  However, now that I was, I hoped it was tough.  I wanted to wrestle it to the ground, and know it was something real, and that not everyone could do it.

After nearly two hours of the grueling voyage I’d made it to the top.  I bent over, put my hands on the knees, just panting.  When I could breathe again, I remembered I had a prize waiting, and stood up to enjoy the view that would be my reward.  It was an amazing view.  It was a view of hustle an bustle, people hugging, taking pictures.  People chugging out of their canteens. People scurrying.  People who were alive.

The scenery was to die for.  I could see for forever…rock formations, clouds, never-ending skies, but that didn’t do it for me.  I saw people reaching goals, accomplishing something. I saw people proving they could do something tough, and extraordinary. I saw people refusing to quit.  I saw Susan jumping up and down, and my husband conquering his fear of heights.  I saw success.

I’m not a great outdoorsman.  I probably won’t set my sights on Everest.  What I am though, is a go-getter.  I’m a writer who had another experience that made her remember she CAN.  I’m not staring at the summit of the writing world, but I’m not at the bottom either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, in the momentum, in the rocks of Camelback guessing which rocks are the sturdy ones, and I’m going to keep on.  It leads somewhere…I know.  I’ve been to a different form of that place…same kind of battle.  The very same, and I slayed that camel. 

I have a little wound left on my right ankle where a rock scraped me.  It’s a scar less than an inch long.  People laugh when I show them my Camelback injury.  I love it though, because it’s a part of Camelback I carry around.  It’s my souvenir…that it was hard, it hurt a little, and that it was worth it. I realized I want to be a collector of scars, more than anything.  And being a writer, that’s a good thing to be ok with…I guess that goes for really wanting anything.  I hope everyone goes and gets themselves a Camelback kind of scar.

     

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Uphill battle!

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Wow

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Me in the mountainside:)

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We made it!