words caffeinated


Leave a comment

Conference Call Doodles

I endlessly doodle when on conference calls, which is way, way too much of my time. And then a few years ago I watched a TED Talk about how doodling actually increases our focus on what is being said. See here https://www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown?language=en

Here are some of my conference call doodles. Anyone else a doodler?


1 Comment

A Subtle Edge

The annoying beep… beep of her phone alarm seeps into her dreams. Even there she curses it, resisting the awakening of her body in the form of grunts and groans. 8am. Earlier than she would ever choose to wake up.

Groggily down the stairs, the kids are up and quietly watching iCarly on TV. Her ever blinking eyes search the counter and then into the shelves of the fridge– but nope, no iced latte. The magical latte fairy has yet returned with her medicine. Though she knows it’d be best for everyone if she simply crawled back up the stairs and in to bed, instead:

“Good morning, sweethearts. Sleep well?”

Mmmhmms and yesses and total silence are the response, but she pushes the disappointment aside and begins working on brushing hair through squirts of hair detangler and mumbles of hold-stills. Satisfied that the kids look vaguely well taken care of, she sends the middle child off to find a matching skirt, ignoring her protests that flowers and polka dots match just fine.

The latte fairy emerges from the garage in slacks and buttoned up shirt, and she vaguely notices he even trimmed his beard today, latte in his hand. Her eyes focus on the drizzles of caramel visible alongside the inside of the plastic transparent cup as he kisses her forehead and heads off to work, his purpose now done.

Signing homework papers and double checking the calendar on the fridge, she reminds the kids to get their jackets on– again– and sends them off with kisses and waves. After watching them disappear around a sidewalk corner, she closes the heavy front door deliberately.

Considering her options, with a return to the comforts of her bed high on the priority list, she instead slides the kitchen drawer open to a box tucked away and pulls out a cigarette and lighter. Latte in hand she makes her way to the backyard and, through exhales of smoke wonders– not for the first time– why a patch of grass has turned brown among the greens.

Stubbing the cigarette out on the concrete, she heads back inside and up the stairs into her bathroom. After a few splashes of cold water on her face, she pauses at her reflection in the mirror, noticing again the additional lines between her brows that didn’t used to be there, and the red splotches that have lately been marring her face.

Slipping on a pair of yoga pants and tank top, she makes her way out to the garage and into her red minivan. She leaves the track homes and women jogging with their dogs behind, settling on a narrow road.

Her car skids slightly as she brakes and puts it into park. Stepping out into the sunshine, a coolness still in the air, she takes a deep breath. The air tastes of fresh salt water, mingled with the latte still on her breath, as she looks over the ocean below. From up here the barking of dogs, the sounds of children shouting and laughing at a nearby school, of garbage trucks making the rounds– it all disappears, left only with the breaking of waves on the rocks below.

She climbs down the sides of the cliffs a few feet to a narrow ridge. Picking up a rock she holds it in her hand for a moment before letting it simply go, watching it disappear into the rocks and surf below. She closes her eyes and takes a step.

Her eyes fly open by the startling sound of her cell phone ringing in her back pocket. She steps back, pulls it out and looks at the screen. The elementary school phone number is displayed. After a moment, she answers.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mrs. Victor, this is Katie from the front office. Claire just puked here at school during recess. Can you come and get her?”

“Of course. I’ll be right there.”


1 Comment

Did I Tell You the Story?

“Did I tell you the story about the brazier incident?” he asks, chuckling a little to himself.

“I don’t think so,” she says. She isn’t sure, really, which stories he’s told her by now at all. It seems to her that his stories have filled her up, overflowing her own stories, left unsaid.

“I remember in school,” he says, “we’d read aloud. I hated it. And the teachers obviously could tell, because they generally, mercifully gave me a character with very few lines.

“So we’re reading aloud, and I see something…”

She stops listening, her thoughts overriding his words, and wonders idly if she’s just like everyone else. Waiting for her time to speak. Wanting to fill each pause and silence in conversation with her own thoughts. If this is her, this very moment, being that which she resents— not wanting to listen, but only wanting to be able to tell one of her stories. Wanting to share one of her moments.

“… And I say, ‘Glimmer from the flaming brassiere,’…”

She wonders if he’d even notice if she never really spoke. If she just smiled and nodded a few times as she sipped her iced coffee. She wonders if all the people, in all the world, are sharing all these stories with one another, each one barely skimming, barely listening to one another, waiting for their opportunity to share.

“So, yeah, instead of a flaming pit thing, I said bra on fire.” He laughs, looking for her response.

“I get it,” she smiles. Taking another sip of coffee. “That’s pretty funny.”

And she pushes her own stories aside, smiling and waiting for his next.


4 Comments

Finding the Time to Write

It’s been a couple weeks now that I’ve been trying to figure out how to quit my day job so that I can write novels. That’s right, quit my six figure career in software engineering so that I can instead spend my days writing away and, inevitably, making no money.

Impossible.

Lately my days have been distracted with thoughts on the stories I’ve been writing; ideas, putting together the world in my head, some notes here and there, with the plan of finally committing the ideas and thoughts to paper when I get a chance. The problem is, that chance never came. Once the kids are in bed and my work is done, my mind is mushy, I’d rather be relaxing, watching TV, reading or enjoying some craft beer instead.

So a few nights ago I Googled “finding the time to write”, because it is much more productive to Google such a thing rather than spend the time writing, and came across this blog post by John Scalzi, writer of Old Man’s War, titled “Writing: Find the Time or Don’t“. In this blog post I really liked this line:

Either you want to write or you don’t, and thinking that you want to write really doesn’t mean anything. There are lots of things I think I’d like to do, and yet if I don’t actually make the time and effort to do them, they don’t get done.

Well, shucks.

I can certainly do at least 250 words a day– heck, this blog post is longer than that! Maybe in a year I’ll have my first novel and maybe I won’t. Bottom line, though; I do want to write, and so I will.


2 Comments

33 Years of Slow Learning

I’m 33 years old.

This happens to be my favorite number, which I curiously did not make the connection that this equaled my age until only a few moments ago. Here I am, the age of my favorite number– that must mean something, right?

A slow learner. That’s what I’ve often described myself as, especially when it comes to life. Somehow I’ve escaped my childhood, teens, and 20s for the most part unscathed; but man, I sure could tell some stories. My journey to being an adult, a mother, and a useful part of society has taken more time and effort than most people I know of, but I’ve somehow made it here, mostly intact.

Here I sit in a house that only feels too big when it comes to cleaning it, with 2.5 kids that are all but well behaved, cats that keep me company as I work from home most days, and a awkwardly long dog that is somehow always happy to see me. We have well paying jobs and a savings account (er, well… the plan for one), we count calories and actually cook home cooked meals. Planned in two weeks is a vacation off work for the first time in my life and I found myself talking about a 2 year financial plan just the other day.

Oh yeah. I’ve got it all. I’m such an adult now.

There are moments it strikes me without warning and I pause, take a quick look around and am quite certain somebody is going to run towards me pointing, “Imposter! Fraud!” because surely I’m in the wrong place. This life can’t be mine. I’ve stolen it and it’s certainly only a matter of time before somebody finds out.

This wasn’t the life I was meant to live at all. I knew that if I didn’t somehow die at the age of 24 that it meant I was living my dreams. Traveling, writing, and being incredibly interesting. It meant I’d know how to dress stylishly and do my hair, that people would flock around me just to hear the grand stories I could tell. I most definitely wouldn’t work a 9 to 5 and I’d live smack dab in the middle of a big city, like a cultured person ought to.

But no.

Instead I work a 9 to 5… or sometimes, a 9 to 9. Most days I don’t even get out of my pajamas or step out of my house that sits comfortably in what can only be described as suburbia hell. My days are spent writing code, fixing bugs, troubleshooting server issues and attempting to avoid office politics. My evenings are filled with rushing kids to dance class or taking bike rides all the while my eldest daughter complainining as if I were torturing her. I can’t go where I want or when I want because this requires planning, organization, and good timing.

I haven’t written more than a few thousand words in months.

I’m happy, though, where I am. I’m not saying that isn’t so. It’s not the life that was meant to be mine but it’s the life I have, and I’ve never been more content. I generally enjoy my job and I generally enjoy my kids — especially when they are sleeping. In my good sized house I can drink all the lattes I want, I can throw the clothes on the floor, and I can put up rules that the other inhabitants are meant to abide by whether they do or not. And yet, here and there, I notice something is amiss.

It’s that slow learner thing. I know that since I was 13 putting my pen to paper has been the single most thing that kept me vaguely sane. That I lived and breathed words, taken and created and mushed up into pretty little sentences. It’s almost cliche, but without the words sometimes I wouldn’t know whether I existed at all. And yet, for almost a decade now, the words have been neglected. In spurts every 7 months or so only to be pushed aside again for something else. Something more urgent.

It’s not until recently that I realized, after saying it for most of my 33 years of life, that I need to write. Let’s say it again, yes? I need to write. That, my dear readers, is what I’ve learned after 33 years on this earth. That the life we imagine rarely comes to be. That the life we are in can be all we really need. And that, low and behold, we must do the things that we yearn for. Whatever it may be. We must do it, we must try. We were given the ability to feel this sort of need– I don’t care how. What else can we do but answer it?