Archive for July 2015

Rosa’s Cookies

Continued from last week’s post, The One That Got Away Comes Back. Please read that one first. ūüôā

***

In the weeks following Valentine’s Day, Rosa often wondered if turning Miguel down was the right decision. Whenever she would begin to forget about their strange encounter, her brain would spin into overdrive and remind her just how handsome he was and how good he smelled and how much she had missed the electrifying, breath-hitching feeling of his hand in hers.

After a few minutes of this, though, her pessimistic side would turn back on. It had been ten years. She knew nothing about the man, only about the boy he had once been. And who knew how much war had changed him? Inside his sparse apartment, they had cuddled on his cheap futon like old friends rather than ex-lovers. He had refused to answer any questions about his personal life–not about the war or anything he’d done since. Rosa wasn’t even sure what he was doing for work now that he was a civilian again.

He had kissed her by lunchtime, but even in the moment it had felt off somehow. Too desperate? She couldn’t name exactly what the problem was, just that she felt it even underneath their immense chemistry.

Miguel had wanted more almost immediately, too, and that was when Rosa pushed him away and said she had plans. She took a long bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon and tried to quantify what was off about him. Instead she mostly fantasized about what he looked like underneath his form-fitting sweater.

As she passed Starbucks on her way to work one morning in March, she thought about him once again. She’d been tolerating the tar-coffee at her office in an attempt to avoid any awkwardness, but today the line was short and she needed some caffeine that tasted good. Caramel macchiato in hand, she strode confidently to her desk.

She sat down, but something seemed off. Her mouse had been moved slightly to one side, and in its place was a chocolate chip cookie. Definitely store-bought, but it still looked tasty. Maybe she hadn’t needed the fancy coffee after all. “Who bought cookies?” she called out, grateful.

“What? Someone brought cookies?” Justin yelled from three cubicles over. “Where’d you find them?”

Fantastic. Apparently, cookies¬†weren’t waiting on everyone’s desk. “It was just sitting here. Must be the cleaning crew didn’t throw it out. I brought a cookie for a snack yesterday and took it out in the afternoon but never ate it,” she lied.

“Day-old or not, I’ll take it!”

“I’ll just eat it myself, but thanks.” Though it was still early, she figured it must be a special occasion (Rosa firmly believed that any time you are randomly given cookies is a special occasion), so she ate it. Definitely¬†not day-old. It must have just come out of an oven, and it tasted fantastic. There was nothing like a breakfast of caramel macchiato and cookie to make you feel like you can do anything–even eight hours of data entry.

The weird thing wasn’t the first cookie, or even the second or third. Within a week, though, what had been a welcome treat became eerie. No one saw who left them, although her co-workers insisted the fresh cookies weren’t there when they arrived.

“Must’ve been looking at my computer,” Emily said.

Alison said, “I never notice those kinds of things. Sorry, Rosa.”

“Well, maybe you should!” Rosa said. “It wouldn’t kill you to pay attention.”

With her co-workers being zero help whatsoever, Rosa changed her routine and began getting to work early, trying to catch the culprit herself, but he was always faster. (Rosa had already labeled the cookie-bringer a “he,” certain she had an in-office admirer.)

As the second week began, her suspicions that her co-workers knew and refused to tell her were basically confirmed. By Tuesday, Emily’s answer changed to a simple “no,” but one she couldn’t let out without some escaping giggles, too. Alison always answered her with, “Still no clue, Rosa,” but she stopped meeting her eyes. As if Alison could ever be absorbed in a spreadsheet.

By Thursday that week, Rosa gave up asking. Maybe it was just Danielle McGregor out to make her fatter. Rosa wasn’t even sure why she cared so much about who it was. They were just cookies. (Delicious cookies that melted in her mouth and tasted like heaven, but still just cookies.)

Like things tend to happen, Rosa got her answer right when she’d given up guessing. That Friday, next to the cookie¬†there was a note written in careful handwriting and all caps.

It’s been ten years since I let you go and they are ten years I’ve constantly regretted. You always were my cookie, my love, and now you have ten cookies–one for each year I’ve missed you. I don’t know how I screwed Valentine’s Day up so thoroughly that you won’t even call me back, but please give me another chance. Mi querida, eres mi vida. No tengo un razon de vivir sin ti. I’ll be waiting for you. The details of when to meet me and where (and what to wear–the past ten years have taught me something [still sorry about our six-month anniversary date]) are in your email.

Always,

Miguel

The note was sweet–like a concentrated version of the Miguel she remembered. And she definitely hadn’t forgotten the catastrophe of their six-month anniversary, when she’d shown up in jeans and a crop top for what was supposed to be dinner at Chicago’s fanciest restaurant. She looked across the room at Alison and Emily. They were grinning. Of course Miguel had sworn them to secrecy. It was just like him to be unnecessarily secretive and romantic.

She opened her personal email account in a browser, wondering what he had in mind. As the page loaded, she couldn’t help but wonder how Miguel had always beaten her to the office. And now that her last cookie was gone, she was sure she would be missing it the next week.

***

The holiday weekend through off my writing schedule, but I’m back with Rosa and Miguel! (and will continue their story with the next prompt)

Mid-Year Goal Update

I can’t believe the year is more than half-over already. So far, 2015 has been excellent, but I’m not entirely on track with my goals. That said, with how much has changed in my life since January, I’m surprised I’m on track at all.

As I set out to write my 2015 resolutions in late December and early January, I had a six-month-old daughter I was still getting to know, a full-time job, and a steady influx of academic freelance work. I was loving posting on my blog and would often take time away from my full-time job to write out a post or two.

Now I have a one-year-old daughter (who loves walking and making mischief and is all-around adorable). I quit my full-time job more than three months ago and have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of freelancing work I’ve gotten done.

Oh, and I’m also pregnant with our second child, due in December. While intentional, having another kid before the year was out definitely wasn’t on my mind when I was writing my resolutions, and my yearly and second quarter resolutions don’t reflect how tired pregnancy makes me, that’s for sure.

This year, I set to work on three different areas of my life: spiritual, professional, and quality of life.

Spiritual Goals

At the beginning of the year, I had two spiritual goals: complete the 2015 devotional I got for Christmas, and read through the Bible chronologically.

Reading through the Bible. In March, my chronological Bible was stolen while we were in Disneyland (an ironic thing to steal, I’m aware), and since I’ve read it through before, I decided not to replace it.

2015 Devotional. This one has been easy to stay on track with, since it’s only a page a day. It’s also extremely simplistic theology, that breaks down the complex nuances in the Bible into nuggets that are supposed to apply well to “modern women” (which, naturally, stereotypes women a lot). I don’t love the reading, but every now and then a good one comes along that makes it worth continuing. Plus, it was a gift, and I feel that reading it honors my mother.

Bonus. Since minimalism and intentionality have been goals this year, we went through the garage and I asked my husband to go through boxes that have moved with us since we got married. He found a bunch of college textbooks, including a NRSV Bible with a ton of commentary written for scholars rather than spiritual reasons. I love this and plan to take a deeper look at it soon.

Professional Goals

Since this was the main area I wanted to grow, I had a lot of things I wanted to do. Quitting my full-time job was definitely on my mind, but I wasn’t brave enough to write it down as a goal, and it took reaching my breaking point in January to get me to commit. However, you can still see my desire to become a full-time freelancer in my goals, as well as my work on getting a novel published.

Join two freelance editors’ guilds/associations. I had this complete by mid-January, since I’d been scoping them out for half of 2014 anyway. So far they’ve proved useful enough, even though I haven’t made a ton of money from them. At this point in my career, since I can only claim five years’ experience, I get giddy when I make it into the top few someone is choosing between, and that feels like a win enough.

Create a blog calendar and PLAN. Yeah, so I downloaded the plugin that would give me a blog calendar, but planning just… isn’t my forte. At all. I still have to finish my Taylor Swift series, I intended to update the blog with my goal progress monthly rather than semi-annually, and I’ve been too tired (see: pregnancy) to write blog posts in advance.

Publish 50+ blog entries.¬†I just went back and counted, and I’ve posted 19 on this blog and five on the Query Tracker blog, meaning this is my 25th blog post! I thought I was doing¬†way worse than that, so yay! Hooray for how much I wrote in January making up for how little I’ve written recently. Also, I meant to make my goal 104 posts (two a week), I just mis-mathed. Now I’m really glad I did.

Query at least 50 agents for Expiration Date, or until signed.¬†Obviously, there are a lot of steps that needed to happen before I could get to this point. And the number is arbitrary: I know all the true-isms in the writing field, like, “It only takes one ‘yes’,” reminiscent as they are of Christian true-isms like “God never gives you anything you can’t handle” and “God’s timing is best.” I’m well on track, though. I’m fairly satisfied with the current draft of Expiration Date. All the writing true-isms leave me hesitant to post where I am on querying (or even if I’ve started), so I won’t. ūüėČ

Plan and outline next book.¬†I’m not one of those authors whose ideas are constantly flowing and whose decision on what to write next is choosing which of many ideas is worth pursuing. Instead, I have to take the mustard seed of an idea (always only one at a time, usually planted about halfway through the first or second draft of what I’m writing) and massage it into something for a book. Right now, I have three separate strings and I can’t tell if they’re one, two, or three books. I’m working on it, but slowly, since Expiration Date is still my focus.

Quality of Life Goals

Complete 2015 Book Challenge.¬†I’m almost on track with this, although the fact that I did next to nothing in May, including read, wasn’t useful. See updated book challenge page here.

Stick to minimalist wardrobe plan.¬†This has been surprisingly easy, even with my growing bump (which is growing very high, so I can still wear normal pants, even at almost 18 weeks pregnant!!). I guess once you get out of the habit of shopping as a form of entertainment, it’s relatively easy to avoid. The only shopping I’ve done was for a dress to wear to a wedding (my form-fitting ones didn’t work with my growing bump… boo) and a black t-shirt to replace one that insisted on turning my armpits purple every time I wore it. (TMI? Sorry…)

Replace husband’s car with a small loan.¬†Not particularly interested in giving direct numbers, since this is neither a finance nor a minimalist blog, but we did it! Our loan is under the amount I wanted to pay, and we ended up with a used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI in a beautiful dark gray with only 3,000 miles on it–pretty much exactly what we were hoping for (and more than, regarding the mileage).

***

Now that I see my goals written out like this, I’m so happy with how well it’s going. Apparently, even in the middle of a ton of life changes, if you set goals that are true to who you are and who you want to become, they are achievable.

The One That Got Away Comes Back

The Starbucks across from Rosa’s work was decorated in infuriating shades of pink and red. She felt like there had been a board meeting at headquarters where some up-and-coming slimewad said, “Hey! Let’s make sure our decorations for February make it clear this is Rosa Gonzalez’s twenty-eighth consecutive Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend.”

Admittedly, it was also a Monday, which was never good, and she was still slightly hungover from the “Almost Thirty and Still Single” pity party Yasmin had hosted the night before. At least she wasn’t twenty-seven and perpetually single, like Keisha. Rosa had had boyfriends. They just were all allergic to having a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

She shivered and shuffled away from the door as the snaking line began to move. At least with no boyfriend, she didn’t have to care that her black puffy jacket was warm but not flattering. There was nobody to flatter.

As slow costumer after slow customer placed their orders, Rosa pulled out her cell phone to check the time. She would definitely be late for work now, but what did it matter? A Master’s in Art History and she was still entering data into spreadsheets. No one ever looked at them after she finished, anyway. If she left the line now, she’d still be late. A few more minutes and she’d be late and¬†have her caffeine. Anything to avoid the tar the office assistant called coffee.

Rosa loosened her tense shoulders when it was finally her turn to order. The paper hearts and PDA were making her nauseated. “I’ll have a grande caramel–”

“Macchiato,” a deep, but nearly familiar, voice said from behind her. “Nonfat, extra whip, extra hot. And my treat.”

Stunned, Rosa turned to stare at the man who dared to know her order. He was short but muscular, hair buzzed. He had a five o’clock shadow covering his dark skin even at eight in the morning. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him and her mouth had gone too dry to speak.

“Nothing for me,” the man insisted to the cashier. Then, “Come on, Rosa. Other people are waiting to order.”

Numbly, she moved to wait for her drink, then evaluated her¬†untidy hair and ugly puffy jacket against Man Who Knew Both Order and Name. She didn’t even come close to comparing. Even her usually on-point makeup game was only half-functioning. The hangover had provided excellent assistance in sleeping through three alarms.

When her drink was called, the familiar stranger picked it up and took her by the arm. “It’s been forever. We should go somewhere. Catch up.”

“I¬†do know you?” she managed.

He laughed, but only after a hint of disappointment deepened the shadows beneath his cheekbones. “Yes. And you’re well-acquainted with the backseat of my car, too.”

Rosa zipped through her catalog of ex-boyfriends until she got to senior year of high school.¬†Miguel. He returned to her in floods, though ten years ago he was at least nearly as awkward as she was.¬†None of his awkwardness remained. “You joined the army. You said you weren’t coming back.” It was kind of like a hello, she supposed.

“Ten years was long enough. I’m in Chicago for good this time. What have you been doing?”

Rosa took a long drink of her coffee, scalding be damned. What do you tell the man who was your first kiss and your first “I love you,” the man who knew you wanted to design costumes for the theater and the man you once wanted to marry?

Miguel had asked her to be his girlfriend in March of her junior year, his senior, but ended it abruptly at the end of January, saying he had joined the military and didn’t want to make her wait for him. She would have, though. He was a man she easily could have waited for. Walking with him now, her glove on his forearm, it felt like she¬†had been waiting this whole time.

“I work for a collections company,” she finally admitted. She’d rather be mistaken for one of the collectors than say she just did data entry for them. “In fact, I’m late. I should go.”

Miguel stopped her with a hand on each of her triceps. “Call in sick. Please.”

Rosa thought about protesting, but she never used her paid time off. Student loans wasted any money she might have had for vacations, and she never took time off just because. “Fine.” Even through her puffy jacket and sweater and his gloves, the energy pulsated between them. She hoped he would lead her inside soon so she could ditch the jacket and touch his hand properly.

“Can we go inside somewhere? I can email in, but not with gloves on.”

He smiled. It was everything she remembered, but there was something about it that made her nervous. “My apartment is just a few blocks away. Oh, Rosa, we have so much catching up to do.”

The way his tone changed almost made her turn around and march right back to work. But she followed him anyway.

*****

Today’s prompt was “You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day, the one whom you often call ‘The One That Got Away.’ What happens?”

Since the story got away from me a little, I will continue Rosa and Miguel’s interactions for the next few days, see where they take us. Not all of the prompts are appropriate for their story, but I’ll make as many work as I can. What do you think?

Writer’s Digest Boot Camp Day 1

Dear Writer’s Block,

I hate to do this in a letter, but you’ve given me no other choice. See, here’s the thing: you always disappear when I confront you. So I’m just going to leave this on my desk and assume you find it.

All the usual cliches assault me as I sit down to tell you why we have to break up: it’s not you, it’s me; our lives are heading in different directions; I have a strong suspicion that you’re seeing other people. But cliches become cliche because they’re true.

It¬†isn’t you, it’s me. I’m willing to take ownership of that. The truth is I know plenty of people who would be happy with you. I’m just not one of them anymore. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but keeping you in my life would be nothing short of settling, and I’m deciding I deserve the best. Which brings me to my next cliche.

Our lives are heading in different directions. You’ve already found your life’s purpose. You know you’re meant to frustrate people and keep them distracted from writing. You are the voice in authors’ heads insisting their ideas aren’t good enough. I’m happy you’ve found your purpose, but I’m finding mine, too. My purpose is to write. Surely even you can see that we’re just not compatible anymore. I must stop using my relationship with you as an excuse, so I have to end our relationship.

Not that your influence is entirely negative, by the way. I don’t want you to think that. I wouldn’t be such a master at Bejeweled without you. I doubt my house would be as clean, or my other art projects finished. My sock drawers are organized, my books alphabetized, and my Netflix queue has never been so close to empty. But that’s not what I’m looking for in a partner. Among other things, I am looking for fidelity. And, per cliche number three, I’m sure you’re seeing other people.

When I ask my writing friends what they’ve been writing recently, they bow their heads and mention you. Embarrassed, yes, but they seem to be unaware of our long-term relationship. Am I that unimportant to you?! Sometimes I think you’re chasing after anyone with the potential to take your bait, just hoping to get them cozy in bed with you rather than their laptop. Yeah, I get it, you have a life’s purpose you’re trying to fulfill.

But from my vantage point, you’re just a cheating workaholic with no concern for me or my feelings or my own work. So that’s it. We’re done. For real this time, too, none of that on-again off-again stuff you tease me with.

Adieu

P.S. Your brother’s kinda attractive. You know the one. Procrastination. I hope you won’t be offended if we hook up sometimes. He’s already promised me a long weekend getaway.