Submission for Birkenstock scholarship

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So I found this scholarship opportunity on Chegg:  “Write about the best shoes you have ever had or your grandmother’s beautiful toes. Just be interesting or educate us in 400-1000 words,” and this is what I came up with:

The Red Slip-Ons:  A 5-Minute Memoir

I’m a flip-flop and bikini top kind of woman (meaning I don’t do bras or high heels).  I’m five four with a size ten foot.  I’d been a size nine till I had my daughter Hannah.  Now I can’t wear my shoes or my clothes.

Every woman has a favorite pair of shoes.  Big feet don’t make you cry in the dressing room.  No woman ever asks, “Do these shoes make my feet look fat?”  However, I won’t wear those with pointed-toes—they seem like corsets for feet.

It was a day that Target was having a clearance sale.  It was the end of summer, and their flip-flops were all half-off.  A ruby-red pair with red sequins had caught my eye.  A combination of retail therapy and Starbucks caffeine had made me heady, and I wondered if they’d put something special in my brownie.

It was starting to sprinkle outside and the smoky violet sky made me think of Liz Taylor’s eyes.  I’d tossed my crappy flip-flappies into the receptacle out front (near the big red balls some teenage girls were bouncing on) and worn these out.  They matched my retro red toenail polish.

I went to the car and rolled down the window, letting my feet dangle over the side, the cool breeze blowing through my toes.  The new shoes felt great.  Now I just needed a pedi.  That was the problem with open-toed shoes, they required foot care.  No mangled pinky toenails or hairy halluces.  I must have spaced out for a minute, for the next, there were a couple of guys passing by, chatting about Emerald City, rather animatedly.  I called out, unable to help myself, “Are you going to see the Wizard?”  They looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said, “Lady, you’re in the land of Oz.”

They walked off, laughing.  When my husband came out with our daughter and a bag of Moose Munch, I told him of the exchange, and he laughed.

“Oh, that’s a gay bar downtown,” he said, and I shook my head.  “They have great drag shows.”

I looked over at Pensacola’s self-proclaimed Moses on one corner, holding up an Israeli flag, and then over at some creepy ass cracker on the other, holding up a cardboard sign saying, “Cracker needs help”. Only in Lower Alabama (or L.A., as the locals call it), I think.

“You know something, Brian, there are times when I think we really are in the Land of Oz.”

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Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #24. Theme: Moment

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Life’s Awkward Moments

That moment when you’re volunteering in the hospital pharmacy, hold up a suppository and ask, “How can anyone swallow these?”

That moment when you ask if panhandling is a regional thing.

That moment you ask if freeballing is a sport in the Olympic games.

That moment when you spill a giant glass of ice water in someone’s lap and laughing hysterically while apologizing profusely.

That moment when you’re in a Pentecostal church for the first time, and someone starts shaking, and you try to get the person next to you to call a doctor.

That moment when the interviewer (at a place called “Hogi Yogi”) tells you he wants people who are hungry, and you tell him, “Well, I did just have breakfast.”

That moment when you’re at the deli, and the clerk asks what kind of fried chicken you want.  You proceed to tell him all white meat, that you don’t like dark, and you suddenly realize there is a black person standing next to you.

That moment you walk around Target with someone for half an hour before you remember who they are.

That moment when you run into someone you unfriended on Facebook.

That moment when you run into someone who unfriended you on Facebook.

That moment when a guy asks if you have a Slim Jim (as he just locked his keys in his car) and you tell him you don’t think they taste very good (because you thought he needed a snack while he waited).

That moment when you share an article on “The Benefits of Bralessness” on Facebook, then realize that might be too revealing.

That moment when you call a “sir” a “ma’am”.

That moment when someone asks when you’re due (and you’re not expecting).

That moment when you’re at the ATM in the drive through at a bank and lock your keys in the car while it’s still running, as your arm wasn’t long enough to reach the portal.

That moment when your card doesn’t work at self-checkout and the voice says loud enough to scare the undead, “Card not accepted”.

That moment you learned that bunnies don’t lay eggs (but thought so because you had the Cadbury bunny stuck in your head).

Life is full of awkward moments.
It’s a great balancing act,
dancing all the while.
Sometimes it’s a ballet,
sometimes a waltz,
and sometimes,
it’s something totally unrecognizable.

But that’s the kind of life worth living.

A Long Good-bye to the Slowly Waning Summer

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It is mid-September, and I am supine on my beach chair, soaking up the rays of late afternoon.  The chair is the aquamarine color of the bikini I always look for, but can never find in my size.  Half the problem is finding one of the two halves in my size.

My daughter is playing in her pink kiddie pool–her precursor to a bath.  Her menagerie of colorful bath toys make me think of sprinkles on a pink iced cupcake.  A cool zephyr blows through the tree behind our fence, stirring the tiny leaves.  She looks up, transfixed.  She is content.

If we had an outdoor shower, I would be taking all my showers outside, for everything is better outside during the summer, eating especially.  Every day of summer feels like a holiday, which is why it almost seems strange to be inside working.

I live in my flip-flops; I can be heard slip-slap-slopping down the shiny corridors at college.  When I leave and the warmth rushes in through the heavy door (a respite from the chilly building), I am flip-flop-flapping my way down the stairs.  My bikini top is a comfortable, makeshift bra, and my hair is still wet from the shower, but I don’t get sick in the summer.  Barefaced and barelegged, I am ready to go.  There is no having to warm Lila (our almost 25-year-old Cadillac), or putting on socks or hose, or using the hairdryer.  A swipe of lipstick and I am ready to go.  I will never understand women who will apply a full face where the humidity is about a hundred percent.  I choose to let my skin breathe; the sun is nature’s foundation.

Though my freckles become more pronounced, I have no desire to cover them (a la Jan Brady).  They make me look younger.

The inflatable pool we got on clearance from Target (they still think summer ends in July) is filled with water as clear as vodka, and I get in to cool off my skin, feeling that faint tightness that relaxes as soon as it hits the water.  I rest my head on the edge and close my eyes for a bit, listening to my daughter splash.  She loves the warmth and the water as much as I do.

I decide I want to plant some honeysuckle next year, maybe some ivy.   Once I have dipped my head in the water, cooling my scalp, I lay back on my chair as the sun lightly browns me once more like a piece of French toast, giving me that vitamin D and mood boost I need before I spend half the night studying.

As I lay there with my face in the hole facing the grass, the pool water long having evaporated, I brainstorm about the collection of nursery rhymes I am working on.  I have shelved my adult writing for a time.  As it says in the Bible, there is a time and a season for everything.  I don’t have the time.  I close my eyes once more, dreaming of Campbell, Missouri peaches.  I am unusual in that I don’t like watermelon (something about the gritty texture turns me off), so I opt for a refreshing mint iced tea, the glass of which I keep under my chair, in the shade.

Hannah starts to let me know she’s getting tired, and I go to bathe her, the water warmer now (hopefully not with pee) than when she was put in.  I make a game of naming each animal (I have to make it interesting somehow):  There’s Escargot the Snail, Soup the Turtle, Gucci the Alligator, Cracker the Goldfish, Jonah the Whale, Prince Frog, Plucky Ducky, Hannah Swan, and so on.  Of course, I change up the names a bit each time (I love naming things, probably because I love to create characters) to keep it fresh, and I teach her the colors (as each has a “color mate”), but what really delights her is when I toss them up in the air and call out, “One little, two little, three little animals”, etc.

Tomorrow is the thirteenth–I will be thirty-three.  I remember reading somewhere long ago that that is considered one’s prime (I daresay, Miss Jean Brodie was well past that age!), because Jesus was at His prime when He made the sacrifice.  It has been tradition that every year on my birthday, we go to the Cactus Flower Café.  (We started dining at their beach location last year.)

We always choose to sit outside, away from the noise of the diners and the overhead music, with the breeze blowing in from the sound side of Pensacola Beach.  I always get a sangria and a chicken-stuffed chili relleno, topping it off with a homemade flan for my free birthday dessert–creamy and caramelly, smooth and cool to the mouthfeel (texture and temperature in food is as important to me as taste).  The material of whatever flowing dress I’m wearing feels wonderful against my exfoliated, shaved and lotioned legs.  I slide off my flip-flop and rub the bottom of my foot, smoother now, on the rough, unfinished boardwalk beneath us.  I am already feeling the effects of the sangria; I feel like laughing.

The food is fresh, abundant in color–thick, verdant lettuce, spicy, chili pepper red tomatoes, and beans and rice perfectly seasoned.  I close my eyes to savor, just like I can hear better when I close my eyes.  Dull one sense, another heightens.  I’ve heard that eating in the dark can enhance the dining experience, but I have never done so.  I want to see what I’m being served before I eat it, as I eat with my eyes first.

On other days, days when I am alone, towards late afternoon, I can roll down the windows and leave them down, not at all worried about my hair getting messed up, as it’s always in a ponytail.  For this reason, I never have a bad hair day during summer.  The rushing air cools any perspiration that collects on my scalp.  I will be listening to Dave Ramsey or Branden Rathert on the radio as I cruise over the Three Mile Bridge into Gulf Breeze, the water the color between sapphires and emeralds.  The boats and the rocks below are picturesque.

Twilight has always been my favorite time of day–a time to settle down, but not turn in.  I’ve always associated periwinkle as being the color of twilight; thus, it was always my favorite color in the Crayola 64 pack.  Periwinkle, besides its whimsical name, was always the stars, the sun and the moon–all in one, a celestial hue.

Summer is wonderful at night, too.  The surfside beach is still warm, and the sand sparkles pristine, like tiny, ground pearls, moonstones, and stardust sprinkled with salt, luminescent in the silvery moonlight.  The view is otherworldly.  The sand is cool beneath my toes; I think of Abraham’s descendants.  I dip my feet into the water, the salt burning the open pores on my legs.  The sand beneath me is squishy now.  I bend to pick up a broken sand dollar, skipping it a few times in the water.  We walk for a bit, hand in hand, the different colored beach houses visible, but seemingly so far away.

The drive home is subdued, but the silences don’t stretch too long.  The radio is off.  Somehow, turning it on would break the spell of the magic of the evening.

Once we’re settled in for the night and get into our house clothes, I return to my beach chair to unwind, squeezing the last drops of enjoyment from the remains of the day.  I pick up the beach read I was reading.  The light from our patio gives just enough of a glow for me to see, but it still dim enough to feel private.  The next door neighbor’s sprinklers come on, spraying the exposed bottom halves of my calves; I let my foot just graze the tops of the moist, cool blades of grass.  I feel myself drifting off for a catnap, until I hear thunder rumbling in the distance.  The air suddenly smells sweeter; the atmosphere is breathless with expectation.  I put the book down and lounge a bit longer, just being, and then go inside when I feel the first raindrop on my head.

There is a gritty film noir on our DVR, and as it starts to pour (summer rainstorms are the best), the raindrops like a drumbeat on Hannah’s pool, I curl up on our couch with the fleece-tie blanket one of the ladies at Grace Lutheran made for Hannah.  As my husband sits in his recliner and I curl up on the sofa, the black-and-white images shadowing my rosy face, I can already feel my eyelids getting heavy.  It has been that kind of a day.

 

Personalizing the Home

The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate handmade items (however, I still love a great sale at Kohl’s or Target).

 

When I was in my twenties, whatever caught my eye (as far as wall filler) was all that mattered.  Now, in my early thirties, I want art on my wall that means something.

Barbie cards were my thing when I was a kid; in my early twenties, it was candles, and now I’m all about personal photographs (or artsy pictures I’ve taken), and art I’ve created (not necessarily drawn or painted) myself.  If I could only thread a needle, nothing could stop me.

My current project (besides filling all the picture frames I’ve collected over the years) is a wall mosaic of all the seashells I collected on trips to the beach with my husband.  I’m also working on “seashelling” some switchplates, as I couldn’t find anything at Lowe’s or Home Depot I liked.

When I saw a big fork and spoon in Target, it reminded me of an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (the only sitcom I’ve liked filmed in this millennium), in which Marie Barone tells the story of her big fork and spoon (except hers are wooden), and Debra refers to as “Robert’s baby utensils”.

BIG fork and spoon

I’ll admit, onscreen popular culture has had an influence on my decorating tastes.  I want at least one brick (or faux brick) wall in our living room someday, because I loved that feature in Lucy Ricardo’s first apartment.  We also have an outdoor dining table that is similar to the one on “Big Love”.

All the rooms in our house have a theme, as I couldn’t choose just one:  our kitchen is retro, our living room is a juxtaposition of vintage and art deco, my daughter’s nursery and our master bedroom is shabby chic, and our bathroom is beachy.  However, every one of them reflects me, in all my many forms.

 

The shopping bulimic

I have a very bad habit of returning things I’ve bought (whether from a department store or Walgreens, or even the grocery store)–a condition which I’ve heard referred to as shopping bulimia.  I like that feel-good feeling I get from buying something, only for it to be replaced with uncertainty and then a strong desire to get my money back (if I’m not positive that I like it 100%).

I just ordered a mirror online from Kohl’s to go over my bedroom dresser, only to go into the store, see it and not like it quite as much, despite the clearance price.  I’d already found the perfect mirror at Lamps Plus (which is twice as much, and which I don’t have a charge account for), but I can wait till I save up the money (I’d rather save up for something nicer anyway).  What I save on coupons and free shipping using store credit cards, they get back in interest.

I just returned a couple of things to Walgreens (one item that didn’t work, one I didn’t need) to buy something else; I also returned a jar of sundried tomatoes to Publix that I haven’t gotten around to using in the weeks I’ve had them.

How I wish I could just become a shopping anorexic.  This is one of my struggles, because growing up, I often didn’t have nice things.  However, what I do to get my shopping fix without spending anything is to add items to my Kohl’s or amazon.com wish list, as I’m not tempted to purchase online like I am when I am in the store and can physically hold the item, thus forming an attachment to it.  No wonder one of my favorite series is the Shopaholic series, by Sophie Kinsella.  (However, I do think Becky Bloomwood needs to get some therapy in the end.  She needs help!)

My main character in a chick-lit novel is going to have this problem, among many other hang-ups.  I’ve never written a chick lit before, but my goal is to write in as many genres as I can, at least until I master one (meaning sell a ton of).  I still have no idea what qualifies as literary fiction, though I have a feeling if some egghead calls it such, it won’t sell well.