Friday, November 10, 2017

Off the Beaten Path

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: cottage ~ divine ~ bluntness ~ sphere ~ red

They were submitted by:


The little white cottage called to her. It wasn't hers. She'd actually never noticed it before on her hikes through these woods, but now it seemed almost like divine intervention for her to spot it. She'd stepped off the path dying to pee, literally in pain and unable to continue the hike, and there it sat just far enough from the path for her to never have noticed before now.

She took a step closer.

The forest floor in this area was pretty overgrown, but the cottage had it's own sphere of existence. It boasted an immaculate, if tiny, lawn. Even from here she could see the detailed statues and bird baths and well-tended flower beds. And maybe it was all in her head but she could swear she smelled freshly baked cookies.

The dividing line of forested chaos and well-tended landscape wasn't a creeping transition. It had a certainty, a bluntness. There was no mistaking where forest and lawn separated. It was almost miraculous. She couldn't help wondering how much work it took to keep that boundary so distinct, and curiosity won out over common sense.

She took another step.

The red windowboxes were filled with multicolored variations of poppies and peonies and flowers she had never seen before anywhere else, and the small chimney in the back puffed a steady stream of smoke. Obviously someone was inside. Maybe they would let her use their bathroom. Mysterious cottage or no, she still had to pee.

Her next steps, tentative as they were, brought her across that line between forest and yard.

The air was different inside the line...heavier, thicker. It smelled like nothing. Not even the smoke from the chimney registered. It was silent, too--not just quiet. Silent. She didn't hear so much as the lone buzzing of an insect much less the usual ruffles and chatter of these woods. It wasn't until she crossed over that threshold that she realized everything was wrong. Something snapped in her brain waking her up from a trance. The peaceful little cottage had cast a spell when she first saw it but now....she had to get away.

She took a step back.

And bumped into a barrier.

What the....

She turned frantically searching but she saw nothing. She could feel it--a solid form beneath her hands--but there was nothing she could see separating her from the forest. She'd come in...why couldn't she get out?

Trying to contain her panic, she made her way around the circular yard hoping, praying, and searching for a break in whatever was holding her in. No luck. When she again reached the front of the house, sweaty and in tears with raw knuckles from beating on something she couldn't even see, she finally heard a sound--a long unbroken creak.

She willed herself not to turn around like a kid hiding under the covers refusing to look at what might be peeking out of the closet. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and made her weak. She turned and found the front door of the place standing wide open and felt her bladder give way. Nothing about this was right.

It would be dark soon. She never had a phone signal out here. She was hungry and soaked with piss and tired.

So she walked in the door. Fuck it, she thought. If I'm going to die let's get the show on the road.

She took a few more steps inside. The cottage was warm and definitely smelled like cookies. "Hello?" she called, but of course there wasn't an answer. There was really only one large room. The logs in the fireplace across the room were smoldering. A couple of highbacked armchairs sat across from it, backs to her. The tiny kitchen was to her left and a small twin sized bed to the right that was perfectly made with a handsome floral quilt. Nothing was out of place, simple as the decor was, and yet....she could feel the anxiety creeping through her chest. Every instinct told her to run, but where could she go?

She took another step inside.

The door slammed shut behind her and a mad cackling filled the room. It seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once. She backed into the front right corner of the room and folded herself into a tiny ball.

The cottage grew cold around her. The temperature had to drop 30 degrees in a matter of seconds. Her body shivered from fear and tension and cold. She tried to yell "STOP." She could see her breath puffing into the room with every effort she made, but it was futile. Not a sound escaped her lips while the cackling turned to howling screams so shrill she thought her ears would burst. She longed for it--deafness--and then the world went black.

When she woke up, there was no cottage, no immaculate lawn. Morning rays were breaking through the misty darkness when she sat up and looked around. The forest was the same chaos of undergrowth she had always remembered it being. Birds were beginning their daylight rituals. Insects buzzed around her.

She blinked rapidly, sat up, and staggered back towards the path. She was literally a few feet from it just like she intended when she went to pee. Confusion set in. Disbelief. Did she pass out? Dream it? Was she losing it?

She turned back towards where the cottage had stood once more and felt a heaviness in her chest, a roiling living thing writhing like a snake. It's just residual fear, she told herself, and turned to go home.

She smelled like cookies and cackled like mad the whole way.

Here are the links to the other participating blogs!

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom


Friday, November 3, 2017

Food Struggles

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 11 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.


Food is a frenemy of mine.

My relationship with food goes far beyond comfort, love, or hate. It's a complex beast, wild and chaotic. Food is shame, rush, art, creation, emptiness, a consolation prize. Sometimes it's the rainbow after a torrential rain. Sometimes it's the rain.

I'm not entirely to blame for this. Family and society did their part, and I have yet to be able to entirely get over it. I can't escape the voices that guilt me over every piece of chocolate I try to enjoy, but I can't stop feeling absolutely elated every time I make a dish I see other people thoroughly enjoy. It's a fucker of a thing loving to cook, loving the art of creating a good recipe, but hating myself for finding solace in the way it tastes.

There is no peace in food, no real comfort without destruction, and it's been that way for most of my life. I wasn't really a big kid until I was maybe 10. I had to wear a bra before then but hormonal body changes made me a little pudgy. Every day at school I walked during p.e. Most days after school I walked around the block at my grandma's to get more exercise. I needed it, she said. I needed to be on a diet, she said. I was fat, my dad would laugh. Fatty, fatty 2x4; can't get through the bathroom door...






And so began the complex. My dad died without ever having so much as a half-compliment about how I looked even at my thinnest (which, let's be clear, was never really thin by society's standards given my genes) when I took diet pills and purged and dieted until I made myself sick. I still can't be around my grandmother without waiting for that word, "diet," to trigger a bout of depression and disordered eating. I can't be around her period to be honest. Family or not the damage done is too much to salvage a relationship with someone who was only ever hypercritical, who expected a child to parent her alcoholic, coke-addicted father at 14 and still manage to fit in a size 2 dress.

None of my family was ever thin. So why was I the butt of the joke?

Add to that I didn't grow up in a time when body acceptance was the movement it is today. I didn't have fat icons to look up to. Fat women were always portrayed as gross, desperate, sad, lazy, void of anything worthy. And I internalized the fuck out of those images. It was hard not to when everything I heard at home confirmed them, and I was picked on at school for it just as much. "Fat dyke" was the pretty consistent mantra I heard shuffling hallways to class, and "lardass" or "crisco" followed it at home. Food takes on so much negativity when every bite you take is scrutinized, and a lifetime of relearning can't fully break it.

It's not so simple as whether food makes me happy or unhappy. An umami bomb hitting my tastebuds is likely to give me a rush in the moment, but the blowback shame I feel for letting myself enjoy it muddies the waters. But so few things can match the joy I feel when I taste-test a dish I'm working on in the kitchen and know I nailed it, took a bare bones recipe and made it mine or started out with some random idea I had in the shower and actually brought it to fruition. How do you balance those two worlds--one where creating food is everything and one where enjoying the taste of it can never happen without shame?

It's a war in all honesty. I could wave the white flag and give in to the darkness at any time, but my worth is not my weight. My size is not a problem. And having a damn candy bar shouldn't cause a meltdown. Every meal is no longer a battle (depending on other stresses) which is an improvement, but I can't kid myself into thinking it will be over anytime soon. So, every day I lay on the armor and work on facing those demons head-on. I may lose a fight or two, but this victory will be mine. One day.


Here are the links to the other submissions:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Part-time Working Hockey Mom