The Chance to Change Her Life | Unwritten pt. 3

January 31, 2015

So sorry for the delay. Finally a long week is behind me, my grandfather is doing well but continue to keep him and my family in your prayers. AND we're getting 6+ inches of snow Sunday into Monday. So pray for Dad's safety too. Ya'll know who you are who have prayed, reached out and listened to me this week, and I thank you. Here's part 3 of my Cinderella novella, Unwritten. 

All chaos at the table ground to a halt—even the kids looked on wide-eyed as their parents shot daggers at me. Or rather, their mothers. My brothers in-law were good old boys and they let my sisters rule their roosts. Ironically enough, a muffled burp broke the awkward silence; the bodily function elicited giggles from the other kids, but the impolite nephew was quickly backhanded by Esther, the harsher of my sisters.
"Free? For…what, again, Aunt Bettina? I wasn't following." Had I really heard right or was my hearing starting to go? Surely Aunt Bettina had asked Mom or Heidi or Esther to go with her.
Aunt Bettina's tinkling laughter filled the room. "Are you free next week Sunday to come with me to New York City? Oh please say yes!"
A thousand times yes! I held my tongue, though warmth crept from my neck up and over my cheeks as I considered the chance to get away from home and see the city I had only ever read and dreamt about in novels and movies.
"I don't think I have any—"
"But of course she can't go. Nora's needed here, Bettina." Mom spoke as if it were the most obvious thing in the world…and as if I were not sitting right there in the midst of them.
"Nora is twenty-four years old. Surely she can make her own decisions, cousin."
And so Aunt Bettina's gauntlet was thrown, and a battle of words was waged between the women. For an hour. In which that time my sisters and their families quickly evacuated the premises. I carried Esther's youngest to their car and promised her other kids I'd visit in the next few days.
"You had better not be banking on leaving with Aunt Bettina. How could you even think of it? After all Mom and Pop have done for you, you can't just abandon them on a whim!" Esther huffed and puffed as she buckled her hyper children into their car seats. Her words stung…no more so than usual.
What I was unaccustomed to was the tug of war in my heart between the obligation to my parents and the need for a roof over my head…and this chance of a lifetime to spend two weeks in the city that never sleeps.
Start spreading the news, I'm leaving next week. I wanna be a part of it—New York, New York! I hung back in the doorway humming the golden oldie's song as I heard my parents going at it with Aunt Bettina. Who, surprisingly, would not stop fighting for me.
"Nora! Come here, now!"
I jumped when Mom said jump—and normally asked how high. On one hand, I had a weak backbone…but how could I when I owed my adoptive parents everything? You are twenty-four…there's no legal reason why you have to stay and endure living under your parents' thumb.
Not to mention my part-time waitress job I had had since high-school was no more—to the delight of my parents. Thoughts like that sprang up only a few times a year, and I tamped them down before they could grow into action.
"You have a choice to make. You may either leave in a week with Bettina for New York City…" The way Mom spat the words, mockery ringing in her tone, made my hair stand on end, but I bit my tongue, holding my breath. What would be the other side of my parental ultimatum?
"Or, you can go on living here. A roof over your head free of charge. You can't have both."
Oh Lord, please no. My throat constricted, but I refused to let the tears spring to my eyes, lest I were chastised at the sign of pathetic weakness.
Bettina stood wobbly in her sparkly stilettos and sent me a glance that at once calmed my frantically beating heart, and lent me hope. "I'll need your answer in a week, my dear. The choice is yours."
I nodded, unable to speak, so I ran up the two flights of steps to my garret haven. Had not I only written two hours earlier a statement from my fictional character that was in truth, my own?
I want adventure in the great, wide, somewhere, Lord.
Was this my big shot—the opportunity to change my life?
I shook my head in an effort to shed the at-once thrilled and terrified thoughts. Sliding to my knees next to my bed, I folded my hands tightly, and squeezed my eyes shut.
"What should I do?"

All I can do is keep breathing

January 26, 2015

It's easy to make-believe everything is peachy-keen on social media. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and even blogs are filled with everyone's highlight reels of life. Deeply important things like counting blessings, contentment, resting in God's will do bring glory to God. But not when they're displayed with hashtags of "blessed" or "grateful" or "it's the little things." To me, more often than not, they're fake.

It's been snowing for over twelve hours now, I haven't seen my Dad in that time who drives a salt truck for our municipality. My mom is at a nearby hospital with my grandfather who's getting a heart cath put in today. I just drove one of the most nervewracking routes in my life getting my sister to her work at a preschool fifteen minutes away and my hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel so tight, I was so anxious. I am grateful for my car with traction control. I am grateful Mum made it to the hospital safely. I am grateful Dad is being kept safe. My siblings are all safe and warm and fed and the house is in relative order and meals are planned. #grateful #productive Keep reading...

I am so done with dredging up Christian-ese platitudes just for the sake of it being the right thing to say and thinking that if I say it often enough, I'll feel better. I'm human. God is God and I am not. He has proven Himself as so wonderfully good and sovereign and He has blown my mind time and time again with His provision and I know He is near and at work behind the scenes. But still I struggle with feeling far from Him because I think I need to mentally, emotionally have it all together to talk to Him like a good Christian girl with no worries.

I care so much for the people around me and can do so little, so I worry. The Bible tells us be anxious in nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, make your requests known to God. And trust me--I've been beating God's ear lately and He has given me moments of rest, a peace down deep that I have to cling to while doing the next thing.

Resting in God's will isn't instagramming or Facebooking; it's in having your hands hurt from gripping a steering wheel as you drive through snow. It's when you get home and feel like you ran a marathon and want to crawl back in bed and cry, but you can't. Resting in God's will sometimes is as simple as praying, "Lord, Lord, Lord" for the ones dearest to you going through so much while breathing through doing the next thing in holding down the fort at home. And that's what I'm doing through these mini crisis'.

Another Day, Another Destiny | Unwritten pt. 2

Read part one here Another day, another destiny…a forgotten musical number hummed from my lips as the meal took form. While I had never lacked for parental reminders that I was lucky to have a roof over my head, this life was pretty okay. The quicker I got things done for Mom and Pop, the quicker I could hop on my laptop and put on my blogger hat under the pseudonym of Elle Brooks.
Tomorrow's blog post was one on this dinner's very recipe—a vintage cooking post. Naturally I wrote more enthusiastically than I actually felt at the prospect of humble spaghetti pie.
"Ugh, honestly, Nora. You could have made something less messy!"
Mopping up Gracie's chubby faced smeared with tomato sauce, I bit back the retort hovering on the tip of my tongue and begging to be thrown at my sister. Why Heidi was concerned with her toddler's mess was beyond me; I was the one who came over to clean and do laundry for her growing brood. I'll deal with the spaghetti stains tomorrow.
"Is that good, cutie? I'm glad you like it!" I pressed a kiss to my youngest niece's head, discovering a piece of pasta stuck to it, and it was back to the kitchen for me to pull the last pie out of the oven. Pop's warning that my sisters were coming for dinner had not even prepared me for the onslaught of my two sisters and their huge families for dinner. Leaving me with no seat at the table—and a sink towering with dishes.
To add to the chaos, the doorbell began ringing incessantly. "Get the door, will ya?" Pops belched around his sentence, remaining planted in his seat at the far side of the diningroom.
Wiping my tomato-stained hands on my apron, I hurried to the front door. If it's one of those neighbor boy's pranks again, so help me.
"Elinor! Dah-ling!"
It was my godmother, the last person I expected to see standing on our front stoop in all her bedazzled glory. And her perfume outweighed her Bostonian accent…what was it this time?
Her perfume could be tied to her relationship status. When in love or married, Bettina wore expensive scents that came from only the finest perfumeries around the globe. When just coming out of a divorce, or single and ready to mingle, she doused herself in a mixture of scents—leaving those in her wake in a cloud of heady, floral mist.
This one was new; one my nose had not grown immune to, and I was suffocating in her robust embrace. "It's great to see you." Or what was left of her. She had to have recently had more work done. I could tell by the lack of crows feet in comparison to last time. And she had lost a double chin…
"Everyone's here for dinner, Aunt Bettina. We have plenty, although it's only spaghetti pie."
For as long as I could remember, my godmother insisted upon being called "aunt," though she was a distant cousin of Mom's. She said it made her feel not quite so old, but she was not so modern as to think children calling adults strictly by their first names was appropriate.
"Oh why thank you. Just a tiny slice, mind you. I'm trying to be good."
I grinned and led her into the dining room where my sisters went gaga over her. The full service bone-china sets they received from Aunt Bettina as wedding presents left their mark on my sisters' memories, and now they dropped hints to see if my godmother came bearing gifts.
"Nora! Bring in a chair for your godmother!"
I balanced a plate of spaghetti pie in one hand while carrying the last chair in the entire house from the kitchen to the diningroom. Mom sniffed and jutted her chin to indicate where I should seat Aunt Bettina. My weak arm protested when I finally set the chair down next to Mom and ushered Aunt Bettina to sit.
"So tell us about your latest adventure." I crouched with my back against the wall and tuned into the chaos encircling the massive family table I would clean later. My godmother's stories were that of legend…in this girl's opinion, anyway.
Bettina's hands fluttered around her silverware and she sighed. Ever the drama queen.
"Well, my darlings. My divorce is final now, thank goodness. I got the Cadillac, the apartment in L.A, the penthouse in New York City…ah, but my dear girl, you did not ask about my drama. You asked about my latest adventure, did you not?" In addition to being flighty, Bettina Bouvier was also forgetful in her age that never eased past fifty.
"Greece was truly revitalizing for me. I would not have traded it for the world, though that is where my second husband Antonio proposed to me so naturally I avoided certain spots. But anyway, you see I just had to come home and honor my social obligations all around town…"
Mom kicked my leg out from under me and sent me a sharp glare that said, You don't belong here. Go work on those dishes.
My knee stung, but I rose nonetheless and strained to hear Bettina's latest adventure. If I ever had the time, I would put together a collection of short stories based on all of Aunt Bettina's great adventures in life and in love.
"Where, oh where did my god-daughter go? Elinor!"
"She's doing the dinner dishes. Now, as you were saying…"
I tossed the dishrag in the greasy water and tossed the hair out of my eyes that slipped from my ponytail. "I'm right here, Aunt Bettina. Did I miss much?"
Mom would yell at me later for not cleaning up in a timely manner…but Aunt Bettina wanted me in here for something and that was rare in and of itself.
"I'm due in New York City in eight days for two weeks of crazy engagements and I simply cannot be bereft of a companion. Nora—are you free?"

May I introduce: Unwritten, a novella

January 24, 2015

The creativity well may be dry in terms of writing new things, but I realized I haven't made time to read a bit of fiction in weeks. That never helps. So I figured I'd go back through my files and read snippets of old stories I had started, then abandoned. But then I happened upon my Cinderella story novella, Unwritten
Ya'll. I loved writing this story. I re-read it last night and fell in love with it all over again. I personally think it would make a fantastic Hallmark movie. I wrote it originally for the Five Glass Slippers contest last year but hadn't glanced at it since it didn't place.
Long story short, I gave it a good spit-shine and dusted the cobwebs off to share it here with you as a serial story. First, a rough back cover blurb:
Elinor "Nora" Blake feels stuck. Still living at home with her adoptive parents, she runs a successful blog under the pseudonymn Elle Brooks, and continues to plug away on the novel of her heart, all the while wondering if she'll ever get out of sleepy Mayville, New York.
At a loss with how to change her life, her godmother Bettina breezes into town with a golden ticket out of town: a whole week in the shining city across the state, New York City.
What ensues for Nora is a fairytale adventure in the Big Apple complete with a makeover, a gala, and a turning point at midnight. Will she reveal her true identity to the man who only knows her by her blogger pseudonym or will she run and continue to hide beneath the mask of Elle Brooks?
*** Mayville, New York
Present Day
Twenty-Two Days Before

I want adventure in the great, wide, somewhere…more than anything, Joe.
I jabbed at the "correct" button on the portable typewriter sitting on the floor until the sentence was erased, swiping at my eyes behind my old reading glasses. While my typewriter lent me a modicum of privacy from intrusive parents and less eye-strain than my laptop, my brain hurt after two solid hours of writing.
Two blessed, uninterrupted hours that resulted in less than a full page. It wasn't like my novel was ever going to see the light of day, so why bother? Because these characters are what family should be. 
I slipped the paper gently, reluctantly from the typewriter, shut its lid, and slid the whole thing under a pile of old quilts. Perhaps no one would ever read my novel…but it needed written. As far as reward, I should just stick to blogging. Less effort, more tangible accomplishment.
Whatever "my time" had been to make something of myself was long gone. I was closer to a quarter of a century than I cared to acknowledge; this novel had been taking shape for five years—since I was barely eighteen and according to my godmother, on the brink of "my time.” Bettina Bouvier, good-hearted, flowery, and flighty—in that order. Always generous, making no secret that I, for some reason, was her favorite although technically she and I were not related by blood like she and my sisters. Aunt Bettina was a force to be reckoned with every time she breezed into town between world travels and husbands. 
"Are we going to eat at midnight, Nora?" Mom's raspy voice carried up the steps to my garret hideaway along with the ever-present smell of cigarettes. Hopping up from my cross-legged position on the floor, I massaged the pins and needles from my protesting feet.
"I'm coming!"
Dinner would not cook itself, much like the poor novel I had buckled down to finish ever since I was through paying my way through online college for a Bachelor degree in English. The typewritten pile of parchment in an old trunk underneath the attic window bore many red editing marks, but still no title. So much was unwritten. Too much. Lately every time I tried to make significant headway, I just got stumped. Gotta be the worst case of writer's block ever.
When I graduated high school and put my love of words to good use in pursuit of a degree, I promised myself I'd type up the whole kit and kaboodle onto my computer once I figured out a title…or when I actually finished the novel. Whichever came first.
If either ever did.
Slipping an old paisley apron over my head, I turned on the stovetop and kicked the oven into submission to bake the garlic bread for the night's meal. Every night, there needed to be some form of bread on the table for Pops; that's just the way it was, and had been for as long as I could remember.
Even now during Chautauqua County's uncharacteristic autumn heat wave, the oven just had to be turned on to heat the bread—and the entire house, which was utterly bereft of air conditioning. 
Pasta spilled from its holder after scalding water dripped from the lid I lifted from the pasta pot. Biting back a groan, I realized how accurately I fit the phrase "hot mess."
"Yer sisters are comin' for dinner. Better make a second pie." Pop shuffled through the kitchen, rooting around in the fridge for an iced tea. The man was one of few words—many cigarettes, iced teas and any and all football games during the season. Still, I appreciated his tip, lest I garner Mom's wrath for being unprepared.

Frankly Friday | Just Fried

January 23, 2015

It's been a long week. Nothing more than slightly crazier than normal busyness.
And hormones and emotions. Oy.
A day of smothering, self-inflicted pressure on myself at work that came out of nowhere. One of those things I thought I had put behind me or had gotten better at. And did I mention it was the most nuts work day during the week? 
I may've made four meals and canned 4+ gallons of soup this week, but other than a simple banana cake--nothing fun or creative.
In fact, that creativity well seems bone dry at the moment and I'm trying not to beat myself over the fact that it's not quite been a week since I last posted anything. Much less wrote more than five hundred words in my novel.
The condemning voice in my head tells me to snap out of it. Count your blessings and you'll be better. Don't mope and sulk. I could have it so much worse in a myriad of ways than just a frazzling, exhausting week that's left me spent physically and emotionally. But I'm tired, and trying to remember to cling to Jesus in my weakness is just hard, and trust me--He's gotten an earful and a lot of tears.

January being practically over is throwing me for a loop, ya'll.
Probably because it feels like I haven't done a freaking thing all year. Yes. I went there with that bad pun.
Freedom's my word. And so help me God's gonna have to help me unravel what the heck it looks like for me in the day to day because all I feel is kind of trapped right now between my own expectations, family obligations, home responsibilities, being a good but transparent friend, wondering at how frustrating some people can be when you thought they wanted you in their life...
And then in the midst of all ^those^ worries about other people and my place in their life...
I worry and feel like I'm missing finding my place. My life. In my family. As friends in my life have dreams coming true and the longing for my own is only aching more.

Then a seriously scary family curveball comes to turn my stupid twenty-something self-inflicted crap on it's ear.
Pray for my grandfather? He's having some heart problems and we're hoping to get to the bottom of it tomorrow.
Pray for my mom, his daughter. She's essentially his closest contact through all of this and they are both worried and freaked out. We all are.

A Manifesto for 2015

January 17, 2015

I am not accepted because I am good.
I am free to be good because I am accepted

I am not responsible to have it all together
I am free to respond to the One who holds all things in His hands.

I do not have to live up to impossible expectations.
I am free to wait expectantly on Jesus, the One who is both author and perfecter of my faith.

grace for the good girl by emily p. freeman