Saturday, December 25, 2010

One girl driving onward

Grace Pickering slammed the car door and skidded down her parent's driveway.  She starred into the rear view mirror.  The brick, red roof and black shutters of her parent's house disappeared in the early evening sun. Dust from the opened Jeep hatch kicked into her eyes, and golden grit stuck in the tears that rolled down her cheeks.  The glaring sun reflected pinks and oranges off her 1973 Ray Ban Aviators as she drove into town.

Behind the dark lenses her eyes could see nothing but Mark Stocktan's eyes.  She'd left him, but he still burned a hole in her heart.  She knew it wasn't cause she wanted him.  She didn't love him; could care less about him-- really.  She'd left him on a white porch in the middle of nowhere, Texas with spurs on his boots and a bottle of rum in his hand.  The sloshing in her stomach and pain in her eyes were only for Mark, the man she wanted to move on from, but didn't know how to.  

Grace wasn't surprised she couldn't get over him even with 1800 miles and countless days between them.  It took her eight fights and two slashed tires later before she actually left.  Five times she packed a suitcase and paid for a cheap hotel with a heart-shaped jacuzzi.  The hotels always called them "Honeymoon Suites."  Grace preferred "Hell but in a Luxurious Bathtub."  Hours of boiling water seeping into her pores and countless bottles of champagne later equaled nothing but fire for the months to come.
"Damn," Grace said as she threw the gear into first.

"What am I gonna do with myself?" she murmured, cranking up the radio as strands of red hair flew out of the hatch. 

It all appeared very clear months before:  She'd become someone important in the small, New England bay area, just like her dad.  She would make her fortune at her dad's lobster company, helping to boost business with more buyers and sellers, with more fisherman and with well, just more.  Grace would bring the untapped lobster masses to the company she'd one day take over.

"What the hell is wrong with me?"

Grace's forehead hit the windshield.  Queasy, she touched her forehead.  The knot formed instantly as she looked ahead where her emergency lights reflected off the metallic white road sign.  Sweating and huffing, and rubbing her eyes she saw what she'd become those last 12 weeks-- nothing but a bum.  She spent her days sitting on the wooden porch of her parent's home, watching fishing boats pass and listening to the squeals and cheers of successful lobster catches, and people wrapping up their work days.  They would either be heading home or off to the bar.  She plastered her butt to the porch for hours, just like Mark always wanted her to do. 

His voice come out of the speakers,

"Pretty girls like you don't need to work, cause what if you aren't home when I get back?"

Grace opened the Jeep door.  His voice and the Maine she had returned to pumped out of her stomach and onto the blacktop.  Lobster and salt water.  Lobster and gabbing about lobster.  Maine would hold nothing for her but endless days of lobster casseroles, pies and lobster cakes served with a side of lobster.

"Oh, no."
Her body shook as her slim figure leaned up against the maroon Jeep.  Her sunglasses fell into her hands, where she saw Mark's face appear.  She learned a long time ago that there are two types of people out there: the ones that care and the ones that don't.  It really was that simple and she knew it, though she fought the idea with Mark time-after-time.  She told herself he cared.  But propped up on the side of the road that day she knew he'd never change his leather chaps for another tune, and it was time she stopped playing the same song on repeat.

Wiping her nose, Grace stood up and grabbed her atlas from under the passenger seat.  She flipped through the pages of states hoping to strum over a highway, interstate or back road that would let her drive onward.  Grace closed her eyes, held the atlas above her head and breathed,

"I'll let the road choose for me," as the atlas fell face up on the gravel.

She peaked.  She grinned.  She laughed.    

"Peaches can't be any worse than lobster."

Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins.  Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

Monday, November 15, 2010

One girl running her heart out

Mile 6.75 the cramp started.  Slowly, it progressed up my ribcage.  I fought it.  Breathing deeper, I hoped it would just disappear, but I knew the pain all too well: hunger.  I didn't want to eat too much, as runner's diarrhea is one of the main causes people have to stop racing.  No way in hell was the cramp gonna win... I'd come too far.
Eight weeks before, my training for a half marathon began.  Legs to concrete, feet into my new orange kicks, brain clocked into power mode; all to run 13.1 miles on Oct. 3, 2010.  I trained alone.  I ran anywhere from 35-50 miles a week, with cross-training on the bike and elliptical.  I trained until my body could not train anymore.  It was game time.
At 4:07 a.m., my body got out of bed.  I had programed myself to run this race, and my body took over. The race started at 7 a.m.  I ate at 5 a.m.  Two pieces of bread with peanut butter and one banana.  Water, and Gatorade, all drank on a schedule of 15-minute, sip increments.   Again, runner's diarrhea happens when too much water is consumed before the race.  The body loses control of well, certain bodily functions when running this much.   
I remember nothing until mile 6.75.  I know that my body was moving, carrying me across land.  Gliding me down the road, up and down steep hills, turns and bends.  It was the perfect day at 50 degrees, sunshine and a little breeze.  The perfect morning until 6.75 turned into 6.89, and the cramp progressed to both sides.  I needed food, energy.  I needed some power.

Every mile there was water and Gatorade.  Mile 7 saved my life-- "Hammertime."  Literally, the honey-like, gel energy substance named "Hammertime," that I squeezed out of a green packet saved me.  Instantly, the pain turned into "hammertime."

Mile 8 to 10 blurred in my legs and knees.  I never thought I would see the sign for mile 10.  The most I had trained for at one time was 10 miles.  The miles after 10 were a mystery.

At the mile 10 sign, my body knew what it saw.  Ten miles down with only three to go.  Again, literally-- hammertime.  I heard from another runner that we were at a 8:57 mile pace.

I almost fainted.  I didn't know I could really run that fast.  My goal for the half marathon was 1:57:00.  I had no clue if I could actually make this time.  I had no clue if I could actually run that fast, without stopping, without injury and without stopping from being too afraid of running my little heart out.

But I did just that-- I ran my heart out.  And quickly.

For 13.1 miles, I ran up and down hills, all while carrying the solid pace of 8:57, finishing with a time of 1:56:59.  The last mile was a complete uphill incline.  I sprinted to the finish line.  I groaned and screamed till the very end.
I showed that last, one mile incline who was boss  

and more importantly,

I showed myself on that Sunday morning, that I could do anything I put my mind to.  
I ran and ran and I ran.  Out of 402 people overall, I finished 192nd.  Out of 180 women, I finished 58th. Somehow, I wasn't even sore.  Running has now taken me places I never knew I could go... and to answer the question you're all asking:  "I don't know if I'm running a full marathon anytime soon." ha :-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

one girl back in wine country

The world we live in is an interesting place.  It's full of people we may not really know or understand; trains crowded with strangers that we run into, but never notice-- it is a field of eyeballs and no one can see.

The life that I live for, is made out of people who get the path I want to travel down, and who comprehend the person that I want to become.  Opening up to another person is one of the toughest things to do in life.  It's hard to put your precious thoughts in the trust of someone else.  Or, the thought that another person might know you better than you know yourself.

So then what do you do with the people that you have decided to let in?

Do you tell them stories and thoughts in hope that they might think you are funny, kind or interesting?  Do you smile uncontrollably in want of being accepted for something that you aren't?  Or do you do the unthinkable and pour your heart and soul into another human being, whom may not give two shits about what you say?

The world we live in is a peculiar place-- full of people we cross and dine with that we may never see again; let alone actually remember how their face looked in the glowing shadows of the red candle, the color of their teeth after too much red wine or how they leaned toward you in compassion because they wanted you to know that they cared.

Does letting people in mean you are becoming attached? Perhaps.  But an attachment for the sake of sanity and enlightenment of a good time means I'm making the friends that I've been longing for in DC.

People thrive on other people, the one element that I've been missing here.  Without people's passion and that connection, people are dead.  I've been dead to many aspects of DC:  I've never been so homesick, distraught, overwhelmed, confused... but the flip side: It's been a long time since I've been this happy, over joyed and determined to make the life that I have now work for me.

At the end of the day, in this outrageously, awesome world that I live in, no matter how afraid I am, things in DC are opening up doors and relationships that I never saw coming-- the true tell sign that life is treating me just fine.    

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One girl in countdown mode, Update #2: Half marathon

Legs are incredible instruments.  Our feet, thighs, hips and even our bum region are all part of our legs.  It starts with the bones-- the femur, patella, tibia and fibula.  These bone are covered with layers and layers of muscles: gluteus maximus, quadratus femoris, sartorius, iliopsoas, and the pectineus; then the quadriceps femoris, gracilis, tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus, and the flexor digitorum longus... (this is maybe a dozen out of 4 dozen muscles in the legs).  Then add the nerves, veins and arteries. Legs are intricate.

Though what we can make our legs do is even more intricate.  I started this blog out with a tale of running around a local track in Dawnville, Georgia, so it will not surprise many of you that I turn back to the comfort of talking about racing and training.

For me, running runs deeper than simply putting one foot in front of another.  My parents were runners.  My mom won races-- my mom even raced when she was pregnant with my sisters and I.  My dad said that he always remembered my mom's strength and determination during races.  One time specifically, my dad was ahead of my mom going into the last stretch.  They always ran together in training, so my dad could hear my mom's footsteps coming up behind him.  She passed him, full speed ahead and won that race (and she collapsed at the finish line from heat exhaustion).

For me, running runs deep-- or more, I was running before I even knew what feet were.  I first and foremost run for myself.  I run because it is a challenge (and if you don't know me, Megan loves a good challenge).  It keeps me on my toes, motivated, fresh and excited. I don't think I would be able to complete a race, let alone spend eight weeks training for one and actually see the whole thing through if I didn't race because I wanted to make myself do more.

Then there are two people in my life that inspire me to run.  I still think about John Bruner every time I lace up my sneakers.  He was (and still is) a friend of mine who died in August 2007 from a heart defect.  He was doing what he loved-- running in a race-- when he collapsed and later passed on.  I know that he will be with me while I run, as his death was one of the main reasons I started doing races three years ago.

My other inspiration comes from Joey Jones.  A good friend of mine recovering here in the DC area from a roadside bomb explosion overseas.  He is a Marine who lost both of his legs protecting me.  I know that Joey has always been a runner and I have not a doubt in my mind that he will one day run again.  And for that reason, I can't help but let him push me to run stronger.

Legs.  I use them because I can't stop thinking about how I am alive and well, and there is no reason why I shouldn't strive to achieve something I honestly never thought I would do.  This Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010, I am running in the Heritage Half Marathon @ 7a.m.  13.1 miles.  I am nervous and excited, which I'm convinced is the only combo for true success.  The weather prediction is a low of 50, high of 62 and nothing but sunshine.  They say the perfect jogging weather is 55 degrees.  Perhaps too good to be true? :-) 

It's been tough, though.  I won't lie.  The past eight weeks (pretty much since I have moved to DC) I have spent five-six days a week training.  Running, cross training with a bicycle and the elliptical, a few weights and more running.  I've stopped consuming beverages stronger than water and orange juice.  I eat whole grain, fruits and veggies, and more protein and carbs than I ever knew existed. 

I haven't stayed up late in weeks (this dedication even amazes me because I'm such a night owl).  I'm in bed by 10 or otherwise I've told all of my friends that I will turn into a pumpkin (this is literally what I have told all of my friends, including all of my dates while in DC-- I know, you must be asking yourself if any of these dates have actually called me back-- they have).  It has in a sense taken over my life.  I joke that next week, I will start a whole new life.  And in a way, I will.

Despite it all, I have (oddly) enjoyed training and the goal of completing a half marathon, because for me-- running runs deep and I can't wait to share how fast my feet take me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Girl Playing Catch Up, Update #1: Sisterly Trouble

The curse of a quick life is the moments fly by and nothing gets written down.  I think that is an accurate summary for the month of September in DC.  Fast, fast, fast, quick, quick, quick, throw in a little breathing, some sleeping, LOTS of working, hours of training (i.e running for my upcoming half marathon) AND the occasional hanging/catching up with friends.  Oh yeah, and eating, commuting and keeping things tidy are somewhere in there too.

Ha, catching my drift?

But the bottom line: DC is FINALLY treatin me just fine.  At first, it took a lot out of me (referring back to post where my true southern gal came out) and then once I realized that I didn't have to be anyone but myself; I have found my corner to play ball in.


Update #1: Labor Day weekend

Jennie Coniker came to visit.  Aka MY SISTER! I didn't realize how home sick I was till Jen came.  The weekend started with a delayed plane ride, shortening our already short, long weekend but that didn't stop us from visiting all of DC's main spots in a little over 65 hours.

Jen had never been to DC before-- making the trip that much more special.  We started at Arlington National Cemetery and worked our way to the Capitol.  What that means in walking terms-- probably four miles. 

My personal favorite place in DC for tourist hot spots is Arlington-- a place where many people do not venture to.  We saw the Changing of the Guard, the Kennedy graves and paid $7 for a very informative bus tour around the whole cemetery.  To think that Ulysses s. Grant (and so many of history's heroes) walked on that hallowed area.

We then started walking... over the bridge from Arlington to the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, the Reflective pool, WWII Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol AND the National Archives (ha, all in one day!)

On Sunday, we were history and art dorks--- hitting up the National Art Gallery, the American History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.  I think we decided our favorites from the five hours of "becoming more educated" were the President's portrait section, the Norman Rockwell picture collection and the 1st Lady's dresses and accessories.


Even though Jennie got sick when she returned home, we had a great time.  More than anything, we spent two days talking and being our normal, sister selves; which made me feel like I was in Atlanta again, living with her and my brother-in-law.

As I dropped her off at the ariport, I couldn't recall where the past two and a half days had gone.  They went to the lifestyle that I described above... fast, fast, fast and quick, quick, quick.  Jennie, thank you for coming to see me.  I love you and miss you very much.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Joey Jones: One Man Right Here

Over the past four--almost five-- years, I have been apart of a military family. No, I myself am not a military "brat," though my father served in the Air Force in the mid-seventies (aka long before my time, ha).

This military family started with one person and has evolved into many friends over the years. I consider myself very fortunate to have met some of the nicest people, and my now closest friends, because of the military.

For those of you who know me (and more importantly, those of you who don't) I somehow always end up being drawn toward men in the military. I know, so many of you are laughing right now. I believe my father even joked with me about whether or not I even knew any civilian men. Even if the relationship is nothing more than male companionship, I usually end up spending my time with 'men in uniform.'

I'll admit it. There is a certain something about military guys: their purpose, what they stand for, and their dedication and commitment to a selfless occupation. This selfless service to protect is where any military person completely amazes me: to them, it is just their job. Nothing more, nothing less. It is their calling to serve and protect. Sometimes, even if that means throwing themselves in the line of extreme danger-- and most of them don't think twice about it.

This is where I would like to put a name with the description above. Some people know him as Johnny Joseph Jones. Others, JJJ. To me and those who grew up with him, he is Joey.

Joey is a Marine and an EOD Technician. He deployed to the Middle East earlier this year with a mission to disarm IEDs (roadside bombs) and return home around November. On Aug. 6, 2010, Joey and two others were hurt when a roadside bomb blew up. One companion of Joey's did not make it, the other had shrapnel wounds, and Joey had to have both of his legs amputated with also severe damage to his arms.

My heart broke the moment I got the news, as I know it did for so many of us. I had been in DC for one week with my new job. I couldn't think of what to do or really how to feel. I walked six hours that day taking a ridiculous amount of pictures.

But the joyous news for me came when I learned he would be coming to Bethesda, Maryland. I live in Hyattsville, Maryland, about 8 miles away (in DC traffic, that is about a 25 minute drive). The point being though, he was coming here.

He would be one man, right here.

I patiently waited to go see him. I wanted to go day one, but I knew I had to wait. Tuesday, August 31, I made my way to the Naval Hospital to go see Joey. My stomach had all these little butterflies and I kept asking myself if I was ready (as a friend) to see him.

It is funny how things turn out and how God always has your best interest in mind. I got off the Metro (train) and ended up getting lost for an hour in another area of town. Ha, no I am not kidding. I couldn't be mad though because when I walked into Joey's room, oh did I have a story for him!

And that is how it went. I entered to Joey's smile and a nice big hug from him, and his mom, telling him how I spent the past hour looking for him. His response was something to the effect of "Well, I haven't gone anywhere, I don't know why you couldn't find me."

He is still the same old Joey. I sat on the end of his bed and we talked like old times. I could tell he was in a lot of pain, but he never missed a beat. He hasn't changed nor has his attitude on life and his future. He has already been fit for his prosthetic legs and mentioned that he will probably build up his arms and core first, and then go for his new legs.

I joked with Joey about how I knew he wanted to get home early and see everyone, but that this really wasn't the way to do it. He then proceeded to tell me he jokes with the nurses, asking them if they will scratch his toes.

Ha, did I mention that he hasn't changed much? :)

He is a Marine. He doesn't want the fame and glory for his sacrifice-- he was simply doing his job. BUT he does appreciate and is very thankful for all the love and support from everyone.

I am going to start visiting at least once a week now that I know he is doing much better. Please check the blog for updates on how he is or what silly things we talked about. I know that I am very lucky to be so close to him, so the least I can do is share his progress. Joey is in high spirits and is one of the strongest people I have ever met, but then again, if you know Joey at all, then that shouldn't surprise you either.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

one girl in DC

I've enjoyed getting lost in the world of fiction with Grace over the past few months. The idea of sharing thoughts and personal happenings through a character has made me want to write more.

I know what you are thinking then-- why in the hell are you not writing? Like most writers can tell you, we get so caught up with our day dreaming, that sometimes we forget to then write it down except for personal use. For myself, the recent uprooting from my southern lifestyle and landing into Washington D.C. has prevented me from writing more.

I've been in DC three weeks today. The big city has swept me off my feet again-- referring to when I moved to Atlanta from Dalton for college-- throwing me right back into the pace of work, commuting, happy hours, making new friends, and exploring new sites.

People who don't like cities always say the same thing about them: "big cities are all the same." I hate bringing bad news, but if you have never visited our nation's capital then you really are missing out. And not even for partying purposes, but for American flavor.

I remember the first time I came to Washington, DC. Junior year of high school with Debby Barto and my AP US History class. My eyes were hit by marble, granite, and sandstone in the shape of the Washington Monument as we headed from the Reagan Airport into Arlington, VA. All 555 feet, 5⅛ inches of the monument welcomed me to DC.

"This place is magical," I remember thinking.

On July 28, 2010, with my car underneath me and my belongings in the back seat, I cruised 615 miles to DC for an 11-month internship with the National Wildlife Federation. During the process of looking for a more permanent job, I applied for positions all over the country, but subconsciously, I wanted to stay on the east coast and move a little north (even though I still want to go out west, ha).

Entering DC from Interstate 395 after two days of traveling, the "magical" feeling returned when I found the the Washington Monument reflecting off my glasses. My legs, arms and face goose bumped. American flavor. I'll say it: regardless of what you think of the government and their policies, DC is a magical place that bleeds some serious red, white and blue. Every street. Every building, monument and museum. The bars, hotels, rivers, hiking trails.

DC inspires.

I've learned about myself over the years that I enjoy traveling and seeing new places because I genuinely let people, places and things impact my life. I let them touch me, teach me, move me. I open myself to experience whatever the moment has for me.

But I will be honest-- I have had my doubts about the "north" since my arrival. I'm southern. Born and raised. That means I say mornin (without the good) and I mean it, when I say it. I like to ask how your day was, and again-- I want a real answer. I'm southern, born and raised. A Georgia peach. A blue belle. Southern. And for that, I am gonna smile at you, make eye contact and smile again. Hell, I may even wink at you.

All these actions frighten northern people.

They don't do such things; making my search for friends a little difficult. BUT I have found a few who understand my need for over-the-top hospitality and redneck charm. So go ahead. Make fun of me as much as you want for my roller coaster accent that fades in and out-- I ain't going anywhere for now :-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

one girl in... the open water

Grace remembered the day she found the open road. At the age of 13 she loaded into a charter bus for a band trip to Florida. Unlike the many trips to its beaches in the past, this time she wandered the streets with friends and not parents. Granted, there were chaperons looking on, but something clicked inside of Grace. A button turned on and the switch read: Go.

At the age of 15, she asked her mom if she'd be upset with her moving far away from home. Despite being an only child, Grace never fell into its physiological categories, and never had an issue making her own fun.

Her father owned the largest lobster mill in New England. He owned nine 31' hulls, six Eastern 27, and five each of 26' and 24' hull boats. Boats and people of the fishing world filled his marina, daily. During the summers, Grace worked with a few boaters, learning the trade of lobster.

She always remembered how simple the lobster life seemed. Boats filled with navigation systems and rectangle-shaped or half-cylinders oak traps covered in tar, then attached to a buoy and rope. Sometimes floaters called toggles were attached to the rope, preventing the traps from getting caught on rocks and reefs.

But the lobster love only went so far-- she soaked in the glory of the liquid beneath the boat. The open sky and deep waters. The gulf stream rocked her to sleep, calming her body. It filled her mind with adventure. Not vomit.

She planned her excursions. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, visiting her aunts and uncles in Chicago, New York, London-- a cousin in Germany. Her favorite aunt and uncle were in Georgia. She couldn't resist the town's southern charm and country accent. October's trees in North Georgia were Grace's favorite. The yellow, red, orange and brown leaves crinkled under her brown boots. She loved the noise more than anything else. She could never get all of the leaves out of her hair and shirt after a leaf fight, and in those moments, Grace could have cared less.

But the southern food trumped the leaves. Hash browns, eggs, french toast, grits, oatmeal, coffee, pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, ham. Grace went on and on in her mind about the south as the waves crashed the boat's sides.

She spent weeks during the summer with her father. His gentle yet entrepreneur spirit made him rough around the edges, but nice enough to deal with every type of person that wanted to fish. He never said no to a licensed fisherman. This made him popular with the locals, and unpopular with his insurance company. They flagged him as high-business risk, but he knew the gamble would pay back in demand.

Demand, indeed. More people. More boats. More lobster. More time spent here and there. Lots and lots grew to lots and lots more. His small, family business took over the eastern seas. And just like every other successful person Grace had read about in novels, it also took over her dad's life. She remembered the summer that everything changed. Her dad left the piers in the a.m., not returning for their traditional meetings. Instead, the corporate meetings became his new best friend. Many times, Grace's mom went with him when business meant city hopping. Grace stayed.

Those alone days made Grace want more. Eighteen and being on a boat made her want to sail around the world, to Europe or South America. Or figure out a way to sail a boat on land. Just like she remembered when the "go" switch turned on, she remembered when it went into extreme power mode. Something more waited for her.


Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

Sunday, July 11, 2010

one boy in... the dust

Mark Stocktan looked to the east, skimming the horizon for the love he lost two weeks ago. He sent her packing, but regretted it the moment she slammed the door. In his face. Saying she was gonna leave anyhow.

"If you could stay here and love me then I wouldn't be leaving, but you don't know how to stop packing your bags for bulls and spurs-- for dirt and barrels."

He swallowed the words on that sunny June afternoon. Mark did appreciate all of those things and in that order: bulls, spurs, dirt and barrels. Then her.

Mark had never known anything but riding. The raw-shattering feeling of roping one hand onto the back of a 2,000-pound beast and praying that eight seconds would come and go, with his ribs and face still intact.

His dad rode. Mark's eyes fixated on the movement of the animal's bucks and turns through the iron fences for 10 years before he ever rode one. Behind the safe zone of that barrier, as it was, he got tired of watching.

But instead of thinking about his years of saddling up against fate, he went to the moment he first saw her. Calgary, Canada, in the year 2004. His body stood near his horse while his eyes floated to her for a closer look. Tall and slender, but the kind of slender that comes from working out and lifting weights. The strong slender that meant she was a fighter-- that meant she was tough. Her smile glistened the sweet side. She wore a ragged pair of slim boot cut Levi's with a red pair of cowboy boots, and a white, button-downed top that revealed two tattoos. Farther down, her left hand read no commitment.

Without even realizing it, his dirt covered face stood in front of hers. He could not remember how he got there, turning to see if he had actually walked. He said nothing. She starred, laughing and grinning while swaying her hair.

"Pleased to meet you, cowboy."

She called him cowboy from then on out. She never called him anything else. His birth-given name of Mark never crossed her lips except when he brought out her red-haired temper; which grew as the days went forward. The riding was innocent enough, he remembered thinking on those days when her vocal chords went an octave higher. It was the out of town, never home, empty bed, lonely nights, and no kisses that drove her back to the New England coastline. Too many empty promises and the same lie-- over and over again. He told her he would be home next weekend or that they would go to the new museum next Tuesday, next Saturday.

"What is a man to do with a bull anyways-- it doesn't love you back, it doesn't want your chivalry or embrace... it doesn't even want you riding it."

The words faintly hummed through his ear drums as if it they were spoken yesterday. Mark dazed down the gravel and dirt drive. He could still see the tire marks she left. No amount of rain could wash her face, Grace's face, out of the rear view mirror.


Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

Friday, June 18, 2010

One girl in... her mom's shoes

My mom does not work Monday or Fridays. And Fridays she runs errands. Today, she also loaded me up in the suburban with her traditional trusty, maroon cooler and ice-packs made from two liter bottles that keep the cold stuff cold, all day long. As the side-kick, I joined in on the running around town, shopping for groceries, returning car parts Friday afternoon.

Nothing out of the ordinary for this mom, though. Her tiny, scribbled hand-writing splattered all over the purple and flowered stick note for Wal-mart and Kroger. Down Chatsworth Hwy that turns into Walnut Ave. after the Bypass. To Advance first. Then Sally's. Then the infamous Wal-Mart.

I can't say that Dalton is so big it needs two Wal-Marts BUT Dalton is evidently so big it needs two Wal-Marts. Mom got a buggy that pulled to the left. Reminded me of when I lived in Atlanta. A friend of mine and I would always go to Wal-Mart together and we ALWAYS get the wrong buggy on second, third and fourth pick. One time, we made another guy pick a buggy for us. He somehow had the magic touch. But didn't understand our humor. His loss.

It isn't the grocery list that gets you, though-- but the things you brainstorm while walking into Wal-Mart. Finger nail polish. A foot stone. A new cover up for the upcoming beach trip.

We picked red polish and the $.97 stone. Heading toward dresses, we passed this older gentlemen who would not stop starring at me. He then continued with his black-pitted gazing and he pointed at me:

"Is that your mother?"

My mom and I looked at each other. I looked at him. Never without stopping we starting laughing while dodging in and out of clothes racks. Turning to see if this short, man creeper was pursing.

We still can't figure out his angle-- did he want me or my mother? Who he thought looked like my sister and not my mother, perhaps?

Out of Wal-Mart and into the sun, we headed down E Morris to the Post Office. Then to downtown to the Green Spot. Then back down Glenwood to another auto parts place. After, American Legion. And then to Kroger. Quite possibly my favorite place. Now. When I was a kid.

Every aisle in a grocery store has food: Black, refried, navy, kidney, lentil, garbanzo and pinto, and green beans. Doritos, Sun Chips, Lays-- in ranch, cheddar, original, salt and vinegar-- and my favorite, Kettle Corn.

But just like the food options there are people options. The woman in black pants with a green floral shirt, short hair and silver earrings. Her most notable feature: the snot coming out of her nose. The arrogant whiff that blew from her flowered shirt smelled nothing like perfume, and more like old beans.

Not attractive.

Down in the dairy, there was the Mayfield man. In his white shirt and brown pants, he perfectly replicated a brown cow. The ice cream bar, that is. He replenished more than Mayfield. Sweet tea by the gallon, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese.

Pushing the buggy, my mind faded as I watched my mom select cheese. The expiration dates between pepper jack and cheddar. Shredded or slice. Walking in my black flip-flops I felt like a mom out doing all the errands. I felt like my mom. And I was in her shoes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One girl in... a moving state.

Grace didn't have any siblings. Her mom said one red-headed child is enough-- one red-headed child without freckles is odd enough. Grace's mom has red hair and freckles. Her angry voice had never left anyone guessing what her heritage is. Grace could hear her mother in the kitchen. Baking chicken and baked potatoes and baked veggie salad. Her mother liked baking-- so Grace's mom was in the kitchen baking dinner.

Irish heritage without freckles. Grace thought about painting them onto her arms when she was 10. Her mom left a tattoo magazine on the table by accident, and Grace thought she could create the beautiness she desired by drawing her own prints. But she quickly realized magic markers couldn't create the spots she wanted.

Grace took out the last article from her suitcase-- ironically a tattoo magazine. She flipped through the pages of purple and pink flowers, blue and green waters, all inked into men and women's arms, legs, thighs, shoulder blades. Page 47 displayed a man with "mom" red-plastered on his ass.

"Nice," Grace said, as she now heard her mom singing to her baked chicken.

Grace crawled on all fours down the hall to where her face hit the stairs that lead to the kitchen below. She could see her mom, swaying her hips as she took the chicken out of the stove. Grace would lay on her belly for hours as a kid, obsessed with her mom's movements. The way her dressed swished when she wisked the eggs for her favorite macaron pie; how her arms kneaded the dough for homemade bisquits. Or Grace's favorite: squeezing lemons for fresh lemonade. The pressure she used in her arms and hands, a constant and intense turning.

Grace rolled over and looked at the white ceiling as she remembered the blend of bitter juice and sugar on her tongue. Five years ago she left home for something better-- but closing her eyes, she couldn't think of anything better than the taste of her mom's lemonade.


Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One girl in... her room.

Grace Pickering bent over and pulled all the wadded tank tops out of her sprawled-open gray suitcase. Seperating them one-by-one, her favorite black and lace trimmed blouse blew a whiff of his house into her nose. She stopped. She scanned her eyes slowly to the left down the hallway, hunting for body movement. Grace's uneasy eyes floated back to the tank she caressed inbetween her fingers. She curled the shirt into face-- the smell deep into her heart.

Staring around her room, she breathed heavy, folding routinely, without thinking. Her arms moving back and forth. Up and down. Ten different colored tops held different memories. But they were each drowned with the same smell. The smell of a house. The scent of a man.

His scent annoyed her. The perfect mix of rain fresh laundry detergent and lavendar lotion-- the secret recipe that had kept Grace guessing for years. She had also convinced herself his freckles had an aroma. Cotton, maybe.

Grace starred at the pile of clothes. She placed the tanks into the top shelf of her cabinet, his aroma hitting her eyes. Her tongue. Coughing, disgusted of how his perfume possessed her, she threw her work into the white clothes hamper.

The bright red walls shined as the morning sun sneaked through the half closed blinds. She sat on the hamper, testing its plastic strength against her 5'7 frame. Her roomed used to be yellow. But then again, much of her life had changed. She used to swear she'd never move back into that old room. But there she sat, surveying her old room; a blanketed floor of shorts, skirts, dresses, sandals, tennis shoes, dirty socks, mascara and powder; power bars, empty water bottles, paper, pens-- her favorite teddy bear.

"I'd love to burn this place down," Grace huffed.

Her white cat Mikey observed her from his spot on the bed. He meowed back in response.

"Yea," she smirked. "You can strike the match."

She began laughing as the hamper gave way, bouncing her into the middle of the floor. Mikey jumped to Grace's feet, then into her suitcase. He meowed again.

"Okay," Grace chuckled. "Back to work."


Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One girl in... training

I spend a lot of time writing. And jogging. And writing some more. Then adding on a few more miles.

It would be rude to not report on my first 5k: the "Run for John."
A young man who died three years ago from a heart defect that could not and was not detected until he collapsed while running. He collapsed doing what he loved.

Since his death, every time I lace up my kicks I think about him. There hasn't been a run, walk or jog in the past three years where I haven't thought about him. Regardless of where I am, my running shoes are a symbol for going on. For John.

John makes the event about more than running. He makes it about living. His memory lives on in everyone who takes place in the run, even in strangers. Cause that was John; he had a connection with you, even if he didn't know you.

One girl in training.
I am training for a 15k trail run. 9.3 miles. June 5. This is the first time I have ever trained for a race. It is exciting. Painful. And it currently is taking me five minutes to sit on the toilet. That would be sore.

Exciting. Painful. Sore.
I think those are qualities John could relate to.

The "Run for John" may have ended April 24, but it will never end in my heart.

Run on.

Run on.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One girl in... a birch tree.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles
With the cobwebs Broken across it,
And one eye is Weeping from a twig's
Having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

--from Birches, Robert Frost

My blue hammock swung back and forth against the weight of my foot as I read this poem out loud to a group of fellow travelers. Argentina. One month ago. I met a young man with a book of Frost. In English. I never understood the desire of a book written in a native dialect until Argentina.

I read Birches for the first time in the ninth grade. The book I found it in weighed 15 pounds and I carried it for over two months, solely for those 59 lines that whispered to me. I have no clue why I never ripped out the two pages, though I did steal the whole book in the end.

Back in Argentina, I climbed a tree the following afternoon. I had not stepped hand nor foot into a tree since my childhood of swinging off the pecan tree in my parent's back yard.

I don't know what it is about climbing trees that makes one disappear into another world. Frost writes it right; it is going to another place for a while, then coming back down to begin over.
Beginning over. I had never considered my arrival back to the United States a moment of starting a new. Little did I know.

Last week, I rode down Walnut Ave. to AutoZone with my 46-year-old friend who held in his hand the passenger side door handle of my car. I would like to say twas his strength that outdid the 17-year-old knob, but the door was locked when he attempted to exit.

During our excursion, he asked me if I missed blogging.
If I missed sharing my adventures from Argentina.
I said yes, but that there is nothing to blog and share about in Dalton.
His advice was simple:
Just don't stop writing.

I believe that life has a timing for everything. You meet, read and discover things with timing. Sometimes the moment is wrong. Other times, perfect. I had forgotten about this poem until I read it in Argentina. I read it with impeccable timing.

I am one girl in a birch tree. Coming back down from an experience that has shaped me so much I am not sure which way is coming or going. Though, I do know that Earth is the right place for love-- whether that be love for a person, place or for me, my writing.

Treat this as my welcome post to One Girl In.
I will not stop writing.
Because I agree with Frost, one could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One girl in... Dawnville

As I wrapped around the black asphalt track, my eyes smiled at the line of children sitting on a railroad tie in the playground. A giant lime green bow clung to the long blond locks of a 5 year old. Watching me as I jogged past her, she waved, giggling to her friends.

George Straight kicked me into gear. Lap three. One mile in. I run a 5k race in eight days. The first race in almost two years. I went to the local park instead of training on my parent's gravel driveway.

Dawnville. The place that I grew up. Ironically, the same place that I swore I would never return to. Though everyday since my return from Argentina, I find something new about Dalton. About Dawnville. About my home that teaches me.

It is baseball season. I pulled into the park. Ball field one: T-ball. Kids missing the ball off the T. Running in circles. Sitting in the outfield making dandy lion crowns. The beginning of making champions.

It is an interesting concept, little champions. The .33 track loops around the bigger champions. Two ball fields with parents circling the chain-linked fences. Screaming. Chanting. Cheering.

Lap six. Mile two. Where I got slow. When my shorts would not stop riding up my thighs. I tugged on my spandex bottoms as I passed her. Fifteen, 5'5. Hiding Ray Bans under a Camouflage cap, the drama was edged into her right, popped out hip. The difficulties of boys. Shoes. Clothes. Boys.

Lap eight. I felt like an outsider looking in-- as if no one could see me. The mom drinking her purple Gatorade did not notice her son picking on another boy. Grandparents searched for their reading glasses instead of their prescription shades as the sun faded to gray.

Lap 11. One lap to go until mile four. The tree's shadows hung over the fields. I no longer heard the music. All I saw was a lime green bow.

If it wasn't for those parents, their kids and their stained jerseys because of the dirt on local baseball fields; if it was not for the little girl and her lime green bow or teenage drama: small towns would never exist. Large cities either. The small joys of living would fade. Quickly. Like the sun during my jog.

Staying in one place is about living. The want of belonging. Though not just for belonging, but for living. For enjoying.

I arrived at the park for a run. To stretch out my legs. Sometimes you experience things that already lay embedded in your heart. The lime green bow reiterated my love for the details of a moment in time.