here’s what my worktable looks like this morning

update from me

so last night i had to get out of bed at 11 pm and go online and order more mints.

you see, i thought 19 packages of mints would be plenty. i had 20 to start, then gave one to a client in canada. so ok, starting with 19.

i send out the email to you about the new anti-wolfie mints at 8:45 pm my time and by 11 pm i was up and at my desk. emailing the fancy mint store’s customer service, “i know the site says you’re sold-out but can you get me more by saturday” and they said yes.

phew.

so here’s what my worktable looks like this morning.
look at all of your stuff 🙂

on the left, the big white envelopes are books for doctors
the skinny brown ones on top are orchid necklaces
and the lumpy packages on the right are tins of anti-wolfie mints
all going into the mail this morning…

I’m just resting my eyes [fiction]

quote from yesterday’s writing session [fiction]:

The teacup of brown liquid.

You break so many glasses that you have resorted to buying cheap crap now, and this pink flowered teacup came from the Salvation Army store, where you can get 10 cups for two bucks. The liquid itself is coffee liqueur that you may have borrowed from the restaurant kitchen. Perhaps it was to make the stacked-crepe-as-cake recipe. Or perhaps it was to drink. You always bring a cup of something to bed with you, so that you can sip right up until you close your eyes. For no good reason, really. It’s not like you’re going to enjoy it, it’s not like there’s any ‘fun’ to be had in bed with the lights off, the cup to your lips, your eyes closed already (I’m just resting my eyes, you say).

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

~

Question: did you drink in bed (past-tense)? did you have any idea (at the time) why you were doing it? or was it just “something you did…”

hugely irritating people [fiction]

quote from saturday’s writing session [fiction]:

The manager of the restaurant is a guy named Steve with floppy blond hair, his wallet in his front pocket, and by the looks of things he doesn’t wear underwear, some long bits down one side. He also could do with a good eyebrow wax. Linda, the daytime head waitress has slept with him, apparently. Though that’s not saying much, she had also made out with the pastry chef in the walk-in cooler. Thus far, she’s not interested in you.

Steve is watching you. He is smoking at the back door.

You have the usual exchange: you’re late, sorry my alarm didn’t go off and I had my kid this morning, you don’t have a kid, I overslept, no you didn’t, it won’t happen again, it’s happening more and more.

“If anything, you’re trending downward,” he says.

Speaking of trending downward, tuck in your dick. You think this, you don’t say it. You’re not that stupid. Though to be fair, you may still be drunk. Suddenly this strikes you as hilarious, what if you DID say it. What if you spent all of today, just for one day, saying ALL of the things that you think, about all of the fucking hugely irritating people, the prep cook who drinks vodka from a plastic water bottle all day, the pastry chef with her gayness turned up to volume eleven, the hostess with her fishnet tights (in this weather?), the guy who sits at table 104 every afternoon and orders the same fucking thing every time. Jambalaya. And he wants the same waitress every time (Jessica, of the big red lips). What if you said everything. Every fucking thing. Starting with Steve: Please, do us all a favour, buy some underwear.

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

~

Question: How irritated were you when you were drinking (past-tense)… Did you have a moment (or twelve) of saying things when hungover that should have been left unsaid? Share a brief line or two. I need ideas for the story…

lurching stomach [fiction]

quote from friday’s writing session [fiction]:

It’s snowing in a kind of February hell-weather way, that mix of rain and snow and freezing rain and misery. They always make light snow look so nice on television, flakes gently wafting, deep purple sky, Christmas lights. The reality is something else entirely. The sleigh bells and the ads and the nice lighting? They’re missing out on the stained boots, the chapped hands, the aftermath. It’s always good in a glossy magazine. It’s almost never good in real life.

You walk to work – from the apartment, to the laundry, then onward to the restaurant. It’s shorter to take the bus, but the idea of being caged in with a lurching stomach isn’t appealing. You eat some of the breakfast sandwich, to see how it goes down. Not well. Some of the coffee. Walking. You need this time to walk, to be outside, to have any possible, minor, slight hope of clearing your head before you arrive at work, arrive at the place that is loud and hot and anxious.

~

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep going; don’t discount the power of community, of reaching out, supporting and being supported*

you are waiting for your big break [fiction]

*your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep me going*

You are waiting for your big break [fiction]

The bookcase isn’t your first messy, unfortunate event. Of course it isn’t. It’s not even the beginning of your story. But the narrator knows that a dramatic opening is required to hook people in. Readers like to start on page one and skim a few lines, then think: “well at least I never tipped a bookcase over.”

As if that matters.

– –

You sort through dirty clothes on the floor, pick up a shirt and smell it. Something grey on the front, some kind of stain, but it could be food. You work in a kitchen, so that might pass as food, right? Maybe today will be a busy day, lots of tables, hefty tips. Someone will notice how smart you are, invite you to come work for their Silicon Valley start-up. You are waiting for your big break. It’s coming. You can feel it. You will totally drink less (or none) once you’re discovered.

On your way to work, you drop off a bag of laundry at the corner place that does those things. That woman at the laundry, she’s a bright light. She knows that people live in small apartments without washing machines, that they’re tired, that they’re running behind – I mean, you’re giving her your dirty underwear after all, she knows you don’t have the brain space to do your own laundry – and because of this, she has breakfast sandwiches pre-made, in the fridge, you can help yourself, she adds them to your bill.

For this, you are grateful.

You take an egg muffin thing from the fridge. She pours you a large coffee in a biodegradable paper cup with a panda printed on the side. She hands you the receipt for your laundry. But really, she knows your name, you don’t need a receipt. Your name is something gender-neutral like Beet or Rain or Mackenzie, so that the reader cannot determine gender, and can therefore more easily think that this story is about them, if not in specifics, then in themes.

Homemade Egg Muffin Breakfast
as told to the narrator by the smart entrepreneurial Laundry store owner

toasted English muffin (homemade if you can get it)

salted butter (you don’t have to be fancy, margarine works)

chipotle mayonnaise (mix some diet Hellmans with the light blue lid with some ground chipotle spice, and add a bit of lime juice – you want the recipe for this mayo concoction too or can you just wing it?)

an oven baked egg, with Greek spices and a bit of cream (you want instructions on how to bake an egg?)

smoked cheddar – Applewood imported from England, or Cows imported from Nova Scotia (don’t let the fancy fool you, cheap Kraft singles work just fine)

~

 How do you vote? more food in this story? less? recipes or not?

new project? can’t tell yet. [fiction]


*and your comments and suggestions definitely act as motivation to keep me going*

You’re Having Some Kind of Personal Problems [fiction]

My goal for February, you write, is to drink less. Only weekends, only special occasions, only if I’m not alone, only if there is a really, really, really good reason.

There’s a bookcase. It’s tipped over. The books and the folders of slides and the scraps of paper and the dust hidden behind are all together now, a clutter soup. Calling it a ‘jumble’ would be too pretty. It’s a shitshow (the Urban Dictionary assures the narrator that this word is defined as ‘chaotic disorganization’).

I don’t know how it got like this, you say. And you mean it both literally, as in I don’t remember how the bookcase got pushed over, and you mean it as in I don’t know how I got to this place in my life. This isn’t a good place. I don’t feel good. This isn’t good.

You think, God it’s so overwhelming, the mess. Why is there so much dust behind a bookcase, behind each book, why do I have to look at it now, all at once, vomited onto the floor like this. Fuck, those slides were in order. And the books, too, alphabetical order. I can get my books in order but (clearly) not the rest of my life.

There’s a sharp buzzer. You think it might be the microwave. Or maybe it’s an alarm on your phone. You rub your face with both hands. The apartment is suddenly too hot, close, smaller than it was yesterday.

Then the bell again, oh it must be the doorbell, though it sounds completely unfamiliar. You don’t want to open the door, you know who it is, it’s the neighbour. Your apartments have a shared wall. Not a terribly well-constructed wall. Not a soundproof wall. You hear their television, and they hear your …

You open the door, she’s in your face:

“Hate to ask again — and I don’t mind saying that I’m tired of asking politely. It might be time for something a bit more direct. It’s too fucking loud over here.”

She’s a bit of a bitch, this one. Big boobs crammed into a too-tight shirt that she probably thinks is ‘sexy’ but instead it’s broadcasting ‘I got this at the expensive store, marked down, so that I can say that I shop there, even though — clearly — I’ll buy anything, including clothes that don’t fit, just so I can take a selfie and post it on Facebook and talk about what a bargain hunter I am …’

Neighbour: “… you’re having some kind of personal problems.”

Really, is she still talking? You’re not listening. You’re looking at your watch.

What time is it? you ask, perhaps not wisely giving away the fact that you can’t tell if it’s 7 p.m. and February dark dinner time, or if it’s 7 a.m. and it’s February dark morning.

~

Question: What would the neighbour say next?

married to the beer man

Email from Sunny:

“I’d like to begin the 100 Day Challenge, but my situation is a bit odd. I’m wondering if you think it’s too much to overcome.

My husband is fairly prominent in the beer world. Because of his line of work our lives are very focused on alcohol. It pays our bills, it’s how we socialize with friends and family …. My husband says if I want to quit drinking that’s fine, but he will not change how he lives his life. He will continue to drink at home. I will have to attend beer related events with him

Is this an impossible situation? I need to quit drinking, but I’m worried that in my current situation its not possible. Any info or thoughts are welcome. Maybe you know someone in a similar situation? I hope I’m not the only one!”

me: it is possible. I am a caterer and often host large events where I buy, pour, and serve alcohol to my guests and I make homemade cocktails. I just don’t drink any myself. Booze is not good for me. It doesn’t improve my life. But I know that my clients like it and my job is to be of service, and to take their money 🙂

So if you approach alcohol as a tool that helps you earn income, that’s completely different from needing to drink it yourself.

Imagine you’re a vegetarian who’s a chef. You cook meat for the President because that’s what he’s paying you to do. Then you go home and eat lentils and chick peas and couscous and homemade lemonade with tonic and rosemary…

how’s that? hugs belle xo

~~

And hooray! Sunny is on day 4 today 🙂

You may not agree with my advice. You may think her husband should quit his job, or that she should leave him (!) (she has young kids). Or you might think she can’t get sober without her husband’s support.

But really, the only person we’re in charge of is ourselves (well, and the babies we have around us). Sunny can do what’s best for her. I know that lots of people cannot have any alcohol in the house at all. And I respect that 100%. For others (or at least for me), I seem to be able to shelve booze in my mind as “not for me.”

What would you tell Sunny? Is it too much to overcome? Me, I don’t think so… You?

love, me

==

some of the comments received:

freedom (day 153): “I’d tell Sunny it is possible to do it with alcohol in the house and a husband who still drinks. I have both and I’m on day 153 today. It might be sensible to stay away from the boozy events in the early days..I couldn’t have managed them at that point. And I’ve found going to bed early with a good book can help on the days when I struggle with him drinking. Those are usually days when I’m tired, stressed or struggling with overwhelm and it’s been a real learning curve for me to start to recognise when I’m feeling like that and take steps to look after/protect myself from Wolfie. And remember you’re not alone! Belle is always on the end of an email and has been an incredible support, especially in the tough times…and I have to remember to reach out before Wolfie gets too loud. It gets easier the longer you do it. Keep the faith :)”

Rambling Rose (day 76):
“I think it is up to Sunny as to whether or not she can stay on the sober path and still attend these events/have booze in the home. My roommate has a liquor cabinet full of alcohol, and it doesn’t bother me because I never touched his booze anyway. So it’s not so unusual to stay sober while loved ones have the occasional drink. However, what does bug me a bit is her husband’s attitude (must go to these events? I’m going to drink anyway…). I sense some general resentment between the two of them… and that may make it harder (not impossible) to reconcile while focusing on recovery … I sure as hell would resent being told I have to attend alcohol related events, even if my livelihood was connected to it, because health is more important than people pleasing. Just depends on the person – and the situation. Belle, I think your feedback is good. It’s up to Sunny to decide on her own boundaries.”

Wanda T (day 76): “I am a vegetarian and I know you use this analogy sometimes but it’s not a good analogy because it’s not a valid comparison. Vegetarianism is usually an ethical commitment. So chefs who are vegetarians don’t cook meat. I bake & cook – I wouldn’t even know how to cook meat. I don’t know how the President got worked into the analogy. Sunny is in a very tough spot. If it’s possible for her to go to an in-patient rehab to get the booze out of her system, that would help her I think. She would at least have a running start. Her husband sounds beyond selfish. Going to work-related events where there is alcohol is not the same thing as him drinking at home. There is more going on in this relationship than her husband simply having a social & professional commitment to the Beer Industry. There is also an extreme power imbalance in the relationship if he’s demanding that she attend drinking events while she’s trying to get sober. Sunny could announce at a drinking event that she’s an alcoholic who is trying to quit drinking ….maybe some people there would support her and she’d find out she really & truly is not alone. Good luck Sunny!”

Elyn Jones (Day 143):
“Belle, I think your advice was spot on. We rarely get the ideal environment, so we have to adjust. I’ll bet that most of start out in a less than ideal environment cuz we created it with booze at the center. Doesn’t mean things can’t shift. They can, and thankfully, they do.”

D (not yet a penpal): “Let’s assume for the moment that her husband is not a complete asshole. That may be a stretch, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt. I agree with your statement that the only thing we are in charge of is ourselves … You’re advice was good: put alcohol in the context of a produce / service that provides a livelihood. Separate it from her life. Livelihood on one land, life on the other.”

anonymous confession booth: sex

step right up. for one day only, i’m creating an anonymous sober confession booth about SEX. Yes, i’ve got something running through my head and i thought, OK, let’s blog about it. and really, it’s amazingly hard to talk about sex even when we’re quasi-anonymous online. And so then i thought, OK, let’s make it 100% anonymous, me included.

So here’s the deal.

  1. Post a comment below.
  2. For this to work you MUST leave your name and your email and your website address BLANK in the comments form (if you forget, i’ll go in and delete that info manually). all comments are to be anonymous. one of the comments will be from me, you just won’t know which one.
  3. I have no way of personally knowing who posts what.
  4. In your comment, write two or three sentences (max.) about something about sex that you think is ONLY your problem and that probably no one else has the same problem as you do. For example, i’ll make one up: “I can’t initiate sex when sober but i used to be able to when drinking” … OR … “i worry that i’m the only person who has x problem now that i’m sober.”
  5. Then take a second and post ONE anonymous ‘reply’ to one of the other comments already posted, and say something comforting, consoling, forgiving, kind. In fact, it would simply help if you said “i have this problem, too.”

i have a feeling that this will unfold in a lovely way. because you’re all lovely people. and we all have sex shit that we can’t talk about.

PS. if your name/email automatically shows up when you start to enter a comment, you can manually delete them OR you can ‘log out’ of your blogging profile.