So many people fear getting older, but it’s something we all must do, and I believe the sooner we accept the aging process, the more enjoyable our lives can be.
I mean, there’s no point in fighting the inevitable, right? I also think people focus too much on the physical aspects of aging. Yes, that naturally happens, but just because wrinkles befall us doesn’t mean we have to give up our childlike spirit.
I have often been called weird because I’m a 37-year-old woman with no children who enjoys watching cartoons, dancing in the rain, and making shapes out of clouds. However, I can’t ever recall a time I have done those activities while I was sad. Perhaps the weird ones are those who don’t see the art of dancing in the rain (or walking or running in it, for that matter).
This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on the day.
For instance, I know on Monday, when I begin my new workout regimen, I am going to feel like I’m seventy because my muscles will ache, and I will have to peel myself off my yoga mat.
Amazingly, in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to perform those techniques effortlessly, and I won’t feel a day over thirty-seven.
There are times, however, when I feel much younger.
Whenever I listen to my dad play guitar, I become a little girl in pigtails sitting at his feet all over again, and at the same time, reality often slaps me in the face.
I look at him, and I see how fast the train of life is rolling down the track, and I cannot slow it down or jump off.
I don’t fear getting older, but I dread not being anyone’s little girl anymore.
Recently, my best friend, Amanda, and I have been nerding out over And Just Like That. And just like that, we are nineteen again and finding ourselves hoping beyond hoping for future uncertainties and dreams.
This time, the difference is that our dreams aren’t hoping we run into cute guys at the bar, and our conversations mention more specific body parts that randomly hurt for no apparent reason than they used to. (If they ever did).
I suppose there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. I will say, however, I think, like with all things in life, balance is key.
We need to accept our adult responsibilities. After all, we are in charge of keeping a roof over our heads, clothes on our bodies, and food in our stomachs, but by all means, hold onto those childlike wonders. I think that just might be the key to staying young.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a blanket fort to build!
Karmen watched the clock incessantly. She had finished up her holiday cookie orders. She didn’t usually take bulk orders at the coffee shop, but so many friends, friends of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors offered to pay her to bake their holiday cookies, she figured it was worth taking orders during November and December.
It was Saturday, the day before Christmas Eve, or as Karmen called it, Christmas Eve Eve. She had closed the coffee shop, but she would be a fool to close the bookstore on the last Christmas shopping day of the year. (She didn’t count Christmas Eve because she always reserved that as a holiday, and a day her employees deserved to spend at home with their families). The day was always a hectic day at the store, so her friends, Miranda and Carmen, Cee for short, helped.
“That’s the third time your phone has chirped, and you look disappointed when you checked it.” Miranda informed Karmen.
“Nice of you to pay such close attention,” Karmen retorted.
“Who is he?” Cee asked.
Karmen giggled, “Bold of you to assume it’s a love interest. Perhaps it’s a writing gig.”
“Did you forget we’re your best friends, and you can’t hide anything from us?” Cee asked
Karmen blushed, “Do you remember three years ago when the bookstore was robbed, and Detective Justin Spade was assigned the case?”
“How could we forget?” Miranda asked sarcastically, “You only talked about him every day.”
“Yeah, well, unlike my ex-husband, I didn’t give in to temptation.” She moved some books around on the shelf until she was happy with the aesthetics before returning her attention to her friends. She raised an eyebrow, “I can’t deny that we had chemistry, though.”
“We still do,” she winked. “I guess you could say we’re dating. I mean, we’re not exclusive, but we’ve been on dates.”
“So, how many dates, exactly?” Miranda asked, “And why am I only just now hearing about this?”
Karmen lowered her head as if she were a child whose mother had just scolded her, “I was kind of embarrassed because it’s only been seven months since the divorce, but I really like him.” She began to grow giddy as she spoke about him. “We’ve been out three times, but we talk almost daily.”
“I’ve been noticing these little connections. It’s hard to explain, but the more I get to know Justin, the more I notice these things that make it seem like everything that has ever happened in my life has led me to him.”
“Aww,” Miranda and Cee replied in unison.
“And he makes me laugh,” Karmen gushed. “He’s so funny.” Karmen’s smile lit up her face before it fell. “The high crime rates have been keeping us from spending time together, though.”
Meanwhile, Justin had just walked into his office when the offer manager came rushing at him.
“But it’s Saturday,” Justin whined before the office manager, Anna, had the chance to speak.
“I’m sorry,” Anna apologized sincerely, but Mrs. Waverly is back.
Justin removed his square black-rimmed glasses and ran a frustrated hand down his face. “Send her in.”
“Here to report another robbery, Mrs. Waverly?” Justin asked, his voice laced with sarcasm.
Mrs. Waverly smiled, “Jessica is coming into town for Christmas. I thought you might want to know.”
“Mrs. Waverly, if you’re not here to report a crime, I’m going to need you to leave. I’m a very busy man.”
“I have reason to believe that Karmen is stealing my Christmas decorations, Justin.”
He rolled his eyes, “Oh?” Justin raised his eyebrows, “Well, unless your Christmas decorations include bloody snowmen and Santa’s evil counterpart, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“I should have known you’d take her side,” Mrs. Waverly huffed, “What is your relationship with her anyway?”
“My relationship with Karmen is none of your business, Mrs. Waverly,” Justin had enough of her antics, “I think you’ve wasted enough of my time,” he held the door open for her.
“Did you forget that I’m your mother-in-law?”
“Ex mother-in-law,” Justin corrected her. “Your daughter walked out on me a long time ago. Did you forget?”
“The Security camera showed someone sneaking around the building two nights ago, and the figure looks just like Karmen.”
“Cause I was with her two nights ago,” he replied with a smug smirk on his face.
The shopping rush had ended, so Karmen sent her employees home. Miranda and Cee stayed behind to help her close the store.
Karmen had just finished placing the cookies in the large, rectangular tin when Justin walked into Fictional Grounds.
He saw Miranda and Cee and worried that Karmen had already left for the day.
Hi Detective Spade,” Miranda greeted him, reading his expression. She answered his unspoken question, “Karmen is in the back. I’ll let her know you’re here.”
Justin put up his hand to stop her, “No, let her finish what she’s doing. I can wait.” “And please, call me Justin.”
“Any plans for the holiday?” Cee asked him.
“Not really,” he replied, “I usually spend the holiday by myself, but I don’t mind it. I can lie around watching movies in my sweatpants, and I get the entire tray of lasagna to myself.”
Miranda smiled, “You sound like my stubborn friend who won’t come spend Christmas with me!” She shouted.
Karmen walked out of the coffee shop to the adjoining bookstore, holding a beautifully decorated tin of Christmas cookies. “I can lie around watching movies in my thigh-high socks, and no one is around to judge me when I only take one slice of ham and stuff myself on homemade stuffing and cheesy potatoes,” she said as she made her way over to stand next to Justin.
“Just the man I wanted to see,” she looked up at him.
“That’s not something I hear often,” he brushed a strand of her hair behind her ear.
She smiled at him, “I baked these for you.”
Justin flashed her a million-dollar smile as he took the tin from her.
“It doesn’t break my heart that you’re spending Christmas alone,” she paused as she straightened the evergreen and pinecone secured on top of the tin with a black and white buffalo plaid ribbon, “Because I know you’ll make the most out of any situation. But it did break my heart when you informed me it had been years since anyone made you homemade Christmas cookies.”
“You even made it look pretty,” he smiled as he read the tag she had attached.
“She always adds those little extra touches,” Miranda commented.
“Wait till you taste her cookies,” Cee chimed in, “She’s going to impress the pants off you.”
Karmen almost lost her balance as she made her way behind the checkout counter to empty the cash register.
Miranda turned her head and buried her mouth in her shoulder so she wouldn’t burst out in laughter.
Cee and Justin both turned fifty shades of red.
“Leave it to Cee to make a situation awkward,” Karmen chuckled to lighten the mood.
“Thanks,” Cee responded, covering her face with her hands.
“Aww,” Karmen said through chuckles as she gave her friend a side hug, “You’re adorable.” She kissed her cheek and resumed her spot at the cash register.
“You’ve been eating raspberries,” Justin observed as he made his way over to Karmen.
Karmen still wasn’t used to his deduction skills, so she simply nodded in the affirmative.
Being the great detective he is, Justin deduced that he had baffled her. He chuckled slightly at her reaction because he found it adorable.
Justin strode next to her, placing the tin of cookies on the checkout counter.
Karmen swallowed thickly at his proximity. He smelled like spice, and his scent was masculine and sexy. It made her head spin.
He gently placed his forefinger under her chin and swiped the corner of her mouth with his thumb.
Goosebumps formed on her skin from his touch, and heat spread through her core.
Justin made a mental note of every reaction she offered.
Miranda and Cee were unable to look away. They were happy for their friend and slightly jealous of the chemistry between her and the handsome detective.
“You had a seed,” he spoke lowly, dropping his deep voice an octave. Karmen found it incredibly sexy.
He showed her the raspberry seed on his thumb before he flicked it in the trash can underneath the checkout counter.
Karmen blushed and touched the corner of her mouth where his thumb had brushed. She turned quickly and smiled widely at Cee.
Cee gave her the thumbs up to let her know no raspberry seeds were stuck in her teeth.
Karmen spun back around to face Justin and flashed him a smile as she brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “I had just popped a few in my mouth before you walked in.”
The pair locked eyes for a few moments before Justin realized how much time had passed.
Feeling awkward, he cleared his throat, rubbed the back of his neck, and took a step backward.
Once again, Karmen brushed a strand of hair behind her ear as she turned her attention back to the cash register.
“What are you doing tonight?” Justin finally broke the silence.
“Having dinner with you?” She answered his question with her own.
Justin chuckled, “I like that answer.”
“Look,” he sighed, “I know we agreed there is nothing wrong with spending Christmas alone, and I know you’re not feelin’ the Christmas spirit,” he looked down at his feet.
Miranda and Cee moved to the back of the room and pretended to busy themselves to give Justin and Karmen some privacy.
“But why don’t we spend it together?” He suggested. “I mean, we were planning on spending it alone anyway, and I certainly wouldn’t mind spending Christmas with you.”
Karmen went to speak, but Justin kept talking. He seemed nervous.
“We don’t have to celebrate Christmas,” he informed her. “Obviously, it’s too late for presents, and we can make our own rules.”
“We can have an unmerry Christmas,” her eyes lit up as she spoke, and at that moment, Justin knew he would do anything to make her happy.
“If Alice can have an unmerry birthday, we can have an unmerry Christmas,” Karmen continued.
“So, is that a yes?”
Karmen tapped her pointer finger against her cheek and gazed off in the distance, pretending to think it over and torturing Justin for a few seconds.
“Yeah, why not?” She finally answered. “I wouldn’t mind spending Christmas with you, either.”
You might as well spend the weekend with me,” he suggested, hopefully. “You can stay in my guest room,” he held his hands up defensively while wearing a mischievous grin.
Karmen sauntered over to him, invading his personal space. She grabbed his necktie and pulled him down, so his ear was next to her mouth.
She spoke in a soft and seductive whisper, “You and I both know if I spend the weekend with you, I’m not sleeping in your guest room.”
Justin shivered slightly at the feel of her breath on his ear. If he had known her reaction would be so fun, he would have tried to seduce her sooner.
He straightened his posture as Karmen released her grip on his tie, and he ran his palm down to smooth it. “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” He flashed her a sly smile.
Karmen returned his sly smile with a seductive one. “What time do you get off?”
“I suppose that depends on you.”
Karmen laughed and swatted his arm playfully. “You know I meant work, smartass.”
He chuckled lowly, setting all of her synapses on fire.
“Assuming all I have to finish is some paperwork, and I don’t get called to investigate any crimes, around 5:00.”
“So, I’ll come over around 6:00?”
“That’s perfect,” he concurred. “I was just going to pick up a pizza on the way home. Is that okay?”
“Pepperoni and mushroom?” She asked.
“How are you so perfect?”
“Hardly,” she chuckled.
“Since we’re going to just be hanging out at home, I want you to make yourself comfortable by wearing your go-to lounge outfit,” he raised an eyebrow at her.
“The thigh-highs?” She arched an eyebrow back at him.
He nodded emphatically.
“As long as you wear the sweatpants,” she replied.
He chuckled, “Gray?”
She nodded emphatically.
This earned Karmen a genuine laugh from him, and this pleased her.
“Deal,” he offered his hand for her to shake.
“It was nice seeing you ladies again,” he shouted to Miranda and Cee as he picked up his cookie tin and turned to leave.
“Merry Christmas!`” Cee and Miranda shouted in unison as they made their way back over to the checkout counter.
As soon as he was out of eyesight and earshot, the ladies broke out into a fit of giggles. Suddenly, it was 2003 again, and Karmen was about to lose her virginity, or at least, that’s how it felt.
“He’s a tall drink of water,” Cee commented.
“Yes, he is,” Karmen agreed, “And I’m incredibly thirsty.” She winked and giggled. “Merry friggin’ Christmas!”
My heart has been very heavy this year as I witnessed person after person reveal a side of themselves that not only baffled me but made me lose respect for them.
It’s hard sometimes to hold onto faith in humanity. Perhaps, I need to stop putting my faith in humanity and keep it in love. I certainly cannot control the actions of others, and I can’t help but feel the sting when hurtful words come towards me, but I can control the way I react to them.
Today, a woman I follow on Facebook posted about how much it hurts her heart when she takes her twins out, and people say things like, “Twins! I can barely handle one baby; how do you handle two?” She realized people don’t typically have malicious intent behind such comments, but the fact is that those comments do sting.
Do people not empathize? How would you feel if you were in her shoes? Wouldn’t you love those babies more than anything? Sure, parenting is hard. Sure, having more than one child presents challenges. Do you think she doesn’t know that?
Try saying something encouraging instead of pointing out the obvious challenges this mother faces daily. Maybe something along the lines of “Look at your beautiful twins! You’re doing an amazing job, Mama!”
I recently posted a statement about how I have accepted the fact that I will never be a mother and even made peace with it, but that doesn’t mean that those feelings of grief don’t still sting occasionally; particularly, during Christmas.
When the “Have you thought about adoption?” comments started flooding in, I instantly regretted the post.
I wanted to be a mother for many years. Do you really think I haven’t considered every possible option?
Think before you speak!
Content Warning: Rape.
There is one comment that’s been troubling me. It was a comment made by a man to a woman of sexual abuse.
The commenter asked the woman to consider her rapists’ feelings and how he now lives in fear of the police coming to arrest him.
Ummm… That’s a consequence of the rapists’ actions. If one doesn’t want to live in fear of getting arrested, one shouldn’t do anything that warrants an arrest.
I have difficulty empathizing with someone who purposefully hurt an innocent being.
Do you know what fear that woman has to live with from now on? A fear she didn’t do anything to deserve but was forced upon her?
She will now live in fear of walking to her car in a dark parking lot.
She will live in fear every time a shadow moves behind her.
She will feel the need to sleep next to something that could be used as a weapon whenever she’s by herself.
And these are just a few of the many things, and I’m sure there are things I can’t even think of because every experience is different, but do you know how I can empathize with this woman?
I can empathize with this woman because it happened to me.
People often ask victims of sexual abuse why we didn’t report it.
I can only speak for myself, so let me tell you why I didn’t report…
I was raped by the man I dated before I met my husband. We were broken-up at the time, but I allowed him to talk me into taking a walk in the woods with him after he showed up at a mutual friend’s cabin for a camping weekend. The friend assured me he wouldn’t be there, but that was the first lie of the night.
My ex became aggressive when I went to leave and pulled me into an RV. There were at least eight people in the RV sitting around drinking. My ex pulled me into a small space where a cot was placed against the wall, out of sight from the others but within earshot.
He forced me down, held me by my throat, and took something that didn’t belong to him because he felt entitled to it.
No one came to my rescue, despite my cries for help…
I tried to fight him off of me, but it was hard to fight and focus on trying to breathe simultaneously.
He collapsed on top of me. I don’t know what drug he was on, but whatever it was knocked him out, and I was grateful.
Rage coursed through me at that moment, and it gave me a strength I didn’t realize I had. I knocked my ex off me and onto the floor.
He was out cold. He remained unconscious.
I grabbed my keys off the nightstand and held my car key between my pointer and middle fingers. I seriously thought about stabbing him in the jugular.
Instead, I stood up and kicked him in the ribs, ran out, and told all of the people sitting on the other side of the wall that I hoped they rotted in hell and walked back to my car in the rain.
It all sounds so anticlimactic now that I’ve typed it out.
When I arrived home, I ran for the shower. I wanted to get the stench of my ex off me. I remember falling to my knees and screaming, and then sobbing, and repeating those actions until my throat couldn’t force another scream, and my ducts ran out of tears.
I pulled myself up off the shower floor and scrubbed my skin so furiously that it started to bleed, and then I vomited.
After I managed to clean myself and the shower up, I called my best friend at the time, C. She had been through this before, and I needed to know what to expect.
I asked her what would happen if I went to the police. She told me that they would make me strip off my clothes, and I would be poked and prodded, and asked the same questions multiple times by multiple people, and forced to relive the moment over and over.
I remember this part very vividly. C grabbed my hands, looked me in the eye, and said, “And there’s no guarantee he’ll ever get convicted for it.”
Can you blame me for not reporting?
Can you blame anyone for not reporting?
A few months later, I started working as a dental assistant, where I reconnected with a friend I met in the seventh grade, my soul sister, Amanda.
I was in the sterilization room cleaning instruments with her when I confessed what had happened, and my boss overhead me.
Later that day, he pulled me aside and confessed to his eavesdropping.
Then, he had the nerve to ask me what I was wearing the night it happened.
I became so furious. I remember glaring at my boss and asking, “Oh, what, because it clearly can’t be the guy’s fault, right? Men can’t control themselves, and It’s up to women to not turn them on?”
Of course, he started stammering and trying to explain that’s not what he meant.
I informed him that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been completely naked if I didn’t give him consent to touch me, he had no right to touch me. End of story; however, I was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, if he must know.
This is one reason why so many victims of sexual abuse don’t say anything or find the courage to say anything for many years.
It is my sincere hope that this breaks through to someone and causes them to start thinking before they spew the first thought that comes to mind.
I hope it reaches someone who needs to read it. That’s always my hope when sharing deeply personal posts.
It makes me vulnerable, but I am learning that if I can use my pain to help others, I want to do that. The most significant healing from all of this came from finally forgiving myself.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am sure I am not the only person who had blamed themself when a traumatic experience happened to them.
I held onto anger for years because I felt like I deserved it. I hated myself for taking that walk with my ex. For ignoring all those red flags screaming at me to run.
The trauma still haunts my nightmares from time to time, and perhaps it always will, but I no longer blame myself for it.
It is my biggest hope that someone will realize they are not to blame for what happened to them. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Nobody has the right to anyone’s body without their consent.
Another lesson I learned was that just because this happened to me does not make me unworthy of love, which goes for everyone else who has experienced trauma.
So, as we enter 2022, please, for the love of Formica, just be kind!
If you can’t form a supportive or comforting thought, simply don’t say anything.
Karmen York released a long, heavy sigh as she opened the door to Fictional Grounds, her bookstore and coffee house mashup. She turned around before stepping inside and saw how the town had already decorated for Christmas. The old, mahogany door looked lonely without festive evergreen branches and holly adorning its window.
She braced herself; she knew the Scrooge and Grinch comments were coming.
“You’re not decorating at all?” Miranda asked as she came bounding up the cobblestone stairs in her furry boots.
Karmen met Miranda Michaels in the seventh grade when Miranda moved to Ellicott City from the hills of West Virginia. Miranda was Karmen’s rock through all of life’s hardships.
Miranda was more than a best friend.
She was family.
She also happened to own the yoga studio across the street.
“In case you’ve forgotten, the past three Christmases have brought me nothing but sorrow, and hell, and torture, so I’d rather not tempt the fates and ask for a fourth one,” Karmen retorted.
She spun on her heel and made her best friend the breakfast order she didn’t have to ask for because Karmen already knew it.
“The third time certainly was not the charm, so I’m sure the fourth won’t be,” she handed Miranda her herbal tea and multi-grain breakfast cookie.
“I’m well aware,” Miranda replied, “but people are going to give you shit for it, and quite frankly, I’m tired of wanting to punch everyone in the face.”
Karmen laughed. “That’s not going to change whether I decorate for Christmas or not.”
The bell of the front door chimed, stealing the ladies’ attention.
“Hello?” Mrs. Waverly asked in her annoyingly fake, high-pitched voice.
“Everyone can read through her tone. She pretends to be friendly, but you know she’s here to spew her unsolicited opinion,” Karmen whispered to Miranda.
“HI, Mrs. Waverly,” Karmen replied in a purposeful, annoyingly sweet voice.
“Ms. York,” I notice your front Windows are not decorated for Christmas.
“Good eyesight.” Karmen smiled.
“You signed a contract, remember?”
“Coffee?” Karmen interjected as she poured herself a cup, ignoring the stupid question.
“No, thanks.” Mrs. Waverly walked up to the counter, placed her purse down, removed her gloves and hat, and gazed at Karmen sternly.
“That contract stated that the entire town of Old Ellicott City participates in Christmas Decorating, Ms. York.”
Karmen brought her coffee up to her lips and took a sip, never releasing eye contact with the oppressor on Poe Street.
“And if I don’t?” Karmen asked.
“Then I will have no choice but to report you to the chairman of the chamber of commerce for breaking code 4.32 of section B of the contract that specifically states any and all buildings in the historical district will have window displays,” Mrs. Waverly replied in one breath.
“Okay,” Karmen stated matter-of-factly,” “And then what? I get a hefty fine? I get kicked out of the chamber?”
“I will put you out of business, Ms. York,” Mrs. Waverly sneered. “Now, I suggest if you would like for me to not tell everyone about the Grinch on the corner of Poe Street who doesn’t believe in community involvement or charitable contributions, you’ll have a window display and a wreath on that door by the end of the day, tomorrow.
“This is your last warning. I’ve been after you since November 1st.”
“Just because I don’t want to hang up some fucking Christmas lights does not make me uncharitable, Mrs. Waverly. Don’t act like you know the first thing about me because you don’t.”
“And I don’t care to,” Mrs. Waverly retorted.
“I share that sentiment,” Karmen smiled.
“Fine,” Karmen sighed in defeat, “not to appease you or anyone else, but I don’t feel like fighting someone who would spread lies just to get her way. I’m above all that, and my peace is more important than fighting your judgment, and quite frankly, I’m tired of feeling sorry for you. “
Mrs. Waverly scoffed, “Just get it done.”
Karmen raised her coffee in response.
She turned to Miranda, “She wants a window display? I’ll give her a window display!”
“I recognize that mischievous smile,” Miranda smiled, slightly worried, “What are you up to?”
Karmen stood on the sidewalk, admiring her Christmas decorations. She walked up to the wreath and adjusted the claw.
She stepped back on the sidewalk and flashed a satisfied smile at her craftsmanship.
Mrs. Waverly approached Karmen on the sidewalk.
She smiled as she noticed the green pine and colored lights around the window, “This is more like…” she trailed off as she looked on in horror.
“Is that a snowman eating an elf?!”
“Yup,” Karmen retorted, popping the “p.”
“An evil Santa?!” Mrs. Waverly shrieked.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Karmen scoffed as she approached the window, holding her hand out to the red and black suit. “it’s clearly Krampus….”
She then pointed to the Krampus book display in the corner of the window.
“This is not acceptable!” Mrs. Waverly stomped her foot in protest.
“I checked the contract,” Karmen replied, “It didn’t say I couldn’t display a Christmas villain, and Krampus is very popular in German culture, and my ancestors are German. I’m German. You wouldn’t want to exclude me now, would you?”
“That’s a bit of a stretch, Ms. York,” Mrs. Waverly put her hands on her hips.
“Well, if you can twist people’s words to suit your theories, so can I.” Karmen stepped closer to Mrs. Waverly, a smug smile plastered on her face as she placed one black, patent leather high heel in front of the other.
Mrs. Waverly scoffed, “You’re clever; I’ll give you that much.”
“Don’t underestimate me, Mrs. Waverly. I see the disapproving looks you flash a few of my employees, and I can and will make a scene if you create another problem like you did last week, understood?”
“It was dark, Ms. York. It had nothing to do with sk..”
“Let me stop you there, Mrs. Waverly,” Karmen held up her hand before moving to walk up the stairs of her bookstore. “As I have said before, I don’t care to hear your excuses. I’m only requesting that it does not happen again. You should also know that I won’t be as nice as last time if it does.”
“Last time was nice?” Mrs. Waverly asked.
Karmen smiled widely before making her way back inside.
Detective Justin Spade was making his way to Poe Street. He was walking next to his friend, Deputy Stuart James, or simply, as his friends called him, Stu.
“I just want to make a quick stop at Fictional Grounds before lunch,” Justin stated as the bookstore came into view.
“Is Mrs. Waverly causing trouble again?” Stu asked.
“Not to my knowledge, but I just want to check in and make sure everything is going well.”
“Detectives don’t do follow-ups.” Stu chuckled, knowing exactly why his friend wanted to stop at the bookstore.
“The good ones do!” Justin retorted.
“Mmmhmm, and this would have nothing to do with the pretty brunette who owns the place?”
“Her name is Karmen, and yes, she’s been going through a really hard time, and I want to make sure she’s doing okay. The holidays can be especially gruesome for divorcees.”
Justin laughed as soon as he saw the window display.
“Did I mention she has a great sense of humor?” Justin asked, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb to the display behind him.
“Just friends, my ass,” Stu muttered.
Karmen’s smile lit up her face as she looked up at the sound of the bell and met Justin’s gaze.
“I bet Mrs. Waverly loved the window display.” Justin chuckled.
“She adored it,” Karmen played along before taking a sip of her coffee.
“What can I help you with, Detective?”
“I think we’re to the point in our acquaintanceship that you can call me Justin, Karmen,” he smiled at her.
Karmen smiled and blushed deeply, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
“I’m looking for a good noir, any recommendations?”
Karmen placed her coffee on the counter before stepping around it and heading to the crime-fiction section.
Justin took full advantage of the opportunity to check her out in her red and black buffalo plaid tunic, black leggings, and knee-high, high-heeled boots.
She strode up next to him and handed him a book, flashing him a sly, sexy smirk.
His fingers gently grazed hers as he took the book from her, laughing as soon as he saw the title.
“The Maltese Falcon, I get the wisecrack.” He gave her a half-smile.
“I wasn’t going to go there because I’m sure people give you a hard time about your name, Detective Spade.”
“Luckily, no one under the age of fifty,” he paused, “well, you appear to be the exception.”
“I love The Maltese Falcon. It’s my favorite noir,” she confessed.
“Mine, too.” He smiled.
“Just Friends, my ass!” Stu muttered for the second time as he watched Karmen and Justin together.
Miranda chuckled, “Is that Detective Spade?”
“The one and only.”
Miranda chuckled, “She likes it when he’s on the news.”
“He’s only on the news to give updates about serious crimes,” Stu looked concerned.
“She feels guilty about that,” Miranda chuckled. It’s kind of funny and cute in a weird way.
Stu gave her a side-eyed glance, unsure how to respond to her comment. “I’ve only ever seen him look at someone like that once, and she broke his heart.”
Miranda could sense the worry in Stu’s voice.
“I find Detective Spade sexy,” Karmen flashed him a seductive smile.
Justin found himself wanting to kiss her.
He blushed and looked down at his feet, “Which one?”
She stepped closer to him, placing a hand on his arm, “Both.”
I have been struggling lately, beautiful souls. People I once respected and admired have shown me they are not who they proclaimed to be, and that’s a heavy blow. I have been personally attacked for continuing to wear a mask in public places, and I have allowed the words of strangers to anger me. Now, I realize I cannot allow their words to affect me. They are the ones who feel the need to attack someone they don’t even know, and that says a lot more about their character than it does mine. So instead of getting angry the next time someone calls me a sheep, or whatever they want to think, I will simply reply, “At least I still care.”
I refuse to let anyone steer me away from my own heart. The world is as beautiful and soft as I choose to see it, even if I have to look inward to find it.
Many of you know, I lost my mother on the day after Christmas, six years ago. Her loss hit me very hard, and I slipped into a deep depression for years. I have slowly brought myself out of that depression, but I wasn’t prepared for the challenging discussions I would make with myself.
My mother was a wonderful woman with a caring heart the size of Texas, but like all of us, she was not without faults. My mother had a lot of insecurities and was also vain. She propelled those insecurities onto me.
My mother had this insane idea that for a woman to be seen as beautiful in the public eye, she had to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and be a size two. I was the kind of girl who would rather play baseball than attend a tea party. I laughed too loudly, and my body wasn’t made to be a size two.
I have learned to accept these things about myself. I love getting dressed up in heels and dresses, but I also love my blue jeans, sports jerseys, and band tee shirts, and there’s nothing wrong with it. It is also perfectly okay that I will never fit into a size two because I would look ridiculous if I tried. I was “blessed” with wider hips and large breasts. Both of my grandmothers had hourglass figures. They were not as small and petite as my mother was, and while my mother was a lovely woman, so were my grandmother’s.
I still struggle with certain things. I don’t know that I’ll ever reach a point where I feel delighted with anything I do, and failure is still my biggest fear, but I have learned that my mother’s view of me does not represent who I really am.
For years, I hated my body because I wasn’t the super skinny model type girl my mother thought I should have been, and because I hated my body, I didn’t take care of it.
I remember when I had this epiphany, it was as if I actually saw the light go off in my brain, and I stood in front of the mirror, naked (something I have always tried to avoid), and I gave myself an apology. I sobbed so hard I fell to my knees, but I continued talking and screaming, and I was no longer angry with myself. For the first time ever, I showed myself the same amount of unjudgemental kindness I give everyone else.
Instead of beating myself up for sitting around, not exercising, and feeding my body crap, I realized that I could accept what it was and change it. I cannot blame anyone else but me for my laziness, but I can also respect myself to cut myself some slack as I was wandering through the dark, trying to find myself again.
After I forgave myself, I started seeing myself in a different light, and I grew to love my body and all its curves. I have accepted the fact that I do not need to look like a Barbie doll to be considered beautiful. I have realized I can still wear a size 10-12 and be fit and healthy. I have had numerous talks with nutritionists and health coaches, and I threw myself into research. I have found exercises that I genuinely love doing, and some I’m less enthralled about, like running, but it burns the most amount of calories in the shortest time, and it does wonders for my brain. Both in the creative sense, and when I can just turn up the Foo Fighters, or The Red Hot Chili Peppers and focus on nothing but the lyrics and my breathing.
I have fallen in love with yoga! First of all, I feel so amazing after I do yoga! I feel relaxed, focused, and confident. I love stretching, and it’s as though I can feel the stress leaving my body. Yoga has also taught me patience because the only way to get results is to do the steps correctly, and yoga is all about holding positions and focused breathing. I’ve become more flexible, my posture is better, and I feel sexier than I have in ages. Yoga has also shown me results in the quickest amount of time. I can feel my stomach and core muscles for hours after a session. I will sweat for half an hour just sitting after a session. It’s amazing! I highly recommend yoga to anyone. It has so many benefits for the entire body!
The second exercise I have fallen in love with is belly dancing.
Long-time readers of the blog are aware I love to dance, and I dance every day! I’m not generally a fan of dance aerobics. However, I do them occasionally because I find I enjoy Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies! Hahaha. I know, I know…
Anyway, I still dance for cardio frequently because it’s a great workout! I move my entire body, including my hair. I wrack up so many steps! I will often hit 16,000 steps just by dancing around my living room, dining room, and kitchen!
I read about belly dancing, though, and so many women had lost a lot of weight by belly dancing alone! (And eating healthy, of course). Some of them lost up to 200 lbs! That’s amazing!
I did hours of research finding actual instructors on YouTube! I’m not sure when this started, but now, I find I turn into Sherlock Holmes when I research. I will find a name on Youtube and then research said name to ensure they are actually who they say. I spend hours looking for specific kinds of training that not only provide step-by-step instructions but inform me of how my stance should look and when to hold my breath and squeeze particular muscles. I am toning, and I want results, so I want to make sure I perform correctly and safely. I cannot afford a personal trainer, but I’ve always been a pretty good self-teacher with the proper guidance.
I still have a somewhat long road ahead of me in my fitness journey, but I’m much further than where I started. I’m most proud of myself for the fact that I do love my body, and because I love it, I want to take care of it. I’m going to get the figure I want, and most importantly, the 40 and 50-year-old Kristian will thank me because I’m really looking out for her health!
Thanks for sharing the journey with me!
Have you reached enlightenment recently?How doyou stay fit? What are your favoriteworkouts?
We didn’t start the fire It was always burning since the world’s been turning We didn’t start the fire No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it
– Billy Joel
Regular readers of this blog know that music has always been a big part of my life. I recently wrote a post about the nostalgia of certain songs, and this post continues that idea.
I remember when Rock Band added Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire to their library. I was stoked because I could finally learn those verses I kept tripping over while trying to memorize them. I have memorized them, by the way! I realize it’s a silly accomplishment, but people always seem to be impressed when they learn I know all of the words to this particular song, so thanks, Rock Band!
There was always one thing that puzzled me about this song…
Why would Joel mention something as idiotic as “Cola Wars” in the same song where he mentions “Children of Thalidomide“? My curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up. Joel says he included the line because of the stupidity of competing soft-drink companies and people losing control of their anger if someone didn’t agree on Coke or Pepsi as the superior beverage choice…
Personally, I would gladly pass up either for a cup of coffee, water with lime, or Snapple peach tea.
There are many more serious issues the world is burning with, but Joel said he felt the line proved his point that we are always living in a historical event.
That quote hit me, and I instantly thought of people rioting because they couldn’t get a Popeye’s chicken sandwich in the middle of a pandemic!! I remember staring at the television as I watched the news in horror with my hands in my hair, thinking, “What have we become!?”
Speaking of chicken sandwiches, my Economics professor taught me that Popeye’s unintentionally started the chicken wars. Perhaps Billy Joel should modernize the song with all of the crap between 1989 (the year the song was released) and 2022.
Anyway, Popeye’s version of the chicken sandwich was so popular, other fast-food chains started creating their own version of the famous sandwich to compete. This caused a spike in demand for chicken; thus, causing inflation.
People love to blame the sitting president for inflation, but the two do not go hand in hand. Not to mention, the chicken wars started under the previous president, and as much as I’d love to blame him, he is not responsible for the increase in the price of chicken, beef, lettuce, oil, or anything else. Of course, he also didn’t do anything to help our economy either. Economics was by far the most depressing course I have ever taken. Our country’s finances are in a terrible state, and I wish I could march through the doors of the White House in my high heels and take my red marker to the books and help fix it.
I suppose Billy Joel was right. We are always living in a historical event because history keeps repeating. We read the books, recognize the warning signs, and yet, we keep making the same mistakes because we are unwilling to learn from those before us and set aside our differences to stand united. It takes something as drastic as terrorists causing destruction for us to band together, and that is something I will never understand.
We may not have started the fire, but we keep adding logs to it.
Atticus was right on time, and Karmen needed just one minute.
“Please come in. I just want to grab my sunglasses.”
He nodded, taking a step inside and glancing around. Everything was orderly, books lined every shelf, as well as pictures, and Karmen had a BB8 cookie jar sitting on her kitchen island.
“Nice place,” he complimented her.
“Thank you,” she replied.
“Should I wear sandals or tennis shoes?” She asked.
“We won’t be doing a lot of walking,” he informed her, “so sandals should be fine.”
Her smile lit up her face, and Atticus grew a little concerned that his heart wouldn’t stop falling.
She picked up a box sitting next to the BB8 cookie jar and handed it to him. “It’s a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing.”
“That’s my favorite,” he said in amazement.
“You’re kidding?” She asked, her voice rising an octave.
“No,” he smiled at her.
Karmen giggled, “I made them for my publisher. They’re her favorite too.”
“Well, thank you for saving me one,” he was genuinely touched and couldn’t wait to tase something she baked.
Atticus took her to his favorite restaurant for brunch.
“This was the first place I tried when I moved here. My ex-wife hated it. I think that’s why I’m so fond of it. Well, that and the food’s good.”
Karmen lightly chuckled, “I take it she’s not a good person?”
“She cheated on me with her boss, told me I was worthless and would never amount to anything, and set my kitchen on fire,” he informed her.
She almost choked on her coffee, “What!?”
“Yeah, she’s psychotic.”
“Sounds like it,” Karmen agreed.
“So, what about you?” Atticus asked, “Any ex-husbands I should know about?”
“A late husband.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you,” she replied, “It’s been a couple of years.”
Atticus nodded in understanding.
“It was wrong of your ex-wife to tell you you’d never amount to anything, and even if you hadn’t have become a New York Times bestselling author, that statement wouldn’t be true, but it makes me all the happier that you are.” She smiled at him before finishing her eggs benedict.
He smiled at her. Atticus found her incredibly sweet.
For their next stop, Atticus took her to a small horror museum filled with props from Stephen King’s movies as well as some of his original notes and screenplays.
Atticus enjoyed watching her nerd out over her favorite horror writer, and he enjoyed their conversations discussing King’s movies and books.
Karmen was impressed with Atticus’ nontraditional date so far and found herself frequently laughing at his jokes.
He took her to a market half an hour away, and he was grateful for the opportunity to spend some time alone in the car getting to know her. Neither of them was sure how they landed on the topic, but the conversation turned from cooking to holiday traditions.
“While we’re on the topic of holidays, how do you like to spend New Year’s Eve?” Atticus asked.
“Well, for the past couple of years, I have been spending New Year’s Eve in my living room. I throw a bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor, open the shades on the window so I can watch it snow, make a charcuterie board, and watch The Twilight Zone marathon.”
“Lowkey. I like it.”
“I like making the holiday romantic, just, ya know, not by myself.”
Atticus chuckled. “Romantic how?”
“We could spend the day watching our favorite movies, slow dancing in the kitchen, and seeing how many times we can make love before the year ends.”
He raised an eyebrow and flashed her a seductive smile before quickly returning his gaze back to the road, “I like the way you think.”
She smiled at him.
“So, what do you put on your charcuterie board?” Atticus asked.
Karmen chuckled, “That’s your takeaway?”
“Clearly not, but I’m driving, and I do not want to think about your naked body and drive us into a ditch.”
“Touché,” Karmen giggled her face, as well as places he couldn’t see turning a deep shade of red.
“She’s so damn adorable,” he thought.
“Sharp cheddar, pepperoni, pistachios, kalamata olives, dried mango, and rosemary crackers,” she replied.
“I really like you,” he glanced at her quickly before turning his attention back to the road again.
Karmen crossed her right leg over her left knee and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, “I really like you too, Atticus.”
Atticus had to forcefully tear his eyes away from her bare legs, “Okay, think baseball statistics, September 29th, 1987, Don Mattingly hit a grand slam and set a major-league record with six grand slams in a season. I remember watching that game with my dad. It was a big deal!”
Karmen couldn’t help but steal glances at him. He was so focused. She wanted to ask him what he was thinking but was afraid that question might annoy him, so she decided against it.
“Did we decide on the kind of pizza?” Atticus asked.
“No,” Karmen replied, “If I had known we’d be cooking together, I would have learned a New York-style recipe to impress you.”
Atticus smiled, “Well, I can teach you how to make one.”
Her eyes lit up, “Really?”
“Yes, I worked at a pizzeria while I was in college. I can show you.”
“I’d love that.”
“Good,” he spoke softly, “And you can teach me how to make this famous apple pie I have heard so much about.”
“Deal,” Karmen held her hand out to shake.
Atticus flashed her a devilish smile before wrapping his arms around her waist. He pulled her closer to him, “Oh, I’m going to need more than a handshake to seal the deal.”
He had caught her so off guard that not only did Karmen yelp as he grabbed her, but she flung her arm, forgetting that her Charlie Brown dome handbag was hanging from it. She hit a pyramid of apples, and suddenly apples were rolling onto the ground, causing people to fall into one another.
Karmen cupped her hands over her face in embarrassment.
Atticus could not contain his laughter.
Karmen peeked at him from behind her fingers and joined him in laughter, “Yeah, that happens more frequently than I care to admit.”
Atticus smiled at her, “Well,” he paused, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, “We’ll have fun laughing at each other. I’m incredibly clumsy.”
She chuckled, “We’ll never be bored.”
Atticus smiled, “True that.”
After picking up the apples, they walked along, gathering the ingredients they would need to make pizza and apple pie. Karmen stopped abruptly as soon as she heard it.
“What’s wrong,” Atticus asked her, a look of concern etched on his face.
“Shh,” she put her finger to her mouth. “I hear it.”
“The nothing fight.”
Atticus gave her a confused look, and she grabbed his hand. He quickly grabbed the cart and followed her.
She started to chuckle as soon as she found the couple. “Dane Cook does this skit,” she began to explain, “He talks about coming across a couple at a grocery store in the middle of what he calls nothing fights over no, which are fights over nothing important and can be quite funny. Listen,” she pointed to the couple.
Atticus played along and pretended to be overly interested in a high-quality bottle of Italian olive oil.
“I prefer the tube over the can because it lasts longer,” the short woman said through her teeth, waving a tube of tomato paste in the tall man’s face.
Her sweetheart stood at least a foot taller than her, and he looked down at her, releasing short outbursts of grunted laughter. “Well,” he said as he crossed his arms. “You never squeeze it from the bottom.”
“I don’t know how you do that without dropping it.”
Karmen and Atticus had to suppress their giggles as mister tall looked at miss short like she had two heads.
“You have to squeeze from the top. It comes out easier,” the short woman replied.
“It comes out the same way, but you push the paste up the tube from the bottom as you go. You disrupt the natural order of things when you squeeze from the top.”
Karmen was never good at suppressing her laughter, so she turned and buried her face into Atticus’ chest.
Atticus stiffened in surprise but quickly recovered, inhaling the scent of her coconut shampoo. He wrapped an arm around her, gently rubbing her back.
She looked up at him, her heart beating so rapidly in her chest she wondered if he could hear it.
Atticus couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. His gaze flickered between her eyes behind her cat-eye glasses and her full pink lips.
Suddenly, the crowd seemed to disappear, and the only thing Karmen could focus on was Atticus’ scent, and the way his blue tee-shirt hugged his chest, and the way he was gazing at her, and his lips.
She placed her hands on his shoulders and stood on her tiptoes.
Atticus bent to meet her.
Karmen and Atticus both jumped at the sound.
“Excuse me,” an elderly woman with an unmistakable look of disapproval plastered on her face said as she reached between them to grab the very same bottle of olive oil Atticus had been holding.
Karmen and Atticus exchanged awkward looks before walking towards the checkout counter. She pulled her wallet out of her handbag and grabbed her credit card.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Paying for groceries,” she stated the obvious.
“I see that wise-ass,” he retorted.
“I’ve got it.” He told her.
“No, no.” she protested, “You bought ice cream. This is on me.”
“Karmen, groceries are a tad more expensive than a small cup of ice cream at Cold Stone.”
She sighed, “Are you always this hard-headed?”
He chuckled that deep chuckle that caused heat to course through her veins every time she heard it.
“Yes,” he nodded emphatically.
“Fine,” she sighed for the second time, “you pay for the ingredients for pizza, and I’ll get the stuff for apple pie,” she offered.
“Deal,” he held his hand out for her to shake.
She pulled his hand and pulled him until his ear was level with her mouth.
“I’m going to need more than a handshake,” she whispered seductively.
He pulled back, raising an eyebrow, and flashing her a sly smile.
Karmen chuckled at his response.
On the way back to Atticus’, they played the Foo Fighters Wasting Light album and sang along to all the songs at the top of their lungs.
“That’s the most fun I have ever had grocery shopping,” he confessed as he carried the bags of groceries inside.
“I enjoyed it too,” she replied, spinning on her heel and looking around his house. It was old and very charming. Vintage, floral wallpaper lined the walls, the floors were hardwood, and all the trim was dark oak.
“Your home is very charming,” she said as she moved from the kitchen into the dining room. She wandered into the living room and found his vinyl record player. “May I pick something?” She asked as she pointed to the turntable.
“Be my guest,” he replied as he continued unloading the bags of groceries.
Atticus kept stealing glances at her as she browsed through his record collection. He could get used to having her around.
He shook himself out of his reverie and continued the task at hand.
She put on U2’s Rattle and Hum album.
“A New York pizza is all about the crust.”
“I’m aware,” she smiled.
She measured out the ingredients for him, and he dumped them in the Kitchen-Aid mixer.
As the song Desire flowed through the speakers, Karmen shed her lightweight cardigan, leaving her in a white tank top and blue cotton shorts printed with white daisies. She started swaying to the beat.
Atticus smiled, “Is this what life would be like? “He wondered. “Us in the kitchen, her scantily clad, swaying around the kitchen?”
They kneaded the dough and cut it into squares, shaping them into round balls before wrapping them in baking cloth and placing them in the fridge to chill for three hours.
They started the pizza sauce next, both of them knowing the sauce tastes better cooked over low heat for an extended time, giving the herbs and spices a chance to mingle.
Karmen and Atticus worked well together. They moved around the kitchen in choreographed fashion, purposefully stealing touches every chance they got.
He held a spoon of sauce out for her to taste.
She lightly blew on the spoon to cool it before allowing him to place the spoon in her mouth.
“Mmmm,” she moaned, earning a smile from Atticus. “That is perfect.”
He nodded in agreement.
While the sauce was left to simmer, they moved onto the apple pie. Atticus stood so close to her, focused on his apple peeling, and Karmen took the opportunity to drink in the sight of him. He was wearing khaki shorts and a blue tee-shirt that fit him perfectly.