The Pick-Up Line

By Eileen Slovak

Word Count:  895

Sprinting through the neighborhood, Caryn completed her daily four-miles in record time before sending a quick text to her sister, Kim:  Will B ready 2-power shop in 15. 

      Back in her apartment, she showered coffee in hand, then, dressed hastily as her cell phone chirped signaling Kim was waiting.  Moments later, Caryn climbed into the minivan.  Kim handed her sister a homemade scone.

“Thanks, I didn’t have time to eat.”

“That’s why you’re so thin and I’m well, me,” Kim moaned.

Caryn shot her sister a look, “You’ve had two children and you’re too hard on yourself.  So, what’s the emergency today?”

“Jeff forgot to tell me about his boss’s dinner party tomorrow night.  It’s been months since we’ve been out for anything other than fast food and aside from jeans and t-shirts, everything in my closet is two sizes too small.”

“Hmmm,” Caryn said nibbling on her breakfast.  “Okay, how about Anne Taylor or Nordstroms?”

“I was thinking more like Marshall’s or TJ’s.”

“Fine, but no clearance racks.”

“Not even a little one?” Kim asked sheepishly.

“Caryn, clearance means no one wanted it enough to pay full price.”

“Maybe it means no one saw its’ great potential.”

Caryn shook her head no, adding:

“So…you need me to babysit, then?”

“I hate to ask again, but if you don’t have plans…”

“Do I ever?”

“Speaking of plans…how about dinner at our house tonight?”

“Why?”

“Jeff and I would like you to come over, that’s all.”

Caryn raised an eyebrow, “Kim, you know how I feel about being fixed up.”

“Jeff’s friend Carl might stop by for drinks and we think he’s perfect for you.”

“Kim!”

“Just give him a chance.”

Caryn sighed, asking:  “So, what’s his story?”

“He’s single, new in the area, employed and in his mid-thirties.”

“I’ll think about it over shopping.”

In the fitting room’s three-way mirror, Caryn modeled a cute pair of jeans and a sweater, secretly hoping, despite herself, that Carl might be the one.  Kim peered out of her stall, complaining.

“If department store owners had any sense, they’d install low lighting and fun house mirrors to make women look twenty pounds thinner.  Help, I think I’m stuck!”

“What did you do?” Caryn asked helping free her sister from a dress that would not budge over her hips or her shoulders.

“Maybe try wiggling out of it,” Caryn suggested.

“Let’s go look at shoes, at least my feet always stay the same size,” Kim laughed.  “Is that what you’re wearing tonight?”

“I guess.  You win, I’ll meet him.”

After dinner, Caryn helped Kim put the children to bed.  When the doorbell rang, Caryn felt a twinge of nervous anticipation.  On her way downstairs, she observed the man standing with Jeff:  handsome, tall, fit…so far, so good.  Then he began talking.

“Well, hello there.  Carl Waters, pleasure to meet you Caryn.  Wow, I see fire behind those gorgeous green eyes of yours.”

“Oh…well, it’s nice to meet you too,” Caryn said shaking hands.

“Let’s have a drink,” Jeff suggested, leading the group into the living room.

While Kim poured wine, Carl’s eyes wandered all over Caryn.

“Fine vintage, Kim.  I don’t know if Jeff told you, but I’m a bit of a wine connoisseur. Let me tell you a quick story about a little tour I took around Napa…”

An hour later, Carl was still expounding with expertise on every subject from baseball to hunting to mountain biking, while periodically throwing comments Caryn’s way:

“Caryn, I hear you’re a runner?  Well, let me tell you, you’ve been running through my mind all night.”

At nine o’clock, Caryn discretely sent a text.  Ten minutes later, she reached for her coat.

“Kim, Jeff, thank you for a wonderful dinner.  Carl, it was nice to meet you.  Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

“What?”  Kim asked incredulously.

“Kim, I’ll call you later.”

“Where are you off to so early?  I was planning to take you home,” Carl, droned.

“Oh, no Carl, I wouldn’t dream of it, besides, I have a cab waiting.  Goodnight all!”  She called over her shoulder, making her escape.  Breathing in the relief of the fresh outdoor air, she read the name on the door of the cab and laughed aloud:  The Pick Up Line, Cab Company.

“Where’re you headed?” the driver asked.

“Far, far away,” she said hopping in the backseat.

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry, never mind.  The Willows Apartments please, on…”

“It’s okay, I know it well.  I live on the second floor.”

Caryn looked at the driver in the rear mirror and said:

“I’m embarrassed to admit, I work so much I hardly know any of my neighbors.”

“Same here, I teach at Washington High during the day and drive the cab a few nights a week, you know, paying off those student loans.  I’m Jay Stevens.”

“Caryn Ross.  I run past Washington High every morning.”

“So, you’re the runner.  I see you every day on my way to work.  I run too, but usually after school.”

They chatted away until the cab pulled up in front of the building.  Caryn was quiet and then said:  “Jay, if you’re free next Saturday, maybe we could run together.”

Jay turned to face her, jotted his telephone number down on the receipt and said:

“That would be great.  I’m glad I picked you up.”

“So am I,” Caryn smiled.

-The End

Half Marathon Italy

“Ready, Set, Get Going…

…because, I know you can run faster than that.”

Don’t you just love internal dialog?  It’s so nurturing.

So I’m back at it, running again after a long break which always feels like starting over, so if you have just begun a resolution routine, I’m right there with you.  I take these long breaks from time to time, ALWAYS regretting it later.

Perhaps you have seen me out there running?  I’m the one looking like the Bionic Woman in the slow motion sequence, na-na-na, na-na-na, you get the picture?  I mean the ORIGINAL Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner, as Jaime Sommers, one of my childhood heroes:

Slow motion is better than no motion! 

Today as I was plodding along wondering why I do this, because it actually hurts…I realized that I do get to think more clearly when I’m running than at any other moment of my day.  The ideas flow more easily as oxygen struggles toward my brain, gasping.

My sister shared this on Facebook and it seemed right:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=389993041086350&set=a.344039039015084.81833.343998622352459&type=1&ref=nf

Are we ever done?  I mean as long as we’re still breathing?  Nope.  I keep thinking, when I hit this landmark or this weight or get this mileage under my belt I will have reached my goal, and then what?  Quit?  No way!  Because, you see my dears, the goal keeps moving.  Funny, when I went looking for a photo to insert here, it turns out, “moving the goalpost” is a metaphor, well, what do you know?

So if you stop always pushing forward, well then, do you lose all the ground you have formerly covered or maybe just some of it, provided you get up, dust off the cobwebs and ask yourself, okay it’s a new day, so what’s next?

P.S.  If you like running and/or blogs about athletics, check out these:

http://sportsandthecross.wordpress.com/

http://jumpforjoyphotoproject.wordpress.com/

http://runningonoatmeal.wordpress.com/

http://willrunforglitter.com/

http://urbanrunninggirl.wordpress.com/

Internal Dialog: Motivator or Enabler?

If my internal dialog genuinely wanted to help, this is what it would look like:

And this is what it would shout:

“Quit whining, shut your pie hole and run!”

Instead it speaks in hushed tones and whispers and says things like:

“You’re over 40.  Your metabolism has slowed considerably.  Of course you’re going to put on weight.”

And “You’ve worked so hard n your diet, you deserve a little chocolate now and then.” 

Over the summer, while running “Camp Mom”, I choose to ignore my internal Drill Sergeant and turn up the volume on my Enabler, who is so much more pleasant and understanding.

My Enabler knows that as head counselor of Camp Mom, I feel justified in stuffing my face with S’Mores, movie popcorn and ice cream cones.

But come September, the Sergeant is back on my doorstep, his bulging biceps folded across his chest, poking a finger at my protruding gut and saying:

“What’s this?  Move your butt, clam cake belly!”

His take no prisoners approach to fitness is the only way I know to release the pancakes I have been holding hostage on my hips and thighs all summer.

So I start running again and stop indulging in foods that lead to bulging.  And I give up whining…well, at least out loud.

The Starting Line

Thought for the week:   If I freeze at the start, I will surely never finish.

I write for sanity, but I run for fitness.  I seem to lack coordination for any other form of exercise.  I have tried group exercise classes, perhaps you have seen my kind, the one capsizing in the warrior pose, knocking down the perfect yoga poser next to me or zigging in Zumba when everyone else is zagging.  So I run.  It is relatively safe.  Although, on occasion I have tripped over my own feet and wiped out, sprawled on the concrete, it is a rare occurrence.

Since I began both hobbies at an early age, I see parallels in my life between running and writing.  I wrote for years before ever thinking about going public and I ran for years before ever entering my first official race, terrified of being last, thinking I should be a ‘real’ runner to compete in a community  race.  Not true.   Anyone can run a 5K; some do it without any training at all, although I would not recommend that unless you enjoy being sore for days afterward.

The more races I ran, the more comfortable I became as a runner.  At the finish line, there were always people ahead of me and always people behind me.  After years of racing, I decided to push myself a little harder and trained over several weeks to run a ten-mile run, The Blessing of the Feet, in Narragansett, RI.  Guess what?  I was not last.

Eventually I even got faster.  I won a third place medal for women in my age group, two years running, in the Keep Your Colon Rolling 5K in Southern Maryland.  Now there is a T-shirt to wear proudly!  The race raises money for colon cancer research, a good cause and no joke; I have lost family members to this disease.  Granted it is a small race and I was competing against a tiny group, but it was an accomplishment for me to place.

Around this same time, feeling triumphant, I wrote a sample story, sent it to Bay Weekly, a local paper, and received an e-mail back from the Editor, which led to roughly two years of freelance writing.  The paper with an estimated circulation of about 50,000 and I was an infrequent contributor at best, but published.

The first time I saw my words in print and my name on the byline, I was both nervous and ecstatic.  I walked around town a little prouder.  Still, I fretted about public recognition.  Once, while sitting in a local restaurant, the customer at the table next to me was reading one of my articles including photos of myself and family members and yet, I still went unrecognized.  Amazing!  My fear of publishing and the remains of my ego quickly dissipated.

I was content for some time, running and writing, doing two things I loved.  I marveled at marathon runners the same way I marveled at novelists.  I could never do those things; I was a short distance runner and a short story and essay writer.  Then one day, I thought, if I can run ten miles, maybe I could write a novel.  I started writing, only a few pages at first.  I put the project down for weeks, coming back to it and then writing some more.  It took ages to write the first ten thousand words.  It was a start.

Years later, my family and I moved to Italy.  I was still running, still writing here and there but still nowhere near completing the novel.  A friend asked me to train with her for the Rome to Ostia half marathon.  Me, run a half marathon?  Well, I ran a ten mile race once.  I trained, progressively adding miles to my training over several weeks.  At the midpoint of my training, I developed runner’s knee and thought I was doomed, but I rested, used alternate training methods and quickly started training again.  After months of preparation, I ran the race with my friend and finished in a respectable amount of time.  I was not last.  It was a proud moment.

By conquering my inner running demons, I realized that I had always possessed the stamina and the self-discipline to do whatever I set my mind to, including finishing my novel.  What I lacked was courage and commitment.   To compete at the half marathon level, training almost every day was essential, just as completing a novel requires consistent daily writing.

I challenged myself to write every week.  I began with a weekly goal of ten hours.  Vigilance was difficult with so many distractions, responsibilities, family, friends, and fun.  Life gets in the way of writing.  I had a single-minded goal and remained fixated on that.  Before long, I was writing twenty hours per week, sometimes at night, weekends, early in the morning, when I could steal time.  Finally, I completed the novel.  It did in fact, take years, but maybe, had I begun sooner, with more focus, it would not have.

Polishing and publishing it is another story, hopefully a shorter one.

Now I have characters waking me at night when I am trying to sleep.  While standing in line at the grocery store, I daydream about plots.  When I meet someone new, I immediately start thinking about what a great character he or she might be in my next book.  On non-writing days, I am cranky; I take this as a sign that writing is essential to my mental health.

Consistency, creating your own rhythm, I believe, is the secret to writing, not only talent and education, although these are helpful.  This is the one piece of advice I have seen appear with frequency in author interviews.  It makes sense.  It sounds simple.  However, it requires sacrifice to make writing a priority, especially without income attached.

Becoming a published novelist is an entirely different bag of worms, but I cannot allow that to steal my momentum.  In addition, about those nagging doubts whether the novel is ever truly finished, I continue to make changes.  It is all part of the process.  However, I started writing a second novel, in the midst of tweaking the first, so as not to waste time staring at blank pages.  The second is nearly finished and considerably more expeditiously than the first.  What do you know?

I no longer count the hours.  I write every chance I have.  Some days, while my children are at school, I look up from the computer screen to realize hours have passed.  In my mind, I have stopped considering writing a hobby and begun thinking of it as a serious profession.  As for hobbies, I still have running, the one thing that quiets my mind, offering solace, a refuge, an escape.  Someday, maybe I will run a full marathon, but first, I have a few novels to finish!

So, you want to write a novel.  What are you waiting for?  On your mark, get set, you know the rest!

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come:  Writers Group, Momentum, My First Writers Conference, Query Letter Hell and Seeking Support:  Surprises and Stumbling Blocks