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Day 7 – The Takeaway

I will be forever grateful to Winnie Kao for the Your Turn Challenge. I shared a piece of my novel and didn’t die. That’s the main takeaway – fear doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. Friends and family asked me to share more. They liked it. It was such a huge boost for me. Thus I bid a very fond farewell to the Your Turn Challenge. It was designed to change me and it did.

Here’s some more about Eliza, this time a scene where she has dinner with two close friends after getting some bad news at work. The “bad news at work” beat needs some work so it didn’t make the cut. Funny thing about re-reading this dinner scene is how quickly the character of Leslie disappears from most of the rest of the book and Sonya takes over as the one BFF. We’ll see how it all pans out in the end.

What I want the book to be is a novel about a woman who is sexy, almost confident in her sexiness, unabashedly direct, and overweight. Eliza isn’t meek in any way. Sometimes while writing it I even thought “Ouch, really?” At the bottom of it all is the belief that she can be loved without changing the fundamentals of herself in the world. “Autobiographical?” friends and family may ask. A bit, but I want Eliza to be braver and even more outspoken than I am. And she really truly wants a partner, whereas I am quite happy living alone. Also, I am very adept at dressing myself and knowing my style. I love that Eliza’s a mess in this area. For my sisters – none of you are Georgia.

Eliza tapped her fingers on the red tablecloth and took a sip of water.  Her glass needed a third refill already and the disconcertingly handsome waiter set a basket of poori on the table with a kind smile.  She shrugged and said, “Thank you. My friends are not usually this late.”

“It’s OK.  There is always time.”

Eliza disagreed with that sentiment, both generally and specifically, but she stopped pondering it when she saw Leslie dash in, waving frantically, almost taking out a waiter with a tray of mango lassi.  “My god, I am so so sorry,” she said, taking off a pair of red leather gloves and tucking them in her purse.  “I tried to text but Evan forgot to charge the phone, and, oh well, I made it.”  She patted her cropped pitch black hair, pushed up the sleeves of an Isabel Marant blouse and rested her arms on the table, silverware clattering. “OK, I am here now. How are you? Where’s Sonya?”

“Take a breath. That waiter eased the sting of waiting, though he’s probably a little spooked by all my ogling.  What’s with the red gloves? It was 75 degrees today.”

Leslie pulled one out of her purse.  “Touch it.  Put it on your cheek.  So soft, like some little baby lamb’s behind.”

“Gross. Really, in an Indian restaurant?”  Eliza took the glove and rubbed it between her fingers.  “Shit, that is soft.  Where did you get these?”

“Ebay.  Just kidding, Barney’s. They cost $150.”

“I have never met anyone less reluctant to talk about how much something cost.”

“You’ve met my mother.  This is all just reactionary backlash to her penny pinching. Evan just bought me a mink cape, really from Ebay this time, that I am going to wear at Thanksgiving. Plus I have to get this all in before So-so arrives.  Isn’t she broke right now? I don’t want to appear unkind.”

“She is broke and you, Mrs. Disposable Income, are treating both of us to dinner.  I may be broke in three months myself.” Eliza tucked her chin down, the last word garbled.

“Wait a minute. Are you crying? Crying is not good, especially not here in the restaurant.” Leslie looked around, wondering who’d noticed and saw Sonya walking in the door.  She motioned her over.

“Liza honey, are you crying?” Sonya sat down and patted Eliza’s hand while whacking Leslie’s shoulder with a menu. “Leslie, what did you do?”

“Nothing, of course. It’s something about work. What color is your hair?”

Eliza looked up at Sonya and snorted.  “Oh man, when you said ‘auburn’ on the phone last night, I didn’t picture this.  It’s purple, or maroon or something.  Not auburn.”

“I know. A colossal cock-up. What happened at work?

Eliza shook her head, took a drink of water. “I screwed up with our biggest client. He called, I was sick of hearing him complain about the software and I just told him the truth.  We have other clients waiting on upgrades and every time he calls to ask Josh for just one little switch, it derails 100 other companies. He got quiet and then he hung up. I was so sure he was going to call me a fat bitch, so that part is good, that that didn’t happen this time. Then this morning, Josh tells me he’s hired a consultant, he and Mike could buy me out.”  She stopped and looked up.

“Why would he call you a fat bitch?” asked Sonya.

“I’m not sure that’s the main issue here,” said Leslie. “Her impetuous phone call threatens to bankrupt them.”

“You sound like an extra on Downton Abbey. If money is your first thing, then yes, that’s the main issue.  But if , you know, the feelings come first and some white pompous rich fuck gave Eliza reason to think he might call her a fat bitch, then that’s the main thing.”  Sonya stared at Leslie.

“I am not apologizing for caring about money, So-so. Or for watching PBS.”

“Ah, so busy fighting over me that you forgot me.” Eliza said, tearing off a large piece of the poori and eating it in one bite. “At least I’m not crying anymore. That was fast. Back in the saddle.”

Sonya picked up the menu, “Let’s order and get back to this fucking consultant bullshit.”

“He might end up being cute, you never know,” Leslie said.

“Wouldn’t that be great, another cute idiot mooning over Carly.” Eliza snorted.

“Or mooning over you,” said Sonya.

“Stop it, please.  Be useful, tell me what to say to Josh tomorrow.”

“Do you know what you’re wearing?” asked Leslie.  Sonya nodded.

“No, not really.  Well, not at all.”

“What about that navy blue wrap dress, you look great in that,” Leslie volunteered.

“It’s under the bed. I meant to wash it or dry clean it, but it’s under the bed.”

Leslie shook her head.  “The mess in your place is like a vortex. Everything gets pulled into a snarl on the floor.”

“All right, no wrap dress.  How about that charcoal knit pencil skirt with some kind of floaty top?” Sonya suggested.

“Can’t I just wear these black pants with a different top?”

“Not if you want to change the dynamic. You have to go in there tomorrow looking like today was but a minor setback. Don’t you dare slink in there with scones from JayBees and being deceitfully cheerful.” Sonya firmly believed in Eliza’s right to cantankerousness.

Eliza tried to think where the skirt might be.  “I think I can find the skirt.  And I do have this icy blue flaky sort of top. It doesn’t feel that good on, but the fit is OK and it’s on a hanger.  And if anyone tells me to wear heels, I’m going to hit her.”

Leslie put her hands up, in surrender.  “I have given that up. And honey, as for what you say tomorrow, forget about that.  You’ll mess it up. I hate to say it, but you will. Do the opposite of your natural inclination – shut up and let someone else talk. I mean that with all the love in the world.”

“I hate to agree, as you know, but she’s right.” Sonya leaned over and her gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

Eliza sighed and squirmed out of Sonya’s embrace.  “Muzzled again, the story of my life. Can we please order?  A greasy samosa or two is just the thing right now.”

Snapshot – the new coffee shop -day six

It’s noisy in a good way, sound bouncing off the concrete floor, a couple of kids running around, The kids aren’t as irritating as they normally would be and oh good, look they’re leaving.  That’s good. Oh no, they’re back. And free city WiFi. Also good. We’re coming along, little Traverse City.  It’s warm and austere at the same time, the warmth coming from the owner Chuck, the austere coming from the decor.  Maple, black and grey. My picture just got taken by one of the kids. Lord knows where that will end up. The tea cup is clear glass, light and delicate.  Where are those from? I want some. Or one. The Assam tea’s astringent after taste is good quality, the color cinnamon. If someone eyes were that color, you’d be afraid.

The owner is so happy to be open, so happy to welcome each person, smiling and generous. It’s fantastic in here because of him.  The windows look out on the BATA bus terminal. There’s a communal table in the middle, pressboard with decorative stripes on sawhorses Black and white photos, exposed duct work. It’s cool here. Someone just said the almond taste in the chai was overwhelming. The owner said he will work on it. Then that person reported out – doesn’t like tea or coffee. Huh.

Here is the teapot and the mug.


I don’t know if it’s totally transparent or not. I have no idea how to end this blog post. Is shipping every day possibly just blathering on? The best post for me was yesterday where I shared some of the novel. No one had ever, ever seen that. And my head didn’t explode and one person even said they liked it. That’s been the best day so far and I’m grateful.

Day 5- A draft of something

by Rebecca Davis

Say Yes and No with Vigor

Today I thought I’d share a piece of the novel I’ve been working on. There are f-bombs and I’ve done the usual masquerade there. Two more days to go.

“This f*^%$^ piece of shit.”  Eliza flipped the lever from silk to wool to silk again, touching cold metal of the sole plate and then looked down and saw the iron’s plug on the floor, spiderwebs connecting it to the wall. “Jesus.” She wiped it off on her bathrobe, plugged the iron in and went to pour herself a second cup of coffee.  She picked up the pizza box from where she tossed it the night before and put it in the trash, bagged the whole thing up and set it outside her door, checking to make sure it wasn’t dripping  Evie, her next door neighbor, waved at her as she headed down the stairs , headphones in and Eliza waved back.  Just as well that they didn’t talk, she thought taking a sip, me in my bathrobe, almost flashing part of my huge nipple.  What would it be like to have Evie’s no doubt small and perfect nipples?  Heading back to her bedroom to check the iron, she muttered, “F*#$%^ Tory Burch lookalike.”

After pressing some life back into a pair of black trousers that really should have gone to the dry cleaners two wearings ago, Eliza pulled on a blue tunic that pooled at her back which she then had to pull at all day long.  There weren’t that many options, though.  Her sister, Georgia, wouldn’t have this problem.  She called her.  On the fourth ring, she answered panicked and groggy at the same time, “What’s wrong, are you OK?”

“I’m fine, why do you ask? How do you figure out getting dressed every morning?”

“Liza, it’s 8:30 AM, you know it’s the first week of summer vacation.  We’re all sleeping in.”

“I don’t have kids, how would I know that?”

“I updated my status on Facebook.”

“That’s not communication.  Anyway, back to it – getting dressed.”

“It first requires shopping and in your case, maybe a diet and exercise plan.”

Eliza paused.  “You’re right, definitely a mistake to call this early.  Talk to you later.”

“Listen, sweetie…

Eliza hung up and went to look at her jewelry box, pulled out a necklace with a large E pendant and put it on.  The coffee cup went in the sink with the rest of the dishes, she put her laptop in her messenger bag, and left, locking the door behind her and taking the trash with her.

The line at JayBees Coffee and Gluten was mercifully short which meant Eliza was late.  If she’d gotten here at 7:45, at least ten people would have been waiting on Jonas and his sister Bea. Jonas, laughing with a black suited skinny spider of a man, gave her a quick nod.  Eliza looked around and saw the art work had changed again.   Pedestrian stuff, she thought, insipid landscapes of the Manhattan skyline viewed from the Promenade.  Another of Jonas’s girlfriends perhaps.

“Hey, Liza Jane. How many cups at home this morning?” Jonas gave her a peck on the cheek across the counter.

“Just two. How many customers have you kissed this morning?”

“Only you, darling, only you. Small latte then?”

“No, Americano, two shots. Has Josh been and gone?”

“Hours ago, shame on you.”

“How did he seem? Did he get a scone?”

Bea called out from the back, “Chocolate chunk scone, sorry Eliza.”

Eliza sighed.  “One for me, too, then.”  The office was two doors down and three floors up, she’d have time to get it all down before she got to her desk.

Bea came out front, drying her hands on a towel draped over the tie on her apron.  “I thought you weren’t doing refined anything.  Aren’t we supposed to stop you from buying scones? Which is idiotic to me, but you did ask us.”

“Just put one in a bag, Bea.  My sister was mean to me this morning and now Josh at the office before 10 AM.  Refined everything, please.”

Jonas put her coffee on the counter.  “What do you think of the paintings? Be honest.”

Bea shook her head, grimacing and set the scone next to the coffee.

“Are you dating her?” Eliza asked.

“How do know it’s a her?

“It’s always a her.”

“Not yet.”

“They’re vapid and predictable.  What do you think of them?”

“I hate them.  Ramona, however, is a cross between Reese Witherspoon and Eva Mendes.”

“That doesn’t even  make any sense. Is she age appropriate?”

“I’m 35, there is a wide range of age appropriate.”

Eliza waited, cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.

“She’s 22.”

“Jesus Christ, Jonas.”

Shaking his head, “I know. I know.”

Bea punched him on the shoulder, “I said the same thing to you and you blew me off. Jerk.”

“One day you’ll wise up and date an actual woman. I’ll likely be dead or in a home but I still have hope. OK, gotta go and face Mr. Pell. Do I owe you anything or am I still running a credit?”

Jonas pulled out a hardbound ledger book and flipped a couple of pages in.  “Nope, twelve more dollars or thereabouts after today. On your way, eat fast, don’t forget to wipe the crumbs off.”

Ask Questions. Tell the Truth.

Today’s Your Turn Challenge is to teach something that I do well. I choose “Ask the difficult questions and be honest about your opinions.” This comes in most handy at work. Here are my tips:

  1. Grow older – everything about telling the truth and asking the difficult questions is easier the older you get, at least in my experience.
  2. Pay attention to that frisson of unease or alertness that tells you you’re on to something.There is always a moment in a meeting or even out with family where you might think, “That sounds a little cock-eyed.” Trust that instinct.
  3. Choose your words thoughtfully. If you’re going to ask probing questions or voice an unpopular opinion, don’t start with phrases such as “That won’t work.” That’s the nuclear option. You might have to use it as a last resort. Try other phrases first. Maybe something like “Walk me through that. We haven’t been able to do that in the past because of XYZ. What’s changed?”
  4. Know that if you have the question, someone else has the question, too. Asking is a community service.
  5. Sometimes you’ll bomb. You’ll piss off someone important, you’ll be too abrupt, or you’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
  6. Apologize if you need to. Don’t do it automatically though. Apologies should be reserved for having embarrassed someone in public. That’s no good. Don’t apologize for pissing someone off if your position was respectfully communicated.

Stamp “Decline” on that thing

Neither my Day 1 or Day 2 posts appear to have made it to the Your Turn Tumblr blog. There is a certain sense of irony there. There may also be human error. I might not have posted correctly or I might have put the wrong email in or something. I will keep posting until the seven days is up. ‘Cause I’m a little riled. And I’m enjoying myself.

Do it no matter if you get recognized or not. Do it even if no one ever posts a comment. Do it if you have strep throat. Do it if you’re in the middle of sex marathon, come up for air and post. That’s the point, right?

Beauty is on my mind today – dark beauty like all the writing in HBO’s True Detective (love this list of memorable quotes from Rust Cohle) which I cannot get out of my mind, even weeks now after I’ve watched it. “If I could do that,” I said one thousand times while watching that show. “If I could only do that.”

Lamb chili on the stove is another beauty. Lunch. The green peppers and onions turned mahogany when I added the chile powder. Seeing the apricot line of clouds between the houses at 5:30, another beauty. The sunset’s gone missing the last few weeks here, buried behind miles of sullen, gray clouds.  President Obama’s defiant State of the Union address – the list goes on and on. I love that beauty can grab you, grab your ribs and crack them open. The symphony, the Uptown Funk video. It’s also sneaks around and surprises you. A colleague tells a story about trying to pull a frozen dollar bill off the sidewalk and we all laugh and make joke after joke. The deadly flowchart forgotten.

It’s late and I’m grasping. Day Three done.

Nervous that something might work out OK

JIttery for a few weeks now over a proposal I’m making at work. Here’s the gist – work with a vendor; replace one system with another; ask someone else to do the conversion work; hope it works; if it works then we make a big leap forward in client understanding. Gut check on the plan is that it’s a good one. I trust the folks I’m working with. All the stars aligned to have a lunch meeting and talk it through with the right people and they seem eager to hear about it.

What if it fails? What if it works? What if my gut is wrong?

I love this quote from Samuel Beckett that I found on Improvised LIfe:


Is the project working or failing a better outcome? You’d think “working” would be the only answer. You’d be wrong. Failing has its benefits. Go back to a hidey-hole, nursing wounds, waiting to be brave again. Now that I write that out, it doesn’t seem good. OK then, “working” it is. Heads up, eyes bright, willing to listen, willing to fail. But planning to succeed.

How about the hair? A little less crazy, maybe?

With some anxiousness, I’ve decided to participate in Seth Godin’s Getting Unstuck One Week Challenge. Seven days, a blog each day. Yikes. It will be all right. Devil/angel, devil/angel.

Why am I doing it? Because I don’t want to finish the last drib and drab of my novel and then face the editing. I want to say I’m brave and I did the challenge. I want to share the results on Twitter (me and my seven followers) and Facebook. Both those things scare me, but what the hell.

OK, so what’s all this about the hair? It’s about listening and paying attention. My theory about my fine hair and big face is that my hair needs to stick out, be wide, be crazy because that balances my big head. It’s the dead of winter here in Michigan. Static electricity zings all over, snapping the dog’s nose, making my skirt stick to my tights, leaving my hair limp and crispy dry. Enter the styling wax. Scoop up a teaspoon or two from the jar, rub it on my hands and through my fingers, jam it into my hair and try to get the pieces and strands to lay right. Almost impossible in this dryness.

My sister Missy knitted me a hat for Christmas that I love. It’s warm, cute, big enough for the big head and once I sewed a felted wool band over the ear section, it was perfect. The hat and the styling wax are not good together. It’s Alfalfa times five hundred. I learned this when I wore it out on New Year’s Eve and spent the whole time trying to rectify the situation. So impossibly vain. And mortified.

Bitter cold weather continued. I stopped with the wax and just wore the hat. A guy at work said, “Your hair looks good today.” He’s never said a thing before. Then someone else said it. Then I realized that maybe all the crazy spiky hair wasn’t that flattering. Not having spiky wild hair is uncomfortable for me. I’m trying something new though, in response to the feedback. Listening.

To make an effort at listening more deeply is a development goal both in my private and professional life. I was a little surprised that I would learn something about my hair. And I like it now. It’s simpler and I don’t fuss as much. I was wrong about the crazy. Huh.