A chemical love, but a love all the same // mystery prize monday

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Well this will be fast and informal. I have two deadlines fast approaching, and I'm catching up on thank you cards, mystery prizes and sea glass necklaces to those of you who donated. I did not want to post again until I've dropped the last of those in the mail. However! I realized that with the most recent post, I may have leaving you hanging just a bit.

It's been two months since I've had any alcohol, and I miss it less than I thought I would, although the release of Highland Brewery's Cold Mountain Ale might be a tough evening to get through. It's been three weeks since my last tomato.  It's been four weeks since I've had any fruit except pears. It's been four weeks since I've had anything to drink besides pear juice.

Except Coffee. Every day I drink a Trader Joe's sample cup of coffee and as a result, I've fallen in love with Trader Joe's. Their ridiculous gourds, their collection of orchids. All those cheerful team members. It's an artificial, chemical-based love, but it's love all the same.

I tried to stop drinking coffee completely and I my brain stopped. It was during those days of rain we got a few weeks back, when the hurricane veered south but we caught the fringe. I sat at the computer and wept because I couldn't write without my brain, and alright, I could live without writing, I've never claimed otherwise, but who would tell the good people of Western North Carolina where to find their 10 spookiest halloween adventures?
It was Kelli who saved me, mother of the coffee-drinking Chihuahua, of all people. She scraped me off the couch, she buckled me safely into her Subaru and drove me to the grocery store. She administered a sample cup of coffee (she is a nurse, after all) we bought Mums, and suddenly I felt cheerful again. "My god," I said, the caffeine lighting me up like a Christmas Tree. (God help me should I ever become addicted to something stronger.) "It's like I'm seeing this grocery store for the first time. It's so colorful. Look! A baby holding a carrot!"

Kelli said, "Yes, dear." As if she were my husband of fourty five years. "Yes dear."

Since then I have returned to Trader Joe's every day for my daily swallow, and before you judge me too much, please understand that I always make a purchase. Some days it is a 19 cent banana. Or a white and orange striped 'lil tiger' mini pumpkin.

It's completely disconcerting but until someone comes up with a better plan, I'm sticking with it.

I fired my IC specialist. She was not special. She was not good for me. That felt good.

I saw an acupuncturist the same day I fired my specialist. She spent two hours just listening to me. She nodded at the end and she said, "This all makes sense."

Then I flew home to Vermont.
Sometimes when you're stuck in a cycle of chronic pain, you have to change the scene. Something has to change and you've tried everything else. I'm 30 years old and I went home to my parents house. I took walks with my mom around our land. It was a late foliage this year in Vermont, almost as if it were waiting for me. I arrived at the peak and all week watched bright gold leaves glitter down from the trees onto the dirt road. It was like walking through a music box.

I wrote my articles during the day and in the evenings I watched Veep with my mom and dad. Then I would fall asleep.
Some of my good friends from Seattle just happened to be visiting Vermont to see the leaves, and we hiked to the top of Deers Leap in Killington. I didn't feel any pain on that hike. I was very cautious, moving slowly, as if I were glazed head to toe in a very thin egg shell. I moved like that for five days. On the flight home I sat in my seat still as a statue, like those people who were frozen in ash after Pompeii erupted. I was a fly suspended in amber, the amber being the complete disbelief that I felt such relief after 3 months of agony.

I've been back in Asheville for a week and the pain has not returned. I'm not cautious any more, not because I don't think it will come back, but because I know it will, eventually. So for now, I find myself filled with a raging, howling sort of energy. The other morning, Dave watched quietly as I ran sprints through our tiny kitchen, touching one wall and then the other before I disappeared into the shower. A few minutes later he watched me devour a stack of his famous Egg Dipped Frozen Pumpkin Waffles (they're amazing) and he said, "Someone's feeling good today."

It's like this. You've been maybe a little bit bedridden, and then one day you're up out of bed, and you're very very very behind! And you must work very hard to catch up. And that's where I am.

Where are you?

That is our mystery prize monday question. Where are you? And I don't mean your physical location. I am not going to say anything else. I know you guys will run with that question in whatever way you need to.
If this is your first Mystery Prize Monday, here's how it works. Leave a comment, and then help yourself to all the other comments that everyone else leaves. We have a good community right here. I'll choose the winner by randomly selecting from within the comments. The winner gets a hand written photo card, and a mystery prize package delivered right to their mailbox.

As always, I can't wait to hear what you have to say. I can't wait to know where you are. I've really grown to love you. 

one small thing // mystery prize monday

Today's Mystery Prize Monday is the first in a series we are writing this autumn called One Small Thing. The idea is to generate and accumulate a list of the pragmatic but inspired steps we can take towards a healthier, happier and more hopeful life.

I'm so curious as to how you will the answer these questions over the next few weeks. I believe the things we've come up with to take care of ourselves and to take care of the world should be shared. The more we notice and give credit to them, the more inclined we'll be to keep doing them.
I've been been having a hard time lately and I've forgotten my routines. Or maybe not so much as forgot, as I can't find the energy to do them, not even the smallest of things. I have become the master of excuses, as many of us do when we're struggling.

As an example, I've stopped going to coffee shops to work. I'm so much better off when I get out of the house and write in the company of other living beings, but I can't drink coffee anymore because I have IC.

Coffee fills me with pain and takes away my sleep, my ability to exercise, my ability to move at all. But I love coffee; I love the flavor and the smell and watching cream swirl into the cup, I love the sound of espresso beans grinding to dust and milk frothing and for thirteen years I've loved the hit of caffeine, the pleasant buzz that unmoors me from the harbor of morning and into the wild, uncharted day. 

Without it -and I know I sound like an addict- but without it, the day feels neither wild nor unchartered. It feels like one long sluggish late afternoon hour, 3pm maybe, that stretches from morning until bedtime. And I tell myself I should just work from home for one more day, because being around all that coffee, I'll end up just drinking it and poisoning myself and anyway, I'm not feeling so well, and it would take so much energy.

You see the excuses, as if I've completely lost trust in myself.

I started writing this blog seven years ago. 

Listen, it's not that I'm feeling so down because I can't drink a cup of coffee. I'm feeling so down because of things that are hard-hitting and vague at the same time, I'm not even entirely sure what they are. But without my three main lines of defense -coffee in the morning, a good beer in the evening, vigorous exercise in between- I'm not able to fight them off the way I once did.  

But I could still go to the damn cafe, couldn't I (although not my old favorite because that exploded with a sex scandal last week and now it's for sale, and it's no longer my favorite.) All I can drink now is mint tea but it's not nothing, it's still a reason to work outside of the house and walk four blocks in the light rain, and be grateful to breathe in fresh air, and listen to whatever music they're playing, and have a little dialog with the girl next to me when she asks to reach over and plug in her computer, and write without the distraction of the dishes or the dogs. Then I could walk home in the evening and be happy to be there, maybe kiss my husband at the door and then make dinner while listening to the radio.

Maybe tomorrow. Definitely, tomorrow. 

I started writing this blog seven years ago and I promised myself that I would write everything. So I am.
 For Mystery Prize Morning, tell us one small thing that you do to lift your spirits. Something tried and true that has always worked for you. Tell us now, because winter is on its way and other people might be interested to know. Tell me, so I might borrow it for the next few weeks or so. Tell yourself, so that you don't ever forget that it works. 

If this is your first Mystery Prize Monday, here's how it works. Leave a comment, and then help yourself to all the other comments that everyone else leaves. We have a good community right here. I'll choose the winner by randomly selecting from within the comments. The winner gets a hand written photo card, and a mystery prize package delivered right to their mailbox.

As always, I can't wait to hear what you have to say. I've really grown to love you.

To keep up with Mystery Prize Mondays, follow me on instagram @thewildercoast

keep dressing like that / mystery prize monday

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I've been meaning to take a picture of a particularly beautiful row of flowers that are planted along the road where I live. They're Zinnias, I think. They are really well tended to and every time I walk past them I feel a little cheery.

However I know that if I do take a picture of the flowers, I'll never actually look at the picture again. The colors would be nice and bright, but there would be nothing particularly interesting about it. I'd never put it up on Instagram or anything, so what's the point. Every day I walk past the row of flowers on my way to Odds cafe to drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the social atmosphere as I do my work, and every day I think about taking a picture, but I never do.

Then, two days ago, as I was walking past the Zinnias on my way to Odds, a very large butterfly landed on one of the blooms and began to crawl around on its skinny antennae legs. "Bingo!" I thought. "What a delightful picture that would make, and I bet I could get very close to that butterfly, close enough to capture all the amazing details on its wings!" I took my phone from out of my bag, and waited for a moment for a minivan to pass by before I could cross the street.

But when the minivan approached, it slowed down. Then it stopped right in front of me! In the driver's seat I could see a man pumping away at an old fashioned crank to lower his non-automated window. From the looks of it, this was a little bit of a struggle for him. When the window was down, he leaned his head out, pointed his big fleshy face at me, eyes hidden by a pair of iridescent wrap-around sunglasses and said, "Girl, you keep dressing like that, you ain't never going to get laid."

Then the minivan lurched forward and tore off down the road, leaving the flowers swaying on their stalks and the butterfly, as startled as I had been by the encounter, flapping away.

Now I'm going to tell you what I was wearing, not out of defense, but simply because the absolute ordinariness of my attire bears mentioning. I had on a very simple floral sundress from Patagonia that I purchased four years ago, which I think says a lot about the sturdiness of Patagonia clothing. Sturdy may not be a quality that is revered in the fashion world, but it's certainly something that I value. I was wearing Chacos, also quite sturdy, maybe a little clunky as far as footwear but again, I haven't had to replace the sandals in three years.

Flung carelessly around my shoulders (and sort of wrapped around my neck, like a security blanket, or a scarf) was a lightweight, long-sleeve T that I'd brought along just in case it got drafty inside the cafe. I always pack a layer, even in summer. In fact, summer is the most important time to do so, as certain business owners brutally refrigerate the climate inside their establishments to temperatures so arctic and artificial they could easily kill off all the babies and the elderly on the premises. Why so many people insist on this practice, I may never understand.

All in all, I had assumed (without actually giving it any thought) that dressed in this outfit, when taken in combination with my hair style (average, but not unpleasant) my current fitness status (not my best, but pretty good) I had achieved an overall appearance so appropriate to the season, time of day and location, and in all essence so neutral that I was, essentially, invisible.
People use the word invisible like it's a bad thing (unless they're talking about superpowers, and then everybody wants to be invisible, at least for short periods of time.) But I don't mind it.

A few years ago, if I wanted to turn heads as I strolled across campus or through my watery Norwegian neighborhood in Seattle, I could. I had at my disposal a small but, looking back on it, pricey, arsenal of Aveda smoothing creams and lip glosses and strappy things, as well as that authentic, impossible to replicate buoyancy and petal-softness of youth. Fashion sense did not come in my toolbox at birth, nor did even the most rudimentary makeup skills, but I could get by, and I saw a healthy dose of ego-boosting, life affirming attention from the world, as did every girl I knew. Nothing outrageous, but I enjoyed it. I look back on that time with great fondness.

I no longer spend money on clothes or unguents or anything of that nature. Not because I don't want to, but because I don't have the money for it. Window shopping or perusing through catalogs just makes me crave things I can't have, so I stopped going into stores altogether, and gradually the idea of buying new things faded from my mind. Mostly. 

It's a mellower season of life. For the most part I inhabit a nice, sensible cloud of comfort and self-assurance, the kind that comes with having everything I need for the time being. I have a loving husband, a middle aged corgi, and a reliable pack of friends. When I find myself with a little extra money, I go see Dr. Reilly for a chiropractic adjustment, and I feel great. Strangers on the street have stopped noticing me, and I've stopped noticing that they're not noticing me. I'm 30, good enough on most fronts, and life is a-ok.
So besides the outright bummer of being sexually harassed on my own street, I actually found the whole episode vaguely entertaining. I don't like the concept of such a guy being out there, trolling around the neighborhood and being a dickweed to women, and of course we could get into the multiple layers of failure inherent to a system that could churn out such a character: I certainly don't find that amusing. I would have been much more outraged to hear that this guy had said something like that to one of my friends. But for me, I guess I just didn't care.

I don't meant to give this creep any credit, or to be overly sincere about the whole thing, but it did make me consider this aspect of life at the moment. I put the the least possible effort into how I look right now. That could change when I make a little more money, maybe not, but for now: I'm cool with it.

For Mystery Prize Monday, my question is: what are you just kind of cool with right now?
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If this is your first mystery prize Monday, here's the deal. Leave a comment, then read over and enjoy what everyone else has to say. I'll choose a winner by randomly selecting from within the comments. The winner a hand written card and an autumn-themed mystery prize delivered to their mailbox, just a little something nice to perk up your week.

(Next week- just to get you all drummed up, Nici Holt-Cline of Dig This Chick and I have come up with an ultra special MPM post and prompt, with a Geo Hoodie as a prize! But hey, that's next week.)

mystery prize monday : exploring

follow along on Instagram : @melinadream
What a treat it is to be out of school. Forever. 

In the past week I've made it my mission to win back the good favor of my dog, who suffered under the brutal dictatorship of Organic Chemistry and Microbiology. I did the best I could during the past year and half, but my dog is not pleased nor satisfied with shuffling around the block or tracing the same figure 8 through the park each afternoon. She needs a more adventurous lifestyle and so do I.
The morose professor awarded me with a 105 in his class, which felt lucky, if a bit arbitrary. He never even collected our lab manuals, meaning I could have slept in every Friday instead of enduring his meltdowns and his admonishments, but so it goes. I don't know where that grade came from and I won't be asking any time soon. The 95 I made in O Chem was fair and hard earned; may I never live to have to repeat that class. 

Ever since then I've been free. Free to work, take greater care with my weekly articles, search (sometimes with a great deal of optimism, sometimes with a spinning sense of dread when I consider the looming financial difficulties) for more writing, free to pull open the windows and clean the house while the radio plays in the background (although I haven't gotten around to that yet), or explore the mountains for whole days at time without having to come home. Which is what I've mostly been up to. 

Here's a photo book of our first summer explorations. (And here is a tutorial I wrote about taking photos in Western Carolina, including some of my favorite photogenic destinations & filters.) 

Hometeam and I kicked things off by climbing the Art Loeb Spur trail to Black Balsam Knob. A wicked afternoon thunder storm rolled in as soon as we reached the summit. 
On Saturday, David and I went up to swim at Skinny Dip Falls. If you want to visit Asheville this summer, here's my recent article about Five Top Swimming Holes in the area. It will tell you how to get there and everything you need to know. 
When my friends and I ride at Bent Creek, we have time now to try the mysterious connector trails and stay late into the evening. In town, all these new places have surfaced while we weren't looking. 

I have two more weeks in the Blue Ridge. Dave is going to Costa Rica with his school and the minute he gets back, we are packing up the bikes and the boats (and the dog) and heading to New England for the rest of the summer. There, between the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the shivering Atlantic up in Acadia, Maine, and all the secret swimming holes I grew up with-  and somewhere in there getting a husband out of the deal- the adventures are going to go off. 

(And all with close to no money. We may be getting very creative with the camp stove.)

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For Mystery Prize Monday, leave a comment telling us what or where you're exploring this summer. Exploring can really mean anything- any realm, any place, any thing, inside or outside. As always, I'll choose randomly from the comments and someone will have a surprise in their mailbox within the week. I chose this prize a few weeks back at a local craft fair; it's delicate and there's a bird involved. I almost kept it for myself, except for that I destroy delicate things and you deserve it more.

I've missed you all the in the past few months. I'm excited to see what you've been getting into. 

so winded, so sincere

Thank you this week to Sarah, for keeping me warm.
I bought my wedding dress last week. It took 45 minutes. I should have gone with my best friend, Lisa, but she just left for Vanuatu for two years with the Peace Corps so I went by myself. When I found my dress, simple and satin and on the clearance rack for $299, the girls at the shop made me ring a bell. I was supposed to make a wish on my dress so I did. Then, as I was walking through the parking lot back to my car, one of them came sprinting after me. "WAIT! You forgot this!" Breathlessly, she thrust a paper heart at me, the same one that had been hanging on the door of my changing room. It had my name written on it in sharpie. "You'll want this for your memory book!"

The girl was so winded and so sincere that I took the heart, pressed it carefully into the pages of my complimentary Bridal Party Look Book, and hugged her. There's just something about the women who work in those dress shops. They seem to care about you, not only about finding your dress but about you, and I don't care that they're paid to do it, I love them for it.
of course this is not my dress! 
When I got home, I skimmed through the complimentary Bridal Party Look Book. Here's a tip, I read. Ask your bridesmaids to show up on The Big Day with dewey skin and a pastel eye.

I wondered what would happen if I told my sister she needed a pastel eye. The world would tremble, certainly. When I called her to announce my engagement, it was my brother in law, Brooks, who answered the phone. He loves David, especially loves having him around during the holidays, so he was thrilled and said so, while from the background I heard Anna shout, "I'M NOT WEARING ANY BULLSHIT DRESS!"

Anna is my maid of honor and my cousin is my bridesmaid. Lisa should be in my bridal party but, as I made mention, she is long gone, living in a string of islands whose only claim to fame, as far as I can tell, is having the world's only underwater post office. Before she left she begged me to delay my wedding until February of 2017. When I declined, she sent me some leaflets on Vanuatu destination weddings. I reminded her that father Coogan doesn't like water. And then she left.

I hadn't really noticed that she was gone, she lives 3,000 miles away in Seattle anyway, until last Friday in biology lab. The one that begins at 8:00 in the morning, and I can't think of anything more cruel. On this particular lab, the morose professor was standing in front of the class making an analogy about legos and organic molecules when he paused, held up a hand, and said, "Wait a second now- I just want to make sure that all the ladies in the class know what a Lego is."

Let me make something clear- I love it when he does this, when he hands me a pearl like this one and I can run home and tell Dave about it over dinner, then call up Lisa as I'm walking the dog and we can laugh and she'll say, "Oh Lina, I still don't understand why you moved."
Follow along on Instagram @melinadream
But when I called her the phone number didn't work any more. So I just walked up the street with the dog in silence, thinking about one particular time we had together. We played on the same ultimate team for years and years in college. We were both captains. The practices were always late at night, because that was the only time we could rent the fields, and afterwards we'd be soaked to the bone and freezing cold. It really does rain a lot in Seattle.

Sometimes, to warm up afterwards, we'd run a hot bath and put on our bikinis and soak together. We did this a lot after I moved into a house that had one of those extra large tubs with jets. One time, we decided to put bubble bath in the tub and then turn the jets on, just to see what would happen.

Well, here's what happened. The jets puffed up the bubbles into foam: thick, heavy, luscious foam like the kind from Harry Potter when he takes that incredible bath. It was awesome. But then, after we had drained the tub of water, the foam remained, a foot deep. We tried adding water, but that only made more foam. It was obvious that the foam was not going anywhere and we were in a lot of trouble.

We thought for a while about what to do. We were both scared of my roommates at the time, not that they weren't lovely people, but they were the type to know better than to air-jet a bubble bath. I suggested getting a pail or a pot and scooping the foam out of the tub and emptying it into the yard, but we did not want to go into the kitchen and arouse suspicion. Besides, it would have taken so many trips!

In the end, we were able to get rid of the bubbles by flushing them down the toilet and hammering the rest with a direct shower stream. It took so many flushes, in fact that may be why Lisa ended up joining the Peace Corps, to assuage her guilt of so much water wasted. Me, I'm still living with mine.

It's been a few weeks since the last Mystery Prize Monday. If you have forgotten, I give you a prompt and you leave a comment. I read and enjoy every comment, but I must randomly choose just one to win the Mystery Prize, which I will then send to your doorstep.

This prompt is very simple but also very sincere. (Picture me, running after you in a parking lot, a scrap of paper in my hand for your Memory Book.) Just tell me how things are going. Today. Or lately. It's been a little while and I really want to know. Tell me how you're doing. And also, if someone, anyone, could please tell me what a Lego is.

Hygge! & a Christmas Mystery Prize

It's Monday, it's late at night, and this is the very first time I've been able to steel myself away from all the Hygge. Hygge is a Danish word with no English translation, but it means something like 'being warm and cozy inside while outside it is dark.' And it's my very favorite thing in the entire world.
I made it to Vermont after fifteen hours of white-knuckling the steering wheel through a rainstorm which did not let up once between Durham, North Carolina and White River Junction, Vermont.  My route took me through Manhattan, which I did not become aware of until I was crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, listening to the audio version Growing up Duggar because I have a morbid fascination with that bunch, and wondering, "What the hell happened to Pennsylvania?"

Now I understand that the route from Durham to home is quite different than the route from Asheville to home. One includes a lovely glide through Pennsylvania Dutch country, and the other, a miserable crawl through the Bronx at 13 miles an hour.

Once I crossed over into Vermont, the rain turned to ice and coated the empty highway with a slippery gloss, and then my car couldn't make it up my road and we slid backwards, the dog leaping out of her seat and into my lap, coming to a crunching stop against a snowbank. We had to go the rest of the way on foot.

My dad, who had waited up for us, was very agitated because he doesn't like when I drive long distances, and while he waited he'd watched the Wolf of Wall Street which he found very upsetting. In the morning I found out that my car had slid off the road because no one had sanded or plowed the road because two Vermont townships were having a sort of turf war, and the whole thing was a big mess.

But it was worth it for all the Hygge that's been happening since I made it home.
The snow has been coming down for days and the sledding is perfect. David went into town and bought a smooth-bottomed sled called the Easy Glider which can ramp up to terrifying speeds and is impossible to control. My brother in law claims to have broken his neck on it. Dave has an affinity for sledding through the woods, which is actually terribly dangerous. Today while we were out playing in the field, he put his arm around me, surveyed the steep, thickly wooded hill behind our house and said cheerfully, "If I'd grown up here, I definitely would have died."
We've spent these days before Christmas in the woods, in the general store in town choosing buckets of candy for our little cousins' presents, kicking at rat-king-esque piles of snarling corgis when they fight, baking, playing banana grams, and listening to my dad say things like, "It was too easy to find a parking spot, Kid. Small town life is decaying," And "steak houses are a cult, kid," and "life just gets worse and worse, kid. Worse and worse."

But still, such Hygge!
And now if you don't mind, it is cold outside and inside this warmly lit house, there is coziness to attend to. But first! In keeping with our Make More Mail initiative, let's do a giveaway- a Christmas Mystery prize! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can call it something else, like a Cozy Fun Pack.
To win, simply leave a comment and tell me what sort of Hygge you're up to this winter.

Are you drinking porter in a ski cabin in the Grand Tetons? Pouring tea in your city apartment? Curling up with a good book under the blanket? Snuggling away with your companion watching a little something on the TV? 

The winner will receive a Vermont themed mystery prize. It may be delicious, it might be fun, it could even be drinkable, it's bound to be rustic, and I promise, it will enhance your Hygge. 

I have a feeling that this week, there will be a smaller group of us writing. The holidays are a festive and busy time. But that's okay. It will be a small group of good friends and I'm happy with that. Small is cozy.

 I hope you are having a very warm and very entertaining time, wherever you are and whatever you're doing! I cannot wait to read about your coziness.  I like you all a lot, have a safe, peaceful and hygge Holiday.

Recently & a Holdfast Giveaway

--Drawing Over--
Thank you this week to Jane, Jody, Jamie and Liz. You make it possible.

Dave's brother and sister in law arrive from Oakland. She brings me artesian salt in a little tin. It's pink, and I want to keep it by my bedside as a good luck charm. They also bring us a bottle of California wine as a housewarming gift. David pours it into jelly jars because we are not at the wine glass stage of life yet. He studies the fine pale salt and smiles and says thank you, but he does understand the significance; he doesn't read the blog very often. That seems to sit well with us both.
We have no wine glasses or living room table. Dave says he likes to 'wait for things to arrive' rather than go out and buy them. Since he was born with a lucky star on his forehead, this has always proved an effective strategy. He also has the gift of not wanting and not needing very much. Unlike me! Last Friday, I walked into The Frugal Backpacker and there was a whole wall of sample pieces, which are much cheaper than normal price outdoor stuff yet still remarkably expensive. Everything was my size and looked beautiful and would have given me the life of my dreams, if I could have bought all of it. I had to exit the building. I had to call my mother, then go home and lie down for a little while.

I know that you understand this feeling, that the addition of one more thing could really make the difference. Could really hit the spot. Could really tip the scales. They say that it can always feel just out of reach, and that's the trap, but for me it often feels really really out of reach. Like, maybe a football field away and moving fast. 
My chemistry teacher is beginning to lose his patience. Just a little. I hear it in his voice, slightly strained, the way he hesitates for a moment before taking my question. He is a very nice man and I don't blame him. 

I ask a lot of questions and they always begin with "wait, back up-". Who ever wants to back up? No one. I'm the only one who asks questions. I guess everyone else is mute. Before the class begins we sit and stare at the board, or down at the phones we've hidden in our laps, and when it's over we shuffle out silently. I've never heard them talk. Yet they must be geniuses. I marvel at how efficiently they appear to understand the concepts of enthalpy and the gas postulates, never asking a question, or sighing, or whimpering, or making an expression of any kind with their faces.  

The class, however, is shrinking. It's been a slow drain throughout the semester, gradual and barely noticeable until now. Half the class was quietly flunking and have quietly withdrawn. At least I'm still in the Octagon, even if it makes me frustrated and furious. Anatomy and Physiology is great. It's a steaming hot bath compared to chemistry. I get perfect scores on the tests and I credit that to not having children and not having to work much.

Of course, the dilemma remains of when to have the children and where to find the work.

And I will absolutely figure that out tomorrow. 
I'm not complaining about the lack of wineglasses, in fact I've broken enough of those at my parents' house to last until I'm middle aged. I'm really not complaining at all, because we're at a good part in the plot. David may not want much or need much but he wants me and he needs me. We're always walking around thanking each other for everything. We're really polite. At dinner he'll say, 'thank you for making a nice dinner' and I'll say 'thanks for getting all this food at the farmer's market' and he'll say 'well thank you for telling me about the farmers market' and we'll just go on and on. It's got to be awful to be around. Intolerable. I love it.

The semester is almost over, its on its death roll for sure and tougher than ever. But I'll get through it, I'm certain, because I have this fancy salt which is, obviously, more than fancy salt. It's a reminder that sometimes it's better to wait and things will arrive in their own fashion. Damn lucky, tricky star.

Now for a give-away:
Holli wearing the bicycle tank
I have been eyeing- hard- everything from Holdfast Outfitters. Holdfast is a company based here in Asheville, created and run by a hard working, talented and very strong climber named Courtney. Holdfast is everything we love here on The Coast- a local gal with gusto, making things by hand that we really want to wear and use. 

Holdfast blends functional and comfortable outdoorsy with that minimalist design that's very hot right now. Courtney designs and prints all of her clothes, candles, mugs and more at her home studio. 
This Monday's prize is no Mystery- it's a 50$ gift certificate to Holdfast Outfitters. Wow! That splits neatly into 25$ for yourself and 25$ for someone you're fond of. Thank you Courtney!

The clothes, blankets, prints and hardware that you'll find while browsing Holdfast are completely affordable, and the pieces change with the weather. Courtney dreams, designs and creates new things all the time. Here is my pick of the season: 

This week's prompt is inspired by a brilliant woman I met through the process of writing this blog. Her name is Anna Lola. I recently saw this stunner on her Instagram, @anna_lola:
That's Anna, before her morning commute. She's committed to biking to school and work despite the freezing Rhode Island temperatures. I am really proud of her for that and it got me thinking. Today's prompt is to leave a comment about something you've done lately that made you proud. Of yourself. THAT'S RIGHT! Something that you did that you are happy about. 

I'll start. I can't win the giveaway but I still want to play:

I almost cried at the chemistry tutor the other day. I'm not a crier but I was so frustrated and tired. But I took a minute to think about it, and I decided not to. It would have been a really great way to show the tutor just how upset I was, but ultimately, it wouldn't have been very productive. I'm proud of myself for that one miserable moment. 

Alright- what's yours? It can be tiny or enormous. It can be whatever you want. 

I will randomly choose the winner of the 50$ gift certificate and announce it at the end of the week. I can't wait to read them- I'm already proud of you. 
Follow me on Instagram @melinadream for mountains, dogs and giveaways 

mystery prize monday

--Drawing Over--
My mom warned me never to write about writing. She says it's self indulgent to the author and boring for the rest of us. Leave it to Lammot and King. And I will leave it to them; after this post it will be all theirs.
all these letters came from you
I thought the job in Arkansas was going to pull together all the strings of my life so neatly. The jolt when that did not happen (at all) lead to some clarity of thought.

At least it did that.

1. I am going to have another job apart from writing. That job will not be 'a thing I do on the side while I nurture my writing career'. Life does not seem to allow for such wishy-washy-ness. My other job will be a world within itself. I'll train for it, be overworked and exhausted by it, rewarded for it and wholly involved with it. That is not failure; in fact I hope to be so lucky.

2. I am going to make money through writing. I have made money on this blog and I earned that. But I will not support myself or my family on it. To think that would be delusional. Delusion leads to disappointment and bitterness and other such creatures to be avoided.

3. This blog will not morph neatly into a book deal. Some blogs turn into books but most do not. If I think that it will, I will never have a book published.

Now, here is where Nico and the plate of meatballs enters the stage. There I was, being treated to this night of endless appetizers (say it out loud: endless. appetizers) and laughing so hard that tears slid down my cheeks, and yet my brain was telling me that once again I'd failed at Making Writing Work.

How funny, brain, because I only know Nico because I write and so does she.

At that moment, I started to think in a funny new way. By Sunday it was snowing in Fayetteville and I made it out just in time. I arrived home very late and the first thing I did was open the box full of letters I've received from readers. I carefully read them one at a time. Then I had to go to bed. The next day I read through the rest.

I received most of these letters while I was working on the boat and having a hard time. The letters are full of encouragement. It turns out they're still just as encouraging, years later and on dry land.
If you've sent me a letter, I've saved it. If you've left a comment, I've read it, and then hunted around to find your blog, if you have one, to see who you are. If your comment is anonymous, I've tried to imagine you. If you've donated to this blog, I remember your name, and I've sent you a letter. (And by the way! If you donate and did not get a letter, let me know! It happened to one person, she was overseas, and the letter got lost. I wrote her another one. Please do let me know.)

What did you picture your life would be when you were younger? I imagined that "life" was a big clean room with a fine desk made from a single polished piece of wood. (That desk does exist by the way, but it ended up in the wrong house! Kerry, please send me your dining room table when you get a chance, I'm pretty sure I dreamed it first.) From that desk I would type out book after book, hand them off to my agent, and then lots of money would arrive in my mailbox. My salt was artesian, my children healthy and quiet, and my dog's fur never fell out by the fistful for no apparent reason.

I have a great life but it doesn't look like that. And thank God because how boring does that sound.

I did not know that I'd connect with people all over the place who would take the time to read my posts, write me letters, leave comments, and send me books they thought I'd like. I had no idea the economy would nose-dive the moment I graduated college and despite that, people would donate their own money to support a very lengthy 'book' I was constantly writing on the internet.

I am not failing at writing because I have found you.

That's what the Make More Mail initiative is about. I love sending letters and things through the mail. Connecting with you is joy. I have some give-aways lined up, some ideas of more excuses to send out letters and photos, and something called Mystery Prize Monday.

It will happen on Mondays. Not every Monday. There will be a little post and a prompt to leave a comment. One of the commenters, chosen at random, will get a mystery prize in the mail. The mystery prize will be small, fun, maybe delicious, could be a book, it's possible you could wear it, not unlikely you could play with it, but there is one rule: if you don't like or can't use your Mystery Prize, you have to send it along to someone who might better suit it.

You cannot chuck your Mystery Prize.

You can share your mystery prize with the world and with the internet if you want. But I won't. From my end, it will be our secret.

Today is the inaugural Mystery Prize Monday and here is the prompt.

This holiday time, I'm hoping to buy all my presents from small, independent businesses. Dig, Holdfast and Melody come to mind. Who else is out there? Do you have a favorite small business, artist, or maker? Is it you, your friend or someone you just found and fell in love with? Do you donate to a certain charity instead of giving presents, or do you make your own with the help of some ninja-level-midnight-difficult craft site? Leave us the link in the comment section.

You can just leave the link, or you can tell us a little about it as well. I will compiled the links on The Wilder Coast's Pinterest Page, on the board "Local, Small, We Want it All!"  (Please don't feel bad for me because I have no followers, because I just started it. If you want to feel bad for me that my urinary system is allergic to alcohol, you may.)

The recipient of the Mystery Prize will be announced on Wednesday.

Thanks. I love you. Now go to town.
keep up with the make more mail initiative on Instagram @melinadream