Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fruit Cocktail

A fellow author, Annette Mori, threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to write a short story using all the clinical names for external female genitalia in the service of charity and education. This resulting story meets 100% of the challenge criteria in a surprisingly PG-13 way. I hope you enjoy it.

Fruit Cocktail

Leticia thumbed through the anatomy textbook on their kitchen counter for the hundredth time this semester and sighed.
“Look I know it’s retarded, but Davis swears it helped his whole class remember every friggin’ detail well enough to best even the gynecology residents in the year-end quizzes.” Gerald shoved his pale thin hand through the pages fluttering in front of Leticia, stopping perfectly on the frontal illustration of external female genitalia.
“I don’t need a fruit model to aid my memory,” Leti complained.
“Not all of us have the benefit of being lesbian love sorceresses, Dear.” Gerald scowled at her.
He was her best friend, and final exams were on Monday, but it was a heavy burden to spend the waning hours of Friday evening  ̶ after many weeks of lonely, wasted Friday evenings ̶  constructing fruit models of female genitalia.
Sarah leaned in the doorway and sang, “It’s not like you have anything better to do Leti, the Lesbian Love Sorceress.”
“Thanks. I don’t need the reminder.” They all knew that Leti’s wife, Lee, was busy finishing Air Force officer training before they deployed her to God-knows-where for the next two years she owed them in return for paying out her last year in a nurse anesthesia educational program. 
It was a deal each of them had considered taking to pay for medical school at one time or another.
“Yeah, but you do need the distraction.” Sarah smiled as she walked past Leti toward the refrigerator.  She passed out a collection of fruits, while humming something that sounded like Carmen Miranda’s “Chica Chica Boom Chic” song.
Leti felt the smile taking over her scowl before she could muster up enough sadness to counter it.
Two hours of labor and bawdy limericks later, Leti thought they actually had a pretty good fruit replica set up on a nine by thirteen-inch baking sheet.
“One more time,” insisted Gerald.
Sarah and Leti groaned in simulcast. The doorbell rang and Sarah dashed out the kitchen door to answer it before Leti could volunteer.
“Probably Jehovah’s Witness,” Gerald peered over his black rimmed glasses at her, “you should go ahead and do your repetition first.”
Leti shook her head and almost protested before the thought of their local Jehovah’s Witness overhearing inspired her to impish compliance. 
She took a big breath and sang, “The outside hairy cantaloupe mons pubis and forms the melon’s crust labium majus. Cantaloupe mons pubis leads to a perfectly pear prepuce of clitoris guarding a silky raspberry glans of clitoris. Lovely grapefruit skin hinges shapely labium minus from which first stems a plum pithy meatus urethral opening and Skene’s raspberry seeded paraurethral ducts which are the equivalent of male prostate glands.”
In her pause for another breath, no clues sounded from the front door as to their visitor’s identity.
Gerald followed Leti’s gaze to the door and shrugged. “Go on.”
“A center grapefruit segment opens to define a blissfully blue blueberry vaginal opening with a thin skinned hymenal caruncle less intact on riper blueberries and women before the whole grapefruit encloses vestibular fossa navicular like a navel orange to the frenulum of labium.  The posterior labial commissure closes the whole fruit store commissary before her perienal raphe routes home to anus.” Leti closed her eyes as she completed the mnemonic narrative and left them closed as she summarized, “Cantaloupe, Pear, Raspberry, Grapefruit Skin, Plum Pith, Raspberry Seed, Grapefruit Segment, Blueberry with thin skin, Grapefruit again, Navel Orange.”
“That is one dirty fruit cocktail,” a familiar voice shocked Leti into opening her eyes.
Her wife, Lee stood next to Sarah in the kitchen, smiling at her. 
Leti hurled herself into Lee’s arms, neglecting to care at all for the starched perfect lines of Lee’s dress blues.  
Her wife smelled of Brasso, Ivory Soap, and familiar salt and the cocktail of aromas was headier to Leti than that of all the eviscerated fruit crowding the kitchen. “I can’t believe you’re home.”
“I have three weeks leave. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to mess up your concentration before exams,” A laugh rumbled over Lee’s shoulders as Leti held tight, “but I can see that you three have already resorted to desperate measures.”
“Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” Gerald said.
“I’ve had plenty of fruit cocktail to know where it’s best modeled for study,” Lee replied and nuzzled Leti’s ear.
“Umm. Ick. Let’s go look at more manly eggplants in the grocery story, Sarah.”
“Right. Have fun you two.” Sarah called as Gerald tugged her toward the front door.
“Is now a good time to taste your raspberry?” Lee giggled.
“Oh yes. I can’t think of a better study aid.” Leti laughed.
“I’m open to stroking blueberries too.”
“I’ll share my whole fruit cocktail, if you’ll share yours.”
Lee pulled her toward the bedroom. “Yes, ma’am.”

I hope this story entertained you, but also serves as a reminder that it is mentally healthy to label and talk about all kinds of potentially awkward things--including your own mental and learning challenges, just as the great Carrie Fisher (who passed this week) did over the last two decades.  Mental Health and emotional well-being are causes dear to me and a big challenge among homeless adults, LGBT youth, and veterans in America. Please, learn more about what you can do to help yourself and others by visiting and volunteering through front-line organizations like The Montrose Center.
If you're interested in another free story meeting this challenge, please check out Darla Baker's.  And if you're brave enough, I double dog dare you...#BeMightyWrite

Why not the whole armor when challenged to a guantlet?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Save your holidays and happiness

Not all family gatherings are places of welcoming warmth and serenity, and some will never be no matter what you do; but you can improve your chances of happily-ever-after in every relationship by following healthy rules for fighting. Fights, conflict, arguments, and heated debates are a necessary evil. If we fight well, we learn something important and the relationship grows stronger.
There are dozens of lists on-line describing how to fight well in relationships, but the bottom line is that you should make your own list. Pick the rules that matter most to each relationship. Pick the rules you frequently fail to follow.
Memorize your list of rules. Carry them around in your wallet or on your smart-phone. Recite them at the cat each morning. Print them on your mouse-pad at work. Do whatever it takes to ingrain them into muscle memory before you find yourself in the heat of the battle.
And above all, pull them out and look at them before you allow yourself to lose your shit with someone at that Holiday Party or family dinner.
Yes, I know, your opponents probably break every single one of the rules; but their bad behavior does not justify your bad behavior. Rise above. You are in this relationship still because you want to be for some reason, because you somehow value your opponents enough to keep trying.  The good news is that you'll be surprised how vicariously contagious many of the rules are when you apply them consistently over time.
I maintain that is important to do your own research and pick your own rules, preferably in cooperation with your most common opponent (buy them a beverage and invite them to sit down and pick which rules you'll both try to fight by when the time comes). However, I will get you started by sharing the rules my spouse and I  picked. My last word of advice on the matter, pick a dozen or fewer rules and review and adapt them twice a year as you master them (for example, we've mastered the "no violence" and "no sarcasm during a fight" rules so they aren't on the list any more).

 1.    Never fight tired/ hungry/ distracted. STOP and figure out what you are really upset about. Set an appointment to fight.
2.    No degrading language or negative triggers (e.g. ridiculous, stupid, silly, all in your head).
3.    No blaming. State the problem first, then your feelings. Accept apologies at face value.
4.    No yelling. Try to keep calm, sit down, keep an open posture.
5.    No talk of quitting, being done, or leaving the relationship.
6.    Define yourself, not your opponent. No mind reading. Describe how you feel and what you want.
7.    Stay in the present. One issue, one occurrence. No bringing up past times or other grievances.
8.    Take turns. Invite your opponent to give her point of view. Restate what you heard before giving yours.
9.    When necessary, use time-outs. “I’m too wound up/ emotional right now, how about we try again in an hour/ day/ week?”
10.           Propose a specific solution and debate the advantages and disadvantages of each.
11.           Finish with gratitude. “Thank you for talking this out with me.”
When we fight fair, there is less fear and more fun in my family.
Happy Holidays! Please give feedback (like what rules work for you) as it is the gift that shows you really care.

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