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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Irreplaceable Truth

Once upon a time I wandered a bit farther than I should have from my hotel in Bogota, Colombia and found myself in a tiny makeshift shop of an old woman who worked with clay. 

I was instantly enchanted by her creations, the intricate details of her tiny donkeys and saints scattered across the folding table.  The woman looked to be in her nineties, her fingers were terribly snarled and crooked with age.  In my tentative Spanish I asked her if she made them all, gesturing to the figures strew about her.  She nodded vigorously, then as if to prove it, she produced a tiny burro from her pocket.  I could see the clay was still damp and dark. She began to carve and smooth it, holding it up to show me how she worked the clay with one of her thumbnails.  She watched me looking over her wares as I tried to decide what I should take, calculating how many of the delicate pieces I could realistically cart back safety.   

I had a tiny donkey in each hand when I noticed the nativity behind her.  I was immediately struck by the serene expressions on the faces of Mary and Joseph and on the tiny baby Jesus in his crib of straw. It was rustically beautiful.  The lines of Mary’s flowing robes and the magical tilt of her face were peaceful and perfectly wrought. In her sweet face one could see all the wonder and mystery of her faith.  The touches of white paint on the trim of her hood and the delicate features of her infant were almost magical in their artistry. It was at once both simple and intricate. This nativity had been clearly made, not just by an artist, but by a woman of deep faith and love.  It moved me, touched something in spiritual inside me.  

I put down the donkeys and pointed to the nativity. The woman broke into toothy smile. Without thinking about how I would manage to get such a fragile thing home in one piece, I handed her a twenty dollar bill – almost twice the price she had told me.  She produced a roll of bubble wrap and some crumpled newspaper and proceeded to wrap each of the figures with deliberate care.
My holy family made it home with me unscathed. Every year since, I have gently unwrapped it and set it out during the Christmas season in a place of honor. Over the years, edges have chipped and some clay has crumbled in places.  I am dismayed each year to find more clay dust in the wrappings whenever I unpack the figures.  I am the only one who handles it and each year I try my very best to minimize any damage. It has become one of my most treasured heirlooms. It is one of the only things I own that is truly irreplaceable. That is why when I came home that first afternoon and saw the anguish on my mother-in-law’s sweet face, I knew. I knew she had broken something. As much as I silently prayed it wasn’t my beautiful nativity, in my broken heart I knew it was.  

She had accidently bumped the table and sent Joseph tumbling to the floor.  He had been efficiently decapitated, the clay fragments turning to dust on the hardwood floor.  She was devastated, asking me over and over if it had been expensive. I assured it that it hadn’t been valuable, and it hadn’t been, at least not in the monetary sense.  My daughter’s eyes were like saucers having learned from a very early age that my nativity was never to be touched.  She reached for Joseph’s tiny clay head, visibly preparing for the rage she expected was coming. I looked at my mother-in-law in tears and took one very long deep breathe before dismissing her apologies and telling her reassuringly that it was “no problem Mom.”   

After, I fled to the driveway to shed my private tears and call my husband. 

He listened, understanding at once the gravity of it all. I believe he must have instantly began combing the internet looking for a replacement sending me pic after pic of nativities that were nothing at all like mine. I told him that was pointless. I knew would never find another like it.  I told him how awful she felt. We agreed that he would not to say anything more. The damage was done, it had been an accident and there was no sense in making her feel any worse.  I reasoned that at least I still had my beautiful Mary and baby Jesus was still safely stowed away until Christmas Eve.  I admitted that we could probably try to reattach Joseph’s head, sans his neck of course, and conceded that perhaps no one would notice his missing hands or nose in dim light.  I reasoned, I reassured, I conceded…and I cried. 

 Standing in the driveway in the bitter cold, tears running down my face, I managed to find a surprising element of humor in the event. Suddenly laughing, I told him that how nativity had survived the trek home from South America, three moves, 14 years of being packed and unpacked, life with two dogs and a toddler and yet it could not make it through the first 24 hours of his mother’s visit. If that wasn’t ironic, I didn’t know what was. The laughter made my heart hurt less as laughter often does. 

By the time I went back inside, my mother-in-law and I had both recovered from our grief. I thought the most important thing was that my daughter had her grandmother here for the holidays. I thought about how much that meant and how much more meaningful that was than any Christmas decoration, regardless of how much it might have meant to me.  

I looked over to the solitary Mary in her corner and saw that the soft glow of the Christmas lights were casting bands of light and shadow over her serene features.  She looked as peaceful as always. 

I love my mother-in-law. Sometimes she is a virtual tornado that knows no bounds…but…I love her.  I love that she loves me and my daughter with the same fierceness that she loves her own children.  She treats my daughter like the treasure she is and lives every moment of her life to better the lives of her children and grandchildren and asks nothing in return.  I am completely and utterly certain this will not be the last thing she breaks, but regardless,  I am blessed to call her mother and to share my home and life with her. I welcome the peace of forgiveness and the humility of realizing that in the end, things are still just things.  It is our people and our moments with them that are irreplaceable.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Writing to Remember and the Rush of Discovery

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Prompt: DAY 1449-- December 5, 2017
Prompt: “To write things as they happened means to enslave oneself to memory, which is only a minor element in the creative process.”
Aharon Appelfeld answering a question by Philip Roth
Do you agree with this statement and, as far as creativity goes, is writing fiction more creative than writing only stark personal experiences?

I began, in the early days of my pregnancy, to do something I had never done previously, I began writing for someone other than myself. I wanted to be certain my daughter would be left with a testimony on how it had felt to be her mother. From the ramblings of an anxious expectant mom to the joy of marking her milestones, I wrote with as much candor and emotion. There are many entries in this blog that I have earmarked for to be included in a book for her one day, a book only for her. I have continued to do that over these last few years and I am happy to have "enslaved myself" to the memories. There is a special joy in the gift of being able to read over something I've written about her as a toddler, or as a budding little girl that takes me back to the specific and lovely moments of raising her. While this type of writing may not be as creative as penning a story I felt like it some of the most important writing I have done. If I want to reach back to her at any age, I can find something in my words that evokes those feelings, those insights and they are not lost to the passage of time or the frailness of memory. For her, she can one day read my words and know that I was there - fully engaged and that I "saw her", every beautiful detail in her journey - even , the screaming fits and fights, the tears and the triumphs. These days I feel so acutely that time is fleeting. My daughter is a few short months from turning 8 and she is exploding with personality and ideas. I am running to keep up. She is strong and fierce, surprising us with her affinity for physical obstacles and fitness. I swear she grew three inches this summer and her slim, leggy frame hints at a adolescence that may well mirror more her father's lanky teenage years than mine. She loves reading, playing school with her dolls and lavishing affection on our aging Min Pin. Ultimately though, I see evidence that she is lonely. I am frequently plagued by the guilt of not have given her a sibling at the same time I know it will enable us to put all our resources into her. I have made a commitment to encourage and provide play dates as often as I can and I delight in watching her make the most of those opportunities. I know she is a good friend. She has made some wonderful friends and she adores them, dotes on them. Most of all at this age, my daughter has a kind heart as evidenced by her friendships and her perceptions of the world around her. She is a world of change, an amazing kaleidoscope of shifting likes and dislikes, interests and passions. Her eyes still speak volumes and her mona lisa smiles are still my most favorite expression to grace her beautiful face. I hope that one day, she will read about herself at age almost 8 and know how exceptionally proud we were of her and how clearly we could see her special spark.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1846 December 5th, 2017
On this day in 1848 US President Polk triggers Gold Rush of 1849 by confirming gold discovery in California.
What type of physical commodity (not something found on the internet) do you think would trigger that kind of reaction in today's world? Would you be tempted to join the masses and go for it or would you be a bystander?

If any commodity today were to trigger the same effect as the Gold Rush did, it would have to be especially rare and elusive. With the technology and resources today it would ignite a race of very different proportions. It would have to be something like physical proof of an alien civilization - moon rocks and alien technology that could be mined from the core of our own planet. Or, perhaps evidence of a celestial presence living among us, the hunt for the physical traces of angels and demons? Much I wouldn't have expected to run off to the wilds of California with my gold pan and waders, I doubt I would join the masses in such any such quest for the new "gold". I would be more apt to be a bystander, observing and recording. It is not that I am opposed to the thrill of the adventure, it is more that I hate that crowd mentality.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Fearless Writer and the Super Moon

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
 DAY 1845: December 4, 2017 Prompt: "Write about something you don't know. And don't be scared, ever." - Toni Morrison. What are your thoughts on this quote?

A long time ago I was lucky enough to have taken a creative writing class with author Wally Lamb while he was still teaching at my local high school, before the commercial success of "She's Come Undone" and that life-changing call from Oprah. I remember there was one thing he told us that I still keep with me to this day...he told us to "write about what we know." I've have tried to do that, keeping a grain of truth and personal knowledge running through even my fictional pieces. Even if you are writing about the unknown, some lateral universe like the Upside down in Stranger Things...if you infuse it with details and elements that are familiar to you, of which you have some insight and knowledge, overall it will make your work read with more credibility. If you always come through with a bit of personal expertise or perspective, the readers will have a much easier time of accepting your worlds, your characters and plot lines.

One of my favorite authors is James Lee Burke. He has written many novels set in different eras, not all of them ones he has personally experienced. There is enough of his impressions, enough of his experiences and details in those stories that one would think he might have time-traveled. His descriptions of the places and people are so enriched with his own experiences and insights, that they come alive. There is no doubt in my mind that someone could not write so profoundly about the sites and sounds of the such places without having listened to them, seen them, felt them on some molecular level.

“The evening sky was streaked with purple, the color of torn plums, and a light rain had started to fall when I came to the end of the blacktop road that cut through twenty miles of thick, almost impenetrable scrub oak and pine and stopped at the front gate of Angola penitentiary.” The Neon Rain, by James Lee Burke

"It was the year none of the seasons followed their own dictates. The days were warm and the air hard to breathe without a kerchief, and the nights cold and damp, the wet burlap we nailed over the windows stiff with grit that blew in clouds out of the west amid sounds like a train grinding across the prairie. The moon was orange, or sometimes brown, as big as a planet, the way it is at harvest time, and the sun never more than a smudge, like a lightbulb flickering in the socket or a lucifer match burning inside its own smoke. In better times, our family would have been sitting together on the porch, in wicker chairs or on the glider, with glasses of lemonade and bowls of peach ice cream." Wayfaring Stranger, James Lee Burke

There is a fearlessness in Burke and in Lamb that inspire me. The ability to craft rich stories and lace such intimacies through them that we feel at once in step with their characters. These authors are giants in their talent in my humble opinion. I try to be fearless. I try to write without apology. I try to make sure I weave enough of me, enough of what I might know in the fabric of my stories. I don't know if I always succeed but it is one of the things I strive for.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1448-- December 4, 2017
Prompt: “The moon stared at me through sprinkled nighttime stardust and I alone smile.”
― Jay Long. On December 3 and 4 this year, we have the Super Moon. What kind of an effect has the full moon on you or some people you know or the characters you create?

Given the use-inspiring absolute ripeness of the super moon, its a small wonder that one had never featured prominently in any of my work.
As far as moon affecting people, there may be some truth to that. One has to wonder as fragile as human life can be, are we not at mercy to the pulls and tugs of celestial bodies moving in space? Who hasn't at one time or another blamed the irrational behavior of a co-worker, spouse or otherwise on the "full moon"?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Christmas Hearts & The Gift of Time

It is a rare and darkening mood I find myself in these days. Usually during the holidays, in all those candied days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I walk around in some kind of blissful euphoria, giving in to that pleasant anticipation of the warm and happy memory-making to come. These days however, I feel immune to the charms of what has always been my favorite time of year. I feel numb to it. Pedestrian. The initial blossom of joy I felt after setting up the tree and decorations has faded somehow. I try to keep up all the appearances for the sake of my daughter, who has embraced all things Christmas with the unbridled excitement of a second grader. She should not be denied all the wonder of the season, all the joy, all the "feels". It would be tragic if I let my perpetual shadow cast a pale over her holly jolly world. It is somehow fitting that the prompt, on the day I recommitted to blogging (in hopes it would help my slip and slide), would be one about the "Christmas Heart". Writing to prompts is always a challenge and it is through challenges that I have always improved my writing. So....onto today's challenge.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1443 November 29, 2017
Prompt: "Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first." What are your thoughts on this?

It is no secret that people feel naturally open to charity on the holidays. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, the very virtual of the holidays ask us to reflect on our blessings. In that time of reflection and gratitude, many of us are compelled to pay those blessings forward, to pass on the good fortune and help others. In the wake of Cyber Monday, we now have Giving Tuesday. Yesterday my Facebook feed erupted with friends and colleagues promoting causes - a wide array of charities worthy of donations and support. It is easy to have a Christmas heart during the holidays when we are surrounded by warmth and merriment, when we are moved by the spirit of giving. And that is truly wonderful...however, being charitable and openhearted shouldn't be just another part of the holiday season. When we take the tinsel down and put away the new gifts, shouldn't we still think about others? Shouldn't we still be present, be aware, be willing to pay it forward? Should the Christmas Heart just be stowed away in the back of the attic with the artificial tree? I think that for some that may be the case. Certainly it gets harder in this world to remember others when our own struggles become difficult. It is harder to keep that Christmas spirit once the carols fade and the curbs are covered in dirty snow. The challenge for us all as human beings is to maintain that giving and charitable heart all year round. It isn't just about donations either, its about kindness and acceptance. Its about thinking of others and understanding that we may never know the battles that people are fighting inside and so being kind should be our default setting. In this world today, we could all use more random acts of kindness, more year-round Christmas hearts.

DAY 1840: November 29, 2017
Prompt: “One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
What can you never get enough of? Is this something that people don't give you as a gift on a birthday or other gift giving holiday?

Over the years one of my favorite gifts to receive were books. I am a very tactile reader. I prefer the rigid bindings, the smell of the paper pages...the experience of crawling into bed with a good book. I have always shunned the e-readers and kindles. I dreamed of having one of those libraries that some mansions have with floor to ceiling shelves and one of those sliding ladders to pursue all the assembled titles. Reality has revealed the impracticality of such a dream. I don't have a room to spare for any such collection. Even the anthologies and magazines in which my own stories appear are relegated to one or two shelves in the closet of our spare room. And while I still love getting a good book for a gift, there is a necessity (and thankfully), a joy in passing it along to someone else to read and enjoy. Books aside, these days I think the one gift I can never get enough of may be time. As a working mom, I have such appreciation when someone tells me take some time for myself. When someone gifts you an hour or two of free time to "just do what you want to do"...its priceless. Having a few hours to myself to do something I want, like read a book, is the best possible gift.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Color Me Wicked - Seasonal Fan Fiction

Elphaba got to her feet and surveyed her new surroundings. The twister had swept her up mere seconds before she managed to squash that little brat Dorothy with her perky breasts and howling little mutt. How unfortunate! How ill-timed and unfair!

The witch felt the old rage. When had things ever been fair for her? From the first moment she had been born cursed. Her mother and father had been horrified by the wretched color of their infant daughter's skin.  Her mother had tried at first to fix Elphaba's affliction.  There had been pills and creams and far more painful remedies. When her skin refused to respond to all treatments, her mother withdrew from her and turned her all her affections on her fair-skinned daughter. Under the cone of her parents' obvious disdain she had grown up isolated with only the volumes of books in her family's library for company.  Elphaba had read and re-read all the epic stories about heroes and villains. Alone in the dark, she had wondered which she was.

 In the early days, the school boys had been fascinated by Elphaba. She was smarter, faster and more skilled than any of them.  Later, her emerald skin and thick dark hair set her apart from all the other girls, giving her an exotic appeal for those growing male appetites. Overtime however, the cruelty of youth took over and the fascination soured into revulsion. Then there was that incident at boarding school. Elphaba had only been defending herself but in the end, none of that had mattered. Oz, in all its wonder, was an oddly unforgiving place. No matter. She was who she was. Green...and wicked.

Truth be told, Elphaba she knew wasn’t half bad looking under all that black and green. Her skin was still tight and firm and her figure was lush.  Most importantly she was brilliant, far more so than that sparkly, vapid Glinda! All the same, these days there weren't too many suitors ready to woo her emerald-colored visage no matter how pretty her dark eyes or how ruby red her lips.

How did they not expect her to go mad with the constant rejection? Sitting all alone in her tower with nothing to keep her company other than a legion of chattering, filthy flying monkeys? Elphaba was angry. She was lonely. She had just been about to take all that anger out on that loathsome little teenager when the black twister tore loose from the skies and sucked the witch into its whirling, keening vortex.

Elphaba looked around. The twister had deposited her in a park of sorts. There was a pond and a wide expense of open ground fenced by trees. Beyond the tree line was a village of modest little dwellings. The doors to those dwellings all seemed to open at the same time spilling out a number of strange beasts and beings who joined up in loud, little groups at the edge of the park. The witch ducked behind a large bush. This wasn’t Oz, one couldn’t be too careful!

Too late! She had been spotted by a grotesque little demon. It rushed over to her with stunted, ugly feet. It called out to her and she was startled to find she understood it.

“Hey lady! Hot costume!,” the little monster flashed some unremarkable teeth in her direction before sauntering off into the night.

“Hot?” Elphaba wasn’t even warm. In fact, the climate here was refreshing and almost chilly.

She took a few steps closer to the tree line, feeling emboldened by a stiff breeze that lifted her full shirts a few inches, tickling her bare knees. She crossed a wide, flat black river that felt as hard as rock under her heels. The witch approached the closest of the dwellings. A fat, glowing pumpkin sat grinning at her from the stoop. There was a thumping sound coming from inside the house and she could make out shadows moving around inside behind panes of glass.

The witch drew back, preparing to flee into the night when a door to her left flew open.

“Hi there. Great Costume! Come on in.” A large man dressed in red and yellow rubber ushered her inside by her elbow. The sudden contact sent shivers radiating down her spine.

Inside the place was dimly lit and smelled unfamiliar but not unpleasant. She flicked her tongue, tasting something sweet in the air about her. There were creatures in here too, bigger ones. Elphaba gazed into a sea of moving bodies swaying against each other. She suddenly felt very warm indeed.

“That really is an amazing costume,” the man in red rubber was speaking to her.

The witch turned to look at him. He was broad and dark, bare-chested under his bizarre suit. He shifted uncomfortably under her stark gaze. Ephaba leaned forward and sniffed. He smelled slightly rotten, like fermented fruit. He swayed a bit, unsteady on his feet.

“Fireman, " he said, somewhat embarrassed.

"I know....not much of a stretch.” He shrugged.

 Elphaba continued to stare. Suddenly the man reached out and touched her face.

“How long did that take? All that green? It’s really amazing.”

The man's eyes sparkled with that old, familiar fascination Elphaba remembered from long ago. The witch realized two things simultaneously; first, the man thought her skin was amazing and second, this man, this large and very fit man, had touched her.

Elphaba was suddenly, almost painfully aware of a burning need to be touched more. She stepped closer, ran her nails down his smooth flesh. She parted her full red lips and smiled. It was all the invitation the Fireman needed. He pulled the witch down the hall and whisked her inside a small dark room, closing the door behind them.

He wasted no time working his hands under her robes, parting the cloth to expose more of her green flesh. He moaned when she wantonly grabbed onto him, pressing herself against him. Elphaba bit back a raucous cackle. The fireman's hands entwined in her long tresses. He pulled her hair back and kissed her neck, her earlobe and at long last, her mouth.

Elphaba was overcome with a new sensation, a hot white heat exploded inside her and at last she did cackle, wildly and with great pleasure. The fireman collapsed against her briefly before falling to the floor in a heap. The witch smiled down at him, warmly and with a rare gratitude. She smiled as the green began to creep into his features and flow across his skin, staining it. His look of bliss abruptly changed to one of alarm as he too began to notice the change.

"What's happening..." his voice trailed off as his pupils turned into ebony pools, then dimmed.

The witch leaned down and kissed his emerald-colored lips. Sadly, she thought, he did not look as attractive as he had moments ago.

“Perhaps green just isn’t everyone’s color....” she thought, and started off into the night.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

My Tribe & The Wedding Weekend

This past weekend my father married his beautiful Joy during a brief stay on Block Island. It has been a few days and now that my routine has settled back into a familiar schedule, I find myself looking back on the entire event and reflecting on just how special of a weekend it truly was.
Admittedly I had my reservations about how we were all going to survive under the same roof for more than two days. Harmonious family vacations were never our thing growing up. Our time together seemed to always be marred by aggressive sunburns, bickering, broken down campers, errant fireworks and copious amounts of strawberry yo-hoo vomit (I shudder with that particularly graphic memory)  Nevertheless we packed our bags, boarded ferry and plane, and all headed out to the destination wedding on the island.
I had known the ceremony would be beautiful and the scenery picturesque - what I hadn't anticipated was how many simply amazing moments we would share together, how much fun we would have and how blessed I would feel connecting with these people.  
As a family, we fell in love with Joy right in step with my father. For me, she was someone I understood loved my Dad for all the right reasons, loved him for exactly who he was - the smart and gentle man, the loving father and grandfather.  My father had found a true companion in Joy and it was wonderful to see their natural fondness and affection shape their life together. Our family just absorbed Joy;  her kindness, her generosity and her loving nature.  In a remarkably short time, it was as if she had always been there pulling together feasts on the holidays, readily joining in our games, cheering our successes, adoring and doting on the grandkids and making all of us feel welcomed and loved.  Knowing that both her and my Dad had gone through lengths and no small expense to get us all there together,  meant the world to us. The intimacy of sharing their special day was very touching, something I know we will all treasure having been part of.  
The fallout from their lovely nuptials was that it brought our families together for a few days, isolated as we were in our temporary home.  High in the hills of Block Island, my daughter had unfettered access to her cousins, her Aunts and Uncle and loving grandparents. The kids were amazing. I don't think anyone had to raise their voice or reprimand them all weekend.  They chased, swam and played games until they ran out of steam and collapsed together on bean bag chairs and couches.  They rallied at the wedding, getting dressed up and posing for all the pictures with wide smiles and no complaints.  They were attentive and serious in their ceremonial duties. At the end of the ceremony, my father turned and scooped them up in an embrace, crushing them all together against his chest as they squirmed and giggled. 
Later, my Dad would chase them all over the house as they screamed with mock terror and delight - offering up each other up as a sacrifice to his mercilessly tickling fingers.  After the boys had gone to bed, my Dad beckoned my sleepy daughter onto his lap where she curled up and cuddled against him, clearly relaxed and contented in the arms of one of the people she loves most in the world.

Aside from the kids, the adults got to spend time enjoying the rarity of leisurely pursuits together.  We started our cocktailing early, ate well and stayed up late laughing around the fire pit and dancing on the lawn. 
We poised for photos, drank too much, had loud sometimes inappropriate conversations and delighted in the opportunities to be fun and silly.  We discovered my sister-in-law is something of a secret 80's hip hop connoisseur who loves to dance and that Joy's daughter Jess is willing and eager to join in on all our crazy ideas and obnoxiously staged photo shoots. 
I got to spend time with my sister, a beautiful thing since our lives rarely afford us many opportunities to just hang out and have fun together. She and my husband get along famously well and the brief excursions the three of us took the bluffs and to a remote sunset beach remains some of my most favorite times of the entire weekend.  
I write to preserve my most treasured memories in the best way I know how.  This weekend was so full of wonderful memories it was hard to pick just a few to highlight in this blog. Certainly there were many I missed, like helping Joy get ready for the wedding or Jess's perfectly tailored ceremony or telling raunchy jokes with my one of my Dad's best friends and even catching a few moments to read in the sun while my daughter and husband slept in.  I loved the way I always woke to find Dad in the kitchen churning out breakfast like a short order cook like he did when we were kids. Or the way the girls and I raced into action to when we thought the outside wedding plan might get washed away and the look on Joy's face when she realized we would do whatever it took to make things right for their wedding.
Overall I found myself looking around at the faces of my family, those with whom I share blood and those that are more recent recruits - and thinking....I really love being with these people (even my brother who woke us all up too early and attended at least one meal in just his boxer briefs to my sister's abject horror).  These people are my family and they are pretty damn great.
They are my tribe and I do love them.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coastal Maine

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1209 July 6, 2017
Prompt: "In language gentle as thine own: whispering in enamored tone sweet oracles of woods and dells and summer winds in sylvan cells." Percy Bysshe Shelly. Let this quote inspire your Blog Writing today.

This quote immediately evokes the sensations I experienced as a child vacationing in coastal Maine. In the early years of my father's business, we spent several weeks visiting his business partner's family compound in the offshore community of Vinalhaven, Maine. We had to take a boat to get out to the island where the main house and cottage were situated. It seemed a very isolated and rare experience for me back then.

The first morning there, I wandered away from the green expanse of the main house lawn and into the silent, coastal forest. I found myself in a place of enchantment. The pine woods smelled sweet and clean. The beds of moss covering the ground and rock were soft enough to sink to my ankles in. It was eerily quiet and the light filtered down from the canopy and pooled in golden patches of light. The forest seemed to swallow me, and I felt strangely at peace in its dark, dense folds.

Years later, I lived for a time just outside Bar Harbor, Maine when my company purchased a business in Ellsworth, Maine. My commute each morning would take me past postcard scenery with lush rolling hills and glimpses of the deep blue water of Somes Sound. On my free days I would wander into Acadia national park. The loop rode delivered me to breathtaking vistas of the rustically beautiful Maine coast and beaches where the water was clear and still like a mirror. There was a special connection for me in all the places where the stoic pine trees met with rocky coastline. I would stand in the ankle deep tide pools, in water that was numbing cold, and just gaze out and the stunning landscape painted with the rich, warm light of the early morning sun. It isn't hard to believe that coastal Maine in the sweet months of summer is truly crafted by the hands of God.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Uncommonly Jaden

As my daughter neared the end of her 1st grade year, the pace of life left little time for much reflection. It seemed she was moving at breakneck speed through field trips, award ceremonies, piano practices and those last few events of the school year. Even as I saw the changes in her, I failed to take the time to document them when I should have...to take photos and to write the blog entries that would memorialize her journey for us both. I am usually better at such things, especially when so many more of the moments are fleeting and she leaves more and more of her childhood behind in the dust of her running feet.

The other morning, we had a few hours before we had to be anywhere. She was sleeping in my bed, having migrated there in the middle of the night as she so often still does. Her eyes were closed, the long lashes and lids masking eyes that had become uncommonly green this year. She had one leg thrown casually over the comforter and the sun was painting a pattern of light across her caramel-colored skin. She looked so peaceful, so uncommonly beautiful in repose. I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture just as she opened her eyes. She gave me her mona lisa smile and slipped back off to sleep. I watched her for a few more minutes, basking in the bittersweet knowledge that she could not stay 7 years old for even one moment longer than time would allow...no matter how completely wonderful age 7 is.

At age 7, Jaden has found her "silly". She breaks into a dance in the home depot aisle to make me laugh. She makes up comical songs in the back of the car and she makes funny faces...everywhere. She often talks in made-up accent, revealing glimpses of the strange and goofy language she has adopted with her friends at school.

Speaking of friends, she has forged friendships with kids that share her depth of wonder and her interest in the world around her. Her friends are sweet in nature, intelligent and caring. I'm amazed by her ability to find and bond with other boys and girls like her and proud beyond words at her circle of friends. I'm grateful that her choices have enabled us to meet theses children's like-minded, lovely parents.

At age 7, Jaden has grown into a leggy, active child who wears the summer sun like a second skin. She battles to stay outside as long as the day allows. She loves walks, helping her Dad in the yard and running...she is always in a state of movement these days. She likes to know what the plans for the day are but is just as comfortable staying home. Often if given a choice, she will choose to remain in, delighting in getting to spend long afternoons playing on the deck. She loves to read and draw but you can just as often find her perfecting American Ninja Warrior routines in her swing set.

She loves music, and though this has remained a constant, her tastes have become more refined. She is more choosy when I scan the stations in the car and will usually demand that I put on "phone music". She has become a big fan of Walk off the Earth, drawn to the musical proficiency and general rockstar coolness of the band's female frontliner. Her second ever piano recital revealed a concentration and poise she hadn't possessed last year. Though I watched her with my heart in the throat, she played with a newly minted grace and confidence that amazed us.

Age 7 has brought a spark of fresh attitude. She pushes every button sometimes and defiance flashes in her sea change eyes whenever I made demands she doesn't agree with. She is frequently obstinate but never truly disagreeable. She likes to get her own way but she's never one to make large scale requests. We battle but we are also quick to find compromise...so far. Jaden is still quick to kiss us without prompting, hold our hands, thrown her arms around us in photos and demand to sleep, cuddled between us at night.

Jaden is, at age 7, becoming uniquely Jaden...she is fresh, funny and full of life and love. Bugs and bees are terrifying but sharks are cool. Slime is awesome and bubbles are still all the rage. Candy necklaces are the best ever accessory and shorts are the preferred outfit of choice these days. At age 7, Jaden is uncommonly beautiful in every possible way.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trending in Fear and Writers Write

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1660 June 2, 2017
What's trending where you are?

Fear. Fear is trending in my little corner of the world.

I live in a blue state and if anything is trending most apparently here, it is the constant undercurrent of fear. Many of the people that live here are scared they will lose their healthcare, they are scared they will lose their hard-won rights. They are scared that this administration is making decisions based on winning another four years rather than unifying a broken and divided country. Even among those that supported Trump, there is a fear that he may not be all that they hoped and the motivations behind some of the recent decisions made may be less honorable, less transparent than his surrogates insist they are.

I have tried to remain politically independent - it is almost a job requirement as I work in an industry that is largely supported by conservatives. Yet, more and more I feel myself identifying with those in my community. I find it more and more difficult to try to accept the agenda of the administration or extend a measure of good faith to this White House and current President. I was admittedly never a Trump supporter but I tried to be hopeful. I tried to find a middle ground. I tried to have faith that as a nation, we could unify under our leadership. But, I am out of good faith. I am disappointed. I am unimpressed. I am fearful.

The President came here recently for a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy. The protesters were there bright and early. My daughter craned her neck to peer at them as I drove her to school. Her school is adjacent to the CG campus so the streets where lined on both sides with people holding signs. It was early and things were calm. People were respectful. The police were drinking coffee and chatting with the groups on both sides. She and I talked about civil protest, we talked about democracy and freedom of speech. I told myself it was a good lesson and experience for her. I went to work, monitoring the event via NPR live streams and social media.

Then, I saw him, standing there proudly in the full white robes, the recognizable costume of the KKK. Seriously? Here? In this community there is such a person who feels embolden enough to be out here like this? And before you even say it, there were plenty of people in the "pink hats" I know...BUT historically, as far I as understand, no one wearing a "vagina hat" has ever been associated with the degenerate, violent, racial persecution and murderous acts perpetrated by the clan. Who are these people who live and exist among us? Who are these people that harbor these kinds of ideals in their hearts and who suddenly feel that this President and his administration has some how given them a pass to be the fear-inciting hate-mongers of their own dreams? Fear. I felt it that day, right down to my toes.

Suddenly, I wasn't sure sure this was such a great lesson for my daughter...my mixed faith, bi-cultural daughter. Suddenly, I was fearful for her.

A week later, I watched an intoxicated Trump supporter, and Connecticut resident, verbally attack a Muslim family on a beach in Texas. He proudly and repeatedly struck his chest saying "Trump is my fucking President", while he hurled hate speech at them and grabbed his crotch suggestively. This past week, a good Samaritan was stabbed to death after coming to the defense of Muslim women on a train who were being openly harassed.

What kind of world are we cultivating for our children? Where are the leaders working to unify us as Americans? Where is the President who will help heal our fractured masses?

Fear. I get it now. I have it now too.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1176 June 2, 201
All of us have slumps and getting back on track varies drastically among us so let's toss ideas around on how to stay motivated with our writing. What works best for you?

My writing career is constantly hampered by the availability of free time. I have very little hours in a day that are not already allocated to mothering a growing daughter and pursuing a career. I live under pretty consistently thought bubble of "not enough hours in the day..sad face emoji". Motivation has never been an issue when you are compelled to do something, as I have always been to write. Truly successful writers, write. They find the time. They have the discipline. They make sacrifices in pursuit of their craft. They don't force their best work into life by executing compartmentalized writing sessions over their lunch hour a few times a week. I know this. I am largely at peace with that knowledge I suppose. It makes those random publication acceptances so surprising and sweet.

I know that trolling submission deadlines helps me sometimes, a proposed anthology theme might spark off a creative well. I use Duotrope.com to search accepting markets and calls for specific submissions. I try to keep a blog, write my assignments and keep plugging forward. Sometimes something grows from exercising my writing muscles no matter how mundane it seems at the time.

The best advice I have is to just write, whenever, however....just do it. Each time you do, you are giving yourself the opportunity to get better and to connect with what you are in your heart...a writer.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Audio Books and Leaving Love

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1173--May 30, 2017
Prompt “It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” John Green, Paper Towns
What were some of the things or people that were difficult to leave for you, for someone you know, or for a character in your story, and what were the results of leaving those things?

The act of leaving someone you are still in love with is one of the hardest things to do. Paul Simon's classic, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" might offer up a plethora of viable and catchy suggestions but the truth is, it is always more complex and the fallout more life-altering than we may anticipate. I agree with John Green insofar as there is a sense of relief after the decision to leave is made but it has never magically become the "easiest thing". For me, it took weeks of isolating soul-searching and painful meditation on old wounds and broken promises. It took several hard reality checks before I had fully accepted the fact that my life with him would be a lonely journey through an eternal landscape of failed expectations and disappointments. The realization was only the first step. It took conditioning to convince my heart what my head already understood, and my heart was by far the more stubborn organ. In the end, I prayed. I prayed to God that I would stop loving him. I prayed on my knees, as the steaming hot water rained down. I prayed alone in empty hospital corridors and silent waiting rooms. I prayed in the privacy of my silent bedroom, wrapped in my stiff new bed sheets. There is a type of despair you encounter when you find yourself begging for a release from love. The desperation to rid one's heart, to strip love from your organism when it was once so critical to your biology, is uniquely terrible and painful. It can be done, you can walk away, but it is far from easy and leaves you permanently marred.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1656 May 30, 2017
How do you feel about the rising demand for audio books? Is this a good thing or bad thing for literature? As a writer, have you considered reading your work for audio books, podcasts or youtube?

As a busy working mom, and former reading junkie, I rely heavily on audio books to satisfy a thirst I never seem to have the time to quench. While it will never replace the tactile joy of cracking open a book, it at least lets me experience my favorite authors and engage with amazing stories. I will say that as a big fan of James Lee Burke, the audio versions of his books narrated by Will Patton are almost magical. Patton has such a command over Burke's characters that he gives dimensional life to colorful characters like Dave Robicheaux and Clet Purcell. I have found more often than not, a narrator can affect your listening experience no matter how strong the story is and that is a definite drawback. As far as being good for literature, I think if it allows more people to "read" work, it helps - regardless of what form it takes literature needs an audience. If I had the luxury of choosing, I would still prefer to take my dose of literature between actual pages but for now I appreciate the ability to audit them instead.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Pointing Policy and the Wonder of Laughter

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1158 -- May 15, 2017
Prompt: They say when a computer does something wrong, it blames another computer. Isn’t it the same with people? Do animals blame others, too? Isn’t blaming someone else an act of refusing to take responsibility? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Is the act of passing blame part of our ingrained fear of failure or a function of the self-preservation drive that we as humans beings all harbor?

As the oldest sibling, it was certainly easier to blame my brother and sister for things than to take the blame myself. If my little sister was crying, that was my bratty brother's fault for teasing her and that glass vase that was destroyed, well, that was because "they" were fighting. In both instances and in countless others from our childhood, as the oldest I could have deflected the teasing and kept the peace. I could have taken the responsibility for things going awry. Later in my life I became much for adept at admitting fault, sometimes accepting the blame in situations when it wasn't mine to shoulder. Blame is a powerful tool we have at our disposal, to use against others and sometimes ourselves.

No one wants to be responsible for something bad happening, in life, in work, in relationships. Sometimes though, decisions get made and the outcome isn't what we would like. I believe one of the hallmarks of a true leader is their ability to know when to accept and when to assign blame. For a President who campaigned on the presumptive premise that he was the only one who could fix our broken country, he has shown an alarming and adept ability to "pass the buck" now that he has gained the highest office in the land. President Trump can lite the world on fire with a early morning, ill-advised twitter rant, then resolutely blame his surrogates/associates for mismanaging the press and failing to cultivate public perception in his favor. He can make executive decisions, then lay the blame for those decisions on the shoulders and at the feet of others when the fallout threatens his fragile carefully constructed self-image. No one is perfect, people make mistakes and leaders make mistakes with much more weight and consequence than most of us. As an American, I don't expect perfection but I would like to believe that our leader would have accountability and humility. I would expect the President of the United States would have the integrity to admit when he was wrong or misinformed or directly responsible for decisions regardless of their ultimate outcome. As a American, I hope that our President will do better than those that came before him and serve as an example for those that follow.


"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1642: May 15, 2017
Prompt: "At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities." Jean Houston Write a story about laughter, new possibilities, or a Kaleidoscope. Alternatively, you can write your opinion about this quote.

Laughter can often be the light in the dark. In the times of my deepest grief, I have been given a reason to laugh and it has shown me the path to peace again. Laughter is not bound by language or cultural barriers, is in a unifying and universal joy. I love the visual implications of the quote given how laughter can diffuse arguments and abruptly change the course of a conversation.