State of Things June

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have been riding the struggle bus for a week. The bus is not your life. The troubles that plague you are not your life.

At the end of the day, your life is made up of so many moments. Good, bad and what the f**k? . This week has contained a lot of WTF moments. It seemed everywhere I turned there was they were happening. Staying in the moment seemed impossible. Then a few more bad things happen. Luke, my precious pit-bull, had a trash party while we were out at dinner because I had a no good nearly rotten day and not cooking seemed like a good idea.

The state of things June is a mixed nut bag where every other nut is the one you are allergic to and the next nut is the cure. You keep reaching into the bad hoping for something new; something better. Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different is the definition of failure but is it failure when you only have that bag to choose from? It isn’t.

It is the twisted way of the world. It turns and we twist. It isn’t unfair but it seems that way. Things go on and sun rises and sets with its own accord. We, mere mortals, can not keep up with it. It doesn’t rob us of its beauty. It is just going about its own journey.

As corny as it sounds, I try to be grateful for the moments where I can see the sun’s journey and appreciate the beauty all around me. They aren’t my life either but they do make me smile all the way down to my soul.

Love

I saw a post about love.  A meme talking about unconditional love and it triggered my own thoughts on the subject. The gist was that if people can hate blindly then a person can love blindly.

As a child, I saw the damage that hate and anger could do to a person.   The details aren’t important.  Or maybe they are.   But, looking back at the those things right now would take me to a place I don’t want to be.

Today’s post is about love.  The things and people I love.

11154866_674372752668042_8297915621730049195_oI love my family, both my biological and my chosen family.  They keep me centered and going.  When the doctor told me this week that my knee issues weren’t going to get better. They were there.

I miss my Papa. His love. His unconditional love pushed me to go forward in life.

I love my furry baby, Luke, who has helped me though so much.  The phrase who rescued who really does apply here.

I love my boyfriend and the freedom he has given me to be myself. We don’t have a traditional relationship which works for both of us.  One thing he taught me in the last year was that it is important to clarify your words and asking for things is not a bad thing. He was direct with me.  And I was able to be direct with him as well.

I love my job as a Special Educator and the growth it fosters in myself. I love being a writer and creating new worlds with words.

I love the garden that my chosen family helped me to build, watching the plants grow day after day is wonderous.  I love that my enjoyment of gardening comes from my Pa (my mother’s father), my grandmother (my father’s mother) and my aunt.  They each had gardens and took pride in  them.  Pa grew vegetable that helped feed us.  The only thing I didn’t like was when Granny would take the tomatoes and can them. The smell of vinegar haunted me for years.

I love going for hikes in the near by mountains and my daily walks in the neighborhood and in the back field.  I love seeing the mist hug the mountain ridges that surround my home.  I love the mist that lingers in this valley. I love the cows that sometimes run through my yard even when they eat the ornamental grass.

I love music and books.  I love the smell of used books stories and wandering the stacks for treasures.  I love the conversations that come from talking with others about my finds.  I love that I have friends who I can plan and plot trips around going to see used books stores.

I love working out to music that was made decades ago but whose power hasn’t faded.

There is a lot more that I love about this world than I hate about it.  But all the things I love, I love with my eyes open.  I think about Papi and the love we had for each other.  Sometimes it was blind and full of burning passion, but the best times were when our eyes were wide open and we saw each other warts and all.

I think when we love with our eyes open, we see that no love is perfect.  We see that everything has flaws but those mark us all more beautiful and loveable than even we understand.

Remembering Papi

Yesterday, I kneel and reached into the back of the closet for a bag. One that I placed there when I first moved in. It contains items that I kept from my time with Papi. I found the business card that he gave me at our first lunch date. I didn’t know it was a date at the beginning but at the end, I was already falling in love with him.

The bag also holds the books he signed for me and three frame photos. Papi took the photos one summers day in my living room as I laid on the sofa before him. They are intimate pictures where my body was cast into a shadowy light by the blinds. Sometime later I framed them and put them in my bedroom. They have been in the closet since my move to Virginia three years ago.

Today, I took placed them on a table where I will be able to see them. It feels good to see them and remember how he saw me.

To remember that he loved me and I loved him.

I will remember Papi everyday that I am alive. I will never stop missing him or loving him.

I will remember Papi as a great man, but not a perfect man.

I will remember that we loved each other more than the other knew.

I will remember him every time a play or movie takes me on a journey.

I will remember him walking around Lake Eola with him.

I will remember seeing him smile the full intensity of his gaze melting me.

I will remember how he hated writing but was phenomenal at it.

I will remember how he took care of his partner and loved her like no other.

I will remember him whenever I think of New York or walk its streets.

I will remember him when the pain of his loss weighs on me until tears release it again.

I will remember him…as I loved him with each and every breath of my being.

Prompt Post: Twisting the Traditional

Prompt: How to put a fresh twist into a topic that has been super-saturated with books and films?

This prompt was given to me by my friend, Peg.  Thank you, Peg for saving this week’s blog. 

The first thing that comes to mind is zombies.  American fiction and cinema is obsessed with them.  The idea that human beings become their own worst enemy and threaten everything that we as a species know to be normal. The thing that takes us down is our reliance on technology or an unknown disease. When you really think about it. Most tales are told from the perspective of the human’s overwhelmed by creatures overwhelmed by desire for flesh.  If you change human flesh to blood, you have vampires.  But, let’s stick with zombies for now. 

A fresh twist could be as simple as writing the tale from the zombie’s perspective or from the scientist who created the zombies.  Was it a mistake or did he do it on purpose? Similar to the twisted logic of Thanos, pure and unemotional.  The solution to the problems of the humanity/universe are simple if you have the fortitude for it.  

Twisting a common topic isn’t as hard as one might think as long as you are willing to question and can change perspectives. You can change the perspective of the villain or a minor character. 

Imagine if the tale of Beauty and the Beast was told from the perspective of Gaston or Lefou, his sidekick.  How would they see it? Lefou depending on when you begin telling the tale and how you see him could become a villain or a hero. 

The key is changing perspective.  Imagine if you were to tell the tale of Beauty and the Beast as a horror story, where the Beauty is the villain kept captive by the sleeping spell.  How would things change? Would the prince be a savior or an accomplice?  Is he trying to save his love or revive his master? 

These twists seem hard but they can be accomplished by the wandering mind and a willingness  to change the accepted norms. 

“Twisted Fairy Tale” is a favorite genre of mine.  Let’s start with Alethea Kontis’s Woodcutter series that artfully weaves what we think we know about classic fairy tales with realism and an intellectual sensible that makes the character’s even more endearing.  It is a must read for those in love with fairy tales, fantasy and fiction. 

Next, let’s move on to one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.  I have fallen in love with his storytelling over the last couple of years studying writing.  He routinely takes things and turns them asking the what if questions and engaging readers with his answers. One of my favorites is his take on Sleeping Beauty (Snow, Glass and Apples)  where the tale is told from the Evil Queen’ perspective and the sweet princess is a villain preying on her father and her beloved prince.  It does not have a happy ending.  Yet, the tale’s twist satisfies the reader and makes them yearn for more. 

Another example is “Into the Woods” by playwright James Lapine and music by none other by Steven Sondiem.  This production asks the simple question of what happens after the happy ending. When I first saw it twenty years ago as a student production at Virginia Tech, I was mesmerized.  After all what happens after the happy ending, do they live in that happiness or does reality set in? 

The stories that follow the question “what if” are unique and follow similar lines to the original tale or, in the case of Into the Woods, take up the question of what happens after the story.  It is also how a lot of storytelling is created.  What if alien’s landed on earth? How would humanity react ? (World of the Wars, Close Encounters and so many more?) What if the first manned mission to Mars goes wrong? (The Martian) Each of these are twists on one tale of another.  

Consider the Martian and Castaway twists on Daniel Defos’ Robinson Crusoe which is believed to be based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk who was stranded on an island in the South Pacific for four years before his rescue. So many stories were based on Defos’ work that they became their own genre, Robinsade.

Twisting a traditional or popular topic begins with asking the question “what if?” and going with answers until a new tale is told.

State of Things May

Oh, lord, it is May and I’m a teacher. That alone would be enough to describe how I am doing this month. May is the time that all of the good little children begin to earn for freer days and all the rotten little children (the few that actually rotten) begin to fight against all authority. Schools struggle to keep children contained within the school walls and ground. This week, I had to get a child out of a tree twice. Same kiddo, he needed to climb and he did.

So professionally, the state of things is more chaotic than on average. State testing ends soon and then the days of waste. Days where learning had been dictated to continue by administration but everyone is so exhausted that the lessons are light and fun by design.

My tutoring gig ended abruptly. I’ll miss the kiddo and my interactions with his family. Our weekly tutoring sessions were a bright spot in my week. I have another side gig starting soon which won’t be as fun. It will however get my closer to my goals.

Writing has mostly been happening here on the blog. My other projects are either in research mode or caught in the Bermuda triangle of editing.

Mentally and Physically, I am on survival mode. Grief has a funny way of doing that to you. The only way I know to get through what I am feeling now is to keep moving forward that way I can get out before the devil knows I am here. I don’t think that I am moving fast enough.

It isn’t a perfect plan but it the one I’ve got. When Papi died, one of the people I hold most dear in the world, I poured my feelings into a blog and it touched people. Papi and I had a complicated relationship with good and bad moments, caring and cruelty- but at the end we had reached a better place because of all of that. My naked feelings touched someone in a way I hadn’t intended and a bridge was broken. Written words like spoken ones can’t be taken back.

I can’t undo the unintentional damage I caused and that bothers me. There is a part of me that just wants to find the perfect words to make it all better to explain myself and rebuild that bridge. And that is the part that has been waking me up in the middle of the night and draining my wine supply. It is also responsible for me putting a pen in the sink to be washed.

Did I see him as a villain? No, but there were times in our relationship when I held on to the hurt to the point when it was unhealthy.

Did I paint him as villain? Probably. Was it my intention? No, but intentions and results are often two different things. I can’t take back those words. The only thing I can do is honor the man I love.

In that light, let me tell you a story. Once a upon a time, I had lunch with Momma at the mall near where I worked. Things had been difficult between us for a couple of months so the lunch was a step in repairing our relationship. We talked about my paternal grandmother and that’s when Momma told me that my grandmother wasn’t part indigenous but that her father had been black. Suddenly a whole bunch of things in my life made sense. My sister’s comments about my body among other things and why we were discouraged from looking into genealogy.

Sometime soon after I told a friend who told another friend and that’s when the trouble started. I was excited about finding out more about my family’s history. The friend she told, unknown to me had feelings for me and the idea that I wasn’t white was too much for him. He ended our friendship with a nasty gram. My heart was crushed; nothing about me had changed beyond knowing more about my family. Papi called that day and when he found out he came right away and held me.

He didn’t try and console me by telling me that my friend had never really been my friend. He just held me in my grief and let me feel what I needed to feel. I will never forget that day or him.

I love you, Papi. And I always will.

What to Expect When Grieving

Expect that you won’t know what to do from one moment to the next.

Expect that people are going to say stupid things like comparing losing your father to join a club.

Expect that you won’t be able to sleep or you will over sleep.

Expect people to treat you different. Or like nothing at all happened.

Expect them to tell you it will be ok, when it never will be ok again.

Expect others to share with you quite moments of their own grief or moments where your loved one made them smile.

Expect there to be moments when you smile and think of them.

Expect beauty to return in drips and drabs until rainbows shine like they are the first rainbow ever created.

Expect to think of them everyday, sometimes with a smile and sometimes on the edge of tears.

Expect for friends who love you to mess up when they are trying to talk to you.

Expect that the sun will continue to rise and set and you can be angry and sad all at the same time.

Expect that there is no guide to what you are going through that will ever be enough.

Expect to smile and laugh again, but not always when society deems acceptable.

Expect that your life has changed and your new reality will be something you never imagined….

Living with Grief

When did you first meet grief? Were you a child or adult? Or somewhere in between?

My family introduced me to grief in a dull funeral home in Ohio, somewhere near Columbus not far from Springfield. Grief didn’t touch me that day. There was no way for it through the stoic ritual containing everyone’s best manners. Everyone was appropriately sad but not too sad. No room for a wondering mind to question because there was no one talking about it; grief that is. We went to the wake, then the funeral and finally a family reunion. So in a matter of 24 hours, I was introduced to grief and then pushed outside to play with distant cousins.

Grief reached out again in the death of my brother’s friend, Justin. The story was told to me as an misbegotten allegory; a reason not to wear a seat belt. The three other boys in the car with him were thrown and survived. The seatbelt pinned him in place crushing him against the telephone pole. I never met Justin. Granny thought of him as part of the family. I only knew him the stories of a young high school football star who was genuine and kind.

Grief then was something to observe and mimic, not an personal experience.

Time would fix that oversight. After all someone had to die. No one gets out of life alive.

Death in America is so often sanitized that when you get to adulthood, death is a horrible stranger. You see it but you don’t know it.

My granny died when I was 18. She had been my world; the one who took care of me when the nuclear family I was born into disintegrated. As I grew up and she grew frail, I started taking care of her. I spent every school break and long weekend with her. My world was expanding at that time, like many eighteen year olds. That summer I took an internship at the law firm my sister worked at. It was a good job for someone with no experience in anything except for living in the protective shell of family; not that I would have admitted it.

None of us were with her when she died. I am not sure who was. I never thought about that until now. Was her death a good death? Was it peaceful? What is a good death? As her granddaughter and part time caretaker, we never talked about it.

When my aunt died two years later, I was again unprepared. The shock of her death thrust me back into the realm of my birth family who take passive hostility to a suffocating level. I remember getting ready for the service staring out on to the dam on which my grandparents built their house and my oldest sister telling me to put heels so we would both be taller than our biological sister. It felt off; like she forcing herself make it joke due to the occasion rather than her usual direct attack. K was good at those direct attacks.

I never saw my aunt’s body. My eldest brother returned me to my college life covered in grief and I stumbled through life trying to be ok and failing. I remember as we made our way out of the mountains of central Pennsylvania how he lectured me on how our father’s grief was greater than mine. Had I been too emotional at the service? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Death came again and again. Sanitized for the public comfort and profit. If you didn’t know it already, the funeral industry makes millions upon millions every year exploding our collective grief.

Then came Shannon. Oh Shannon, you never knew the power you held. I never knew her when she wasn’t dying. When I first started dating Stew told me about Shannon and being with the family through her first cancer treatment. He also told me that the cancer had come back. The first time I met Shannon, she surrounded me in her arms. The warmth was amazing.

Months later, I visited her with him, It was the first time, I saw people gathered around someone before they died. We visited often but not enough. You can never visit the dying enough to relieve post-mortem grief.

I stood in the room with her fresh death and told the nurse what I was going to do. The nurse nodded when I had expected her to protest. I washed her body and recited a prayer honoring the vessel that had carried her through life. There is a stillness to death that you can feel in you in your bones. It wasn’t scary, it simply was.

When Papa died that stillness slid over his body as I held his hand. I knew death was there before Momma and my brother did. My gratitude for the nurse who came and told them, sparing me the task is immense.

Grief flows in and out of our lives until we get to the point where we are used to the ebb and flow of it like the tide . We adjust to our new realities thinking it can’t get any worse and then it does. Megan Devine opens her book It’s ok that you’re not ok with this statement “Here’s what I want you to know: this really is as bad as you think.” Raw grief is overwhelming like being caught in a tsunami. One that can return at a moments notice.

On May 1st, the tsunami hit me again. It knocked me out at first and then sent me through the city of memories and regrets you build in two decades of love and friendship while I fought to keep breathing. I didn’t tell anyone until the afternoon, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Even then, I only told one person. At family dinner, it came out and the look of shock hit everyone so hard that I immediately apologized. The latest wave brought anxiety with it. My heart is threatening to pound its way out of my chest. I don’t know how to exist in this new reality where he is gone.

I’m not being melodramatic, I really don’t know how to exist in this reality without him. I look over the text messages we passed back and forth daily and his voice is fading. The voice that gave me advice, that missed me and loved me.

I know it will not always be like this. I know there will be better days, but I also know that there be days where the grief washes over me and I don’t know which way is up.

All of this sounds very bleak. Grief doesn’t end but it does transform you (or at least to others), because when you do surface you are different. When the water recedes, a memories that you had passed over is uncovered. And you remember the love, you had for them. After all, “But what is grief, if not love persevering?”

Will it be ok, again? A lot of people will try and tell you that it will be. That grief is something to move through and there will be something better around the corner. But that is a lie. It may never been ok again. The world is shaped by grief in ways that can not be explain to others that have not gone through it or who have chosen to ignore it. The world will never be the same without my Papa. Nor will it be the same without the man I loved for nearly two decades.

Ignoring pain doesn’t heal it. Time doesn’t always lessen it. What has worked for me and allowed me to live with and in grief is not trying to be ok. Thank you again to Megan Devine for her work on grief. I let myself grieve, cry and exist with this new reality. There are times like the last two weeks when I have poured myself into work to distract my mind from the loss. And there will be days like today when my body says enough and I let the grief turn into words.

Vague Death Post



What do you do when the person you’ve been in a toxic relationship for 16 years dies and you find out a day later? What do you do when for the last ten years that person has kept you as a secret?

You cry.  The tears seeping out rather than pouring.  You tell yourself to get up but you lay in bed for a few moments more and cry.  So you click on his Facebook page, scroll the first couple of posts and click to make your own.  You try to say your goodbyes but you can’t. It is too fresh, too raw and you are a secret. You fear that your words will be deemed disrespectful, an insult to the woman who was by his side when he died. The woman who called him the love of her life and rightfully so.  He made a life with her.  Her grief more legitimate than yours.

Then you hear the words of a beautiful friend whom you heard say if you are afraid to write about it then write about it.

So you lay in bed and cry some more.  Then you get up.  Find your way to the kitchen, make coffee and eat raw cookie dough from the fridge while your real breakfast warms. You say morning to your family and let your dog out.  You say nothing about what has happened.  The kitchen caught in the twilight of morning does not give you away.

And then you climb the stairs and begin.


Do I begin with the fact that even though I broke away from you more than once and you broke me a dozen times that I thought about you everyday? Dreamt about you?  No, then where?

Because now, you are lying cold in the morgue a thousand miles away and I will never get to say goodbye or hello as I dreamed about?  There will be no trips to the big city to see you. No waking up with you and exploring your city? Because no matter where you lived, you were a New Yorker through and through.   No trips to see that cabin, the one you inherited from your mom.   Now there is nothing but your shell, memories and a thousand things unsaid and done.

No, I will begin with this.

I love you. Not loved, because I acknowledge that no matter how far apart we were, you always lived in my heart and mind and will continue to do so.  My heart held that loving you close to it.  She remembered how your voice wrapped me in seduction and coils around all the happy memories.  The day that you first kissed me. You directed it like a play, setting the stage and moving me into place.  I said my lines without even knowing it.  My heart, and lower places, remember the passion and excitement that never dulled. My mind, she clings with claws of steel to the harsher things; your long absences when we were officially a couple, the phone calls accusing me of cheating, and the text messages accusing me of not understanding your pain. My mind holds on to those like I bitterly held on to all of our text messages as records of the truth.

The truth that you loved me. The truth that you hurt me. And the truth that I allowed it all to continue.

*Note – this post was written hours after I found out I had lost him. My heart was shattered and this post is a reflection of that raw emotion. It was never my intention to paint him as a villain. The truth of the matter was our relationship was toxic at times because we didn’t learn to communicate which resulted in the two of us hurting each other at various points. In the end, we were communicating better and he had the love of woman who brought out the best in him.

The State of Things April

Oh goodness, where am I now?

Physically, I am sitting on a broken chair at my writing desk. My knees aren’t aching, but my hip hurts. Don’t know why, but it is. Getting older when you have lived an interesting life isn’t easy. It is hard to get old. It is hard to deal with a body that doesn’t work the way it once did or the way you hope it would. The doctor is happy that my knees haven’t worsen and so am I. This means that the big knee surgery has been pushed down the road and into my mid-fifties. It is also incredibly wonderful to have a doctor that believes me and works to get help instead of ignoring what is going on.

Mentally, exhaustion is taxing my brain. It is hard to keep on top of everything that I need to get done for work and home; let alone work on my writing. One thing that it hard for people who don’t deal with chronic pain to understand is that managing your pain doesn’t mean you aren’t in pain. The pain means that everything takes more energy. Managing pain doesn’t mean that the pain goes away. It is always there. It is like the difference between swimming in a calm lake versus the ocean. The water’s current is always there pushing against your body. In the lake, you feel it and work with it. In the ocean, you fight it and there is a greater chance it will knock you down or out. In short, it is your constant companion.

Adding to that companion, it appears that I am a COVID long-hauler. The brain fog is real as is the on going dizziness. Yesterday, I stayed home from work because the dizziness didn’t stop all day.

Financially, things are moving where they need to be. Debts are going down and thanks to tutoring and book sales, I’m bring in more than I spend. Two months ago, I went to see a Financial advisor. A step further into adulthood and moving my life to a place where I have choices. The kind of choices that a better credit score and savings can give me.

Dayjob Workwise, things are crazy and it is hard not perseverate on all the things that can and are going wrong. We are entering into the days of standardized testing where elementary kids are put through a ringer in order to gain data for the State. I don’t get why are the students are being made to take a test that doesn’t really test their knowledge. The State says it is only for data but come on there have to be ways to get the data without stressing kids out. On top of that, the COVID numbers among staff have decrease but each week more students are contracting the virus.

Side-gig. Tutoring has dropped to once a week. Good on one hand because it gives me more time to do my regular stuff. Bad because the money I earned goes towards my debt. I enjoy the gig and am grateful for the opportunity to work on mathematics again. Once upon a time, I was a math major so it is great to revive those skills.

Travel Plan: Now that I am fully vaccinated, I have those again. A trip to Florida is in my future. I’m overdue to see my family. Beyond that a trip to Richmond to see my beloved friends and give a few attack hugs as well as my favorite Virginia cemetery. One of my favorite humans has a new house in Maryland that I would love to see as well. Lots of ideas of where to go but no firm plans of yet.

Writing/Project-wise. Things have slowed down. They haven’t however stopped. The ideas keep coming and I am doing my best to stay on track with everything. The Devil’s Due is on its second draft. The non-fiction projects remain in research and outline mode. Time has been short supply, energy has been in even shorter supply. The ideas come and find there way into existence but they don’t feel right. There was no rhythm to them. They were my words but they feel flat and awkward like a ball without air.

Garden: The garden moved and expanded this year. We’ve spent three Sunday’s stripping turf. If we don’t get rain, we will finish this weekend. The weather has turned cold so it will be another two or three weeks before the plants can go in the ground. I am excited and nervous. There are a lot of seedlings in my dinning room. They are all going to need homes in the coming month.

Luke: My furry son turned 10 this year. We have been doing more off-lease time which has been great. He follows me when I go to the barn to work on things. As soon as I turned to go back to the house, he comes running like Momma don’t leave me. There is joy to his galloping that lightens my heart.

So that’s where I am right now? Where you are my friends?

Love,

Lu

Only Human

I am only human, although I have gone by nickname of Dragon for years. My flesh is mortal and although I have dry skin, no scales adorn my body.

COVID-19 took me out for 3 weeks.

In the midst of these unpresideneted (only unpresidenet because we don’t really study history) times, I have faltered from my writing routine.

I know why it happen and I could list the reason/excuses for it, but they all boil down to the fact that I am human. I can only do so much and in order to maintain the silver of sanity I hold close to my chest, something had to give.

And it was my writing routine.

I started a second job tutoring, twice a week. I’ve worked through the pandemic and all of the ups, downs, twists and turns around. I wrote and I plotted new projects and then came the night when I couldn’t.

The Writer in Happier and Healthier times.

Couldn’t sit and write after work. I couldn’t write because I was asleep. Night after night, I crashed on my bed. The mornings were a blur of things I needed, wanted and could to get were all mixed together. In the evenings, the only thing that kept me moving was the routine of my family life. It anchored and has let me weather the continuous storm that these days have brought.

Writing and the routine of it has returned. I am writing for at least a half-n-hour a day; more when I can. Vaccines have brought hope and some freedom, but the end isn’t insight. There will be a lot more days and nights of this pandemic. And my routines might falter again, as long as I survive this, I am ok with that bargain.