Going Back In Time

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Florida was my home for 18 years. In a way, it will always be my home. So much of who I am today was formed in the Sunshine State, albeit from the shadows as I am not really found of heat or sun. Yes, I did willingly move to Florida but until you live here you don’t understand how oppressive the sun is. It never really stops trying to scorch the invaders so it can go back to being a happy mosquito infested swamp. We all have our glory days, and Florida misses when its very nature repelled development.

The journey here was longer than expected. We left my beloved mountains and solid ground around 7am thinking that with stops we would be in Orlando around 7-8 o’clock. Alas, we made it in shortly after 1am. While we were finishing lunch and getting gas, there was a multi-vehicle car crash 25 miles from the Georgia-Florida line.

We were rerouted by GPS so many times that at one point after a much needed stop we had to head North on 95 to be able to navigate around it. With all the detours, there wasn’t much time to think or reflect on my first trip back home in two years.

Reflection came after I relinquished the wheel and saw the Orlando area for the first time. Places that I had known flying by in the shadows and then the lights growing of downtown Orlando. This is not the land of the mouse. It is hard to define what it is the land of because Orlando and Florida in general is more than a vacation designation. It is home and not home.

Home is the solid footing of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but home is also where the heart is and pieces of my heart will always be in Florida with my family (both biological and chosen). There were so many people and places that I wanted to see. I managed more than my last trip in 2019. Time, however, was not on my side.

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I remembered Papi, first. I remembered the place where we first kissed and so many other bittersweet memories in between. We passed where my friend, Shannon, lived in the last days of her life. We drove pass what had been the home of my friends, Wolfie and Awen. Awen passed away in the home and Wolfie moved out more than a decade ago.

We briefly stopped at Lake Eola before discovering that our bladders wanted us elsewhere. I thought about the walks around the lake. One sticks out, we were walking around before Papa passed, my brother E was with us and we were all sad, but happy to be together in the sun and fresh air.

My companions and I walked through Disney Springs and all the happy memories of my best friend and I hanging out. Memories of family birthday gatherings at the Rainforest Cafe and the day I walked into the Chapel Hats and asked them to find me a hat to match my outfit.

There was a drive through my old neighborhood and so many memoires. My companions got to see the porch where the novella “Blood Child” was conceived. And the places where I used to walk with Luke

We wandered through the Greenwood Cemetery where I poured out every bit of knowledge I have concerning it. I couldn’t bare to take them to the Pulse Memorial but I could point out the section of Greenwood that were some of the 49 Angels have been buried. The City of Orlando donated the plots for them. I pointed out the trees and other features that mark it as unique.

My companions traveled with me back in time. They were most amused after dinner with Zee and the Professor where I had indulged into far too much wine. During the journey back home, I gave them Lucinda’s drunken tour of Orlando. Apparently, I had a lot to say about every building I could identify and quite a few that had been built in my absent.

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The present and the potential future blinked in and out of my days home.

The past is not a place you can stay. You can only really glimpse it. The emotions push through the veil separating past, present, and future. You are there for a moment, feeling all of the emotions, drowning in them. Then you are in the now, and nothing is right.

Nothing is the same.

Everything changes regardless of your desires. Your favorite nacho places closes after twenty years. Friends move out of your old neighborhood. And sadly, there are people you never get to say goodbye to again, even when you are going back in time.

State of Things July

Wow, what a month!! It is hard to believe that in five days it will be over. And then it will be back to my day job and the stresses and pressures of being an American educator.

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This summer, I have taken more steps to eventually leaving teaching to write and create full time. It is a slow process but I am working on it. Even if I never make a complete transition, I am happier when I am creating.

Most of my writing this month focused on editing, journaling and blogging. The outlines for my non-fiction projects haven’t really gotten off the ground. (Meaning, I’ve thought about them but not put time into the research.) I was hoping to squeeze in another trip to Richmond to write and research but alas I need to attend to more mundane things.

I did get to spend a wonderful day at the lake yesterday celebrating a good friends birthday and making some new acquaintances. It was the day of rest and relaxation that I didn’t know that I needed. Thank you to S for not only being my friend, but making me feel like family.

Family is important to me. In recent years, I’ve spent more time with my chosen family than my biological family. It hasn’t been something that I’ve done consciously. I tend to get lost in the day and when my spoons are gone, I am done. I am horrible at communicating with people I don’t come in regular contact with due in part to my anxiety. I want to, but… well anxiety is not a nice person, to say the least.

Momma and Me Many Years Ago.

This month, I got to see Momma and my sister and her wonderful kids in Florida. I won’t lie and say the visit was great. We all have issues that we need to work on as well as how we communicate with each other. Sissy, if you are reading this, I do love you.

The visit has prompted me to return to therapy sooner rather than later. I have a list of things that I want to work on so I can improve my communication skills, establish better boundaries and be a better me. Therapy has been helpful to me in the past, however, I never actively worked on communication skills. My doctor wants to see how I am feeling after a couple of therapy sessions how I am dealing with things on a mental health front. Did I mention that I love my doctor? Cause I love my doctor.

She did ask if the summer had been restful and I hesitated. It has been good to work on other things without the stresses of work. I’ve gotten to travel, hugged my Mom and good friends, saw new things and breathe the fresh air and sunshine into my soul. I’m lucky to have this time. Time to recoup.

The time is never enough. My gratitude for things I have is not comparable to the things I have lost, the things that have hurt me and the things I still need to heal from. The things I love lots, the things that have hurt me, and the things I need to heal from don’t compare to the things I am grateful for. I could rest for a thousand days and still not be ready to return to my work as an educator. I will, however, return, because I both love my job and need that sweet sweet health insurance.

Sometimes There Are No Villains

And no victims.

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In fiction, there is a villain to oppose the hero. In the wake of a villian’s terror, victims call and plead for help. In real life, no so much. And that’s just the way it is. No matter how much you want there to be. It is a hard concept for many of us to let go of.

In the days and now weeks since Papi’s death, I have thought a lot about this idea: villains, victims and heroes in everyday life. When we are hurt, we want someone to be responsible. We never want that person to be ourselves. When our heart is broken, we want to blame the one who did it. The one who made us feel this way. But is that healthy? Is it healthy to always seek to blame someone for our woes?

The simple answer is no. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what didn’t work out in my previous relationships. The common factor in all of those relationship was me. Sure, some of the guys I dated broke up with me in harsh ways but that only makes them a jerk not a villain. I’m not the victim. They weren’t the bad guy. They just weren’t the right guy for me and when they realized I wasn’t the right one for them they left. I was hurt but not victimized.

There were a couple that were toxic and not nice people. Yes, Patrick, I am looking at you. (kidding, mostly).

That maybe is over simplifying it. There are toxic people out there. People who seek to victimize others. They want to be the villian and get off on it. What I am talking about is villianing everyone with whom you have a relationship that doesn’t work. Playing the woe is me card over and over again and hoping that something will be different.

When we seek to blame others and take no responsibility for our own unhappiness, it is really hard to take responsibility for our happiness. Why is one in our control and the other not? There will always be things outside of our control but not everything is outside of our spheres of influence.

We can work to control our reactions. Notice, I didn’t say control our reactions. No matter how hard we work, it is impossible to control all of our reactions. We can get better at it. It has taken medication, therapy and a lot of self-reflection to be able to control some of my reactions.

Twenty years ago, I was a hot mess. I may still be a hot mess emotionally at times. Adulthood is a series of events leading to the collection of your shit and the collapse of your shit. We are all at some point in the cycle. Some people are better at keeping it together than other. There is also a whole league of people that are incredible good at making everything seem like it is all okay dokey when it isn’t. I like to call them influencers.

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These days, I am pretty good at making it look everything is shipshape when it isn’t. Not because I don’t want people to know the realities of my life, because if I stop moving long enough to explain things to them something else is going to come crashing down on my head.

Papi and I had a complicated relationship. I never hated him even when things were twisted. He was never a villain to me. I don’t understand why he did the things he did, but I loved him. I loved him so so much. He wasn’t the villain. I wasn’t a victim. We were two people who loved each other, were horrible at communication.

When I reflect on my own childhood, I see a lot of things that were done to me. I didn’t have power and agency as a child. Adulthood comes and we aren’t always ready for it. There is no magically awakening that occurs when we turn eighteen. We don’t suddenly get all the skills necessary to live as adults. We don’t learn how to deal with each other.

I’ve been a teacher since 2006 and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that adults don’t act very adultlike much of the time. They are petty and sometimes cruel for no reason. Logic may as well just be a pretty wreath of flowers that smells horrible. It is as rare as common sense.

Growing up as an eighties kid, a lot of the movies I watched pitted the underdogs against the popular kids. The good guys against the villains. Real life isn’t black and white. It is shades of grey and colors more beautiful than one imagines. It is seeing someone you love grow, love and live a life that makes them happy.

Papi had that with his partner. There is never going to be a day that I don’t miss him. There may never be a time that I don’t wish things had been different between us. But knowing he was happy, he was loved and loved in return, makes me smile.

Get Away – Don’t Tell

This is the second weekend that I have left the Big House on the hill for the wonders of the city and a room in a friend’s home.

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For the second weekend in a row, the stress and anxiety of the past weeks along remnants of the pandemic have drift away as I left the day to day behind for an adventure. This weekend’s adventure found me traversing the streets of Washington, D.C. in a quest to get to my friend’s house as close to four o’clock as I could. Waze, by the way, I don’t trust you any more since last weekend you guided me to the wrong restaurant and this weekend there was the detour through D.C. during rush hour. I made it to my destination in the nick of time but I fear you will do me wrong again.

This weekend, I decided not to post my trip on social media. Partly, due to fear of backlash for having the ability to get out of town. And mostly because I needed a break from everything. A break from my everything and a chance to refresh and renew my internal control system. I can not be the change I desire to be in the world if I allow myself to be crushed by the weight of things out of my control.

My weekend away let me reflect on the things that have been causing me anxiety.

Other People’s Perceptions.

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You can not change the way others think of you. You can not control their choices. You can only manage your own reaction. Do not be mistaken, you can not control them. So much of our lives are controlled by habits. The majority of habits are not set intentionally. We set them through routine. Resetting habits is difficult. Resetting thinking more so.

The anxiety that I have been feeling has been intense. I struggle to focus when my entire being is racked doubt, confusion and pain. The pain is so deep inside my core that I don’t know how to deal with it.

Recently, one of my closest relatives has been calling to vent. The anxiety and stress they feel has been passed to me and I have been waking up in the middle of the night racked with worry that I can’t do all these things at once. My relatives perception of what I have or have not done is beyond my control. Trying to control it and problem solve from hundreds of miles away is not working.

So, I am attempting to focus on what I can do and how I can help while maintaining my own mental, physical and financial health. It isn’t an easy balancing act, but it is necessary.

The Return

First, we are never going back to the way things used to be. Not a 100%, too much as happened and it is impossible to go back. Nearly 4 million people have died as a result of COVID. Business have closed and careers have been lost. The “normal” so many crave returning to was toxic to people of color, women and the working poor.

Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. We know as a society how much we rely on low wage workers to keep everything running. While some folks are still refusing acknowledge the importance of these lower skill jobs (there is no such thing as a no skill job, fyi.) and say that people just don’t want to work, that is simply not true. It is an excuse to ignore the issue. I would also argue that they aren’t low skilled at all. My own work history has taught me that much.

As our society attempts the return to “normal”, we will all adjust at our own speeds. Some have already rushed back to their “normal”, others are still testing the waters. Everyone had been affected. The stress I was feeling from personal and work matters stems in part from the pandemic. The pressure placed on family ties and the education system for which I work exposed cracks and widen others. We need to take our time personally so that we don’t go back to what a comfortable dysfunction.

The Social Media Break

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My weekend break from social media let me two things. First, I enjoyed the weekend without trying to narrative it the same time. Freedom!! The second was living fully in the moment and resting. For myself, not telling folks that I was taking the break or the weekend was key. The people who needed to know where I was did and everyone else didn’t need to know. The purpose of the weekend was to visit with old friends and recharge. Unplugging from my normal was exactly what the doctor order.

It is going to take several more treatments and a lot more hugs to fully recharge. Honestly, I need to recharge on a regular basis and make that a habit instead of running myself again and again to the point of exhaustion.

What about you? Have you gotten away ? Taken a much needed break? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Lucinda Rose is an author and teacher living and working in the mountains of Virginia.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagam

Let’s Stop…

Let’s stop saying those who cry are weak or babies

Babies cry to communicate to express what words cannot

Tears do not stop their duty when maturity takes hold

When other suppress what they should express

Some are cursed and blessed with tears

That do not obey.

Let us stop equating colors with genders

that we limit to two

Let us stop living our lives through memes

and share

But begin with hugs and touches.

Let us remember that our finite days

are filled with infinite possibilites

Let us acknowledge the privielege we have

and share with others so they may know the blessing

we take for granted.

Let us stop doing what hurts to others because we were hurt.

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.