Domestic Violence

So, I’m writing a play. I’ve written two plays so far and this is my third. I started this really cool piece about domestic violence and shelter living for women. I had planned to offer as a charitable fundraiser for local DV shelters. Then I got derailed, the project stalled on the other end and I haven’t been back to it. I was hoping to share here for some feedback. Here is an excerpt, let me know your thoughts.


WOMAN 1: Yeah, even her husband acts this way. (Referring to WOMAN 2)

WOMAN 2: (Lights go down on group, WOMAN 2 comes down front) It’s true. She’s right. I mean, I don’t know if all men act this way, but my husband does. The only difference between her husband and mine is that he buys me a diamond ring to apologize. We never know what people are going through behind closed doors. I don’t wanna be here, but I have no place to go. My dad is gone, my mom is in assisted living. My kids are at college and the house is in his name. Everything is. Bank accounts, cars, houses. I don’t want any of it anyway. I never did. I only wanted him. And I wanted him to want me the same. The first time he hit me, we were in college. He was drunk and I was mad. He’d been flirting all night with our friend’s new girl. Kissing her on the hand?! Laughing at all her dumb jokes. After we left, I complained the whole way home. I’d never been so mad with him before and he did not like it. He didn’t say a word until we got to his apartment. He shut the door, it was dark, he cornered me and whispered, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again.” He waited for a few seconds. I thought he was walking away and then he turned and knocked me silly. I never questioned him again. I’m not sure why I didn’t leave that night. I know I felt guilty for thinking the worst of him. That was the first time, but for sure not the last. When I said nothing at his flirtations and when I said nothing about his business dealings and when I didn’t interfere with the kids, he’d still find a reason to hit. Or choke. Or…humiliate. All alone, at night, in private. In our room. In bed. I don’t keep this ring because I love jewelry or I like how it looks on my finger. I keep it because I’m not ready to give up on love. And I feel safe with it on. That’s ridiculous, I know. But you know, I earned this ring. I had to take a punch or two…or ten…to get it.


So that’s just one of the women I’m writing for. The idea is that they are in group therapy in the shelter and one by one, between dialogue, we hear each individual story over the course of the play. Really minimal set. Also, flashbacks of a woman from the 70s, winding up in the hospital for the umpteenth time, finally able to go to the new DV shelter that just opened. Her name is Hope.

I’d love to hear ideas, stories and feedback. Thanks for reading.

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Paterfamilias

That’s a snap of my dad. I’m the little red-hooded halfling almost cropped out, just behind him. Nice jean jacket, Dad.


My dad didn’t give me much. What he did give me though is everything. A sense of humor. Learning to laugh at yourself is so important. When you have nothing else, e.g. talent, ability, grace or aptitude; if you have a sense of humor, you can endure all things.

My dad used to say things like, “I work my country ass off!” And, “Give me hell, I’m the devil.” LOL

One day, in a mood of silliness, my dad tied two brightly-colored balloons to his ears. They floated high above his bald head as he walked out of Wal-mart, greeting each new customer, “Thank you for shopping at Wal-mart.” I was humiliated on the outside, but inside, I was screaming, “Yeah, my dad’s a fuggin’ freak and that’s friggin’ awesome! Let your freak flag fly, Daddy!” LOL I wish I had been brave enough to show him my approval. It might have comforted him to know that he wasn’t alone.

My dad was also abusive. Verbally, emotionally and sometimes, very rarely, physically. I forgive him for that. I have forgiven him for a long time. I remember the abuse, but I choose to focus on the positive things; the love he gave, the tenderness he showed, the loyalty he displayed.

Another memory that I will never forget is the day my father showed me the greatest amount of tenderness. I asked if I go could run an errand with him in the old Ford pickup we used around the farm. Typically, he begrudgingly allowed me to tag along, but sometimes not at all. But this day, he was excited to have me.

I hopped up in the cab with him and he laid his giant hand on the well-worn bench seat. “Are you my pardner?” I grabbed his meaty paw and said lovingly, “Yeah, Dad.”

We didn’t say much else. Just smiles and camaraderie.

No other memory of him was as meaningful and sustaining. He’s gone. 27 years he’s been gone. He’s been gone for longer than I had him in my life. But his closeness is nearer than ever before. I hope that he looks down on me with approval, but the truth is, I’m sure he’s too busy enjoying paradise.

I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for my sense of humor.


And Happy Father’s Day to the best dad I know, Guy Maggio. You’re an amazing example of love, grace and acceptance. Even if you don’t always know what to say or do, you’re here, you care and whatta sense of humor! You make life more than bearable. You make it exciting. Worth living. Love you. Thank you for being my baby-daddy.

Summit

Did you know climbing some of the biggest mountains can leave climbers with symptoms that are very similar to heart failure? Death zones are places at the top of a mountain where low oxygen and poor weather conditions make even breathing a pain-filled struggle.

A documentary on K2 detailed the descent of a group of climbers and the, not only external, but internal physical hazards they faced, succumbing easily to harsh elements on the dangerous peak. Many of the symptoms sounded very familiar. I could imagine exactly what they were feeling, up in the ice and snow.

Moving just a few feet can be almost impossible. Feeling dizzy, out of breath, throbbing heart, difficulty thinking, seeing. Every muscle struggling for oxygen. Barely able to move. Swelling in the body. Deep vein thrombosis.

Losing weight and dealing with heart failure are two big mountains that I face every day. Plus, no thyroid due to cancer, no gallbladder due to failure, no ability to deal with triggers due to PTSD. No self-esteem due to lifelong emotional abuse from family, friends and strangers. Sigh. What else ya got for me, Lord? LOL

We’ve been watching documentaries about climbing. I don’t know why because I am NEVER climbing a mountain. NOPE! I admire the determination though. A mountaineer from the past said, as he looked at the mountain he was about to climb from a distance, he was already full of dread and foreboding. He was referring to K2. One of the biggest (undoubtedly toughest) Himalayan peaks. It’s near Everest. Mt. Everest is even taller, but less difficult. The weather conditions alone on K2 prevent many climbers from ever reaching the top. Sometimes, they never leave the mountain. One climber described the ascent as a mountain on top of a mountain.


Have you ever faced an obstacle and overcome it?
Only to find there was another mountain to climb?


You are already exhausted, elated and thankful to be done climbing, but you realize quickly, after reaching the top, you’re not done. The place that you were aiming at is stretched out of reach and you don’t have a choice other than to finish. You have to go further to reach the ultimate goal. Many climbers face a false summit.

A false summit, or false peak, is an illusion. You can’t see the very top of the mountain because the incline is so steep. The summit you are seeing is merely the top of the path you’re on. What you can’t see, the very, very top lies behind your immediate goal. At these times, I want to give up. When I reach the intended top and realize I have further to go? F’n forget it.

I start to question all of my efforts and I’m ready to give up. Like losing 100 pounds and hitting a plateau. I think,

“I’m good. I can stop. I can take a break.”

OR

“I may just be overweight for the rest of my life and what have I lost? I have a husband who loves me. I have a child. I have all the things I ever wanted and I’m happy with myself. I don’t have to climb this mountain. I can get off this mountain now!”

That could be true. I could just turn around and climb down. And everyone I know will just have to accept that I’m good and I’m done. And they probably would.

But if I really think about it, if I give it a hot minute, I don’t want to give up. Plus, climbing down ain’t gonna be easy either! I understand the climber’s motivated drive.

I must conquer this. I’ve come this far.

Many climbers have instincts. And the wise ones follow them. The ones that go home in one piece follow their gut. My gut tells me, no pun intended, that I need to keep going. The rocks below are much more dangerous than the clouds I’m trying to reach. I can’t stop, but the path isn’t clear.

But I think that this happens for a reason. If you could see how far you have to go, would you even start? Would you reach for the top?

Sometimes we have to do the toughest bits of life one step at a time. We can’t handle any more than that. God knows that. We just keep forgetting. We can climb any mountain with the right equipment, helpful guides and one. step. at a time. You gotta focus on what’s right in front of you. Not worry about the end. You just have to breathe and move forward. Even an inch.

I just keep praying that God helps me put one foot over the other and take one more breath until I can see the way up.

Thank you, God, for my legs, body, strength, determination, brain and your will.

EOC

EOC stands for End Of Course. It’s the end, of course! No. End of class course. My daughter just took her EOC test for Algebra. I’d never heard EOC.

I guess Algebra is a high school course and the 8th-grade Algebra students have to take the test to move on in high school? Idk. But I like this phrase. End of course.

Graduating from 8th grade feels like some sort of accomplishment for her. She’s supposed to be in 7th grade. She’s only 13. She skipped 4th grade and has needed to adjust socially since.

It can be a blessing and a curse. Advancing through school so quickly can seem like a pleasurable cut to the front of the line. But some people give you the side-eye on the way up. Also, once you’re at the front of the line, it’s your turn! NOW! GO, GO, GO!

I told her, if it wouldn’t destroy her social game, she could actually be in college at this point like a little friggin’ Doogie Howser. That flattered her, but it’s true! I have no doubt.

But.

There’s something to be said for standing on line. There are lessons in the waiting.

You know? My dad only graduated from the 8th grade? He went on to high school, but he hated it. He dropped in his junior year. He never graduated. He was a smart man, but in the 50s, you could just drop out and become whatever it is that you wanted to be. He entered the military, learned how to be a mechanic and did that for the rest of his life.

And here my daughter is, ready for high school. With a higher reading score than any of her predecessors. (I barely graduated from a two-year college LOL) She said she just took a test for lexile scores. Her’s was in the 1600s? I looked that up because IDK WTH a lexile score is. LOL I do know what it is, but what good is it? It’s usually a grade-corresponding reading level. 1600 is that of a graduate student at university.

Not to brag, but damn! If you look up some of the books that are recommended for 1600+:

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Perspectives on Nuclear War and Peace Education by Robert Ehrlich
A Fable by William Faulkner

A Fable is a book described by my husband (an extremely fast reader with above-average intelligence) as being trapped in the Blair Witch Project student film. A collection of run-on sentences (the creek they keep following) in which he was completely lost with no way out and the map had been tossed!

Suggestions for a light, summery read, Anyone??! LOL

I honestly can’t believe, when I sit down and think about it, that this strange human being came out of my body. She is greater than the sum of our parts as parents or as humans. That’s for sure. I look at her sometimes and think she must be from outer-friggin’-space. That I was probed and impregnated with an alien super-genius and I’m just mucking it all up.

I don’t mean to overstate her brilliance. But she’s utterly, awe-inspiringly amazing.

I don’t normally tell people in passing conversation that she’s a genius. Because when I do, they have an incredulous look on their face. “Yeah, right. Everybody’s kid’s a genius.”

But she really is. She was tested in Kindergarten after being at school (for like 5 minutes) and they discovered that she was a genius. She joined Mensa in Kindergarten. The kid is ridiculous.

I tend to downplay her super-smarts because people don’t wanna hear it. People hate hearing about how smart your kid is, just like they hate looking at your 10-fold plastic picture wallet sleeve full of baby pix.

But what I love most about Lilli? She’s kind. I wish I had a folded-up printout of all her intangible gifts of positivity. A photo collage of her spirit.

She breaks my heart with her generosity and tolerance. Every day. I love her. I am amazed by her. She is unbelievable. And I’m her mom. She’s going to change the world. And I get to watch.

It’s not the end, of course. It’s just the beginning. But I’m so proud of everything she’s done so far. She composed a song for her junior high choir and they are singing at the awards show in just a coupla weeks. I’m going to cry my stupid, old eyes out.


Now, it’s the end. Of course. ūüėČ

Electric Pace of the Ordinary

Excerpt from Dream:

There are moments in this life where the entire world slows down for just a second. Noises are blurred, images are paused and focused. And for a brief, fluttering instant we can experience a perfect communion with the eternal; a recognition of the divine. This moment hangs on like a perfectly formed raindrop, clinging to the surface of the present, waiting for the next moment to be bumped forward and resume the electric pace of the ordinary.

Read original story

Trapped

This is another story my daughter wrote. She won an award for this one. PTA Reflections 2017 awarded her honorable mention at state level for Missouri, junior high division. Really proud.

“What is Your Story?” was the theme this year. Lilli’s story is a little sad, but truthful and daring. Her piece is a great perspective on writing and art creation, in general. A true reflection of how many artists feel about revealing their work. It’s risky to put your heart on the line. But brave to try!

lil award.jpg
Here she is walking across the stage, accepting her award!

“Trapped Inside My Own Mind” by Lillian Maggio

Isn’t it strange? I love to compose music, and I love imagining the way it will sound. I take joy in writing the lyrics and listening to my accompaniment played with clunky digital sounds, but I absolutely detest my own voice. In addition, I can’t play any instrument, so I have hardly any idea how to write music for another person to play. I hate the concept of someone else singing for me, because I know in my heart that they wouldn’t do my song justice. I’m afraid to ask a musician for help because I don’t know if my songs can even be played. So I compose scores which I am proud of and rejoice in, yet no one really ever hears my music but me.

I love thinking up beautiful and magical characters with complex and wonderful designs and personalities, but I hate the style in which I draw, so their appearance remains a mystery. I’m so petrified that I’ll make a mistake or portray them wrong that I can never portray them at all. I long to use my art to bring light and wonder to the world, to tell a story that hasn’t been told before, but I’m so afraid that my story will be incomplete and riddled with flaws. So my characters are never brought to life, never see the light of day.

I love to write, and I would love even more to be recognized for my talent. I write based on my own experiences, sometimes even making up fantastical worlds all by myself. Still, I can never bring myself to actually try and publish any of my works. I tell myself that I don’t have a chance, that I’ll never become popular and that no one will ever read, let alone care about, what I have to say. Or, even worse, that someone will see my work and copy it, claiming my creation as their own while I can do nothing. So I hide everything I do, far from where anyone could see or hear it.

I’m trapped inside my own mind. My worst adversary is, in reality, myself; my own fear. I can’t show everyone all the amazing stories I’ve been dying to tell. And it’s because I’m holding myself back, preventing myself from sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world.

So I can’t tell my story. I’m far too afraid.

Unfunyuns

Guest post: Lillian Maggio

My daughter wrote this. I helped edit. It was for a Ray Bradbury contest. Exactly 451 words (Fahrenheit 451). Entrants were to choose a word from a noun string. Bradbury often used strings of nouns to compose his stories. Lilli chose “crowd” from one of the lists the contest provided.

Bradbury also used onomatopoeia. She tried to imitate his style by using unconventional sound and description. I really like the way it turned out.

She is only 13, but she’s already a great writer. She’s read my stuff and watched me for years. She has a lexile score (reading level) of a senior in high school and tested as a genius in Kindergarten. To say I’m proud would be an understatement. I’m overwhelmed, humbled, thankful. She is beyond reason. She is my undeserved grace in a world full of punishment. She is intelligent, charming and kind IN SPITE of me. I deserve very little credit in her astonishing achievements. I’m just glad she’s my friend and daughter. I’m glad I get to be on the sidelines, cheering her on. I would like her even if I wasn’t her mom, but I’m so glad I get to be here on the front row.

Proud of you, Lil. You’re already a world-class writer. ‚̧ Thanks for letting me post.


Class. I am sitting at a desk. I am reading a book. Everyone else is in various stages of trying or not trying to read. The girl to my right is unfocused and sloppy. The boy behind me does not make an effort. An unopened book demands his attention as his head rests on the desk.

These are the only people I observe. At first.

The girl has a bag of Funyuns in her greasy grasp. She slowly takes out one Funyun and brings the ring to her lips. The entire circle won’t fit. She breaks the extruded cornmeal between her teeth and dried bits of fun sprinkle onto her already-stained shirt. She is loudly slapping her lips together. No one else notices. I notice. I can no longer process my walls of text. I look up, glare at her, but she does not sense my exasperation. One Funyun. Two Funyuns. Three. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

The boy behind me yawns. The natural conclusion to a normal yawn would be now. But he continues. I count three extra seconds. He is trying to distract me. It’s working.

Funyun Freak sends another snack to certain destruction. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

I’m not completely sure what my book is transmitting. I‚Äôm looking at the words. I‚Äôm reading the words. But the words stop somewhere in the small space between my eyes and neurons. I might be reading the same paragraph multiple times. The truth of that matter is insignificant. History repeats itself. No difference is made.

More Funyuns. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

A boy, near the door, turns a page of his magazine. Fwip. A girl, two rows ahead, shifts in her chair. Squeak. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

The boy behind me yawns again. Two extra seconds. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

A backpack zips open.  A crumpled paper jumps. The tile explodes in a thousands pops from the paper bomb. Nobody hears that. There’s a war zone just outside my ear. Inside, a thumping noise. My heartbeat. Thumpthump.

I look over at the teacher. She is composing an e-mail. Clackclackclack. She is oblivious to the chaos of her classroom. I’m the only one awake here. Crunch, thump, clack, thump, fwip, thump, squeak, thump, yawn, thump. Thumpthump.

I give up. Slam my book shut. Sigh and lean back. Staring at the ceiling. But Funyun Freak can’t take a hint. Crunchcrunchcrunch. Thumpthump. Thumpthump.

I fantasize about taking her filthy Funyun feast and knocking it to the floor. Crunchcrunchcrunch. My feet dancing over her fragile, yellow, onion-flavored treat. Crunchcrunchcrunch. And then. Tossing the crumbles into the air over her head to celebrate her unwavering stupidity. Thumpthump. She has taken any lingering sanity that I still possessed.

Riiiiing. And this was only first period.