Halloween

I know it’s over 2 months away, but I found this old picture from film photography class.

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And I just love it. Love the contrast and blurry flower urn background.

Here’s a spooky collage for all you costume-wearing, scary-loving weirdos!

halloween collage.jpg


Here’s a weird dream to boot.

I have a recurring dream–(no, not the “I’m in a store and I’m naked and I need clothes, but I don’t have any money” dream)

The house I’m living in is sinking. The foundation is giving way. Everything is all crooked. I’m usually in the kitchen.

The key to fixing the problem, which is usually a floor that is so slanted you cannot stand or walk, is to find a secret room that is desperately in need of repair. (No, I get it. Believe me.)

We tear down the secret room and find out we have all this extra space. (No, really. I get it.)

Don’t think you have to be a therapist to figure this one out. The secret room is in my brain and if I just tear down all the junky old stuff? I can make room for new relationships and new materials and new, safe, secure building blocks for a solid life.

It’s not a nightmare, just gives me this really uneasy feeling, unsettled, anxious, like I have to fix the problem immediately. Having a house where the foundation is crumbling leaves me feeling very nervous, worried.

But I’m tired of living with everything off kilter. :/


Plus. Here’s a ghost story. Spooky! Footsteps on the Stairs

What are you wearing for Halloween?? Got any juicy ghost stories you want to share on my blog? I’ll host your ghost post on my site!

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Black Stove, Purple Lamp

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


We are standing in the living room. We are moving our belongings out of the house because my parents are fighting again. My brother is now married and lives in a nearby town with his wife. He is helping us move.

My father confronts my brother in the living room with a baseball bat and threatens to hurt each of us if we do not leave the house immediately.
My father swings the bat to show his intention. Lands a blow on the free-standing wood-burning stove. He leaves quite a dent in the black sheet metal exterior. A dent that will live with us for all time.
He then swings again to assert his presence and smashes my mother’s favorite lamp. It was a beautiful purple lamp. Two lights, beautiful hand-painted designs on the glass shades and delicate gold filigree edging. Gone with one blow.
He smashes the lamp, I imagine, to see the pained look of surprise on her face. He wants to see her hurt.

Tiny little shards embedded in the carpet. Gouges torn in the wood of the end table. Hearts shattered at the violence, but not for things. Splinters of feelings scattered and strewn.


This would not be the last time I would see this house. It should have been.
The house is gone now. Swallowed up in time. Rotted with weather and neglect and turmoil. But it housed our violent, chaotic family for nearly 20 years. It existed and so did we. A new house stands in its place.
So long now. But the violence persists in my mind.
Sometimes, I wish my mind or memories would rot, but they are rock solid. The negativity built on unshaken cliffs of time-battered trauma.

Memories can be swept away like sand on the shore, but this bedrock is immovable. Formed in liquid lava and cooled to stone for all time.


We moved back very soon after this incident. Perhaps 1-2 months later. We left several times, but never for very long. Unfortunately.

’66 Chevelle

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense.


I am 14 or 15 years old. Saturday morning. I’m lying down, but awake. I am in my bedroom with the door closed. There is one loud voice and one scared voice in the next room.
“Where is she?”
He is choking my sister. He is pulling her hair. He is threatening her. He is hurting my sister because my mother isn’t there to hurt.
He leaves her bedroom. I stop moving, thinking, inhaling in the hope that I will not be next. Not quickly enough, I hear the back door bang.
I hear my sister stir. I hear her muffled, wet breaths. She is crying.
I hear my father opening the hood of my sister’s car, the car that she shares with my mother.


’66 Chevelle Malibu. The one with the rusted-out hole in the floor board. The one with white paint and blue vinyl seats. The one with jagged rear window posts that cut your hand when you’re not careful. The one that an old lady drove to church and the store and only had several thousand miles when we bought it almost 20 years after it was made. The classic. The sweet-ass sportster. The muscle car from Malibu. The one that will take a beating.


I look out the window of my bedroom and see my father ripping wires out of the engine. He slams the hood closed and now takes a hammer he must have grabbed on the way out. He pounds the metal repeatedly with quick, powerful blasts and leaves at least two dozen or more marks.
These are not dings. These are not dimples. These are deep, hate-filled holes.
“Get out of here.”
My sister calls my brother and we leave. We wait at the end of our driveway for my brother to pick us up. We don’t speak to one another. I am powerless to change what is happening. I can only follow, obey and relinquish any hope of being normal.


Every time I tell this story, it makes me afraid all over again. But. I lived. So I am thankful for this story. It reminds me that I can survive. And that I never have to live that way again.

knee-deep

This is not the surface of Mars. But I wish it was. A sci-fi Bradbury story and not my life.


Scared and Scarred
I am 6. Tender. Overly sensitive. Idealistic. In the living room watching TV (listening to my parents scream).
My father is chasing my mother from the bedroom to the living room. She sits on the sofa by the window. He grabs her leg and drags her from the cushion. Her pants rip and she awkwardly falls to the floor, pinned between the sofa and coffee table.
My brother jumps up and tangles himself with my father. My brother is 17 and a full-grown male. He might be one inch taller than my father. He weighs less, but not by much and has anger and youth on his side. They wrestle and fall into a window. The glass breaks and the fighting continues. They push each other away and stand panting and snarling, waiting for each other to make a move.
My brother walks out of the house into the yard and my father follows. They exchange violent words and my father threatens to stab my brother. He holds his hand in his pocket, standing at a distance from my brother, claiming to have a knife.
I will cut your gizzards out.
One of the many delusional things my father utters. It makes little sense. He is embarrassingly profane and foaming at the mouth. He taunts my brother to attack again. I can’t remember how it’s resolved.
Sometime later, I crawl up on the sofa to look at the broken window and wonder why our afternoon was disturbed. I cut my knee with a shard of broken glass hidden in the cushion. I still have the scar today. It looks like a soggy piece of puffed rice
cereal landed on my knee and stuck.

The cut was deep. Huge beads of blood. The emotional hurt was even deeper.


Complex PTSD is real. This memory was written in present tense to show how real memories can seem. You can relive some trauma at the slightest trigger: smell (cigarette smoke), action (washing hands), word (gizzards), threat (humiliation), similar circumstance (injustice). Reliving some nightmare from the past isn’t easy. In fact, it’s soul crushing. Mind melting. Scariest thing a person ever has to do–walk into the past like a darkened, grimy hallway of a forgotten house of pain. With no skills, lights or way to defend yourself. Anyone with C-PTSD does not want to be permanently haunted with ghosts. But the mind can’t erase severe hurt. It tries, but those imprints have power. Evict those ghosts with the Holy Spirit and this link: Self-Help Strategies for PTSD Visit this site as well: AnxietyBC

And get help. Talk to someone. Anyone.
This weekend I realized–I am serving my past, not my professed master Jesus. I am serving horrible memories and failing as a wife. I don’t want this. My past is not something to cling to in the storm. Jesus is.

Dolly Llama

So I did a really silly series except I only did one or two. So it’s not technically a series. Yet. So I’m coming back to those. This one (below) is Llama Doorjamb (Spoof of Lama Dorje from Little Buddha, one of my favorite movies. It’s not the best acting, think Chris Isaak, but it’s a great look at Buddha and his story). My daughter, Pencil Princess, drew him. He’s so friggin’ cute. She drew it several months ago, but it didn’t scan properly and we didn’t have time to go back and rescan.llama doorjamb.jpg

I mean NO disrespect to any Buddhists, Tibet or the Dalai Lama. In fact, the opposite. I have found many things in Buddhism that reinforce my Christian faith and help me overcome my weaknesses.

Things like, when a wave or storm comes at you, don’t be overwhelmed. Anticipate the wave, accept the wave, overcome the wave, be the wave, understand the wave. Help others who are drowning. And suffering. Stop suffering by letting go of needless desire. All very good advice and here is where Buddhism and Christianity overlap. How to be a better Buddhist, Christian, person.

This llama has that Bill Murray pout, the one he had in Caddyshack. I love it. Murray has that speech about talking with the Dalai Lama and reaching enlightment? He ends his brag with “So, I got that goin’ for me.”

This is my catchphrase as of late. Whenever I say something that sounds braggy or lame such as:

I just leveled up in Toy Blast!

or

Today, I didn’t almost-crap my pants!

I always follow those phrases up with “So, I got that goin’ for me.” in that sideways-Bill-Murray voice. And it always makes me happy to think of it.


So I usually dole out some silly wisdom or joke in these little asides. It’s more of a poem for my nugget of wisdom with a touch of silliness, and oh-so true for me lately:

I never thought it would happen.
But.
Turns out?
I’m an optimist!

LOL, this might be a new take on an old joke, but it’s how I’m feeling today.


Feel good about yourself today. No one else might! ūüôā

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.

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.

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