YOLO

Lilli, my daughter, is pictured with multiple shades of hair color styled into a faux-hawk with YOLO glasses I made for her on the last day of school. LOL I LOVE this pic.
I wrote the following in January of last year for my daughter, but I think it applies to all women.


Don’t worry what people might say about how you look or what your voice sounds like. You know we (Mom & Dad) love you and we would never hurt you or be dishonest with you. We certainly wouldn’t misguide you. You can trust us when we say, your voice is important and beautiful. You’re special. God made you that way. If you didn’t stand out, no one would hear your voice or see your beauty! If someone doesn’t like it, they are either jealous or confused!


For all you ladies who might feel like you stand out, that’s not a bad thing!
Have a great Friday!!

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Suck it up.
Makeup on.
Fake it ’til you make it.
Frown is gone.

You can quit.
No one will care.
But you won’t be happy.
And fair is rare.

It’s not the worst thing
To plaster on a smile.
Being kind to others
May help after while.

If you’re down and dark?
That’s okay for tonight.
Pray for the dawn
To bring your light.

The Carousel

For my daughter. She just started high school and it’s a bit overwhelming. She’s doing great, but it’s a little scary.

The picture above is her at the KC Zoo, having fun on the carousel. She was 6. Shot with a Nikon, 35 mm, manual. It was a fun day.


Hold on tight, dear.
Don’t let go.
The carousel twirls faster
The more you know.

Life goes by
In a furious blur.
But it’s oh-so thrilling,
Full of adventure.

Up and down.
Always turning.
Moving forward.
Always learning.

You might get sick.
You might lose your head.
You might just love it.
Turn the world around instead.

Don’t be scared, Darling.
You have to be strong.
You’re not alone.
Mom’s here all along.

So throw your hair back
And laugh at the ride.
Have fun on the carousel.
Don’t leave it untried.


Proud of you, Honey. You’re so special. One of a kind. Brilliant, beautiful and bound for glory! Don’t settle for less, always challenge yourself. Don’t worry about what people wear, say or think. You belong to God. Your value comes from him.

And always ask for help! We’re here for you. Your teachers, counselors and parents. It’s normal to feel anxious, everybody does!! 🙂

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.

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’m looking at the words. I’m 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.

Fantastic

My family and I just went on vacation to Florida. On our way back to KC, we decided to stop at Fantastic Caverns, near Springfield, MO. I took many photos in the caves, beautiful colors and high contrast. I was pretty snap-happy. I was surprised that I could get any images though, honestly, because the light was so low. Thankfully, my digital Nikon knows more about photography than I do. 🙂 Sure, there’s light in the cave from well-placed, man-made spots, but it’s still a cave.

I only know the most fundamental aspects of manual photography. The camera still focuses for me, but I can set the aperture and speed myself. I’m still working on knowing the different settings, but I do several test shots until I see what I like. It’s like poking around in the dark until hitting on something. Like being in a cave. Hopefully, I don’t fall into a hole.

Coming out of the cave, my camera didn’t adjust because I had set it manually and I snapped this photo.

overexposed.jpg

Obviously, overexposed.

If you look closely, you can see the water pouring off the edge and streaming down. It had just rained heavily the day before and the vegetation above the cave entrance was drenched and dripping. Once we came out of that dark square, we had to adjust. We were immediately baptized by the unexpected downpour and blinking to accommodate the new conditions. It was a fast change from dark to light. And it took a minute to get your bearings.

Such is life, no?

The women who first explored the cave (yes, women) were said to have only a candle in a can. It probably only illuminated a few feet in front of them. THAT is scary. They were surely brave ladies. They could have fallen into a deep hole and been fatally injured in the matter of a few steps.

When we were in the cave, the ride was bumpy, dark and at times frightening. You had to keep your head down or lose it on a stalactite. We stopped at the edge of a sinkhole that looked like the mouth to hell. Everyone stood and rushed to our side of the trailer and I felt as if I might go tumbling over the side. I was very nervous and I simply faced forward and breathed, mouthing the words to my husband, “I don’t like this.” I have anxiety about heights and open spaces. I almost-spoke my fear to him mainly so he wouldn’t encourage me to look around and gawk at the gaping hole threatening to swallow our entire caravan. So he knew, at least, “I’m freaking out!”

I patiently focused on myself, not others around me, and I made it through. I focused on the things I could control. And I made it through. I looked forward. To making it through.

Sometimes, when you can’t handle life, all you can do is care for yourself. And breathe. You can’t worry about anyone else. You can’t change anyone else. You can’t make others sit down. You can’t save anyone if you all go tumbling over. You can only save yourself.

You can’t make the driver go faster. You can’t make the driver go at all if she wishes to park you on the edge of hell. You have to control yourself, focus on what you have been given dominion over and pray that it will be over soon. Pray that the driver will stop talking after she’s made her point and quickly drive you to safety. She knows the way, she’s been down here before. Just hold on. Focus on what’s right in front of you.

This picture (above) sucks. It is a terrible failure of my manual photography skills. You can’t see the lush green of the hanging branches above. You can’t see the beautiful drops of light that spilled over our heads and sparkled in the cool morning sunshine. But, it is a beautiful captured reflection of the human condition of adjustment and transformation.

We don’t just start being good after seeing the light. It takes a minute. So grace is important for the cave dweller. Soon we will see the world in the way it was intended. We will emerge with new eyes. And some days, we may still long for the darkness of our old world. It’s beautiful mystery, silence and danger. But no one is meant to live in a cave. We are meant to live out in the light.

I know.

I don’t like living inside of my cave of anxiety and fear. It hurts everyone around me. But living above ground with normal people sucks. Triggers abound. I’m used to anxiety and fear, I can live with those. I know what to expect. But that means living alone because no one else can stand the darkness.

So, I choose light. Because living in darkness, while quiet and predictable, is a pretty miserable half-existence not intended for human habitation.

 

 

Present Tense

My book, Present Tense, is available on Amazon tomorrow for free. February 9-13! Normally $2.99. Check it out. It’s a quick read; probably finish in one go. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anytime. It’s a vignette-style memoir with a glance at PTSD and how it starts. It does not answer the question of recovery, but it gives an emotional starting place.

Prayer-Practice-Patience-Painting-PTL!

I went with my friend and our two daughters to a suburban wine-and-paint night at Pinot’s Palette. I was a nervous wreck. Why? Because I skipped the wine part! That’s why. Bad idea. LOL

I am a former art student who failed at getting her graphic design degree from a two-year college. I am one credit away from completing my degree and I could never find a job in my field. I didn’t have time to go to a four-year university and continue my back-to-school-in-my-thirties-midlife-crisis. So, as with many other things, I gave up.

Health issues became a concern four years ago and pursuing very challenging coursework with no actual high-paying job at the end seemed less important than just getting healthy. I tried to find work on my own for freelance, but that was super difficult and competitive. I did a few things for friends, but the work dried up quickly. You have to do a lot of free stuff to get jobs. I volunteered for one year at a local magazine to try and gain experience. I got a few perks with my gig, but ultimately, it didn’t help land anything real.

Thank God for my husband. He’s supported me through this whole mess. Failed schooling, no job, no insurance, bankruptcy from medical and credit card debt, health trouble. He’s my hero. (BTW, we are working on our marriage and have made significant progress. Woot! Thanks for prayers and support.)

To my credit, I’ve had odd jobs here and there. I was even an acting coach at one point. A job that I absolutely loved. But I was not asked back in the fall. Too many teachers: not enough students, most likely. But who knows? Maybe I was a radical failure and they were too shy to tell me? Maybe parents complained. I have no idea. I just know, I wasn’t on the schedule last fall. Wish I would have known that before I made class plans. Thank you, Administration!

Anyway. My whole point is this. I love art. I have been involved in some art form from a very young age. Illustration was my first love. How did I learn? From tracing my brother’s sketches that he doodled and discarded. You can call it cheating. I call it, learning. What better way to promote muscle memory than to trace a drawing over and over and over until you learn the way the lines should go? I don’t call it cheating. Drawing’s hard!

Also, I started acting when I was 17. LOVED IT! Still doing it when I can. And you know what, I’m pretty darn good at it. Just ask me. But because I was overweight, I started writing for myself. No parts for fat ladies. Well, not enough parts to go around.

Through acting, I started writing. And through writing, I started blogging. Cool. I’m very artistic, crafty, love to create. So when I’m challenged with a painting class in Suburbia I freak out. Naturally.

No, not naturally. Because, I have never taken a painting class other than the class I took to learn color theory. My professor required acrylics and painting on some projects and I sucked at it. Like hard-core sucked wind on painting. But to be fair, painting with acrylics is like trying to forge a Picasso with crayons. To me, anyway. So, why would painting come naturally to me and why would I freak out over it?

I guess with nearly an art degree and stamping my foot about being an artist, I kinda think…that other people think–I should be automatically good at any art project. But I’m not. So, hence the freaking.

My daughter is the same way. She has a genius IQ and everything comes naturally to her. Most things. And when they don’t? She freaks out. Totally normal for a genius, BTW. Even if she’s never done it before, learned it before or even seen it before, she has anxiety about failing. Something I unintentionally birthed to her. BTW, I’m NOT a genius. 😉 Anxiety is the one thing I regret having given her. I did it subconsciously, over years. And I hate myself some days for having willed her my neurosis. Monkey see, monkey do.

But. We’re here. The best I can do is help her, and myself, through this hairy forest of feels. Here’s a great online resource we found to help us. PTSD and anxiety tools! Try it!!!  Better than anything I’ve ever heard about, read about or paid $70 an hour for a therapist to recommend. (We’ve both been to a therapist and they verified that I have PTSD and she has anxiety. Duh.)

But last night, we were both feeling anxious. We wanted so much to go, enjoy, relax, have fun, create and totally CRUSH our paintings. We’re super competitive. Not with each other, but with other people. We want to be the best at what we think we’re the best at. And things started out rough.

Lilli is only 13 and is still developing skills in everything. Hand-eye coordination. Thinking. Feeling. Talking. LOL Her frontal lobe is not done growing and neither is her body. She’s advanced, but not done. Obvs! So when her body or hand can’t catch up to her imagination, she gets frustrated. Although, she’s never lived inside a box. She’s always made her own way and blazed trails. That’s her genius showing. So, last night, she felt hemmed in by trying to imitate another’s painting. It wasn’t going like she wanted it to.

Thank God, it was break time. We all had to let our backgrounds dry. She was upset with her moon and how it turned out. Remember, trying to blend acrylics is HARD! This is not oil or watercolor. Dries super fast. She kept wanting to mess with it and I recommended letting it dry, so she could fix it. She got frustrated. Mucho. She was quiet for a moment and then I noticed.

She was slumped. Tired and defeated. On the verge of tears. The opposite of the intention for our gals night. I asked, “Is there anything I can do?”

Through soft, pale lips and big, watery eyes. “No. I’m praying. For patience.”

Oh! My heart jumped! My oh-so nervous heart jumped in a swell of pride and thankfulness. A heart-shaped fist pump of delight it was!

She’s praying! Thank God!

We’ve been trying to practice anxiety-reduction techniques and this was the most awesomest thing she could have done! And I should have been reminding her, but she remembered on her own! I forgot and she remembered! YAY, friggin’ YAY! I failed, but she figured it out!

And just minutes after our break, Lilli started dancing in her seat to the overhead music. Swiping heavy paint across the canvas and painting to the beat of her own drum. She didn’t follow the directions and she enjoyed every minute. (They said at the beginning, “Don’t have to follow. Do whatever you want! Make whatever you like.” And she did!)

Way to go, Lil! What an awesome demonstration of God’s power and glory. Answered prayer and rejoicing! Recovery and relaxation. Thank you, God! For my amazing child, all the things she teaches me and the bountiful gifts of your Holy Spirit! Thank you for moving last night in our tense, tiny tangle.

The picture looks like a stormy sea of feelings and expression, but God was on top of those waves and in our boat!