First Contact

I’ve dreamed of you…

At first, the joy of freedom; and then

the sorrow for the grief you brought segued into

a smile, a nod, a shake of your head

to speak much more than words allow.

Always silent, yet I understood your conflict,

the push and the pull of wanting

to be here and there all at once.

*

Time, that human construct, is nothing.

A way to measure the span between

then and now; between

you breathing your first and

sighing your last; the span that

doesn’t measure in tears but in

click-ticks on a numbered face that become

hours in a day and days in a week,

weeks in months and years; in decades and centuries.

The sun’s path across the sky, chased

by Mother moon.

*

I dreamed of you…

They brought you to me, not your infant self

swaddled and seeking points of reference in your new world; but

fully grown, the man you were when you left.

You smiled at me. I wept my joy and

you held out your arms. You held me against your great chest,

in those strong arms heavy on my shoulders. My ear

pressed and listening for the heartbeat

once a whooshing jump-rope sound; once

a steady thump to reassure me through

the darkest of the dark.

There was only your weight,

your solidity, your smile. My trembling joy.

“Can you stay?” I asked. “Will they let you?”

“Yes, I think so.” But you shook your head, your smile saddened.

You stepped away, back into my brain wishing or the conduit

breaking; the connection unexplained, undiscovered

except in dreaming. The first contact in the span

measured only in tears.

TLD

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This Cold January Day

Where are you now? Drifting through

another realm, a plane more suited

to who you are? Truly are, and not who you

were forced to be. The entity of thought,

of indefatigable brilliance. The one

whose darkness mingled and melded inside, yet

never dimmed the light.

*

Were you here at all? I see

your bows displayed on the wall,

the roof you built, covered in snow; I listen

to you sing inside my head, your song leaping synapses,

pulsing in my blood. The blood we shared

for a little while.

I put your boxing gloves on this morning,

to feel where your hands had been, knowing

the sweat still seeped inside. And then

I put them away, in the armoire storing

the blanket that still smells faintly of happier days.

*

Your influence is everywhere, still

helping those you loved, and those who

you never knew, but owe you a debt; because

they’re pain-free, they understand what was

formerly incomprehensible, they know how to soothe

the demons inside. Those demons you never could

vanquish completely. But you taught them.

You showed them how.

*

Sorrow grips me, this cold January day.

I pry its fingers loose, one at a time;

Peel them back like orange skin that leaves

bitter pith behind, the sweetness

still another layer deep.

It cannot swallow me whole.

I must allow its place, its space or

have it implode and hollow me of words, my joy

my solace, and sanity. Sanctity. Sanctuary.

TLD

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That will be me

(Thoughts this morning led this to that. I am in a contemplative mood, nothing more. I don’t want anyone reading this to fear for me. Once again, I thought about keeping this private, for exactly that reason, but I made a promise and I aim to keep it, so this stays public. That alone should put you at ease.)

When you find hair in the drain, whether

black, white or blue, you’ll wonder if it could be;

I tell you now, that will be me.

Bite at the inside of your cheek and feel

a tap on your hand, “Stop that,”

you’ll hear. That will be me.

Whenever you feel the urge to cut your hair

and hear a voice inside your head, “Let it grow,”

it wheedles. That will be me.

And when you see a turtle, or a camel,

in fact or in illustration, you will add a heart to it

and again, that will be me.

 

When words froth at your brain and you feel

the need to catch them,

by heart or by hand;

When you see a dragonfly and call it fairy, a baby dragon

in an anole; when a beam of sunlight becomes a path to another world,

That will be me.

When friends drop by and you need to feed them, when baby monkeys

make you cry; when you smell onions sauteing in olive oil, and fear choking on pudding.

Me, me, they are all me.

 

Such ties don’t break when life does.

They simply change shape and form.

It won’t matter if whatever is left of me once life has spit me out

is riding the ether of some astral plain, Or

simply the echo of what once was, what I was.

It will be me, like it is him.

 

I hear him whistle;

and sing. All the time

I see him smile;

and shake his head.

I feel his joy, and his despair that

share time in his space, even now.

Spirit or memory, there is no cognitive difference when

love is at the core. Love,

and need; love and

the hubris to believe there is

more to existence than life.

~TLD

 

 

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I wear his slippers, every day.

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I can’t walk in them. They’re way too big. Instead, I keep them at my desk where, at the start of my writing day, I slip them on first thing. Chris always had a pair of these slippers. This was actually a fairly new pair, at the time they became mine. He hadn’t worn them down, or out, like the other pair I keep with his things. He’d worn these when he came home to visit, after he left home, and then when he moved back because things had gone so wrong.

He always had this particular kind slippers, because they cushioned the pain in the bottom of his foot. Walking barefoot was like walking on razor blades, so he never did it. Recently, I’ve had some issues with the bottom of my foot; that first step was excruciating. The rest weren’t quite as bad, but bad. While Frank and I were in Virginia, it hurt so much that he had to go get the car. I couldn’t make it back. And though I knew my son’s pain on an intellectual level, I was finally faced with a small portion of what he felt every day for ten years, what he would have always felt.

Instead of seeing a doctor about this sudden and inexplicable pain in my foot, I bore it knowingly. Purposely. It was my penance for getting it all wrong. I wanted to feel his pain. I deserved it. I owed it to him. I know–kind of sick. Terribly sad. I don’t care. It made me feel better somehow. Not just penance, but solidarity. I understood the draw of flagellants to the whip, the Albino monk in the DaVinci Code and his cilice.

I do have an aversion to seeking assistance when I’m in pain. I always have. It is partially because I have such a high tolerance for it, and things have to be really bad before I truly feel it enough to seek help. It drives my kids mad. But it’s also because I see myself as tough, able to take it. And I am. A point of pride. I’m also aware of just how insane that is.

This time, I wanted the pain. And I’ll admit that out loud now that it’s mostly gone and no one can make me go to a doctor. I was in no mortal danger, so it’s not like I was risking my life or anything. I don’t advocate this sort of thing. If any of my kids were doing it, I’d be a wreck. Funny, how that works, right?

Peace.

 

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Well, yeah, it does matter

Frankie D loves his Hallmark Christmas movies. I DVR all the new stuff and those we haven’t seen so we can watch one pretty much every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It has become a tradition for us. Like most holiday traditions, there’s a fair bit of schmaltz involved. The movies aren’t great, but some are cute. Some are awful, but we can laugh at that. And then there are the ones that piss me off, because they could have been really good, and failed miserably.

Journey Back to Christmas. Even I was looking forward to this one. That darling of Hallmark Holiday movies, Candace Cameron Bure starring as a post WW2 nurse whose husband didn’t make it home. A “Christmas comet” sends her forward 71 years to 2016 and into the lives of a small town cop, his family, and various others.

Time travel. Christmas. World War 2. All the elements were there, and yet, egads, it was awful. Plot holes and tropes and ridiculous dialog that sounded like it had been written by a high school student who really wanted to be funny or dramatic or touching, but wasn’t. The worst was a cardboard busybody character whose only role was to forward the ludicrous notion that Bure’s character was somehow a threat to the town, a character who then vanished in the middle of her “coming around” scene, only to arrive at the end with a changed tune. Few of the little details matched up–like the Christmas star that so importantly tied the gazebo lights to the story being colored in the past, yet white in the future. And the ending was just so…what’s the word? Trite? Ill-conceived? Flat? Completely predictable? How about…stupid? Yeah, really, really stupid. I won’t put up a spoiler. Suffice it to say it was the most ridiculous ending I think I’ve ever seen in my life.

I growled at the television through most of this movie. Frankie D couldn’t even do his fall asleep after the first ten minutes and wake up for the last ten thing, because I kept waking him up. “You think too much about this stuff,” said he. “What does it matter? It’s mindless.”

What does it matter? What does it matter?! It does matter! Shouldn’t we expect a cohesive story that doesn’t require a whole lot of, “It’s okay, it’s just a Christmas movie,” to get through? Why is mediocrity aspired to? Why is a poorly executed product okay? Because it can be? Because people don’t notice? The ones who don’t, won’t, whether it’s done well or not. So why are those who don’t care catered to, instead of those who do?

I don’t like this “mindless” business. Mindless doesn’t mean poor quality. It means being able to just go with it without having to parse things out, without finding the message within. A Christmas Carol isn’t mindless. A Christmas Story is.

As you can guess, it’s not just my rant against Hallmark Christmas movies. This phenomenon is rife in the publishing industry, and very much so in the romance genre. Now it’s spreading to Women’s Fiction. I simply don’t understand why, when it can be done well, and also appeal to all kinds of readers, the industry isn’t insisting upon it?

This is nothing new. I’m aware. Drek has made millions for eons. I just don’t get it. I mean, I do, but I don’t want to believe the implications I’m forced to acknowledge. And now, before I get political, I’ll say–it matters. Quality matters. At least, it should.

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Two quotes, and a new day

“I think it might be a law of physics that the depth of our sorrow is determined by the height of our joy.” Karin Gastreich

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.” Ovid

The former came to me within a comment on my Meandering post the other day; the latter I picked up, partially, in a book I just finished reading (The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl. Fabulous read) and looked up the entirety of later. Both spoke to me, to the me who wrote Meandering, and so many of the conflicted bits and pieces that make it to the page, or get trapped inside my head. Simple words. Profound.

Words, spoken, written or only imagined, are one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. Of course I would say that, being a writer, and all. I wonder, sometimes, if words limit us, or set us free. I’m sure arguments can be made from both sides.

It’s a new day. My carousel horse is in the “up” position. It was hovering around the middle spot until reading the Ovid quote while drinking my coffee this morning, and started to rise. After reading Karin’s message, it rose higher, highest, and has stayed there. I like the view from up here.

Thank you, all.

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Meandering

These pages have been strangely silent. For many reasons. I’m tired, for one. Tired of the despair following the election. Tired of the underlying sorrow no matter how happy the upper levels. I’m just…tired.

But the better reason is that Scottie was home for a week. I have no words sufficient to express that joy. We spent a lot of time together. I taught him how to make sauce. We played games, chatted. Thanksgiving down in NJ with my entire family, always fun. Noisy, but fun. And I remembered why it was a really good thing he was a country away during the election. Whew!

And yet the whole time he was here, I knew my hourglass was losing sand, and he’d be gone again, back to his life. Where he belongs. Where he is happy. I might see him next summer, or maybe next holiday season. Until then, there are texts and phone calls and the occasional Facetime chat. It’s hardest when first he leaves, but I’ll be fine, really. Knowing he’s happy, out in the world and doing his thing, is what I want most for him. And for me. It’s a good feeling. A proud one. I don’t want my kids bound to my side any more than I want to be bound to my own mother’s. I’ll still miss him so much, it’ll hurt sometimes.

Scott misses his brother out there in Portland, but he misses him more when he’s here and expecting him to be sitting on the couch with his vape and a grin, or coming in the door, sweaty from the gym. I know how he feels. After a year and a half, I still watch for Chris’ car to turn into the driveway sometimes.

And even as I write this, the joys of my life tap my shoulder. “Don’t forget us.” A week with my son. Thanksgiving with my family. Christmas and New Year’s to come. My amazing daughters. My adorable grands. In a couple of weeks, I have a friend coming from KC for a Christmas visit. We’re meeting a few other friends in NYC to see the tree and have some fun. My day-to-day life is good, full. A fabulous chat with Beloved Agent Janna about Entangled (formerly known as Undeclared) not only pulled the elements of that story together, but gave me insight into Heroically Lost. I’m ridiculously thrilled to start revisions on Entangled–as soon as I have Heroically Lost in a place I feel comfortable leaving it for a couple weeks.

And then there’s Europe in March. Virginia Beach in May. The Jersey Shore with the kids and grands in August; September, too, with friends. Myrtle Beach in October. Maybe I’ll even squeak in a trip out to Portland in April.

I feel like a jerk for being sad when I have it so good. Yet, sometimes happiness feels so horribly wrong. I miss my son. Difficult as Chris’ life was, as his life was for all of us, I just want him back, and that feels wrong too. Wishing him back wishes back his pain, his struggles he’s now free from. But should I be glad he’s gone and free, after all? How wrong is that? I want Scottie to stay in Portland where he’s happy. And I want him closer by. But I don’t! Because…because…because–egads, it keeps going around and around. All the conflict constantly churning in me is what has me so exhausted.

As Jamie said to me this morning: God mom, you and all your stupid and totally valid complex emotions! SO ANNOYING (with a smiley face, because this is how we best relate in my family, with playful derision that dulls the sharp edges.)

I responded: Simple has never been my forte.

For now, I got these things out of my head and onto a page, where they do me the most good. Now, an hour later than usual, it’s time to get to writing.

fxzo5dd

Peace.

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It’s not your call

Dear Trump supporters,

We get it. You won the election when every poll and every news outlet said it was impossible. Trump is our next president. You’re breathing a sigh of relief. Horray for you. But you know what? You don’t get to tell the rest of us it’s time to get over it and move on. You just don’t.

For eight years you despised our President. Eight. Years. You obstructed, you spewed derision, you cheered every time anything he tried to do failed and booed whenever he succeeded. Some of you have been absolutely disrespectful of his race, of his wife, of his status as an American citizen.

Eight years of, “He is not my president.”

Eight years of crying for Impeachment.

Eight years you carried on.

Eight years you didn’t get over it and move on.

So you don’t get to tell more than half the country (of those who voted) it’s time to make peace and accept our fate. My last blog post made it clear I am willing to see the other perspective and at least try to understand things from your eyes. I strive not to fall for click bait or believe everything I read on Facebook. I’ve listened, and I’ve absorbed, and I’ve even agreed on a few things. But that doesn’t mean I’m “over it.” No. I’m not. I won’t be, either, unless some Dickens-like miracle happens and Donald Trump changes the tune he sang throughout not only this election process, but at least the last decade. If he proves to be a damn good president, I won’t despise him simply because of how you despised Barak Obama (and Hillary Clinton.) I won’t hold my breath, either.

~Terri

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Politics for the Storyminded

(Spoilers concerning Harry Potter and Star Wars ensue. You’ve been warned.)

Let me begin by stating: I’m a total dork. I know this. I accept this. I embrace it. Now that that’s out of the way…

I’ve recently been listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks, narrated by the extraordinary Jim Dale. If you love the books but have read them until whole passages are memorized, give them a listen. It’s an entirely new experience, and makes them like new again. Trust me on this.

Being fully absorbed by this world, I couldn’t help seeing the parallels between it and the election. From the Democrat perspective, the primaries, the trail, everything right up until Election Day was The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban. It was a constant battle against great evil, but the fight was won every time.

And then came our Goblet of Fire.

At the end of Goblet of Fire, there is no happy ending. There is no vanquishing of the evil. Voldemort rises despite all the battles against him won. With him rises all the fear and denial and infighting in the Wizarding World. No one wants to believe it happened, and so they pretend it hasn’t. They go out of their way to prove it’s all lies. Old prejudices rear their ugly heads. The greatest battles now lie ahead.

That’s where we are now–at the end of Goblet of Fire, going into The Order of the Phoenix, and we have a fight on our hands.

But from the Republican perspective, it’s the same hero’s tale–Star Wars–just a different perspective. The last eight years have been their New Hope, and The Empire Strikes Back. Their evil overlord was in power, and they were fighting him with all they had. Those two stories ended with the rebels sticking it to him, but the Emperor was still in power, still needed to be overthrown.

This election was their Return of the Jedi. Against all odds, their candidate won. The Rebel Alliance toppled the Empire’s power, and set the balance in their favor again.

But a story doesn’t end when the last word is read, or the credits roll. After The Goblet of Fire, the Wizarding World fights to get their world back again. After Return of the Jedi comes The Force Awakens. The Empire is on the rise again, and has been since the Ewoks did their victory dance.

I keep saying that in the middle is where we’re going to find peace. Some days, it feels impossible to even hope for that. There aren’t simply two perspectives, but so many in between that there’s never going to be something that makes everyone happy. In the world of Lord of the Rings, there is definite good and definite evil, but, much as I’d love to claim otherwise, Donald Trump isn’t Sauron. His people aren’t Orcs. They’re people who believe they’ve just won the fight of their lives and, whether we agree or not, they have.

Life is a story. Hillary Clinton’s loss was a huge blow to a great many people for so many reasons, trying to touch on even a small portion of them isn’t possible in so small a space, but that story isn’t done. We still have to get through The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, at the very least. And Trump’s win isn’t the end of that story either. He’s still got The Force Awakens (plus two more movies) ahead of him.

And it doesn’t end there, either.

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This tidal wave

It is in the extremes we find voice; it is in the middle we find peace. (TLD)

When I started writing Heroically Lost, I thought it was an homage to my son, Scott. The heroine of the story is a young woman in her mid-thirties, still grappling to find a place in the world while keeping her convictions intact. Too often, we look on such grapplers as arrested youth, as slackers, when they are anything but. They struggle to find a way to live their authentic lives without caving to a society they have nothing in common with.

I didn’t realize I was writing yet another aspect of myself as well.

I struggle with a duality of nature. I’m fierce, and yet I’m a pacifist. I will fight for what I believe in until I draw my last breath, but I will never fight fire with fire. I am passionate about my beliefs and ideals, but I need to at least try to see the other perspective. I understand revolution is sometimes necessary to effect change, but I feel in the deepest part of me that most of the work and struggle is after the war has been won (or lost,) and it never truly ends.

I’ve always maintained–good and evil depends upon whose eyes one is looking out of. And I hold by my statement above. We find our voices in extremes. That has been proven by the fact that Donald Trump was elected. It will be in the middle we find peace. Not by fighting fire with fire. Not by obstructing everything the next administration attempts to do whether we disagree with it or not. Perpetuating that cycle does exactly that–it keeps it going. No one wins.

Some will say I’m compromising my position, that I’m too willing to work with the bullies and thereby empowering them to continue bullying. I understand that, because sometimes that’s the way it feels even to me. But I learned an important lesson, over and over throughout my life. Pushing only gets you pushed back, and doesn’t end until one stands over the other, victorious. That’s all well and good when the winning side is yours, but when it’s not…

Years ago, friends and I went to a concert. (Dave Matthews, one of the best days of my life.) We were all singing and dancing and trying not to be squished by everyone else doing the same. As I danced, my favorite ring flew off my finger. “Crap! I lost my ring!” Some guy standing nearby turned around furiously and got right in my face. “Well, I lost my insulin, so how about you shut up?” My instant reaction was, “Oh, that’s worse. Let me help you find it.”

I’m not trying to be noble here. It was simply my reaction. The man deflated. “I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m dead without my meds. Thanks.” These are not direct quotes, of course. It was a really long time ago, but it  happened exactly like this, even if the wording isn’t verbatim.

We found his insulin. We didn’t find my ring. The event remains one of the great epiphanies of my life. My instinctive reaction, once realized, made me more mindful of it in the future. I have diffused more strife than I can even recall by doing the same, by seeing the other perspective and not simply reacting in kind. I’ve also lost a few of these battles, but I can count those easily enough. Because I’m mindful of my reaction, I get to choose my battles. Sometimes winning just isn’t worth the effort when walking away gives me more peace, and denies the other party the victory of bringing me down to their level of aggression. Backing away doesn’t mean backing down.

We need warriors of all kinds. Those who are willing, even need, to get elbow deep in the push and shove, and those of us who keep trying to find the middle ground where we can all live in relative peace. I honor, respect, and appreciate every version in between, too. I know which kind I am, and it’s not compromising, or weak, or bellying up to the bully. It takes a kind of strength I’m proud of, and no one is going to make me feel otherwise about it.

In the coming months, maybe years, we have a fight on our hands. It’s not one I’ll back away from. But neither am I going to paint all of those on “the other side” with the same brush. I’m going to fight injustice and inequality, but always keep in mind that there are a myriad of ways of doing so that will get a whole lot better result than shoving back.

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