I am not a battered woman
You have not beaten me.
I will not wear your badge of survivor
I am more than labels placed on me.
I will not wear the moniker that puts me on a shelf
Remove your fractured vision, see me as myself.
I am worth much more in value than you may suspect;
Through my voice which will not remain silent
Until six feet under is my grave
Through my compassion which remains undaunted
Until there’s no one left to save
Through my passion colored paint strokes
On a canvas misbehaved
I am far more wonderful than what little you see,
I deserve to be seen as a woman.
Branded only with equality.

Blueberry Bars

Okay, so by the title you may think this is a recipe post. It isn’t but that’s because I have a different purpose with this post.

I’m babysitting my Rents dog, Pol (short for Apollo) while they are celebrating my nephew’s birthday at my brother and sister-in-heart’s home an hour away. By hanging out with their dog, I’m getting quiet time with no responsibilities where I can write uninterrupted. As you can tell by the several posts I’ve put up since yesterday, it’s working.

A few posts ago, I shared that I found my best friend dead in her room at my home in July. This past Tuesday brought the death of my eleven year old Chihuahua, Piggy Suey (Fuck Cancer). This summer has brought quite the load of emotional baggage to my doorstep while I continue my battle with chronic depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. The ideations, to ease your mind, don’t necessarily mean I’m suicidal, I just think about it without preface. (Think of it like the Uncle nobody invites but he shows up drunk anyway.)

I am hoping that the grief I’m experiencing over these painful losses will ease its hold from my heart while allowing me to move forward. Which is why I’m here at my Rents watching their dog.

This is temporary respite from the thousands of memories that have accumulated in my homes corners like cobwebs of loss or cracks of happiness. The memories I have with my lost loved ones clutter every surface, filling my home with love lost. But here, at my Rents, I feel a sense of relief. It’s as if I’ve found a safe-haven that allows me to breathe for a bit. I will go home and deal with the emotions that overwhelm me, but I’ll also accept this small bit of respite in normalcy.

I’ve already made myself a caveman meal which I generously shared with Pol. I’ve made blueberry bars, ran the dishwasher, picked up turtle food for Herbina, played with Ruby, visited with my beautiful Aunt, and played the piano for a bit. I feel more relaxed than I have in weeks. It’s a good feeling to know that I will be okay even when the “real world” keeps showing me that I’m not. I will get there again but it will take time as my elders and peers keep sharing with me.

Folks and Rents

When I was growing up, my Bapa and Grandma were a constant in my life. There was something magical that came whenever they visited. My parents were more kind and lenient. My brothers, like me, put on the best show we had in our pockets. Just hearing a rumor of them coming over got us pretty excited.

On Friday nights they had a standing “date” with my family. They’d show up early evening to drink coffee at the dining table with my Rents. They’d talk about adult stuff that didn’t much interest us kids. We were allowed to be outside playing while this ritual took place. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more of an interest in those conversations because I feel I would have gotten to know them, the world, and my parents an incredible amount more than I did.

At the tail end of the coffee ritual came the fade in to our favorite part of the night. POPCORN! My mom would pop a massive bowl of the fluffy crunch while counting out the apples (one each), and chocolate squares. We’d all get into our spots in the living room to get ready to watch The Dukes of Hazzard. I was madly in love with Beau/Bo Duke. I thought Daisy was absolutely gorgeous, but took little interest in Luke. 

As a family we would watch the show and laugh together. On commercials (my brother as the remote to turn the television down), we’d squish in conversations about what was important at the time. It could be about the show, grades, behavior, how much we were loved by my mom’s Folks, or even what words were entering our vocabulary. At the sight of the General Lee, we were right back into the wild world of those “Duke boys.”

At then end of the show when Cooter pumps up the power of the ol’ #01 and Uncle Jesse had outwitted Boss Hog, we’d disperse to the bathrooms with us kids having to run upstairs so the adults wouldn’t have to. At my age now, I completely understand the wisdom of that, but as a kid, I resented having to do it.

And then, settled in with a refreshed bowl of popcorn, in our pajamas, we heard the verdict of whether or not we’d be able to watch…Dallas. Oh! How I hated J.R. Ewing and loved Bobby. I didn’t quite understand what Sue Ellen’s issues were at that time, but I knew to feel sorry for her. I thought Miss Ellie was elegant. The costumes, the dialogue, the adultness of the show made it more than worth a few good behavior days to follow the story line that I was just starting to get, but did not all the way.

I’d snuggle up to Bapa and watch with him. It was a feeling of complete and total safety. There was nothing in the world that could touch our family then. My Grandma was okay with the show, but commonly would lax her head back, mouth open, and snore lightly. It was practically tradition. 

When I think of my mom’s Folks, it gives me a feeling of family so deep into my bones a part of me lay with them in their graves. It is a feeling of promise that the world would be as strong as we were. Our duty to the world and to each other was and is to create love wherever we are because that is how the world SHOULD work. We know that it doesn’t, but with each little act of compassion or kindness, we are all living our Folks dreams for a better world.

As for my Rents, it took much longer for me to see them as givers of light. I was estranged for so many years but it wasn’t until I returned that the pangs of what I’d set down to walk away from really set barbs into my spirit. I realized that what I’d given up wasn’t just parents with incredibly high expectations, but that I’d relieved myself of that burden to do it my own way. I wasn’t born to follow their path. I was created to accept the guidance of the Folks and my Rents to become even better than they were, or at least comparable.

Since I have no biological offspring of my own, I often worry of how my legacy will pan out. I think of the many traditions I was taught at their knees and mourn the loss of it stopping with me. 

But, I have discovered in love and unity that my cousins, nieces and nephews, all carry me with them. For example, I got to take my great nephew across the Mighty Mack for his first time and buy the fudge of his choice in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. He learned to sing 500 Miles by the Proclaimers at the top of his lungs, got spoiled with ice cream, and basically…well The Folks and the Rents carry on in me no matter where I go.

Take My Hand

We can take a journey together to a place made for you and me.

If you just take my hand to walk along, I’ll show you where we’re free.

I will show you lilly white rapids dancing within the giggling stream.

I will show you cotton candy pink grasses in the fields of my dream.

We can traipse along the path that’s as peaceful as it is still.

We can sit and stare for hours from our cushioned window sill.

Let us parade through oceans of happiness, gleaming under the moon,

while our skin becomes a canvas painted by a singer’s croon.

Let us rush to embrace the love that is found within us all

Come and take my hand, let us heed the worthy call.

Take my hand! Take my hand! Let us go together to the promised land!

Worldly Remorse

When did I become your enemy?

How did I become your foe?

Why is all the violence the next big show?

We used to call each other neighbor,

helped when things got tough,

but now we’re aiming at one another

with angry words all rough.

Haven’t we done this too often?

Blaming everyone else for their sins?

As if we had the straightline to go

judging them  again.

But as I recall, a homeless jewish man

gave only two things to do

Love God above all others

and love others like you do you.

When did that message get lost?

How did we dig so deep into despair?

When we all bleed red like our sisters do

Are we too far gone to repair?

It’s time to dust off the LOVE

that’s been hidden in the wood

Allow holiness from above

to return our hearts to good.

Grief Makes No Friends

I’ve been experiencing significant losses in my life recently. But with limited friends near where I live, I have no idea how to find new ones when all I have to talk about is my best friend that died in my house or my cancer ridden little dog who is about to cross the rainbow bridge. It’s not all I think about, but it is the most prominent feature of my vocabulary because the losses are quite recent.

What I find most disturbing is that I feel like I should be “over” my best friend dying. I knew her for 37 years. We lived together for about 27 of those. She knew me better than anyone else on the planet. She knew my secrets and kept them to her dying day. She was my memory because when I suffered so much trauma as a kid, I didn’t remember much. She kept track of my life. I loved her truly and deeply. And although not my blood, my sister, died at 50.

My 95 year old friend, Miss Marge said that “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.” A random chaplain I saw at the hospital while waiting for Bean’s sister to arrive said, “Maybe you were the face of God she needed to see before she could find peace.” My mom said, “Grieve because you love so deeply.” All comforting words that help me feel a bit better.

Last year I lost so many people I thought it was somehow a cosmic joke. Like the Universe was declaring war on me but kept missing. Side note: I told my former pastor that he helped me not be mad at God anymore, but now I’m pretty pissed off again. This year has been deeply profound losses. So much so that I have pondered whether it’s even worth it to keep trying.

As a society we’re not allowed to take our time and grieve. On the day my friend died I still went to work. I didn’t take time off. I can’t afford to. I told anyone I talked to about her death. I just wanted people to know that an extraordinary person in my life was gone. That a light had gone out in this world and I couldn’t see hope. 

I’ve been given the platitudes and every one makes me feel like hurting the concerned person. I know they mean well. I know they aren’t trying to belittle my suffering, but for now, and for a while, just let me grieve. I don’t need to be fixed. I’m not broken. I’m human. I’ve lost someones I loved dearly. 

I try to shuffle what I feel under the rug because I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. I don’t want them to worry if I don’t get out of bed for days (I’m not counting the 18 hours). I don’t want to feel the rejection of my feelings as they talk about their lives and what they’re dealing with. I’m barely hanging on here. 

I cry when I eat dinner. I cry when I lay in bed. I cry when I look at my little dog and know I have to let her go. I cry when I shower. I cry at the news. I cry because for the first time in a long time, when she moved in, I felt happy. I felt like I had a piece of my heart back. I felt like I was on top of the world. And now…all I do is cry because I miss her so much.

I’m sorry this is so morose, but it is a conglomeration of my grief, my attempts to deal with it, the experience of my loss. It feels like I’m missing a large chunk of who I was because I lost my memory. I lost my secret keeper. I lost my childhood connection to hope.

Love Thy Neighbor

I went to a meeting today. The meeting was filled with women from 29 to over 60. There was one man in attendance. We sat in a crowded room filled with false hopes and diminishing resources trying to find the solution for funding the programs that help the impoverished in our neighborhoods and communities and the county at large.

While I sat there listening to the stories of unnamed clients going without it saddened my heart that so many people in my community, where I live showed a reflection of poverty to me. With a funding cut of over $13,000 that could be used to lift our people, my people, up in this world, there seemed to be an air of discouraged hope, but hope nonetheless.

But hearing that my neighbors were going without, made me think that if the weight of their care lay in the communities where we lived, we could do so much more. And even with that realization that we’ve become so disconnected from one another, so caught up in our own daily lives that we no longer take that time to breathe life into the very neighborhoods in which we come home to.

I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I hated that I felt out of place in wanting my people, your people, their people, our people to feel the love of community. The feeling of unity left in the gravel roads of unkempt, overgrown, weeded horrors that grow the mold of fruitless living inspired by poverty to excuse our dismissal of their humanity. The refusal to understand that the human life we live, they live, I live is not transcendent in the sense that when that next meal becomes a harboring of resentment against full refrigerators, cupboards, and pantry’s and the only thing to eat in the house is Ramen noodles, hot dogs, or macaroni and cheese again because that’s all there is. Why?

Understanding the problem is not the issue. Believing that a change can be made is not the issue. It’s the hands that we have as a people that are the issue. The hands that turn away our brothers and sisters from their basic needs being met. It’s the hands that raise up against social programs that benefit our communities by raising children who don’t have to worry if they can eat more than subsidized school lunches while surviving the summers with hopes that someone will see their condition but praying against all hope they don’t.

I believe in Love Thy Neighbor. I believe that love brings a meal over to the ailing neighbor. I believe that love brings resources into the places where we live and blooms them into a sense of hope and belonging. I believe that loving thy neighbor is more than just a Bible verse, but the very act of using our hands to bring goodwill, food, clothing, and hope to everyone.

Who am I to call someone else lazy? Who am I to look down my nose because you lost your job and can’t support your family right now? Who am I to cast that first stone against your situation when my own cupboards barely keep my family fed. I am nobody to judge anybody for their situation. I don’t have nor would I want that power. Instead, I propose a radical change with our hands.

Use those hands to feed the hungry. Use your hands to help an elderly neighbor do their yard work. Use those hands to comfort a new mother who is overwhelmed with the responsibility. Use those hands to drive a neighbor to the store when they need it. Use those hands to call in reinforcements when the battles get to long and hard and your people, your neighbors, our communities are falling to violence. Use those hands to reach out to one another in kindness and compassion.

Their story doesn’t have to match your experience. Their beliefs don’t have to match yours. Their choices are not a reflection of you, but they are the faces of the people you live among. They are your geographical tribe by need, necessity, or choice. Every one of these people, in all their humanity, with all of their faults and triumphs is a reflection of yourself. Reach out to your people with those hands who have held them with disdain and judgment. Remove the faulty assumptions and listen to the words they speak for they may teach you compassion, kindness, or the sincerest of needs and desires that you may have the gifts to fulfill.

Love Thy Neighbor. That’s what I believe in without question.