the bluff

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This picture is of the bluff where Laney lived with her grandmother. Of course, the one in the book is made up but this is the one I based it upon. This bluff exists in the lake where I grew, a place where I felt most free and also most trapped. As a child, I lived in the woods, the water, the mountains. As a young adult, I lived in my mind, in my books, in my anger.

The woods, the water, the mountains, the mind, and the books are still here but that anger has died. It has been replaced with determination and desire. And right now, that anger is also replaced with fear.

I’ve been having dreams this past week. Anxiety-fueled dreams that wake me up filled with belief that they are real.

No one shows up to my readings or just a few people show up or people show up but don’t care. All of this is wrapped up in my anxiety, of course, because this weekend I will be presenting THE BOOK OF LANEY for the first time. On Saturday night (3/28)  at 7PM, I’ll be at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport and then on Sunday at 2PM, I’ll be at Newtonville Books in Newton Center.

I’ve had my share of readings and reading in front of an audience is something I enjoy doing. So why the fear and worry?

Maybe it is because I feel a great deal of responsibility with this book. It’s not like I haven’t felt responsibility with my other books but with this one I am hoping to reach a specific audience of young people and maybe make a difference for them. I feel responsible that this book speaks authentically from the voice of a fifteen-year-old. I feel responsible that the material be treated with the seriousness and respect it is due. I feel responsible to victims and also to those who feel an urge to victimize. I want this book to help heal those who need healing and to reach those who are nearly out of reach.

Of course, I have no control over any of this but being given the opportunity and the honor to speak and read in front of an audience is one way in which I can reach out and with that comes the pressure to make it count.

I will make it count. I promise you I will. If you will meet me there, I will be there for you. Thank you to those who have already read this book and let it speak to them. Thank you to those who have let me know what it meant to them. You have given me such hope.

Thank you for coming to the bluff with me and remembering how we can come back to ourselves. Even in our darkest moments we have that possibility.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing me.

 

 

their rapture

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The jacaranda protruding into his yard was infested with fire ants. He let his neighbor know but the dickhead would not hear of it. “Not my problem,” he said, holding up his hands as if he didn’t have a nickel to his name. Oh yeah? Not your problem? He was going to burn the fucking tree down. He’d pour gasoline around the base and toss in a match and Voila! Burn, fucker. Now what’s not your problem?

He felt like he was falling. The shame made him wince.

The people on the conference call had voices. That was for sure. One of them had a good voice. One of the women was tinny coming through her speaker phone. Almost like she was faking it.

It was stuffy in this room and dead mice rotted behind the walls. Telecommuting had been a bad choice.

He needed.

Soon, it would storm.

Lightening and thunder and rain.

He thought of birds in a tornado. Their rapture. They are carried up only to be thrown back down. Rejected.

He felt bad for the one guy on the line who was useless. They were all speaking to him like he was useless. Letting him know. He might be, but maybe not.

Outside, the jacaranda swayed in the wind. This was the storm.

 

 

 

pub day: today is my butter

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Last weekend, I made a double batch of zucchini bread because we have a busy week ahead. My son is in his second play and has seven performances between tomorrow and Sunday. I wanted him to be able to have something homemade in his snack and lunch so that even though he was busy, he would know he was loved and that I was thinking of him.

Unfortunately, I messed something up in the mixing and baking and the zucchini bread is, frankly, sort of gross. However, I have found that if you cover it with a lot of butter, it’s not half bad.

As I was choking down my butter-covered zucchini bread this morning, I realized that this is pretty much how I’ve made it through my life: examining my mistakes and failings and then trying to find a way to fix them, even if that means covering them with butter to make them more palatable.

Yesterday became a weird day and at some point I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I went to bed feeling horrible. I had a fever and my whole body was sore. Before I fell asleep I kept saying to my husband, “I feel like I am doing everything wrong.”

Even though it is raining out today and our big, ugly brown snow banks are melting all over the place, today is a much brighter day. Some sleep and perspective taking have been just the butter I needed.

Also, I have so much to celebrate: my third book–THE BOOK OF LANEY–is officially published today. I am extremely grateful to Lacewing Books for bringing it into the world and I am grateful to anyone and everyone who reads this book. For all of the work and the disappointment and the rejection and the self-doubt that goes into the making of a book, this day, when it is officially placed into the hands of readers, is the day that makes it all worth it.

I am taking this day. I am claiming it even though maybe I screwed something up in the mix yesterday, making that day come out a bit crumbly. Today I am going to say that I am doing things right. I’m taking this day and I’m covering yesterday with as much butter as possible and I’m saying thank you to you for sharing today with me. Thank you.

TODAY IS MY BUTTER.*

 

 

 

 

 

* in case you are wondering… all of that butter in the photo came from my freezer. I am a butter hoarder. Not proud of it. I just don’t want to run out. I also hoard toilet paper and canned beans. Make of that what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

My Hijab Day (#myhijabday)

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I recently took a quiz to find out which values of life are important for me to pass on to my child and how those values line up with the values of different countries. At the end of the quiz, I found out that my parenting values most closely resemble those of parents in Sweden. I was given a set of 11 values to place in order of importance to me. At the top of my list was Tolerance. This was not on the top of the list for Sweden. However, it was at the top of the list of the United States values, which I otherwise didn’t mesh with.

Though tolerance may be at the top of the list for the American parents who helped create this list of values, America does not feel like a very tolerant country to many people. Many people feel afraid because they are perceived as different than the supposed status quo. I do not blame these people for feeling afraid. The news is filled with horrible stories of people being killed in cold blood, not because they have done anything wrong, but because they happened to be near someone who was intolerant of their difference.

Last week my friend gave me a wonderful opportunity to discuss intolerance, sexism, and Islamophobia with my child, when she, a Muslim, invited me to take part in a new movement called my hijab day (#myhijabday). The idea behind this movement is for women of all colors, faiths, ages, and nationalities to:

stand in solidarity with us! Help us shatter stereotypes about women with hijabs/headscarves. We believe women should be free to wear ANYTHING they want without the fear of being judged, ridiculed, attacked, or murdered by others. Here, we would like to break the cycle of oppression by spreading tolerance and understanding. And we need YOUR help to do this.

We invite you to cover your hair for a day and share your experience (and your photo too, if you like) with us. Please use the hashtag ‪#‎myhijabday‬ to reach more people. Help us spread the message that wearing hijab is NOT a symbol of oppression. On the contrary, it is a symbol of women’s agency over their bodies.

It is a wonderful movement and I support it wholeheartedly. As soon as my friend invited me to take part and wear a head scarf for a day, I immediately went online and ordered a proper one. It didn’t arrive until late on Saturday and so I chose Sunday (yesterday) as the day when I would wear it.

I didn’t have it in my room when I woke up and so I put on another scarf on my head until I could get it. When my son first saw me, we talked about why I had covered my hair on this day. We had discussed before that I would be doing this but I didn’t tell him when. He quickly got used to seeing me with my hair covered and decided to write about it himself on his own (private) blog. I consider this an extremely positive thing to already come out of my taking part.

My plan was to go out for a run but we got a late-season snow squall and so that idea was squashed. Instead, I spent the day quietly, as I do most days, until a friend visited mid-day. She brought her dog over to play with our dog. I explained why I was wearing the hair covering and she became very excited about the idea of borrowing the hijab I had purchased and using it within her preschool classrooms at some point.

By the end of the day, I felt like I might let my friend down by not having anything more to report than me going through my daily life with my hair covered, but then I realized that is the point. There does not have to be something dramatic about wearing a hajib. You may wear it because it is a part of your faith that you choose to adhere to, or you may choose to wear it because you like the way it looks and feels. You may choose to wear it because you are proving a point of some kind. Or you may choose to wear a head scarf for fashion. No matter what the reason, it is really no one’s choice but your own for why you wear it and when you wear it.

My friend chooses to wear her hajib and I support her in the choice.

I believe in that choice and when February 1, 2016 comes around and it is once again World Hijab Day, I will make the choice again myself.

Until then, I thank my friend for enlightening me and my small corner of the world.

claw

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Back then, the wind blew hard over the banks, causing clusters of whiteouts along the road. We drove into ether, turning blind corners blindly. We planted bulbs every fall so we would live to see them bloom.

Let us live.

We had given everything up to the air until the ground would still no more. Spring pushes in from the edges, melting and freezing. The bulbs, clawing back up and out. They will not stay beneath. Give them air. Light.

 

 

road

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Less than five minutes into my run, I heard loud music coming from somewhere. It sounded like it was coming from the truck buried in snow in the yard of one of my neighbors. I stopped. I stared at the truck, listened. The music wasn’t there. It was on the road. Near my feet. Someone’s phone. The number ringing came up listed as “home.”

I answered and said, “I just found this phone.”

The man said, “It’s my phone. Where are you?”

I said, “I’m on _________.”

He said, “Where?” I repeated. “What town is that?” I told him. “Oh crap,” he said.

“I’m just out for my run. I can leave your phone in my mailbox if you want to come grab it.”

“No,” he said. No? “Do you know the ______.” I told him not really. He said, “The lady with the truck that’s covered in snow in her yard?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That’s where I’m standing.”

He said, “Can you go give it to them?”

I said, “It doesn’t seem like anyone’s home. I’ll put it in their mailbox, okay?” Silence. “Is that okay?”

Deep, defeated sigh. “Oh, all right,” he said.

And then he hung up.

I know he was disappointed. I really should have offered to skip my run and go back, get my car, and drive the phone over to him. It wasn’t enough that I saved his phone from getting run over or taken by someone else. It wasn’t enough that I saved his phone from the elements. It wasn’t enough that I saved him from shelling out another $400-600 for a new phone.

None of that was enough to warrant a simple thank you.

It bothered me my whole run. It fueled me.

It costs you nothing to say thank you to a person who has done you a kindness. Sure, I didn’t give him a kidney but I did more than many people would do and he could have at the very, very bare minimum said thank you.

Gratitude is eschewed as weak or simpering. It is seen as phony or, worse, unnecessary.

Not in my world. In my world that we are thankful is everything.

Every night, my son and I do what we call “Our Gratefuls” before bed. In our heads we say what we are grateful for. My list is expansive and my kid and husband are at the top of it. But I don’t forget what others have done for me, for us. I remember.

So for everyone who doesn’t say thank you to you, for everyone who blows you off because you are kind and, therefore, not worth their time, please let me thank you for them. Thank you.

Thank you for finding that guy’s phone.

Thank you for letting them have that cab.

Thank you for leaving that magazine behind that you thought someone might enjoy.

Thank you for donating those books.

Thank you for volunteering.

Thank you for being kind to your children.

Thank you for taking care of your elderly parents.

I do remember your kindness. I remember when I needed you and you were there.

Thank you.

 

 

 

bloom

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I was going for some beautiful lilies. They were already open and their colors were intense–red and yellow and orange. A woman stopped me.

“Those are already spent,” she said. “Go for these unopened ones.”

She was right, of course. I said thanks and followed her suggestion.

I was disappointed, though. I wanted those colorful beauties and not the green buds. What if their colors were dull? What if they failed to bloom?

It was something about believing in possibility.

It was something about knowing that I would hear what these flowers had to say to me.

It was something about trust.

The buds the woman directed me to did eventually bloom and when they did, they were spectacular. They lasted a long time in my vase, longer than the ones I had initially gone for would have. She was right.

I’ve spent most of my life as that closed up bud. I’ve been waiting for someone to see me not for how I appear now, but for the promise  that I–my words–hold.

I’m telling this to myself and to you.

Your waiting, your anticipation, at some point these will fall away. Believe that someone will choose the bud instead of the flower. Believe that someone will understand that you represent possibility and not what has already bloomed.

Bloom. And when you are done blooming, regenerate your potential and become another bud.

No one is waiting for you. So don’t you wait. Don’t hold back.

Do not waste time. Bloom. Bloom now.