Quarter Century

Dear Robyn,

On this day twenty-five years ago you pushed your way into the world and captured my heart. In typical fashion, you were in a hurry. So much so that we almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time. Out the window went my birth plan – no epidural; no mixtape of favored songs to soothe us as we labored; no gentle transition for you from in-utero to neonate.

As I was doing my best not to push until the doctor arrived, you took matters into your own hands and made your grand entrance, complete with umbilical cord wrapped around your neck (already accessorizing). Blue, and without even the weakest cry to signify things were okay, I caught a glimpse of your tiny hand as they whisked you to the ICU.  Your initial Apgar score was an alarmingly low 3.

But as always, you rallied. Within hours you were in my arms — pink and squalling, and I thanked every God I could think of for keeping you safe from harm.

This became our pattern. You, fearless and flying at the speed of light. Me, your steadfast contrail – following in your wake and worrying that whatever you were doing was too much, too soon.

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Together, we made it work.

Which brings us to today – I am in awe of the woman you’ve become. You are a fearless, take-no-prisoners force to be reckoned with, and that is such a good thing. Your beauty and poise are equal to your intelligence and compassion – you, my sweet, are the complete package.

Someday you’ll find a love worthy of yours, and together the two of you will conquer the world, of this I have no doubt. In the meantime, enjoy life. Slow down every once in awhile… relax if you can. Travel. Meet new and interesting people and try out differing viewpoints; let your worldview evolve.

And as your mother (with a front row seat to your evolution) know that I’m always here, unshakable and proud, and filled with more love than you could ever imagine.

Love Forever,
Mom

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Random Thought of the Day #4

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

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It may just be hunger talking… but I’m pretty sure all this can be accomplished with a really great breakfast taco.

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Better Late Than Never

Happy-New-Year-Wishes

Hello, 2018!

Let’s be friends. I haven’t always gotten along with your predecessors, but I’ve got a good feeling about me and you. That said, here’s what I’ve learned about friendship through the years: the key to satisfaction is lowered expectations. So lets not set our sights too high and say we’ll overthrow an oppressive regime (#nevertrump) or find a cure for cancer– or even convince everyone that Adele/Marvel Movies/Disneyland/Big Bang Theory suck (which, by the way, they totally do).

Instead, maybe we shoot for some medium-good stuff?  Let’s say I’ll resolve to get more sleep, stop being such a pushover, and remind myself to give a shit about the environment every once in a while. You, in turn, could (and I’m just spitballing here) rid the world of ‘like’ buttons across all social media platforms, cut WAY back on your spricket production, and stop letting farmers grow those nasty ass grapes that taste like cotton candy.

Deal? Deal.

 

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Dark Side of the Moon

Everything I see in the media lately is terrible or sad. Or both. Police shooting citizens for no real reason, kids bullied, California burning, women harassed, molesters vying for Senate, explosions/murders/pain/loss/suffering. And oh yeah – the president.

It’s depressing to the point of being overwhelming.

The world operates on a pendulum swing, I know this. For years we were on the upswing… experiencing the simple harmonic motion of order and hope. Of course, nothing was or is ever perfect, but it was no doubt better. Now, things are — dark

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I’ve always been more optimist than pessimist. Then my son overdosed and the world went crazy. It’s like one day I woke to a supernova of shit, and it – Just. Keeps. Piling. On. And maybe I only see what I want to see? I’m fully aware of the possibility that somewhere along the line I stopped trying to find the positive in any given situation.

So how do I fix it? I want to be happy again. I want to laugh more than I cry and to see the good once more in people and situations. I’d love to personally witness a random act of kindness or some other evidence that we’re not all mindless, self-serving pricks consumed by jealousy and greed. Because I don’t think I have it in me any longer to be the change I want to see in the world. Someone else needs to take up the mantle of optimist, because I’m tired and it all feels like too much work.

…and that perhaps is the saddest thing of all.

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Queen’s Gambit

I wrote about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating:

I have been a fan of Al Franken since the dawn of time. From his SNL days to Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, to his Air America talk radio gig — to all points in-between. I have loved him, I have trusted him, and I have rooted for him.

This one broke my heart. Nothing against the women who came out against him, but if you’d asked me a couple of months ago to name the ONE guy in Congress I most believed was there for the right reasons, I’d have said, Al. But he became a distraction. Worse – he got in the way of Dems having a clear shot at pedophile Roy Moore and pussy-grabber-in-chief Trump. The argument was becoming “but Franken” each time a member of Congress spoke to the press (or when Kelly Ann and her ilk stepped in front of a camera)

I think that plus Kirsten Gillibrand unbridled lust to run for president is what did him in, and I get it (even if I don’t entirely agree). But in the parlance of chess: if we’re sacrificing a queen in what we hope will be a game-winning move, it damn well better be worth it.

Schumer and Pelosi et al. need to rally the troops and come out swinging (and swinging hard) otherwise we (the Dems) are just the skinny kid on the beach getting sand repeatedly kicked in our face by bullies.

sand_in_face

 

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Tis the Season

You know what’s near the top of the list of things that suck when your child is dead and there’s not a god damn thing you can do about it?

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Paris is Always a Good Idea

Dear Paris,

Thank you for hosting us the week of Thanksgiving. Your city is as beautiful as its history is storied. Your pastries are flaky and your Foie gras is creamy, and everything is served with an attention to detail that is bar-none. Your architecture and culture are incredible… and you know it. 😉 If Europe is the cultural capital of the world, Paris is undoubtedly its crown jewel.

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(photo cred goes to one miss Sydney Z)

That said, why are your people so rude? What’s with the constant blatant staring – did I have spinach in my teeth or were you just gawking at the plus-sized American tourists with the audacity to spill into the seat next to her on the metro? Speaking of the metro, why does it smell so strongly of piss? Do Parisians regard sub ground dwellings as open-air urinals? (if so, why?)

And now to rip off the band-aid – I’m just going to say it: the Louvre is overrated. It’s definitely not my all-time favorite museum (hell, it’s not even my favorite museum IN Paris*). And the Georges Pompidou Centre is incredibly pretentious for having so little – even the Picassos can’t save this travesty of a modern art museum.

There. Done. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Overall it was a fantastic experience. Not much has changed in the twelve years since we’ve last visited, but really, who’d want it to? I relish the sense of continuity and the feeling that your lovely city is suspended in time. I hope one day we’ll meet again… perhaps when I weigh a little less and you’ve managed to address your metro-related incontinence issues. #win/win

Yours Always,
B.

*Musee d’Orsay for the win!
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À Coeur Vaillant Rien D’Impossible

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.

I will love without fear and trust without hesitation. I will laugh more than I cry. I’ll count my blessings frequently and tally my losses far less often. I’ll either lose weight or find a way to forgive myself for this continued failure. I’ll smile at babies and offer help to strangers and do my best to overlook the shortcomings I see in others because, hey, I’m far from perfect myself.

I’ll give someone a second chance. Hell, I’ll even offer a few people third and fourth chances. Because somewhere along the line I know someone gave me at least that many (or more). I’ll strive to be the hero my dogs think I am, the nurturing & together mother my daughters deserve, and the loving and supportive partner my husband married all those years ago. And I’ll do it all without compromise or complaint (okay, maybe I’ll complain a little…)

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I’ll miss my son every day but approach with a grateful heart the fact that I was part of his journey (and he part of mine). I’ll take valuable lessons from his death — such as the fact that you can never love someone too much or tell them too often. I’ll make sure my daughters know that there’s no secret too big to keep or hole dug so deep that escape should seem impossible. I’ll let them know I’ll be there to save them again and again and again… and again.

Some days I’ll be tired and cranky and want to stay in bed all day ignoring the world and nursing old wounds. On those days I’ll fail more than I succeed, and that’s okay. Because the next morning I’ll get up, dust myself off, and try again…. because nothing is impossible to a willing heart.

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Fortune Favors the Bold

Why are fortune cookies so boring? If you’re giving me a stale cookie in a noisy cellophane wrapper, at least make it entertaining, snarky, or both.

fortune-cookie

Ideas:

  • This cookie looks a like a mini vagina — bon appétit!
  • You have a great face… for make-up
  • Eat sensibly, exercise regularly, die anyway
  • They say opposites attract – may you meet someone alluring, smart & funny
  • Pro tip: chopsticks make for great DIY abortions (because who has knitting needles these days?)
  • Be it length, girth or bank account: size matters
  • If only the good die young, you’ll live forever
  • The road to happiness is paved with lowered expectations
  • All good things come to those born filthy rich
  • A friend is just an enemy you haven’t fully pissed off yet
  • In a pinch, stale leftover eggrolls make great dildos #foodporn
  • Cookies make you fat
  • All your hard work will most likely amount to nothing
  • You’ll be hungry again in an hour
  • Settling now saves time down the road
  • Whenever you feel stupid just remember – you probably are
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They Say The Neon Lights Are Bright

We saw our first Broadway musical in 2014 (Chicago, in case you’re curious) and I was instantly hooked. As a huge fan of musical movies and TV shows, it wasn’t much of a leap for me. Since then I’ve been an avid consumer; there’s nothing like it.

Just counting Broadway (both at home & traveling) productions, we’ve racked up a reasonably impressive 19 shows in three years, and countless others if you include stuff at the local level. Here they are, more or less in order of my most to least favorite:

  1. The Band’s Visit
  2. Hamilton
  3. Fun Home
  4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  5. Fiddler on the Roof
  6. The Color Purple
  7. Cabaret
  8. War Paint
  9. Chicago
  10. Miss Saigon
  11. Kinky Boots
  12. In The Heights
  13. Something Rotten
  14. Anastasia
  15. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
  16. Book of Mormon
  17. Wicked
  18. CATS
  19. Love Never Dies

I’ve also learned a thing or two about what I like/don’t like along the way:

  • I love modern and innovative takes on theater.
  • That said, classics are classics for a reason and are almost always good.
  • Stephen Sondheim is a genius, with lyrics so smart and poignant that it leaves you humbled just to sit & listen.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber is the Anti-Sondheim, and I pretty much hate anything associated with him.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, while great, seems limited in his scope. He’s more or less written the same musical twice (with different decades), which makes me wary of the constant accolades. #timewilltell
  • Unless you’re Lin-Manuel, sung-throughs are probably a bad idea.
  • I kind of resent ‘for the tourists’ shows (think anything based on Disney films or starring kids/animated characters/animals) because they take up valuable theater space.
  • Don’t really like intermissions/people who can’t sit still/anyone on their phone/those who can’t be bothered to clap/etc. etc.
  • The weirdest concepts often make the best shows.

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If you’re still reading, thanks. I know this isn’t exactly riveting stuff.

One final thing thought (indulge me): why is it that all the naysayers (most of whom have probably never bothered seeing a musical or play) think it’s okay to mock theatergoers? From: “Never had a desire to see one, but I guess someone has to like them.” to “The ticket prices are ridiculous – I can think of a million things I’d rather spend money on.” and everything in-between, I get it all the time.

The consensus being that Broadway is for snooty old people in NYC with nothing better to do. But here’s the truth: Bway seats (exception: Hamilton) usually cost less than concerts (I’ll pit my theater $$ against your Taylor Swift tickets any day of the week), or comedy tours, or NFL seats… and I rarely hear anyone complaining about spending money on those.

If you enjoy TV, movies, books, music, thinking and/or being entertained, you’re probably going to love Broadway (and rightfully so). Plays are no more or less silly/serious/snobby/scholastic than anything else you’ll encounter — so lose the preconceived notions and give it a try! You never know, you might actually like it.

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Crime & Punishment

severe

When I was a child, my father beat me with a fat black leather belt. My crimes ranged from wetting the bed at age four or five (earliest memory) ~ to not cleaning my room well enough ~ to not washing the dishes correctly ~ to bad grades ~ to “having an attitude” (which I can just about guarantee I was too afraid ever to have) ~ to talking on the phone too long ~ to running away once (boy, did I get it that time) ~ to merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was a towering figure given to dark moods – often fueled by cocaine benders and lack of sleep. I wasn’t the only recipient of his wrath. More than once I witnessed him attacking my mother, my dog, my cats… anything that got in his way, really. But I was indeed a frequent (and favored) target. I was stupid. I was ugly. I was a cowardly crybaby and a sniveling little shit. I was a waste of his time, energy, breath and money. I didn’t matter, and no one would miss me if I disappeared from the face of the earth.

I never did learn to “take my punishment like a man” (a frequent suggestion). Instead, I’d start pleading as he’d unbuckle his belt and slip it off, loophole by loophole, until it snapped and hissed in the air: as ominous & foreboding as a newly necromanced snake ready to strike and sting. I’d sob and beg him to spare me, promising that I’d try harder/be better next time if only he’d give me a chance.  And when that didn’t work I’d try to get away, which just led to finger-shaped bands of purple bruises on my upper arm as he’d anchor me in place with one hand while the other got down to business.

I did figure out a few things, though. I learned to sleep on my side for days after a beating because in this position you’re least likely to have PJs adhere to open sores (ouch) on your back, butt, and thighs. I learned to wear dark clothing to school so that when the welts inevitably bled and seeped they wouldn’t stain. Stains led to questions, and I couldn’t afford someone asking questions. I learned baths were better (far less painful) than showers — imagine tiny jet streams of water hitting freshly scabbed flesh. To this day I hate taking showers… I guess old habits really do die hard. Tragically, I also learned that mothers aren’t always on your side, sometimes they’re even the instigators.

I learned that safety was an illusion and monsters were real. That adults were not to be trusted, and the only way out for sad little girls was just to power through until you’re big enough & smart enough to make it on your own. I left home at seventeen and even though I would go on to see them many times as an adult (sad little girls seeking acceptance/validation often take far too long to learn valuable lessons), I never spent another night under their roof.

Eventually, I came to understand that a functional relationship with my parents – one that didn’t involve pain, fear, and humiliation or bring with it a sense of betrayal, wasn’t in the cards. This lesson came at great personal cost, and I will bear the scars (both literal and figurative) until the day I die. But I suppose no one gets through life without a few scars… some of us just have more than others.

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Forty-Five

You might be Donald Trump IF:

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  • Your domestic policy is a turgid, half-baked mess, and your foreign policy consists of a four-way circle jerk between you, Russia, Israel, and the Saudis.
  • You decry peaceful protests of racism while going out of your way to prop up racists.
  • Malapropos are commonplace and “facts” are fiction.
  • Your idea of a legacy as president is (out of jealousy & spite) undoing the legacy of the far more popular president who preceded you.
  • You surround yourself with jackals, assholes and xenophobes.
  • You constantly lie to the press and then claim you’re the victim of their unfair reporting.
  • You count your Christian values on one hand while grabbing pussies with the other.
  • You don’t even realize you’re the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and you refuse to accept any responsibility for what’s happening in Puerto Rico.
  • You attempt to govern through sound bites and 140-character tweets.
  • Denigrating women, war heroes, minorities, politicians (past & present), the media, football players, etc., etc. gives you a chubby.
  • Referring to your daughter as a ‘piece of ass’ also gives you a chubby.
  • The words ‘special counsel’ strike fear in your heart.

….. and the only thing more dangerous than Donald Trump? The people (willfully ignorant) who continue to prop him up and make excuses for his behavior day after day after day.

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The Edge of Seventeen

Dear Sydney,

Tomorrow you are seventeen. How is that even possible? When I close my eyes and conjure your image, it’s baby-you I see. From the coppery-red whisps of hair (proof positive my Irish blood runs in your veins) to your cupid’s bow of a mouth, to the perfectly formed arches of your tiny feet — where I bestowed a lifetime of kisses long before the candle on your first birthday cake sputtered out.

As my last born – my final “baby” – I’ve cherished each milestone. Cheering with you in good times, and wrapping myself around you (a cocoon as soft as whisper & gentle as a kiss) when you’ve felt the sting of rejection or loss. You’ve learned the hard way that life isn’t always fair, nor is it kind. But you’ve also witnessed first hand the grace of strangers and felt the genuine warmth of lasting love & friendship.

You’ve ridden a camel in the shadow of the great pyramids and felt the gentle rocking of the ocean beneath you when, on a chilly July night in New Zealand, you gazed in wide-eyed wonder at the twinkling Southern Cross. And you are better for it, and all the other amazing things you’ve experienced in your seventeen years on this earth.

But with great privilege comes great responsibility. Make the world a better place, sweet girl. Don’t just say “please,” “thank you” or “I’m sorry,” but mean it… even especially when it’s hard. Do good for the sake of doing good, with no expectation of reward or recognition. Give a little of your time and money to those who ask – be it NPR or PP or the ACLU or PETA (so many acronyms) or the guy holding a sign on a street corner (regardless of whether you find his hard luck story credible or not). Lead by example, and speak up when those around you grow silent.

Forgive easily and love fiercely. Know that you are wise beyond your years (an old soul) and be patient when waiting for others to catch up to you. Understand that your lists and five-year plans and blueprints are just one possibility in an infinite loop of possibilities. As a wise man (also born on your birthday) once said: life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

Sometimes, like Atlas, you are a mighty Titan bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders. Give yourself a break every once in a while. Be careful not to take on too much and delegate too little. Let others help — it’s as good for them as it is for you. Let ME help. It’s kind of my job, after all, and I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself. Let your father and sister help, too. Know that you don’t need to be perfect all the time; flaws are part of what makes us wonderful and unique… and human.

So happy birthday, my stubborn, funny, whip-smart, beautiful baby girl. As I type this you’re three doors down sleeping peacefully in your room. But in my heart of hearts, I’m cradling you in my arms, smelling your sweet newborn head, and leaving butterfly kisses on the tiny arches of your perfectly formed feet.

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Love Forever,
Mom

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Random Thought of the Day #3

So sick of all the bullshit hipster restaurant double-speak. I refuse to eat at a place with ‘fusion’ in its name or tolerate people who drone on about how they really like to dine in local bistros featuring free-range, farmer-friendly, fairly-traded cuisine that’s humanely sourced and cruelty-free.

It’s not a “neutron bomb of flavor doused in dragon’s fire and kissed w/nature’s rainbow — lovingly wrapped in a tasty mesa bun.” It’s a fucking burrito. And this is not some world-famous molecular gastronomy, Wylie Dufresne, fine dining establishment – it’s Chipotle.

… so step. off.

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#rantover

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Eschrichtius Robustus

Dear Jim,

We danced together on the March equinox
Do you remember?
We were free of pretense, free of pain
Fearlessly optimistic – wild and unrestrained

In the beginning, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

Then the dog-days came with
Deadlines and obligations to heed
We spoke of bills & lists & plans & needs
Subverted our passions, embraced our greed
We had mountains to move and mouths to feed

But through it all, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

And now and now, like great gray whales
Migrating against an autumn’s blast
We are ancient, timeless, wise
Steadfast
True to one another; built to last

And through it all, I’ve had you, and you’ve had me
Sometimes what is, is what’s meant to be

Finally — in the winter of our life
When the cold winds blow, and the snow comes down
You’ll be the fire warming my soul and
I’ll be the gravity keeping your feet on the ground
Our bodies will be old; our love that much more profound

One day they’ll tell our story: of a Northern lad and girl born on a Bayou
They’ll raise a glass to everything (and I mean everything) we’ve been through
They’ll drink to the good, the bad — the old, the new
And they’ll marvel at how you always had me and I always had you
(but we always knew)

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Love Forever,
B.

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Sword of Damocles

Some days you feel as if you are Pandora’s Box itself. All the sorrows of the world reside within you. All the hate and fear and bile and shame – straining against your edges and scratching grooves into the smooth surface of your resolve. Control seems like an illusion: as gossamer-thin as a butterfly’s wing. Misery is a foregone conclusion, and you’re powerless against the onslaught of emotions.

Sound familiar? If so, know that you’re not alone. And if not, well, you’ve led a charmed life… mazeltov.

Today marks the end of national suicide prevention week. I’ve seen mentions of it across social media and in the news. I’ve thought of the many ways we kill ourselves – for my son, whether intentional or not, it was drugs. With my good friend Tracy from high school, it was a Wilkinson double-edged razor on a blustery February afternoon. For Vincent Van Gogh it was a revolver to the chest. Sylvia Plath, a head in the oven. For Virginia Woolf, a pocket of heavy stones and a rushing river, and Robin Williams – a belt for a noose as Sunday slowly faded into Monday.

So. Much. Loss.

All I’ll say, not only as a human being and person who’s shouldered my fair share of depression, but as a mother who couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t save her son – don’t do it. Please.

Choose life.

I know it’s both the easiest thing to ask and hardest to do. Try anyway. And should you ever need a sympathetic ear – I’m ready to listen.

you-are-not-alone

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Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And CNN, with its 24/7 disaster-porn news coverage, wants you to feel fine.

Now, there’s absolute truth to the science behind global climate change and the great shitstorm it brings forth. It’s something we should all be aware of, plan for, and work to make better — for our children and our children’s children. It’s why I recycle, resist watering my lawn*, and force myself to sit through An Inconvenient Truth whenever it’s on TV and I can’t find anything better on HBO.

But CNN… com’on already. No amount of Anderson Cooper in soggy Baby Gap tees or Chris Cuomo reflexively flexing into the wind (think Juandissimo Magnifico in a water-logged turbine farm) will negate the meteorological bloodlust I see in your eyes. The constant barrage of projected landfalls & whorling radars no doubt has many viewers ready to bend over and kiss their ass goodbye. But ha! — joke’s on you, CNN – I’m way too fat and immalleable to bend over and kiss anything. #merica

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Instead, I watch your broadcasts with the same sort of mild revulsion I usually reserve for people who say “bruh!” every five seconds or cite The Rock as their role model. This. Must. Stop. You’ve oversaturated (yes, I get the irony) not only the airwaves but the proletariat. What’s the old argument about the dangers of prolonged exposure to violence in the media – that it’s found to decrease empathy and have a desensitizing effect on the viewer? Yeah, I think we’re there.

And it’s an absolute shame. Because disaster survivors NEED our empathy and support right now. They need to know they’re not forgotten or brushed aside for the next big hurricane or earthquake or Russian prostitute/pissing scandal. Instead, like junkies chasing your next big high, you’re holed up in the Ritz-Carleton waiting to film another Irma-related live shot. It’s a little distasteful.

I’m not suggesting you lay off entirely, just maybe chill out a bit. Send Anderson Cooper back home, and drop Chris Cuomo off at the Planet Fitness of his choosing. Give us all a little breathing room. Oh, and maybe stop openly lusting for Armageddon (no matter how fantastic the ratings might be). And here’s my promise to you: allowed the time and space to process everything– like the butterfly you’ve loved and set free — we’ll no doubt come back to you. Unless we can find something better on HBO, that is.

 

* mostly I just resist because it cuts down on mowing
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Random Thought of the Day #2

When you speak in absolutes, you box yourself in. There’s no room for change or growth or evolution of thought.

That said… I absolutely hate Donald J. Trump.

uncle_sam_impeach

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Benediction

One kiddo is currently having the time of her life sunning herself in beautiful, exotic Costa Rica. The other is the most together 16-year-old I know and is about to embark on her junior year of high school. Both are happy, healthy, independent, take-no-prisoners women who make me proud on a daily basis. When I lay awake late into the night with the litany of things I’ve done wrong (or simply not done at all) flickering behind my eyelids like some celluloid waking nightmare… It’s them who saves me.

I cannot be all bad if I’m loved by the caliber of people who do, indeed, love me.

I am blessed. I am content. I am grateful.

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Vampires

Dear Mother,

You were supposed to protect me. You didn’t.

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Dear Father,

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

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