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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Helpful Ghosts

Being back in my home-town has given me the strangest sensation; it’s like entering a time machine and meeting my past…face-to-face. I sense an eagerness to explore the dark quarters, the condemned haunts that I occupied when I led my life by raw instincts, and wisdom was a dusty book kept on a high shelf...well out of the reach of my small hands.

Up until now my home town has played host to a legion of ghosts and phantoms, resurrecting ancient fears, and sorrows…casting their exaggerated shadows across my history, leaving me shivering from the damp chill of their opened graves. I carried the heaviness of their corpses with me throughout my life…their stench reminding me of the murder of my innocence.

I was four years old when I made the most disastrous of life choices, unwittingly wandering from the safety of the Yellow Brick Road into the Forbidden Forest. A child shouldn’t have such power; but being a tyke doesn’t exclude you from the laws of free will, or protect you from the degenerate hands of society. Nothing will ever change that fateful day when I decided to move left, instead of right; it has had far reaching consequences.

I expected to confront the same dark spirits on this visit, but instead I’m being greeted by new ghosts, venerable Caspers, with gentle voices and warm hands. I welcome their assistance…while also remaining guarded, waiting for the chafing pain of childhood traumas to return; those familiar rubbings like ill fitting shoes. But it never comes. The pain has somehow evaporated, leaving a center of silence so acute that my body is buzzing with the sweet nothingness of its presence.

Little Leah’s ghost looks radiant and with high-spirited enthusiasm she wants to show me everything: the wall where she spent endless hours observing the world and waiting for life to bring her important answers. Amazingly the wall is still there, its structure stoically fixed like a tombstone defying the seasons. I sit my aged ass down, noticing the cold hard surface, fidgeting for comfort, and remembering how I used to sit for hours on this hard spot rather than returning to the desolate nothingness at home. No matter the weather I would sit, waiting for something to do, perhaps a friend would return home and invite me to share their happiness for a while.

I adjust my position and notice that from where I’m sitting I have a perfect view into Joanne J’s old apartment window. Suddenly she’s jumping on her bed, doing her Go-Go routine to Mony Mony. Sitting cross-legged on the hard wood floor I’m her sole audience member. Joanne is wearing white fish net stockings, black vinyl boots, and a yellow baby-doll pajama top. Her breasts are full for twelve years old. I’m wearing an oversized nighty. My breast buds barely cause a rise in the pink flannel gown. I’m jealous of all her jiggling and I grin when her mother comes in and snaps at her to put some clothes on.

I smile with this memory, still noticing the absence of pain. It’s as though the swelling and redness have gone out of my past leaving me to enjoy the subtle nuances of my youth...a luxury that I’m unfamiliar with.

Tipping my head back I look up through the golden leaves of a hovering maple and inhale deeply. For the first time I can say that I actually love the vibe of this place. This is where I resourcefully used paper clips and bubble gum to hold my cracked shield together. I fought off dragons with that shield. I was brave and kind. I had no way of knowing that the brooding darkness of my childhood was indeed a pressurized incubation chamber which would produce the future diamonds of my essence. It has made me who I am.

As they say, “All’s well…” But a part of me still wants to look into that kid’s courageous brown eyes and reassure her. I want to tell her that no matter how bad things may seem everything is just as it should be. And then it hits me…I just did.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Treasure Haunting

Today I’m packing my bags and heading back to my home town of Worcester Massachusetts for a week. I left there in 1989 with my husband and children, and although I’ve returned for the occasional visit; I miss it. This is where my history began and the people who I shared that history with still lives. My mind is bulging with all sorts of thoughts and expectations.

I’m working on my second novel and I’m hoping to do some research of sorts…go on a crawl through the old neighborhood and perhaps catch a glimpse of my younger self along the way. I’ll visit the places where my first this or that happened. I have this feeling that there is something waiting for me there, something spiritual, or perhaps an answer to a mystery…a revealing of sorts. I don’t know, but I’ll keep myself open.

It’s funny how going back to your home town has the power to transport you back to your childhood. Even though my mother and grandmother have long since transitioned to the other side I can still sense their presence there. It’s like an old movie reel flickering against that wrinkled sheet on the wall, stirring a pot of memories, releasing the aroma of all those yesterdays and carrying you away with them.

I’m thrilled to be returning in the autumn when the trees blush with radiance, setting fire to the landscape, and the air is crispy clean. This will certainly conjure some of my favorite memories of Halloween in the city. Back in the day when we toted a pillowcase and people handed out life-sized candy bars. We pillaged our three-decker community until our sacks were full and our legs were achy from climbing all those stairs.

So, I’ll probably be a bit busy for this next week, but I’ll be checking in with you. I’m leaving you with a poem, although I am definitely not a poet, but I’m doing this in honor of my friend Roy, author of Roy’s Garage Sale, who is sponsoring a Poe-a-tree-hop
and it just so happens that this month’s theme is “Home is where…” If you would like to participate jump in and be sure to leave your link at Roy’s site on his linky tool so that we can all enjoy your contribution.

Trick or Treating

Witches on brooms, haunting the sky
While spiky black cats stand in fright mode
Jack-o-lanterns aglow, there is mischief about
As the beggars push out for their pay loads

Sweaty masks hide, the fear in their eyes
As they tread through the darkness with giggles
Apparitions delight, in the juvenile fright
While their mothers hold onto their fingers

Bags weighed down, with chocolate and yums
Their reward for an evening of pleading
They have braved the dark night, swallowed their fright
And will never forget trick or treating

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now What?

For years I’ve been trying to train myself on how to live in the Now. But lately, between Oprah’s Life Classes and Eckhart Tolle’s books, plus the fact that my life seems to be coming unglued on a consistent basis, I have a new sense of urgency about it. It all sounds so enlightening, and yogilicious! Unless of course you’re the type of person who has allowed your mind and emotions pretty much free reign…then you’re in trouble.

The mind is like the older sister with a big ego reading the rules off the game box; knowing that her kid sister can’t read she adds a few rules of her own, to give herself an edge. The emotions are the little sister. She believes everything the literate older sister tells her and blindly follows her rules. These two engage in the game of life, with the dominate mind bullying the emotions. The result is a power struggle between two brats, neither of which is capable of running the show. The Now is the patient parent waiting for the two to exhaust themselves.

Being in the Now wouldn’t seem so difficult if it wasn’t so quiet. Why does Now have to seem so….um…boring? You know what I mean. Right now my left calf aches, and my chipped coffee cup is on the table. I can see the hairs on my arms…and I feel restless…like I want to do something. Something stimulating and exciting. Ooops! I’m doing it again…projecting into the future. Of course this makes me feel guilty so I reel myself in, as disappointed as a kid leaving his favorite fishing spot, and tell myself that if the Now is where I’m meant to live then I had better learn to enjoy it.

I sit up a little straighter and inhale deeply, hoping to invoke my inner Being. My eyes fall upon a pile of mail sitting on the counter: bills, ads, and a Netflix envelope. What movie was it that I ordered? FOCUS LEAH!!

I try again, this time keeping my eyes closed. I’m here. Now. I can hear the clock ticking; time is pinching its way into my meditative bubble. It must be at least ten by now. My mind races to the shopping list of chores waiting for my attention. I feel the prickle of my Inner Critic’s breath on my neck…she’s getting ready to speak. “You need to clean this messy house, and then take care of all those tax forms...”

She’s a bossy bitch with a tight bun and shiny shoes. I ignore her demands, staying seated in the Now, but she’s ruined the mood. I can feel her words decaying, and squirming around in my stomach like worms.

Emotions but no thoughts? Thoughts, but fighting emotions? How do I get in the now? I’m starting to sweat…STOP!!!!!!!!!! Try again.

Back to the Now; within the rhythm of my pulse and the swallowing of my spit. The nitty gritty Now, where my mind paces within the confines of my skull, seeking an escape into the universe with its yawning jaw waiting to swallow the Twinkies, and the brooding mountains staying put, needing to lose weight, guarding their secrets; the showy oceans frothy with pride, flirting with the mailman and overwhelming the edges of my soul; the treetops with their messy hair, a covering to the thirsty earth; the earth, moist soil, grassy hills needing mowing, and thorn-choked fields, strangling their way through life. Taking what isn’t theirs, I need to get that book back to the library, killing the weak, yet growing towards the light all the same.

Huh? What the hell was that? Was that the Now, my mind/ego, or my emotions? Oh snap! This being in the Now stuff is like trying to bottle a breeze. Perhaps I’m trying too hard. Anyway, that coffee smells awfully good, and I still have a good hour left to sit and enjoy myself with my writing before I have to move on to my chores. I love being here in my house with my coffee, my words…and myself. It’s as though nothing else exists.

Life is good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eating Life Raw - You Tube Tuesday

I'm doing something a little different today. I've decided to participate in You Tube Tuesday, adopted from Josh at It’s Tiger Time This is a day set aside for sharing your favorite video. Feel free to join in each week and see how creative we bloggers can be. Please remember to leave your link on his site in the linky-tool so that we can all visit your blog. Each month, Josh will highlight a selected video and present the winner with the 'You Tube Tuesday' Award.

Enjoy this weeks timeless selection by Van Morrison and the photo of me surrounded by my adoring fans. Hmmmm...which should I dance with?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hiding in a Paragraph

Cover Art by Fran Murphy

I just published my 100th Blog post this week. Looking over my one hundred entries I noticed that I’ve written on scores of subjects, yet I don’t believe that I’ve ever written on the subject of writing. I guess I’ve sort of kept this topic tucked away. It’s something so personal that I tend to keep it to myself...forgetting that it’s a viable topic. I think about it all the time; probably as much as a devoted mother does her only child. Writing is always with me. So, today I intend to share some of my thoughts on writing.

Words are the expression of our souls. We speak of the things that live inside of us: our hopes, fears, dreams and passions. We often write about sensitive things…topics that we may find hard to talk about. We hide our feelings in our paragraphs like spies seeking a way to communicate--without really speaking. It’s as though by writing we create a safe distance between our feelings and our selves…a cushion of sorts.

As writers we have an immeasurable palette of colorful words and an endless supply of white paper canvases on which to create our soul paintings…this is our art.

I write because it allows me the freedom of expression without the hesitancy of the tongue…that nervousness that arises when it’s my turn to speak. I have so much to say but I’ve never been completely comfortable with the stage. Writing provides me with a stress-free stage from which to speak.

I write to figure things out. Solve the mysteries of my life. When I’m tied in a knot, and confounded, I write with reckless abandon; tearing away at my inhibitions like an erotic stripper, until I’m running naked and free, and smiling at the intimate beauty of it all.

I write because I am a full vessel whose contents have communal value. In order to remain full I must pour myself out; imparting to partake. I do this with honesty, passion and fear; showing my nakedness to the world in order for the world to embrace its own nakedness.

I don’t write for an agent’s approval or for monetary rewards. If these come I will joyfully accept them as the fruit of my labor; I don’t need them in order to validate my work. My work validates itself.

These days there is a lot of agitation in the publishing industry. Between e-pubs and a sinking economy, agents are desperately searching for that “sure thing”, and are very reluctant to take on new authors. Although frustrating, this needn’t be a negative thing. It simply is what it is. I believe that if the writing is good, then in time, the work will rise to the top…like cream.

As writers, we are the ones whose art provides publishers, agents, and a number of others with a living. These days it seems everyone is fighting for a piece of the literary pie. We now have the tools to publish our own works. We needn’t wait countless years for the approval of an agent.

My novel, Cosette’s Tribe, in spite of numerous queries and a recent literary award, still sits like a demure debutante waiting for a suitor. She needn’t wait forever, after all she’s in her prime…and ready to dance. It just might be time for mother to take things into her own capable hands. I certainly don’t intend to shelf a manuscript that took me years to create because of the greed and indifference of a desperate industry. I will lovingly present her to the world on my terms and let the readers decide her fate for themselves. Readers do have the discernment to choose what they like in spite of what the publishers may think.

If you would like to read the first two chapters of Cosette’s Tribe simply click on the link entitled “The Blotter Literary Magazine” at the top right hand side of my blog. It might take a couple of minutes to load, so go grab yourself a drink and then come back and meet my firstborn, Cosette. Her story starts on page 4.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Soaring Hearts

I began my Tuesday in the usual manner, picking up a client, (who is more like a friend) and then heading out together to run errands and maybe dig up some fun. It was a blue-domed day with wispy white clouds …a perfect jigsaw puzzle sky.

We chatted as we headed to our first appointment, or I should say that I chatted while she remained silent and somewhat somber looking. Being the consummate cheerleader I asked “What’s shaking lady?” to which she replied, “Momma died two years ago today.” I watched as her lower lip quivered, cuing the tears. “I’m sorry.” I said, handing her a napkin from the glove box, and then turning down the radio.

I remember her mother, a ferociously private woman, devoted to the care of her developmentally disabled daughter, and her duties as a nurse. I used to enjoy the challenge of engaging her in conversation, always hungry for the reward of watching her face light up as she spoke about the things that she loved: her God, her family, and her work. You never would have guessed that she was engaged in the battle of her life against breast cancer. I have no memory of her ever mentioning it or complaining about feeling ill. She was an incredibly brave woman.

“We have to do something to honor her memory.” I said, hoping for some inspiration, a Band-Aid to put on my friend’s wounded heart. “We can do balloons.” She suggested, with a hint of a smile. So balloons it was. We drove to the Dollar Store and picked up two beautiful heart shaped balloons; she insisted I get one for my mom too. We then drove to the beach, where the sky is wide open and the dependable gulf breeze could carry our hearts high up to heaven.

Standing on the pier in silence, she held onto the balloons which were now dancing in the wind, straining against their leashes like two eager pups ready for a romp in the park.

Speaking softly, as though not wanting to disturb the other occupants of heaven, she began, “Hi mom, I really miss you. I know that you’re in heaven so I’m sending you a balloon so you’ll remember how much I love you. God, I love you too; please take care of my Momma.” Her face softened; she had made contact. I then took my turn, now made easy by my friend’s willingness to go first.

Unwinding the strings from her hand she released the balloons. Our two hearts soared up higher and higher, as though answering a call to go home. Squinting into the sky we waited, smiling…until they magically disappeared from our view forever.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Warts Wrong With You?

I was thinking about genuine beauty the other day, and how, being human, we all have imperfections, or as some call them...warts. Yet it’s those very warts that we’ve been taught to despise that can often be endearing…even charming. I had a boyfriend once who had a thin scar across his top lip. Instead of viewing this as a flaw, I saw it as sexy as hell, giving him a bad boy persona which sent shivers down my spine. Unfortunately our society has trained us to hide our warts…to be ashamed of them.

There are different categories of warts; some are really obvious because they appear on the outside of us, like: extra pounds, crooked teeth, wrinkles, and birth marks. We nip, suction, bleach, and snip at our imperfections hoping to come as close to perfect as possible. But is all this really necessary? I think that we’re missing out on appreciating what makes us unique. Since when did beauty marks turn into moles? I have one on my back that’s a dead ringer for W.C. Fields that I’ve been dying to show off!

Our society worships beauty and youth. Get a look at any magazine cover and you’ll see them praising the gorgeous and humiliating the homely. Of course these beauties, whose faces shine with glossy perfection from their supermarket marquees, inspiring us to feel plainer than unbuttered toast, have all been Photo-Shopped from the top of their shiny foreheads all the way down to their bumpy bottoms.

We humans have been around for like a gazillion years battling zits, dental decay, wrinkles, and finally succumbing to death, so you’d think by now we would have learned how to embrace our imperfections. But no, instead we worship youth and beauty…what most of us don’t have, and none of us can keep. Duh! What kind of message are we sending to our kids?

Now for the other type of wart that many of us wrestle with; it is officially known as the Fatigo Wart, but most of us are more familiar with its common street name, the worry wart. Worry warts are the most versatile of warts in that they cover just about anything which may, or may not, go wrong in our lives. They cause us to worry about everything from the apocalypse to bankruptcy, foreclosure to insanity, then onwards to unemployment and finally zymosis (which ironically is the development and spread of an infectious disease caused by a fungus).

Worry warts reside between our ears and have the power to scare the ever loving crap out of us without anything bad ever actually happening. One sign that your young child might have worry warts is if he/she has a preoccupation with the Boogie Man. In teenagers symptoms may manifest themselves in paranoid feelings that nobody likes them, which in turn may lead to body piercing, filthy bedrooms, and excessive back talking.

Worry warts are harder to detect in adults. By this age most people have found clever ways to camouflage the symptoms until they honestly believe that they don’t have them any more. Here is a little check list to see if you might be infected with worry warts. Have you found yourself:

1. Returning home just to check if you locked the door.
2. Spending outrageous amounts of energy trying to please everybody.
3. Stockpiling food for the end times.
4. Repeatedly asking your friends if they’re mad at you.
5. Running background checks on all of your neighbors.

Although worry warts are among the most common of fungi, and the most simple to treat, millions of people still suffer from their effects. If you happen to be one of these people, don’t worry…oops! My bad;)

Anyway, I did a little bit of research so that I could give you an easy to follow plan on how to cure your worry warts. This is what I’ve come up with.

A. Believe in the good stuff instead of the bad stuff; it requires the same amount of energy.
B. Live happily ever after.

Join me next time folks when I will be lecturing on tape worm infestation and how it impacts the fashion industry.

ELR accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided, unless that information is subsequently confirmed in blood on October 31st at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Although ELR has taken reasonable precautions to ensure no worry warts are present in this post, ELR cannot accept responsibility for any ulcers or nervous break downs arising from worry warts.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fearless Floating

Did you ever get an idea and then when you follow through with it it turns out all wrong? “Huh?” You say, screwing your face up into a confused mud puddle. You taste the soup and it’s too salty; you compare the photo to your painting and yours looks like a one dimensional rendition of cartoon meets real world. You date a dream boat only to find out that he has leaks. Not only is he not sea worthy… he’s not you worthy.

Then there are bigger choices…you choose your career based on economics and availability, or maybe you were pressured into this choice by an over bearing parent or a critical spouse. You sign up for classes, ignoring your gut which seems to be screaming “run!” and a few years later you’ve earned a framed document (worth five bucks) declaring you a “fill in the blank” specialist…something you never wanted to be. Now you’re thirty thousand dollars in debt with student loans, and depressed at the notion of spending the rest of your life doing something that drains you…when all you ever really wanted to do was train horses.

Life is full of choices, detours, and unexpected endings and sometimes no matter how careful we are things can go really screwy. This is where the flow comes in. I’m a firm believer in going with the flow. I’m not talking about having no direction. I’m talking about doing all that you can to make something happen and then putting it down. It is at this point that you jump into the river, and go with the flow.

We have limited vision; we can’t see the future; therefore we sometimes have limited dreams. Our plan may sound good, but it just might be less than what we are really capable of. Oprah is a fine example of this. She never would have dreamed that her future would unfold in such a grand manner. God had more in store for her than she had for herself. She did what she could and then she went with the flow.

Right now I’m in the flow with my first novel. I’m doing all that I can do to get it to an agent. I’ve also got some things lined up in case I choose to go with the self-publishing option; although at this moment I’m not ready to do that. There is a little voice inside of me that tries to make me feel anxious about the future of my book. Hell, my little voice doesn’t stop there; it tries to make me feel anxious about everything! But…I’m ignoring that little voice because I’m busy floating on this river.

The point I’m making is this: If life is keeping you guessing, sending you down strange alleyways, or setting up roadblocks, then there is a good chance that life is trying to communicate with you. Keep doing what you need to do, but don’t panic, and don’t push it. When you make decisions from a fearful place you just might end up selling yourself short. Breathe, dance, have a glass of wine, or take up yo-yo surfing! Do anything, but don’t jump ahead of the flow.

Man…I’m awfully teachy today. I must need to hear this stuff;)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charred Confetti

Seeking sleep; the purest form of solitary comfort and escape, you toss, becoming tangled in the bed’s wrinkled accessories, surrendering again to the feelings that direct your mind’s traffic.

It’s been a long conflicted evening. Why do the soul’s deepest queries seem to emerge at bedtime; an aphotic pop quiz, asking the toughest questions at a time when you feel the most depleted and least prepared to answer.

You check the clock and moan. Time is not cooperating; he’s dragging his heavy feet again, puttering and stalling…making you wait. You change positions; kick off the blankets. Your mind stares into itself; a smoky crystal ball conjuring a vision.

Mutinous thoughts congregate like a murder of crows on a tightrope; omens of doom with jagged wings and lethal beaks. Their focused eyes are seeded with evil; they target your most vulnerable places. You try deflecting the attack, but your shield becomes too heavy, allowing the enemy to build momentum. Your mind becomes a movie reel of madness and tragedy taking hostages and burning corpses.

Your eyes snap open. It’s difficult to breathe. Your heart feels too large for your chest; it’s beating too quickly. Is this your heart? Is this your mind? The darkness fills every space like a rising flood of dirty water.

A vibration distracts you from your morbid ruminations. Youthful laughter and the thrumming bass of a stereo pull you back to the palpable. The car passes your house and you listen as the sound slowly dissipates into the endless shadows of the nighttide. You wonder where they’re going, all jacked-up on life, plowing through your phantoms; scattering crows like charred confetti.