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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Last Minute Tree

Art by: Leah Griffith

Last Minute Tree
By: Leah Griffith

I was about eleven when Alberta Hazard, took me along to help her buy a Christmas tree. It was the night before Christmas, pretty late to be buying a tree, but I was excited to go. This would be my first time breaking away from the nest and seeing how other people did Christmas—discovering that our family wasn’t the center of the holiday universe.

Although only eleven, I was Alberta and Rob’s babysitter, and a good one at that. I was old for my age, having no choice but to grow up quickly because of a complicated home life.

The Hazard’s had five kids back in the day when that was considered an average sized litter. They weren’t your conventional family. They had a fully stocked bar that took up their entire dining room and they kept a vicious Doberman named, Ranger, chained up in the kitchen. The children were well behaved, but who wouldn’t be with parents as stern as Alberta and Rob. They were whiskey serious—you could smell it each time they spoke.

Behind the bar Rob kept a leather strap hanging in full sight. The kids said it looked like a long black tongue waiting to give them a licking. It did. I felt bad for the Hazard kids. Their parents were mean, their dog was mean, and they spent most of their little lives on full alert—like deer sensing danger, tiptoeing around, trying not to piss off Rob, Alberta, or the dog.

When Alberta and Rob would leave for the evening, I’d spoil the kids, giving them “horsey” rides, sharing my snacks, and letting them choose which TV shows we watched. They loved the fun, and I felt like a mini god exercising my power of good over evil. That’s why I was excited to be able to have some say in what kind of Christmas tree they had. Their last year’s tree had been a boney disappointment.

Alberta wasn’t a big talker so we walked in silence, leaving me to watch the snow fall and wonder how something so delicate could make such hard crunching noises under my boots.

The guy selling trees was bundled up against wind, standing under a streetlight chewing on a cigar. Alberta spoke first, “Where do you keep the cheap trees?” Her words sounded crude, absent of holiday manners. Mr. Cigar was just as bad, not bothering to answer, but simply nodding his head, directing us to a dark corner where skinny pines roped in twine, were stacked on top of one another, looking more like a pile of hostages than Christmas trees.

I could imagine the flat line of disappointment in the kid’s eyes if we brought home one of those trees. Lord knows I was pretty familiar with that “let down” feeling myself, praying every night that my perverted stepfather would disappear from my life, only to find him at the breakfast table each morning fresh-faced and ready to rule the roost. I piped up, forcing out my words in big steamy breaths, “These trees are pathetic, Alberta. You guys need a pretty tree to go with that nice house of yours.”

There house was nice—on the outside, but on the inside it was as stark as a cell. Alberta wandered over to a “pretty” tree and lifted a branch, meeting it with her nose and sniffing as one sniffs a rose. I held my breath, afraid of breaking the spell. Dropping the bough, she hollered over her shoulder, “What’s this one cost?”

Alberta wasn’t a girly girl, she wore her hair pulled into a tight ponytail, carried a wallet like a dude, and had one eye that traveled, so you were never certain what she was looking at. She jingled the change in her jeans pocket, waiting for an answer.

“Oh that there’s a Blue Spruce, came all the way from Colorado. That one will cost you twelve bucks.”

“Twelve bucks for a tree on Christmas Eve? You’ll be burning them by morning. I’ll give you six.”

The man shuffled over to Alberta, and lit his already smoldering cigar, sucking and puffing, creating such a cloud that his head disappeared altogether.

“I’ll give it to you for eight, but that doesn’t include rope or me helping you tie it to your car.”

Alberta flipped open her wallet and lifted a perfect tenner out, handing it over to Mr. Cigar Face. He snagged the bill and quickly added it to an ample roll of green, handing her back two ones. “You might want to get your husband over here to help you…” But before he could finish his sentence, Alberta had already lifted the tree and was heading out, with me running behind.

It sure was a beauty, with thick fragrant branches, smelling like every kind of holiday happiness a kid could imagine. I took the light end while Alberta held onto the thickest part of the trunk. We made pretty good progress trudging through the snow along Main Street, passing store after store, their windows burning with holiday temptations, until Alberta’s good eye fixed itself on a neon sign, advertising that Archie’s Tavern was open for business on Christmas Eve.

The tree train stopped abruptly with an announcement from Alberta; “We’ll hoist the tree up here in this doorway, and go get a quick night cap. It will be our little secret.” And then she winked at me, sealing my fate as her co-conspirator.

The floor creaked as Alberta led the way through a section of small tables. Heads turned and nodded as she found us seats at the end of the bar. I felt as though I had entered a secret society where serious drinkers, perched like a sullen flock, drowned their troubles in booze. I had to fight the urge to spin on my barstool.

Alberta sipped her whiskey, half listening, as a guy sitting on her other side slur-whispered into her ear. I drank my Coke, glad to be on the end where no one could sit next to me.

A black haired lady in a red sequin dress was busy plunking nickels into the jukebox. Her rump shook to the music like a shimmery lure, drawing a skinny guy from the crowd who pulled her into a slow dance. I strained to focus my eyes, trying to see her face, imagining pretty, but instead finding the face of an old hag fit for handing out poison apples. My stomach twisted as my mind tried to adjust to what it was seeing, and I wondered if she knew what she looked like to everyone else, or if she even cared…if anyone cared. This was a different Christmas.

We made it back to Alberta’s by eight, leaving us plenty of time to decorate. Rob was passed out on the sofa, the kids were in bed, and the only creature stirring was Ranger, licking his bowl clean in the kitchen.

Wilson Pickett’s voice scratched over the hi-fi as we strung lights, and tossed tinsel. We worked like frenzied elves on deadline. Finally finished, Alberta plugged in the tree and shut off the lamp. I had to catch my breath because of the beauty of it—the icy shimmer of Christmas reflected off the tinsel—dancing over everything, including Rob’s sleeping face, transforming their harsh living room in sugar plum softness.

We rushed outside in our stocking feet to catch a glimpse of the tree through the window. It was Rockwellian perfect, fit for a holiday postcard. Alberta smiled at the warm vision she had created, and whispered, "Let's go wake up the kids."

I remember Alberta loading her arms with the three youngest, while I tugged at droopy limbs and whispered, “Come see”. We half-circled the tree, the children’s eyes wide, their voices hushed with wonder.

I could sense the spirit of Christmas standing there with us—the joy, the togetherness, and even though it was temporary, and things would surely go back to normal, Christmas was visiting the Hazard family, waking up little hearts to the message of divine love, and the magic of hope, and change.

The Hazard’s left their tree up until January 22nd that year. Alberta begrudgingly agreed to take it down because Rob said it was a fire hazard. The next two years they had beautiful trees decorated well before Christmas Eve, after that they moved away and I lost track of them.

I like to imagine that the Hazard children grew up and created memorable Christmases for their own families, and that my childlike input on that snowy, tree-buying Christmas Eve, was enough to make a difference for generations of Hazards to come.

It’s always the little things isn’t it?

ELR wishes all our friends a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, and a most Happy New Year.

May the blessings we wish for be the blessings we give.



As a Christmas special, my novel, Cosette’s Tribe, will remain on sale for just 99¢ on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Forever Carded

When a store clerk asks me, “Do you have our rewards card? “ I can never remember if I do or I don’t. So…out comes the over bulging wallet as I sift through the random contents looking for a card that I may or may not have, while the people behind me shuffle and sigh with annoyance. I finally give up; hoping my phone number will work in place of the card. The clerk then tries my home phone, cell phone, old phone number, and ET’s phone number, when all fails she then gives me a disgusted look and swipes her store card so I can get the 3% discount. Good Lord! I should get a reward for enduring the inconvenience and embarrassment of digging for the card …enough with the discount cards!

Some retailers give you the miniature ones to clip onto your key ring, I have eight on mine, and although they are easier to access, I still have to find my keys and then sift through the litter to find the right one. Why can’t they just give me a discount without making me baby-sit a little card for them?

My wallet has to carry my debit/credit cards, pharmacy card, license, auto insurance card, library card, business cards, photos of my beautiful granddaughter, money, ect, this is just my wallet. That wallet then goes into my handbag which is already bulging with other survival supplies, and now my key ring is heavy with ugly little plastic cards instead of cute key ring ornaments.

I feel put upon and abused by retailers and sometimes I find myself fantasizing about making the CEOs’ of these companies dance to a shower of ricocheting bullets for the entire length of time that it takes me to find my rewards card.

This pet peeve of mine was previously posted in 2010 and resurrected in honor of Black Friday and the holiday season. I was hoping by now we would have progressed past the plastic reward card phase. Nope.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Easy as Tiddlywinks

In seeking to write about Thanksgiving I found myself reaching back to the dim corners of yesterday, uncovering a misty vision of “little me” waiting in my crib for Ma to come and fetch me. I was standing on my toes holding onto the rail, bouncing as I begged, calling, but not crying. And then she appeared—wearing a smile as wide as an open window. With out stretched arms she gathered me up, and toted me off. I don’t remember where she took me, perhaps for a diaper change, but I was ecstatic, and if I had had a tail I’d of surely wagged it. I was grateful to have her all to myself—Ma—the beautiful, who ordered my world like a green-stamp goddess, keeping me fed, fresh-faced, and hugged. Always hugged.

Back in my crib days it was as easy as Tiddlywinks to experience gratitude. Today it takes a bit of grown-up focus and plenty of practice, but like the opening of an oyster, the effort often presents luminous rewards.

I hope that you discover enough blessedness within each ordinary moment to ignite blazes of gratitude in your heart, your life, and the lives of those around you.

Happy Thanksgiving my good friends!


P.S. Cosette’s Tribe will remain 99¢ until the end of November! I am extremely close to my goal of 1,000 downloads in November (34 away). Please help me to reach that goal by purchasing from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Is There a Witch Hunt on Childhood?

My magical little niece Ember

This post isn’t going to be one of my usual esoteric romps. This one is more of a rant, but if I don’t let it out I just might explode.

I’m really grateful that I got to be a kid back in the 1960’s before society turned into a neurotic knot of fear. Much of my childhood wasn’t easy, but nevertheless I keep finding more and more sentimental old war stories to brag about, like being force-fed cod liver oil, having to walk to school wearing a dress in sub-zero temperatures, or being allowed to bounce freely around inside a moving vehicle without a seatbelt. Station wagons were my favorite because we got to hang out that big back window and make faces at the cars behind us.

We used an Etch A Sketch instead of a laptop, an Eight Ball instead of the Psychic Network, and rabbit ears instead of cable. At recess we used sticks as play guns and stole first kisses without being expelled and labeled as potential terrorists or sex offenders.

My dog, Chips, a Shepherd mix, followed me everywhere I went back then. When we played touch football my buddies would always toss me the ball knowing that no one would dare come near me because Chips would nip them in the ass. I shared every Hershey bar I ever ate with that dog and she lived to be 14.

Back then it was rare for a kid to be overweight because we were always outside playing, but today, because of poor nutrition and lack of activity, our children's health is seriously at risk. I’m not saying that our parents had it right, or that I don’t believe in protecting our kids, but our parents knew something that I believe this generation has forgotten, and that is how to keep things simple and use common sense.

I feel rather sorry for today’s children because they have unwittingly become the victims of a witch-hunt on childhood triggered by the exaggerated fears of some of the adults sent to protect them. “Jason,” who bit his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and said, “Bang bang!” is not the enemy. Sweet Bella, who stole a kiss from Ben, and then kicked him in the shin, is not the problem. These are not criminals. They are normal kids. Our kids.

The adults creating blanket rules that fail to take into regard the nature of children/childhood are the problem. When we allow fear to take the reins we lose our capacity to think clearly, which in turn affects our ability to use sound judgment—we become part of the problem, forfeiting our sense of community for a updated version of McCarthyism. I mean, what kind of person thinks it is appropriate to report a six-year-old to the law for stealing a kiss? Someone get a life please!

It is said that what we focus on expands. Well, I believe that today’s kids need something positive to focus on before we turn them into small counterparts of our society—fearful hypersensitive little tattle tales. In short—I think this country really needs to lighten up and smarten up. We’re stressing our children out.
We’re turning them into the enemy.




P.S For just 99¢ you can purchase my award winning novel, Cosette's Tribe, on Amazon and B&N! Get it now because there is just one more week left to this sale.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tripping Over Blue

Morning yawns before me
whispering blue
whispering blue

The same hungry bird circles

And there I go again
tripping over blue
tripping over blue

Leah Griffith



P.S. Download Cosette's Tribe on Amazon or Barnes & Noble right now for just 99¢.
You're welcome!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Conjuring Halloween

The thing that I’ve always liked about Halloween is that it temporarily demystifies evil, giving us permission to laugh at, and perhaps even celebrate, the dark side of everything. The common bat with its leathery wings, hyper-flapping against the tranquility of twilight, becomes a prop for hauntings and mayhem as we mimic devils, zombies, and vampires, sucking up their dark powers and using them for sport.

We get to poke fun at our greatest enemy, death, by dressing as ghosts and skeletons, ha-ha-ha-ing the night away, puncturing our fears through with laughter—leaving them in a powerless puddle like deflated lawn ornaments.

As a kid Halloween was a fantasy holiday, not only allowing me to imitate my favorite villain, but also providing a sugary booty, fit to inspire tooth decay and belly aches. What more could a kid ask for? So, in honor of our spookiest holiday I have composed a short poem and also painted a couple of pictures to go with it. I hope they inspire you to smile like a jack-o-lantern as you conjure some of your most memorable Halloween celebrations. I would love for you to share them with me.

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
Leah Griffith

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Daring Soul Gypsies

Photograph by Bruce Dale

I haven’t been blogging lately, because I haven’t really had the energy or the urgency to speak. I’ve been in an "in-between" place of questions and guesses, venturing into the now, with now stories to hold my attention, and now beliefs to cushion the path…just me looking and pondering—asking the big questions: Who am I? Who is God? Why am I here?

I may not be able to define God/Truth, but I recognize it when I see it, for my God/Truth is my own—like the fingerprints of my soul.

Most of the time I believe myself to be lost. Not lost in a forever sense, but momentarily lost in the past or future, my mind jetting me back and forth like Judy Jetson, lost in the crowded cosmos of thought, scanning the written pages, and the crystal future of dreams and dreads to come.

One day I’m a laughing puppeteer—a genius creating situations that suit the sunshine, rolling down soft green hills—a dizzying burst of giggles, bumping into nothing at all because the possibilities are endless!

Another day I believe myself to be a colossal screw-up, stuck between an instinctual urge to soar and my bone snapping insecurities—a loser, measuring a tad lower than the brown water stains snaking along the baseboards of my self-imposed expectations. But this is what you get when you cross deity with dust, a hybrid human being with a propensity for immense error and epic love.

Like a tribe of wide-footed gypsies, my thoughts travel from state to state, carnival to carnival, toting my stories along with them, often convincing me that the fun-house mirror image of me is accurate. “Is that me?” I ask my closest friend. “No”, she says, as she stares at her wavy reflection, sucking in her midsection, trying to correct the uncorrectable. And isn’t that what friends do…remind us of who we are lest we get lost within the chaos of erroneous beliefs and unbridled thinking?

Sometimes, against my better judgment, I’ll mount the Carousel of Remembering, enjoying the sensation of movement, as I travel in small circles. It’s the colors of the carousel, the music and the horses, which bid me to ride, and even though I’ve done it a thousand times before with the same fruitless results, I still fall prey to this temptation, leaving behind my real life for a blurred tour of indistinguishable places and events from the past, creating a hesitation in my life—a lapse in Leah.

Our hesitations often become our limitations, the places in life where we doubt ourselves until we become stale and stuck. What are limits really but fear’s suspenders holding up our insecurities. Bull shit on fear.

So here I am today, a smidge bolder…and hopefully a bit badass too, still sorting things out, but coming to you with my mask off. I used to feel pretty much alone, but now I know that we are all here together—riding and jetting, thinking and being, creating and destroying. We really are daring soul-gypsies, forsaking the familiar for the uncontainable collision of right now. I love that.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Long Halls of The Morning

I’ve been rising early lately, walking the long halls of the morning, not certain where to put myself. My thoughts are what cause me to pace. Invasive little buggers that hijack me on my way to my pre-dawn pee, unsettling murmurs with spikes and spears, finding the softest places in my heart—piercing the pinky folds where wonder, love, and moonbeams are hidden. I never wear my breastplate to bed—that brassy brassiere that guards my heart—I lay it aside in slumber; after all, a girl needs to rest unencumbered by fear.

These early risings have caused my schedule to shift. What I normally do at 10:am I find myself doing by 8, making my day seem like a long train with endless cars rattling by—leaving me waiting for that bright red caboose to end the sentence and lift the gate. Oh wait a minute. That doesn’t sound inspiring at all. It makes life seem like an endurance test of sorts.


Most days rise and fall with events and thoughts, some self-inflicted, some random— the inner and the outer workings of me coming together to create a life consisting of unanswerable questions, nagging have tos, and yes, bliss. Of course the bliss part of my people pie is relatively small—a sliver of sweet aside a platter of boiled liver and cabbage, and somehow I know this is my fault, but hello! I could barely deal with a 17-hour day and now I have 19 hours. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful; but can I really be trusted to carpe diem when I can barely vacuum the carpet?

I’m certain that these early risings have been sent as loving teachers to guide me on yet another divine adventure of how to live joyfully in the moment without judgments and expectations, and I am grateful for everything, no matter how mushy the texture or bitter the taste, but I hope I learn whatever lesson this is quickly.

It just seems I can never get away with anything. It's like my father's the principal or something. Some people skip through life with clean socks and new sneakers, zippidy-doo-da-ing through their day. Why do I always have to have a lesson on something? Oh wait…that goes into the unanswerable questions pile.

Please Universe… send me some fun tests next time, like proving to you that winning the lottery won’t ruin me. I don't mean to whine but I need my sleep!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Giggles Girls and Ghosts

Writing a blog after more than a month is like coming home after a long trip and wondering if the dogs will still remember me. Of course they always remember me, but there is always that sliver of tension between the opening of the front door and the first wag of a happy tail.

As most of you know, I've been traveling for the past month. Over the years so many miles have passed beneath these brave feet of mine, now cracked from wear and time, yet still carrying me to the end and back…and back again, because it never really is the end now is it?

In the past month I’ve kissed soft cheeks, tickled shy toes, checked in with the tribe—the youngest member, my granddaughter, with her sticky hands and determined spirit, reminded me to chill out–have fun and never EVER give up! I like to think that she got that from me, but it’s her mother’s hard-earned tenacity that has seeded within her cotton candy heart.

Trying on hats

And then there were the many sets of eyes—smiling eyes—happy to see me, pulling up a chair deep within my heart, sitting down with me, taking the time to connect. Loving me. Thank you Lano, Kathy, and Ruth.

I’ve met some new faces too. Friendly Facebook faces reaching out to me with long arms — excellent huggers who smell good—Debra and Megan, who up until that point had been comment makers on FB, but were now in a booth at the Laughing Owl with me, sipping cocktails, slowly revealing their sweet selves—getting to know one another was magic!

My friends are my angels.

Beth was with me all along. She usually is. One-shoe two-shoes, we fit with each other like a comfy pair, and I’m more than grateful for her presence in my life. She carried me south to Savannah—she and Alison, a new friend with a quick British wit and a kind heart. We were giggling girls on a road trip, forgetting the have tos and all the bullshit that chokes out the sun.

We stayed with a friend—a pragmatic woman, not given to any bibbidi bobbidi boo. She apologized about the enraged ghost occupying our bedroom, a farmer from the eighteenth century who refuses to let go. She told us the medium couldn’t budge him, and I wonder if this is his face in the photo, mocking my friend as the shutter snapped. I slept with fingers and toes carefully hidden beneath a blanket of false bravado, insisting that ghosts do not exist— yet jumping at the slightest noise.

And here I am now—home. Tucked back into the nest like a speckled chick cuddling with the twigs and feathers, the familiar scent and the softness—feeling a little larger than before I left, perhaps a bit cramped, evidence of my growth over the summer and perhaps the need for a change in digs—and diet;). But I’ll let life flow in that direction on its own as I occupy this nest and this moment.

It’s good to be home.

Monday, July 15, 2013

They Wouldn't Dare Drop Me!

Vacation laundry;)

I know it’s been a while since I last posted a blog. It’s not that I intended to stay away for so long. Let’s just say that life has guided me down some new roads. Roads snaking through bombshells, beauty, and blind corners. I’ve barely had time to catch my breath because of the steady stream of—look at thats!—WTFs!—and could it bes? Yes it could be, and I see it, and here I am trying to write about it.

Like the fizz inside a bottle of Perrier, there is so much going on inside of me that I want to tell you about…but I’m not sure how, so I’ll sum it up with a quick metaphor. You all know how I love metaphors;)

Recently I went on a vacation to Orlando with some friends and we visited The Animal Kingdom in Disney where they have an attraction called Mount Everest. Somehow I allowed my thirty something year-old buddy to talk me into going on this ride with her and her mom. She assured us older gals that it was just a train ride to the top where one could get a panoramic view of the entire park. Okay. I knew we were in trouble when our rickety, half-shell of a bucket seat, clickity click clicked up a seemingly endless ninety-degree incline. We braced ourselves, anticipating a quick plunge down the other side, but what we got instead was a drop backwards into a hot dark tunnel filled with the shattering screams of the newly traumatized. As we continued backwards my stomach began to bubble like a vat of fermented pea soup while little beads of panic dotted my green brow.

I had no idea what was coming next or how long the torment would last, so to keep myself from freaking out I focused myself with self-talk: “It won’t last forever. They wouldn’t dare drop you! You WILL NOT barf.”

And I was right.

I held my lunch and the hell didn’t last too long. Just long enough for me to coin the phrase: “Well scare me shitless and turn me green!”

Susan and me shortly after our ride on Everest. Our gills were still green.

So there you have it. My life (and perhaps yours) is like a roller coaster ride. I’m being thrilled one moment, and terrified the next. I’m learning numerous lessons. One of which is that I am not in control and that the uncertainty of each moment is God.

I’m also seeing some things for the first time. Things I thought I knew but didn’t really. Things about others and myself—freeing things that give me wings, silencing assumptions and judgments, leaving the measurer behind, teaching me what love is and what it is not.

Love doesn’t rise and fall with each emotion, nor does it cling or reject, but stands steady and strong. Love doesn’t blame or run away in fear. It is rugged and abiding and wears practical shoes, always ready for the climb. Love trusts me with the truth—no matter how painful that truth may be, and communicates in a kind and direct manner. Only love is real—and it kicks fear’s ass.

Lately I’ve been moved to make some external changes as well. I’ve quit my lifelong addiction to nicotine and left off drinking my daily round of Diet Coke. I miss them both, but have acquired a new appreciation for Chiclets and slightly sweetened iced-tea. These changes were inspired by nothing more than my desire to have better health, plus I’ll never have to feel the pinch of those annoying FB posts: “Aspartame puts the die in Diet Coke.” LOL!

I’m still painting. My art is very Peter Pan-ish, coming from a place inside of me that believes it can fly. It makes me happy. Thank you Julia Fehrenbacher, my dear friend for inspiring my exploration with paints.

Making Leah happy.

And of course I’m writing my second novel and loving my first, Cosette’s Tribe. As a matter of fact, Karen Wojcik Berner, a gifted author and blogger, nominated Cosette's Tribe for Best Novel, and Best Mainstream Fiction, at the eFestival of Words annual competition! Thank you Karen!

If you’d like to vote for Cosette’s Tribe you can do so below. First you need to complete the initial registration. After you submit, there's a “What’s your zip code” message trying to get you to sign up for additional offers. The best way to get around this is to close the page and relaunch the link to vote. Be sure to vote in both categories. Thanks so much for your support!!

Click here Then click on Awards Hall and vote both categories.

I guess that’s it for now. Consider this a “catch up” blog. I have a feeling my blogging is going to be a bit scant for the rest of the summer as I shall be traveling in August. I will check in, but in the meanwhile give me a shout out and let me know how your summer is going. And remember to kick fear’s ass because only love is real!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surrender to Your Nakedness

I’ve kept clear of writing lately opting instead to dip my brush into tiny puddles of primaries and pastels. It’s not that I haven’t felt the urge to write, but rather I’ve grown tired of my own words. For me writing is a reflective vocation where my words spell out the contents of my heart. If my heart is heavy, my words are heavy, and quite frankly I’ve been in such a state of introspection lately that my writing has become an extension of this self absorbed circuitry.

This negative energy has been trying to drain me of my strength and pallor for some time now, so when my friend, Julia suggested that I splash my life with color; I jumped right in. Actually she made me take up painting as a homework assignment for her Getting Naked Class, that I attend. The class has been huge help in pointing the way to the things that really matter. So thank you Julia for giving me an artistic nudge.

This morning I’m writing because I miss it and I’m hoping to discover some tiny treasures, perhaps a clue as to how to navigate beyond the limited default settings of my mind to a place of freedom and intelligence, a place where the past is tucked in and understood and doesn’t rule the day. A place where the future needn’t mirror the past but holds infinite possibilities and endless surprises. I want to be rid of all the senseless gloom and doom and skip off into the land of perpetual tra la las.

By making the writer paint I’ve stepped off of my predictable path. My artwork is childlike and two-dimensional, bespeaking naivety and a clear lack of formal training, yet it is honest and untainted by the measuring madness of the ego or the shortsightedness of ambition. Painting, when I’m not certain how to paint, has taught me that control is an illusion, as are security, perfection, and time, and that I need only be myself—my rag-tag, bedraggled, silly, somewhat gullible, grumpy, and overly-deep self in order to be happy. I am enough.

Surrendering to this truth is like stripping naked in a fabulous boutique. The silks linens and cottons call to me from the racks, but I must remain naked until I’m certain that I’m not using the clothing as a form of disguise or surrogate security. I must surrender to my nakedness as surely as the evening must surrender to dawn, spring to summer, autumn to the callous cold of winter, and finally life itself must surrender, like a startled zebra seized by the committed jaw of a lioness, to the relentless grip of death.

I am convinced that until I can consistently determine the difference between the conditioned voices of yesterday and the compassionate and intuitive words of today…right now, I will continue to get trapped within the webby inertia of identity-dementia, and waste my days looking backwards for the road ahead.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Transcendent Tango

In recognition of the close of Poetry Month I have revised an old poem I wrote. I'm dedicating it to April, a pretty month, honoring her devotion to hope, awakenings, and vibrant new beginnings.

Transcendent Tango

The sky is a moody companion
driving calm white billows
into foamy currents over blue
piercing thunderous cliffs
with jagged lines of silver
and sending the sun into exile.

I skip.
Not really.
But I have the mind to
for the wind has revived the fallen leaves
who thought their days had ended,
yet now believe themselves to be graceful birds,
with preened feathers
and focused beaks
slicing through the air like winged messengers
eager to tell the tales of love.

I long to keep up with them.
But no.
I reserve my energy
and watch
as my quickened spirit takes flight
twirling with the resurrection.

All are present
yet there are no witnesses
to this transcendent tango
bequeathed by wasted poets
teased by passion's hallowed flames.

Dip me my immortal
kiss the white line of my neck.
Visit me
till evening bows in sated surrender
and morning sings anew.

Leah Griffith

An April offering.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Transitions, Shifts, and Bed-Ins

For the last few months I’ve been enjoying a morning routine of slow awakenings—opening my eyes gradually then pushing myself into an upright position, propping a wall of warm pillows behind my back—viewing the day as a patient would from a sick bed, although I’m not sick at all, but rather in a place of transitions and ponderings. I wonder if our transitions should be allowed the same pampering offered to the sick, after all, transitions require quite a bit of adjustment and mettle. Actually failure to transition smoothly often results in all manner of ailments and mental collapses.

This winter I decided to make some changes, in order to help myself adjust to other changes, by staging a bed-in (sort of like John and Yoko’s) only with mine lasting just an hour or two each morning. Normally by springtime I would have headed out to the lanai to sit with the sunrise, and I have done that a few times, but this year most mornings beckon me back inside to gather and fluff—lingering in the nest with my coffee, cushioned by a drowsy gentleness with no sharp corners to navigate.

What is this transitioning? What does it matter, for life is a dedicated series of changes and shifts teaching us the freedom of detachment and the wisdom of uncertainty…over and over again. Each of us must faceoff with the great illusion of permanency and control—that tug-o-war between deity and flesh, and finally come to a place of surrender, where we discover the contented flow of life.

I used to leap from bed with the boldness of a bullet, but lately I’m not so daring. It’s been a bumpy year and I’ve seen what a day can do, so I solicit Divinity’s help before my bare feet have a chance to hit the cold tile floor, beginning my day with an hour of reading from an eclectic selection of inspirational writings (It’s amazing how a well-ordered dose of words can secure a shaky soul,) and then I take an amateurish stab at meditation, ending with a meaningful exchange with Spirit. After this, depending on the day, I laze for a little while and write…or simply be.

I’ve found bed to be a sensible place to transition, but it’s also great for other things, like engaging in intimate phone chats with best friends, doing my nails, not to mention escaping the world altogether by watching several episodes of Downton Abbey. I can pay my bills from bed; write a review, text a friend, exercise (leg lifts, crunches, and the subtle, but all important, kegel exercises), or invite family members in. As a matter of fact if I’m not careful I could easily become addicted to living in bed.

One day last month I stayed in bed till 2pm. My oldest daughter had slept over and in the morning she crawled in with me where we spent half the day chatting, playing with the dogs (I have very small dogs) photo’ing the dogs playing together, photo’ing each other’s morning faces, eating, leaning into each other tee-pee style while watching a movie on my 7” tablet—experiencing routine activities with great novelty from the perspective of our little nest.

I like the fact that I can go straight from bed to the shower without having to put on “morning clothes”. Morning clothes are the things I grab to keep myself covered while I do my morning routine; they are usually dirty, mismatched or ripped. If I stay in bed long enough I can eliminate the need for morning clothes and go directly from sleepwear (a wife-beater and undies) to daywear—properly cleaned and coordinated outfits with shoes and accessories.

Another benefit of hopping back into bed is that I don’t have to answer the door. “I was in bed.” Is always a legitimate reason for avoiding early morning visits from wide-eyed neighbors. Of course they may judge me as lazy, but who gives a chit. It’s my life.

Why the change? Like I said, I’m accommodating a transition. My life has shifted—and it is speaking to me. I need to listen. I need to marinate in the things that really matter in order to hear and see beyond the glaring illusions of fear and lack, which our world so steadily promotes. I’ve discovered that the things, which scream the loudest, are very often not real at all, but clever distractions drawing my attention away from the things that genuinely require my care. So, I’m doing this because I need it, and because I deserve this special time of catching up with myself. Who knows how long my schedule will allow for these easy mornings, so I intend to luxuriate in them like a hot bubble bath…until the last bubble pops and the bathwater grows cold.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Caught With My Pants Down

A disquieting thought visited me last night while I was in the bathroom with my defenses down — along with my pants. In my mind's eye I saw a quick flash of a bottomless pit producing some pretty scary echoes (Believe me it was much worse than it sounds.).

I bravely closed my eyes as the image melted away and I came face to face with a silent wall of nothingness — that place of pure potentiality, where both terror and love await conception. By thinking good thoughts I chose love, and chased the terrifying darkness away — mixing it with light until it became as blond as a cup of tea with milk.

It really is that simple. Each moment we must choose between love and fear. Love sets us upon a white stallion and transports us to a place of security and light, while fear arrests us with our pants down around our ankles and hauls us off to the dark wastelands of dread and despair.

The biggest epiphany I’ve had of late is the fact that happiness is a choice, and that thoughts are the doorway to both heaven and hell. Oh I knew this before — sort of, but it didn’t stop me from issuing my mind excessive hall passes, permitting it the mischievous liberty to create all sorts of chaos in my life. I underestimated the ability of thoughts to create concrete reality and overestimated my skills of discernment, for negativity often comes dressed in all manner of loveliness.

Be warned: Hall pass = hell pass. Period!

And why am I carrying this subject forward for your consideration? Because the older I get the more I have to say and the shorter the amount of time I have to say it in. If possible, I want to save you some trouble by sharing my lessons. So there it is.

I have to admit that the older I get the better the coffee tastes in the morning and the funnier the irony of life seems. I mean it’s evident that I’m going to die, we all will, only because of my age I’ll probably go a bit sooner than some of you, so what is there to really fear? Actually, I’ve had more belly laughs over the last three months than I’ve had in ten years. Perhaps it’s just me choosing to laugh instead of cry like when I choose happiness instead of fear. After all, I can hardly change what is, and I refuse to allow circumstances to defeat me.

Or maybe I finally get it — that a certain part of life is to be kept at arm’s length, viewed as a stage of progression, rather than a judgment against myself, lest I judge incorrectly, and carry the needless pain of my shortcomings on my back forever.

Our days fly by like the fanning pages of a novel creating a steady blur of events — our own unique stories. Life is indeed fleeting — a few short years measured against eternity’s looming stature, leaving us to figure out life’s great mysteries — the why of it all. And to leave our marks — the love we gave, that fertile seed amidst the junkyard of stuff that we’ve accumulated.

Do yourself a favor and choose happiness. Life is too precious to waste by living in fear.

Temple’s Spire
By: Leah Griffith
I thought I’d live a bigger life
of sweeping landscapes speeding by,
and neon wonders twinkling bright
against a starless urban sky.

An up-close view of all that is
the searching of the sea and more,
each grain of sand,
each polished shell,
whose chambers whisper to the shore.

I thought I climb a castle’s tower,
and punctuate through guarded clouds,
favored with the highest views,
through secret doors concealed from crowds.

All this I’d hoped and much much more,
for words cannot justice give,
the longings of a woman’s heart,
where limits part and hope begins.

Three score and ten—little more,
the gods have counted out our days,
pursued by dragons spewing fire,
and warmed by love’s contented blaze.

The best of years now lag behind,
when muscles answered each demand,
and clear minds snapped with fresh ideas,
ready with a perfect hand.

But now the needle’s eye has closed,
the hand unsteady takes its time,
The castle on the hill afar,
stands flawless in my shrouded mind.

And what remains
is mine to own,
the gold, the dross, the love, the dire;
the journey inward has outrun,
the swiftest feet to temple’s spire.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lean Into The Blade

How is it that the most powerful moments—the life-shifting events of epic significance—seem to offer the bloodiest, most repulsive, run like hell away if you can, lessons? Yet one can rarely run from the big-screen reality being played front center, where you are cast as both the adored leading lady and the despised villain. So is the way of the well-intentioned life…day after day, sunrise-to-sunrise—messy, in your face, LIFE.

Do you suppose that maybe God sets up our lessons? I can see him; sitting in his director’s chair with his glasses perched low on his nose, “Okay, this is where she finds something very special. Cue something very special. And…action!”

Oddly enough this serendipitous meeting with “something very special” is just the catalyst needed to trigger an avalanche of happenings—all timely, some breathtaking, and some excruciatingly painful, so painful in fact, that you have moments of believing that death would be a blessed relief.

And what does God say when you’re about to bleed out? He says, “Lean into the blade my child. That’s right. Feel the cut of it; welcome the gurgling panic of your ego as it sinks beneath the ruby flow, releasing its deceptive control over your mind.

In the remote wastelands of your soul, not a drop of blood is squandered nor a bitter tear ignored. Pain, a most ferocious lover, will be waiting to drive you deeply into reality where you will finally discover that the solution you so desperately sought dwells within the very heart of your problem.

So weep until all dross is purged, leaving only the sparkle of your uncorrupted Spirit’s smile—Love, ever waiting to escort you back to yourself.”

Today’s lesson: Never seek happiness outside of yourself for to do so is to say, “I am not enough.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oooo! Oooo! Oooo!

Teacher: “Okay class, put down your pens. We're going to have an oral pop quiz! Who can define the meaning of living an authentic life?”

Oooo! Oooo! Oooo! I feel like a kid raising my hand with the right answer. When I get full of something you know it’s going to overflow into my writing. So, here goes….

I am my authentic self and I am living an authentic life. It’s a funny term when you think of it…authentic self, authentic life. Like we’ve been offering our bodies as hosts to alien spirits. But in a way it’s true. Emotional pain can cause us to morph into damaged versions of ourselves. It can begin at a young age, and without even realizing it we can live in this state for most of our lives, often wearing a mask to hide our pain.

Or maybe we do realize that we’re feeling “off” and we commit to working on ourselves, making good progress, but then a strategic situation is placed before us to test our growth, the stakes seem higher than ever before, and we do alright for a season, but when the situation moves outside of our control, we freak out, reverting back to our unhealthy thought tracts—responding from a place of panic and desperation, until we no longer recognize ourselves. Where the hell did the real me go?

I can see myself walking into a busy pawnshop and telling the clerk that I want to pawn myself. Would he pull out a loop and look for a signature? Do a scratch test for carats? I can hear him saying, “Sorry lady, but you’re not authentic. You’re a rather sloppy copy of the rare and beautiful Leah Griffith.”

Huh? When did this happen? How could this happen? Was I the victim of a highly sophisticated heist?

If only it were that easy to detect when we’ve lost ourselves. The term authentic self may be a bit overused but the message remains mighty: You are rare and valuable. There is only one of you, and once you allow life’s circumstances to distract and overpower you, you are no longer free to be yourself. You’re living in, and acting from, a state of fear and bondage.

We mostly tie ourselves up in knots and then blame it on other people, emotionally framing them so as to shine the spotlight of suspicion elsewhere. Of course we don’t do this consciously; it’s the ego at work behind the scenes, protecting its fragile empire of half-truths, fears, and delusions in order to get its way and remain blameless and in charge. You may say, “But they wronged me! How is that tying myself up in knots?” Well, believe it or not, you gave them the rope (the power) when you placed too much importance on their roll in your life. By doing so you placed them on the throne and relinquished your power. They may not even be aware that you’ve given them your power. Or perhaps you gave your power away to drugs or alcohol. And why did you do this? Because deep down you held the erroneous belief that something outside of yourself was capable of making you happier than you ever could.

Oh Dorothy, when will you learn that you have always held the power for a happy life?

Here’s a good question: How does one go about taking back their power?

We lose our power one compromise at a time. Gaining back our power is pretty straightforward—but also a lifelong exercise. You must believe that you are a complete person possessing everything you need, both spiritually and emotionally, to live the amazing life placed before you. You must remind yourself of this every day, and when trials come you must remind yourself even more often. Of course you should welcome, love, and appreciate, the people in your life, but you mustn’t ever override your own instincts or convictions out of fear of rousing their anger or being rejected. Be brave enough to love and support yourself and quit comparing yourself to others.

Here’s the really good part about being authentic. Once you take your power back you can then use it to forgive yourself—for abandonment. Yup. You abandoned yourself. Not on purpose of course. But lets say as a child (before you had the emotional maturity to protect yourself) a parent did desert you, and then you carried that rejection into your adult life. You danced to the old tapes for years; never moving beyond the belief that you were not quite enough…something vital was missing. But now as an adult you are able to see that it is impossible to truly be abandoned by another person because only the inhabitant of a dwelling has the power of abandonment. The Free Dictionary’s
definition of abandoned is: unoccupied, empty, deserted, vacant, derelict and uninhabited. So you see, you would have to vacate (abandon) yourself in order for another person to move in. Only you can abandon yourself and give your power away to someone or something else.

Another way to use your reclaimed power is to forgive those people who have hurt you. Now that you have your power back you can see clearly that the other person was simply acting from his or her own limited view of self and life. You can stop measuring and judging them and freely offer them unconditional love. This is a divine love. Not one based on ego, (as long as they make me feel good, or agree with me, I’ll love them) but based on self-love and self-respect, both of which are divine qualities.

Being our authentic selves means fully inhabiting our lives—living from the inside out rather than the outside in, responding to life from a place of love instead of fear, and then offering the world our authenticity instead of our egos. It’s a nail-biting endeavor guaranteed to humble and test, but for those who want to live a powerful life, saturated with creativity and love, there is no substitute.

Okay, enough of my teachy mode. You do realize when I dole this chit out it’s only because I am learning it myself;)

Have I told you lately how glad I am that you’re here with me?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Next Big Thing!

My Next Big Thing!

Laine Cunningham, recipient of two national awards for her novel, Message Stick, tagged me for a blog hop called “My Next Big Thing.” Laine posted on her current project, Buy Light and Purple Blooms. Check out her full blog post by clicking here.

Everyone in the blog hop answered ten questions about their latest projects. Laine’s describes Buy Light and Purple Blooms as a women’s thriller. "That is, the story is primarily a woman’s story yet it has some of the same elements as thrillers."

At the bottom of this post, you’ll see the writers I’ve tagged so far. I will be adding more writers throughout the month of January. Hop along to read about more great plans in the works!

My next big thing is a continuation of my first novel, Cosette’s Tribe. Readers have fallen in love with young Cosette and are craving more. I originally intended to write a continuation on the story so I guess this means that both author and reader are on the same page.

Here are the questions:
1. What is the working title of your book or project?

This book is a continuation of my first novel, Cosette’s Tribe. It remains untitled so far but I have a few ideas.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?

The readers of Cosette’s Tribe have become quite invested in her outcome with many requests for a sequel. I had originally intended to write two books about Cosette, her early years and her life as an adult. This book starts when she is 14. I’m still not certain where it will end.

3. What genre does it fall under, if any?

It could fall under many genres, but the most obvious would be literary fiction. It is a coming of age story, which could also fall under general fiction or women’s fiction.

4. If applicable, whom would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

I know very few young actresses so I guess it would be best to leave this to the casting agents.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?

Desperate to leave an abusive home life, 14 year-old Cosette challenges the world, risking everything to find the answers to life’s most critical questions.

6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?

Although seeking an agent’s representation, I am very comfortable with self-publishing this project.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I am still working on the first draft. So far I have invested a little over a year on this project.

8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?

This Boy’s Life, an adaptation to a memoir of the same name by Tobias Wolff, has a similar nitty-gritty vibe and flow as Cosette’s story. I can’t think of a story within the genre of fiction that I would compare my project to.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?

I have been carrying this story with me my entire life. Much of it is inspired by my experiences as a teen.

10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?

The setting takes place in a small New England city back in the 1960s-70s. Readers have expressed an intense emotional investment in book one, Cosette’s Tribe, stating that it takes them back to the streets of their own youth. This project, book two, will challenge readers to believe in the magic of serendipity and experience, as they bite their nails down to the quick, hoping for things to turn out well for young Cosette.

Leah Griffith's novel, Cosette’s Tribe, is now available on Amazon, B&N, and also offering signed copies from here.

Laine Cunningham:
Author of several books
Publishing Consultant
Quoted on CNN and Media Bistro
Winner of five national awards
Visit Laine’s blog here.

Laine’s latest book, Seven Sisters is available on Amazon now!

Marie Nikodem Loerzel will be posting after her return from travel next week. Visit Marie’s blog, Rock The Kasbah here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Little Bird Saves Woman!

Okay, 2012 sort of kicked my butt. Yes. It was a stern teacher springing pop quizzes on my unsuspecting soul, re-teaching me things I thought I had already learned, only to discover that I had acquired a sturdy mental assent on theory but the lessons hadn’t completely made it to my heart. Like a strategist leaning over a map, pushing little red pins into cardboard mountains, I hovered over my kingdom, protecting and projecting, paying no attention at all to the massive gift from the Trojans being rolled into my foyer.

I had paused at a place of mature complacency, mistaking it for experience, so when this particular quiz was placed in front of me again I had no fear of failing it. It was familiar, and although it contained some of the more difficult questions on life, I was somewhat eager to wear out a pencil or two with my clever answers.

What I hadn’t counted on were the trick questions, and the touchy language being used (with many words having more than one meaning) to convey the questions. Being a somewhat direct person I took the questions at face value, answering straightforwardly. I was overly confident, imagining my certificate of competency hanging smugly above my desk. But then I noticed that things weren’t adding up. I used the old formula when calculating the answers, but it wasn’t working. It had been years since I’d used this method; I figured I had forgotten a step or two. Should I subtract or carry over? Bah!

I was tempted to raise my hand in question, but the administrator had left the classroom, leaving a curvaceous hourglass to mark time, spilling away the sandy hours grain by grain in agonizing silence.

It wasn’t fair. The rules were arbitrary and ruthless, independent of earthly reason. One would have to be God to know the answers or at least a clairvoyant. I revisited the history of the quiz, when it was last given, my mental and emotional status at the time, and noticed that the last time this test was given I was fifteen and sorely disadvantaged. My adolescent perception was that I had lost all when I failed this exam. I carried this loss with me throughout my adult life. I lived in loss, ate in loss, and loved in loss.

Like an amputee, I learned how to do everything with a missing limb. The compensation became normal. I was an accomplished amputee. What more could be expected of me? I was proud of myself. I did well.

But here I was again, trying to pass the same damn test, figuring that with all these years of experience I would pass the exam without having to raise a brow or scratch out a notion. But I was wrong. Once again I’d become ensnared and was facing years, possibly the rest of my life, as a double amputee, for no doubt, I would lose another limb or perhaps even my heart this time.

I was determined to save myself from such a fate and find enough of the answers to earn a passing grade. A “C” or even a “D” would suffice. This went on for many months and then one day, while fretting over the exam, I became distracted by a bird resting on a branch outside my window. The bird was grey with black markings on his head and wings. He flitted along a thin branch, perching at last on a woody finger pointing heavenward and singing as he preened himself into a chubby puff. With the sun cast behind him he darkened into an animated silhouette, a singing shadow, causing me to forget his feathery details, enchanted instead by his sulky transformation and the simple melody of his chirps.

Laying my pencil aside, I left the room and found a soft place in the yard where I could be closer to this happy bird. Closing my eyes, I welcomed his song into my being; evicting the testy tenant with the tricky questions from my mind, along with his convincing rhetoric that I was not enough…I needed something more to complete me.

It was in that moment that I felt an inner peace lifting my soul above my thoughts…a restorative reward for pausing. Basking in this satisfying surge of life I vowed to monitor my thoughts more closely, and not be so quick to believe their dark tales. I could feel the rhythm, the oneness of all creation flowing through me, helping me to grasp the reality that indeed all things serve my path, (whether dark or light) including this current test, for which I shall no doubt receive an endless “A” for, acquiesce.

It may take the rest of my life for me to master this seemingly simple lesson. For the lesson isn’t without but within. The situations may change from year to year but the message remains the same: Be Present. Receive Love. Give Love.

Who’d a thought that a little bird could save me?

I’m sending this amazing love out to all of my dear friends today. May you find courage when faced with life’s many trials and may the truth of your lessons carry you to freedom throughout 2013 and beyond.