Announcement:

Welcome to my world. On the other pages of this site you will find everything you want to know about my writing.

On this page, you will find me.

This blog is not writing-centric, but rather, where I express whatever, whenever. Sometimes there will be writing announcements, but most of the time just me. Enjoy!

Paper Dolls

paperdollToo much death lately.

First it was my nana. Nana was tough. Is still tough some days. Then we lost a women I once called Ma who’s son I never married but who’s grandchildren I used to plan in swirling hearts on school notebooks—I still don’t know what to call her twenty-five years after her son and I broke up. (What the hell do you call the mother of your first love, whose house you basically lived in for several years? I haven’t even seen her since we unexpectedly buried one of the gang fifteen years ago.) And now…now my aunt Jean.

They come in threes. I can be done now, right?

I told you about Nana. I started a blog about Ma B, but I can’t figure out what to feel, let alone say. My aunt, though? Shock. Tears… followed by the numbness of denial, then on to anger, and back to tears, all happened in the span of the phone call from my mother Saturday. I spent the rest of the day just trying to absorb the reality, bombarded with memories.

As I sit here, in the stillness of insomnia’s hours, I am realizing now how lucky I was to spend as much time with family as I did when I was growing up. I had sleepovers with Aunt Jean much like I did Nana. And the strongest memories of her and Uncle Jim are from those times, not just the visits. While there are many memories, there’s one that seems to jump up and yell for attention, repeatedly haunting me throughout the weekend. The paper dolls.

See, my aunt gave my sister and I paper dolls to play with. For those who don’t remember or just don’t know, these are thin cardboard cut-out figures in underwear with tabbed clothes you hang on the body (see picture). My first attempt to over-analyze why this memory seemed so needy was the innocence of it. We used to actually play with paper. No cell phones, iPads, Xbox or internet. Paper. There’s something about generational innocence there that seems to want to be said, but doesn’t really need to be, because everyone knows it, gets it, sees it. It just is. Times change, entertainment changes, blah blah change. So I let that analysis fade away and went back to the memory itself.

My aunt didn’t just hand them to us and walk away. They weren’t something to occupy us. They were something to do with us, to broaden our imagination, and explore our artistic side. She gave us the dolls and clothes, but then she pulled out paper, and colored pencils (I remember her having to sharpen those over and over with a knife—ah the old days), and sat with us. She showed us how to make our own tabbed wardrobes. We spent hours doing this, on many sleepovers, for several years. I remember thinking how artistic we were for getting to use the colored pencils instead of crayons. I remember tracing the dolls and designing—from clothes to shoes to even the hair, we could dress them up fancy or down to earth, give them blond hair or brunette, hanging down, in a pony or under a hat. We could change their appearance, and with it, the two dimensional illusion of personality, wants, desires, hobbies and habits.

And that’s where the little analyst in my head jumped on board and latched on.

Paper dolls were an introduction to the various masks we would wear throughout our life. We were just learning to put them on something else first, before testing the waters with our own naked selves. As we grow and evolve, our fashion changes, our outward appearance changes, our public attitude and persona change. What we show the world is nothing more than a tabbed piece of paper, lovingly cut out of our imagination and hung precariously from our shoulders. Some outfits we keep until they yellow with age or get torn or lost in the mix of things. Others we try out and shed as quickly as a new divorcee plays dress-up to find herself in the lost pieces of wardrobe. But they’re all just that, outward appearance. The paper doll underneath remains naked, fragile, vulnerable to the elements of time.

I’m going to miss my aunt horribly. For so many reasons. She was the record keeper for our lineage (the last blood gypsy of her generation), the maker of paper dolls and sharpener of colored pencils, and a champion of the arts (she was a rosemaling master, and her eldest an artist). And as is with all who pass on, I will cherish the memories, and take from them the lessons they offer…

Which, in this case, means I need to make new outfits for my paper doll self. I need a knife to sharpen the colored pencils, and with that, maybe a band-aid.

 

Beyond the Sidewalk

sidewalk

There is no quote today. Only me. And I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve had a lot of heavy thoughts lately, as I analyze and over-analyze my life, my decisions, my actions—midlife consideration, as I’m calling it, rather than crisis. As such, the way true consequences work, my blog may or may not be as heavy, clouded, jumbled, deep, or murky as my mind has been, but well, there it is… you’ve been warned.

When I was five years old, I watched King Kong with my friend Billy. Billy, and his sister Trina, lived kitty-corner from us in a quaint little neighborhood filled with tiny one-family homes and brownstone buildings sporting anywhere from two to four families. It was a nice neighborhood—houses lined up like pretty maids all in a row—in a time when the world may not have been much safer than it is now, but we perceived it as such because the news didn’t report on every single atrocity happening around us for the sake of shock value, by career-climbing newsmen who were more ambitious than judicious, hired by the unwieldy number of stations focused only on ratings. My memories are that of a child. I remember pretty little maids, with nice yards, friendly faces, and a feeling of community and safety—where a kid could fall off their bike, get hurt, and stop at any neighbor’s house for help without worrying about being buried in the basement with the other hapless souls who had wandered by.

Inside that child’s memory is Billy. And King Kong. After we watched the movie, we went out to play in the yard—because that’s what kids used to do. And while he had his arms out in front of him ala The Mummy, slowly stalking my sad impersonation of Fay Wray, I was backing up to get away from his supposedly menacing monkey. I tripped on a piece of sidewalk that had broken and buckled, like the one in the picture, and fell straight back onto my head, with a loud crack and an echoing bounce I still remember. Long story short, I cut the back of my head wide open and ended up with several stitches (ask me for the long story sometime at a con, it’s fun and includes gems like blood vs sweat, freaking out babysitters for fun and profit, and ruining mom’s day out with the girls).

Over the years, I’ve thought about Billy and Trina—specifically the day of King Kong for Billy, and an unfortunate tanning experience because of Trina. But this is about King Kong, and that sidewalk… that damn sidewalk.

The sidewalk is a magical thing when you think about it. It’s the first boundary we need to cross as children. When we’re finally allowed to play outside by ourselves, no mommy watching our every move and chasing us away from the dangers of the street, we are told to “stay in the yard.” And we do. Dutifully most of the time. Our initial foray to the sidewalk is the (still present in my life, always) chalk that let us express ourselves in fits of proud glory until the rains washed away our hard work. We didn’t cry when our hard work was erased, because we didn’t see the downside. We saw the clean slate and cheered because we’d get to fill it with the colors of our imagination all over again. Then we used the sidewalk to tackle and master the great and terrible vehicle of doom that would become our lives until sixteen allowed for four wheels instead of two—the almighty bicycle (yeah, banana seats!). Even then we were told to stay on the sidewalk (or driveway if you had one), but absolutely no going into the street. Eventually, we were allowed to roam past it, to go beyond that magical sidewalk. At which point, the sidewalk became a boundary again only when we found ourselves in trouble and were grounded back to the yard. Back within the confines of that cold gray slab which marked our home turf. Our safety zone.

We started with that sidewalk, but as we grew, we strove to go beyond other boundaries. To reach out and stretch our legs, taking strides—sometimes small, sometimes giant—to push on and go forth. To explore and adventure. We left the safety of the neighborhood and went to school. We finished that and moved out to find our own sidewalks. Some stayed close to the unforgiving cement they were comfortable with, others took the chance to run, either chasing their dreams or looking for them. Some left their hometown and find new sidewalks. Some left the state just to see if there are sidewalks elsewhere.

Every time we crossed the sidewalk, real or metaphorical, we experienced life. Good and bad. We saw amazing things, we met new people, we made incredible memories, we survived horrible tragedies—those no one warned us of, as well as those we had to learn for ourselves, even though we’d been warned, repeatedly—and we learned the varying degrees of disappointment as it balanced against achievement. Life is not a smooth piece of glass we walk along. It’s a sidewalk—full of cracked slabs, raised pieces waiting to trip you, and weeds desperately poking through any weaknesses along the way.

They say you can never go home again, and it’s true. Home isn’t the same once you’ve been beyond the sidewalk, but the yearning to return to its safety is very real. When we’re up, we call home and share our excitement. When we’re down, we think of going back and hiding behind the boundaries we knew… but outgrew. We can’t go back. It’s not the same. It may look like it, but it’s not. Not once you look past the fresh paint and new street signs. Not once you walk down that familiar sidewalk to the exact spot that became your first scar only to find the sidewalk isn’t buckled anymore. It’s been replaced. It’s no longer yours. It belongs to a new generation who doesn’t even know your blood was spilled there.

I suppose it’s the mature thing to fully realize the meaning behind “you can’t go home again.” It’s good to be at a point where you understand exactly why, and accept that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just change. Change happens.

So here I am, not quite awake on my first cup of coffee, listening to the birds chirp as the world wakes up around me. And I find myself sitting on my steps looking out at the sidewalk. I’m thinking back over all the sidewalks I’ve crossed. All the porches and steps I’ve sat on before crossing them, or after. I’m cataloging all the lessons and losses, dreams and disappointments, smiles and scars. And it all becomes a swirl of doubt, leaving me to ponder whether I should have crossed the sidewalk and gone exploring in the first place. It has become a question of whether or not all that wonderment was worth all the wounds.

My older self thinks of the welcoming smells of mom’s kitchen, the safety of her stoop, the fact that I always have and always will sleep best under her roof. But I know, I know, “you can’t go home again.”  I accept that and swim in a little lake of self-pity for a bit, feeling lost as I stare at my coffee. Lately, I feel like I’m floating aimlessly, treading water, unsure if it’s toward shore or away from it. And when I look up to the sidewalk again, I can see the younger me, standing there with her long waves made darker by the streak of blood running down the center of them. And I remember. She didn’t curse the sidewalk that tripped her. She didn’t try and step back inside the boundaries of the grass. She stood up, wiped her face—mixing tears and blood into something that would dry and be labelled determination—and took a brave step forward.

I have a full box of chalk, a handful of band-aids, and a lot more sidewalks to cross. Whether I cross them or not, only time will tell…

 

 

 

Everywhere…

typewriterheadEvery writer is asked: Where do you get your ideas?
Quick answer: Everywhere…

The longer answer is: anything we may read, hear, see, a combination of them, or a completely warped version of them based on either playing the “what if” game or letting our muse naturally twist their reality into something we call fiction to keep the white coats away. *whew* (ideas and the muse are always run-on, editing fixes that in the prose!) Or just, you know, our random thoughts.

A prime example of the simple ideas: sitting in an airport for more than an hour people watching, or simply reading the news.

More complicated twists of reality come from a place deep inside us. A place the medical profession would like to dub with some terminology—if not a diagnosis—treat with drugs we can’t pronounce, and call us sick and unusual. But really? When each writer on the planet is capable of doing it, is it really all that unusual? Who’s to say we’re not the normal ones and there’s something wrong with all of you?

Nevermind. I know we’re the crazy ones. I just wanted to see if I could either a. say that with a straight face, b. get any of you to believe it.

Why do I know we’re (or at least me) the crazy ones? Because this happened:

I talk to myself. All the time. Always have. I don’t know if it’s part of my writer mind or just my own personal psychosis, but I do. A lot. This morning, as I rambled on about nothing while getting ready for the dayjob, an innocent (sort of) comment from my own mouth twisted on the way out and hung in the air around me. But let me back up and let you watch it happen…

First, I talked myself through several outfit changes (convincing myself I looked great in something, only to change out of it). I babbled to no one but the girl in the mirror (who in all seriousness really makes me angry some days, but that’s a different blog) while I attempted to tame the locks I consider unruly but many girls actually pay to perm just this way. And then I kept myself verbal company while doing my makeup. Now I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so as you can imagine, that was a pretty short conversation. But that’s where the magical spark happened.

“Hmmm… pale lips. Always with the pale pathetic stupid colorless lips. Need color. What shade? Something light. Not actual ‘look at me’ whore red or anything, just a little bump of color. Enough for the coroner to notice.”

Really? Where’d that last part come from? What the hell happened to me that made that a completely natural thing to say? Mom? Is there something I’m not remembering?!

I accepted the comment as normal for me and went on about my morning with a strange smile—almost pleased with my crazy. I put on the silver pieces, grabbed lunch & the laptop, and hit the road. But before I reached my exit, thirteen minutes later, I realized I hadn’t heard a single thing on the radio during the drive. I was too busy letting the muse twist that comment into an entire storyline. Poor Maggie. She’s not necessarily blue* and she’s definitely not out of lipstick*… but she’s got a path coming into view through the trees that will not be any fun at all…

THAT is where story ideas come from =)

 

* and that is how you sneak in a few pimps for other writers =) Go ahead, mouse over the links, click, check ‘em out!

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Photos attached to my blogs are the property of their owners -- some mine, some found online. If your image is here and you want it down, let me know. If you don't mind, thank you for the borrow =)