Spoliers, Alert!

So is my life’s work “getting to the point” after teaching others to do so for three decades? This question alone took more than 15 minutes to get to and itself was interrupted by, “No!!! Don’t drag your butt across the carpet!”

This is perhaps all our work – not getting lost in the details while navigating our stories within The Story which it would appear to be, this morning in particular, irrefutably, The Story of Real Love – in all its messy, but uninterrupted and unstoppable Glory. And that, my friends, is at the beating core of the gospel’s mission-critical message – forgiveness.

Now this may not seem to be news but it struck me this morning so inescapably that I couldn’t sleep on it once it was revealed. In fact, it seemed to be my draft / daft card so here I am, enlisting in the holiest of all Holy Wars, yet again though now intentionally, and inviting you to join me in the inch by inch battle against the enemy within.

If there is no enemy within, the enemy without

can do you no harm.

Nigerian Proverb

In a search for the origin of the above proverb which I have embraced and shared through the duration of my academic career, I am introduced to this blogger, Doyin Owoniyi, who asks, “could there be passions which we harbor which spin us around into a contention with ourselves?”

And it is this question that brings me to the painful awareness that it has taken me one hour, 58 minutes, and a lifetime to write this blogpost after getting out of bed before dawn on a holiday only to write a thank you note to Tyler Perry and realized I was up in time for the Proverbs 31’s online bible study I signed up for five weeks ago only to be interrupted first, by a sleepy five year old and then two loyals who, once our little girl was afoot, would not remain silent in their kennel for jealousy’s sake.

Perhaps the detours and distractions ARE the journey. At this, my heart races. I take another sip of my now room temperature coffee, another bite of the fig bar I grabbed in lieu of breakfast, and another, finding my way back to forgiveness and the inescapable and interminable relay for which I have enlisted having been drafted before I was born.

Move over, Keymaker. And shut the front door!

And there it is. The Keymaker was a voluntary exile because he refused to go to The Source when he knew he would be deleted. Well. If the key fits, my friends…

We Don’t Tell Stories As They Are…

“We tell them as we are.” I’d not heard this variation before. I’d always heard Anais Nin quoted thusly:

We don’t see the world as it is but as we are.

Anais Nin

And I’d treasured its inescapable truth as a compass through life’s trials. Until the pandemic. Rather until 10 months into a global pandemic during which I was quarantined with a four-year-old. My four-year-old. Until then I’d simply shrugged my shoulders in resignation and gotten on with each day to the best of my ability. But when this version slipped into my mailbox at the top of The Pause newsletter it stopped me in my sleep-deprived tracks. After all, I teach the unpacking of stories and forbid students’ use of Reader Response literary criticism precisely because I know how thick our personal lenses are. And yet, for all I know of the distortions of memory and the interference of the subconscious, I had not quite considered this truth as precisely as it appears in black and white above. What to do.

Better yet, how do I parent given the interference of my own experience of being parented with the present challenges of parenting without portfolio, owner’s manual, or childhood fantasies of what raising a child of my own might look and feel like? I’ve told myself countless times that I will read The Body Keeps The Score. I will read The Connected Child. I will not scream. I will not be anxious. And I’ve failed time and time again hiding behind work, medical appointments, half-hearted attempts to de-clutter and reparent. Turns out I’m made of clay and need more help than I have been able to ask for or imagine. Yet, I know that faith without works is dead. Guess the inescapable truth remains. As my SFDM Kat said, “Guess it’s time to #double-up“.

Flash Fiction Challenge

A Seattle writers group offered simple guidelines to the Las Vegas InterNations membership – write 250 words or less using the phrase “look over my shoulder”. 

One fist under the pillow, the other clutching the sheet above her head, Elle was not a member of the impartial mothers’ club as she clearly preferred the micro-massage of her Terrier Chihuahua’s paws along her back to the forced intimacy of the 60-lb Vizslador. She sighed knowing that working remotely as a member of the faculty and being a single mother to a preschooler within spitting distance of retirement barely qualified as first-world problems. To her mind, they were problems nonetheless. Yet even the passing Christian that she was knew enough to be grateful for another day above ground, global pandemic notwithstanding.

Casting caution and fur babies to the wind, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and made a mental note to unlock the gate for pest control. Breakfast would be a no-brainer. She’d made her first cheesecake in the Instant Pot the night before and given The Boss’s sugar addiction, would have no problem selling the idea. The day was already showing promise. The Boss was still asleep. She had time to nuke some turkey bacon but remembered she’d made the last batch two days earlier. She’d add it to her digital shopping cart. Opening the door, she heard something in the gravel but saw no commercial truck in the driveway. Do I go in and wake a sleeping child or do I continue toward the noise? With a look over her shoulder, she took a deep breath and closed the door.

Dear Jesus

Was it the relationship or clamoring masses that drove you to the wilderness and mountaintop to pray? I suspect it was either your hard-wiring or both. My urgency is cloaked in the distractions of ubiquitous clutter, a pre-schooler’s needs, and snarling dogs competing for my attention. To read a single chapter of the Bible I have to ignore the scratching at my bedroom door, endure the idiot bells in children’s media, and make do with room temperature coffee as no more than two consecutive sips are ever enjoyed without interruption. Even then, it is only by your grace that I notice the goings on outside my window.

a hummingbird

no more than three inches tall

in the mesquite tree

Dear Nanowrimo

False starts and fitful endings are par for the course in any writing life. And that’s precisely the point of this post, to remind you, me, and the four walls that writing is a marathon, not a sprint and one’s writing must be reconciled to the arc of a lifetime a single moment at a time whether it be haiku, flash fiction, or Millennial Rex.

So, Nanowrimo, take that! It’s off to the races once more and again I intend to hang on for the ride.

Satan Picked the Wrong Saint

It was early in my second tour of graduate school. I’d applied and been accepted because as a dear friend suggested, when life gets complicated, don’t simplify. At the time it made a kind of sense since everything in the recent past had officially fallen apart and where else does one go when you can’t go home if not to school. Money had been in short supply and this particular month I had enough money to either pay for the low-budget hotel room or eat during the weekend-long class. I’d borrowed enough money to purchase the air shuttle ticket so I could attend class if nothing else.

At the time I was a member of a faith community that fasted every Wednesday and so I thought two days without food back to back wouldn’t be a stretch. A classmate had offered to pick me up at the airport and drop me to the hotel each month and the hotel was within walking distance of campus so I didn’t need cab fare. The only trouble was that this time, since I would be paying for the hotel in cash, a deposit was required and that meant I wouldn’t have enough money for the second night. As I considered the limited options, tears threatened. Seeing the sense of defeat spread from my face to my shoulders, the desk attendant suggested that perhaps I knew someone who could use their credit card for the security deposit. I responded that my parents were out of the country and that my sister with a credit card was traveling for an interview. But I would try.

I paid for the night, leaving the cash deposit, and took the elevator up to my room. As it was early afternoon, the curtains were drawn against the afternoon sun. Opening the door, a shaft of light divided the room. The effect was startling and it must’ve jogged something in my cell memory because I felt a kind of electricity run the length of my spine and I straightened the way, ’round the way’ girls do as they take of their hoops, spoiling for a fight. 

Into the darkness I spoke with authority over my situation, Satan picked the wrong Saint. And to this day, I remember hearing what sounded like a wounded dog retreat along the balcony. Tears swallowed, I wheeled my carry-on to the closet, turned on the light over the vanity, and looked through my wallet once again. This time, a gift card for Marie Callendar’s revealed itself. It had been given to me as a housewarming gift the month prior when I’d sent out a few invitations that included BYOC – the C standing for chair. Jehovah Jireh had made a way for me to rent a condominium I couldn’t qualify for and in which I’d spent the first week sleeping on the floor. But that’s another testimony. As far as this one is concerned, let’s just say Marie Callendar’s was the one restaurant on property, and I graduated, on schedule, despite countless other attacks of the enemy. 

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death…” 

Revelation 12:10-11

Why Blame O’Henry?

Though blaming dead white guys is trending and, it should be noted that many of them have earned it, this is not an attempt to jump on that bandwagon. It is merely my attempt to connect the dots of a circuitous life in linear fashion in an effort to explain the inexplicable and feel better about myself at the expense of someone who cannot defend himself. And mind you, I am fully aware that there is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, the English teacher who introduced me to short stories including that penned by the offending and titular O’Henry, and the boarding school where I attended and he taught have their share in this all too familiar tale of woe and should by rights pay their share of restitution and apology. Onward.

Life is full of suffering, sorrow and missed opportunity. Take for instance the serial comma missing after the word sorrow in the preceding sentence. I left it out intentionally. I feel commas before conjunctions are superfluous and the language, at least punctuation, too fluid for my tastes and those who inserted it after I left school are too idle for their own good or ours. But a further example from my “one wild and precious life“, Mary Oliver, would be the fact that just when I am on the precipice of accepting the toddler in my foster care “for better or worse, till death do us part”, I am quite cognizant that the remote (and therefore likely) possibility exists that at next month’s hearing, two weeks shy of a year of white nights and dark days, (actually, by comparison, I won the lottery, she was easy lifting except for her exceptional size) she could be remanded to the custody of one or the other of her parents.

How do I know this? For starters, and knowing is entirely separate and apart from the chorus sung during ten weeks’ foster licensing class of don’t count your chickens before they hatch – aka don’t delude yourself into thinking the first child you foster will be the one you adopt. I recall distinctly that just before they (not my daughter’s parents) broke up, I had a dream in which I found my former boyfriend’s then-current girlfriend beautiful. She had been introduced to me as a model at which time I had sneered and given her the disapproving once-over internally. In any case, he reached me in the final month of grad school with the news, came to drive me and my cats back across the country and we were married shortly thereafter despite the evidence, near-literal writing on the wall, that surfaced during a meditation class I took as the wedding date approached in which I, in my windswept, seaside bungalow stood barefoot, wearing salmon capris and a coral colored tee-shirt, tying a bowtie on my fiancé who was wearing a tuxedo. Hint: I was preparing him for a wedding – not joining him at ours.

lastleafAltruism, though a field of interest, is not my hobby. It is the result of my religious and academic conditioning, and perhaps one way to explain teaching at community colleges for more than two decades. Enter, O’Henry.

I submit to you that, were it not for that impassioned reading of the tragic tale of self-sacrifice I was subjected to at the susceptible age of a seventh or eighth-grader – so far away from home at boarding school, I too, would have been free to ignore the overwhelming need of the 400,000 children in care nationwide (30,00 in Nevada alone) to become the long-lived artist curmudgeon I was destined by genetic predisposition and sensitive introvert‘s temperament to become. I mean ten years ago when I was volunteering as a cuddler at the UMC NICU fostering to adopt might have made sense. In fact, in hindsight, it still seems like it was a good idea for someone just leaning in to middle age. But now?