Category Archives: Personal

Let America Be America Again

A young man born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902, inspired by the blues and his own experience, wrote the poem “Let America Be America Again.”

Today, we hear men and women, young and old, yelling at us about what America should be. They tell us to Make America Great Again. Make America Smart Again. Make America Kind Again.

Yet, fifty years after his death, it is Mr. Langston Hughes whose words speak loudest to me.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967


From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

a real life love poem

Roses are red, violets are blue

sugar is sweet and addictive

and love is too.

it’s sunny Sunday driving,

an orgasmic late afternoon,

it’s endless frustration, but for

a life lived over the moon.

it is patience and silence when

harsh words come to mind,

its my favorite home-cooked meal when

the world has not been kind.

love is easy in the good times

but those don’t last forever

love is compromise and sacrifice,

choosing us over me in this ever

changing world

continuing to choose us

choosing not to get upset

choosing to trust.

love is knowing he’ll be there

him knowing i will too

knowing the kid will never question

love means i’m here for you.

{GuestBlog} A Letter to the Democratic Party

Dear Senators,

I am a lifelong Democrat. I worked for Barrack and I worked for Hillary. I abhor what Donald Trump stands for and I am willing to work against his Muslim Ban and any other violation of our basic rights and freedoms as Americans.
That being said, he is now the President of the United States and I love this country and I do not believe that two wrongs make a right.
I fully believe that what Senator McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate did in refusing to execute their constitutional duty to hold hearings on the affirmation of Merrick Garland as a Justice of the Supreme Court was a heinous breach of ethics.
I think that if the Senate Democrats follow the same course it will be the same heinous breach of their constitutional duty.
We seem to be on the verge of splitting in half as a country. In my life I have never seen such devision and anger.
We need to find common ground and we need to treat each other with respect and someone has to start it.
There is no chance for peace on earth unless there is peace in the United States and I would desperately like to see us move in that direction.
Life’s too short and it’s actually a very small world. The future of this planet for our children and our children’s children depends on what we do today.
Let’s build a coalition that works to heal wounds not create new ones.
Let’s be the champions of justice and freedom that our forefathers envisioned so many years ago.
So that in the words of Abraham Lincoln: This nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal, will not perish from the face of the Earth.

Sincerely,

Richard Groden

 

#prouddaughter Continue reading {GuestBlog} A Letter to the Democratic Party

Portrait of a Mother

I am not perfect, but I believe my child is.

I will never tire of watching him try new things.

I simply cannot believe my eyes when he does something on his own that he has never been shown how to do by me.

My heart races from frustration to longing to rage to utter and complete satisfaction, pride, and boundless love in seconds. Most days are a long battle between them.

Fear can creep slowly like a tickle in my throat that turns into the plague or it can spark and spread like wildfire in a millisecond.

My child’s grin can make every other being and object of matter in the universe disappear.

His laughter rings in my ears like the most harmonious bell.

Watching him play and learn and laughing with his father brings tears to my eyes.

Watching him adore my parents and grandparents and brother and sister is the epitome of joy.

Keeping calm while a seemingly drunk tiny psychopath screams irrationally at me for the eighth time in a day is the most difficult task I have ever been appointed to.

Trying to rationalize with a toddler is absolutely pointless, but I do it to make myself feel better when I resort to distraction and bribery.

Crying to other moms is sometimes the only solution.

Screaming at the father of my child is often both entirely irrational and necessary.

Poop is not taboo here. There is poop everywhere, all the time.

There is literally no TMI left.

Wanting to go out and rage and make bad decisions is a fleeting thought after his bedtime between a shower and PJs.

Coffee is only there for the placebo affect by now, but I will curse anyone who tries to take it away.

Sleeping in past 7am is ecstasy.

Someone else cleaning my house is a luxury sent from heaven above.

Snacks and naps make for happy children, damn anyone who intentionally gets in the way of either.

I do sometimes loathe my life and this tiny perfect human that I created.

I have never known love like this, and it makes me better all the time.

I am raising a human that I grew and birthed, for nothing, by choice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.

There she is. . .
The one who loves too hard, feels too deeply, asks too often, desires too much.
There she is taking up too much space, with her laughter, her curves, her honesty.
Her presence is as tall as a tree, as wide as a mountain. Her energy occupies every crevice of the room.
There she is causing a ruckus with her persistent wanting. She desires too much happiness, too much alone time, too much pleasure. She’ll go through brimstone, murky river, and hellfire to get it. She’ll risk all to quell the longings of her heart and body. This makes her dangerous.
She is dangerous.
And there she goes, making people think too much, feel too much, swoon too much. She with her authentic prose and a self-assuredness in the way she carries herself. She with her belly laughs and her insatiable appetite and her proneness to fiery passion.
Too loud, too vibrant, too honest, too emotional, too smart, too intense, too pretty, too difficult, too sensitive, too wild, too intimidating, too successful, too fat, too strong, too political, too joyous, too needy—too much.
She should simmer down a bit, be taken down a couple notches.
Someone should put her in her place.
Here I am. . . with my too-tender heart and my too-much emotions.
A hedonist, feminist, pleasure seeker, empath.
I want a lot—justice, sincerity, intimacy, actualization, respect, to be seen, to be understood, your undivided attention, and all of your promises to be kept.
I’ve been called high maintenance because I want what I want, and intimidating because of the space I occupy. I’ve been called selfish because I am self-loving. I’ve been called a witch because I know how to heal.
And still, I want and I feel and I ask and I risk and I take the air that fills my lungs.
I must.
We are so afraid, terrified of her big presence, of the way she commands respect and wields the truth. We shame her for her wanting, for her passion.
And still. . . she thrives.
She is me, she is you, and she is loving that she’s finally, finally getting some airtime.
If you’ve ever been called “too much,” or “too emotional,” or “bitchy,” or “stuck up,”. . . I implore you to embrace all that you are—all of your depth, all of your vastness; to not hold yourself in, and to never abandon yourself, your bigness, your radiance.
Forget everything you’ve heard—your too much-ness is a gift; oh yes, one that can heal, incite, liberate, and cut straight to the heart of things.
Do not be afraid of this gift, and let no one shy you away from it. Your too much-ness is magic, is medicine. It can change the world.
Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.
Make your waves, fan your flames, give us chills.
Please, rise.
We need you.
**** this is an edited version of author Ev’Yan Whitney’s work. I took the liberty of my own emphases, like she told me too. Thank you, Ms. Whitney, and right back at you.

Times They Are A Changin’

I have been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan lately. It began with the award of his Nobel Prize in Literature. I have always loved Bob Dylan for his words. That he makes them into music only makes it better for me. I have always considered him one of my favorite poets so i was confused by the negative backlash towards the announcement. Yes, i understand why writers want writers and poets want poets. Why women wanted a woman to win. We champion our own kind, it’s natural, we associate with them. We know the challenges, the hours put in, the sleepless nights, the feelings poured into and the feelings put aside, in order to create the labor of love that is writing. But didn’t Dylan do all of that?
Then, Hillary Clinton lost the Presidency to Donald Trump. I needed more Dylan. A lot more Dylan. No time for vinyls. Just Bob Dylan on digital repeat.
“For the loser now will be later to win,” Dylan said.
And he might as well have been talking about Trump. The president-elect’s message was clear. His actions on camera, repeatedly, leave no room for doubt. He does not respect women, immigrants, the disabled, he does not respect himself, in my opinion, and he doesn’t respect seemingly anyone else. He is a loser, and now he has won. Dylan also wrote that, “I was taught and brought up, to the laws to abide. That the land that I live in, has God on its side.” And likewise was I. So, I will accept this President just like Dylan said to, bravely.
Now, today is Veteran’s Day. Which makes me think of my grandfather and so many heroes who fought and still fight through dark, dark hours for human rights and the end of tyranny, to beat the nazis and towards steps that allowed women to get the vote in the middle east. Today’s home front though, it calls for new heroes. Our blacks feel their lives don’t matter. Our women feel like second class citizens. Our immigrants feel the door will soon be slammed behind them. Our muslims feel terrified of religious persecution. Our Native Americans are fucking furious, rightfully, 500 years later.
We must salute the troops and their families and deeply honor their sacrifices. And we must push for a future where we can still make a difference in human rights around the world. We can start by fighting for them here at home. These times they are changing.
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A Second Chance

Jamal slammed his car door shut. He looked down through the tinted window at the resume sitting on the seat and shook his head. He kicked his tire and regretted it as he walked heavily up the stairs to his apartment, the pounding in his head now matched by the throbbing in his toe.

He stopped at the front door to compose himself. “Tomorrow will be better,” he thought, but the bitterness lingered. He put the key into the lock and tried once again to shake the resentment that had followed him out of the interview and all the way home.

“Hi, daddy!” Dee ran to meet him at the door. The four-year-old ball of joy threw herself into his arms.

“Hi, sugar!” he said scooping her up and kissing his little girl all the way into the kitchen. “Hi, baby.” He set Dee down and wrapped his arms around his wife. She smiled warmly.

“Did you have a good day?” Cassie asked leaning into him. She had one hand flat on his lapel, the other on the stove, both of her eyes right on his, their daughter danced at their feet.

“Yeah,” he said breezily, his eyes communicating that he didn’t get the job, hers saying she was sorry. He sat down at the kitchen table and Dee climbed onto his knee. “So how was your day?” he asked, smiling into his daughter’s eyes.

“I unna get a baby,” she said proudly.

“You’re going to get a what?”

“I unna get a baby!” she said loudly. She jumped off his knee and ran back into her room to play with her dolls.

“That girl she adores at school, Sandra, her mom is pregnant. They’re all excited about the new baby.” She leaned on the doorframe of the small kitchen watching him. He took off his tie.

“I was so qualified,” he started. He unbuttoned his top two buttons, then rested his hands on his knees and let his head fall. “Cassie, the guy looked at me like I was a day laborer,” he said meeting her eyes.

“I’m so sorry,” she said somberly, “you can’t let people like that get you down.”

“I know,” he said rising to set the table, “Where’s Chris?”

“He went out,” she said turning back to the kitchen.

“He’s barely ever here,” he said taking plates out of the cabinet, “and I don’t like those friends of his. Every time I try to talk to him he gets attitude and tells me I’m not his father.”

“You’re not,” she said taking the chicken out of the oven and bumping into the silverware drawer he had left open. She closed it with her hip. “You are his big brother. Chris loves you. He just wants your respect.”

“Yeah and he’d get it if he did something respectable. Have you seen the size of the T-shirts he wears lately? They could fit Biggie Smalls.” She laughed. “I’ll try to talk to him tonight,” he said putting the broccoli on the table. “More like a big brother,” he mocked.

“He’s just a kid,” she said, “he’s mad at the world right now because it took his parents. You are all he has, be good to him.”

“Do you ever get tired of being right?” He asked. She shook her head smiling. He kissed her holding her face in his hands.

“Dee Dee,” he called, smiling. “Come to dinner.”

 

*          *          *

 

“The cluuuub went crazyyyy,” Jackie sang loudly, “the way she shake that ass sho’ amaze me. Come on,” she said laughing, pulling Tasha onto the dance floor.

The music in the club was loud, the dance floor packed. The two ladies wound their hips, tossed their hair, and shook their asses for that song and many to follow. Jackie fanned herself dramatically and mouthed, “So hot.” They were sweating profusely. Jackie stepped up to the bar and made eyes at a boy and then turned to Tasha embarrassed, smiling widely. Tasha looked around the bar for a man worth making eyes at.

It had been some time since either of the two friends had gone out. Tasha had left her job just two weeks before, after being hired at a significantly better firm. She felt like she had just ended a long possessive relationship. She had been looking forward to going out since Jackie called her earlier that week. On Monday, Jackie had finally gotten the promotion that she had been promised practically two years earlier. She left her son with his grandma for the night in order to celebrate.

Six years ago Jackie and Tasha were just two freshmen at community college who had both signed up for a black appreciation class. They left class together that first day laughing about the red-eyed Rasta’s, the Malcolm X’s in training, and the granola eating white kids that made up the class. They were both ambitious, level headed, and intelligent, and had been close friends ever since. Jackie was there to remind Tasha of her dreams as she worked her way through law school at night, while slaving away for an unappreciative lawyer by day. Tasha had been there for Jackie while she worked and went to school all the way through her pregnancy, and then more than ever when Jackie found the nerve to take her baby and leave his no-good father. They were both finally happy with their lives. Tonight they celebrated that.

“Cheers,” Tasha said holding up her martini, “to us.”

“To us!” Jackie grinned tapping her glass.

The two friends laughed and drank and danced some more. Eventually the exhaustion set in and they decided to go. They stepped out of the club giggling into the cold and stumbled across the sidewalk to catch a cab.

Tasha saw a group of guys coming up fast on her right. She saw a black 9mm and time stopped. The street was eerily quiet. She could hear her heart pounding in her chest. There were no puffs of breath in the darkness before her. She saw Jackie’s frightened eyes and pulled her to the ground. Another gang crossed the street towards them. She saw their hardened faces, the one in front yelling and waving his piece in the air. Lights blurred, the noise came back loudly and abruptly, and reality settled gravely over her.

Tasha squeezing Jackie’s hand dragging her backwards across the freezing sidewalk until they were flat against the building behind them. They held each other as if it meant they could hold onto their lives. The reckless teenagers pulled guns as if they were playing with toys. “This is real,” Tasha thought, “this is life or death.” She could not believe the wasted youth displayed in front of her. Her mouth was dry but she wanted to scream. She had never felt so alive, or so powerless. Jackie’s eyes were squeezed shut, her mouth was moving, and Tasha knew she was praying.

Tasha’s eyes were wide open. She stared at the kid in front. Suddenly everything slowed down again as he looked right at her. His eyes met hers and silence surrounded her. His face changed. He looked soft. She knew he didn’t want to be there. She saw him look down at Jackie and then back up into her pleading eyes. She wanted to grab him and shake him, push him against the wall and throw his gun in the gutter. She tried to hold onto his eyes for as long as she could but she could feel time speeding up again. The silence broke.

A shot was fired and sirens cried out. Jackie shrieked, the sirens screamed louder, and Tasha threw her hands over Jackie’s head pulling it down and covered her own head with her arms. When she felt safe enough, she peeked over her arms. The hoodlums had scattered. She took her hands off her friend’s head slowly.

Both women stared wide-eyed at the body left lying in the street. The cops were taping off the area and the crowd had shifted from ducking on the floor to standing on the curb. The people watched solemnly mumbling the words “wasteful” and “useless.” Tasha wondered when things had gone so incredibly wrong.

Jackie collapsed into her lap, tears streaming down her face. Her mouth was open in a wide cry but there was no sound coming out. Tasha rubbed her back staring forward blankly. She couldn’t shake the image of the gun or the boy’s sorrowful eyes. Her breath was short, and difficult. She had been laughing innocently one second and impending death the next. Her freedom had been taken from her so invasively, momentarily. She was appalled at the display of wasted life. The women sat curled around each other on the dirty sidewalk in the winter moonlight, their lives shining in a startling new light.

 

*          *          *

 

Chris’s hands shook as he unlocked the door. His heart beat down into his gut, banging against the iron drum sitting in his stomach. He opened the door and his brother stood staring at him. He thought he might be sick.

“What’s wrong?” Jamal asked, fearing the answer.

“Nothing,” he said automatically.

Chris looked down at the carpet wondering how he had let it get this far. He couldn’t shake the sight of that woman’s eyes. He never wanted to hurt anyone. He wanted to go to college. She looked at him begging to be spared. She feared for her life.

“I can’t do it anymore,” he said and with the words a tear let loose down his dark cheek.

“Do what?” Jamal asked putting his arm around him and guiding him to the couch. Chris’s thoughts swirled and a lump blocked words from coming out of his mouth. He met his brother’s eyes, tears now rolling down Chris’s cheeks.

He pulled a gun out of his pants and took out the clip, his hands shaking so badly that it rattled against the table as he put it down. Jamal couldn’t believe his eyes. Cassie and Dee flew through his mind and in that instant he considered throwing his little orphaned brother out on the street.

“Chris,” he said quietly, “what did you do?”

“I don’t know,” Chris said sobbing into his hands. Jamal took a deep breath and exhaled trying to focus on anything except the Glock sitting on his coffee table. “I don’t want to die.” Chris said looking up into his brother’s scared eyes, “I want to live. I want to make you proud, to make Dad proud.”

“Chris,” Jamal said gripping his little brother’s shoulder harshly, “who gave you that?” Chris stared blankly. “Do the people who gave you that know where you live?” He shook his head no, sniffing and wiping his face on his undershirt. “OK, listen to me. I know they aren’t going to like you walking away, but you have to. You’ll get your ass kicked pretty bad.” He said still gripping his shoulder, but compassionately. “Have you seen anyone else walk away?” Chris nodded. “Did he live?” He nodded again. “Ok, then, it will be ok.”

Jamal sighed. He took his hand off Chris’s shoulder and placed his clenched fists in his lap. He wanted to throw him through the wall for bringing a gun into his home. He fought the urge to lay his brother out right there.

“I’ll walk away,” Chris said plainly.

“How could you do this?!” Jamal asked standing. He shouted quietly through clenched teeth. “You think I’m out there busting my ass, like generations of people before you, fighting for our rights as human beings, so that you can act like some ignorant fool running around like guns don’t kill people?” A vein was popping out of his forehead and his eyes were looking down hatefully at his little brother, “You think Dad got the shit kicked out of him by cops fighting for your freedom so you could hand it back to them?” Chris shook his head. “You think having that makes you free?!” Jamal asked pointing at the gun with intensity.

“No,” he said softly.

“By picking up that gun you’re throwing away your rights. You are throwing away your life. Do you want to be a statistic? You want to be the next black kid killed by a white cop? Do you want to rot away in prison!?” Jamal took a breath and lowered his voice. “Do you want to be the reason that people in the United States Senate think black abortions will reduce crime?”

“No,” he said standing, “Give me a second chance. I want to make a difference. I want to make things better.”

Jamal grabbed his brother and pulled him close. He wrapped his arms around him and breathed heavily into his shoulder.

“You know the thing about second chances,” Jamal said holding each side of his brothers face, his voice raw emotion, “you only get one.”

It was a cold clear night. The radiator smelled of burnt dust. The moon was almost full, and it shone down on them through slits in the blinds. Jamal’s eyes were closed. He held his brother tightly. Chris sobbed into his brother’s shoulder. He couldn’t shake the image of the brother left lying in the street, and how he would never get a second chance.

 

Writer’s note

I wrote this story in 2007 for a Black History Month Contest at Broward College. I won, and when I showed up to receive the award, they were shocked that I was white. They hadn’t meant to pick a white person. But I hadn’t ever meant to be white. The thing about race is, no one gets to choose. We are each just people, hopefully trying to do the best with what we’ve got, maybe we get lucky, maybe we don’t. We’re all human.

I dug up this story, because I am so shocked at the behavior of Donald and of his supporters and so many American people that I know and love. I have not been able to word an essay that doesn’t make me hateful as well, and that is not what I want. This story is an appeal. Black lives matter. Women’s pussys matter. Make your vote count.

loving change, for a change

we say we don’t have seasons in miami, but we do. they are slight and they are lovely, and yesterday was our first fall day. the beach was windy and almost too cool, if not for the eager sunshine. lying on a thin blanket, my face hidden from stray drops of sea flying off the white caps through the wind, my toes hanging off the edge of the blanket digging happily in the warm, sun-baked sand, my soul reaching through the blanket and into the earth, thankful, for once, for change.
it is the best kind of beach day. it is the most serious we get around here. the reggaeton is drowned out by the waves pounding the sand and the party people picnic without overhearing. the change in the air is tangible. facing the roaring atlantic on a day like that with your eyes on the edge of the earth, and your body warmed by it, you feel grounded. it was a refreshing, glorious day that i was happy to spend with my dear friends, equally in need of a recharge. 

happy fall everyone. may the cool air warm your soul. 

Chapter 63

The greatest man I have ever known raised me to be a dreamer. He taught me to ask not what my country could do for me, but to strive to do good for all mankind, including questioning authority, indignity, and every day bullies. He showed me the power of my voice and the sanctity of silence. He instilled in me the toughness I would need for life’s many trials, and made certain I would be present and feel all the feels. He let me see him cry when tears were all he could muster. He dances when the music moves him, without a shred of thought to whether anyone is watching. He raised me to know my own strength and to nurture it, but to understand that love is a better weapon against any enemy. He taught me to sing when I’m scared, because the sharks can smell fear. I still whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m afraid, and I still run to him. I’m lucky enough to have had my dad in my corner every step of the way. He is a champion of the underdog, a true humanitarian. He uses the force. He believes that good will always defeat evil, and I believe him. If that was the one gift he had given me, that would have been enough, but my life has been showered with his wisdoms and those of so many righteous wordsmiths before him. Today, I celebrate his birth with a magnitude of respect, gratitude, love and light. Shine on you crazy diamond, here’s to Chapter 63.

Dear Future Daughter

“If I have a daughter one day,
I hope she is a million other things
Before beautiful.
I hope when her feet
Hit the ground in the morning,
The earth vibrates
Announcing her presence.
I hope she treats others
With dignity and respect.
I hope they treat her the same.
I hope she refuses to back down
When someone challenges her beliefs.
I hope she knows
The impact of hard work
And the importance of rest.
I hope she cares more
About what’s in her head
Than what’s on it.
I hope she knows how it feels
To love extraordinarily
And to be loved right back.
I hope she is passionate.
I hope she is kind.
When she meets these expectations,
Beauty will shine
From every pore in her body
And every word that falls from her lips.”

i don’t know who wrote this, but I couldn’t write it better.

Things I Did and Did Not Do Today

It has been such a very long time since I posted here with any sort of consistency. I would like to try to remedy that, and first, I thought I would shed some light as to why I’ve been busy.

Don’t call it a comeback.

Things I did today:

  1. I woke up at 6am with a 13-month-old child who is cutting his molars. (god help us both).
  2. I baked my first homemade pumpkin pie, from scratch, and the crust was slightly overdone but the pie is perfect.
  3. I toasted fresh pumpkin seeds.
  4. I made pumpkin purée for my little love. He ate all of two bites before a tantrum that ended the meal.
  5. I nursed my wild, curious, oh-so-swift son after he climbed to the top of his stroller and promptly tipped it over onto his face earning his first black eye.
  6. I ate all of the previously mentioned pumpkin seeds.

Things I did not do today:

  1. I did not cry.
  2. I did not eat the entire pie.

And for that I will call today a win.

Happy Fall! 🎃🍂🍁🌾

Ten Things I Learned in 2015

 

1. You can give yourself away entirely and still be yourself entirely.

2. Women have infinite strength and patience.

3. Hormones play a brilliant and sadistic role in the function of human females, and test the strength and patience of their partners.

4. No matter how destroyed your body feels or looks, it can restore itself.

5. Consistent lack of sleep turns the human brain into a vast land of perplexity.

6. Sugar is sometimes the problem, and sometimes the solution.

7. Song can be stronger than pain.

8. Wine and a salt bath can make all the screaming and back pain dissolve.

9. It takes less energy to forgive and breathe than to hold on to anger or pain.

10. The harder life gets, the better the rewards feel.

 

best year ever

 

Here’s to 2016. Let it be full of peace and love.

 

.

Oh, Baby: From Boobs to Breast Feeding

I was a late bloomer. Still all eyes and ears and braces well into eighth grade. By the time I got to high school I’d at least lost the metal mouth, but my chest size and height had yet to catch up. It took the rest of those four years for me to grow into the five feet and seven inches that I stand at today. But it took freshman year of college and the late night mac and cheese with real butter and Steak and Shake runs with all kinds of animal fats that my hippie mother just never cooked for me, in order for my full size C-cups to show up. With them came all kinds of positive (read negative) attention from all sorts of boys and girls and men.

It was an interesting introspective developing an ample chest as an eighteen year old. I had spent years in a tight little athletic body, and I knew what it was like for boys to look at me. But now, there were boys and men who didn’t just look, they stared like they had x-ray vision, or hoped they might develop it if they looked hard enough. This ogling has never really stopped, and it hasn’t mattered whether I choose to wear a low-cut tank top or a turtleneck – the boobs are there, so they stare.

Then, I got pregnant. My C’s went to D’s and the stares were ever there, more than ever maybe, because now even my friends were paying attention. My belly grew and grew, and grew some more. Finally, my chest was no longer the focus of attention. I liked that. It felt good to walk through the turnpike rest stop and not just have old men and acne covered teenagers staring south of my face, but to have children and women too staring at my big round belly. There was an almost fully formed person in there! So yeah, go ahead and stare.

Then, I had the baby, and then, I made milk. My breasts reached their personal best. Bigger than before and fully functional as food for my child. It makes him grow. Which makes me so proud. It is the most useful thing my chest has ever done, and that’s only competing with getting a guys rocks off or getting me out of golfing. (I could never relearn my swing once they got in the way.)

Now, my breasts are out there for people to see. And isn’t that what they always wanted? But it isn’t in a “show us your boobs,” Mardi Gras, kind of way. Not even in an “I’m breast feeding loud and proud” kind of way. Just in a regular, “I need to feed my kid, you might see some chest slip out from behind his head or this blanket,” kind of way. And it turns out, it’s not what they always wanted. It turns out, people are offended by that.

I’m talking to you shameless oglers of breasts, the lot of you. Why is it all, show us what you got, baby, until they become breasts feeding a baby, and then you are insulted by the sight of them?

You know what, don’t answer that. My baby already has a readily formed response. So here’s that, and your fair warning. As long as I’ve had them, you’ve stared at my boobs while they have been adequately concealed. For the next year or so (God willing) they will be a lot less concealed. I feel like I’ve earned that much for all the ogling over the years and for the fact that I’m sustainably, naturally, lovingly, and selflessly feeding my child. If you don’t feel that way, again, this photo of Jack says it sufficiently.

boobs to breasts

 

 

Just to be painstakingly clear, I am not comfortable with anyone staring at me, or anyone, especially not in a non-consenting sexual capacity. In case your mother forgot to tell you, staring is rude. This is simply a comment on how staring openly at young girls is more acceptable in our society than at a mother nursing her child.

When I’m 64 

My birthday week begins today. Seven days out of 365 that I am consciously aware of my life advancing in time. It’s extra acute this year  with the knowledge that roughly eight weeks from now time will move faster than I have ever experienced before.

I’ll be 32 years old this week and 32 weeks pregnant. A small delight for a person who revels in the coincidence of the numbers we find around us, such as myself. Not that I find meaning behind such numerical happenstance, but I do contend there is contentment to find in the sheer synchronicity of numbers lining up. This week points big to 32 – a number and age I had never guessed would have any large significance. And yet…there it is.

This is the first year I haven’t cared to celebrate in any grand or social way. I suppose that has something to do with the mens XL t-shirts and boxers which are my outfit of choice. And that the pregnancy hormones, apart from the tears, seem to insist I smell like the hippy I am, regarless of how hard I try to mask it. There is also this revelatory fact that it’s no longer just my life. I have this other life camping out inside me that deserves acknowledgement as well.

This brings me to a kind of consideration that leaves numbers behind. It begs for the measurement of time to disband, because this little life isn’t even here yet, and I already ache for endless time for it. And me. But we can’t, at least I can’t, even think of life without quantifying it. Will I still be here when you’re 32, little person? Will you still need me? It’ll be when I’m 64.

so happy birthday to me.

I Wonder…

THINGS I WONDER ABOUT:

 

1. Are people super rude because they are miserable and they think that making perfect strangers miserable too will gratify or satisfy them momentarily? Specifically, people who are rude to those in the service industry. Does it make them feel better about themselves? Because they certainly aren’t getting better service for themselves, so who are they actually trying to make more miserable?

2. When a pregnant woman has her baby, is it like that feeling of finally prying the strawberry seed from your back teeth in that place your tongue can’t reach? (but multiplied exponentially)

3. Black holes. Worm holes. Parallel universes. 

4. Deja vu. What is really happening there?

5. Why did Florida get rid of emissions testing for cars? 

6. Why wouldn’t a caged bird sing?

7. Who made baby girls need pink everything and baby boys need baby blue? And who institutionalized it to the point of no return? 

8. Why are people more passionate about the Kardashians lives than human rights, or child labor, or polar bears, or human sex trafficking, or their own lives? 

9. Did people stop wearing suits and hats because they got lazy, or did people get lazy because they stopped wearing suits and hats? 

10. People. Not to be too existential on a Monday, but what are they all doing here? 

 

If you feel like you need things to wonder about….see Interstellar. #mindfuck

God Bless Us All

In Toni Morrison’s new book, God Bless the Child, she rips the rawness from humanity like roots from the ground and plants it on the page for you to explore. I recommend it, and the extremes of empathy that come with it. What I took from it primarily, was a practice that was carried out each Saturday morning around the breakfast table. Each member of the family was made to answer two questions. 1. What have you learned that is true (and how do you know)? And 2. What problem do you have?

I like this very much. And since I have been in need of a prompt, and I don’t have enough people around my own dinner table yet to contribute to such a discussion, this one’s for you. 

What have you learned that is true (and how do you know)?

Men and women are fundamentally different. I know because of the havoc that is wreaked when one of the gender’s expectations are not met. And how different those expectations can be. I’m generalizing here, or shall we say genderalizing, where the woman is more sensitive and the man is more practical, while she is thoughtful and multi-tasking, he is steady and diligent. She expects flowers and kisses, he expects dinner and Sports Center. She wants conversation about all of the aspects of both of their days, he wants a few good hours of not solving anyone’s problems. She really needs intimacy, he really needs a good night’s sleep. She’s soft, he’s rough. In the best relationships these are all the beginnings of compromises that we learn to make for each other, to complement each other. In the worst, well, we all know how that goes. Inevitably, it doesn’t matter that he’s stinky and forgetful and crass, or that she’s bitchy and demanding and emotional, what matters is finding the places where the love fits in between all of that diversity, and holding on for dear life, or love, to that. 

What problem do you have?

Pregnancy. Not the baby part of it, that’s magic. The hormone bit, though, is a nightmare. It has changed me in ways I never expected, which makes coping with them all the more difficult. (I’m noting this theme of better managing my expectations.) The problem is a two-parter.   

1. Extreme allergies, including but not limited to: wheat, cheese, sugar, heat, citrus, spices. (I live in Miami – those last three are borderline sick and twisted) These new allergies have tested my patience and general will to be awake and go on living my life – a baby is a miraculous consolation prize, don’t get me wrong, but nine months is an awful long time to go without a bagel and cream cheese or spaghetti and pecorino, or donuts, especially when I want to eat so many donuts and get fat and bake in the sun. This was the time I was supposed to be allowed to be fat in a bathing suit, but I can’t go out in the sun. It’s a first world problem, I get that. But that’s the world I live in, and it is a problem. 

2. I am so sensitive now. Or rather, I have always been sensitive, but I used to be able to put a cork in it, take time and think about what I really felt, and then express it in an appropriate manner, like aging a fine wine. I was civilized, I think. Now, it’s like my emotions are stuck in a P. Diddy video and at the slightest injustice I’m popping bottles and spraying emotional backlash all over everyone within range, shouting, crying, uncontrollably. I can see what I’m doing as if from afar and I wonder who that psychopath is and why she can’t reel it in, but I can’t reach her to help. And I have never been a crier.  I used to read fiction, endlessly, but now it all seems too sad. I write less and think so much more. I worry and brood and that’s never been me. So, trying to get to know this new me and make peace with her ways, after thirty years of trying to get used to the old me and barely getting a handle on her ways, is a problem.  


Feel free to comment with help. 


P.S. I’m sorry for my long lapse of no blogging, please forgive me this rambling return. 



My mother’s endless love. 

The love of my mother has no prejudice.

The love of my mother is not blind. 

The love of my mother has no bounds.

The love of my mother is always kind. 

The love of my mother never pauses. 

The love of my mother simply searches

for ways to make you feel better inside. 

The love of my mother is relentless, 

whether you are a new friend or old. 

The love of my mother rings in her laughter.

The love of my mother is bold. 

The love of my mother is intense,

like the Miami sun that she adores.

The love of my mother is refreshing, 

like the Atlantic that to her heart calls

The love of my mother is inspiring, 

like the divinities that she knows.

The love of my mother sparkles, 

through her eyes and smile, she glows.

The love of my mother will never extinguish.

Though, the love of my mother I have tried.

The love of my mother knows no limits.

The love of my mother is always on my side.



Happy Birthday Mama!!! 

Thank you for teaching me how to live a life full of love. 

To Forty, With Love

Surprising is the sentiment that sisterhood brings

To a life once thought to be full.

It turns out that the sister-less are, after all

Without a love most pure and wonderful.

A sister-in-law, to be clearer just here,

Is an especially delightful kind.

Born from the love of the love of her life

And the blind puppy love that began mine;

Matured through the freedom to laugh and to cry

At said love, both with him and without.

But it doesn’t stop there, no one is safe

For she knows my family inside and out.

This gift and small curse she bears gracefully

Though perhaps I’ve been sort of short-sighted.

Maybe sisters aren’t always so perky and fun,

Pretty, witty, clever and open-minded.

I do know Jen though, with her warm eager eyes,

Inquisitive and mischievous smile.

She’s been the best sister I could possibly have

Invariably, through life’s greatest trials.

I hope to be as strong, sweet and patient as her,

For all of the rest of my days.

So with eternal love, humility and gratitude

I wish her the best of birthdays.

.

Neruda’s Love Poems – Rewritten

I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.

do not take from me your laughter.
when your laughter enters
it opens for me all
the doors of life.

in the spring, love.
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for.
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

on waking, your mouth,
come from your dream,
gave me the taste of earth,
of the depths of your life,
and i received your kiss
from the sea that surrounds us.

Hide me in your arms
just for this night.

Let the wind rush
crowned with foam,
let it call to me and seek me
galloping in the shadow,
while I, sunk
beneath your big eyes,
just for this night
shall rest, my love.

in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume’s silent step

But wait for me,
keep for me your sweetness.

we shall always be, you and I,
alone upon the earth
to begin life.

with you I become again
the earth that you are:
I know again how I am born.

you came to my kisses with the fire
of an unchained meteor
you melted in my blood

all thirst ends in our embrace.

pure, with the purity we created

You were a little leaf
that trembled on my chest.
Life’s wind put you there.

spring
offers us the sky,
but the dark earth
is our name

Bring your substance deep down to me,
heavily,
let your existence cut across me

lineal strings
inheritance of smoke.

a surge of water with remnants of the sea
strikes the silences that wait for you

Advance in sweetness

That is why you are endless

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 8.42.56 AM

It was but a dream

I see me. In a little black dress. I’m walking. I reach the side of the pool and I don’t hesitate to dive in.

All sorts of people are swimming in black-tie apparel. Everyone is under the water. Twirling and swirling like dancers on a ballroom floor. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to breathe. I swim past them to the deepest part of the deep end.

I wait for him. Breathless.

A Book Review: The Goldfinch

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It’s not easy being a human, flawed and insatiable as we are. Even when we know an action will cause our own detriment, we continue to pursue or perform such activity, time and time again. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is the human condition: the thin line of insanity that we walk, hoping for change, or hoping for the same, but mostly just insane for hoping. Yet hope is what makes us most human. Hope brings us closer to one another, perhaps hope tears some of us apart, but hope is what makes the insane person, and hope is why we create art.

In The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt draws upon every fallible bit of humanity, letting us explore through a collection of characters as real as the insanity they portray, exactly what it is to be human. Taking place in Amsterdam, Park Avenue, Las Vegas and the Village, the plot follows a Renaissance painting of a little goldfinch with a chain around it’s ankle. We are pulled through this seamlessly written novel by our earlobe, knowing full well that it is simply the human condition which carries Theo along. He grows into a man through the pages, while we stay hopeful that he might just do it differently this time. It is the set of characters that Theo meets along the way, however, which have me calling this my favorite book of 2014. Boris, the Russian, and Hobie, the antique furniture connoisseur/repair man, are equally alluring in their juxtaposition of darkness and light. Why Theo treats each of them the way that he does, defines the agony that it is to be human.

Ms. Tartt has created a place that I long to visit, the way that I long to tell the me of a decade ago how to make better choices. There is no visiting Theo in Park Avenue as he mourns the death of his mother though, just as there is no way to revisit the me of the past. It is the cross we bear, the knowledge that the choice may come again, along with the wonder of whether we’ll have the strength to decide not to cross the line of insanity this time, or whether to leap right across it – again.

I recommend you read this book, because it is a shot of life. Strong and hard to swallow, but there is a sweet aftertaste and I do think you’ll feel better afterwards. As Tartt so aptly puts it, “Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair.” We are a tragic lot, us humans, but there is always hope.

Happy New Year

I wish for:

1. Love
2. New life.
3. Laughter
4. Health
5. A winning football team. (Go Gators! Let this be your year Dolphins.)
6. Spiritual peace.
7. Restful souls.
8. Intellectual excitement
9. Bountiful harvests.
10. Simple pleasures.
11. Fairness.
12. Equality.
13. Humanity.
14. Goodness.
15. Music.
16. Dancing.
17. Delicious flavors.
18. All the right stuff.

Happy 2015. Make it count.

Native

Across the sand
Bare feet
deep breath
dive in

calm, clear, teal
farther and farther
lungs scream
tiny schools

mermaid hair
soft sand
reflections
waves

tepid Atlantic
wraps around skin
hearts aglow
loyal sunshine

foggy brain
molecules cling
his presence lingers
dive deep

At Last

Sam walked down the long green entryway to her grandmother’s door gazing at the new orchids blooming in the courtyard. Her eyes wandered up into the mango tree and she wondered when the fruit would start to weigh heavy on the branches. The year before they had come in April, unseasonably early, almost two months before they should have. Global warming, Sam thought. The flavor of fresh off the tree mangos danced in her head teasing her tongue. She regretted skipping dinner the night before.

When she reached the front door Sam took a moment to straighten out her shirt and smooth down her dirty hair. She could smell that her grandmother had a fresh coat of paint put on the house since she had been there the week before and remembered hearing something about how old Rose’s handyman was getting.

A woman’s voice drifted smoothly through the afternoon heat when Sam opened the door, “At laaaast, my lo-o-o-ove has come along.” Sam smiled at the sound of her old friend Etta James.

Sam looked toward her grandfather’s office. It was empty. Hi, Grandpa, she thought, her eyes lingering on his study, I miss you. He had always played jazz while he worked. Colonel Sommerset had retired from the military years before, but never actually stopped working a day in his life. Everyone in Sam’s family had their addictions, at least his was profitable.

Sam had spent endless hours of her childhood lying on the yellow shag carpet in front of his desk, sifting through his records, playing them as she pleased. The variations of melodies that the trumpet hummed, the soul searching trills of the saxophone, the attention that keeping time with the symbols had required.

The Colonel would look up from his work and Sam would drop whatever else held her attention to stare up at him, fascinated by everything that he was.

“Where’d you get those eyes, Child?” her Grandpa asked.

“I don’t know,” Sam beamed.

“Come give your Grandpa some sugar,” he said and she was up in his lap in an instant. “There’s something about those eyes, Little Girl,” he said balancing her on his knee.

In a family of southern women with light hair and light eyes Sam’s dark features shone brighter than an orchid in the Everglades. Sam could say exactly what was on her mind with those eyes, without ever opening her mouth. The Colonel told her once that before Sam could speak, her eyes did the talking.

They had truly enjoyed the comfort of each other’s company, and hearing the trumpet softly blow reminded Sam of all the questions she had longed to ask about a time that she had missed, but hadn’t, for fear of disturbing her grandfather’s work. She scratched her stomach and it was like the ugly, old carpet, along with the questions she’d never asked, somehow still itched.

Sam wandered into the kitchen and saw Rose poised over the stove stirring a big pot and moving her shoulders to the melody of the saxophone. The smell of her grandma’s vegetable soup hit Sam’s nostrils and saliva gathered on the sides of her tongue.

The music was so loud that Rose hadn’t heard her granddaughter come in. Watching her, and knowing that she was all alone in that big, old house, hurt Sam’s heart. She knew how much her Grandma must miss him. Sam closed her eyes and Etta sang her into the fantasy of a memory.

She saw her grandparents dancing in an old jazz club. The women’s bright dresses were full. Their skirts swished back and forth, a variety of colors and flowers dancing together to the music. The men wore uniforms and smoked Lucky Strikes.

The tall, curvy woman standing at the old fashioned microphone had on bright red lipstick to match the flowers on her otherwise white dress. The spotlight touched her and her skin was like cocoa with thick cream. Her voice was nothing but soul. She was beautiful.

The song ended and the dance partners drifted off the floor. The smoke swirled around itself the way Van Gogh painted the sky.

“There she is,” Rose gushed. Sam opened her eyes out of the smoky night club and saw her Grandma’s pretty eyes twinkling at her. The music had been lowered to a comfortable volume.

“Hi,” Sam wrapped her arms around Rose. “There is no one softer in the world to hug, Grandma.”

“Hello there, Sunshine,” Rose said holding Sam at arms length, “Look at you in black on a Sunday afternoon,” she tisked.

Katherine Rose Tempelton Sommerset only wore black on two occasions: to a funeral or to a black tie affair, and she would wear navy or white to either if she could get away with it.

Sam smiled humbly knowing that Rose had commented on the black clothes she wore because it would have been unkind to comment on the black circles under her eyes. I have to remember to leave some concealer at Jake’s, Sam thought.

“Oh, Samantha!” Rose exclaimed seeing the lilies Sam had placed on the table. She walked to them and stuck her face right into the arrangement and took a deep breath. “How sweet!” she exclaimed and turned to Sam with a smile like cherry preserves. “Honey, they are beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful grandbaby?” She came back for more hugs and kisses.

“Sorry, I’m so late,” Sam said and they sat down at the kitchen table, “Chrissie kidnapped me last night for girl’s night.”

“Oh, you know I don’t mind. I’ve just been bouncing around all morning getting things done here and there.” With this she was up and off to the refrigerator. “I have juice, tea, lemonade, milk, and water,” she paused, “Is it too early to share a beer?”

“Yes,” Sam barked, “I’ll have punch. Please.”

“So, tell me about Chrissie. What’s she up to these days?” Rose asked taking out glass pitchers of orange juice and iced tea. “What was that man’s name that she was seeing?” She placed the pitcher of lemonade on the counter then turned to Sam and put her hand on her hip. “Karma?” she wondered aloud, “Clover? Something like that, right?”

“Dharma,” Sam said laughing, knowing her intentions. “And I liked him, but they broke up.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Rose said. She winked at her granddaughter pleased that Sam had laughed at her joke and then turned back to the punch. Having been married to a republican for more than fifty years; Rose could hardly help making fun of hippies, even if her own daughter had married one.

“Yeah and she dated a jackass after that.”

“Well, that isn’t very nice.”

“Neither was he.”

“Is she still with him?”

“No.”

“Good,” Rose said firmly. Aside from her joking she was a smart woman who had a heart big enough to defend the basic human rights of any person.

Sam watched her grandma mix the juice, lemonade and iced tea. No matter how many times she had sat right there and watched her grandma make her punch Sam still had never been able to get the portions right when she made it herself.

“What would I do without you, Grandma?” Sam wondered aloud.

Rose turned sharply and looked right at Sam. “You would get along just fine.”

“Maybe,” Sam smiled. Rose set the punch down in front of her, “but no one can make your punch.”

“You know who can?” Rose asked as she returned to the stove to stir the soup.

“Who?”

“Your daddy.”

“No.”

“It took him a long time, but I think he’s the only one who likes it more than you do.” Rose poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat back down. “So, where did you girls go last night?”

“Monty’s,” Sam said, “I’m still recovering.”

“Well, you just need a bowl of grandma’s vegetable soup!” Rose was up again in an instant gathering bowls, spoons, napkins, stirring the soup, and fishing for crackers. Sam was exhausted just watching her. “Did Annabelle go?”

“No.”

“Is she still sick?” Rose asked in that grandmotherly way that feigned ignorance.

“She’s not sick, Grandma,” Sam searched for words, “she’s….gone.”

“Oh, honey.”

“For some reason she has it in her head that we’re suddenly all out to get her and Chrissie refuses to talk about it like it’s just going to go away. Dee is the only one who Annabelle will even communicate with, but all she tells her are these angry delusions that she has formed. It’s like the Annabelle that we know and love is gone.”

“It sounds like she needs some time to herself.”

“No,” Sam said sharply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that is the case. Mental illness usually manifests in people in their early twenties. I’m afraid leaving her alone is exactly the wrong thing to do, but I’m the only one who seems to feel that way.”

“What do her parents think?”

“Nothing, at all. They’re in denial. They didn’t even meet my eyes when I went to talk to them. They think I’ve turned against their daughter, but I have no reason to! Just like she has no reason to have turned against me,” Sam’s voice trailed off.

“There’s not much you can do to change some peoples minds. You know, I was at the club the other day and this ignorant man…” Rose started on but Sam couldn’t listen.

It infuriated her the casual way people spoke about a person that she loved so much. Sam knew Annabelle inside and out, and knew that this wasn’t her friend. A switch had been flipped inside Annabelle’s head and Sam wanted to flip it back but no one would help her find it. Everyone seemed uncomfortable even looking.

She looked down into her papaya colored punch wishing it were a crystal ball. She wanted to see when she would get her friend back. Or when people would start admitting there was a bigger problem at play, at last.