Heaven for Less than $5

No trip home is complete without a mandatory stroll down Decatur.  I’m not one of those locals who believes the French Quarter is an overrated experience.  There’s magic there.  I peek in windows and chat with the occasional drunken tourist, until I reach that familiar green awning, always packed with eager faces and tummies.  My friends and I seek out the table with the most seats and least powdered sugar residue.   To search for a spotless table would be an utter waste of time.

It’s not just about how delicious beignets are [very], or how deep the coffee tastes [amazingly so], but it’s what comes with it.  To truly enjoy beignets, they must be consumed then and there.  It’s not a traveling food.  It’s not something you rush, unless you want to be a powdered sugary mess.  Coffee and beignets are meant to inspire camaraderie.  A visit to Cafe du Monde can be as funny and raucous (with a large group of family and friends), or as romantic (if you haven’t licked beignet sugar off someone else’s fingertip in the moonlight, you haven’t lived) as you want it to be.  Those green trays come bearing awesome.  Sugary, doughy, milk-infused, caffeinated, memory-making awesome.

It’s the little things like this that make New Orleans forever my home.  Granted, you can pretty much go anywhere and have a good time.  But you can’t go just anywhere and feel like you belong.  Put it on your bucket list.

The good stuff

“The greying afternoon…”

“…the diary that ends too soon.”
– Phoebe Snow “Majesty of Life”

Lynn (20), Lou (21), Marion (29) , Eugene (32)

On several occasions I’ve discussed the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on this year, due in large part to missing my mother.  I’ve mentioned how hard it has been for me to reconcile myself to the fact that she has been gone almost as long as she was here.  There aren’t any words that can express what that does to me.  I say all the time that the pain subsides a bit, and is more often than not replaced with memories.  I still believe that.  But there is this weight that spreads through my chest, that sometimes feels a bit too heavy to bear.

Coincidentally, this is the exact week, to the day (June 27, 1994 also fell on a Monday), that she almost slipped away from us the first time.  Her condition had gotten so serious, rumors that she died were already beginning to circulate.  (For years I would have dreams that her funeral was just a big mistake.  She would walk into my room, or my office and say, “They were wrong again.”)  Even in that time, she was so concerned about me having some sense of 17 year-old normalcy.  It’s funny how mothers manage to think of their kids first, regardless of the circumstances.

I’m now seventeen years older, and I’m nothing like that girl who had life and death staring her in the face.My mother was far from perfect.  Our relationship was far from easy.  We were both very fiery creatures who didn’t understand each other until the end.  The day after I graduated from high school, I tried to “run away.”  She refused to give up on me, despite having every right to do so. I always measure my humanity against her.  Would she be proud of the way I embrace people?  Would she understand my need to search my own spirituality and soul?

Mommy at 19

Sometimes I cry, because I have to rely on memories and water damaged pictures of her smile. Other times, she peeks at me through my son’s oddly shaped fingernails, or the point and flair in my daughter’s nose.  Still others, I can hear my voice saying her words.  I felt her spirit give me the gumption to move to a place that I’d never been, and carve out my own destiny.

Seventeen years later, I still have so much to learn.  I’m openly flawed and seeking to be a good person. I can only hope that good feeling I feel ever so often – that radiates through my eyes, smile and fingertips – is the sign that I’m doing my mama proud.

 

Support Garments and the Single Girl

It’s the first date.  He’s amazing.  He likes you.  He’s listening to you!  You like him.  You’re listening to him.  The two of you go for a walk.  The wine has gotten to your heads.  You’ve gotten to each other’s heads.  He pulls you in for a kiss that stops time, shakes the earth’s core, and make the stars  look like glitter specks.  You don’t have those first date hang-ups.  The energy is right.  If he asks, you really, REALLY want to say yes.  Except…you’re wearing this

…and a Spanx.

Now, most dudes, particularly those in the Thick Snack Appreciate Society (hey yall), won’t trip.  You could be wearing burlap, and the average dude will still whip it out.  That isn’t the issue at all.  Lean in closely, so that I might explain the issue…

GETTING THAT MESS ON AND OFF IS AN OLYMPIC EVENT!  My sisters in Spanx know what I’m talking about.  There’s not a big girl alive, who at least once in her Spanx wearing life, hasn’t pulled that bad boy half way up, paused, took a deep breath, called on Jesus, bowed down prayed to the East, and said nam myoho renge kyo.  The same goes for when you put on the Kevlar vests we call bras, hook it, spin it ALLLLLLLLLLLLL the way around, then pause and ponder the cosmos.  After all that what do you when the sexy times are staring you in the face?

When you see things are going well at dinner, do you tiptoe to the bathroom and take off the Spanx then?  Do you explain the body explosion, or just treat it like a silent elevator fart?  The bra…if you get the Butterfly joint, that’s EIGHT hooks.  After the sixth hook, don’t ya’ll go together?  Let’s say that you do go about making the beast with two backs.  Then what?  Do you just skip off happily into the sunset, Spanx in hand?  You KNOW you can’t put that thing back on.  Once my Spanx comes off for the night, it’s not going back on for like, three days.  Do you stuff it in your purse?  Do you spin it around like a helicopter, indicative of smang victory?  I’m good at turning the silly into the utterly ridiculous, so I’d probably play slingshot games with mine.  Either that or forget it somewhere.  (I don’t spend a whole lot of time playing the “Why Am I Single?” game for obvious reasons.)

The truth is, once you’re past a certain stage of sexual development (the actual age can vary between individuals), there are lots of hang ups that you just don’t hold on to.  My fat rolls, though a pain, are here now.  So you can either decline the smang, or do some things with them.  That being said, once a dude witnesses the Spanx Olympics, that’s a level of comfort that you just don’t replicate every day.  And mercy, if he pulls it up?  He’s stuck with me on some “And I am telling you” steez.

Clearly, I don’t know all the rules on support garment etiquette, when you’re getting some of that new-new, so what say you Dreamers?

The Edge

The sads creep up on me so slowly.  I’m constantly moving, so I always think at first, “Well, I’m just exhausted.”  Then the weekend comes, and I can’t get out of bed.  “Wow, I was more tired than I thought.”  I promise my kids to do all the things we had to put off the following day.  I can only hope that then I have the energy to get out of bed.

I don’t talk much about depression, because it’s something that I’ve coped with off and on.  Most times, I’d just ride it out, until the feeling passed.  It always did.  This past year, though I pulled myself together to do some things, it took Herculean effort.  I finally saw someone, and started on the course to mental wellness.  I don’t see my depression as a liability, because I have a good enough support system to check on me and address when I’m not myself.  My younger sister is phenomenal about getting me to pause and address my health, be it physical or mental.

My coping mechanism is, and always has been, humor.  When I’m blue or emotionally burdened, I find that my humor, though always possessing a bit of bite, is a little more caustic than normal.  Sometimes it’s related to one thing; other times it’s related to everything.  I just happened to pick up that trait recently, so I’m trying to head it off at the pass.

The saying goes, “Hurt people, hurt people.”  I’m not exempt from this.  I just feel a little too pointed lately.  I’m on the edge, ready to pounce on anyone getting out of line.  I’m not trying to not be myself – I was created to check a fool that wants to test.  I just need to employ a bit more live and let live in my life. I’m gonna do one of my meditations tonight, and get my mind right.

Smooches!

What I wouldn’t give for a room

“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”
– A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

My greatest adversary is fiction.   Being a woman who tries hard in real life to offer bare-faced – albeit tactful – honesty, creating stories out of thin air is a struggle.  It’s not that I can’t do it; my imagination is a force to be reckoned with.  The truth is, once i get those fiction writing juices flowing, great things happen.  Getting those juices flowing, however, is a problem in and of itself.  Because I am a woman without a room.

To have a “room” isn’t just a physical place, although it is necessary.  It is having the existential room to breathe.  I would like the right to say, “This is the thing I do, and unless the earth’s core sees the light of day, you are not to disturb me.”  And it is not just about being “Mama;”  It is being woman, sister, lover, daughter, girlfriend.  That nurturing spirit makes people believe they hold rights to your time.

I don’t fault them. I LOVE being there.  I adore the fact that my friends know that if they need me, no matter what time, I’m going to make myself available.  I have no problems with them.  It’s the “oh, I see you can’t call nobody,” people, or the people who immediately swan dive into their issues before you have the chance to tell them you don’t have the time, that get my goat.  I won’t even get on my kids.  Would you believe that there have been times that I have carried my laptop to the toilet with me, in hopes that at least the sanctity of my gastrointestinal needs would be respected.  It only works half the time.  When I am “befriended,” that brings up a whole new crop of issues.  My last dating situation led to a sharp decline in my writing, because dude was flat out monopolizing my time.

I know how it works with men, and it’s what I admire most about you.  You stake your claim to time and space, and everything else has to work around it.  “This is what I’m doing.  I’ll be back.  Don’t call me.  Don’t text me.  Don’t send a carrier pigeon.  I. Will. Holler. When. I’m. Finished.”  And that’s the end of the story.  Anyone who steps into that zone is met with the simple question, “Didn’t I tell you I’d be [doing this] until [time here]?”  Love that.  But I believe most women at least have the natural inclination to bend their situations around people.  Not that women are lacking in drive of focus, and not that we can’t.  Just far more often than not, taking time for ourselves is not our knee-jerk reaction.  Women who do that are seen almost as revolutionaries.

Time, large chunks of it at that, is a critical element in fiction writing.  You need to be all in.  It takes time just to remove yourself from your own psyche and decide, “Okay, I know what I’d do, but what would she do?”  It requires the type of thought that doesn’t come in five minute bursts between telling your dad you’ll call him back, sending your best friend a text and screaming at your kids to “stop fighting because you do NOT want me to get up from this computer and change your life.”  (Yes.  I’ve said that to my kids. And…?)  The more I struggle with this novel that has come to mean so much to me, the more I realize the importance of carving out this crucial space for myself.

To my sisters of the quill, here’s to creating our own room, and only emerging when it is time.

“The moment I let go of it…”

“…was the moment I got more than I could handle.”
– c. Alanis Morissette “Thank U”

“I gotta shake this
Jail shit off me
‘He ain’t gonna never sell
He gonna fail’ shit off me!”
– c. Royce Da 5’9 “Shake This”

I’m looking at this vase, full of Jelly Belly jelly beans at the bottom, so I reach into the narrow neck and grab a handful.  I pull up the fist full of jellybeans, but my hand can no longer fit through the vase’s neck.  I can either leave my hand in the vase, with jelly beans I can’t touch, or I can let them all fall back to the bottom.

And that’s life.  Hold onto too much, and your progress is impeded.  “Life stuff” can weigh us down, or load us up, to the point that we can’t move.  To stagnate, from my vantage point, is just as bad as going backwards.  And at least in moving backwards, you’ve changed the view. 

Retreating isn’t always such a bad thing.  There are times where stepping back and reassessing a situation has served me well.  Stepping back has made me realize that maybe it just wasn’t time for that particular thing.  Other times, I’ve been shown that one “no” can make way for a bigger and better “yes.”  And truly, what is life without a few mistakes to highlight what doesn’t work?

I’ve been working toward where I want to be so long, and I feel so close, it’s easy to be discouraged.  When I went through my divorce, eer one of my notebooks, EVERY SINGLE THING I’D EVER HAND WRITTEN, was thrown away.  I lost all of my hand written work again in August, 2005.  Playing the “What could have been” game is a surefire way to rip my heart in half.  Some things I can’t change or recpature.

But fortuantely, my mother imparted this invaluable advice upon me: “If you’ve got a plan, keep getting ready.”  Basically, a million and two obstacles may arise, but it is my responsibility to prove to the universe that I am serious about my goals.  Keep. Getting. Ready.  Life has a funny way of making sure you get exactly what belongs to you if you’re willing to put in the work. 

So I will continue to get ready, with the confidence that everything which belongs to me will be mine.  All things will take place exactly in the time they should.  When you have a dream, or a heartfelt desire, there’s no room for self-doubt.  You have to rid yourself of that nay-saying spirit immediately.

The life that I want for myself is in that vase full of jellybeans.  Releasing my fist and letting them fall back to the bottom of the vase isn’t me giving up.  It’s me reassessing.  So rather than relying on my hands, I think I’m going to get a bowl.  Maybe I’ll tip that vase, and see what comes out for me.  Better make it a pretty big bowl.  I expect a lot of stuff.

Dad Stuff

The fact that only your temples are grey, and you had me as a daughter is proof that “black don’t crack” is REAL.  I have been a handful since birth.  Remember when I jumped out that tree in a dress?  It caught on the branch, so when I landed, half of the dress was still in the tree?  I had all these flowery words planned out for you, but that’s not the type of dude you are.  That’s not the type of relationship we have.  I was never your “little girl” or your “princess.”  I remember being your “star face” though.  I remember you telling me that my smile changes my entire demeanor.  But outside of that, we had a fairly pragmatic relationship.  Know this though:  I would lay someone down for you without hesitation.

I know that’s not the type of thing you like to hear.  I’m usually not the type to confess to potential felonies.  But the truth is the truth.  I didn’t realize that most men didn’t buy panty hose and feminine products until I was married and on my own.  You were just a different type of dude.  I used to love when people would come to our house and discover how funny you were.  You always seemed so stoic in public, your being a jokester catches everyone off guard.  I’m also not 100% certain you haven’t hidden at least 4 bodies after a spirited game of bid wist, but I won’ t say anything.

I know that you aren’t crazy about the direction I choose to fly, but I love you for allowing me to spread my wings.  So many of my peers have their parents firmly rooted in their personal affairs, and it makes me so grateful that you respect me as an adult.  I think it’s because you know that when I come to you for help, I’m three steps from the psych ward, the ho stroll, chewing ground glass for a living, or some unfortunate combination of the three.

You are a great dude.  When I have to look at things in fairness and objectivity, you are the first person I think of.  You have always been a man that walked your talk in an age where integrity is lacking. When my marriage was at a crossroads, I went to you for advice.  I didn’t do it because you’re my dad and I felt you would cosign my actions.  I went to you because I knew you could call a spade a spade.  If I was on some bull, you would have called me on it without flinching.

You taught me to not romanticize people for who you want them to be, but rather love them for their humanity.  There are parts of our relationship which I had to work out, and I recognize that your ability to handle them better was immaterial.  I had to accept you as a human, and not as a figurehead.  As such, I hope you understand what I am going to say now.  You may never like the life I live.  You may never approve of what I do.  Morally, there are things that I just see…differently.  Organized religion makes me itch and marriage makes me antsy.  I know these are two things which mean a lot to you.  I just don’t want you to take my altered view of these things as some personal slight.

Knowing you is a blessing.  I don’t think I say that enough.  You’re an amazing guy and a hero.  I love you.  I love you and your fanny packs.