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Showing posts from 2012

Things I Know About Me: Me, fluently

Shapely thighs, strategically placed curves, definitively sexy lips; I love being me. All of the experiences, education, creativity, emotions, and relationships I have cultivated and collected over the years have shaped me in to a person I absolutely adore. I love me, I’m in love with me; but, I wouldn’t date me.

As much as I value time, I don’t seem to be able to make any for anyone else. I am a difficult person to get to know. It’s not just balancing three children, teaching at multiple colleges and writing that occupies my time. But it’s my selfish pursuit of ‘me’ time: time where I learn to be myself and what it is that makes me happy.

The more I consider dating again the more I struggle to answer the question: “what do you like to do in your free time?”

I don’t know when I lost the ability to think of myself as a separate entity with my own interests.

“Relax” the doctor advised.

I was relaxed. I was sitting in the office after racing, already late, to my appointment. I slid …

Scent of Innocence (Scenes from the Attic): Fiction

Scent of Innocence

A breeze lingers before my window and on it the faint scent of innocence.It’s a slow moving, salt laden breeze and oh, how I’ve missed it—the breeze, not the innocence.I’ve been away from home for six months, long enough to forget how it makes my hair frizz; long enough to forget the slick feel it adds to everything it touches; long enough to forget a lot of things—but not to forgive them. Soon it will be time to get dressed in the black dress my grandmother picked out and out of respect, at least for her, I will wear.She thinks it will give me the aura of mourning not reflected in my eyes: I, for one, doubt it.I cannot mourn the death of a man I did not know in life.Well that’s not true; I’ve mourned the deaths of innocents everywhere. I’ve even mourned the loss of my own innocence, though I can’t remember it.It’s not even true that I didn’t know him; I just didn’t know him as one might expect under the circumstances.So I mean to say I won’t mourn this particular m…

201 Grammercy Place: Making a House a Home Part III

As an adult I moved into a townhouse when I moved to Baltimore, it was where I lived. Then my family and I moved to another townhouse. We purchased a home just before my middle child was born. I like the house but it never quite felt like home. When my ex-husband first moved out, I still couldn’t connect this house with home. And now, as I look at what to pack and what to give away, I pass his clothes still hanging in my closet, bags of his jackets and shoes clutter corners. Not memories—those are gone—but actual items remain. Items take up far more room than memories do. The house doesn’t feel like a home but then again, no place does.

“No matter where life takes us, your home will always be with me,” I assure my daughter. “You will always have a home.”

I believe it—home is where your family is.

Now to start making this house feel like home; no matter how long we are going to be here.

201 Grammery Place: Making a House a Home Part II

It’s been almost twenty years since I stepped foot in my grandmother’s house; since it was there to step foot in to. Decades ago, in the name of imminent domain, the city of Atlantic City and its Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) “purchased” 201 Grammercy and the many old houses around it to “build houses” for future residents. The city gave my grandmother a fraction of her asking price which was a fraction of what the house was worth but with my mother out of the country and my sister and I building homes or preparing lots for future homes, there was no one but my grandmother to fight the city.

She lost.

For years, my grandmother was upset about selling the house. One day she seemed to have let go of the hurt and settled in to her home in Charleroi, PA: the home “Papa” built with his “own hands” back when Gran was a kid. Many years and many more renovations later, the house felt like her home.

They say in dreams houses represent our bodies.

Gran died six years ago. I …

On Kickstarter

Just over a month ago I launched my first Kickstarter project. While it was not financially successful, the experience taught me more than I thought it could.

I learned to ask for help early. After talking with my mother, she gave me lots of advice on how to get the public interested in my topic—if only I had talked to her more than three days before my project was due to expire.

After my project ended I learned even more.

My project is about reuniting families after the emancipation. Mothers searching for children they quite possibly will never find; children alone, scared and vulnerable searching for an idea of family that they have only seen through skewed vision; people searching for people they have never known: fragments of these stories bring tears to my eyes and they aren’t even written yet.

I believe in my project.

Kickstarter, though a platform where people and funding connect, is more than about gaining financial support for your project; it’s a way to inspire passion.

Aft…

201 Grammercy Place: Making a House a Home Part I

Of all the places I have ever lived, my home remains 201 Grammercy Place in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 201 was one of four houses my grandmother owned. The house, now that I think of it, was much like its owner. The house was old enough to have history—though I never quite learned all of its past. Slick, grey stairs led up to the large, pale-pink and white guest house with a circular sun porch. Behind the doors, a foyer with stained glass windows and dark wood chairs with lion’s mouths adorning the arm rests greeted both guests and residents.

The house was full of contradictions.

The foyer faced the winding staircase, always shiny from polish; the dining room where guests devoured Gran’s cooking; and the living room—the room where my grandfather did most of his living. Dimly lit by a mini-crystal chandelier, the foyer hid, beneath rich, dark-paneled wood, the glass knob that led to the downstairs bathroom. The kitchen hid a staircase which led first to an area dubbed the pantry. The …

BBQ Ice Cream Cake: A Recipe Contest I Can Enter

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I cook. Yet, I am not a chef or a cook. I cook because my family and I eat. I’m fairly good at it—eating, not cooking. And yet, day in and day out I cook and so my family and I eat.

When I cook there are no mathematical equations, no formulas and no actual recipes.

I could enter a recipe contest, but I think judges frown on disclosures that read “do not attempt if you are living or would like to.” People tend to turn their noses up at recipes that list things like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in the ingredients.

Growing up, my grandmother was a phenomenal cook: cooking is not hereditary. When I moved out on my own I was surprised to learn that I could not cook. Eating out was just fine—until I got pregnant, and hungrier. I began experimenting in the kitchen. That’s when I learned that there really were only a few things that didn’t taste better with cinnamon.

I cinnamonized everything.

Still, I can’t add cinnamon to a recipe since, you know, people expect other ingredients as …

Literally Me: Words Move Me

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Almost twenty years ago I moved to Baltimore—because of words.

I was tired of working five days a week, hanging out five to six nights a week, and feeling like I was standing still seven days a week. Words reminded me that I had goals and ambition to reach them; that my life off the page was not at all like I imagined it would be.

Everything I was reading, all of the books I rewrote in my head, ended in Baltimore—I should mention that these books were fiction.

Still, they led me to move from New Jersey to Maryland; almost twenty years later, words move me again.

I am in the process of relocating my family, of uprooting them, to move to the UK for two years while I pursue my PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University (UK). The pursuit of my PhD is on one hand quite a selfish one. There are no guarantees it will further my career or guarantee me a full-time faculty position. There are no guarantees my PhD will get my not-yet-written novel published.

In life, there are few guarante…

Boy Power Too: I'm Raising Men Too

Girl power!

It’s everywhere I look.

Online, I can search for games that encourage my daughter to solve problems, think critically, explore anything and question everything. I can look for movies to inspire my daughter to live her dreams: to make things happen. Offline, I can pick up books about real girls doing real things—really amazing things. Academically, I can enroll my daughter in programs to remind her that engineering, math, sciences, the world is hers for the taking, or the making.

My daughter is beautiful, intelligent, creative, kind; she’s amazing. She can be anything she sets her mind to be. I tell her these things —I have been telling her these things since before she was born—yet, my daughter doesn’t believe everything I tell her. As a mother of a daughter I am fortunate that the world seems to support my efforts. And so the world (at least my corner of it) validates my words through programs, organizations, portals, and other venues.

But what about my boys?

While I don…

If Daughters Came with Directions

I worry I don’t know how to parent a 15 year-old young woman.

I have been one. I have known some. But now that I’m raising one, it all seems different. 

When I was 15, I was in to boys—well, young men and their bourgeoning attentions. My friend—and since she’s a married, mother of three, I will not name her—and I strolled the Atlantic City boardwalk from one end to the other in attempts to capture their attention and hold it for as long as our fleeting moments of interest could allow.

My mother—I think—thought we were exercising. Seasons before she had accused my sister and me of being ‘boy crazy.’ 

I wasn’t yet.

By the time I could have been positively diagnosed as boy crazy, my mother was ready to move to Germany—alone.

Today, I parent a 15 year old with no road map, no directions, with nothing but common sense, love, and my memories of wanting to be mothered at 15 to guide me.

Help! I'm Scared of My Phone

Ok, so maybe scared is the wrong word.Hesitant, nervous, unsure, intimidated by…those might be a bit more accurate.
I ordered the Sprint Intercept sometime last week.I’ve had it now for two days and have yet to take everything out of the box.I will—soon.
A slim, shiny, Droid-capable, touch tone device, I should be excited to begin my next technological journey.
I’m not.
I got this phone by default, more aptly by the fault.I broke my Rant.To say I loved my old phone is to exaggerate.I liked it.Even now my mind—as non committal as ever—is replacing my technology.I like it—my Rant I mean.We shared moments of frustration, joy and adventure as I learned to navigate it as phones of its kind should be navigated: effortlessly (mostly).
I don’t remember this hesitation when I got my old-new phone.
I have come up with several excuses why I cannot or have not activated my Intercept.I was planning to go to the Sprint store to have them activate it so I can get my pictures and contacts moved to…

Miracles of Medicine

Medicine always makes me feel better—especially when I don’t take it.

I have my Aunt Cliss—Great Aunt Cliss—to thank for that. Growing up we didn’t think she was so great. She didn’t seem to have patience for my sister or me. And so, we devised ways to annoy her. It was the 70’s; “Kill them with kindness” wasn’t popular yet.

For years my sister and I were convinced Aunt Cliss was a witch. Her long silver hair tightly wound in a bun or loosely hanging past her shoulders, her thin yet muscular body, the glasses she fretted over but seemed to be able to see perfectly fine without, her frequent unexplained long walks followed by a knack of returning at the wrong time, her disdain for everything ‘us’, and her medicines convinced us she was a witch.

Growing up, we spent a lot of time with our grandmother, and since she lived there, we spent a lot of time in the presence of Aunt Cliss.

If we were sick, Gran would make us wheat pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese, and bacon. We would spend h…

My Relationship with Food

Over the last few years, my relationship with food has grown infinitely more intimate. Growing up, food was power. Oil shaped alliances: My mother couldn’t cook, my grandmother could. Flour forged allegiances: my mother wanted to become a vegetarian, my grandmother’s fried chicken made it impossible for me to consider life without meat. My childhood memories are a plethora of aromas: fried onions, fried chicken, smoldering greens, cinnamon. Food was a weapon. Crunchy bacon and Ex-lax were weapons against anyone who didn’t love hard enough, long enough, enough. One of the first times my sister and I prepared dinner for our grandparents, we seasoned a whole chicken—oregano, salt, season salt. We put it in the oven at 350°as soon as my grandmother pulled out from in front of her pink and white house in Atlantic City. We took it out one hour later when she arrived to our townhouse in Somers Point. Juice and blood oozed as knife pierced the raw flesh. I don’t remember cooking anything f…

Life in Narration

I realize it’s unnatural.This fascination I have with publishing my thoughts online as if people are less apt to find them has become an addiction of sorts.

I expect to be heard when I speak, to be listened to when I utter, to be read when I write.

But, when I blog…

I blame the power of publishing. This ability I have to indulge in textual espionage –exposing the secrets, thoughts, plots of others—goes exponentially beyond the power of words.

Who among my friends would expect me to write about the perpetual death of one of us?We are 38, 39.We are too young to die. And yet one of us insists on doing it.

This first line demands to be written, and so do the ones to come tumbling after it.It’s how I think—on the page.My life in narration.

How else does a friend calling at 2 in the morning to talk about her dying relationship as opposed to her dying body make sense to me?

Maybe it’s not supposed to.

Maybe I’m supposed to just listen. Listen without writing. Listen without blogging. Listen withou…

Learning About Learning

My son is failing algebra.As an English major I can’t help him. Well, not in the way I would expect to be able to help him. I would love to be able to open the book, flip to the page and see not the answers, but how to solve the problems.
But Algebra 2 does not make any sense to me.
Because my son goes to a Title I school in Baltimore County, they offer students who need help free tutoring services in Math and Reading. The system allows parents the freedom to choose from an array of tutors claiming a number of specialties that in my experience so far, they just may not have.
I first contacted Title I a few months ago; at the tutoring fair they handed me a booklet filled with data, information and resources; and the freedom and responsibility to choose the best provider.
The information is good, relevant, but something in this system is broken and I know broken when I see it because I have broken many things—and I’ve fixed a few too.
My first choice was Gap Busters. They looked good on pap…

How to Stay Single--when you want to be

As of one week ago, I was selectively single. Today, I’m still single.I’m just more convinced that I’m ready to seriously consider being in a relationship—or at least ready to commit to he idea of getting to know people I would seriously consider being in a relationship with. That wasn’t always the case. After my divorce I decided I needed some time to just be: Be a mom; be myself; be alone. During this time I rediscovered things I like to do; music I like to listen to; things I want to experience. I rediscovered myself not within any of the number of roles that define slices of my life—but me when my roles are off. To society being single is a cause. Eventually I expect to see walks, telethons and drives to eradicate the state of being single.Friends, family, coworkers worry about singles; I’m not sure why. Reveling in my singularity I’m statistically more likely to be happier, to live longer, and to smile more—at least more than I did during the declining years of marriage—than if I w…

Feet Don't Fail Me Now

I don’t look down when I walk.
I look in front of me, around me, sometimes behind me, but I don’t look down when I walk.Probably, this says a lot about me: where I’m going, how I got there.
Last week I was helping a friend move—if we are still calling it that.
“You have to be careful about this,” I said, looking at the 6 inch (in my guess) black corkscrew nail sticking out from the floor.
This should have been my first clue.Even with my glasses on, I don’t see well enough to have known it was a six-inch black, corkscrew nail.
My concern was that my friend would walk out onto her balcony without shoes and step on the nail.
So, it turns out, the nail was not in the floor but was in the screen.
I found this out when I walked through it. When I look down, I don’t see where I’m going, I see how I’m getting there.Maybe that’s why I don’t do it.In life, I often over analyze the steps it takes to get from where I am to where I want to be.
That should make my path more logical, my choices …

Things I Tolerate

A banana. That’s really all my 3 year old wants. A banana—right now. So, we pull into the 7-11 on Lombard and Broadway in search of a banana.While I am no 7-11 Connoisseur, I have visited more than a few 7-11’s over the past 37 years, though only recently for fruit.As a last-minute meal planner and mother of three, I make frequent trips to the grocery store, where I usually buy fresh fruit along with things I either do or do not need at the time.In fact, during my son’s banana melt down, I have four yellow bananas fresh from the groves of Giant Supermarket slowly ripening on the top of my microwave. Despite the patented 7-11 layout, it takes a moment to orient myself once inside.There, near the counter, where they seem to be in most 7-11’s, is the largest basket of brown bananas I have ever seen.I wonder if he’ll eat plantains, I think.Though the sign clearly reads bananas, the brown-spotted, banana shaped, not-quite-thick-enough-to be-considered plantains, are not bananas.Those tha…

My Cover Letter in Word Cloud: Me--Revised

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Public Health: Episode 2

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Public Health Episode 1

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Launching a Revamped Kickstarter Project

Now that I've learned a few things from my first attempt at Kickstarter, I'm ready to give it another try.

Please visit my Kickstarter project and let me know what you think, thanks.

Who I am and What I Plan to Do

Don't Forget the Milk

“Tell me you love me.”
Lie to me, she heard.
“I have loved you.”
She was fluent in compromise. It was how she managed to live with him without living with him; without growing or going in the same direction at the same time.
Jeremy didn’t often notice.
“What happened to us?”
You! Abigail wanted to scream.Instead she slowly sipped her coffee, thick with sugar, syrupy with Crème. Sips allowed Abigail time to edit her words. Only two more weeks until she was back home with her husband—the man she hoped to love again. Abigail had fallen in and out of love many times —just never with the same person. She hoped; they both hoped—just for different things.
“In two weeks I’ll be leaving for Iraq. When I come back things will be different.”
“I think you’re right,” Abigail agreed, smiling and sipping and editing her words.

The Thing About 40

Before turning 40, I heard a lot about how liberating 40 is. How 40 would bring even more confidence and opportunities. Turning 40 would be like becoming myself—like I did in my 20’s, my 30’s—all over again. It would begin a time to re-rediscover me.
I’m 40 and I’m doing things I never thought I would do.
Of all of the many things I do now—and the one I can actually talk about—is asking for money to pursue a project that I believe can change lives.If nothing else my research will allow me to tell stories—it’s what I do—stories that may answer questions of how people connect; how people build families; how people rebuild themselves.
I am applying for and to grants, scholarships, fellowships and every other type of funding in between; I am doing what my grandmother said never to do: asking for money.
And now I have launched my own Kickstarter project; I have prepared a proposal shamelessly asking for funding to help me tell the stories of mothers searching for children; the stories of what…

Rediscovering my Hair Style

My daughter is a beautiful young woman with thick, dark brown hair; wine colored, almond shaped eyes; creamy, full cheeks and hundreds of other attributes, talents and gifts. When the hair on her head is long, thin and shiny she believes me when I tell her she is beautiful.When her hair is her natural length, either natural or relaxed, she does not.
It isn’t that she only feels beautiful when her hair is beautiful; she worries that she is only beautiful when her hair is longer.
I wish I could convince her otherwise.
My words are not those that will convince her, probably because I have and sometimes still do feel the same way about myself. When my hair is braided it frames my face and falls to my shoulders, the faint swish of braids makes me move differently and sometimes even feel differently. Braids, more precisely the hair, makes me feel more beautiful—for awhile.
As a child I had short thick hair. I can remember trudging behind my sister through the streets of Atlantic City as we we…

Inheritance (Fiction)

I am terribly close to breaking another one of my constitutions and reading her mind.I have shockingly few constitutions intact which is one of the reasons I am holding childishly on to this one.It will be her fault when I do it; just like it was the first time, when I was nine years old.We were sitting around the table one night, a typical family dinner, when I asked her an innocent question about my father.In that swift unguarded moment, her face contorted with pain and fear.In my confusion I read her mind and learned she was ever so slightly afraid of me.Of course I changed the subject, silently vowing to never read the mind of another.Over the years I’ve amended that rash decision.It has been whittled down from never reading any one’s mind; to never reading the mind of a family member; and finally to never reading her mind again.She is the last obstacle to my using my talents freely.
I try to appear patient as she rambles on about her youth.There is a point to this, I must remind m…

Death Sells (fiction from the attic--sort of)

Dear Editor:


As the editor-in-chief of Nemesis, the leading source of obituaries in the Washington/Baltimore area, I would like to share one of the secrets of my success: death sells.Almost every day death is reported in newspapers worldwide in one form or another.While most expected in the obituary section, it can be reported in the crime, local, entertainment or in almost any section from the front page to the last.The media coverage a death receives and the placement of the notice depend on the way a person lives or dies.Your actions in life literally affect your place in history.In your newspaper, those whose lives or deaths touch the most people appear to get the largest coverage, while others receive minimal space in which their lives are condensed.
On February 4th, 2005 the online version of the Baltimore Sun announced the death of activist, actor Ossie Davis in an article published by Associated Press writer Hillel Italie. On that day they also announced the death of Elizabet…