Friday, September 14, 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 in to the parking lot, signed in at the desk, and waited—and waited.

“Lie down, close your eyes, and relax.”

I closed my eyes and thought about nothing. I tried to think of what people thought about when they thought about nothing. I counted clouds, then I counted words; words have a way of stringing themselves together and soon counting words or numbers slipped in to counting how long I was sitting in silence.

“How long do I have to relax?”

“Shhh…” she advised, the clicking of her laptop punctuating the silence.

My eyes closed, the room darkened, sounds muted, it paled in comparison to the feeling of spinning slowly then faster spiraling almost out of control.

She checked my blood pressure again. “Ok, don’t try to relax anymore” she laughed.

At some point I lost the ability to relax. Added to worrying about saving to meet upcoming Visa requirements and moving my children to the UK, I now have to worry about worrying.

I miss me.

I miss knowing myself so well that I don’t have to go to the doctor to find out I’m stressed or that I need to walk or be more active or ultimately, that I need to reacquaint myself with myself.

I’ve started in doses: arranging my kid-free music library. The next step is a restaurant of my own, a favorite meal, a favorite place.

I am falling in love with myself all over again. But I won’t date me, not until I know me better.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

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 man at this particular time, particularly—and this my grandmother does not know—because I killed him, well almost. 

            So when I say I haven’t been home for six months, I mean I haven’t been in the home I was raised in for the past six months.  I have been in Atlantic City since then and because that was not a trip of leisure, I didn’t notice the breeze. I visited my father the last time I was here; even then knowing he would die but not that I would be the one to kill him.  A few weeks before my visit, I got a call from a colleague that someone was offering $75,000 to have my father killed and I wanted to know why.  Not why someone wanted him dead, but why anyone was contacting me about wanting him dead.  In the nature of my business it is common courtesy to contact an agent before trying to kill a member of their family.  Not only is it good business sense, its good common sense—I’m known to have a bit of a temper. But no one knew we were related. 

            Anyway, my plan was to confront him in his living room, imagining his surprise to see me, since I didn’t have a key. He would talk about his problems: how apparently he owed money to some people I knew, which in my experience isn’t why they wanted him dead. He would tell me he told them I was his daughter and that I would kill them if they touched him.  Turns out he knew from a friend of a friend about my career and thought namedropping would save him.  And it would have.  They were still in the planning stages and hadn’t ordered a hit; they were waiting to verify he knew me—which my visit would prove. I didn’t like being put in a position to help him and even as I slipped in through the living room window, I hadn’t decided I would.

            I knew right away something was different, not wrong but different.  In my line of work you know death when you meet it and it was staring me in the face and using my father’s eyes to do it.  Damn.  Now I’d have to find out who killed him and just how they planned to make it up to me.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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 dream of her often. In most of my dreams we are back at 201; sometimes I’m slipping through the grass or running down the back stairs. In really good dreams I don’t even remember she’s dead. Sometimes I do. Still neither of us mentions the absence of life—we don’t need to.

The other day my daughter said she doesn’t feel like she has a home any more. With all of the preparing to move to a new home, our home stopped feeling like home.

She’s right. Though I have to admit it started before that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

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.

After my first project closed I gathered even more information and launched an amended version. This project is a bit more focused and detailed: I believe in it.

While launching my project, “Jealous is the Past,” I began reading other projects in search of projects to support. I found quite a few; some are really inspiring—one brought tears to my eyes. The magnitude of the project is—and I use this word infrequently—amazing. The project I’m talking about is “Chitown”: This project is about kids uniting over basketball—a common game in perhaps circumstances common to some uncommon to most.

This project inspires me to do more in my own community; to get involved where I see good things happen; and to initiate action where I see none. This project inspires me not to just support it financially, but to support it in words.

With all that I have learned and all that I have earned, whether I get the financial support I’m asking for, my time on Kickstarter has been a success. Success is all in how you define it. Finding a project that allowed me to feel, when I was only looking for one to support? I would say that’s a success no matter how I define it.

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 staircase was lined with dry goods as if to hide the presence of stairs leading upwards, directly to a wall. After the first time, the rice, sugar, flour, cookies, and other goodies effectively kept my interest from wondering too long at what was behind the wall—until now.

When I was 8 years old I was afraid of the ghost living in my grandmother’s attic.

There were lots of areas to be afraid of: the basement apartment, the cellar filled with objects I had never seen in use, the third floor with its phantomlike guests and their secret lives. But, few of these places, despite my worries of quietly judgmental ghosts were ever able to produce fear strong enough to keep my sister and me from loving Gran’s house. The house was filled with aromas: pine cleansers, sweet wood, frying fresh Blue fish, crispy bacon, Vick’s Salve and sulphur.

Certain smells will forever remind me of home.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...