HEAT

Many years ago, when I was young and my children were younger, my husband left. I continued to go to school, certain it was the only thing keeping me from the nightmares of my youth. I had two kids, I entered two Master’s programs, and I worked two jobs (two part time jobs) fitting them in between the small spaces of my life.

One of those many years, I supported us on a total of twenty thousand dollars. I worried a lot. About bills. About the future. About my kids.

In my youth, with five children and two adults split between a three bedroom apartment, my mother had to occasionally pawn things in order to buy milk and cereal. My father nearly always had his thumb on the heat. I’m literally talking about the thermostat. The gas bills of an Ohio winter could wipe out whole paychecks.

There were stories of people freezing to death during those cold winters. That was before they passed the law that the Gas Company couldn’t cut people off for non-payment during freezing winter storms.

I woke up some mornings, my breath condensing before my eyes. My hamster went into hibernation. My father bought us sleeping bags, a cheaper alternative to turning up the heat.

Maybe that alone is what brought me to California (not really.) But there’s an incontrovertible trauma to spending your life shivering. And there’s an indisputable pleasure to being warm.

In the chilled California winters where it rarely drops below 32 degrees, I refused to deny my daughters heat. In the meager college years of single motherhood, I could not begrudge them food or space or gifts.

But I did cringe when the pink lined bill of the Southern California Gas Company came or the blue hem of the Water and Power warnings peeked over the rim of the mail box.

The one thing my father taught me was how to work hard and harder. I got through the tenuous times by believing hard work would pay off and we would, one day, be safe.

Fast forward to the Pandemic Years: I put my thumb on the heat tonight, having spent the day chilled, and nearly turned it down. Here in So Cal we don’t have the Ohio winters nor do we have the heating bills that could hinder a trip to the market for food. But every little bit will count – again.

Superman

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Mr. Rogers didn’t say anything, he acted.

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Just because someone isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.

Love.

 

Citizens

Imagine going to a therapist who works out of her home. She tells you to use the side entrance, through the gate. But the gate is locked, so you go to the front door and knock.

The therapist, who specializes in trauma, whips open the door and screams in your face “GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY YARD?”

If you’re seeking a therapist with a specialty in trauma counseling, it’s because you’ve experienced trauma.

How do you react?

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Maybe part of that trauma is that you’ve been ignored your whole life, described as a criminal, pulled over and searched for no particular reason. When you walk by, people pull their purses a little closer. People say things to you that seem aggressive, yet they smile while they do it.

If you haven’t experienced these traumas, then perhaps you react. Ask the woman what her problem is? Ask her if she speaks to all her patients like this? Maybe you curse her out. And I’m definitely guessing, you don’t go in and pay her exorbitant fees.

But if you have experienced microaggressions and this is maybe just the third one that day, and it’s still early, you go in.

It’s not one black man who was brutalized by cops that hurts and angers large sections of our population. It’s the thousand little microaggressions that happen on a daily basis and it’s repeated brutality by those who should be setting an example in our society which makes it seem okay to other parts of our population. Further, it is those in charge who seem to shrug and say, oops, as if a cop didn’t just kill someone by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, but rather ran a stop sign or some other insignificant infraction.

Claudia Rankine describes hundreds of microaggressions perpetrated by colleagues, “friends,” strangers, and society. Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of poetry. I saw it enacted as a play at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles some time ago – and it made and left an impression.

I’ve used it in nearly every literature class since. It is a work of art.

Articles, excerpts, and videos:

New Yorker

An Excerpt from the book Poets.Org

The New York Times

You are In the Dark

From Granta 

Stop and Frisk – video

More from Youtube

 

You might be a racist…

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One of the discussions we have in my classes on a regular basis is about cross cultural communications. I have a few rules in class about discussions. The first of which is you don’t have to agree with anyone, but you should know how to respectfully disagree. And two – if you feel someone says something inappropriate, including me, say something.

I don’t claim to be an expert. I listen. We discuss.

If you’ve ever uttered lines such as:

  • “He’s good looking for a black guy.”
  • “She’s a nice black girl.”
  • Any version of, “Some of my best friends are black,” or “I have black friends.”
  • “All lives matter.”
  • Told a black joke to your black friend (and you’re not black).
  • Quoted statistics of white people killed by cops.

You’ve either came across as ignorant or racist.

These are insensitive and can be interpreted as hateful. Learning to communicate effectively takes time and practice.

If you hear others say these things and feel safe, let them know these things are inappropriate.

If you’re uncertain what you or others have said is inappropriate, ask someone – and understand the reasoning.

Check out these articles.

“Some of My Best Friends Are Black”

Why You Should Stop Saying All Lives Matter”

“Don’t Understand the Protests?”

“27 Things White People Should Never Say…”

 

To understand how to better communicate across cultures:

52 Activities for Improving Cross Cultural Communication

 

It is not my intention to label or call names. I am asking that you be aware of what you’re saying and how you sound.

We all need to be more sensitive in the way we speak to and think of one another. We share a planet. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all beautiful human beings.

Silent, Not Silent

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I was going to say I’ve been largely silent in the last weeks, a post here and there, but I don’t want my lack of posting to be confused with silence about what is happening in the world these days.

I am left speechless at the horror of this year, of this last month, of these last days. But not silent. Not neutral.

To compound the coronavirus horrors, my only refuge – as with all of you – my house was invaded, my dog got skunked and brought the smell into the house.

Stay with me here….  this grows.

If you are unfamiliar with the smell save for passing a kill on a country road, the smell leaches into everything in a matter of moments. It’s not a matter of opening the windows to release the odor. The smell is thick, it has claws. It sticks around. Even with fans going, windows open, it lingers in corners.

The spray is an oil type substance that is embedded into my dog’s fur. The skunking is meant to do harm; therefore, it causes burning of the eyes, rash on the skin, nausea. And it is not easily scrubbed out.

I don’t only mean the dog. I was sick for days.

Now, let’s add to that a passing of a friend.

Layer that with the death of George Floyd. This hurts me because it hurts my friends, my students, my family. The brutality Floyd experienced is the brutality people of color experience EVERY DAY!

Top it with the protests, which would have been peaceful except for the agitators who want to use the protests as a front, to cause problems, and commit crimes.

So add looting and violence, the armed national guards, police, and curfews.

Do not take my silence as a neutral position. I am horrified.

Racism is that skunking. It is meant to do harm. It is an odor not released by opening a window. Racism is a stink that has claws, it has bite. It is a sickening, stinging, lingering presence. And it needs to be scrubbed out of the system entirely.

And the scrubbing needs to begin at the top.

 

I am an educator. I teach. One of the classes I have taught is The History of African American Literature. For the next few weeks, my posts will center around what I have learned and what I teach my students about communication, history, and growth.

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Sending loving and healing thoughts to all.

 

Eddy – Win a Copy

Eddy, my new novella, will be out next month. I’ve eddycoverfinalbeen invited to read and speak at the Poe Museum’s Birthday celebration upon its release.

However, you can win a free copy before it’s released!

This is a fictional account of an actual event in Edgar Allan Poe’s Life. In 1848, whether accidental or purposeful, Edgar took an overdose of Laudanum, which was an opiate based medicine available on the open market. It was sold in pharmacies as well as pubs!

Poe nearly died as a result. This is a fictional imagining of that experience.

Poe reimagines the life and death of each of the women he loved. The story begins and ends in the Boston rooming house in which Poe found himself in November 1848 right after he’s bought the Laudanum. His overdose rouses images of his mother backstage at the theater in Richmond during her last performance  and continues on to Virginia in their Philadelphia home while she played the piano for their guests. The story doesn’t neglect his other loves.

Debbie the events coordinator from the Poe Museum said she was “blown away” and couldn’t wait to share it with her colleagues.

Eddy won’t be available until January 6th. But you can WIN a advanced copy by entering your email address.  You don’t need to enter more than once, your email address is your entry. A single one will be randomly selected by a generator, and the winner will be notified by email on or about January 5th.

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If you need more to whet your appetite, take a look at my interview with Super News Live on their Dark Mysteries Show about The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.

I’m excited about releasing this as Poe’s work and life has been such an inspiration, not only to me but to many. His work will continue to inspire writers, artists, and film makers for many years to come.

 

EnJOY!

She was “BLOWN away”!

Eddy is set to be released the first week of January 2018. It will be followed by a book signing in Santa Clarita, then in Richmond, Virginia at the Poe Museum!

Debbie Phillips from the Poe Museum said she “was BLOWN away. I love it, and am excited to share it with my colleagues.”

In 1848, Poe took an overdose of Laudanum. Eddy is the fictional account of what happened under the influence of the opiate based drug.

“Half mad from an overdose of laudanum, Poe re-imagines the death of each woman he loved even as their souls reach out from beyond the grave to save his life.”

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To Celebrate my upcoming publications – I’ll be posting Poe related trivia and never before seen photos of fan art – or more specifically – the art people have made for me knowing I’m a Poe fan!

I’ve got so much love for Poe fans!

A True Halloween Creeper Story

There was a challenge today in one of the writing groups to write 1000 word flash fiction Halloween story. This is a true story. It happened a few years ago. (It was written in an hour – so it’s not perfect)

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A True Halloween Creeper Story

 

Syd and I spent Halloween jogging in the rain. Our neighborhood doesn’t receive many trick-or-treaters, so this gives us a chance to see kids in costumes making their rounds. Sometimes the costumes scare Sydney; while dogs get the whole idea of doing crazy things for treats, they’re a little uncertain of masks and make up.

There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, which makes running difficult because of the social factor. The neighbors with friendly dogs stop and chat. So, toward the end, it’s more walk than run for us.

As I slow toward my own block, I run into Dan with his dog. Dan has a newfoundland; if the dog stood on his hindlegs, he’d be over six feet tall. A strong, powerful rescue dog, Dan said. “In case I ever need rescuing,” he joked.

“Where’s your wife?” The rain slowed to a sprinkle.

“Work trip. She’ll be gone til Saturday.”

“I didn’t realize her job required travel.” I’ve never seen one of them without the other. They walk their dog through our neighborhood on a regular basis.

Dan shrugs. “Yeah, once in a while.” His dog pulls him forward, and he yanks back. I smell the alcohol on his breath as he yells, “heel!”

Syd’s half the size of his dog, but the same color. She turns to look at him, even as his dog ignores him.

“What are you doing tonight?” Dan asks.

“Hiding from the kids. I didn’t buy candy.”  I laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” he says as if he forgot it was Halloween. “You can hide at my house if you want. I have beers.”

I laugh again. “No. I wouldn’t want your wife, or anyone else for that matter, to get the wrong impression.”

He shrugs and almost loses his balance. It becomes apparent, he’s had more drinks than I first assumed.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s used to it. I do photography in my spare time.”

I don’t know Dan or his wife that well. I only know them from our run-ins when walking the dogs, a few moments spent here or there chatting.

“You’re a photographer, right?”

I shake my head, “No, just pictures of flowers once in a while.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I see you covered in flowers.” His eyes shine as the last sprinkles of rain hit the ground and he pauses to look at me.

“Uhm, excuse me?”

“I photograph women, models. I’d like to photograph you.” He gets that half smirk that I’ve seen on men in bars when I was younger. A last ditch sales pitch that’s sure to hit. They, like he, doesn’t realize how incredibly silly they look. Dan’s older, he’s heavier. He has the appearance of someone who indulges in too much of everything except self-care. His skin is ruddy, hair unbrushed.

“No.” I say. There’s another block before my house and he’s heading the same direction. I hope another neighbor comes out to say hello.

“It would be strictly professional,” he slurs. “I’ve photographed hundreds of women, thousands. I used to run a website.”

“A website?”  He told me before he worked for the city; he’d retired early. I hadn’t believed that at the time, but didn’t care. Much like I don’t care about this conversation and I’d rather get to my warm, dry house and give Syd a treat.

He leans in, the scent of alcohol billows in front of us. “I don’t tell many people; it’s not something to be talked about in pleasant company.” He half laugh, half grunts.

I fall back a step, lean over to adjust my shoe laces. Maybe he’ll keep walking. When he stops and waits, I ask, “Does your wife know about the website and the photography?”

He shrugs again. The dog yanks at him and he yells louder than before. “Freaking, g’damnit, heel!” The giant, near panda bear, turns his head, seems to snub him, and pushes forward with less force.

Sydney slows down, lowers her ears, then she stays by my side as we start walking again.

“You know, I told my wife, it doesn’t really matter if we’re married or not. I mean, she could take one house, I could take the other. You know? Who stays married anymore, right?”

I see another neighbor, Jenny, coming toward us; I wave madly. She’s jogging with her little terrier, Fritzie. I hope she’ll stop, talk; I think, if she does, I’ll walk in the opposite direction with her.

“Hi, Jen!” I say loudly. She’s wearing her earbuds under her hoodie and I’m not sure she can hear me.

She waves, picks up Fritz and quickens her pace around us. I imagine she’s afraid of Dan’s dog. But when I see her sideways glance, I wonder if it’s more Dan that freaks out her. Suddenly, more things make sense.

“I could do the pictures very tastefully.” He half chuckles. “It’ll only be me; what are you afraid of?”

I decide to take the clear, hard line with him. “Well, I have children, and I’m a teacher. I’d be afraid to compromise my ethics and lose my job.”

We’re just a house from mine. I cut across my neighbor’s and my own lawn. The misty night has left my skin damp, but it’s him who makes my skin crawl.

“Well, if you know any young girls….” he calls behind me.

“I’ll be sure to warn them away from you!” I call back. Once in the house, I see him pause at the end of the drive, probably trying to make sense of what I said. I lock the door, turn out the lights, and give Syd treats; then we sit in the dark to watch someone a little less creepy, like Michael Meyers.

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