Strangers in My Homeland

Every morning, the teapot whistles as dawn breaks over the apricot tree.

I’m not a troglodyte by any means, but broken laid the the coffee pot in a pile on the porcelain.

I open the curtains, then my laptop and set to work. I gaze off. The cat jumps on the table. I’m in her space, in the roundabout of her alone time; she lies her body on my keyboard.

The dog barks and a shadow falls in the driveway. I stretch to see. The dog rages in a riotous rendition of woofs and whines. I unseat myself and lean to see the stranger.

dogwalk

Perhaps an unknown neighbor walking his dog.

And five minutes later, the same.

Five minutes later, the same.

 

I’ve bragged I know my neighbors. I can name them all, along with their occupations, breed of dog, or children’s ages.

But who are these strangers sauntering across my sidewalk? From another street, another block? Newly homed workers, students, families.

We are sudden friends when I’m outside, a wave and polite hello, and how are you?

 

The neighborhood decided to put stuffed bears in windows for the children.

The neighborhood decided to go on sign hunts.

The neighborhood decided to share extra fruit from their trees, oranges, lemons, apricots.

 

What will happen after? When we all go back to work? Will the strangers now friends become estranged once again? Or will we then, having walked the tightrope together, come and gather, share, and wish each other well from less than six feet, without our masks and our gloves?

 

Old Disasters, New Meaning.

The night was black; there was no moon to guide us when we woke up to sound of the earth roaring, the feel of concrete slamming up then down.

Dogs barked and whimpered, car alarms bleated and died out. Then there was silence.

It’d been my first major earthquake.

We pawed our way through the dark hall over broken glass picture frames to find our children, our shoes, the doorway.

In the 1994 earthquake, I lost almost everything. We lived on the second floor of a nice apartment about a mile away from the Reseda Boulevard epicenter where (I believe) 23 people lost their lives.

Everyone in our building got out alive. But the building was destroyed, gas hissed into the alley and we had to flee.

I walked away from that disaster with my daughters. At the time, I didn’t care about all the material things.

All of the “stuff” we had seemed so worthless. And as we rebuilt, I didn’t replace all the junk we had. I didn’t have a mixer or a microwave. I didn’t fill the kitchen with “good plates” and every day plates. My cabinets remained near empty for many years. Slowly, they have been filled with occasionally used items nestled next to the well used necessities. I have things I don’t need. Pretties collected that I’d resisted for so long fill small places here and there.

And here we are again – on the brink of another disaster. And I say – I do not care about all of these things I have collected. I care about my family, my friends, students, neighbors.

My first year psych teacher said to me – before that 1994 Northridge earthquake – “The only real thing of value is meaningful human relationships.” I have always held that close.

We should dismiss our first world concerns of malls, cars, and money. We can put aside our overly independent natures and our me first attitudes. We can do what it takes to make certain that those we love, families and strangers, survive this.

We know what we need to do. We’ve done it before.

Hold on to those you love, even if they are far away right now. Nothing else matters.

 

1994 Earthquake

Plagues and Pandemics throughout History

 

The Idea Farm

The idea farm is a creation – where we keep all of our ideas planted, waiting for the spring.

airplantfarm

PLANT:

There’s a time for the planting – every day, every minute, every conversation, every silence. But pick and choose. My favorite place to get ideas is from overheard snippets of conversations, words and lines heard in passing or overheard in a coffee shop. Sometimes, it’s just a word someone throws out that sticks. It might be an image. Someone posted a photo and it was eerie, strangely haunting to my strange little perception. I have notebooks, torn papers, lists of ideas. And the ideas do come to live when they’re ready.

FERTILIZE:

To keep the idea farm going, we need to keep it fresh. New ideas coming, water flowing, fertilizer tossed around. Water is connected, according to Freud, to our unconscious. Taking a bath before bed is a great way to feed your muse. Fertilize – remember to go back, reread, add a word or two, subtract a word or two, think about it before you go to bed, when you first wake up. Something will bloom. Sometimes it blooms prematurely and I’m up at 3am writing like a madwoman. But it works. I wrote a number of poems and short stories struck by a fever of words and rhythm.  Of Strays and Exes and The Gold Tooth were written under one of those spells.

HARVEST:

When the time is right, you write. You’ll pluck that idea out of the ground and start massaging it into what it was meant to be. Eddy was on a list. It sat there for quite some time waiting for me to be brave enough to pull it out, confident enough to put the words to paper, and strong enough to show it to others. So many more stories came like that – waiting for just the right time, ripe from the time and the fertilizer and ready to burst forth.

 

Much love and luck.

At Home with Your Idea Farm

Here in Southern California, schools closed, businesses limited, no hugging, and it’s raining. The mood has been set:

freehugs

One newscaster is talking about cycling to work. Did he not get the memo?

STAY HOME. TOUCH NO ONE.

Schools have closed – or gone online. Starbucks is limiting in person ordering/seating, not allowing refillable cups, considering going with online ordering and pick up only. Restaurants are closing.

I saw my friends this week, and we didn’t hug. This makes me sad – but it’s completely understandable.

It fedemo manels like we’ve reached the point of all those 80’s sci-fi movies in which people stay inside, afraid to go out, and resist human contact.

In the Stallone/Snipes Sci-Fi flick, Demolition Man, (a genius move btw), people have sex through the use of computer attached to their temporal lobe. They don’t engage in physical contact.

 

I really want to say: keep calm

This, too, shall pass.

You don’t need 148 rolls of toilet paper or 37 boxes of cat litter.  At least, the average person doesn’t need this.  You’re going to wake up surrounded by bleach wipes for the next two years!

I guess this whole thing keeps me home, keeps me writing. Writers, at the very least, should be using this whole scenario to feed your idea farm. (More info on my idea farm on Monday).

 

The Popularity Contest

mirrored

I know some people are really nice, like super-duper, sticky sweet nice.  And I like these people. I used to be one of them.

I used to bend over backwards to accommodate friends and lovers. I would go out of my way for an acquaintance or a stranger.

But you know what happens – People like to take advantage. How people stay so nice, I’m not sure. For me, I needed boundaries.

Therefore, I won’t be winning any popularity contests.

I am a nice person. I do go out of my way for people. But I also have incorporated boundaries. I no longer overdo and run myself ragged, and I don’t contort unless I’m in yoga class.

The thing is though – I didn’t win any contests being sticky sweet. Sometimes people took advantage, sometimes people didn’t trust me, and sometimes people mistook my niceness (although that still occasionally happens).

When a person makes a change to incorporating boundaries, people react. I remember one particular person got angry, another tried to manipulate me. Some people, unable to push beyond those boundaries, left.

I’m good with that. I’m good with not winning any contests. I’m really happy to have found a good balance.

In Mirror People,a short story in my book Psychic Surprise Party, Jewel has found her sister much changed and doesn’t like it, doesn’t know how to react, and almost chooses to walk away.

Because a person changes and grows, the people around them have to change their perception and the way they interact. It makes some friends and family uncomfortable and might cause them to question their own behaviors and attitudes. In this insta-world, it’s easier to walk away.  It’s probably for the best.

 

Authenticity

I think this is my word for 2020.

I feel I’m always authentic, being me, to the best of my abilities.

I reach for the positive in the majority of my interactions. (I admit sometimes I fall short – no one’s perfect.)

energy

That being said, some research seems to suggests positive people ignore the negative. So, when I said to someone today, I’m into the whole positive psychology movement, she stated, “I believe in being authentic.”

I thought about the statement, and her misconception that by being positive I’m ignoring some negative or darker emotions (uhm, have you read my work?) . However, I think of it differently. It’s a way to handle the negative, it’s not about ignoring it, (which is what I explained to her).

Last year, this blog was about writing. In looking at statistics, there were a great number of readers. Good. I hope you guys got some good advice. This year, however, I want it to be more about joy and authenticity.

I think my writing is authentic, sometimes raw, sometimes dark, but always with hope.

Don’t Should on Me

I was just reading submission guidelines and it had a lot of “you should be this and you should do that and you should have done this ten years ago…”  Maybe publishing companies have more of a right to have expectations; however, there seems a better way to write it than a listing of shoulds.

I don’t like should. It’s an ugly word, is it not? lucyWith its shrugging shoulder beginning, it’s very vowely middle and then an ld. Say ld aloud. You make that face like Lucy tasting something terrible, or receiving bad news, or stepping in a should.

That’s exactly what it’s like – all this shoulding all over the place.

I opened up twitter this morning and saw a tweet that read, “you should be writing.” I think I’ve been guilty of a similar tweet in the past.

Then to an email from a friend telling me what I should read and should reread.

I consider a conversation from the other day. I hung up telling myself I’d probably not speak with them again. He was full of shoulds: should have done this, should do this, and shouldn’t say should to him.

I should myself enough. I don’ t need other people shoulding me.

More importantly, why do we should people? Why don’t we just accept people for who they are and what they want to do. Who am I (or you) to tell others they should be writing or doing or being or thinking?

REWORD. REWORD.