Left Behind

Gold_Chaika_Pocket_Watch_made_in_the_USSRYou have left behind a small bedroom, engulfed by the bulky hospital bed with its folding mattress and steely grey rails.

You have left behind an old red recliner, and I sit in it and remember that the wooden handle no longer works and the deep creak in its rock sounds like the background music to midnight conversations, whispered in the hushed stillness of a sleeping home.

You have left behind a closet full of blue dresses and a red cape, and I never would have known that your favorite color was pink, until you asked for a dress to be buried in and smiled when the rose colored sheath was unfurled from its bag, petals opening in front of a sunset.

You have left a trunk full of love letters and silk scarves and stories I was never old enough to ask you for, so that now I sit and wonder about the woman in the picture, legs propped up on the steps, her skirt sliding up to show off her slender calves.

I have days of work ahead of me, maneuvering the remnants of life from present to memory, and you have left your scent in the sheets, your powder on the bathroom sink, your gold pocket watch on the dresser, and me.

You have left behind me.


This has been a six sentence story. You can find out more about them and this week’s prompt, here.

The River

I don’t remember the way I loved you,
but it is seared in my mind,
that image of you at the edge of the water,
long strands of river algae curled around your legs
and clung like sticky tentacles on the muscle of your calf
water rolled in languid drops down the swell of your breast
dangled teasingly from the arched tip and fell,
a dramatic end to catch the sun’s glint.
I watched my reflection scatter and break in the droplets on your skin.
I think that’s where the problem was.
I think I saw myself too much in us.

© Laura A. Lord 2015

To Watch Him Love

I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.

I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.

There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.

Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.

The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.

The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.

The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.

The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.

The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.

The dude who attempted to suffocate me on my parent’s couch.

By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.

Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.

The next morning we had a quick conversation.

“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”

If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.

“Okay,” I said.

I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.

Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.

541497_397525856932511_2036391058_nA few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.

“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.

He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.

Silence.

“Well…” I started.

“Well what?” He asked.

“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.

“It’s cute,” he said.

“And…” I lead him.

“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”

By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.

I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.

There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.

He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family25248_108453875839712_7044406_n and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.

He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.

Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.

Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.

“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.

“The end of June,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”

Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.

I had a month to get everything planned and ready.

I love you, too. You know that.

After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.

We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.

For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.

We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.

He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.

He couldn’t control what was happening.

He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.

All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.

“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.

We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.

481829_525481010803661_775093643_n“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”

“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.

“They are my own,” he said.

A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.

“We could try again,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.

“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.

Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.

Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said.

We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.

Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.

I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.

We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.

“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.

“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”

I love you, too. You know that.

I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was942205_603602919658136_1585711832_n laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.

He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.

The Dog Bite

*Trigger Warning: Domestic abuse and miscarriage

I was twenty, in college, working two jobs, and living at home.

He was eighteen, rebellious, on probation, and my mother hated him. In other words, irresistible.

We dated in secret. When my mom found out, she kicked me out of the house in an act of tough love. Unfortunately, this only increased our resolve.

I moved in with him and lost myself in the process.

I quit my jobs, school, my family, friends….everything, but him.

He was uncaring. Manipulative. Controlling. And despite intense jealousy, he cheated constantly.

But I loved him, and protected him with tsunami intensity.

tsunamiI had zero backbone and even less confidence. Raging insecurity took over any shred of logic, feeding the belief that I didn’t deserve to be treated better.

Not long after our two year anniversary, we moved into a tiny garage apartment in seedy East Dallas. The owner had a dog who was always tied to a long chain in the backyard.

One morning, I walked through the backyard towards my car when the dog  – not realizing who I was – attacked me. I can still feel his teeth driving deep into my leg.

Later that day, it was clear I’d have to see a doctor. The bite ached and throbbed.

I didn’t have insurance, so I went to a tiny doc-in-the-box. Before administering a tetanus shot, the nurse, as a precaution, asked if it was possible I could be pregnant.

I remember laughing and telling her no way.

I hadn’t had a period in months, and my stomach was beginning to protrude from my far-too-skinny frame.

Denial. Maybe if I didn’t think about it….it would just go away. We couldn’t take care of ourselves, much less a baby.

A week after the tetanus shot, I noticed spotting and assumed it was my long-lost period. Relief is the understatement of the year.

Four days after that, I doubled over in the worst pain I’d ever felt. I popped pills for days to sleep through waves of cramps. I bled tremendously.

I knew what was happening.

After days of bleeding and intense pain, I finally had him take me to the emergency room.

He was annoyed with the inconvenience.

I’d lost so much blood I couldn’t even get out of the car. They had to come get me with a wheelchair.

They confirmed I was miscarrying. He was furious with me for losing the baby. The baby he had known about for all of five minutes.

He left while I had a DNC.

I woke up in a hospital room.  Alone.

Hours later, I was released. He wasn’t answering my calls, so a friend gave me a ride home.

He wouldn’t get my pain medicine from the pharmacy.

So I laid there for days with nothing. He didn’t make me food, or help me to the bathroom.

That was the Last Straw. Something inside me began to boil with rage, and I knew I had to get away from him. I finally believed I deserved better.

It took time, planning, two attempts and an actual covert operation, but I finally left him for good, ten weeks after the dog bite.

The dog bite that led to a miscarriage. The miscarriage that led to rock bottom. The rock bottom that led to ENOUGH.

Ironically, the loss of one life was the birth of another.

It’s been over twenty years since then. I can hardly believe I was ever that girl, which is why I tell this story.

I have a lovely eight year old niece now, and if there’s one thing I want to teach her, it’s to never underestimate your value.

Believe you matter, and protect that belief with tsunami intensity.

 *****

CaptureBeth is a day dreaming introvert who managed to acquire an amazing husband and co-create two lunatic boys. She’s a writer, artist, and recovering crazy cat lady who probably doesn’t day drink at all. Writer B is Me is where she unleashes all the shiz in her brain. Consider yourself warned.

Blog: www.bethteliho.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/elizabeth.teliho

Twitter: @beth_teliho

The Curse of the BFF

This is my very first time writing a guest post. Also, I am PMSing like a rage monster. (But I’m still cuter than Edward Norton, Eric Bana and Mark Ruffalo combined.)

*whewf* Now that THAT’S out of the way…

I feel the need to say that I love friendship.

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I’m super cheesy that way. Finding — and then subsequently hanging out with — people that make you feel like you’re not the only weirdo on the planet is cash money. Men and Women in Community instead of Competition is powerful. As long as your common denominator isn’t bullying other people or loving the Biebs, then FRIENDSHIP HO!

However, I have a problem with the title “BFF,” Best Friends Forever. I see it all over the place, mostly amongst 13 year olds whose feelings about anything last approximately 2 weeks.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but being a good friend is a marathon. Not just a wedding, but a marriage. You have to be IN IT TO WIN IT, and you can’t be the only one in the relationship who feels that way, you darling little Golden Retriever of Loyalty, you!

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If you ARE, then you have no cash money. You have slavery. And, chances are, they like it.

And if you’re under the title of BFF with that person from the time you’re pre-pubescent, it’s way easier to lie and rationalize yourself into adulthood about who they really are.

bffOn the scale of Best Friends Forever, from You Make Me Happy To Be Alive to  BFF? All You Do Is Make Me Say “EFF EFF EFF”, I’ve had them all.

I’ve learned that sometimes people are assbutts, and sometimes I’m an assbutt, and sometimes you realize that what you wanted in a BFF at 13 is not what you want at 25.

People change, and I’ve found that women change a LOT in particular. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But ladies, let’s be honest, sometimes it is.

How can we make it better? How can we be a true BFF that stands the test of time? I mean, I get it, not everybody is meant to be BFFs. There are levels of friendship that start at acquaintance and work their way into depth.

But we can still be nice about it.

Here are some Valuable Lessons Life Has Taught Me Like The Heartless Bitch She (Sometimes) Is.

1. Don’t Hold Grudges

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No matter the amount of time you have been friends, one of you is going to mess up eventually. Don’t be surprised or shocked, because, friend, I just gave you the heads up.

If they say they’re sorry, forgive them and move on.

If they DON’T say they’re sorry, you should probably still forgive them and move on because you deserve more than to be held captive by bitterness. **However, if they have a habit of not apologizing even when they know they’ve effed up, consider that this might not be the best quality in a BFF**

And if they’ve said they are sorry, and you’ve said that you forgive them but you haven’t really cause you never know when you might need to bring it up at some distant point in the future to make them feel bad, then guess who is the naughty BFF? YOU, sweetie. DON’T BE A GRAVE DIGGER.

2.  Be There For the Big and Little Stuff

As much as you possibly can.

Some friends are only interested in drama. Unless you’ve got something BIG going down, talk to somebody else. Their shoes are like “What extra mile?”

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Excuse me. Being there for someone means that even if their little story about the nightmare they had 3 days ago is boring you to tears, you’re gonna listen. You’re gonna put your arm around them and say, “That sucks. Good thing dreams aren’t real.”

THAT will get you much further than THIS.

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Big stuff is important too. Engagements, weddings, babies, funerals, break-ups, the list goes on. I’ve done my best to be present at every single one of those events in my friend’s lives. It matters to me.

Dear friends traveled from all over North America to be a part of my wedding, but one of them who couldn’t be there is still mad and won’t talk to me because I got married anyway. Apparently, I forgot that that day was about her. Don’t be her.

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3. Don’t Let Your Personality Burn Bridges

I’m weird. I’m an extrovert who thrives on people but still needs alone time every once in awhile. I have friends who are like that as well — I also have friends who just never. get. tired. of. partying.

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and others who only want to see me in their computer.

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At first, I thought introverts hated me, but now that I’ve matured *a little* I see that it’s not about ME, and it takes all kinds of kinds to make a world.

That being said, can I make a suggestion?

a.) If you are painfully shy or introverted but you love your friends, please try to tell them or show them in some way, at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be face to face. It doesn’t have to be a big long speech. Just let them know you care, because they can’t read your mind and you wouldn’t want that anyway. I know it can be really exhausting talking to people, but a little really will go a long way.

b.) Likewise, extroverts? Be cool, dayum. I know you’re a social butterfly and you gotta flap those wings and BE FREE GIRL, but ya know what is also cool? Making rooted, lasting connections with fewer people. Remembering them. Being intentional and meaningful rather than being perceived as flaky and superficial.

4.  Chicks Before Dicks

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New love. We know how spine-tingly, tummy-full-of-butterflies, and full-abandoney that makes us. It is so easy to jump with both feet into a new relationship, where you’re so consumed with each other that this other person is the only one that matters and how did you ever live without them before?

(I probably shouldn’t only say “chicks before dicks” when referring to relationships; I know that there’s more to the relationship spectrum that just guy/girl. It just sounded clever, aight?)

Either way, it’s not cool to abandon your group of friends for months at a time while you surrender to a haze of Eat, Significant Other, Sleep (?), Repeat. It’s healthy to maintain all of your relationships with balance. What happens if you break up? (OMG, I’m TOTALLY NOT SAYING you would EVER) You think you can just saunter back in on your friends’ lives as though you didn’t just ignore every phone call, text and email they sent you over the past 6 months? It’s shallow and selfish to assume that they will just pick up where you left off.

Or maybe your Love is Eternal and you’ll be together for 50 years until you die.

At some point, you’re still gonna need some friends.

5. Do The Elsa and Let It Go

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If you find yourself in a relationship where you’re being forgotten, undermined, gossiped about, mistreated, given the run-around, and ignored — it’s time to cut ties and say goodbye.

It’s gonna feel like a break-up AKA suckage to the max. Tears, stress-eating and thinking of them every time you hear what was once your favorite song.

I know. I’m in the middle of a break-up right now. I lost a decade-long friend 2 years ago, and occasionally, I’m still tortured by memories of her in dreams AND waking. We had *some* good times, mostly when she was single. But even then, she always had to be better and prettier and more noticed than me. She was rarely honest with me about her true feelings, so I was always left guessing.

After the debacle of her not being able to come to, or be in, my wedding (Her exact words were, “Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive you.”), the camel’s back was broken. I decided I deserved better, and I let her go. Just quietly; there was no big argument or fallout, only silence.

She’s basically my source for this entire post.

If you’ve had a shitty friend, I’m sorry. You deserve better, and Better Will Come.

If you’ve been a shitty friend, I’m sorry for that too, and it’s not too late to change.

I think the problem can be boiled down to two opposing sides of the attitude spectrum.

“I’m better than everyone”……………………………………………….”Everyone is better than me.”

If you join ranks with someone because their life is “sad” enough that they make you feel better about yourself, it’s not going to last.

If you join ranks with someone because you’re jealous of how amazing they are, and you can’t stop comparing yourself to them so you only get close just to be able to imitate them, it’s not going to last.

The root of both of those philosophies is that you really think it’s all about you.

And friendship can’t survive when you’re just looking out for Number One.

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Why don’t we commit to: celebrating the successes of our friends, recognizing that comparison is the thief of joy, and to loving others the way that we love ourselves?

Other women may have put me down and held me back, but I will not continue the cycle because all they did was teach me what not to do.

If enough of us do this, then maybe the BFF can be redeemed.

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Told ya I was cheesy.

*****

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetHola! I’m Carly Butler Hutton, or rather, Button. I’m a birth doula, cupcake maker, ex-illegal immigrant, and I’m the newest cool person you know. Gimme a shout, eh? 🙂 Carly Hutton blogs over at Growing Butterfly, tweets @carlymbutton, Instagrams @carlymbutton and Facebooks as “Carly Button Loves.”

Daddy: Fiction in 50 March

I suppose I haven’t had enough of death scenes lately, so when I stumbled across this today, I knew I had to enter. Enjoy my 50 word piece of fiction:

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Daddy

He swept her into his arms, holding her to his chest. She was such a tiny beautiful thing.

“I love you, Daddy,” she whispered, and his tears dripped onto her head, a mournful baptism.

Pain shot through his chest like lightning. Her shirt grew damp with blood from his wound.

*****

Word Count: 50

The rules for participation are simple!

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less.

That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Gargoyle’s post for everyone to enjoy. 

And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over atacrossthebored.com) or create your own Fi50 meme pic….

and 4. Link back here and/or add your post to the linky list so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon!

Prompts for the first half of 2014 are as follows – suggestions for new or alternative prompts are always welcome! Posts can go up any time during the week (or entire month – we’re not fussy!) beginning the following dates:

The week beginning:

January 27…..The best of intentions

February 24…..Love in the Time of …….  (you fill in the blank!)

March 24….A tiny, beautiful thing

April 28….Only joking

May 26….What comes after

June 30….The upper hand

You’re welcome to pick your own topics or go along with the ones above.

Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!

Herstory Lesson: Heartbreak at least let’s us know we feel.

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She is Raging

Trigger Warning: This post makes reference to miscarriage, loss, pregnancy. 

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I want to sit back and write something witty. I want to grab you on the first line and take you along some story’s path, so we can come out together at the end, holding hands and feeling quite proud of ourselves. I want to have words to give you, sprinkle around your mind like beautiful confetti.

But I don’t have it today.

I’ve got nothing to give.

I think all in all I’ve been handling this well. I mean, by the definition of “well” that everyone around me uses.

“Oh, she’s good.”

“She’s fine.”

“You look well.”

She’s not good. She’s staring at her Facebook and seeing post after post of baby bumps and nurseries and baby showers and count downs and newborn photos. She’s not good, because she’s angry and she’s jealous. It’s not that she isn’t happy for them. It’s not that she doesn’t wish them the best. She just wishes she had what they do. She wants in on that little world again.

She’s not fine. She’s standing in the checkout and people keep opening their mouths.

“How far along are you now?”

“You’re barely even showing.”

“How’s baby doing?”

When are you do?”

And so she has to say that the baby is gone, again and again and again. The words stick in her throat and she’s choking on them, bending over to let them fall out of her mouth with a delicate thud. She’s not fine and she’s sick with speaking of it.

She looks well. She lost what weight she’d gained and she has more energy. The pregnancy had made her so sick. She looks healthy again. There is color in her cheeks and her hair has regained its bounce. She gets dressed a little more often. She paints her face. She crawls into bed with her husband, aching and needy and everything is back to the way it was and her world has settled into a muted thing, because she is well and so she is waiting. Waiting for her body and his to have that tiny moment of collision that will breathe new life into her womb and it terrifies her.

But she’s raging.

She wakes up and groggy eyed checks her email. Entirely too many messages, but it’s the morning routine. And she sees the words:

You haven’t purchased anything off your baby registry. Sign in now to get everything baby needs! 

So the company attached a coupon to ease the burn behind the idea that she is such a bad mother-to-be, she hasn’t even bought anything off her list. She has no crib, no carseat, no newborn diapers. She has no bouncing chairs, no teething rings, no footed pajamas. She has no formula, no Tylenol, no soft and fleecy blankets.

But she has rage at seeing it.

She has pain that sparks behind her eyes and they’d call them tears, but they burn hot streaks down her face and she thinks she could set the entire world on fire with her emotions overflowing.

She is raging.

And her husband comes home and kisses her on the head. He asks, “What’s wrong?” And she tells him, “Nothing.” 

And she pushes the rage back long enough to kiss him. To make him his breakfast. To prepare herself for getting the children up. It’s a matter of survival now and she can’t be the woman she’s supposed to be with everything snapping apart. She shoves it down, like a pill stuck in her throat. She buries it deep.

Congrats on the new baby! He’s beautiful.

The nursery looks wonderful. You all got a lot of work done.

Good luck at the hospital. You and baby are in my thoughts. 

Look at that bump! Any day now. . .

Click this button to unsubscribe from future BabiesRUs promotions. 

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Herstory Lesson: “You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” – Ernest Hemingway

Weekly Writing Challenge

I had to do this one.

Because Rarasaur did the prompt and she is awesome.

Because the prompt itself was awesome.

And because I wanted to take a moment and step outside of myself.

So I tossed myself into some fictional woman. Then I threw that woman into a very real place going through very real things that have never really happened in that place.

Did I lose you yet?

Good.

This entire piece is about being lost. It’s dark and dangerous and it came from that part of my mind that even Norman is afraid of.

Enjoy, while I go coax that hairy barbarian out from behind Ellie’s dressing table.

Operation: To the Teeth

The sun is setting on the century and we are armed to the teeth. The lyrics of Ani DiFranco’s gritty music filled my head, setting the theme song for the backdrop that I was coming to know so well. There’s an order to things. A specific set of gradual occurrences that succeed tragedy, grief, destruction, invasion. Yes, it had been an invasion, as difficult as that may be to believe. That was the first occurrence: the doubt.

            We didn’t feel the ground shaking, hear the pat-pat-pat of machine gun fire, or see the rolling tracks of tanks rip the ground to shreds beneath their tread. I was washing dishes at the sink, staring out the small window that overlooked my backyard, a swing-set, the cornfield. My children were playing in the sandbox outside, performing acts of God and moving mountains with little effort or thought to the consequences. My husband was watching TV.

            That’s how we knew it. The electric flashed and the TV shut off. That in itself wasn’t much to be concerned about. Two birds could sit on a wire and knock our electric out. The flash only lasted long enough to knock the dish out briefly and then the TV was back and blaring. A long steady beep screamed from the speakers and I waited for the words, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” Instead, I heard a mechanical voice telling us, the people, to hold for the President of the United States.

            The video feed was not from the Oval Office. There was no comfy leather chair, no stars and stripes to fill the background. There was our President, worry and anger battling for the right to carve lines in his face, to spread from his thin pressed lips and to spiral out from his wide-set eyes.

            Doubt always comes first. No one believes it. The ego kicks in and the first thought is always, “Who would dare?” “Who would do this?” “Why would they want to?” All those questions are followed by the immediate reaction of, “We’ll be fine.” “They’ll call in the military.” “No one can beat us in a fight.”

            This is by far the longest part of the entire affair. The season of doubt washes across the country like a second-coming of the black plague. It eats everyone alive, but takes forever to go away. In its wake, we were left with anger, hatred, and fuel for a fight. The men disappeared. One by one they went off, recruited by their country or simply egging for a fight. Who knew? Who cared? We needed them and they went.

            And now we’re here, and those gradual occurrences are coming at a faster rate. See, once the doubt is gone, once the men have run off to defend their egos, their families, their possessions, their homes, their freedom…everything else falls into place very quickly.

            We’re tossed back into a medieval society, with no electric, no running water, no heat. Our money becomes far more useful as kindling for a fire, or toilet paper. It’s a barter and trade society again and it’s like we’ve been thrown back, back, back. I’ve got the best commodity around. Everyone can take it, but it can’t be stolen. It’s like my own personal Sphinx riddle and it is a tragedy that my daughter carries the same currency.

            Every right women ever fought for is gone. There is no one there to protect them, and so they are victims and protectors all at once. They become prey even as they provide. So we learn our purpose again:

            The men come in broken and we heal them.

            The men come in broken and we feed them.

            The men come in broken and we lie down, spread our legs, and let them break us.

Yes, women have found their place again, but at least we found a system of money that works. So we lose a piece of our soul, but our children are fed. They need to be strong for this world we’re making, breaking.

            I should have done as the others. I should have skirted the cities on my way North. The North has become a beacon of safety, a haven for the lost. I wonder if they’ll have closed the gates by the time we get there. I’ve never seen Niagara. I’ve never seen much of anything. My tiny life in my tiny, rural town was all I had ever known. Finally, after years of staring at the pages of travel magazines, I had the opportunity to see the world around me.

Regardless, I was foolish, but I wanted to see it. I had a postcard shoved in my pocket. I’d grown up surrounded by fields of corn and soybean, by deep rooted forests and gravel drives. I wanted to see buildings that touched the sky, that reached their sturdy fingers up to stroke the underside of the clouds.

            I remember pulling the postcard out and staring at it as we approached. I must have been around the same distance as the person who shot the original photograph. None of it was there. Rockefeller, Chrysler, Trump, Empire. They were all gone. I looked at the crease that was a white bolt of lightning through the middle of my postcard. It touched the top of the World Trade Center and drove right through the middle of the towers. Those had been gone long before today, another tragedy from another time. It seemed a million years ago.

            The purple mountains majesty was blocked by billowing columns of smoke and ash. There were no amber waves of grain, only the charred remains left behind by a foreign army. We never saw it coming and from sea to shining sea lay the remains of capitalism, democracy, America the beautiful.

            I feel a weight shift and briefly, for a moment, I can breathe again. Then there is another weight, and the hair is prickly and sharp as it rubs against my chest. He’s wider and my thighs are crushed down against the cold concrete of a dilapidated Macy’s store. Sweat is beading on his chin and dripping down onto my forehead like some sort of Chinese water torture and I’m floating away again. I’m lying here while men I don’t know are pumping away inside me, pouring their anger, disgust, and hate into me, using me for a moment to feel like maybe they’re in control again. They’re not, and perhaps because I know it, and they know I know it, they push harder and harder every time.

            I have no idea where my husband is. The only men I see are my own countrymen, running and fleeing to the North as quickly as we are. I don’t even know where my President is, or if he even is anymore. I know that I have three more to go before I get a loaf of bread. I know yesterday I earned a scoop of peanut butter that someone had shoved into little baggies. It’s the new drug deal of our century and I keep it shoved inside my bra for safety. I know that tonight my children will eat well and I only have three more to go, or two now. I think this one is done.

            Ani’s words drift through my head and I hear another girl crying nearby. Her tears form the melody to the tune and when a hand smashes my face to the side, holding me to the floor, I sing, “We’re all working together now…to make our lives mercifully brief…”

Weakened

I was asked awhile ago to write for Black Box Warnings. If you aren’t familiar with them, stop trying to look them up…they have since quietly faded out. Over the holidays the site went down, and so while I sit here with my thoughts on the wonderful people that ran that site, and hopes that things will get better for them and they can return soon, I decided to share the post with you from here. I hope you enjoy it, though enjoy might be the wrong word. I hope it let’s you in for a moment. I hope it makes you feel.

That’s what writing it for, right? To make us feel something.

So I wrote about feeling weak. I wrote about the moment when I noticed weakness in others around me.

I learned to cherish weakness, the humanity of that emotion.

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You tell yourself you shouldn’t say anything. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. This isn’t a new ride for you, but you feel like you’ve been waiting in the line for it forever. Your body’s been craving this thing, this filling. You’ve been striving for it, every ounce of your DNA straining forward, as if it were just out of your reach. But you knew you’d get it, and you did, and now you hold the proof in the little plastic strip in your hand and the plus sign is bright and pink. It practically screams it’s a girl, but it’s too soon to know such things. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. Besides, they used pink for boys in the past. It could be his son. It could be his boy.

It’s his first anyway. Just because you’ve done it before, doesn’t mean he has. No, he will be excited. He will be nervous and frightened, because he is a good husband, a good man, and a good father to the two mini-clones of his wife that run around the house in the early morning hours with an energy you both envy. He will be proud of you and touch your belly and hold you close for a few moments. He will smile and grab his phone and you won’t even think about it. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before.

His mother is calling you and you know he’s told them. He’s told them all. In his excitement he has leapt onto the digital rooftop and yelled out his news through the Facebook megaphone. You haven’t even been to the doctor yet, but you know, you know. Your body is changing, quickly it seems.

You are older now. Your body has grown soft. Your husband doesn’t complain. He likes the curves and the shape women call womanly, in that snarky tone of theirs. As if any one shape defines a woman. As if this is your definition: your broad hips that are soft on the sides, and the small pudge of a belly that never disappeared after your son had finished pushing the boundaries of your body and leaving the road map of faded white bolts across your skin.

You don’t remember how you told your father the first times. You should remember those sorts of things, but you think hard and cannot. Your father is a silent strength in your world. Words are scarce, but heavy. The memories you hold strongest are the ones where you saw him weakened. It seemed so odd, so out of place. It seemed so fake, that you stood there staring at that man and wondering who he had become, until you realized with a sort of bone-deep fear that he was the same man who held you when you fell apart and there you were, standing there frozen, while they told him his father was dying and you could hear him suck in a breath as if he were inhaling the world. It was a silence so deep before the break that caught in his throat and choked you. It sent you running from the room.

These things you remember, but not how you told him about his granddaughter. The little child he had to wear a mask to see the first time in the hospital. You don’t remember how you told him he would soon have a grandson, but you remember him in the room with you when you delivered. You remember saying, “I can’t do this” and him telling you, “You don’t have a choice.”

It’s that silent strength and you shouldn’t have said anything at all.

But you ran out, your feet scraping on the blacktop, bare in the cold frosty air that seemed to come earlier and earlier every fall. The leaves hadn’t even finished turning and the grass was still green, but there was a chill that seeped inside you and you knew it was too early. He was in his shed working and you said, “I have news” and he said, “You’re pregnant.” Just that, two words, and you both laughed. You smiled and he went back to work, smiling and silent.

You go to the doctor and you see the picture. It’s a peanut in black and grey. It’s a tiny little shape, like a croissant roll wrapped and fluffy. You see shades and a flicker that they point to and say, “Heartbeat”. Such a massive two syllable word. You look at your husband and he’s sitting there frozen, staring at the screen in some kind of wonder. He’s got no words and it’s that silent strength characteristic again and you feel at home and safe, even though it’s early. It’s so early.

You’ve been so sick. You’ve been living in sweatpants and your husband’s big t-shirts. You’ve had to battle with yourself and argue with the image in the mirror to make yourself want to shower, but everything smells bad and all you want to do is curl up and sleep. You are so tired. Your hair is a mess and you haven’t shaved your legs in so long, the husband laughs when he brushes against them. He drags you into the shower. He hands you a razor, like a silent plea to return to the woman he knew before. Something has changed in you, and you know it is different this time. You know it’s early.

His mother has invited you for dinner. It’s a holiday and special, so you shower and shave. He didn’t even have to ask. And you buy a new shirt and wear your new pants, because your body is soft and it’s changing so fast. You do up your make-up and slide in your earrings and your husband stares at this woman and wonders where she has been. You ride to his mother’s with his hand on your thigh, sliding closer and closer while the children are in the back and can’t see what he’s doing, or figure out why you are smiling like that. It’s a rekindling and it’s been so cold. You’ve both needed it for so long.

You’re on the porch later, when dinner is over, the phone clutched in white knuckles. You’ve never seen your father-in-law move so fast. He’s throwing your children’s toys into their bag, while your husband stuffs them in coats, and you are dancing in the cold while your mother-in-law packs turkey in a bag. You don’t even like turkey. And grandma is hugging you and telling you, “You’ll be okay”. Last year you told this woman you loved her, and she said, “You don’t even know me”. You felt sorry for someone who couldn’t accept a little love. Now you are here and you don’t want her to touch you. You don’t want anyone to touch you. You have to protect it and everyone is a danger, because something is wrong, and it’s so early.

If there is something invasive they can do, they do it. You have so many hands on you, inside you, machines that are beeping and blood being drawn. You have a negative blood type, so you have to get a shot. You know this. You know without it, your body will attack the life inside it, like a parasite it is trying to rid itself of. Always so quick to grow, in a body that wants to destroy. You start thinking, what did I do wrong? Why won’t it stop?

This woman, with her short hair comes in and you know, because her poker face is terrible. And she knows it, and blurts it out.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

You know it is real, because your husband can’t move. You are breaking into a million little pieces on their gurney. There is blood on your thighs and that thick, sticky gel on your stomach. There’s an IV in your arm, but it’s hooked up to nothing, and a bruise on your hip that will be there for weeks where they gave you a shot so you wouldn’t kill a baby that was already dead. You’re leaking out and he isn’t moving. Your husband. He’s sitting there and he can’t get up and you know it is real. You know he would come to you, but he’s having his moment. You are seeing him weakened and it frightens you, but you can’t run away and you can’t even go to him, because there isn’t enough of you left to stand up.

You are home and your father walks down the hallway. You’re in the living room, trying to find some channel on the TV that will occupy your children long enough to keep them away so you can save them the fear of seeing their parent snapping apart like a collection of wishbones. Your father, that silent strength. That man of few words. The one who once sucked up the world into his lungs and taught you how to crack. He’s there and he doesn’t touch you. He stands a few feet away and you are very aware that he doesn’t look you in the eye. You are very aware that you have switched places, and he is where you were as a child watching him mourn.

“I’m sorry about the baby.”

White Shoulders

tradewithtonyThis morning my children are dressed in their Christmas best.

They are ready for Sunday School and in all the hectic chaos of such mornings, my son asked for cologne.

So, I ran into the room, apologized to the sleeping bear that is the husband and grabbed his cologne, patting it on my fingers and dabbing the smelly stuff on my son’s pale little neck.

My daughter wanted smelly stuff, too.

My mother went and got perfume and it hit me, the second she lifted the cap on the bottle.

Even over the smell of the Polo on my fingers, I could smell the White Shoulders, tears filled my eyes, and for a moment I skipped back.

*This is a piece from my first book, Wake Up a Woman.

White Shoulders

White Shoulders

Have you ever noticed that there are places in this world that at certain times, and this is only every once in a while, time skips? It’s like life is a record player, and in our little record are a few cracks. Oh they are nothing major, and the music still comes through, but at times, just certain times, the needle catches. It pauses there, and the music stops. Then, within seconds, it jumps over the crack and starts anew. Who knows how long those seconds are? I mean, what does time mean to God? An eternity for us is but a blink of the eye to Him.

Of course by this point my grandmother had stopped my explanation of cracks and records skipping. She had one of the sighs, the kind that let me know she was ready to come out of her silence. We were sitting there on that park bench, the kind with the curved metal back, that looks uncomfortable, but you end up melded right into it like you belong with the scrolls and dips and dives. Leaves floated around us in the colors of flaming ash, all reds, oranges and yellows. My Grandmother’s cape was red. Not the red of the leaves, or a sunset over tired skies. No, her cape was the color of a fire engine. As if she should be putting out all those little flames that fell around us, and she could have too. She’d been putting out fires all of my life.

“Now stop this nonsense, and tell me what’s really going on.”

Her voice was one of soft strength, and as she spoke, one small, wrinkled, beautiful hand slipped out from under that cape and grasped mine. I couldn’t just settle for her hand though, and instead I curled myself into her, like I’d done since I was a child. My grandmother was no twig of a woman. She was the kind of woman you hugged and instead of being afraid you might break her, you knew she was the one holding you together. She was comfortable, and as I hugged her the scent of White Shoulders chased away everything else.

It was easier to talk now, so I told her of school and how well it was going. I talked about my professors and how much support they have given me in my writing. I spoke of work and the fun I have with the girls there in our efforts to make everyone fall as much in love with their writer’s voice, as we are. I told her of my children, and how we made gingerbread cookies, even though it wasn’t nearly Christmas yet, simply because the kids wanted to cut out cookie shapes. She laughed at that, and reminded me of her old recipe for cookies, one my mother and I don’t make nearly enough.

“Remember you have to roll them flat. Real flat. You want them really thin. Your mother and you never quite get them thin enough.”

And she was right, we didn’t. My mother and I didn’t come ingrained with that same ever-flowing font of patience that my grandmother had, and is. We’d get that cookie dough as flat as we felt like, even though we could hear her in our mind saying that they weren’t ready yet, and roll them flatter. I started to laugh then, and she laughed along with me, the sound filling the empty silence around us. It rose and fell over us, slowly twinkling out, stuck on the breeze and drifting away.

I sat there on that bench and turned to the empty place beside me. My fingers brushed the dead, brown leaves from the seat. Music played again, sweeping through the trees and shaking everything up at the roots, and the world spun around. I laughed again, loud enough to drown out the music. It was laughter laced with tears, and they fell and darkened the wood where my grandmother had sat.

“I miss you Mommom, so much.”

Perhaps I’ll stay here for a bit. Perhaps I’ll make this my home for a time. What is time anyway? It may only be another breath, another heartbeat, and the needle will catch again, and silence will fill a world scented by White Shoulders.

Ups and Downs

Today sucked. I mean, in most aspects…it completely sucked.

After a trip to the doctor’s, we found out that the natural route we opted for has not finished and we are not yet over the physical part with the miscarriage.

So…when I believed at least the pain was behind me, I realize it hasn’t even truly begun. It’s like walking around with a time bomb ticking away inside me and having to wait and see.

Will it happen today?

Tonight?

Will the husband be home or will I be alone?

I can’t go to the store. What if it happens while I am there?

Here, let me move that couch. Maybe heavy lifting will get it started tonight?

I should sit down. I don’t want it to start now.

So, it is ups and downs as I feel like Mother Nature is winging me around on her own personal yo-yo. It’s a pathetic Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball imitation and I needed something to shift this pendulum in a new direction.

The dress. Not me in the dress...but this chic in the dress I now own.
The dress. Not me in the dress…but this chic in the dress I now own.

The dress came in. It looks this good in person. Better even, because it didn’t fit.

I ordered the same size, from the same company that I got my wedding dress back in June.

And this dress was a full size too big. I admit. Part of me was extremely happy to push it back into the plastic bag and prepare to ship it off for an exchange from Amazon. Oh pendulum push.

Mine.
Mine.

And then these came. It was like package heaven here.

And they fit.

And I smiled as I handed them to the husband and told him he could wrap them and stick them under the tree.

Because tomorrow there will be no party for me to go to. I will stay home for the hours, the days, the weeks this may take.

I will bake cookies.

I will wrap presents.

I will cook dinner for my children.

I will pack lunch for my husband.

I will fold laundry and do dishes.

And in a few weeks I will open a package with a kick ass pair of shoes in it and I will wear them for my husband.

And I will love him.

And everything will go up and down, because that’s how it goes.

So, I’ll lift my chin, square my shoulders and give the pendulum a little push with my gold toned stilettos.