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Lego Houses

My kids used to love Legos.

We would build farms and houses and castles and helicopters, there was a roller coaster once, some cars and some superheros. Sometimes, there were missing pieces, it didn’t stop us — a few creative adjustments and our house would come to life. We would step back and look at it, not worrying about the pieces we couldn’t find, our Lego house was perfect just the way it was. If we wanted to make a change, if we wanted our Lego house to now be a Lego spaceship…  we could knock it all down and build it back up again.  The stories we played out with our Legos one day, could be changed the next, and we had so many stories to tell, so many pieces to learn how to assemble.

I’m finding the final words to the “shitty first draft” of the book I’m writing. Reviewing the last five years of my life has been a terrifying/exhilarating/tiresome/worrisome/scary/courageous undertaking… holding a mirror up to your inner most thoughts and taking in the reflection that comes back to you is many things. The reflection I’ve seen hasn’t always made me smile. Sometimes I run as far away from the words that I’m typing out as possible. Sometimes I sit and read the words over and over and I am back in the moment that they occurred. Sometimes I wonder if the words are really from my life, they seem so foreign to me now.

There was a time when I was in the midst of reeling and swirling and flailing about, not moving… just standing still. I was scared that some pieces of me had disappeared, washed out to sea as I stood in the ocean and let the waves pound me relentlessly… too tired to fight. About that time, I had a conversation with someone who I’m not exactly friends with, we don’t really know each other, but our paths intersected — for me, it was perfect timing. His words adhered themselves to my inner most self and I’ve held them ever since. He said that I wasn’t missing any pieces, I had everything I needed already in me, I just needed to put them back together.

This book, this look back on the last five years of my life, is like gathering all the pieces to a Lego house. I put a piece here and one there. I build the foundation and a few walls. I step back and see a few cracks, perfectly placed. I have just enough pieces to make a beautiful home, I’ve always had enough pieces to make a beautiful home. And if things go wrong, I can knock it all down — I know how to build it back up again.

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Bonus!

So, obviously I didn’t think raising three (completely amazing) kids, having a full-time career (as an Autism Consultant for the public schools for almost 22 years!), writing a memoir (about the most gut-wrenching years of my life), managing this blog (that has allowed me to meet all of you amazing people as I’ve (at times) cut out pieces of myself and handed them to you and you’ve held them and nurtured them and continue to be a huge support system for me) — I thought I might as well add something else to the mix, so… I opened an Etsy store!

Now, the story behind the Etsy store is this, in the last year, I started opening up to other areas of creativity as a way to relax and calm my often trembling soul. In the process, I began painting and making creative art pieces specifically for people in my life to show them how much I love them — I wanted to give a little happy away. But, I was the one who was getting this amazing feeling of calm and love and my inner rumblings are a bit quieter. I realized that we do really get back from this world what we put out into it — so, an Etsy store. My hope is to create items for others so that they can throw a little love out into the world. Click my Etsy button ~~~> and lets spread a little love.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal. ~~ John Lennon

Each of us carry around a world of words inside us, those words form stories, some of those stories make sense… we can feel them and see them and touch them. Some of those stories are out-of-order, scrambled, strewn about in all the dark crevasses of our minds — we search for a beginning and an ending, something, anything that puts the words in order to form a story that we can accept.

Often, the stories inside us define us, not because they should. Some of those stories don’t deserve to be given any energy, those stories that keep pushing our heads under water every time we try to surface for a breath — the lies we tell ourselves.

Towards the end of October, I decided I wanted to let the words out, I had to let the words out — to give them life. We all have those stories in us, we can’t keep them inside… it hurts, and we can’t ignore the hurting — hurting requires us to pay attention to it. So we release them… to our friends over coffee, to our sisters over the phone — we release them and it feels so good, and the hurting stops.

I’ve been lucky enough to have formed connections with some amazing writers who can break me open with one well placed sentence, I took a breath and sent one of those friends a message one day and told her I was writing a book, a memoir. Even writing the word “memoir” made me cringe, still, I cringe. I think a piece of me wanted her to talk me out of it. Statistically speaking, the likelihood of writing a memoir and getting it published is, well, bleak. There are probably 1000 novels and memoirs and short story collections and poetry chap books that are written for every one that actually gets published and the one that actually gets published may not be the best, just the luckiest — so, I was almost hoping her response would be an emphatic “No!” I’ve never written anything longer than 4000 words (I’m sure my graduate papers don’t actually count although my professor told me my papers resembled an article in Us magazine more than they did a research paper — she was puzzled when I smiled and told her, “Thank you!”), this could be, not one of my wiser ideas. But my friends response was full of exclamation points and cheer and hope, so I became full of exclamation points and cheer and hope.

I had to ask what a WIP was and what it meant when someone wanted to be a reader for you and how long is a memoir and what’s a manuscript and what is a query and how do you revise and when do you revise… I think me going into this with no knowledge might be the best way, for me.

I am writing this memoir for me, to try to organize the stories from the last five years that have been floating around haphazardly in my brain. As with all the pieces of myself I’ve left here on this blog, I hope to cut myself open and bleed all over the pages of this memoir and maybe we’ll gather up the pieces of ourselves, together.

So… I began…

And those words… they just started spilling out.

I went from zero words to 65,000 words in about 30 days… and then, the words became harder to set free. That’s where I am now, trying to set the last 15,000 words free so I can officially have a “shitty first draft“. The trouble with memoir is, it’s difficult to pinpoint the end of the story because I am the end of the story. The words I’m trying to put into order form the story of me. But, here I am… cutting myself open and divulging all the broken pieces and the dark crevasses and the bottomless rabbit holes with the hope that our stories connect us — we all have a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard and somewhere in the midst of all of those words, the breaking becomes the healing.

the sadness of gravity

i stand at the edge of the world and i jump and i soar higher and higher

… and then
a tug
a pull
i am unable to move forward
my leap was so high and so far and the wall that floats around in the between places of what we are and what we can be is there, just ahead

… and then
it starts in my feet
they cease their movement
i begin to float slowly back to the edge
a rope lassoed to my legs tugging me
tugging me
my arms try to swim through the open air
try to propel me onward towards that wall

… and then
the struggle takes all my strength
my arms keep moving and flailing and i can see that gravity is wrapped around me and every time i move it tangles me up more and i am moving and struggling and lurching and forgetting to pause

… and then
i inhale and fill my lungs and i exhale
inhale
exhale
repeating repeating repeating
i caress the pause like a forgotten lover coming to ease my mind

… and then
i am free
i am floating to that wall with my hand stretched out my fingers extended reaching past the safety of who i am

… and then
i pause, looking at both sides because both sides are equally beautiful and filled with the dreams of an awake mind

… and then
i jump into the middle of who i can be but the wall between the two has dissolved
the struggle has faded
the sadness of gravity has released me to move freely

so i do

i can’t see it

i’ve had my television off since it happened. my brain could not then and will not now comprehend the tragedy, and i don’t want it to.

i’ve stayed away from social media. i see you arguing about guns and which country is more violent and the second amendment and hunting and what type of guns were used and mental illness and the lack of availability of proper care and all those simpleton reasons you’re offering up because you don’t want to hear about gun control and health care.

i saw you say you were his mother and you went viral within hours and everyone had read it and it made me pause because i think it was the exact opposite of what you wanted it to be.

i saw you say if teachers had guns in their classrooms this would never have happened.

i saw the inconceivability of you shoving cameras and microphones in the faces of those babies and saying how impressed you were with how articulate they were.

and i was motionless.

and i was speechless.

and i was numb because anything other than numb would have been too much.

and you…

you said you would have killed him yourself if you had been there,

and i was angry.

i could see myself hiding with the children and wishing my face was not the last thing they would see and my voice was not the last one they would hear and i would search my thoughts and try to analyze if i was worthy of being in that spot of being their last thing and i would stand there because standing there is as much bravery as anyone could imagine.

i am a teacher

i will remember that my words could be the last they hear and my face could be the last they see and i will look at them with patience and kindness.

i will look at you as i walk past you in the market and i will smile and i will say hello and i will be kind and i will pause before my words escape my mouth and i will withhold my sigh and you can mock me all you want.

i am a teacher

bleed a bit more

everyone blames the poet
when there’s not enough blood on the page
flowing around the crevasses of every mind that begs the poet to bleed a bit more
grabbing hold of a soul here and a heart there
because everyone wants the poet to take it all away so they don’t have to stay there anymore
pausing when you read a word
wincing from the pain
laughing when you know you can’t feel anything that isn’t written in the blood of the poet
you take the poets words and walk around in a haze
just bleed a bit more
till the fire goes out and the wave stops rolling and the wind mellows to a breeze
everyone blames the poet
when the answers are so well hidden
like a flawless shell you spot when you’re walking that thin line between there and here
when the pretties aren’t neatly tied in a bow and handed to you
you have to walk a little longer
you have to bleed a bit more
everyone blames the poet for not supplying the world with wings but they keep saying jump
just jump
cut open a vein and let each word drip out
slowly
effortlessly
puddling on the page for everyone to read
everyone blames the poet when they watch the waves come in and wash it all away
but we know
they’ll just bleed a bit more

landmines

the trouble with landmines,

you constantly look where your feet are planted,
the direction your toes are pointing,
you’ve navigated these fields before.
they try to stay hidden,
but your eyes are wide now,
you see them underneath the dandelions and the clover.

the trouble with landmines,

you pause just to hear the explosion,
quieting your breath to hear the snap of the trigger,
you brace for the blast.
blocking your movement in all directions,
zigging here but zagging there,
never a straight line.

the trouble with landmines,

you focus on the boom and not on your breath.

defuse them with a perfectly placed pause.

you can sit and wait,
you can run unafraid,
you can do both,
you should do both,

to avoid the trouble with landmines.

lightning strikes

lightning strikes
i cover my eyes
weaving its way through the cracks
in front of us all
shouting at the storm
we steady ourselves on your words

lightning strikes
the waves start to crest
we close our eyes and dive
unafraid
we see you walking on the ocean
our beacon
our breath

lightning strikes
sudden and full of anger
we are unafraid
linking arms because together we are strong
and you
shouting at the storm
a chorus of screams building behind you

lightning strikes
trembling and wet
the waves beat us relentlessly
and still we stay
facing the storm
and you
in front of us all
walking on the ocean

I wrote this poem for a dear friend, Lisa Bonchek Adams, who recently found out she has metastatic breast cancer. She is sharing her story with all of us here — you need to read her, it will change you forever.

I also started a facebook page for her that I am inviting everyone to join called, The Adventures of Flat Lisa, so that we all can take her on our adventures or our daily lives. We are all truly connected in this world, so share yourself.