Sunday, December 27, 2009


All the presents have been unwrapped to the sounds of children's glee. The evergreen still holds center court with presents still under the tree.  The Wii was a hit for everyone and the girls proved they are sports stars.  The teenager has more clothes to make a mall and there is still wrapping paper down the hall.  It was a wonderful Friday with a moment to reflect on the real reason we celebrate the giving of gifts.  From the youngest to the teenage child, they read the story of the Christmas child.  Each one, in voices clear, read the story our hearts hold dear.  Their father prayed in his booming voice, giving thanks to God and for the moment to rejoice.  The gift-giver took her job with glee and handed out presents to everyone...even to me.  She smiled and she sang as she skipped about, covering her ears when her sister let out a shout!  "Just what I wanted, I'm so happy to have it."  She moved and danced and could hardly sit.  Their father and I smiled with knowing that we each to the one gave them something worth owning.  Careful thought and lots of care made our tree overflowing, not a space was bare.  When it was all said and done, we hugged each other, knowing love had won.  Then off to their corners to open and play, each one gleeful and joyous that day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Week

One week from now the presents will already be opened, the wrapping in the recycle bins, ribbons and candy canes about the sitting room, perhaps an ornament or two fallen off the tree, the dining room will have the remnants of the leftover holiday meal, the children may have already forgotten some of their new toys and went to sleep with their old faithful teddy bear, and some people will already be lining up outside the retail stores to pick up even more stuff.


The shopping frenzy took our nation by storm, as it does every Black Friday, and for a month we have been bombarded with television, radio, internet, newspaper, and mailbox ads touting one store's midnight madness or better-than-black-friday sale.  And the purpose of it all?  To do what Americans do - shop.  To get, conquer (only five in the store, come early for the best bargains!!!!!) and acquire even more things that are meaningless, take up space, and do not fill the void that rests like an insatiable black hole.

I went out the day after Thanksgiving, not at the unholy hour of 3am or even 5am, to start getting things for the busy December.  I also went out to study the crowd, my once-a-year market research, harking back to the times of my full-time marketing career.  I talked to a few people who only had one or two things in their hands and gave up because the lines were stretching in and out of aisles around the store.  It was at the fifth stop that we finally joined the people waiting in queque to part with their hard earned, recession-proof??? dollars.

December brings my families the last birthday of the year (my youngest child and baby girl), plays (my son performs), the symphony and choir concert (my husband sings), play group parties  (me),program community outreach events (my summer gig) and school traditions parties (my daughters) so I definitely had reason to be in the stores bargaining with myself over the virtues of the new Princess and the Frog jazz band set versus the new Best Friends Club dolls.  And I have a grandson due on January 1st so off to the stores I went.

Something struck me last evening as I pulled out all these unwrapped packages and sorted them on my bed.  My girls have a lot of toys.  They really do, I just spent an hour the other day supervising them packing away their older dolls to go on vacation (to make room for the new ones I just bought!) and their books to make way for the the new ones that will promise adventures between the pages.  I wondered, do they really need all this stuff?  My baby just finished a lesson of need and want in kindergarten, the little ones understand the difference.  What would happen if there was really only one gift under the tree?

I am blessed in that my children are not greedy little whinners who feel entitled to every new thing.  Each one of them only mentioned one thing that they really, really wanted.  I always purchase books and they always get a refreshing of clothes for the rest of the winter.  And we already talked to them about how other people do not have anything and the girls eagerly helped pick out toys and things for a little girl in foster care.  My baby even used her sixth birthday as a way to get her friends involved, some even came with two gifts - one for my daughter and one for the little girl.  The elementary schools in my little suburb have collected thousands and thousands of food items for families in our community who are not in the stores shopping like crazy. 

The children will be out of school beginning Wednesday, some districts already started their holiday break with Friday being the last day.  There are traditions of visiting families, perhaps attending services like The Drummer Boy or a play at the Fox or witnessing The Black Nativity at Grandel Theatre or the annual Gospel Christmas at Powell Symphony Hall.  Many families use this season to give even more to others, volunteering to send presents to the troops overseas spending yet a 8th Christmas in war, or the many new families affected by the myriad of layoffs. 

In one week, all the frenzy to get, get, get so there is something to open under the tree will give way to was it all worth it?  What will change because of more stuff?  Did they get what they wanted?  Many will be lining up to snatch up boxes of ornaments, rolls or wrapping paper, and bags of ribbons to store away for the 2010 season as the stores are already reviewing the plan-o-gram for the Happy New Year, Valentine's Day, and Mardi Gras trinkets that will soon vie for our attention.  Even more stuff to entice away the gold coins.

My children will receive their gifts with joy and gladness like they always do.  The baby will be her joyous "I'm happy to be me" wonderful self.  They will continue their everyday activities and for a few days, moments, be really excited about their new gifts, especially if my daughter gets that Easy Bake Oven she is pining for or the Leapster the six year old wants or the skinny jeans the teenager wants. 

What do I want?  Just the quiet, a good book, a strong cup of coffee, peace, and the easy smiles of a a few weeks watching my children's delight.  I couldn't think of one material thing I really, really wanted.  Perhaps the trade paper version of the Hemsingses of Monticello since my book club is reading that in a few months.  Maybe some cool looking knee socks so my legs will stay warm this cold season, maybe a new pashmina to keep my neck warm, but these are all things I can live without, nothing I am really pining over or looking in the shop windows like an eager child hoping, just hoping that Santa will bring what I want.  No, the things I want are beyond material.

One week, just seven days.  What will Christmas bring to you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting On The Dying

Reprinted from Pink Latte Publishing

There was a primal scream so loud is shattered the chandelier overhead.

Fists pummeled the stiff body lying in repose on the velvet cushions inside the polished mahogany.

Utterances of anguish emerged from many decades of compliant silence.

Unanswered prayers now to be buried in the heavy chamber of clay.

Fury burned the eyes were widows tears should rest.

Strong limbs enveloped heaving frame pulling back to life.

Wells of bottled tears erupted like a levy broken flooding out unspent waters.

Screams of rebuke to the sewn lips and penny shut eyes for the years of fire from a controlling tongue.

Weeping and sobbing to heaving and breathing the clay to burn fury in hulking frame no more.

Gentle touches and breezes to douse the pent up searing of the soul to be released for a tomorrow yet to be.

Too much living lost waiting on the dying to end the chain that binds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Breath And Life Of Writing

Writing is the inhaled essence of life that sweeps me along the currents of my everyday existence, without it, I am less than who the universe meant me to be when my unformed clay was being molded in the inner sanctum of my mother's womb.  I write because I live and I live because I write.

In the years since my father first gave me the pen, I have written short stories, prose, poems, a play or two, and a children's book.  I have written newsletters, marketing materials, engaged in copywriting, wrote some articles, always with the pen in hand.  The art is what makes my heart skip along with unblemished glee like my daughters doing the happy dance.

The other day as I sat starring at the hungry vastness of the blank screen, working out ideas for my character, Kambridge, I realized that everything in my life has led me to this moment.  Writing is the craft, publishing is the business.  Finally, I had that ah-ha moment, I saw a use for my M.B.A. in marketing.

One of the things that does frustrate me about this process is that it requires patience. Even at 45, I can not say I am brimming over with that virtue, much like a kid jumping up and down demanding their mama's attention, I am like that with my writing.  All of us creative types are a bit like that inner Id, that inner two year old - me!Me! ME!  See ME!  READ ME! The maturity in me says to step back, inhale deeply, take a moment, and know that since everything in the cosmos has lined up to make my spirit like the ink on parchment, it will happen.  I am still young and after having lived, like Toni Morrison, I finally have something to say worthwhile.

Writing warms my marrow even as the cold wind whips around outside and makes my bones brittle.  It keeps my heart beating and my soul searching.  It has been this quest that keeps me with journals, pens, and paper of different color.

I am learning more of the business side and have decided that I do need to put on the coat of an elephant's skin.  There are hundreds of writer's who long to see their words in print, on the bookshelf, in the eager hands of an ardent reader.  It will happen, just like the golden warmth of the sun will peak through the white-gray clouds of this first snow, promising that spring will come, it will happen,  I just know it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Musing, The Storytelling, The Interruptions

I decided, about a week after the start date, that I would participate in National Novel Writing Month.  Why not give it a short, I foolishly thought.  50,000 words, I could do that, easily, again, foolish thinking. 

My quest to write a novel in the month was met with trips to and from school four times a day for my three kids.  Meals and laundry and illness.  Meetings and life and mourning.  And dressy dinners.

The people I live with are not exactly giving of time.  They are all demanding and want pieces of me like that sweet potato pie my husband made for Thanksgiving.  It doesn't help that we live in a loft-like setting with my office a stones throw from the TV room and a footstep from my daughters' office.  I listened to them fighting and cajoling, my husband fussing at my son to study, and the drone of the TV while I tried to get into my characters.

I went to the library and the coffeeshops to find writing time, my red zip drive filling up with words.  Story lines and plot lines and characters came to life for me.  Then something happened.

Taking a shower one morning, an entire series of picture books came to me.  I raced out so fast, the water dripping down my back from my still wet dread locs.  Throwing on some pajamas, I double skipped down to my office, grabbed my laptop, sprinted upstairs, baracaded myself in my room and tap-tap-tapped Miss Kambridge Johnson into life!

The story is uplifting and inspiring.  I found an illustrator who is working on drawings for this pink and brown polka-dot sock wearing little dynamo.  Her sister sits her with me as I imagine her bespeckeled self writing a story, her name is Karrington.  The third draft is with my favorite independent bookseller's children's book buyer for her edits.  I have a meeting with a printer in two weeks.

What did I learn?  I am a storyteller, my blog and poetry and book reviews are always telling a story.  It is funny, I have been doing this all my life.  It was what I did in my marketing job and as an adjunct professor.  Whether narrative essay or short story or Kambridge, it is all storytelling and all what I do in this craft.  I also learned that it is foolish to think you can write a good story in one month! 

A novel is about 100-150,000 words so participating in National Novel Writing Month is actually a first draft.  I also learned that this organization primarily uses November and this promotion to solicit donations for their non-profit.  Not a bad thing, but every other email was about a write-in that was really a donation stop.  I went to a couple but they didn't notice the black girl in the corner typing away.

November came to an end and I did not reach 50,000 words.  I did gain a few more articles written, a new character and series developed, the shaping of a literary novel, and a few moments at my laptop.  I also learned that this craft is not something to be rushed through, not if you want to do anything worthwhile.  I know I am not an urban, street lit writer so I know that could limit me to some commercial publishers.  Writing is a business after all.  I also learned that there is the right audience for me and the publisher will come.

So as this ends, December 1st greeted me with the warm knowledge of my baby girl's sixth birthday and the joy of a children's book waiting for the next step.  And that spells success for me, even with all my musings, storytelling, and interruptions!

Heaven Gave Sunshine Girl

Today, the heavens open up and poured out sunshine.

My daughter is six years old today!  I can not believe this little princess has been on earth this long, regaling us with her laughter and encouraging us with her strength.  "I'm ok!" is her mantra every time she falls down.  She jumps right up, dusts herself off, and keeps stepping to her next task.  Restoring, refining, and refreshing everyone along the way, just the meaning of her name!

Keziah has enriched our lives and added pink sparkle everywhere.  No other little girl could play dress, have a doll collection that rivals the toy stores, run like the wind, and still wrestle her big brother or try to climb a tree.  She triumphs! 

In her kindergarten class, she is clearly a leader and magnet for other kids.  She is courageous and has overcome more health challenges than I could ever handle.  Keziah never makes a big deal of it and just accepts for a fact that it is just something that makes her unique.  So what she can't eat ice cream she says, she gets to explore treats like lime all fruit bars and gelatto!  Who cares if she has a rare gastrointenstinal illness, she is the subject of a children's book about doing anything she wants!

I am such a blessed mother.  God chose this woman, one who never thought she would have one, to be a portal for six souls to reach this earth.  Even as I took a moment to mourn my firstborn, Cory, on November 1st, here I am a month later, celebrating my lastborn, Keziah, on December 1st.  God does renew.

One day the heavens opened up and blessed a family with someone who was waiting to show us just how much God loves us, how much He strengthens us, and just how much He loves to laugh!  Happy birthday little one!