Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ella me conocía cuando era conocido como "Red".

Brenda y yo en un partido de fútbol USC Trojans2010.

Patience and Red in 2002
She knew me when I was known as "Red".  That's my friend Brenda I'm talking about.  She likes to joke with me about how she knew the person that I was before I pursued my undergraduate education versus the person that I am now.  And mostly, she is correct.  I believe we met somewhere around the year 2000 when I was day jobbing as an Executive Assistant to the CEO and in-house legal counsel at Edwards Theatres Management in Newport Beach.  However, we met while I was moonlighting as a Band Manager for a local funk band and a hotshot for an independent music label in Cerritos.  I was dating the lead of the band that I was managing and she was in a longterm relationship with the drummer.  We instantly bonded, though I must have not been sober enough to recall the actual moment of meeting.  Doh!  That might be a lie.  I have visions, they're just a little blurry.  Let's see.  There was a small dark club and the band and was there a cowboy hat?  Oh wow.  Its coming back now.

The strange thing is that as much as I was a party girl (I'm fortunate to have survived those years in spite of myself), I was also more serious in terms of general mood.  Now I try to be less serious by laughing so much more often while taking care of business.  This is a difficult line for me to tow.  So, in the spirit of a good time while improving character, Brenda has invited me to join her on a twelve day trip in Spain.  

During the last week of September and into the first week of October, Brenda and I will fly into Madrid and fly out of Barcelona.  How we navigate in between is completely at our discretion.   Instead of creating a new travel blog, I've decided to convert "Dione du Jour" to "Dione de España" for the time that I will be planning and embarking upon our trip.  If you've got any suggestions or words of warning, please post those comments here.  We look forward to the dialog!

Hasta la próxima, tener un gran día!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Morning Book Club: "Rise and Shine" by Anna Quindlen

Today was my book club meeting where we discussed "Rise and Shine" by Anna Quindlen.  I had a hell of a time getting my hands on this book due to some bizarre glitch in the system where books that had already been sold were still listed for sale.  Dang it!  So, I ordered another and the same thing happened.  For my third attempt, I ordered the book at regular price through Barnes and Noble.  Had it not been such a busy week, I would have notice how far this would put me behind and just picked up the book from the library as is the original intention of our book club, but that would be far too logical.  We have two weeks to read each book and, by the time I received this one, there were just over two days left. 

So, Monday morning I set out to voraciously read and was surprised at the ease of this book.  By the end of day one, I was a little more than a third of the way through the 269 page book.  I probably would have made it through sooner if I didn't have to compensate for my poor vocabulary skills by constantly looking up words.  Sure, I can gain a gist through context, but I like to take the effort to gain clarification.  I did a lot of that with this particular book. 

By the time I met with my book club to discuss, I had gotten up to page 171 - almost one hundred pages yet to go.  And I might have finished thousepages were it not my turn in the book club to present suggestions for an upcoming read.  Although I had been researching choices by asking friends and looking up reviews, I had not officially compiled the list until yesterday.  The good thing is that while they asked me to present about three choices, I came with seven.  It is very important to me to not disappoint.  My first choice had already been read by the group and boy were they excited when I mentioned it "Ohhhhhhhhh!  Yes!  We've read that one already."  The response was enough to confirm that I should read it on my own.  I described my second choice and asked them if they like it or should I go on offering choices.  They were pleased and let me stop.  Funny thing was that while we were waiting for the book club to begin, there was chat about how a good mystery would be welcome and someone made the comment, "Do we ever consider writers who aren't American?"  Turns out, the book I suggested was both a mystery and written by a European man. 

My first choice book that they had already read -- "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barros (2008)

My second choice book that they are anxious to read -- "Amagansett" (sometimes referred to as "The Whaleboat House") by Mark Mills (2004)

One of the ladies at the club is from Long Island and knows how to properly pronounce this name.  She said it has roots in Native American Indian heritage.  It will be nice to tap into her personal insight as she said she spent some time in Amagansett as a child.

This leaves five other choices left on my list that I can save until it is my turn again.  At this moment, I would like to thank Nicole [St. Pierre] Morris and Jane St. Pierre for these two suggestions.  Thank you!

Now, back to "Rise and Shine."  As I said above, this book is a quick read.  Its fairly uncomplicated and offers no real message.  It is simply a nice story about two sisters who live diametrically opposed lifestyles yet seem to maintain an inexplicable bond or need between them.  They rely upon one another.  The protagonist is a social worker and her sister is a morning show host for a national network.  When the hosts life starts to unfurl after a dasterdly on-air emotional breakdown, the sister is left to pick up the pieces. 

The ladies in my book club tell me that they were disappointed with the happy ending this book provides all nicely tied up with a pretty bow.  I will have to find out for myself when I conquer those last hundred pages.  If you've read it, I'd love to know your opinion on this.

I think in contrast to Margaret Atwoods "Surfacing", this book ("Rise and Shine") was a welcome no-brainer that we didn't have to fret much over.  So the general consensus was that the girls in the club liked it, minus the ending.  Huh.  I think they didn't like the end of "Surfacing" either.  I'm sensing a pattern.  Ha!

Today we also had a new member join in much the same way that I did a month ago.  And, apparently my friend from Long Island had joined just before me.  So I inquired as to why business was suddenly booming within the group and the ladies said that the head librarian had been promoting the group.  I hope that this is good.  We sure wouldn't want the group to get too big to be fun anymore.  We shall see.

I'm happy to say that I not only survived another meeting but actually did well and quite enjoyed the experience. 

If you'd like to join in on the discussion, up next for reading are:
1st) "The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton (1905); and,
2nd) "Amagansett" by Mark Mills (2004).

I love that my group chooses books that are written 100 years apart.  Thank goodness they are not stuck in any particular timeframe or genre.  Love love LOVE them!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Morning Book Club: "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood

At home with my first book club book, amidst my piles of writing research. 
Why clean when you can read instead?

So how much do I love my new book group?!  Oh holy cow.  I never realized exactly how much happiness discussing a good book brings to me. 

Two weeks  ago, I dropped into my local library to inquire about volunteering.  While waiting for my volunteer application, I  stood around reading all the little flyers and information signs and saw that they had a summer book group for teens.  So, I asked, "Do you have a book group for adults?"

"Why yes.  In fact, they are getting ready to meet right now.  Would you like to meet them?" the Librarian replied.

Tapping into my inner sister, Nicole, I snapped out a reply, "Yes, please!" and was quickly escorted into a small sideroom.  She introduced me to the group who welcomed me and invited me to have a seat.  The Librarian excused herself and there I sat.  I was completely unprepared and had a burrito waiting for me in the car. 

Yet, there I sat with eight little white haired ladies - ladies with names like Eunice and Ginger.  One of them is 87 years old.  They were discussing a book.  They said it was the prequel to Jane Austen's "Emma" and they didn't much care for it.  The ladies discussed the book in earnest, respectfully debating one anothers perspective.  They kept it brief, speaking on the book for a mere 60 minutes, and then they smiled their good-byes and went about their day until the next meeting in two weeks time.

I fell in love.  I've always respected the wisdom and experience of elder persons.  I mean, I know how I feel at forty-two and how the world weighs on me, so I clearly respect that they are still here and still smiling.  Life is hard so that smile is valuable to me.  So in recognition of all that this group had to offer, I signed up and ordered my first book for the next session, "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood.

Diligently, I read myself into sickness.  I have a difficult time making reading my priority, so this was a challenge for me.  Then, when I finally would commit to reading, my eyes would give out.  I'm past due for a new glasses perscription, so I literally did get sick - headache, nausea, light sensitivity.  Fun stuff.  But, I enjoyed the read.

When we discussed the book in todays meeting, there were mixed reactions.  Most of the ladies said that they liked the first third or two-thirds of the book.  It has three parts.  The first is fairly status quo, the second gets a little tricky and the third section takes you into the deep end.  And, if you are not accostomed to reading literature with an analytical eye, the ending to this book can clearly pull you under and drown you.  I think a lot of the ladies just got out of the pool.  Ha!

But I was nervous.  I didn't want to be the freshly graduated smarty pants, yet I wanted to be seen as a valuable contributor to the group.  So, my hope was that a few of the ladies would speak about the book before they turned to me.  However, Ginger introduced the book, gave an extremely slight reaction to it, announced she would like to know what everyone else thought and immediately turned to me, "Dione, what did you think?"


First up with little premise to go on, I went blank.  So, I nervously chatted about how I buy the book versus checking it out from the library (likely the whole purpose of our group is to keep the library in business by checking out books every two weeks).  I show them the highlights in my paperback while nervously looking at all faces for reactions and frantically trying to remember what it was I wanted to say about the book.  And, not helpful in the least, was the facial expression of one of the ladies who looked mortified that I would ink up a book like that.  I quickly recollected the author and that I had read only one of her books before, "The Handmaid's Tale" for a moral philosophy class I took in my undergrad at USC (I actually passed this book to my sister, Nicole, a few years back).  At this point, I told myself that I better produce something valuable to say and stop clambering or soon they would doubt letting me walk in the door.  So I blurted out something in reference to having never read anything relative to the hippie era before and how I welcomed that idea, and that I agreed with them about the first two sections but found the third section to be quite supernatural and wasn't yet certain how I felt about it.  This was all they needed from me and Ginger asked the next lady to speak on it.

I sat back, exhaled and then kicked myself.  But when I saw that they were open to comments on their responses, I felt at ease that I hadn't lost all chances of contribution and am certainly confident enough to re-enter the discussion should the opportuinity arise.

The discussion continued around the table and interjections were welcome.  I felt compelled to explicate on a few areas of ambiguity and quickly earned the respect of my fellow literary ladies.  In fact, at a certain point when we seemed to be done discussing, one of them introduced a slight idea of metaphor and I womped them with a big one, stating clearly that this was purely my opinion and forgive me if I'm reaching but, "It seems to me that the lake in this book is a metaphor for the protagonist's womb and, given the era, a speak on feminism.  Consider that most of the characters in this book are male and that only the males enter the water.  And, that the water is dangerous.  Her father died there.  Her brother almost drowned there.  She had an incident there.  Numerous men appear in the lake, men who we don't know.  There is a fence surrounding the cabin to keep you safe from the water..."

Gulp, again.

A momentary pause and the group buzzed in discussion once again.  All but one thought this was a remarkable theory that offered new perspective.  Ginger announced, "Well, maybe we actually did like this story afterall!" as she laughed. 

The risk paid off and I was welcomed in with warmth and smiles.  They said I brought a new perspective to the group and they were glad I joined.  Yay!  Abound in getting-to-know-you conversation, Ginger walked me to my car.  Being a UCLA grad, she teased me for coming from USC, calling it a terrible terrible school, as she chuckled some more.  

I left feeling happy and renewed.  I've already ordered my next set of books for reading and am quite excited about this social journey that also feeds my literary geekdom.

If you'd like to join in on the discussion, up next for reading are:

I found both books on for 75 cents apiece.  After that, its up to me to bring a reading suggestion to the group.  Whatever it will be, I hope they like it.

Read on, Sisters.  Read on!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day, Mom!

Dione, Judy, Lee - Grayson Farm, 1971

Mom is a pillar.  What she has endured in her lifetime boggles my mind.  And yet, she has been nothing but pure love to me for my entire my life.  She is kind, gentle, pleasant, loving.  She tried her best when we were little to bake us yummies and fry us pork chops and sew us costumes of gypsies and super heros.  She took us to 4-H and Lutheran Sunday School for a bit, doing everything she could think of to encourage us.  She helped me with my homework and taught me tricks in 4th grade math that I still use today.  She shared the gift of music with me by singing her heart out shamelessly during Saturday morning housecleaning and trips to town for groceries.  But most of all, she smiled.  She smiled and she hugged.  And she still does.  Through her own discomforts in life, she has smiled and laughed and hugged away every single little boo-boo I've ever encountered.  My mother is real and down-to-earth and never self-serving.  And I try my best to model my own behavior after hers when parenting my beautiful daughter, Patience.

Thank you, Mom.  I love you!

Mothers Day, May 1978

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back Doors

Grandma Doris and Great-Aunt Lorraine (Colton, South Dakota)

Where I grew up, in the south east area of South Dakota, side doors were most commonly what you used to enter and exit the house. These old farm houses had front doors, side doors and back doors. And, most of these doors were preceded by porch doors.

In my house, we had French double doors in the front - a modification to the recent addition.  There was a back porch door that led to the livingroom, and a side porch door for daily use.  This led directly to the kitchen.  Before you entered the yard or proceded up the front porch steps, you slid your shoes or workboots over the scraper so as to remove any excessive amounts of mud or manure.  Then, you went through the outside porch door to the entry way where you removed your workclothes/coveralls and then tip-toe sprinted to the bathroom for your evening bath before dinner. 

This side door was the one that was used and abused to the point of wear in the paint and wood and a loose door knob.  It didn't matter whose home you were in, there was always a special slam or adjustment that had to be used so that this door didn't blow back open by the heady prairie winds, letting in every fly in the tri-county area. 

I can recall visiting school friends on regular days where we would enter through these types of door just off the kitchen, often times to run into their "old man" sipping his afternoon coffee and having a couple cookies or a slice of cake before heading back out to his fieldwork and evening chores.  There he would sit quietly, hat messed hair strewn about above him with dust settled on his sunburnt face except where his hat had been.  And there was always a hat.  In fact, for every single friend and cousin's home that I can recall at this moment, we entered through that side porch kitchen door. 

The actual backdoor was rarely used, if ever.  Mostly it was hidden from visiters by the grove of trees that surrounded the house.  From the inside, this door was also hidden by a stack of boxes, an old piano, a couch, a summer bed.  I think we used our backdoor for my wedding two years ago, but never for the 13 years I lived on that farm. 

My Grandma Hazel's backdoor was an entry to her basement, which had another door right there leading to the livingroom.  I recall using that door once and likely only out of curiousity.  Never ever do I remember that door being used for any other circumstance.

To the east of us, Old Erwin Peterson lived in the house on his family's bicentennial homestead.  This was quite a large and impressive home, painted yellow with white trim.  Up the walkway, past the creaky old windmill, you could enter either via decending the steps to the basement door or by climbing the steps to his side porch door.  Never ever ever did he use the front door.

To the north of us, Elmont Baker and his wife always used the side door.  Again, never ever ever the back door or the front door.

On holidays, which always warranted a family gathering, no matter the house, the front door was cleared, dusted and used.  Cob webs wiped away, and a good shove at the old door and Grandmas, Grandpas, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins were welcomed through that door.  At my Grandma Hazel's, this door was on the front porch, in both the old farm house and the new house Grandpa built her in her 90's.  For our house it was French doors with all the menfolk practically lifting Grandma up those steps as she smiled and laughed, jell-o and pie in her hands, net over her freshly curled hair.

The end of those French double doors came when a large piece of sheet metal flew through those doors, practically killing my Dad and preventing him from seeking shelter in his basement, when the tornado came through his farm in 2003.  Most of our doors were spared that day, all except those of the other 11 buildings on his property that the tornado took that day.  After the farm was rebuilt, Dad remodeled the house.  The French doors had to go.  But he built a new front door and a new side door and new back door.

Again, what all these side doors had in common was a direct entrance to the kitchen.  There you were invited to join in morning or afternoon coffee.  There amidst the smells of the days baking or lunches frying and the aroma (rarely faint) of the cattle or pig yard, there you would get a tasty homemade treat and would be privy to recent prices in corn, cattle and hogs and the expected weather.

What I remember best about these doors though were the back doors and side doors that I used to knock on when I lived in Colton, South Dakota for one year, in 1979.  My brother and I lived there with my Mom while my parents pursued a divorce.  And, as I didn't have many friends there yet, I would wander and explore.  And whats cool about these tiny midwestern towns is the lack of fences surrounding their homes.  Lawn ran into lawn and plenty of kids would cut through the block on their way to school or the park or a friends or Grandma's house.  During that summer, with my Mom at work and my brother off tormenting someone else, I would walk between these houses and greet the dogs and cats and birds and butterflies and flowers. 

One time in particular I recall talking to an elderly man in his driveway as he worked on a vintage car.  He seemed happy for the conversation and invited me in for afternoon coffee.  Entering through the back door, we went directly to the kitchen table where his wife served us cookies, cake, coffee for him and juice for me.  She joined us and our conversation.  But I remember asking him about the tatoos on his arms.  There was an anchor and a pin-up girl.  He told me about how he got these when he was a very young man in the navy.  Then he showed me how he could make the girl dance by flexing his muscles.  I was in awe and utter sugar-enhanced bliss.  After coffee break, I thanked them and excused myself to return often times after that for afternoon coffee with my new friends.

In the same town, there lived an elderly woman all alone in a decrepid old home that was grey from years of wear and lack of refresher paint.  I was introduced to her by my one new girlfriend that summer who was actually my age, Angie Erickson.  This frail little lady welcomed us in through the side door and, without hesitation, whipped us up some rootbeer floats.  All three of us sat there laughing and talking with icecream float mustaches, slurping away.  I definitely called upon her again, even without Angie.

All those doors.  Basic wooden side doors.  Back doors and front doors with elaborate etching and scrolling that framed beautiful old circular glass.  As I now type-up my Grandmother Doris's memoir, I wonder how many of those people knew who I was and who my parents and grandparents were.  Likely they were even friends or relatives, but what we did was enjoy the time, enjoy the communion of friends and share in the moment that simply was.  Perhaps that is why I take such a particular pride in inviting people to convene for coffee at my own diningroom table right next to the kitchen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You are why I am here.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to USC campus for a meeting with the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund of which I am a Governing Board Member.  To avoid evening traffic, I arrived on campus a bit early for my meeting.  My daughter, Patience, was involved in activities so I settled into a chair in the library to read away my time.  I found out, however, that Patience did have time to see me for a few minutes so I set out to walk across campus to meet her. 

While walking and texting in this unseasonably warm twilight, I encountered a girl who exuded this tremendous energy.  She approached me, "Did you go to school here?  Were you here in the last year or two?  Did you cut your hair?"  She had the warmest smile on her face and the most sparkling glimmer in her eyes.  I was a little taken back but quickly reminded of the many times this has happened to me while I walked across this campus.  I scanned her being and her beautiful face while searching the files in my memory for a match.  There are many people that I spent plenty of time with but still more who's life intersected with mine for but a moment, a minute, an hour.  And, it was clear to me now, that she was one of these remarkable beings. 

Here, she had on an 'SC sweatshirt and she was on her bike and we were gravitating toward Tommy Trojan.  I confirmed her suspicions as a smile swept up inside me.  Her energy grew stronger and her smile grew wider as she informed me, "Girl!  I need to give you hug.  I know you don't know who I am.  But I told myself I would find you one day.  If it took me ten years, I would find you and I would thank you for what you did for me."

These exacts moments are what its all about for me.  Its that moment when I realize that something I've said to someone -- it could be something very very small -- something I've relayed about my own educational experience has connected with someone enough to give them what they need to pursue their own educational dream.  Whether it is just letting them know that it is possible, that they have it within themselves, that despite all the roadblocks and walls they have encountered, or demons within themselves, that they can achieve their degree. 

She said, "You are why I am here." 

"You are why I am here."  I don't know if people understand what a statement like this does to your...your sense of worth.  It is such a powerful statement and could be taken so many ways.  But I feel compelled to share this moment, compelled to share how these statements affect me. 

She reminded me of something that I told her that set her on her path when she was unsure that a place like USC would ever take her.  I offered her strategic advice, something simple, to read the school's (whichever school you are applying to) Mission Statement.  I told her to see what it is that they were saying about themselves, then to find the parallels between their intentions for their student body and her intentions in being a part of that student body.  I told her to spell it out to them that choosing her for their institution would not only be good for her but would also be good for USC.  And this is what she did.  But, beyond the tools and strategy, what I did was to share my personal story.  And not in the "Oh, its all about me" way, but in the "I thought I wasn't worth it and I thought I couldn't do it until someone believed in me" way and "I'm here to tell you I believe in you and so should you.  You should believe in you."

I know it sounds all sticky sweet and over the top.  And, I don't apologize for that because where I am coming from is sincere.  Where I am coming from is a place of experience where I heard "You never really wanted to go to college, did ya?" from the very person who should have demanded that I did so.  I come from a place where I dabbled with college three times before someone recognized my ability and encouraged me to move forward.  He encouraged me by blazing the path for himself and along the way just giving me little nudges, little suggestions, like tools.  He handed me the tools to blaze my own path.  And I find it almost impossible not to share the same with most anyone I encounter who has not yet been able to pursue their educational dreams.  Education, for me, has been just that liberating.  I am compelled to share the liberation.

And, its not me holding anybody's hand.  I can tell you a million times how worthy and capable you are, and I can hand you a trillion tools, but if you don't believe it for yourself, its not going to happen for you.  This is for anything in life.  But there are some people out there who have been wandering around with the desire for education who simply need to hear it from one little person that they are capable of taking this on themselves.  Here, here is one little tool.  Now take what you know and rock it!  And this girl did!  She explained to me her process and her doubts and fears, and she showed me the fruits of her endeavor by standing there with her smiling gleeming self all clad in USC gear in the heart of campus.

What was interesting is that (aside from the fact that it had been two years since I had seen her, and that I almost didn't make that walk to see my daughter) I was on campus for the meeting with the Governing Board of the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund because we are amidst our annual Freshman selection process for the scholarship.  So, I was already gearing up for that very state of mind wherein opportunity lurks for more inspiration and more tools to be handed out to those who are capable and those who are worthy and those who have it already within themselves to embark on such a scary yet fulfilling path toward their educational dreams.  I was here to pick-up my portion of the applications to evaluate for consideration.  And she was reminding me why I signed-up for such an important position.

This girl revealed to me that, although she looks like a girl, she is a woman just a few years my younger.  She is married with children of her own.  And, the way I see it, between she and I stands only one thing - that degree.  She wants to know what it is like on the other side.  I told her it is wonderful here.  She is clearly on her path to get here but, in my mind, she has already arrived.

Thank you, Debbie, for reminding me that I am worthy and capable.  I see it in you.  And you, Miss Debbie, are why I am here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wednesday is Today

The rain drove down at an angle, solid.  It has been pouring now for three days.  Bunny's ears were gone, no longer peaked in their playful alert way.  Detached from years of companionship.  Years of bringing Bunny along by hanging onto his ears.  Then that one painful moment of tearful tug-a-war induced by my brother.  The ears came off but Bunny was loved just the same.  Injured, yet loved.  Bunny was my guy.  Pink, green, yellow...all the colors of Easter drenched in finality.  The rebirth squandered, disregarded, tossed out.  As special as Sam Snake, who went early.  Went first. 

There bunny was.  Rain water atop kerosene.  Dirty.  Oily.  Abandoned.  Nose deep in the soot encrusted burn barrel.  An old barn-red barrel about 80 gallons large.  Solitary, it sits center yard under the sole yard light.  One light.  One light pole.  A singular patch of grass.  Barrel and Bunny.  Abandoned bunny.  Here since Sunday.  Wednesday is today. 

Sunday brought us to see my Grandma.  With Mommy half across the universe, I found comfort in Grandma.  Never cross.  Always shining happy and laughing.  A laugh that emanates through the years.  The smells of her and her kitchen haunt as they waft in smell memory.  A day spent with her, shared lovingly with my brother and resentfully with my step-siblings.  Often times we are forced to share our Grandmother Love with them.  Step-mom placed the love scale on the table and the mound of my Grandma's love was set in the tray, heaping and oozing over the sides.  It was weighed, measured.  Sliced and divied up.  With them.  They who spent time with their Grandparents without us.  They who got to see their Father every other weekend.  We who saw our Mom maybe twice a year now.

After a beautiful Sunday with Grandma, we come home in time for evening chores.  As Grandpa descends the driveway into the barnyard, he turns the circle around the pole.  Dad and Step-Mom are west of the house, just outside the porch door.  Burn barrel aflame, dolls crying, baby cribs shattered, children's games, stuffed animals distraught, various toys waiting their turn for the incinerator.  Sitting in line.  Sullen.  Defeated.  Neglected.  Abandoned.  In chains.

In this overcrowded house, this blended home make-up, there are rules.  Rules that must be abided by.  Disregarding rules can lead to the cruelest of punishment.  First, the outraged enforcer - an absolute anger-filled verbally abusive rampage of a temper tantrum, followed by a momentary pause, a deep breath, a rearing of the gargantuan hand and finished with the hit.  The shove.  The "Goddammit kid get your head outta your fucking ass before I pull it out for you!"  The "What the fuck were you thinking?!"  The "You dumb ass!" 

Younger years brought pants down, little bare bottomed girl laid sunny side up over his lap.  Open handed brute force spankings from 5-inch-wide hands.  Fingers like polish sausages.  Older years brought cowboys booted kicks to the ass while being escorted across the lawn to finish something I had forgotten to do from my daily list.  Brother endured worse.  Step-sister remained untouched.  Step-brother defenseless against the rage.  Two years old, carried down the stairs with a softened alarmed beast, the minute boy bore a bruised eye, rivers of tears and a pathetic summation, "I think we may have gotten a little carried away.  But we made up and we are buddies now." 

But today.  Today is Wednesday.  And Bunny gazes sullenly back at me.  Bunny says, "Don't cry.  You will be ok.  Your brother will protect you.  Don't worry about me.  Don't cry."  I stroke his cheek with my cow-feed encrusted cow-hide work gloves.

The simplest of rules meant that your bed had to be made every morning.  That there needed to be a clean floor in your bedroom.  The rules didn't account for your two-year-old step-brother who might be intrigued by your items, while you are at school, and leave them on the floor.

Bunny was last in line.  Once descended into the death chamber, Bunny was doused and lit aflame.  But the sprinkles turned into drops of rain falling on Bunny's face and ears if nothing else but to grant us a last good-bye.  But not a good-bye like this.  Not three days of torturous detainment.  From Sunday nights flames to thunderous rain.  Rain for three days.  Three days of waking to see Bunny sitting in the barrel. Three days of Bunny in the barrel when I get home from school, put on my coveralls and bring out the house trash to add to his grave.  Three days of walking around him, crying with him, talking to him, plotting to save him.  Three tedious days. 

Day four brought little rain and enough sunlight for the old man to give it another go.  Another gasoline drench and a toss of the match and WHOOSH!  Bunny is aflame.  Neglected.  Abandoned.  Abused.  Alone.  Aflame.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If this is writing, why is my ass so sore?

So, I decided to take a break from my writing, by writing.  What the heck? 
I've been sitting in my writing chair for so many hours today that my brain is getting foggy and my ass is feeling froggy, so here I am to clear the air.  I need to get present, get grounded. 

I haven't washed my dishes or vaccuumed my floor.  I barely made it into the shower by 3:30pm.  I am writing.  I am writing a memoir and this is exhausting.  Well I think that any writing is exhausting really but sometimes it can be an exhilerating release.  That is how I feel about this but its still exhausting for sure.

What was originally going to be a fictionalized account of the summer I lost my brother -- you know, a coming of age story that included death and suspense -- has turned into a memoir.  This fact has revealed itself to me.  Rob said, "Don't get too fictional."  Then I read Rebecca Walker's Black White and Jewish.  It resonated.  Recently, Eddie referred me to Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.  It too resonates.  And, I've absolutely got enough life experience now to truly subscribe to the idea that fact is far stranger than fiction.  I'm sold.  Memoir it is.

So, I'm just writing.  I've got a million words floating in my head that have been waiting to come out.  There is no issue of writer's block.  I just need to get it out, formulate later.

Dione and Lee (1974? Tustin, CA)

This memoir corresponds with some personal therapy I'm putting myself through.  That and the organizing and cleaning out of a lot of old heirloom boxes of stuff that include letters I wrote from about age 10-18.  Perfect! 

Dione and Dancing Snow Bear (1982 Crooks, SD)

This story has been brewing since junior high school when I would pass notes back and forth with my best friend, Staci Ramstad.  At that young age, I secretly dreamed that someday the story could be told but never believed that anyone would care about a midwestern farm girl's life journey.  I spent a great many daydreaming moments during class to now believe.  And, after pursuing the wonderful experience of editing my friend Monique Antoinette's memoir Grateful for Grief: Seasons of Transformation, the truth became explicitly clear.  This is a story that needs to be told.  A singular perspective explicated with the hope that someone out there will benefit from my story.

Lee visiting Mom (1982 Santa Ana, CA)

Dione visiting Mom (1982 Santa Ana, CA)

What I do know is that the dis-ease of this journey should help to staighten out some things inside of me that have been unsettled for most of my life.  And, with that, I hope to be able to move on.  Yep, move on.

Thank you for listening.