Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The end....and a beginning

The only regularity I seem to have for blogging is at the end of the year.  It's the one time when I always feel compelled to write something down before one year ends and a new one begins.  Any other time during the year, consistency be damned, apparently.  So here is my End o' '13 Blog.

I've spent many years of my life, and I've said this before, lamenting the things that I don't have instead of seeing the blessings in the things that I do.  Most of my almost 38 years have been spent being upset about what didn't happen instead of what did.  I thought I'd been learning lessons at the hardships in life and instead I was so focused on all of the negative that it's exactly the same energy I kept drawing to me.  Instead of seeing the good in my life, I was angry that it wasn't great.  I focused on what went wrong, what could have happened, what should have happened.  I was determined to believe that my life was more garbage than good and that conviction made it so.

Over the years, I have repeatedly heard the phrase that you need to hit the bottom before things will change.  And sometimes you think you've hit the bottom and then discover that the bottom has an underground garage.  And other sundry tunnels and levels you never discovered.

I started to outline my list of good and bad for the year and just deleted it all. Suffice to say that the ups and downs were plentiful for 2013 - as they are for everyone in every year.  Bad things happened.  Good things happened.  New people came into my life.  Old friends came back into it.  Some grew apart.  Some left like the diseases they are.  There were some near misses, some blessings, and all in all, there were moments that sucked out loud and moments that were magical beyond words.

A new friend and influence in my life this year has taught me that it's all in our perspective.  All of our years have good and bad.  And they aren't always in equal measure.  But it's within our own power in how we see it all.  If we convince ourselves that the bad is all we're ever destined for, then that's how it shall be.  Positive brings positive, or so the self helper's sayings go.  And as much as I would like to refute that or argue it, it isn't wrong.  As much as I've always said that things needed to change - most of all, I needed to change.

I'm not walking into the future in a stupidly optimistic fog where I think everything is made of hearts and stars and unicorns.  I'm no Pollyanna.  What I am doing is spending less time freaking out about the things that I cannot change, finding lessons and nuggets to be grateful for in the things that aren't so great.  

I lost things this year - but could have lost more.  I gained things and I'm grateful.  So 2014 is soon to be upon us and I'm most grateful to start the new year with a better mindset and perspective to take on the challenges that those 365 days will bring to my door. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Holidays

Here we are again at the Christmas season, a place that despite the many warnings and commercials and stores setting up for it around Easter, always seems to sneak up on me. I’m terrible at preparing for it, horrible at decorating for it. A few years ago, we put our tree up on Christmas Eve and then I took it down the day after Christmas.

 I’m not the only person who struggles at Christmas. There are plenty. And there are many who struggle with issues far worse than my own. I never forget that – and I do appreciate what I have.

I don’t want to hate Christmas. I never wanted to hate it. I try to put my game face on and enjoy the time spent with my family, the cheery songs, watching my cats find a peaceful moment together as they sleep under the twinkling lights. But in my heart, it’s the depths of winter when the holidays roll around.

I had seven Christmases that were great – and I can remember none of them, really. My eighth Christmas came six months after losing my brother suddenly. He was 5, I was 8. We had our little family of my parents, my sister, brother and me – and then we didn’t. There was a piece missing in our house, under our tree, and in our hearts.

And you don’t get that back.

I don’t remember what that first Christmas was like without him. I remember what they felt like after that – empty. My family, my normal, fractured irreparably.

There is so much in my life to be thankful for – so much that I have that others do not. And for all of that, I am truly grateful. I spent a lot of years focusing on what I didn’t instead of what I do. I’ve spent most of this year retraining my head and my heart to be more thankful, be more positive, be a better me.

 I’ve done my best to make Christmas wonderful for my son since he was born. But I did it all half-heartedly. It was appearance only. I wanted him, in his innocence, to love the magic of the holiday. Family and love and presents and joy. But for me, it was all fa├žade.

I don’t want to hate it anymore.

 I had convinced myself that my son wouldn’t see this Christmas – if for no other reason than my brother, who my son is named for – didn’t get to have one at age six. It was a completely irrational fear – but an all-encompassing one. I’d been terrified that he wouldn’t live past five and a half. And when he did, I had a huge sigh of relief.

That this year has been one of so much change for me has made me want to try to change how I feel about the holidays. Not just for my son – but for me, too. I don’t want to dread a season that for so many heralds joy.

 This morning, Aaron brought me a project Michael had done yesterday. It was Santa’s head drawn on a piece of paper that Michael had colored in and below it, he had written a note. “Dear Santa, ples cum to my hous on Christmas Eve.”

 I lost it. I just started to cry while I was trying to get ready for work. And I couldn’t stop crying. I’m crying again now thinking about it.

That little boy has his innocence and believes in the magic of Christmas. Maybe mostly for presents, because he IS six after all, but he’s all in on Christmas. He gets excited about snow, about wearing his gloves and his snow boots and putting up the tree and watching holiday movies. He has this exuberance for the holiday that I don’t remember ever having.

My brother died almost 30 years ago. I’ve spent so many years holding on to unhappiness and not allowing myself to feel anything good about it. He didn’t do this to me – I did. So now it’s time to be done doing this to myself. He wouldn’t have wanted this for me, and I don’t want it anymore, either.

So this year, I make it better. I take baby steps to enjoying instead of dreading. We make new traditions for our little family. And maybe next year, I’ll be better equipped and prepared.

We start tonight with taking a ride with the boy to look at the Christmas lights that people put up outside, armed with hot chocolate in the car.  Maybe we'll even listen to some Christmas songs.  Maybe we'll listen to Volbeat.  Who knows?  The point is that we're doing this as a family, making traditions, and approaching the holiday in a new way with open minds and open hearts.  I owe it to my brother, my son, my husband....and I owe it to myself to retrain myself. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Stage is Yours Trailer

Below is the trailer for a site I posted about a few days ago - a site I believe can help to change the world - can help to heal those who need help, who need inspiration, who need to tell their own stories. 

Please watch, visit the site, share it, and tell your own story.

The Stage is Yours

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Stage is Yours...

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
- Albert Pine
This blog offers us all the chance to do all of these things - to say something for ourselves. To say something for someone, anyone else who may need to see it. To inspire others and leave a mark on the world. An indelible tattoo, your words that can affect and possibly change someone else's life. 

I urge you to take a look.  Read what's been written.  See what affects others. 
Tell your own story.  Give yourself a voice where maybe before, you've never been able to find it. 

A place to speak without judgment.  Without ridicule.  Without disappointment.  Where you can help, where you can inspire others and maybe yourself too.
Make your mark.

The stage is yours.
The Stage is Yours 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Breaking the Patterns

There are so many aspects of abuse that are cruel – the flashbacks, the fear, the feeling that you aren’t and will never be good enough to be loved.  The hurt, the anger, the sadness.  The memories.  Those memories that are a stain you can’t get out, no matter how hard you scrub, like red wine on a white carpet. 

Apparently it’s not enough to feel unworthy throughout your life, in friendships, relationships, your job, as a parent.  It’s not enough to sometimes realize that thanks to one person’s actions you find yourself in a pattern of seeking out the same behavior in others, over and over, trapped in a cycle.  Seeking the same dysfunction with a different face
Because it’s what you believe you deserve.  What you believe you’re worth.  

You believe you’re worth the violence – blows, slaps, shoves, punches. 

You believe you’re worth the cruelty – the swearing, the curses, the demeaning epithets and insults. 
When those things just aren’t enough….there’s more.  

I’ve endured all of these.  I thought I’d broken the pattern, put it behind me.
I did break the pattern, but it’s not behind me.  

It’s there with me, like my shadow, waiting for its chance to reveal itself when I’m weak.  When I’m too tired to fight it, fight the memories, fight those lying beliefs.  

What’s crueler than the scars abuse leaves on those who have been abused?  

It’s making that person you’ve chosen to be with feel like one of the abusers.  

It’s finally breaking the pattern and finding someone who won’t hit, who isn’t cruel, who doesn’t control you – and letting that person see the naked fear in your eyes during an argument.  Showing that terror and expectation of an imminent strike – even though that’s the last thing on their mind, that they would never raise their hand to you.  That they would never utter those cruel words that another did in the past.  

It’s not being able to completely outrun the past, outrun learned behavior, outrun expectation.  It’s pushing that extra inch during an argument to see if they will hit you.  It’s pushing that innocent person to the brink just to see if they’re like all the rest.  

It’s unfair.  

It’s wrong.  

It breaks my heart.  

What makes it worse is the eight years I’ve spent not being abused, not being talked down to, not being controlled and that fear is still there, just under the surface, waiting to see if I just haven’t pushed hard enough yet.  Making me want to push just a little more.

Making me cruel.  Making me the abuser.  

Making me into all of those things that I so hated when they were done to me.  

Making me repeat the pattern – only this time, I’m the offender.  

Instead of being open to being loved and loving in return, I retreated into fear.  Into patterns that are seemingly impossible to break.  And in so doing, I’ve made myself into one of the monsters that terrified me. 

But maybe there’s a way out.  Maybe the realization can point us down the path toward forgiveness.  To forgive our abusers – not absolve them, forgive ourselves for enduring it, and forgive ourselves for becoming it.  Maybe knowing this, knowing that in the absence of abuse, recognizing this can start to help us heal. 
I’m tired of being afraid.  I’m tired of believing that love always comes with painful side effects.  I’m tired of doing to someone else, someone who doesn’t at all deserve to suffer for someone else’s sins, what was done to me.  

Today I commit to breaking this goddamn pattern once and for all. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Letters to My Child Book Trailer

Here is the trailer for Letters to My Child - available now in ebook format and print from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Second Chances Book Trailer

Here it is, ladies and gents, the book trailer created for my novel, Second Chances

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The God Awful Genetic Gift

Dear Michael,

You recently managed to earn your first black eye.  That’s normally not something a boy gets for the first time at the age of five, but you certainly are a precocious child.  I fear that this is due to the unfortunate genetic gift I’ve given you.

I come from a clumsy people – both the Places on my father’s side and the Ollivetts on my mother’s side of the family.  We’re bright but bumbling. 

It’s a terrible affliction, this complete and utter lack of grace.  We fall down at the most inopportune moments, the worst locations. 

Grammy – the Ollivett side – falls down at the drop of a hat and that’s not because she’s eighty.  She’s been falling for years.  She loses her eyeglasses and her wine glasses all the time too but I suspect those things are unrelated. 

Grandma Lorrie – my mom – gave me the worst introduction to horseback riding imaginable when I was nine or ten.  I was so excited and had begged for horseback riding lessons.  When Mom finally capitulated and took me for my first lesson, Mom rode first while I was getting my gear on.  I watched her horse trot into the center of the ring and geared up for a jump…..and then Mom fell off the damn horse.  She falls down all the damn time now too.  Usually it’s outside and she bangs a foot, a wrist, an ankle…she has trouble staying upright.

Your Aunt Heelo….where I do begin there?  I’m not sure who wins the sash for More Clumsy – me or her.  Heelo tripped on a wet floor in a Stop n’ Shop and broke her foot, which resulted in two surgeries, a lawsuit, and many months of a cast.  She tripped walking up the stairs at the Eveready Diner the night of Aunt Karen’s memorial, just barely keeping from flashing her rear to the whole of Route 9G.  One of my favorite falls was when we lived in the house on Mulberry Lane.  We had a long wooden walkway leading up to the front door.  There was about three feet of walkway before a small step, probably about three inches high, leading to another three feet of walkway.  Heelo was running to the front door when the toe of her shoe got stuck on the lip of the small step and she did an abrupt, high speed face plant into the wood.  I’m laughing right now as I remember the sharp “thwap!” sound her body made as it crashed.  I don’t remember laughing harder at any other misfortune that’s befallen her, except for maybe when our Beagle peed on her.  That one is a close second, if not an outright tie. 

Your grandfather managed to drop the top support pole of a swingset he was putting together onto his leg, tearing a huge gash into his shin that required quite a few stitches, if I remember correctly.  He is the only person I know who’s been attacked by a baby elephant.  I’m sure there are other people in the world who have been charged by a diminutive pachyderm but I don’t know those people and I witnessed this magnificence firsthand. 

We’d gone to the Catskill Game Farm (which, sadly, is no longer.  I’d have loved to have taken you there) when I was about fourteen or so.  There was a young elephant in a small ring, its foot chained to a post in the ground, the chain at a humane length, and the ring was made out of logs, about two and a half or three feet above the ground.  My father suffers from some form of disability where fences and lumber rings do not dissuade him from attempting to get nearer the enclosed animals.  He’d done it more times than I could count with feeding giraffes, so why no one thought he’d go straight for the elephant like a moth to a flame is beyond me.  I suppose it’s my fault as well. 

Anyway, Dad thought it a great plan to throw one leg over the log and try to feed the elephant some of those weird crackers they sold to feed the animals that kind of smelled like big chunks of Cracklin’ Oat Bran and tasted like sawdust.  Maybe the elephant was afraid of Dad’s beard or just didn’t like crackers or was perhaps pissed to be chained in a ring of lumber, but regardless of his motives, the elephant charged Dad.  He was on a chain, as I said, so couldn’t reach him but no matter, I don’t care how tough you are, if an elephant charges you, you are going to get the hell out of Dodge.  

Except it didn’t go quite as planned.  Instead of making a swift exit by pulling one leg back over the log, Dad slipped, ripping his goddamn jeans from crotch to ankle.  In public.  Because what zoo is deserted, ever? 

Ripped.  His.  Goddamn.  Pants. 

Did we go home?  Hells no.  We’d just gotten there.  My industrious, MENSA-member father, gathered some extra denim at the knee and tied the pantleg up, semi-camouflaging the fact that he was half wearing a skirt.  At least the wound in his thigh from an errant nail or something in the log wasn’t to a major artery. 

And this brings us to me. 

I’m pretty sure one of my first mishaps was going down a slide face-first – under the watchful eye of my step-grandfather – and planting my face in the ground, resulting in my teeth going through the inside of my lip.  I don’t remember that one, just heard about it secondhand.  But I know me and it definitely sounds like something I would do. 

When I was in kindergarten, we had this great jungle gym on the playground that looked like half of the Death Star.  I used to like to climb up a little ways, hook my legs over a rung and hang upside down.  Ordinarily I was pretty good at this until the one time I knocked myself out when I swung back too vigorously.

One of my dad’s favorite stories that he still enjoys retelling to this day is when I knocked myself out on the muffler of the family car.  It was winter and we had THE BEST driveway of anyone we knew for sledding (go ahead and ask anyone who’d been to the house on Mulberry Lane and I dare them to dispute it) and sucked for everything else.  It was a big hill, steep, unpaved, with a giant ass turn in the middle with a landing.  Thank god for that landing in the winter because when that bitch froze, you were lucky to make it to the landing and usually you could only do that after getting a running start from the road (all the while praying no unsuspecting people were coming from either direction on the road).  When it got bad, we’d park the car on the landing at the turn and then have to hoof it the rest of the way up the driveway, trying not to fall on your ass. 

I was young, I have no idea how old, maybe six or seven, and Dad had the brilliant idea to send me down the driveway on my plastic sled with Bandit, our puppy.  I got set up in the sled, holding the wriggling Bandit, and Dad stood in the driveway, legs wide so he could take a picture as his eldest daughter and smallest dog went hurtling down the ice crusted, snowy driveway. 

Hurtle we did.  Right down the driveway and underneath the goddamn car.  Knocked myself out on the muffler.  I don’t think Bandit was quite the same after that. 
When I was sixteen, I fell down the stairs on Thanksgiving at Aunt Patti’s house.  Everyone thought I’d killed myself. 

The following year, I fell in the Smithsonian Museum while trying to trip either my dad or Uncle Bob, subsequently spraining my ankle and breaking my foot.  That was the last time we went as a family to Aunt Patti’s for Thanksgiving because I am too accident prone.

When I was away at college, I was alone in the dorm room I shared with my roommate Sara, and got out of bed to change the song on the stereo.  Sara and I, in an attempt to create more room for storage in our small rooms, had our bed frames up on cinderblocks.  I rose from my bed, stepping onto the floor without noticing the clamshell case to my VHS copy of The Muppet Movie under my foot.  Plastic VHS cases slide across linoleum like a sex waxed surf board over the ocean.  I shot right past the stereo, probably having to listen to Sara’s damn Shabba Ranks CD, and flew across the room, landing underneath Sara’s bed, at first not understand how the hell I’d gotten there.  I had a bruise on my bicep the size of a dinner plate that was the color of an eggplant after that.  I’m still not sure how I got that bad boy, I think I must have thrown my arm up in the air and smashed it into the bedframe on impact.  Regardless, it was impressive. 

Most recently (I have fallen many times in between college and now, please don’t think I had a dry spell that lasted THAT long, the preceding were just the most noteworthy), your father and I were goofing around in the kitchen and your father tried to “dip” me, like we were dancing. 
It ended with me flailing my arms like a drowning person and falling to the floor in the kitchen like a sack of stupid, graceless potatoes. 

Considering the way you ended up with your black eye, I fear I’ve cursed you.  And I apologize in advance for all the slips and falls and bumps and bruises you will no doubt incur in the years to come.  I’ll make sure we have the best medical coverage available. 

Two weeks ago, I was out having dinner with JJ when I received a text message from your father, saying “Table 1, Michael 0” with a picture of you with a super puffy eye.  Evidently, you were running around (normal) with the dog (also normal) and Ruby got underfoot, you didn’t notice (normal again, for you and the dog) and you tripped, therefore sailing eye-first into the edge of the coffee table, which may be made of the hardest wood known to man, or at least available in the 1970’s.  The up side to this was that you were home from school for a few days (unrelated to your injury, there’d been a snowstorm) so I didn’t receive any phone calls for visits from Child Protective Services or your teacher. 

Your little legs have been a patchwork of bruises since you learned to walk.  Like your mother, you have no idea from whence they come.  Get used to it, that doesn’t stop. 

So consider this my formal apology and the explanation of the long line of graceless bastards that have come before you.  But hey, at least you won’t be boring!   Farting and falling are two of the funniest things in life (to me) so you should definitely learn to embrace the ridiculous.