Thanksgiving 1989

  He sat down at my Mother’s table, in my father’s spot, even though he didn’t ask if he could.  My mother, brother and myself were each seated in our usual spots, so my father’s spot was the last remaining one open, but still, he should have asked.
  My mother was all smiles that Thanksgiving, instead of all cursing, and when I looked at her from my side of the table, I noticed she was wearing my dangly earrings; my only dangly earrings.  She didn’t ask either.  Everything he said required my mother to nod emphatically with him, and those dangly earrings nodded with her, keeping beat each time they grazed her cheek and neck.  They were stupid earrings anyways.
  I gnawed on my turkey, watching those stupid earrings when I turned to look at my brother, who was already staring at me.

We locked eyes and identical, crooked smiles formed on each of our faces.  We had a mission to complete.

  Not wishing to draw any suspicion from Mother, we turned our attention back to our plates, waiting for the moment our plan would turn into action.
  He talked for what seemed like hours, always boring topics.  My mother spent most of her meal with a mound of mashed potatoes on her fork, perched in her hand, half way between her plate and mouth, always smiling, nodding, and only taking forkfuls of food when he turned his own attention back to his plate.
   Finally the conversation died away, and just the scrapes of the fork on the plates and between teeth could be heard.  The tension between my brother and I suddenly grew thick.  Surely Mother would be alerted.
   I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could, not taking my eyes off the plate I said “Applecore”.  I said it so much louder than I had planned.
   “No!” my mother said.
   “What was that?” he asked Mother.
   “Oh, nothing.” My Mother said and smiled sweetly to him.
   Quiet fell over the table again.  I could hear everyone chew.  It dragged on so long, the silence, I thought for sure my brother had aborted the mission.
   “Baltimore” my brother finally said.
   “No!  I mean it!”  My Mother said sternly.  There was no smile this time.
   Braver now, not to be out-dared by my little brother, I said “Who’s your friend?”
      “Don’t you dare!” My mother hissed at us.
      He stared at us, brows furrowed high on his vast forehead.
      My brother put his fork down, and raised his napkin.  Oh, No.  Surely he wasn’t admitting defeat in our mission now!  We were so close!
   He used his napkin to wipe his mouth, turned and beamed at me.  

   “Len” my brother said.  

   I stabbed my boiled-to-perfection brussel sprout with my fork with gusto.
   “Amanda…” my mother said.
   I turned my fork in my right hand, tines to the ceiling, handle gripped in my fist.  The brussel sprout slide further onto its spikes.
   “Don’t!” Mother said, placing both hands on the table.
   “What’s going on?” he said.
   I raised my fork a bit higher, my left thumb finding the right spot on the tip of the tines.  I pulled back the catapult.
   “No!” Mother said.  Here comes the cursing.
   This was my mission and I couldn’t let my brother down.  I released the fork catapult and that brussel sprout flew through the air in a courageous ark, in a direct flight to its target.
   My mother reached out to try and grab the brussel bomb in mid flight, but missed.
   “Dammit, Amanda!” Mother said.

   My brother laughed.   I sat up tall, proud of the missions direction thus far.  

   The brussel bomb made contact with its target, leaving a green skid mark across his bald head, and finally falling to the floor right behind his chair.

      “What the fuck?!” he yelled and ejected himself from his seat, pushing the chair backwards.  “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
      My brother stopped laughing.  I held my breath.
      “They’re just being kids.  She didn’t mean any harm.”  My mother said.  She leaned towards me in her chair, her hand reaching towards me.
   “They’re being fucking brats!” he said, still standing.  He leaned towards my mother, over the table, his face getting red, and pointed a meaty finger towards her.  “What kind of mother are you?”
   “You should leave.” my mother said with such calmness that both my brother and I cringed with the fury that was about to be unleashed.
   “Fine!” he said, and pushed his chair back towards the table.  As he stepped back, he stepped right onto the brussel bomb, grinding it right into his socked foot.  “Fuck!” he said as he limped towards his shoes and the door.   He grabbed his jacket and out the door he went with a slam.

   Mother returned to her meal, as we listened to his car pull out of the driveway, spewing more gravel than necessary in his wake.
   “I’m sorry, mom” I said.
   Mother continued to eat, with a pace much faster than she had during the first part of the meal.
   “I didn’t mean to-” I started
   “Applecore” said Mother quietly.
   “What?” I said.  I must have misheard her.
   “Baltimore?” my brother said sheepishly.  He and I looked at each other.   We were out of our element now.
   “Who’s your friend?” mother said, not lifting her eyes from her plate while she pushed her mashed potatoes into a tall mountain.
   “Um… Amanda?  Please?”  My brother said.  He leaned back in his seat as though the table might bite him.  I looked at my brother again who looked just as confused as I felt.
   I looked back at Mother “Mom, I- ”
   And then the counter attack happened.  The fork catapult launched the mountain of mashed potatoes that only moments ago had been on my mothers plate and splatted them right in my face.  Some made their way into my open mouth, some on my glasses, some making their way into my hair.  I had been hit!
   I looked at my mother, searching for a trace of a clue on her face as to what had just happened.  
   “He had bad breath anyways.  Are you ready for dessert?”  Mother said.  

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I am an author.

When I first found out that I was pregnant, after the hysteria passed, I got excited about all the things I would teach my child.  I would teach them everything I had learned.  I could show them what I knew of the world.  I planned on teaching them the same lessons I was grateful to have learned, and would avoid the lessons I wished I hadn’t learned.  But mostly I wanted to teach them the lessons I had learned too late; the ones that stung a bit too much to learn the hard way.  

Let me tell you, I was a way better parent before I had kids.  I was so wrong.  

When I met Halia, she let me know quite quickly that we weren’t going to be following my plan, because she had one of her own.  Halia has been my mirror since the day she was born, showing me how the world sees me, and always demanding to know the next step.  She’s kept me accountable for my actions, and forced me to be the best version of me I could be.  

And then I met Leona, who had a much different lessons for me.  

With Leona I’ve learned to stop and look around.  I’ve learned it’s okay to wander away from the crowd and dance when there’s a good beat, even if I’m the only one who can hear it.  I’ve learned the joy of being silly, and that it’s okay to wear plaid, florals and stripes in the same outfit as long as you have the attitude to go with it.  I’ve learned that everyone has a story, there’s an adventure to be found anywhere, and that there’s no limit to the number of times she can make me question my own sanity.  

So, having learned all these valuable lessons, I did what any parent would do: figure out a way to profit from their children.  

I’d like to thank everyone for coming and for those who helped make yesterday possible.  It’s been a fun ride and I’m humbled by the love and support I’ve been given.
A big thank you to Christina at Starving Artist Gallery Cafe for hosting the event and for her help throughout the planning process.  Everyone raved about the food, the art, the venue.  Everything was perfect.  And I even came home with some new art.
I can’t even express the gratitude I have for Becky, English Dave, and Del Davis.  Without their encouragement I might not have even tried.   I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such amazing friends as these three, but I am so grateful I do.
Thanks goes out to John, who still loved and supported me even when I was going (still am) a bit crazy with stress and being stretched too thing.  And of course for the flowers.
A big shout out to Chris Brown, an amazing and talented musician who played the entire event.  I received so many compliments on the music.  I’ve always been a supporter of musicians, but this guy… I’d fund every project he wanted to work on if I could.  

I was asked quite a few times yesterday if I am working on more books.  I am working on the second book in the Halia and Leona series with the working title “Mom, who’s Mackulay Culkin?”  

A New Adventure

Last year I started a new adventure, which ended up rewriting my entire life.  Sixteen months later and my life barely resembles what it used.  The only mainstay are my girls, and my closest friends who stuck with me through the growing pains.

Part of my adventure was to actually do something with my writing.  I opened up a new site that will feature my novels once they are written.  But in the process, I actually wrote a children’s book as well.  It has been sent to the publisher, edited and translated into French.  The goal is to have it done this summer.

Lucky for me, the publisher allowed me to use my good friend to do the drawings, which I know will mean it takes longer as he is a busy guy, but it also means that it is a complete labour of love for my two lovely ladies who inspired the story and keep me going.  Being that it is a labour of love, I’ve decided to release the children’s books under my own name and not my pen name.

Below are a few rough sketches.  I can’t wait to see the finished copies.  He is so talented, yet so humble.

Shona

Rain pounds the tin roof.  I think that was thunder.  Audible even over the V8. And I’m sweating to death. Like a whore in church. That’s how she says it. Sweating to death; that’s funny. 
My shirt clings from sweat. Pinstripe shirt as she prefers.  Leaning back, clenching the wheel.  My gut touches it now.  So many years lost: wasted.  I want a window opened.  Its too late for that.  The windows are sealed shut.  My arms feel so heavy.  They surrender to the leather.  Memories are in these seats.  A connection to better days.  She never understood keeping Shona.  Both of us gone together.  Two birds with one stone.
I’ve tried to be strong. Tried to swallow my pills.  Talk away the lingering suffocation.  Nothing takes away the taste.  Can’t wash out my mouth.  I’ve gone through the motions.  Did what I was told.  Numbed myself to the pain.  Death’s potentent medicine is strong.  More than I really need.  Nothing else has cured me.  Can’t stop living without death.
She’ll find the note there.  On the bedside table frame.  On point to the backyard. I wrote it all down.  Gave clear instructions and directions. A map to new life.  Explained the release in preparations.  The clarity in my decision.  She’ll find me here after.  I hope I am smiling. 
This car seems so small.  Maybe she won’t be mad.  I did this for her.  She’ll see why very soon.  The rumbling engine is soothing.  I feel sleepy: I’m drifting.  It hurts more than expected. 

Bass Line

He moves with the rhythm, as though animated solely by it.  A lock of hair, normally tucked behind his ear, lay on his face and follows the curve of a high cheek bone. A bass is slung around his neck, and with discerning, indistinct fluidity he plays as if the instrument were an extension of his own hands.  He is oblivious to the spilled beer on the floor, the smell of sweat and bodies crammed into the small space, the crescendo of a crowd worked to the point of a frenzy.  His eyes are closed, his head low, he is grounded in a way that only the stage has been able to ease him down.

Something changes in the room, changes the air around him, and a cringe sweeps across his brow, crinkling the skin around his eyes.

Concentrate.  Don’t look.

He opens his eyes to see his vice before him in full colour.  She moves among the crowd, but as a separate entity; her cavort revealing what she is holding for him.  She places a smile on his face, but he wipes it clean off again looking for strength to uphold the duodenary promises he made.  His heart drums with heavy booming beats in his chest, and the guilt of what he knows he cannot fight plunges deep down in his stomach before the pipe has touched his lips, before he  steps off stage, before the song has even ended.

The set ends, and with slow, laboured, methodical movements, he unleashes himself from his instrument and breathes deep.  He steps off the stage, through the invisible barrier that separates band from aid and follows her outside, where he trades a bit more of his talent to feed the addiction that forever lurks and laughs in the corners.

Motivation: activation, persistence, intensity

Its come to the end of January, and my theme of resolutions is also coming to an end.

This past weekend, I had off from pretty much everything.  No work, no studio: just my kids, a To Do list and a few hours of volunteering.
And yet, besides volunteering and going ice skating, I didn’t really accomplish anything.  In fact, the slothness seemed to spill over the rest of the week, because I haven’t accomplished much other than the basics all week.  This caused me to wonder why motivation wanes and dips periodically.  My goals haven’t changed, but my motivation did this week.
The definition of motivation is the reason why we act or our desire to do things a certain way.  I wasn’t acting the way I wanted to in order to meet my goals this week, and so I’ve been thinking a lot of why that is.  There is a myriad of stressors in my life, and while they haven’t changed over the past year, they did seem to be rather intense this week, both because I’ve been making progress towards alleviating them, but also because that same progress seems to be acting like sandpaper and grating on many aspects of my life.
So, was my lack of motivation this week my brain’s way of saying ‘You’re going to blow a gasket.  Here’s a kit kat.’?
I asked others what motivates them, and I got a couple of very different answers.  One friend told me her kids motivate her.  She can’t back down because they count on her.  This is true for all parents I think.  I know that I push myself to be the best version of me for the sake of my kids more so than for my own desire.
Someone else told me he’s motivated because he feels he needs to catch up.  He led a life that took him down an undesired path, and now that he’s rejoined the rest of society, he feels he has to not just catch up, but share the lessons he’s learned and give back to the world that gave him a second chance.
I think my own motivation comes from many aspects; my children, my desire to be happy, and the need to be something creative.
About.com explains that motivation comes in three components, activation, persistence and intensity.  Activation is the decision to change or act a certain way.  persistance is the continued effort towards the goal.  Intensity is the concentration and vigor one puts forth toward the goals.  Given that, maybe it wasn’t a lack of motivation this week, but just a lack of intensity?
What motivates you?  What do you do to restore your motivation or intensity when it seems to have lost its luster?

some thoughts on the art of writing, because there’s a lot of garbage out there

I get asked often if I ever like a book because I seem to be so hard on them.  Well, the truth is, it is rare that I do love a book because there is so much fluff out there.  Writers seem to write to the numbers, not to what needs to be written.  Check this article out.

some thoughts on the art of writing, because there’s a lot of garbage out there.