Facepalm Moment

I have to share a facepalm debacle with you.  If you look through my archives you will come across “Esmeralda’s Hair”, a children’s book I wrote.

Well, I edited it into the ground, over and over again.  Granted it was much better as a result but I was getting neurotic.  It had to be perfect because I was sending it out to publishers.

I wrote a query letter, not really knowing how important it was.  I’ve since bought a book on it so I don’t have any cause for the book to be turned down.  Then I made copies of the story and sent it out.

A problem, big gulp.  I didn’t read about proper format.  The copies were all single line formatted and although the font was acceptable, I’m not sure it was one of the top three.  And I didn’t have a printer so all copies were made at the library.  Expensive to say the least.

So now I have a printer (With the price of ink, still expensive but I don’t have to leave home and it’s not $.05 or .10 a copy). I’ve waited the number of requisite months to give the publishers time to forget all about me (if they ever took me out of the slush pile, which is highly unlikely).  I’ve read more about query letters and writing in general.  I’ve researched to increase the number of additional publishers to send it to.

Now it’s time to research the publishers so each query letter is unique.  Time to make each manuscript copy look properly formatted.  Make sure the publishers are still in business and still accepting children’s books.  What am I missing?

So, in a brief period of time, I will start over again, remembering how many times Dr. Seuss was rejected before he broke through and became a superstar.  I don’t want to be a superstar.  I just want to get published, a humble enough desire, or madness, whatever.

This Old Church

My hand wraps around the banister
feeling warm wood glowing beneath the skin
climbing stairs to ancient classrooms
long stilled, the cacophony of youthful voices
echoing through rafters and down the balcony
children no longer haunt its rooms
the church’s youngest members,
from middle age and up
recall times of lessons and play
now hushed, rooms empty
since parish members were children.

The sanctuary’s seats are many
with a dividing wall 25 feet tall
to allow for overflow when needed
the organ’s pipes, overwhelmingly silent,
once rang with a sound so powerful
vibrations thumped within our chests
the organist fails to know
the music of the soul anymore

The Church was built for a time
when families faithfully attended
each Sunday, bringing children
to learn Bible rules and stories,
its storied stones and gloried stained glass
holding the congregation safe
within its all encompassing bosom

The remnant congregation,
wearing their coats against the draft
are committed, generous, active people
welcoming all who come to visit
saying prayers they will return
but times have changed
music and services need adjusting
to meet the desires of these generations
growing up outside the stone walls
without ever placing a foot within.

The Church is a wonderful place
where life can rejoice yet again
but it needs to host children,
young parents, the middle-aged
finding our way to that is the challenge
for although going to services and serving
on committees, more is still needed
so much more

My heart yearns to
sway in the arms of the Father,
raise my arms  and dance
to hear the Bible read and interpreted
giving meaning and translation
expanding the small parts within
to resonate with a defiant ring
so I can stare boldly at my Savior’s
glory and rejoice.

 

The Acts of a Christian

So what is a true Christian?
Someone who shows up at church
glad-handing those worthy to meet
standing upright in the pews
with head bowed at the proper angle?

The doer who takes on the work
of running a church
filling committees, cleaning,
lending her voice to the choir
taking children to the playroom
so mothers can enjoy service?
a practical Christian.

It’s all about the
what to do next, how to say
what needs saying without
distancing others in the process

Mortar, drywall, paint, pointing,
building a new roof and raising
the funds to do it
staffing the Thrift Shop
dedicating others to ministry

But my longing for God
transcends functionality
and I fear the more I function
the further away God feels

What became of raising my arms
to the Father
of finding a way to meet The Son
on my own terms
or on His
Believing in the Path
and how to walk its way

What became of joyful rendering,
of praising God even if
I feel uncomfortable
because it isn’t a natural process
to me yet but . . .
is something I desperately want?

In all the functionality
of being a modern, practical Christian
I miss God more than ever
and doubt Jesus even less.

So am I a true Christian any more,
a servant of God?
Or am I just a working hand
paying homage to the Building
and not the One for whom it stands?

 

Calling all readers

I am writing this as a request for all those who read my writings.  I’m writing a book on women who have gone through terrible traumas and horrific experiences yet through those experiences, and because of them, they are doing work which is, and have become, great.  There are so many women who are great but not so many who are great because of what they experienced and their work reflects those experiences.

I’m not writing about women like Hillary Clinton or Queen Elizabeth or even women like Angelina Jolie who does great work through the UN but her previous life does not reflect the causes of her work now.  I am writing about women like Malala Yousafez who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about the need for education for girls in Pakistan and went on to win the Noble Peace Prize and extend her mission to girls throughout the world.

Or the Radium Girls, dial-painters from 1917 through the 1930’s who were exposed to radium through their work and, though many of them died as a result, fought for worker’s compensation and led to the development of OSHA.  Their stories are tragic yet they are heroines for the struggles they went through and the victories finally achieved, although many still went without compensation for their injuries and diseases.

I am gearing this book for young adults.  So many young people are very aware of the travesties of life but women are often written out of the equation.  Some women go through tremendous struggles to achieve and this is inspiring. I think young women need hope and inspiration in this world, particularly as the emphasis is so often on devastation and ruin, evil and horror.

Therefore, I am asking for input.  Should you know of women who fit these parameters, please let me know about them.  There are many.  I would like to cover as many aspects of life as I can – para-athletes, explorers, scientists, doctors, refugee activists, politicians, social activists, etc.  Some of the women will be older or from different eras but I would like to add as many current achievers as well. If you could add a note with these names as to why they fit these parameters, that would be great.  I would appreciate your help.  Thank you.

Mirrors

When I’m with you I feel real,
he said, the gentleness
in his eyes belying the fear
in his heart, the quivering
insecurity of his soul.

He is a wounded one, all right,
the pain of betrayal
steeped in his loins.

There once was a woman,
she said, who hung mirrors
in every room, every niche,
in a towering edifice
she insisted was home.

Done so she could look
and remind herself that she
still existed, that she was real.

Read the “Velveteen Rabbit”,
she said as she softly
slipped her hand into his.

Look in the mirror
and tell yourself again
and yet again,
that you are Real.

She knows that emptiness
brought on by years
of holding herself erect,
while inside she melted away,
the “who” of herself
fading from the “what”
of her life, brought to bear
upon her by those called family.

Within, she said, rests a kernel
of effervescence –
luminous, brilliant, yet
with a purity too true to destroy.

Let the mirror be your guide
into the heart of you.

Unrequited Love

Silence hung in the air, deafening her mind as she stood at the doorsill watching, waiting.  Each day passed thus.  She would rise, send the children on their way the seven miles to school, the old buckboard wagon bouncing and rutting its way down the dust-risen road.

Rushing through the chores, she would take up her vigil, day after day.  Sometimes he came but far more often he did not.  The anticipation, mingled with apprehension, was reflected in the constant movements of Sarah’s body.  Anchored to the sill, she would stand on her toes, lift one foot then the other, tap her feet to a beat matching the craziness within.  Even she could not explain the waiting.

When he came it was not with an ease of manner or a smile. . . her husband.  They had not been married but a few weeks when he told her that, under no terms were they to have a child.  He didn’t want the burden; feared the responsibility.  Marriage, in and of itself, was difficult enough to his way of thinking.

Jeb loved her, surely he did, but it was wound up tight by possession and the need for control.  His father had been the same; it was the way he knew.  Their passion drove everything else away. . . all the thoughts of everyone else, of friends, relatives, even the workers on the farm.

Their voices ebbed and flowed, in torrents or tranquil waters, as he slowly, inexorably, bent her spirit so that it lived only in his presence.  Never a strong person, she would bury thoughts of anger, injustice, and a longing for more deep within her core.

In the beginning, she brought herself to a medicine woman in hopes of ending this threat to the marriage.  The old woman smiled her toothless smile and shook her head, “Child, there are babies inside you waiting to be born. That man ain’t nothing but a curse on you. Someone must have been a heap of angry at you to darken your path with the likes of him.” The young woman dutifully listened, an obligatory measure to ensure the help she needed.

Shaking her tousled, gray head, the medicine woman shuffled over to her cabinets and opened the doors to her secrets.  She instructed the girl how to prevent contraception and made to send her on her way.  The younger one’s fear creeping high as the sun moved across the sky.  “He doesn’t know I am here,” she confessed, “He believes my mind can control my body, stopping seeds from sprouting – it being only a matter of conviction.”

To accept help from any outsiders would be a sure sign of weakness.  When, despite her fear, she thwarted the old medicine woman’s cures and became pregnant, it was an unconscious need to be unleashed from his tyranny.  She had a trembling weakness to be loved more than anything else and, she had to admit, a stirring of defiance whirling in the murky waters of her mind.  For so long she had held such thoughts at bay but the cage she beat her wings against seemed rustier and more confining by the day.

As her womb swelled, Sarah’s defiance swirled between shrinking to a fearful whimper to surging bright and fearful clear.  Jeb reacted as expected. . . with bitter rage and raw nerves. He began to hit he then.  Always seemingly accidental and in areas that wouldn’t show, and all too often, directly against the precious life growing inside.

Jeb swore he wouldn’t acknowledge any child, wouldn’t support them, get to know them and, true to his word, on the day she went into labor, he gathered his things, crossed the doorsill, past the old barn with cattle mulling, ready to be milked, lowing in the evening breeze.  He lit across the wavering fields and disappeared in the distance.  He didn’t look back once – she knew for she watched through the rustling curtains, clutching her stomach as the labor pains struck.  Until that moment, she didn’t really believe he had meant it.

Sarah went out to the barn, trying to do what she could before it was too late.  She couldn’t bear to see the cows suffering from swollen bellies much as she herself was.  She needed to relieve them of their pain – she could do that much even if she could not for herself.

Within the bed she had lain long nights reaching out to touch him, dreading him awakening, dreading him not, her thoughts and feelings swirling together in one cacophony of torment.  She was married to the man – she loved him, hated him, feared him – all mixed up, intertwined in a thousand knots.  She was always afraid she would break in half from loving him so hard.

Sarah lay in bed, crying, curled up into a tight ball as her swollen belly lurched and heaved in contractions.  As luck would have it, her midwife arrived for a weekly check-up in time for the final throes of delivery.  The squalling, pink babe was a small girl, already carrying a haunted look in her eyes.  Preternaturally wise, the eyes spoke of the knowledge of those pokes and jabs meant to be spent on an innocent fetus.

Jeb would show up from time to time, taking what was his – her body – even as the baby cried in another room, her needs going unmet.  Sarah dared not leave his side unless she was prepared for a beating  As it was, she was likely to suffer through one if he couldn’t take the baby’s cries.  For as much as she knew his love was tainted and not fully encompassing, she couldn’t turn him out of her bed and her heart.

He was quick to leave once his needs were met, taking whatever he could find to support himself.  Workers from nearby ranches were helping out on their free days – concern showing on their faces as they watched the drawn, pale woman pull in on herself.  She struggled hard to make the farm keep going.  Slowly she added on a worker or two to handle the heavy work while she maintained the gardens and livestock.  Sometimes, at day’s end, she would feel the breeze of the air against her face and know a freedom nothing else in her life brought.

Soon those around her noticed her belly swelling again . . . how she dragged herself across the fields, caring for the livestock, her baby strapped to her back waiting its turn. And a few months later, another child, a boy, was there to suckle, drawing nourishment from a woman who had long been denied that same nurturing spirit.

Jeb was her albatross and her obsession.  In the denying of his love, he fueled a need within Sarah so powerful she was helpless to resist.  She gave all she had to the farm and her children.  She was a good woman, kind and grateful to those who helped her.  She loved her children and gave them the attention she herself deserved.  But she couldn’t rid herself of that one weakness – Jeb.  And he, miserable wretch that he was, wouldn’t release her from the slave chains he wrapped around her spirit.

When he disappeared for good, heading for the West and its claims of gold, she was released from his bondage.  She prayed and wept and at last divested herself of the need for him.  And after a period of mourning, her rage exploded, sweeping clean the last vestiges of subservience and shame. No longer trapped in her cage, she lived a life of toil but triumph.  Her ranch did well and she gave her children the love she had in abundance. All those things had been there before, but as long as Jeb ruled her consciousness, she couldn’t truly appreciate them.  Now she was a woman free, no longer fettered by the twisted, convoluted love she shared.  And unwilling to ever walk down that road again.

 

 

As the year ends. . . .

As the year ends . . . how many articles and writings are beginning with this right now?  Just this morning I saw a few.  Really its just one day inexorably moving into another one, a simple feat done as it’s been accomplished since our world began in its present form.  Still, the need to change one number when you write out a check does give me a certain pause.  (Not the least because my brain needs to catch up to the revolving times).

When I think of the things I envisioned would happen this past year just a scant 365 days ago, the reality has proved so much different.  I try really hard to differentiate between projecting and planning.  For instance, I am planning to go to California to hold my first grandchild and spend time with the family I love most in the world.  But Life has a way of tilting even the most solid plans and shake them into razor whipped ribbons.

This past year I moved and then began plans to move again, to California.  The California plans didn’t work out for now.  I am planning for a move in a couple of years, eons from now.  But within my current home, I am making friends with wonderful people, am safe and secure, and even have had people offer to walk my cat (on his leash) when I didn’t feel up to it.  That wouldn’t have happened if I had moved.

By all rights, I shouldn’t be alive right now.  I nearly died a few years back, was given up for dead if not for my son’s tenacity and insistence.  Afterward, I had dementia for a year due to a drug reaction. I had to wear a colostomy bag for a year.  All these prepared me for the work I do now and the compassion I feel for those in similar circumstances.  I’ve learned acceptance and rational hope.  I’ve watched people die and I’ve seen people fight their way back from the edge.  How can you plan those things in the beginning of a new year?

So this year I am scattering my expectations to the four winds.  As the icy chill of the air blows outside, I will bury my preconceptions under the snow so when Springtime comes, as it tends to do, I can laugh at the fantasies I built my life on and cherish the realities I have been given.  For even if I don’t understand why they are happening, or don’t see them as fair, I Do know I will always learn from the realities that grace my path and grow stronger (hopefully) as a result.

May all your expectations bring fruit to bear that is fragrant, luscious and life-giving. And may changes shatter your preconceptions and awaken untravelled realms within and without you.  Happy New Year.

 

 

Best Wishes

In these times of holiday blitz, when running about trying to make everything perfect and cramming as many activities in as possible, I want to take a moment and send my fervent hope to all those struggling.  Be they shut-ins, mentally or physically ill, suffering personal losses and the death of loved ones, or those living in desperate circumstances, they need our love, devotion, and attention throughout the year but perhaps, especially now.

Most of us spin through our days accomplishing goals, worrying about the dramas and needs in our lives, or working so hard we don’t notice the rest of the world.  We are in a time when that may be more necessary than ever before.  But the Holidays are here to remind us of the outer world and the greater good.  As much as you are able, extend yourself to others.  You may never know what that gesture will do.  It may make all the difference to someone who will, in turn, pass it on to others less fortunate than ourselves, for, let’s face it, for almost everyone there are multitudes who are less fortunate.

Let us also be mindful of the results the actions of technology bring.  As companies and scientists seek ways to increase food production, let them do so with forethought for the outcomes.  Genetic manipulation of grains for better yields might result in negative impacts on the soil or on the people ingesting those grains. We need to increase food production but not at the risk of harm.

And let us not forget those people in life-threatening circumstances such as the refugees and those trapped in war.  The Rohinga,  Syrians, and those who lack shelter and the bare necessities to maintain life need our help.  We can not turn a blind eye to their needs even if the least you can do is heartfelt prayer.

My wish is for all of us to unite as one people, not many, as unrealistic as that sounds.  Our political leaders may seem hell-bent on destroying each other and their countries but let us lobby for moderation and sanity in all their actions.

As our society becomes increasingly radicalized, let us seek education to inform the minds of those easily swayed to induce harm on others.  We all are alike under the skin, may we seek to always remember that in these shifting times.

Finally, my thanks to all those who have read my work.  I draw strength and guidance through much I read in your work.  I hope the holidays and the coming year bring health, happiness, wealth and a positive, uplifting journey.  Merry Christmas.

Bump

My baby has a bump.  A growing, wriggling baby bump all her own (and her husband’s).  It delights me.  I believe I may even be enjoying it more than she does; although she’s excited, she has to go through all the rigors of pregnancy.  I see her pictures, each one bigger than the last, now beginning to see the full loom of pregnancy.

Her 30th birthday was yesterday.  She is but a few months off the schedule I had when I gave birth to my first, her brother.  She waited until later, as did I.  I’d give anything to be there with her but economics is one reality I simply can’t avoid.

I look at her pictures and see this thriving adult, about to enter an entirely life-changing chapter of her life, and can’t help but see in my mind’s eye the little girl she once was.  I wonder if it ever truly leaves a mother.  Are my children always going to be my babies?  Or, will I allow them to grow up?

Not too long ago it was me telling them, in succinct terms,  not to parent me.  Our relationships are so much better since we passed that hurdle.  But I wonder if I am trying to claim ownership of them even as they are fully adult, with mortgages and spouses, college loans and now a baby.  Is it that I am so far away that I hold fast to their childhoods, something I can connect with despite the miles between us?

I am so blessed.  Even though I can’t see them often, every 1 1/2 years or so, I have a great relationship with both my children and their spouses.  We talk every week, sometimes more, and my son still calls every time he is sick to ask what he could be doing to feel better.  He called yesterday saying, “I’m dying Mom, what can I do more for this sinus infection?”  There were few words I could share as he had already learned the lessons of previous sinus traumas.

My daughter is taking such good care of herself.  An avid runner, she is not doing so, preferring gentle pregnancy yoga.  I wish I could be there for her, taking care of their baby.  I’d move there now if not for the exorbitantly high rents in her area.  She plans on working after maternity leave.  Her husband plans to care for the baby while studying for his Divinity Masters.

If only the world went according to my plan.  But until then, I’ll have to depend on God’s timing and will.  And be content.

A Wrinkle

A wrinkle
slit depression in my skin
lying slightly off plum
so I find myself mirror hopping
seeking whether it will fall
hanging down like a drunken sailor
whose feet are mired in netting,
or extend out as crow’s feet.
Deep sighs abound
for I’d rather have
the illusion of something
created by laughter
than the droop of a line
dragged down by depression.
I suppose it is inevitable
in its coming
I am aging . . .
my body clearly shows it,
gravity worked its travesty
But I can forget my body
in my mind’s eye
so quick to forgive and forget
it does not fit the mind’s image
But in a mirror capture
of my reflection, there is
no hiding from the inevitable
so that slight depression
is acknowledgment no amount
of glitter will ever fool others
into believing this old hag
ain’t gonna be kickin’ those heels
in any young girl’s dance

The place where I dump the stuff that's inside my head.

Geetha Balvannanathan's Blog - Isis Tratum

Poems, thoughts, healing, other art works (pictures, songs and videos not made by me belong to their authors, the rest being mine) © 2010-2046

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