Launch-pad Dreams

Maybe it’s a brain problem.

Years ago, Susan Skulsky, a college English professor who worked with me to improve to a B from a dismal D in my first year General Literature survey course, told me that my ideas were good, but my grammar was terrible.

I’m sure I confessed to her of having dropped out of school after 8th grade.

I did drop back in for my senior year at the urging of a friend who asked me if I had no better ambitions than to be a store clerk, or a server, all my life. I thankfully decided more education was better. However, I missed a lot of critical grammar work that made my English Language and Literature major hard won.

I should have chosen music or theater, but both subjects intimidated me too much, and my college advisor did not see that I was in the wrong major.

I took an introductory theater class, philosophy, and delved into geology, and oceanography, all of which were fascinating and gratifying, but I still longed to be a writer, and perhaps teacher, so I stayed with English.

I remember another English major describe herself as ‘highly trainable’ several years after we graduated and she was working as an insurance underwriter.

But I was going to write something worth reading, perhaps something worth remembering me for…

I never found ‘my thing’ back then, and I’m not sure I ever have.

Did all of my education go to waste? The experiences certainly didn’t.

I learned more about social strata than I likely would have otherwise, which may have been more valuable in some ways than the academics.

The woman whose daddy was giving her a ‘Jag’ upon graduating. The several women who had never done their own laundry. The ones only there to find a good husband, or because that was their social track.

My dirt poor existence could not have prepared me for the realities of the moneyed world.

The day I got my paper back with that big red D, and its accompanying “make an appointment to see me,” scribbled next to it, I sat in silent shock, while a girl sitting with some classmates at a table behind me was in tears over an A- she received.

What would she have thought had she known there was someone who got a D sitting so near her?

Life moved on, as it does. I survived, and am still standing, even if my dreams did not become reality. I try not to justify my failures as ‘all for the best’. I simply failed.

Maybe it was a brain problem.

My dear friend told me about her daughter’s boss who said something like “Oh, you’re a scholar,” when my friend spoke of her interests and her life. She said it was a freeing statement to hear. She is a scholar.

Perhaps, I am a scholar too.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Summer Evening, Six Years Old

I am about six years old, and just finished my bath. My mother dries me off and tells me to get into my pajamas and wait for her while she finishes bathing my three year old brother.

She will braid my hair, like she has my older sisters who have already had their bath, but unlike them, I will have to go to bed right after my hair is braided and my teeth are brushed.

Those were the best times with my mother. Her love was fully present, and in those few moments her attention was all mine.

I stand looking at the rectangle of sky out of the window in the steamy bathroom, a soft breeze cooling my face as it carries in the evening songbirds’ chirping.

The open kitchen window is full of the dimming sky as I write this, the night birds singing me back to six years old – feeling my mother’s touch and love – the current ache of missing her lessened by this time travel.

Are the birds singing to their broods, hushing them to sleep? Are they, too, happy in their mother’s attention?

My oldest brother rushes into the bathroom: “Mom, look!”

He has a lightning bug in a jar. It’s buzzing against the glass, looking for a way out.

“That’s a special bug. You can look at it for a while, but I want you to let it go outside before bed.”

“Oh, alright,” my brother groans, ruing his decision to show her his prize.

My next oldest brother comes in with a lightning bug he smeared on his arm just as it had lit up. His experiment a proud success.

She tells him to go wash it off as my little brother and I start to cry at his seeming cruelty.

“It’s just a bug,” he sneers, and then they’re off, clomping back downstairs.

“You boys stay in now – and clean up,” my mother calls after them.

The darkening sky has quieted the birds, the light in my kitchen seeming brighter now.

I imagine a mother bird having fed her brood, and cleaned their feathers before bed – their crowded nest all cozy and warm.

A few late birds call out, and then all is quiet again.

The earth is turning from the sun for another night.

The fireflies are lighting up in the dimness, and perhaps my mother is right here, enjoying this moment with me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Disaster Cake

It’s not the kind of cake you make for a disaster (although that might be nice when totally stressed out from a disaster?).

I have never made pineapple upside down cake before, but have always wanted to. My mother made one when I was a kid, and it was delectable (her chocolate fudge was amazing too).

I had some frozen pineapple from several months ago that I kept meaning to thaw and try this cake recipe with. (Frozen pineapple is also fantastic in smoothies, if you didn’t know.)

I bought a yellow cake mix because the recipe said that was fine if you didn’t want to do it all by scratch, which, in hindsight, would have been better.

I made up the mix, and carefully laid out the pineapple and brown sugar/butter mixture on the bottom of the pan, and then poured the mix on top – following the instructions to a T.

What I failed to notice was the *.

I mean, I noticed it, I just thought it didn’t pertain to my situation.

The asterisk cautioned that it was best to not use self-rising flour.

Cake mix is self-rising.

After a half an hour or so, I smell burning.

Burning?! It wasn’t even half-way done, and I had the temperature correct.

Oh bloody hell!

I looked into the oven to see cake batter rising up and bubbling over like an oversudsed washing machine, dripping down through the rack tines into a batter puddle on the oven bottom.

I shut off the oven, told my partner to open the front door and prepare for the smoke alarm while I took the still-uncooked cake batter in the pan out of the smoking oven, and set it on top of the stove.

I took out the oven racks, dropped the second one when it burned the side of my exposed hand, and screamed to my partner to back off as the rack clattered to floor. Fortunately, my barefooted partner was quick enough to jump out of the way.

He grabbed an oven mitt and picked up the rack, holding it gingerly over the sink because he was afraid that it would hurt the metal sink to put something so hot onto the cool sink bottom. I don’t think that’s a thing, but maybe it is, so whatever. It made him feel better.

Then we scraped off what we could of the burned mess, and I was lucky enough to get the burned batter pile on the oven bottom with a frying pan spatula as it had enough butter or oil in it to not be stuck too badly.

I decided to turn the oven back on and try to cook the cake the rest of the way, even though I figured it was ruined.

I had no idea how much longer to cook it, so I put it on for 20 more minutes at the 325°f setting from the instructions.

I wish I had taken a picture, but am also glad I didn’t. It looked as pathetic as you imagine.

It smelled amazing though.

20 minutes later out of the oven it came, and the toothpick I pierced the cake center with came out clean, amazingly enough.

I set the pineapple-blob disaster cake on the cooling rack for a few minutes, and then tipped it upside down onto a plate.

I had to get a knife to cut away all the baked-on batter that had congealed down the cake pan sides, but it, too, came away without too much effort.

Then came the big reveal lifting off the cake pan…

– it was a girl!

No, it was beautiful, and I still don’t have a picture (what kind of blogger is she?, you’re thinking). Not an astute one. I’ll work on that.

But it came out imperfectly perfect, and DELICIOUS! I wish I could share it with you!

It was light and fluffy and the pineapple looked almost like Martha freaking Stewart had made it. (Easy to say without a picture, but you’ll just have to trust me this one time).

So, here’s the metaphor the universe gave me:

Don’t give up.

Clean up my mess, and have a little faith that, sometimes, even my screw ups can work out better than my dreariest expectations.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Battle-ready?

If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.

You are a fucking miracle.

You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.

How I wake up:

The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).

Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.

I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.

And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.

And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.

All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.

Something – grace, I guess – shakes me lucid.

No, not today motherfucker!

Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.

I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.

I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.

Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.

Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

New Old Life

Nothing looks the same anymore. Maybe it’s still grief over my mother, and over several friends who have died in the last few years – one of them over twenty years ago who I have recently reconnected with.

It’s funny to phrase it that way, but it feels true. I had been stopping by the grave of one of my dear friends – filling her in on our crazy world now – and doing my best to let her know she’s loved and not forgotten.

I’m supposed to be writing an article for work, and I’ll get to it. It’s been such an orderly thing in my disorderly life.

I feel like a weirdo still grieving my mother’s passing. It was her time, after all. She got to live a long life, but it still came as a shock.

This has more to do with me now, I know that. I know it always had to do with me, really. I’m still here and she’s gone – on.

I’ve still not felt her around me. Maybe she’s left for parts unknown – or is just gone, if atheism is right.

Over the past year, it has taken a lifelong soul-sister friend to help me sort out what’s mine and what isn’t.

I had so much grief and rage.

I’m kind of surprised I’m still talking to any of my family members, but I think that’s guilt. I think it’s hope too, but at some point, it’s wiser to move on.

We were each others’ survival growing up as we were tossed about treacherous seas while those who were supposed to be in charge jumped ship. That forges a bond, even if it’s not ultimately healthy.

I love and loved my sisters dearly, but that affection was only really returned by one sister, who still told me her god is better than mine – and even though we got along the best – I know we can only share some of our heart now.

My friend told me I taught them how to treat me, and my acting differently will not cause them to respond well. In fact, I can expect them to act worse, or just continue as they’ve often been toward me.

Sometimes you get surprised for the better, and sometimes you find your true family outside of those you were born with.

Maybe it is my mother’s nudge from beyond this world that’s pushing me toward compatible love and friendship. At least it makes me feel better to think so.

I love you Mom.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) Debts To Pay, and Making A Way’s Blog, 2010 – current

Here Am I

You know how you ‘know’ how you probably should feel, or be, or do, but you feel otherwise?

Yeah, that’s where I am.

It’s not defiance. I don’t feel ‘choice’, it’s just how it is in this moment.

I understand feelings will shift, my attitude will likely change and I won’t have need of where I am – but when I’m here, I’m here.

And I’m angry that I have to manage the multitude in my head telling me why I shouldn’t be where I am emotionally, and then the litany of all I’ve ever screwed up, and opportunities I’ve missed – how, of course my life is not where I want it to be – look who I am.

What a shithead, right?!

I mean, if I could fire that jerk, and demand restitution for all it’s cost me – I’d bottle that and sell it – because I know I am not alone.

Not being alone in this miasma doesn’t have a ‘camaraderie’ feeling to it though. It’s not bested through others’ compassion, but only through self-compassion, and that is not currently in my skill set.

The best pharmacological offerings have not helped – and therapy does take the edge off – but this is a solo path, even though I desperately want company.

“The best way out is through,” as I have heard (and my inner rampaging self says to go screw yourself with your hollow platitudes).

And, yes, I know I’m arguing with myself, but it’s also all the therapists and self-help books that have not been the miracle cure I had hoped for.

Other wisdom reminds me that this is an ‘inside job’, and all I can think is that it would have been better to hire an expert.

“But you are an expert! You are the only expert on you!,” offers my cheery ‘friend’, who now has a black eye…

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to go out and till the soil in the garden, because if I don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Also, speaking directly to my inner three-nager: I love you. I accept you. You matter to me, and it’s important to me that you get what you need.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

The Longest Year

Pick your poison.

I’ll start:

COVID-19.

COVID-19 idiots, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, anti-truthers.

Death, and death, and death, and death – mostly preventable had we had non-psychopathic, demented leadership.

Way too many were cool with that. Way too many.

Were they deluded, or are they psychopaths too?

What is the anger? White people fearing that black and brown people will treat them like they’ve been treated?

I used to love my country – thought it was good, and just, and moral.

I didn’t know how naïve I was.

Did I forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki? WTF is wrong with me?

I believed a lie, but I still don’t want to kill black and brown people. I still don’t think white supremacy is the way, the light, the truth. Jesus was brown – deal with it.

I’m still good with socialist aspects of our capitalistic, ‘democratic’ republic. I believe roads, schools, police, fire, ambulance, non-profit hospitals, and all the other things we pay for through taxes, are worth it.

I’m a citizen. Don’t put me in your stupid box so you can dehumanize and demean me. I care about you getting what you need too, even if you suck.

We’ve been ever inching toward the ‘kill or be killed, survive or die’ wilderness.

The funny thing is you all need each other – you all find belonging in your hatred and disgust of those who get your nickel of support each week so that those without can barely survive another week.

Your absurdist argument of not wanting anyone to take your hard-earned money has been a joke since taxes were instituted. Turn your guns on those above you – the ones who are actually responsible for your misery.

Those below you are not sucking you dry, or even having a good life at your expense.

It is the rich folk, stupid. They are the ones who escape paying taxes, who are never audited, who, if not gleefully, purposely keep you impoverished. They are taking way more than your nickle a week.

They take 99% of the pie, and leave us scrabbling over the 1%.

But you can’t do anything about them, can you? So you beat up those with less to make yourself feel better.

Well, organize. Get those below you to join in your cause of being left behind because there is actually something we can do.

Stop giving those fucks your money. Stop buying their stuff.

Join co-ops for what you need – get local. Stop feeding the corporate beast, and one day, soon enough, they will falter.

Or keep doing what you’re doing, and die as angry as you are now. At least those fuckers will regret getting your nickle.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Come Visit Me

She’s been calling me for days. I thought I was making it up, but she is persistent.

Go see Mom.

“She’s not there,” I think. “You’re just chasing a memory. You’ll go and the stinky, moldy trailer will be empty, and cold, and you will leave empty and cold.”

“Go anyway.”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I’m lonely.”

Wait, she’s lonely? I thought she could come see me anytime. I thought that when you’re in spirit, you’re free? Maybe there are things that need to be righted though. Maybe there is unfinished business.

Maybe those final days there were not days she would have wished for. It was not how she wanted to leave it. And my presence will bring love and companionship, even if for a minute.

It will suffice.

And I will keep going back, Mom, even if I’m making it up. I’ll keep going back to say hi until there are no more reasons to go, or no more tears to shed – I guess? I honestly feel like this isn’t just me.

That was your heaven on earth, you said. So I will visit your temple.

I will enter in prayer, and I will leave in prayer.

I wish you peace. I wish you abundant love. I wish you goodness, and light, and laughter all of your existence.

Joni Mitchell has been singing to me too, Mom:

“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Joni Mitchell, River from Blue, 1971

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Late November

The sun shines brightly over the brown, leafless trees outside the kitchen window. A breeze ruffles the tan stalks of grass and hay poking up in patches of the neighbors back property like several days of stubble growth on earth’s face. The blue sky rimmed with white and grey clouds gathered near the horizon makes me think of the soft summer days recently erased – an artist ever changing its mind.

The chug of the tractor’s engine is heard well before the machine trundles into view. The stack of wood will warm us as the evening chill descends.

Ever turning.

Ever turning.

Each day a chance for a different thought, a different choice – until the chugging of my own heart ceases – and all the fuel has left my body.

Until then, my machine needs the same care any aging machine does – I can no longer skimp on maintenance.

Seeing myself with the same respectful reverence I have for that eighty year old tractor is a hard sell for me, but I keep trying.

I’ll keep trying.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

I Should Have Gone

Earlier this year I was determined to skip the holidays and go hang out with my friend in Arizona until my inner storm blew over.

I couldn’t afford it, but I think I should have anyway. I should have gone the American way and put it on a credit card I’ll pay off for the next decade, but it would have been worth it.

Instead, I psyched myself up to make all these dishes tonight that I’ve never made before, and tomorrow we’ll cook a turkey, and be with my partner and his parents. I charged in doing the holiday thing, full steam ahead, and made biscuits and a cranberry orange relish, and stuffing, and cleaned up after myself, and then I broke down.

I glanced at the TV while I worked and saw an advertisement with some blue water in the background – maybe it was for beer, or maybe some tropical get away place – and I suddenly saw how fake everything is. Just stupid and pointless and it’s all made up. Life is just a big lie.

I should have gone to Arizona.

I told my partner we’re done – and not because of us, but because it’s all pointless, and I hate being here, and then I remembered last year.

My mom had been staying with one of my sisters, recuperating from a shoulder surgery in September, and we all met at my other sister’s house in Vermont for Thanksgiving.

I just wanted to be near my mom. So much so that I pulled up a stool to sit in front of her, and she sort of balked at me doing that.

It was a bit odd, but she had just been away for about two months, and I was glad to see her – but the subtext was an urgency to get whatever time I could with her.

Look, I know my mom was older, and didn’t take the best care of herself, but she fucking said she was going to live to 103 to beat her father’s lifespan by a year. All my life that is what she said. All my life.

So I can be forgiven for being crushed that she died at 89, alright?

I am grateful she lived that long, and things were far from perfect for most of my growing up, but we worked through so much baggage when I became a mom. She really stepped up for me. Selfish, self-centered, lost, clueless, traumatized me who needed a mom more than my son needed a grandmother, and she did both.

She showed up, and she stayed for months. She taught me how to be a mother in some ways – in the better ways. She loved being grandma.

I really miss her, and I intensely dislike the holiday season, and I don’t think I care to be in the world either.

I should have saved her somehow, but really, I should have gone to Arizona.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current