One Hundred Things

A dock at sunset on White Sands Island in the Maldives.

These are the things . . .

I realized that even though I’ve done a few memes on here, I haven’t ever really talked about myself completely, honestly. So I thought that I would compose a random list, just to see where it takes me. So here we go:

  1. I like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. About the only vegetable I really hate is okra, and that’s because it’s slimey and hairy.
  2. I’ve never eaten escargot. No matter how much garlic you put on it, it’s still a snail.
  3. I love shrimp, but I will not eat lobster. If someone around me orders lobster, I make clawing motions with my hands and say “help me” in a high-pitched voice so as to shame them for eating something that could live for years and years in the ocean.
  4. I also will not eat lamb or veal. Do you know how they make veal? If you did, then you couldn’t possibly eat it.
  5. I love chocolate. I have tried to give up chocolate many times as it is not good for my headaches, and it is full of calories, but it keeps coming back and jumping into my mouth when I’m not looking.

    kayaking-at-first-landing-state-park-by-karen-roberts
    Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts
  6. The last time I was timed, I typed 126 words a minute. That was a long time ago, and I type much faster now.
  7. I have gone kayaking, and actually really enjoyed it. If I had the opportunity, I would own my own kayak and use it on the Chesapeake Bay.
  8. I like to go hiking in the foothills of Virginia, but I haven’t done it since I hurt my back. My ex and I once went hiking/camping with some friends of ours. The girl wore penny loafers to go hiking. That was her idea of old shoes. I ended up carrying the guy’s pack on the hike back. Not outdoor people.
  9. I love my dogs and treat them like children. Dogs are meant to be loved and talked to. People who abuse dogs should be put in jail as far as I’m concerned. A man who will beat a dog will beat a child or a woman. Don’t ever believe any differently.
  10. I enjoy the smell of fresh cut lilacs, rosemary, gardenias, and lavender.
  11. Butterflies are small miracles.
  12. tiger-swallowtail-on-lantana
    Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana by L. Liwag
  13. My three children, who are no longer small, are still my pride and joy, even when they screw up. After all, who doesn’t screw up once in a while?
  14. I would love to have more children, even though I am considered past my childbearing years. But what does that mean, anyway? I really don’t care.
  15. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live somewhere where I could see water and mountains at the same time.
  16. I believe in nationalized medicine and a flat tax rate.
  17. I am a liberal liberal. I don’t mind paying more taxes if it means that there will be better schools and better healthcare. My only protest against paying more taxes is that I want the rich to pay their fair share, too, and to stop having so many loopholes so that they end up paying less than those of us in the middle of the road.
  18. I miss my father every day of every week of every year. I see him in my dreams often. I believe that he is looking out for me as best he can.
  19. When I was at the beach once, I asked god for a sign that things were going to be all right, and then the waves pulled back, and a perfect shell was there at my feet.
  20. I believe in angels.
  21. I wish that I remembered more from my publishing class on computer systems, but it was such a painful experience the first time that I think that I have blocked everything that I managed to learn.
  22. I love Beowulf (not the movie, the written version)
  23. I wish that I looked like Angelina Jolie, but I wish more that I had her ability to go to poor countries and do something for the people who live there.
  24. angelina-jolie-goodwill-ambassador
    Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador
  25. I collect stuffed bears, and I buy the ones who look like they need a home.
  26. I have a calendar fetish. I always have at least three calendars of my own: one next to my desk, one in my purse, and one in the kitchen. If I had more places to put them, I would have more.
  27. I am a speed reader, but I don’t scan in order to read more quickly. For example, I read each of the Harry Potter Books, even the longest one, in just one day.
  28. I have read The Lord of the Rings more times than I can remember.
  29. The English Patient is one of the most beautiful books ever written, and the movie is still one of my favorites.
  30. I get silly drunk about two times a year, but otherwise, I drink very seldom.
  31. I don’t do illegal drugs, and the worst thing I ever did when I was a teenager was speed, and I hated the way that it made me feel.
  32. I love to learn. I have one bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees. I would go for another degree in a heartbeat.
  33. I miss being in the front of the classroom but not enough to teach in the Norfolk Public School system.
  34. I’ve never been in a girl fight. How utterly stupid.
  35. I am very sentimental. I can cry at a Hallmark commercial, a Lifetime movie, or a YouTube clip. Sarah McLachlan’s commercials about animals in shelters just kills me.
  36. I am fiercely loyal and protective.
  37. I am an Aquarius.
  38. Eamonn and Caitlin’s birthdays are within ten days of each other in March (Pisces); Alexis and Brett’s birthdays are within three days of each other in July (Cancer).
  39. It’s far easier to give birth in March than in July.
  40. I’m not afraid of needles, as in having blood drawn, but I hate it when I get someone who is not good at putting in an IV. That hurts.
  41. I talk back to the computer and other inanimate objects. I also carry on conversations with other drivers, but they don’t know it.
  42. I love coffee and hot tea. I drink cream in most types of hot tea except for Earl Gray and Oolong.
  43. claire-lerner-blue-tea-cup1
    "Blue Tea Cup," by Claire Lerner
  44. My favorite dessert is Tiramisu, followed closely by real New York cheesecake.
  45. I used to be a shopaholic but have since reformed, for a variety of reasons.
  46. I believe that psychopharmaceuticals were developed for a reason and that no one should be ashamed of having to take them.
  47. I hate it when people jump to conclusions.
  48. I have a terrible habit of correcting other people’s English.
  49. My husband is younger than I am, and when we first got together, no one thought that it would last. We’ve been together for nine years, and it is the best relationship of my life.
  50. My mother is without a doubt the one person in this world who can get to me more than anyone else. She knows exactly what buttons to push.
  51. I wish that Alexis believed in herself more, but at this point, I have to let her be who she is and try not to interfere.
  52. My last beta, Mulder, decided that he didn’t like me and wouldn’t look at me any more. I took it very personally. He doesn’t live here any more.
  53. blue-beta
    Blue Beta: Mulder Did Not Look Like This
  54. I am hooked on crime shows: CSI, Without a Trace, Law & Order. I do not like sitcoms.
  55. Heidi Klum is über gorgeous, especially when she is pregnant.
  56. American society is fixated on how people look and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to educating its children.
  57. Someday, I want to go to Australia, Ireland, and Greece.
  58. I love to take pictures but don’t like to have my picture taken.
  59. Cruises cease to be fun when you run out of money.
  60. My big goal in life is to be debt-free and to have good credit again.
  61. All of my children inherited my propensity for depression as I inherited it from my father. Sometimes genetics really sucks.
  62. I wish that Mari lived nearby so that we could spend time together again.
  63. I need to get off my ass and put together my book, but I am too scared of the whole rejection process.  
  64. point-woronzof-sunset-2-by-janson-jones
    Point Woronzof Sunset by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
  65. I managed a newsroom when I was 19-years-old.
  66. One day, I will figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  67. Ending sentences in a preposition really bothers me.
  68. I love to use quotations by other people in my own work. It helps me to focus.
  69. I love sunsets and sunrises. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than a painted sky.
  70. I miss getting dressed, putting on make-up and going to work everyday. I love make-up.
  71. I hate dreaming that I am at work.
  72. I believe that men and women can be friends, but sooner or later, sex tries to get in the way.
  73. I love music: classical, pop, classic rock, country, new age (whatever the hell that means), opera, blues, even some hard rock.
  74. My birthstone is garnet, which I love, but I also love pearls, aquamarines, and diamonds.
  75. One day, I am going to have a big diamond ring, just because.
  76. I used to love to wear hats, but now I just look silly.
  77. I have long wavy hair, and I would like a new hairstyle, but I look like a monkey when I have short hair.
  78. I usually eat one big meal a day (dinner), and maybe a snack, but I cannot lose weight. I hate that.
  79. I can be very impatient, which can lead to my being snarky, especially when I’m driving.
  80. I find that I always end up telling Corey where to park, even though he doesn’t need my help. I wonder why I do that?speed-limit-sign
  81. I speed on the interstate, but I obey the speed limit in the city.
  82. I desperately need a new old car that is just mine because Eamonn ruined Izzie the Trooper, and it smells like cigarettes.
  83. I love ankle bracelets and earrings, and I love watches, but am down to about four now that still work.
  84. I smoked during college exams, but I hate cigarettes, and cigarette smoke.
  85. I don’t look my age, but that is because of good genes and Oil of Olay Regenerist, and I don’t ever tell people how old I really am.
  86. Writing my blog posts is my daily therapy.
  87. Both Shakes and Tillie snore, but Tillie snores louder. I snore louder than anyone in the house.
  88. I hate my body. I feel like a sausage most of the time.
  89. I really love shoes and boots, especially boots.
  90. I wear Christmas socks all year long.
  91. We are not friendly with most of our neighbors. I wonder why.
  92. I have never really wanted to own a horse, but I have considered living on an old farm.
  93. I am a hoarder when it comes to books and sentimental things like old cards and letters.
  94. I used to own a yard tractor and would mow the yard in my bathing suit. Of course, that was when I was in good shape. My nasty neighbor to my left thought that it was scandolous.
  95. I hold a grudge, expecially if I feel that I have been wronged unfairly.
  96. I think about revenge, but have never actually taken it.
  97. Bad manners offend me, and my sons know this and use it to drive me crazy.
  98. I wash my hands a lot, but I don’t think that I am OCD about it.
  99. One day, my bedroom will finally be painted, and I will be able to put in my new furniture.
  100. I like antiques even though my mother calls them “tired, old things” and believes that people should move on.  
  101. yoda-1
    Original Yoda
  102. I have a hard time moving on, and don’t adjust to change very well.
  103. I like the first three Star Wars movies (chronologically) a lot better than the last three (numerically).
  104. Corey brings me a cup of hot mint tea every night before bed. Isn’t that thoughtful?
  105. I am a pantheist: I believe that god, some kind of god, exists in all things: people, animals, trees, water, and that if we listen carefully enough, we can become one with all things in nature.
  106. One day, I will finally go on a poetry retreat.
  107.  

That’s quite enough for today. Peace.

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Bitter Angels of Our Souls

avrigus-cover-art-to-secret-kingdom

Cover Art for Avrigus, The Secret Kingdom

 

” . . . As Make The Angels Weep” ~ Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare

gothic-angel-adjusted1I had no post yesterday as I could not untangle the threads of the many thoughts coursing through my brain. Today, I wrote a post and erased it as I found it to be little better than fodder.

One friend texted repeatedly yesterday of her love and support. Another dear friend wrote to remind me that life will eventually be better. In my heart, I try to believe that this is true.

But this is where I have arrived tonight: My mind keeps returning to angels, dark angels, angelic order, seraphim and cherubim. In the end this is what my head and my heart told my fingers to say:

 

 

weeping-angel-with-filter

And All of the Angels Will Weep

I am tired of wallowing and weary of being tired,

past the point of painful outpourings of my soul

and pointedly looking past the wasteland in which I am mired.

I could remain here, wasting my time in sorrow,

or I can keep in my heart the remains of unspent dreams

and dream of a tomorrow without wasteful worry.

I might share my secrets with the dark angels who hover;

then cover my face like the wings of the seraphim,

who hearken to me with their whispered, burning songs.

Perhaps I could carve from the marble the cherubim of the sphere:

stand in their light and beg them to swallow my fears,

 lighting the way with their perfect knowledge and the company of ophanim

But ultimately, I fear to make the angels weep—

Leaden with the weight of imperfect knowledge

I cannot wait for the protection of Malakh wat watim,

So I will travel the path alone.

L. Liwag, 2009

 

 avenging-angel

 

 And so, once more, we travel far

The bitter angels of our souls

beckon us into the darkest of places,

somewhere we have never traveled,

and force us to gaze upon that which we most fear

the unforgiving realities of our existence,

the cloaked dualities of our essence.

It is this that leads us to the final fall.

It is this that takes our hand

and ever so gently guides us

into the abyss.

 

L. Liwag

 

 

 

 

 

Black Crowes, “She Talks to Angels

 

“You do not see the river of mourning because it lacks one tear of your own.” ~ Antonio Porchia

521px-hammarby_angel_statue

Hammarby Angel, Sweden

“Mourning is not forgetting . . . It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the dust.” ~ Margery Allingham

“Death lies on her like an untimely frost upon the sweetest flower of the field.” ~ William Shakespeare

yellow-minaiture-roses
Yellow Rose: Memory

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago that has stayed on my mind. A professional woman whose opinion I greatly respect told me that I am still grieving. Her comment momentarily took me aback for two reasons: I had not been talking about the loss of Caitlin. And secondly, it’s such an integral part of my life that I never stop to think about my grief.

But the truth of the matter is that yes, I am still grieving for Caitlin as well as for my father. I lost my baby girl many years ago. She was the second child that I carried, after Alexis, and the reality is that if we had not lost Caitlin, we may never have had the boys. But we did lose Caitlin. She was seven months and 16 days old when she died in my arms. Her death was a result of many things, the first being the malignant brain tumor. Everything else that came after only hastened her death.

The operation to remove the brain tumor was successful in that they were able to remove the entire tumor. I was told that it was the size of an orange. Imagine that girth in the skull of a seven-month-old baby . . . After the operation, Caitlin contracted a staff infection. After she had recovered from that, she began her chemotherapy. Essentially, I would have to say that the chemo probably was the real killer: it depressed her immune system so much that she ended up with pneumocystis, a particularly pernicious strain of pneumonia, the type that people suffering from AIDS can contract. The pneumonia led to her being put on a respirator. The respirator led to first one chest tube and then many chest tubes.

Ultimately, this string of events was too much for her small body. She died as she had spent most of her life: in my arms on a Monday afternoon at 2:42 on November 7.

To say that this day changed my life so completely does not even begin to describe the repercussions of losing my child. To say that I have grieved every day since may sound like hyperbole, but I do not think that it is.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”  ~ William Shakespeare

grieving-angel-statue
Grieving Angel

For the first few years after her death, I visited the cemetery almost every day. Some days, I would sit there at her graveside and just keen until it felt as if my heart were completely empty. Other days, I would just sit and listen to the birds and enjoy the quiet communion. At times, I would imagine how I must appear to a casual observer, but then I realized that anyone who was in the cemetery with me, aside from the workers, was there for their own communions and cared little at all how I appeared.

Eventually, the grief became such an intrinsic part of my life that I believed that it no longer consumed me. Sometimes, the realization of her loss would come upon me unexpectedly, and I had no choice but to give in to the tidal wave of mourning. If these moments happened at home, I would take a shower to mask my tears and the ensuing moans that would escape my body so that Alexis and the boys, who were too young to really comprehend what was wrong, would not see or hear these unasked for echoes of my soul’s despair.

These moments assailed me less and less the more that time passed, but the truth is that they still have not completely disappeared. And now, if they come, they are sometimes a mixture of the loss of both my child and my father, and how completely helpless I felt at both of their deaths.

“When our children die, we drop them into the unknown, shuddering with fear. We know that they go out from us, and we stand, and pity, and wonder.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

After Caitlin died, I went into therapy. It was that or be completely consumed by my grief. I learned a morbid fact in therapy: The loss of a child ranks as second or third on the list of the worst things that can happen to a person. Being a concentration camp survivor tops the list, followed by being a prisoner of war. Sometimes the first two are considered equal in how badly the effect of these events can crush the human psyche.

angel-in-irish-cemetery
Angel in Irish Cemetery

The usual platitude, of course, is that losing a child is unnatural in life’s grand scheme. One is not supposed to outlive a child. But I came to realize that life’s grand scheme was a sham, at least for me. My reasoning was thus: What grand scheme could possibly insert the loss of a child into the fabric of being? I’m not talking about religion or a loving deity here, just fate.

Fate truly is fickle. For how many of us actually have exactly the life that we imagined we would have? How many of us have suffered incredible losses that we could never anticipate? And then I had an epiphany: Fate will never be what you expect it to be. The ancient Greeks knew that, which is probably why they referred to fate in the plural: the Fates.

Fate, for me, was my enemy. It insinuated itself into my existence and wrapped itself around my heart like a tightly-fitting glove. And as a result, I found that my capacity for love was forever changed. Or at least that is how it felt for a while. Let me give you an example: After Caitlin died, I realized that I was holding back in my feelings for her surviving older sister—just at the time that she needed me the most.

It was not a deliberate act. Rather, it was an act of self-preservation; i.e., if I do not allow myself to love completely, then if I lose her, it won’t be as devastating.

This is how insidious the loss of a child can be. One begins to view life myopically. Everything is tinged by the loss, even the love that you still bear for those dearest to you.

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” ~ From The Wonder Years

caitlin-and-me
Together With Caitlin In Normal Times

Fortunately, I was able to overcome my fear of loving my daughter. I realized that I could not let loss control my heart, no matter how much it tried to still my affection. I allowed myself to love completely again, and as a result, I had two more children, two boys. And in allowing myself to love again, I began to live again.

In the years that followed, I attempted to focus more on the time that we had with Caitlin, rather than the agonizing period in which we lost her. But again, as with most things, even this approach was faulty. The reverberations of a loss of such magnitude are farther reaching than most people realize, and to deny my memory the loss was to deny Caitlin’s entire life.

“By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, Remembering thee.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

angel_statueI have found that people who have never suffered the loss of a child cannot possibly understand just how permanently it shapes your life. I once had someone ask me, in total seriousness, if it wasn’t time that I stopped grieving and moved on. What this person could not possibly comprehend was that I had moved on, but that the process of mourning is a never-ending process.

Like an ocean, mourning ebbs and flows, but it cannot be controlled completely. Time does heal, but simultaneously, time stamps forever in memory the life that was lost.

In the end, I suppose that how we grieve is a reflection of how we live. This was one of the things that ultimately drove an unmoving wedge between my former husband and me. There are those stages of grief that every grief counselor and therapist will tell the mourner about, and then they always add that individuals move through these stages differently. This is what happened to us; we moved through our grief differently, and eventually, separately, and few relationships can withstand such vast differences in functioning.

Which brings me full circle. The truth is that I still carry my grief with me. It is compartmentalized and for the most part governable. But it is omnipresent, and to deny that would be to deny my very existence. I fear forgetting, even though to do so is well nigh impossible because Caitlin will always be a part of who I am, of the face that I present to the rest of the world. And losing her does not negate my love for her.

I buried my beautiful, dark-haired daughter on a brisk November morning, but I did not bury myself with her, as much as I wanted to, tried to. I persisted and endured, and I am stronger for it, but my weakness will always be the loss of my baby girl. This is the pattern of life itself. This is a part of my tapestry, the one that I am still weaving. Perhaps, in some ways, it is the largest part, and it took an insightful remark to remind me of that. But while Caitlin colors every part of my life, she does not overshadow it. And this, more than anything, is probably the reason that I have survived.

There will be more later. Peace.

A Few Things From The Vault

Two Poems and a Prose Poem From the Past

angel-statue-cllose-up

Poem #1

Remembrance of Monday Afternoon Past

for Josh

 

How can I explain to you

what it is to hold someone you love until she dies?

I cannot prepare you for that moment of separation—

it is something so unspeakably personal

that to watch it, to intrude upon it

almost cannot be forgiven.

If I try to tell you about the silences

that

enclose and isolate,

you will not understand

until you,

too, have felt them.

I cannot describe for you

the desperation

with which you will try to pass

life

from your arms to hers,

but you will come to know this,

too, as I once did.

When the moment comes,

you will not be ready,

but you will recognize it for what it is—

that last instant

in which possibilities still exist. 

 

angel-wings

Poem #2

These Are The Only Truths I Know

 

I.

The wait’s begun again,

The long wait for the angel

For that rare, random descent.

— “Black Room in Rainy Weather,” Sylvia Plath

 

After holding my breath for this long,

if I exhale now, I will die.

Have no doubts, my friend.

Diving into the wreck,

searching for the salvageable,

it never occurred to me

to take heed

of all that had happened above

and around me. My

single‑minded sense

of what is just,

what is true,

did not allow for

the company of strangers or

their own pitiable laments

about love

and life,

or, more tellingly,

about loss.

 

II.

We do not rid ourselves of these things

even when we are cured of personal silence

when for no reason one morning

we begin to hear the noise of the world again.

“City Walk-up, Winter 1969,” Carolyn Forché

 

I never noticed that woman over there,

the one who was drowning, not waving.

She, too, drifted into this miasma, then

vanished. The words of her sad entreaty

misplaced, floating in vain

too far from shore to be heard. The other one—

the one whose soul betrayed her so completely,

left her two small children playing unaware,

sought comfort in

the only philosophical certainty in life:

death (not truth).

She is now but a footnote in her husband’s poetry.

And the other, the poet against forgetting,

when she saw the broken glass

embedded in the walls of the colonel’s fortress,

did she notice the poet’s heart

hidden among the hundreds of scattered human ears?

 

III.

 . . . We did this.  Conceived

of each other, conceived each other in a darkness

which I remember as drenched in light.

I want to call this, life.

But I can’t call it life until we start to move

beyond this secret circle of fire

— “Origins and History of Consciousness,” Adrienne Rich

 

There were signs everywhere,

some true, others

misleading, taking me

across a landscape for which there was no map.

Sometimes, I could no longer see—

an impenetrable fog,

Looming, the Fata Morgana stung my eyes,

crept into my dreams,

offered only a cruel discordance,

falsehoods in the night,

where only truth should reside.

 

IV.

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

— “Late Fragment,” Raymond Carver

 

In the moments before my soul

surrendered to the sea,

I thought I heard you

speak my name as never before.

You called out:

“You are beloved.”

(It was what I had waited so long to hear)

I could have been mistaken. Perhaps,

it was only the wind and the waves,

conspiring to confuse me once again.

 

V.

but if you look long enough,

eventually

you will be able to see me

— “This is a Photograph of Me,” Margaret Atwood

 

And yet, my dearest friend,

there is no escaping the final truth—

It is here, in this unfocused picture. Look

at the ravaged smile,

a disturbing, melancholic dementia

unmasked. This snapshot

was not meant to capture

the disintegration of blood and bone—

(but it did).

In the millisecond it took

for the shutter to close,

everything faded.

This is a photograph of me you

were never supposed to see.

 

VI.

The abandoned live with an absence

that shapes them like the canyon

of a river gone dry

— “Brother-less Seven: Endless End,” Marge Piercy

 

I have put into your hands

validation: I was at peace

once. Once, I was whole.

Those who cocooned

the golden threads of my muse,

kept them beyond my grasp

for my own protection—

give them this glimpse

of my legacy. Convince them:

Behind these unfocused, sepia halftones,

lies the proof: I had finally acceded

to fate, accepted life

for all that it was

and was not.

(I was still alive,

then) They do not need to know

how uncomfortable I really felt

in my clothes. My friend,

it is a small deceit

for which you need not feel guilty,

for I have left you

with little choice.

 

VII.

The lover enters the habits of the other.  Things are smashed, revealed in new light.  This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire . . . echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places

—The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje


Once, the blaze of promise stoked

the fevered, impassioned heat

deep within the hollow chambers

of my heart. Now,

even love’s most gentle kisses

cannot nourish the scorched core

of my soul. It will not be embraced

only to be abandoned.

Forewarned by the memory of ashes

from countless other burnt loves,

I can no longer embody

the destructive force

of this small, red wound

alive, inside. Nor can I sustain

the healing power

of its flickering pulse.

If I am to smother the flames

of this most tender of vessels,

and most cruel

I must dive deep below

the water’s surface, beyond redemption.

It is the path of sorrow,

it is the road of regret.

It is the loneliest of hunters.

 

VIII.

And the musky odor of pinks filled the air.

— The Awakening, Kate Chopin

 

Put out the light, and then

put out

the

light.

 

Prose Poem4theroad2

I thought that I would put out three very different styles from different periods in my oeuvre (to date, that is).  Thanks for reading. More later. Peace.