Sunday, October 19, 2014

Can't Find My Way Home

Today feels like an overwhelming defeat.  It would be nice if there were bluebirds singing sweetly, while racoons and chipmunks help me wrap up all my belongings, and place them in boxes to put in storage.  It would be wonderful if all my friends came by to drink wine, listen to music, and chat while helping the birds and small mammals pack up (the sweet little things lack the opposable thumbs necessary to work the tape dispenser) - the mood might even be festive, if a little weird for the wildlife helpers.  With a bank account full of scratch, there wouldn't be any of the looming pressure of wondering where the cash for the storage space would come from, or the means to get the boxes there (including getting the boxes).  The made-up imaginings of what it might look like to move in some wealthy, well-connected person's reality slide across my mind, and it seems positively dreamy - one decides that one's current living situation could stand some improvement, so a suitable alternative is found.  One then has a 'moving party' where food and drink are in abundance as one's friends and acquaintances happily wrap and pack (along with bluebirds and several small, furry creatures...possibly a groovy Pict) until the job is done.  Then the hired help comes in to do all the heavy lifting, safely transports everything to the new location, and unloads it with care.  Voila - moved!  All that's left is to unpack at one's leisure, and enjoy decorating the new space.  Seems marvelous, no?  Of course, I have no idea if that's what it's really like, as for the past 25 years, my moves look more like a desperate leap from here to wherever I land.  Sometimes it works out great, other times...not so much.  But for better or worse, that's how I choose live my life.

"Why on Earth would you make that choice?" you might ask.  There are a great many reasons, some of which include the stories of my personal demons, some have more to do with family history or genetic memory, others are more about fleeing discrimination, or some other form of personal danger.  Sometimes, I just don't want to live anywhere, but travel around and see new things every day - and yes, that is a valid lifestyle choice, in my opinion. Just to clarify, though I say 'choose', it doesn't always feel that way, but I can't negate my own responsibility in failing to provide for myself what most folks call a stable living situation.  Don't get me wrong, I pay my rent, keep my house neat and tidy, am a good tenant, and always leave a place cleaner than I found it - I just don't usually end up staying in one place much longer than a year.  This pattern began as soon as I started living my own - having rented my first apartment for about a year, a friend living in another state wrote to me (remember letters?) to say his roommates were all moving out, and since he knew my lease was about up, would I come move down there with him so he could keep his place.  Sure, why not?  I had no special ties to the town I was living in, no close friends I couldn't bear to leave, no true community, I went to experience something different.

Then came that particular friend's financial issues, which, while I was in a position to help him out, I wasn't in that good a position, and we ended up moving out just about a year later, and returning to our home state, where we had a better support system, and knowledge of the area - so much the better for finding work.  So, with a pocketful of money, and a head full of the images painted by a talented fiction author, I soon decided that I had to live all the way across the country in yet another state, because it felt like a better fit for me based on what I had read - and off I went.  I had a hard time finding work out there, so I left my apartment after less than a year to live in a more communal space where many young people down on their luck gathered together to pool our resources and help each other survive.  We weren't homeless, exactly, but we were living pretty close to the bone, with some of my friends residing in a 'bus village' in the local woods.  We were safe and happy, and tied together by our ingenuity for survival outside the mainstream, and things were pretty good there for awhile, on the edge of what most people would consider okay (my mother would have gone around the bend, had she seen the conditions we considered acceptable, but isn't that part of why we test ourselves in these ways while we're young?).  In any case, I decided that while the fiction writer had his points about the locale his writing drew me to, it wasn't really for me, and that I wanted - for several reasons - to return again to my home state, and try something new in someplace old.

Renting another apartment in another sketchy community (but one I knew from having grown up in proximity to), I decided to stay put long enough to finish up a two-year degree I had been working on for about five years, opening up an opportunity for me to travel overseas, which I jumped on immediately, while making plans to land in a different state than the one I had started out from, on my return.  I was really getting the hang of this moving around and seeing lots of different places, and I liked it quite a bit!  My friends thought I was incredibly brave and intrepid - I felt expansive and well-traveled, like I was some kind of modern day explorer, seeking out adventure and knowledge in exotic locales, while most folks I knew stayed in one place, doing the same things.  If I had to guess, I'd say they were planning for their futures, while I only planned for the next day, or at most, maybe six months forward.  When I got back to the States from overseas, I took my few belonging with me and moved to the next state on my list to do some more schooling, and had to live on campus, according to the school's policy.  That was a tough semester - living in a dorm after having been on my own for so long was a bit of a shock to my system, but it was a small school, and there were only nine of us in the building, so it actually turned out okay, and we mostly all got along.  When three of the guys moved out, it was even better.

Renting an apartment off campus the next semester was a given, and between my work-study pay and a part-time job in the community, I didn't need for my boyfriend to move in, but I let him anyway.  When he graduated, I got another roommate, but I wasn't pleased with the people he brought over, so I rented a house with another friend just as I started dating a guy who was moving about an hour away for his job.  Well, as our relationship got more serious, the distance became too much, and as I was no longer in the school program and in need of employment, I moved in with the new boyfriend, and got a job where he worked.  That lasted until I got tired of being on top of a snowy mountain when it was Spring in the valley, so I said if he wanted to be with me, he'd have to follow me down into town, where I rented yet another apartment, and got yet another job.  Eventually, the relationship floundered, and we gave up the apartment to go our separate ways.  I took a less expensive place for awhile, but Mr. Ex-boyfriend didn't do so well for himself, and started coming back around looking to get back together, with the prospect of a really sweet living situation if we were willing to put in the cash, and a great deal of elbow grease.  Well, I kinda loved the guy, and had the same vision he did about the place he wanted to rent, so - off we went!  Once again, it was my money that paid for the place, if the elbow grease was mostly his.  I did my fair share of work, but he was the driving force in making that place great - and I stayed there for five whole years, even after I kicked him out.

Mr. Ex had some financial and familial trouble of his own, at that point, and I had a good job, so I gave him the sweet living situation and moved back to an apartment in town, which was a better situation for me, as well.  But - I overestimated what I could afford, and when business dropped off at my main job, and even taking a second job wasn't covering the rent, I had to move to a less expensive place.  Then I lost both my jobs, and not having any savings, I found myself putting all my things in storage and couch surfing at friends' houses - it also turned out that I was pregnant.  So here I was, without an income, without housing, without savings, without a partner or a plethora of supportive friends or family, without even the prospect of work (who's going to hire a pregnant, homeless lady?  not that I didn't try...), in the middle of Winter in a cold climate.  When there wasn't a couch to sleep on, there was the homeless shelter.  Thankfully, in my ninth month, I was gifted the money to rent myself a place, some kind friends brought my things over from storage, and I did the best I could with what I had to make the place ready to welcome my new baby who came one month after I settled in.  At that point, I turned to public assistance for help.

The State got me yet another apartment through their subsidized housing program, which was extremely affordable, but extremely unpleasant in the form of my neighbors, who were of a very different mindset than I was used to, and there was trouble from the start.  They hated me as a representation of a life they had never had, and resented my child for the benefits he reaped as a result of my education and experience.  The new baby and I were living a subsistence existence, even though I had managed to start and run my own home business, but the neighbors were harassing us, going so far as to vandalize my car by smashing out the windows, threatening us with physical violence, and throwing things at our bedroom windows at night.  I soon moved again, but here began a series of less-than-fortunate living situations facilitated by my new lack of financial resources.  After selling off my business equipment and not having enough money to rent an actual apartment, yet needing to get out of where we were living as soon as possible, I once again stored all my belongings, and took a weekly room at the local dumpy motel until I found an efficiency I could afford with the money left over from paying for the daycare necessary for me to work a part-time job.  The job was decent, but a bit of a hike, and I was spending more money on travel than I could afford, so I chose to move closer, got the little one into an awesome new daycare right near my job, and took on more hours.  And here, we settled in for a minute - just about about a year.

During that year, one of my close friends had a parent die, and as a result, he took over the care-taking of one of his deceased parent's properties while it was being put on the market for sale (he had also lived in the house, nursing that parent through his illness, and it had been his home for many years).  He knew that my job was winding down my hours as tourist season in my resident state wound down, and that as my baby was now growing past his toddling stage, I was looking into where I might want him to go to school, which would most likely mean another move for me, as the town I lived in didn't really meet the criteria.  Just as I found another job closer to my field of interest for better pay, in a town I saw as a better option for my child in terms of community and educational opportunity, my friend offered me an apartment in his house, which was near to the remnants of my family, whom my child barely knew.  And my grandmother was dying.  So, I took another leap of faith, packed up everything I owned, and moved back to my home state with a feeling of trepidation, and perhaps some small amount of hope that I might be able to get the help I obviously needed, because this parenting thing seemed to require more support than I was getting, and I was under the (false) impression that my family would be willing to assist me in managing it, because they said they would (they were not).  While moving in with my friend was an unmitigated disaster - he didn't get that being a parent requires one to give up certain 'party-lifestyle' elements for more mundane pursuits - I soon found an apartment right across the street from my new job, and the small child and I settled in to try and make a home, again.

Two years later, tired of the dead-end job, sick of the judgements and lack of support from my family, disgusted at the school system my child was enrolled in, frustrated with situations at the apartment pertaining to the landlady's mentally-questionable son who lived downstairs (as well as being told by the power company that I was paying for another neighbor's electricity), I was ready to run back to the state I had previously inhabited.  An old friend I hadn't seen in years resurfaced in my life, and she asked me to consider moving up to her neck of the woods before running back into the wilds of where she hadn't seen me for more than a decade, so I did.  Spending all of my savings, I moved us up to our latest community, and found a halfway decent job rather quickly, got the kid enrolled in school, and tried to settle in, but the State deemed both my apartment and my job were only marginally legal, and as a single parent, I didn't feel I could safely live that close to edge, so found an 'approved' housing situation, and quit my job in search of something on the up-and-up.  My kid stayed in the same school, and I promised there wouldn't be any more moving any time soon.  Sadly, I was wrong.  The landlady at that place decided she could charge more money for the apartment, and as I couldn't afford to pay more, I had to go.  Luckily (or so I thought at the time), there was a new housing project I was on the waiting list for, and we were approved to move in just in time for the previous landlady to kick us out, so here we are.

Work in this town is pretty scarce (it's rather a small town), and since my last job (two weeks at a local farm market which I was fired from the first time my kid got sick and I had to call in), I've only managed to pick up a few freelance writing gigs here and there, nowhere near enough to keep us fed and housed, but we manage as best we can.  The issue now, however, is that I once again find myself living in government housing, amongst people who live so differently than me, we have a certain amount of difficulty getting along as neighbors.  So much so, that I have been asked told to leave because the landlord has no intention of enforcing the rights spelled out for me in my lease, such as privacy, quiet, and cleanliness, among others.  When asked why this should be the case, I am told to 'get out, if I don't like it'.  Hmm...the lease says no loud music, yet there is loud music.  The lease says no hanging objects from the ceilings, or on the outside of the buildings, yet other tenants hang things from the ceilings, and on the outside of the buildings (I asked specifically if I could hang two matching wrought iron plant holders from my porch and was told 'no' while several other tenants have multiple tacky things hanging everywhere).  The lease states our belongings must be contained to our porches and not be left willy-nilly about the property, yet guess what?  There are bikes left in the street, and all manner of items laying about the property behind people's apartments and around their porches, to say nothing of the litter (candy wrappers, beer and soda cans and bottles, plastic drink containers, ice pop plastics, cigarette packs, napkins, shopping bags, sometimes a diaper or a bag of used cat litter) all over the lawn, and along all the trails that lead to and from town.  The children are loud, rude, and left to their own devices, abusive to one another - I saw the oldest of them instigating and encouraging fights between the younger ones, matching them up to face off against each other with bats and sticks - and are most likely experiencing a similar level of abuse in their homes.

Frankly, I've been looking to get out of here for awhile (been here about a year and a half), but my financial situation leaves a great deal to be desired, at this point, and I think it's fair to say that I am rather down on my luck, right now.  While my rent is paid up for the month of October, and I expect I will get my security deposit back - always leave it cleaner than you found it - I lack the funds to put down money on a new place, and find myself once again needing to put all my things in storage while I work out what comes next.  The child isn't so small, anymore, and needs to be ferried around to classes and activities that make working a 9-5 kind of improbable, but given my field of expertise, I'm kind of dead set on figuring out how to do enough freelance work at home to support us the way we need, in the form of food/clothing/shelter, and maybe a bit extra on the side for fun and games every now and again.  Doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?  Well, guess what?  I'm asking.  I walk around with a smile on my face and a song in my heart just like the next guy, but I'm close enough to crisis at this point to say - "hey, I'm not okay right now, and I need some help".  Without anywhere else to turn, I do what I've always done, which is to take it to the page.  It not only gives me the time and space to work out what's whirling around my head in a panic, it also gives me the perspective to see that this isn't some kind of negative pattern of running away from problems I'm causing in my own life, but merely a way to be in the world.  There's nothing wrong with moving from place to place if that is what one so chooses, and I deny any negative implication to my doing so.  While I am at a point in my life where I relish the chance the put down some roots and see what it's like to just be, I'm also unsure as to whether or not I can actually live in that manner without freaking out or feeling the itch to travel.  Either way, I'd like the chance to find out.

If you can, offer us a helping hand.  Given the choice, the child would prefer a roof over our heads, possibly because I'd prefer to sleep out under the stars - and isn't that always the way of it?  For now, the child should have what the child wants, and I would like to be able to provide that on my own.  Until I can, I see nothing wrong with putting it out there that I am available for writing projects large and small, and anywhere in between, and my rates are reasonable.  And if you find yourself with a bit more than you or yours need flowing from your cup, let it overflow into ours.  My generosity knew no bounds when I had it to offer, so I feel no remorse in asking for some of that abundance to come back my way, for the sake of the small life entrusted to my care.  Thank you so much for reading along, and sharing this small slice of my life with me.  With all my best wishes, Selah ~

Thursday, July 31, 2014 velvet and languor

And so I sipped the mead

for it had been too long   since

I stained a page   with wine

drunk on the juices I dipped my bread in

sweeter than the vintage at my lips

to that, then, is my fate?

entertaining a muse   or three

to come to death by?

or one of a similar wrinkle

to roll around on the toungue

to feel oneself

break upon, one last time.

And so I sipped the mead.

Dionysus, my love, may your desire

form you corporeal,

for I go to seek you in the streets.

Come to me there, 

I will remind you why ~

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

this marks my 10th year of being a single parent, and frankly, I deserve a medal.  as do all single parents.  aw, what the hell, ALL parents.  make the little minions serve you all day; a few hours of them appreciating their existence is good for them.  mine is still in bed.  I like to let him sleep in, especially if we stayed out late to go dancing...we love the Paul Green Rock Academy so much, I can't even tell you.

you ever hear of The Artist's Way?  it's this book that helps artists unblock and get their creative mojo flowing, and you're supposed to run it like a reading group...anyway, I'm doing it with a group of women, and one of the tasks is to 'write a letter to the editor in your defense'.  and I don't feel like wasting a stamp, or the post office's time, actually mailing it, but I recognize the importance of doing the exercise, so I figured I'd write it as a blog post instead.  we're also supposed to write a thank you letter to someone who gave us 'one happy piece of encouragement', so I'll tack that on the end, as well.  who should I address it to?  'the editor'?  no, I got it ~

Dear Universe ~
Once upon a time there was a flash, and a part of you became a spark in my mother's womb.  and I must say, I am one of your better sparks.  I haven't invented anything (yet), or saved a village of children, eradicated war, disease, or hunger.  I haven't made millions of dollars and donated them all to the poor...I haven't funded a space colony.  but I recycle, I raise a good boy, I think about things and teach him to do the same.  many people would think I was an idiot, but I would try not to think the same about them.  I love music and art, practice kindness and theory, I'm not great in practice.  I love stories and storytelling, mythos, legends, and fantastic tales.  I have smooth skin, alluring eyes and hair, I'm open and honest, drawn to new experiences, sensual, exploratory and joyous about delightful Earthly pleasures and esoteric ephemera.  I respect all life and living things while recognizing the inherent evil...I leave it to be, within reason.  while I haven't done as much with my divine talents as I could have so far, I am still moving toward those goals.  I had to take some time to raise the boy, you know, and that's a dance all it's own.  I'm honest and hard working, if a bit lazy, but only because I'm playful, and just like to have fun.  I've pursued education, and worked to improve my understanding of all things on all levels to what extent my small, limited brain might be capable.  I am amusing, I totally have that going for me, and I'm a good dancer.  what else?  all that comes to mind are resume-type phrases, such as 'fast learner, good with numbers, excellent cash handling and phone skills, data entry, wide range of knowledge, artistic, articulate, attractive, intelligent well-read, adventurous, sexy;  juicy, even (sales skills), well worth your time and consideration!

sure, why not?  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be defending myself in the name of, but I seem a pretty okay sort from the above paragraph, don't you think?  I can be trusted with the Keys to the Kingdom for a finite period of time, no?  granted, virtually no one would get in during that time, as I wouldn't feel authorized to allow it, being the bearer of such a monumental responsibility, I would have to be extremely selective and cautious...

right.  so task completed, on to part two - the thank you letter.  this one will be addressed to a high school art teacher, the lovely:

Mrs. Muth ~

thank you.  I took every art class my schedule allowed, and even a few that it didn't, but I never took yours.  what did you teach, anyway?  you always had kind words for my work, and took time to stop and chat with me whenever our paths crossed.  you told me fun stories about how and when you made your art.  in my yearbook you wrote, "To the best and believe it or not the only true flower child I know."  so corny, but you probably thought it was the highest compliment you could have paid to groovy little high school hippie me.  but what counted was - you saw me.  you looked at me, and you saw something that was worth responding to.  I wasn't your student, so you weren't required to notice me at all, really, but you did, and I'm glad you reached out in kindness.  it made me feel visible, important, relevant, and cared for.  my own teachers didn't make me feel as competent as you did.  you, like your art, are surprising and wonderful, and thank you for caring enough to inspire a young artist:  Linda Longo-Muth.

there!  all done!  I have completed my assigned tasks for the week, as they pertain to that particular corner of my life.  huzzah!  now on to one of the other hundred pressing tasks I must attend to - huzzah!  did you have a fabulous Mrs. Muth-type educator who took their job seriously and jump-started young minds?  tell me about it in the comments!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday Whirl, Wordle #158

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click the wordle to visit The Sunday Whirl

cancer beastly speak release branch become cheat beading leave channel chew

     Marietta looked over at her grandmother where she sat chewing the last of her lunch, propped up on a bank of pillows in her hospital bed, watching the television.  She used to think the old woman could cheat cancer, like she cheated at cards, but alas, here she was about to have a beastly growth the size of a grapefruit removed from her body.  She wiped her lips, dropped the napkin on her plate, brushed her hands off, and pushed the rolling tray away from her bed.  Lifting the remote control, she flipped through a few channels before settling on a home improvement program.  "...nothing but crap on the stupid box, but I like the company," she sighed, as she adjusted her quilted bed-jacket and pushed her pillows around a bit.  Touching her hands to her luxurious bun of long, white hair, she tucked a few wispy pieces neatly behind her ears and flopped her hands in her lap, exhaling.  "Okay...let's see what you've got."
     With those words, Marietta's heart jumped unexpectedly in her chest, and she felt her cheeks turn pink as she rose from the chair, placing her beading down carefully on the seat.  Keeping her head down, she moved the rolling tray with the remains of her grandmother's dinner on it to the end of the bed, out of their way, then smoothed out the blankets her grandmother had given a quick flick to clear of any food crumbs.  Taking the white quilted batting from the bottom drawer of the bedside dresser, she spread it out over her grandmother's blanketed lap.  She felt lightheaded as looked back towards the chair where her work was waiting to be placed before the discerning eye of the woman who had taught her her craft.  "Well?  Come on...what's a matter witchu, girl?"  her Mayde sang to the tune of the Rolling Stones song Miss You.  That made her smile.
     "Mayde, you're nuts," she giggled, as her grandmother launched into a chorus of 'ooo's'.  Picking up her beadwork, she felt her heart accelerate again as she turned bravely towards her fate and in one big, childishly enthusiastic step, placed the piece in her Mayde's lap.  Mayde stopped singing immediately.  She had a curious look on her face, as if she had been presented with something she wasn't sure how to react to, and therefore was not going to react in any visible manner whatsoever, past a slight furrow on her brow.  Marietta held her breath.  Years passed.  Mayde's knowing hand reached out for the cloth, and she moved forward off the pile of pillows to lean over the piece so her old eyes could read into the pattern.  Nodding once, slowly, she ran her fingertips over the face of it, and asked, "You're really branching off, here; must we leave so much behind to become who we are?"
     Smiling, Marietta nodded fiercely, tears standing in her eyes.  "That is exactly what I knew you were going to ask me, and yes...and also no.  This is just one piece, and it speaks to that in me which needs release from all those traditions and patterns carried down from my ancestors, but now that I've done it, it's done.  I like it, and it's fun, and I'd even recreate it for fun and profit, but as an artist, I've already grown past it, and I long for the depth and richness of the traditional.  I can even see doing some sort of fusion of the two on the journey to discovering my own style within the genre."
     Mayde snorted.  "' own style within the genre.'"  Then she threw her head back and laughed her expansive laugh, and Marietta snorted, too, after the initial shock of being laughed at wore off.  "Ha ha ha!  Listen to you, the academic!  Seriously darling, I love it.  It's brilliant.  This is...this is out of this world.  Wow!  I love this bit here...and the colors!  Mmm, it's delicious.  How did you do this round part?  And the story, talk to me about this, here...," she pointed to various areas of the canvas, indicating one aspect or another of the whole, and Marietta moved close, folding a leg under her to sit next to her grandmother on the hospital bed, answering every single question.