Friday Fictioneers: I Am Born

I immediately knew where this story would take me, but find the way was much harder than I anticipated.  Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, where this band of international writers struggle to do the same thing: make sense of a photo (contributed this week by Marie Gail Stratford), tell its story, in 100 words or less. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields leads our merry band. Check out her blog, Addicted to Purple, to read more stories or join in the fun. Caution: it’s highly addictive.  I always welcome positive, or constructive feedback. Please leave a comment.

© Marie Gail Stratford

© Marie Gail Stratford

I Am Born (100 words)

She’s all I’ve ever wanted… her voice, her touch– so tender and sweet on my skin; the happiest place I know is in her arms.

The sound of her voice, singing only to me–has lulled me to sleep, kept me company, as I waited. That wondrous voice– loving and true, a safe haven in the dark.

For her I face the agony– the crush of air and light; I reach for her.

She rubs me with scented oil, and holds me to her naked skin, singing softly in my ear–promising she will never leave.

And I am home.

*    *    *

Make me smile: I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Mohamud Drives… (A Somalian Journey)

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Mohamud was my driver from San Diego to Del Mar.

I don’t say something like that very often. I don’t have drivers. I am happy to carry my own bags; I don’t fly in first class, unless I am upgraded for smiling at the right person (as happened on the way to San Diego this week). In general I’m a woman who is happy to save some money and do it myself; I love the thrill of finding a deal, and not paying more than I think is reasonable. But my husband was attending a training at a big medical company and they treated us very well in return. So, we had a driver.

The driver pulled up to the Marriott in a shiny black Escalade, just like the ones you see on Real Housewives, or that the President is whisked around in. Big. Shiny. Impressive looking. All the bells and whistles. When he opened the door for me, taking my bag from my hands and setting it in the car, the running boards automatically came down, so that I could step in with ease. I tried not to gush too loudly, but seriously, other people were now straining to see who we were. That’s what happens when you get into a shiny black Escalade with tinted windows, in Southern California– people think you’re famous. Admittedly, I felt a little famous right about then.

Our car edged out slowly and silently; a sleek carriage carrying Smart Guy to corporate headquarters and then taking me to our hotel on the water, in Del Mar– a beachside community north of San Diego and south of La Jolla.

Our driver didn’t introduce himself. He was quiet, focused, very professional– glancing back at us occasionally in the rear view mirror. He avoided eye contact but I caught his glances a couple of times and smiled anyway. When he made a sharp turn to avoid a traffic snafu, a few blocks from the Marriott, I congratulated him:

Way to go! THAT is some fine driving!  He smiled in the mirror. I would have taken that same turn, and Smart Guy here would have gotten mad at me! (I don’t really call him Smart Guy, just to be clear).

He laughed good-naturedly, but remained focused. “There’s traffic on first; it’s crazy to sit waiting.”

“She’s not a good passenger,” Smart Guy added, in response to my comment. The driver smiled again. He was diplomatic in his attention, but clearly amused.

Admittedly, I’m not a good passenger when you drive– maybe not in general… I piped in. But, I don’t mind being his passenger (I smiled at our driver, who was watching me now and smiling back)– he can drive!

He laughed again at our playful banter, but remained quiet as we merged onto the 101.

The two towers: I took this photo from our room, before meeting Mohamud.

The two towers: I took this photo from our room, before meeting Mohamud.

How long have you lived in San Diego, I asked him.

“Nearly twenty-three years.”

We began to chat about the hot dry landscape, as well as our appreciation of all that sun.  He nodded politely. When the subject of real estate followed, our driver became more animated.

“When I came here, it was a small place, nothing happening really. It was mostly military families and retirees. The two towers across from where I picked you up– they were selling for $200,000 then, for very large units, big windows with sweeping views of the water. They could not give them away. The building sat empty for nearly 3 years, until they finally rented them. No one would buy them. ” he continued. “Then Bob Dole based his campaign here when he ran for President in ’96– the Republican convention, and then theSuperbowl XXXII was played here– Brett Favre, John Ellway– everyone was coming to San Diego! The prices of those condos didn’t just go up, they skyrocketed!”

He took one long, animated finger and drew a line straight up in the air between us. I was mesmerized. His soft accent, his focus on detail, held me.

“The same units that no one would take for $200,000, were suddenly selling for $800,000. Today they are $2.5.” He shook his head. “I think about that every time I drive by there.”

All these years later–Why?

“It reminds me that I was foolish. I should have borrowed money, bought five of those units…” His voice trails off. I am spellbound. He chuckles, “Oh, that would have been so smart…”

He continued talking, easily and naturally, telling us about the changes in San Diego since his arrival. I was struck by his extensive knowledge and ease in conversation, but reminded myself that he does this for a living– of course he knows a lot; he must talk to people like this all the time. We told him that we were from the Seattle area, that we weren’t used to such dry landscape, and then we shifted to water issues.

Smart Guy was quiet, but I chatted away, wanting to hear more. I shared that I remembered water restrictions when I was a child in California– not being able to flush every time we used the toilet (only when you had to!), dry brown lawns… He smiled. We talked about the ice water challenges for ALS. So much water wasted, I said.

“Yes.”

Matt Damon co-founded a non-profit  (Water.org) that focuses on clean water for people around the world, I told him. He did the challenge with water from the toilets in his house! He pointed out that the water in his toilets was still much cleaner than people all over the world are forced to drink and live with.

“This is true.”

Matt Damon used the ice water challenge to focus on clean water for others… It made me really think about all the clean water that was just dumped, in all of those videos.

He nodded and watched me for a moment.

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“People here don’t take the drought or the restrictions seriously. They water their lawns and throw it away; they think that there will always be more water.”

I think that as Americans we don’t really think about water very much, I contributed. Even in the poorest parts of the U.S. water is not that hard to find. We don’t really understand that in other countries, people walk miles for water. Images of my two trips to India flashed through my mind– women with huge jugs on their heads, Peru and Johannesberg, South Africa, where children told me that they carried water two times a day in large plastic containers, dragged along in small wagons. In these places, water is not taken for granted; it’s precious and limited.

As we pulled up to the impressive corporate headquarters, an enormous fountain greeted us at the base of the hill. Water cascaded down, mocking the state-wide drought. Wow, real water shortage I see…. I stated, sarcastically. All three of us laughed uncomfortably.

He looked at us in the mirror and smiled, a frustrated, cynical smile. “No one will conserve water when they see something like this.”

We were quiet as we drove up to the impressive compound, and he escorted my husband inside. The bright sunlight was jarring, as the car door opened and the spell inside was broken for a moment. I watched as the driver ran back to the car, in the hot sun.

You don’t have to run in this heat, I assured him as he got back into the cool dark car.

“Thank you,” he replied politely.

Where are you from originally, as we pulled away.

“East Africa,” he glanced at me in the mirror. I nodded. “Somalia.”

I’m sorry, I answered. He glanced my way again. I’m sorry that your country has suffered so much. Our eyes met. It must be painful to see the place where you grew up, change so much.

“Thank you. Yes, it is terrible, it is so terrible.”

Do you still have family there?

“Some, but I brought all of my immediate family with me. They are all here.”

Wow! That must have been really hard. I’m glad they are all safe.  Still, it must be horrible to watch that happen to a place that was once home.

I watched his eyes soften in the mirror, even as he frowned.

“Yes, it is awful.” His voice had taken on a solemn tone, but he seemed more comfortable with me.

Did you see that movie? The one with Tom Hanks… the ship, Somalia?

We talked about the movie Captain Phillips, and the real crisis that the fishermen of the region have suffered, leading to the piracy that the world focuses on– while generally ignoring the reasons for these desperate acts.

It was hard to sit there, listening to the audience cheer when the Somali pirates were killed, I stated. They were so desperate, I wanted it to work out for everyone­– though I remember the event… I knew the end of the movie. 

We were both silent as we drove back down the driveway.

He watched me, quiet for a moment, but then took the time to explain how the situation developed there, carefully detailing the characters and factions involved. How foreign ships had come in and pushed the local fisherman out. How Somali fishermen had held one large foreign ship for ransom and told these interlopers to stay away… that they were ruining it for the Somali people, who relied on the fish and waters for their survival.  Some of it I’d read about, but his details were personal, more balanced. He was eloquent in his story telling, peppering the history with personal thoughts: “It was a wise decision;” “This was a good idea, at first.”

Then he was quiet again, as we merged back on to  the freeway.

“You know, when we were talking about water before–“ He shifted.

I nodded.

“When my family was fleeing from Mogadishu, from tribal issues– we lived in the city, we didn’t know about the tribes, but we had to go– running to Kenya, even though we weren’t involved with the tribes. We had to leave. People knew about the animals, there are wild animals outside the city; and,  we brought enough food… but people didn’t think about water. That is how so many died; they had no water.”

I watched his eyes, as he told me the story. I could see him going back in time, and it humbled me, in the back of that cool, black car.

“It was horrible– no water anywhere. But we had no choice, we had to keep going.”

How old were you?

“13, almost 14.”

He watched me for a moment and then continued, as if weighing whether to say more.

“When we were running to Kenya, the water– there was no water. People watched for the places where they knew there had once been water, and they would dig, until the soil was damp…” He paused, going back further as I held my breath. “My grandmother–” his voice caught, but he went on. “My grandmother told me that she had to dig and dig, waiting to find the damp place, and then–” I watched, stunned as I saw his eyes fill with tears. “My grandmother, she would suck the dirt, to get some water.”
He was crying now, quietly, and I could barely breathe, but felt my own tears burn my eyes.
“She was so thirsty… that my grandmother… my grandmother sucked the dirt…” he choked on the words again, and our eyes blurred together in the mirror.

I reached around and held his arm, rubbed his shoulder. I tried to comfort him from my backseat sanctuary– his story changing everything– in that car, in my perspective, in the sunny world outside. I rubbed his arm and simply said, I understand.

After  a few moments, he pulled himself back together, wiping his eyes and focusing on the route. I was still stunned, his words echoing in my head: She sucked the dirt, to get some water.

Your story makes me think about all these children coming in from Mexico, Central and South America; they’re so desperate. He nodded, wiping his eyes again.  I just don’t understand how so many Americans can be so callous– thinking they’re coming here for free stuff.

Now he nodded. “It’s terrible.”

They don’t want our free shit; they are just trying to survive. A parent must be so desperate to let a young child make that trip, a child must be very scared to do it… how can we be so cruel, to send them back.

“Yes. It is wrong.”

I understand the laws; I get that there are regulations… but there must be a better way, than sending babies– young children, back to such horrible conditions, that their parents sent them off alone to come here… My voice trailed off. She sucked the dirt, to get some water. 

We continued talking; he told me about arriving in San Diego, how he and his younger brothers had been so amazed by everything they saw in this new world.

“My younger brothers were seeing all of these big houses, these shiny cars and they would say to me: ‘ I want that house! I want to buy that car’ Over and over they were saying this. And I told them, you can have that car, and you can have that house– but first you will have to work very hard. You will have go to school and study, and you will work very, very hard. And when you have them, you will still work hard.”

As he spoke, he continued to wipe his eyes, reclaiming his calm. I barely noticed where we were or the passage of time, I was so absorbed in his story.

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“The next day, I took them to the a very different part of San Diego. There were no nice homes or cars. I parked the little Corolla I was driving and put the club on the wheel, so no one could take it. We walked for several blocks, with people we didn’t know. There were men sleeping on the street, drunk, others with cups held out for money. I told my brothers to put some coins in their cups. My brother looked at me and said ‘but we have only just arrived here! I have very little in my pockets.’ But I told him, put the coins in there anyway, so you will remember what it’s like to not have very much. Tomorrow, you will begin to work hard so you never have to hold that cup.”

As the stunning blue ocean came back into view and we turned along a store-lined street, I realized that we must be coming to my hotel soon. When had we left the highway? How long had we been talking? It felt like hours, but it had only been a half hour, perhaps more, perhaps less. I wasn’t sure. I felt removed from everything but the dark interior of the car and the driver’s eyes as we spoke, as I listened to his wondrous words– Alice, down the rabbit hole.

What happened to your brothers? What are they doing now? I had to know.

“One of my brothers is a cardiac surgeon. He studied at the Mayo clinic and he lives in Minnesota. My other brother is an engineer in Ohio. “ He smiled broadly at me.

Oh my God! Imagine, the people who must have seen you as you fled Somalia. They might have thought you were simply more children who needed something for free, or that you were worthless, like the children at our borders now… but now your brother is saving lives! My eyes burned as I became overwhelmed and tearful. All of those little children, fleeing places where they are not safe, where they live in fear and then they are turned away! Who knows which of them might be someone who changes so many things! I understand that there are laws, and regulations, but how can we just turn them away, or treat them like criminals! I rubbed my eyes, as he watched me. And now– we are both crying!

We laughed, and I saw that we were turning into the hotel. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to drive in that cool, clean, sleek car all day, with those kind, wise eyes in the mirror. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

But there we were, pulling up to a beautiful hotel on the water. The bellmen were all coming forward to get my bags and greet me, and I only could think of my driver and how I didn’t want to get out.

He stepped from his seat and opened my door. Again the sleek floorboard dropped down, but I no longer felt like a celebrity. I felt humbled and touched and overcome. I stepped out and said, I’m Dawn, extending my hand.

“My name is Mohamud,” he held out his hand, with a beautiful smile, and our eyes met face to face.

I threw my arms around him, hugging Mohamud, and he hugging me back, both of us grinning, as the hotel doormen watched in bemusement.

Minutes later, Mohamud drove away, waving to me, as I walked into the beautiful lobby to check in.

*   *   *

Afterword

Mohamud drove us to dinner that night, and we talked a little more about our earlier conversation. I told him that I wanted to write about the day and he told me it was fine with him. It’s a story that should be shared, I told him. “Yes, it should be shared,” he replied, looking directly at me in the mirror. I asked if I could take a picture of his eyes in the mirror and use it in my story and he laughed. As I tried to focus my iPhone, he adjusted the mirror allowing me various angles. We all laughed as I joked that his eyes would be very famous, hoping a few people would read this long, magical story. It doesn’t matter; the time we spent in the car changed everything about my few days in a beautiful place, being treated like royalty by a generous and wealthy company. As I walked the beach or ate my meals, I thought of Mohamud and his grandmother, many times. She sucked the dirt, to get the water. It changed everything.

Mohamud also drove us back to the airport when we left California. We talked about his children– his daughter, in college, hoping to be a doctor, his twin boys graduating high school this year. One wants to be an engineer and one wants to go into finance. With such a wise and gentle father, I know that they will all do very well. We talked about the changes in public schools– dismal and disturbing to all three of us. I felt like I was talking to an old friend, but sad knowing we would not see each other again, anytime soon.

When he opened my door, that final time outside the terminal, he said: “It has been an honor and a privilege to meet you.”

No, the honor and privilege has been all mine.

We embraced again, and then I watched Mohamud drive away, tears burning my eyes, as we headed in to catch our flight home.

I hope when he reads this, Mohamud smiles. It was my privilege, indeed.

*Please follow the links above to learn more about clean water for people around the world. Every minute, a child dies for lack of clean water; this is something we can all change. Share this story.

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Then, watch this video. Take a few minutes. Sonia Nazario, author of Enriques’s Journey, speaks so eloquently on the subject of our borders.

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/b7aa4i/sonia-nazario?xrs=playershare_fbshare

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What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

 

 

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Alone In A Hotel Room…

© Dawn Quyle Landau

© Dawn Quyle Landau

The prompt is to write for 10 minutes, “no more, no less.” Check out other writing for this Word Press Challenge, here.

 

Alone In A Hotel Room

The temperature is strange, the pillow foreign. I toss and turn in the dim light– room darkening curtains make it hard to know what time it really is, and I always turn the glowing clock to the wall. Time limits the potential for sleeping in, or seizing the day. It’s still early though, and I have nowhere I have to be. All expectations are my own.

When I finally get up and throw the curtains open, the city of San Diego greats me, through filthy windows. I hate dirty windows. It confuses me for a moment– is it raining? Is it that early? It’s cloudy– dark gray clouds are unexpected, given the forecast of sun and temperatures in the low eighties.

I’m fortunate to travel a lot– more than usual this year. I was thinking about that last night as our final flight took off and fears of crashing grabbed me. It happens more and more as I get older, even though I fly enough to know that it’s safe. A miracle: taking off in a metal cylinder and landing in a new place. I’m lucky, blessed to travel, despite the moment of fear.

Every time I wake in a hotel I struggle with the same quandaries, should I: sit in bed; watch out the window at the mysterious world below, taking in the hum and movement of a new place; should I spend the day writing; or get dressed and go out exploring? Which direction? It’s always a slow decision for me. I am impulsive to distraction. Should I stay or should I go, now… badadadadada!

I hear the housekeeping cart down the hall and feel a vague sense of urgency. Guilt? I don’t want to seem lazy… but to who? Whom? I have the day alone, to myself, in a city I have visited before but don’t know. Which direction should I go? How fast should I move? The decisions shake me, and cause me to question my sense of independence, adventure, motivation, age. My knee hurts. Walk? Rent a bike? Which direction? So many options make for so many possibilities– taken or missed.

When I wake in a new hotel, in a new city, traveling again, these are the thoughts that fill my head as I wake and start my day, alone in a hotel.

Notes on the process: I set an alarm on my computer and typed for exactly 10 minutes. I did not add anything once the timer went off, but did correct punctuation. The spelling I did as I went. I went with the first thoughts I had, versus planning out a writing strategy. I wrote the final sentence too soon, and put it aside. I knew that that’s where I wanted to end. So, not watching the clock, I wrote free-form, and checked at 1 minute, so that I could wind up and finish where I wanted to end.

When I work with seniors on their college essays, we always do some “blitz writing,” so it was fun to wake up, see this prompt and challenge myself to do it… alone in this hotel room.

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What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Friday Fictioneers: Abuela Works

friday-fictioneersAs so many of you have noted, it’s such a wonderful surprise to wake up and see your own photo on the Friday Fictioneer’s page. This morning when I saw this photo, I thought: “Wow, I wonder who else went there?” Duh. It took me a minute to check the © name. It’s also true that writing a story for a photo that you know is a different challenge all together. I’ll be curious to see what you all come up with! I’m heading to Southern CA today, so if I’m slow making the rounds, please know that it isn’t for lack of interest!

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly, photo promped flash fiction challenge. Members are encouraged to write a 100-word story, with a beginning, middle and end. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is our maestro, coordinating this ever-growing community of writers. It is the one thing I do consistently each week, for the sheer joy of it. September 8th marked my 1-year anniversary of joining the Fictioneers, and I haven’t missed a week yet! Woot woot!

If you’d like to join us or check out the other stories, visit Rochelle’s blog Addicted to Purple for more details. I always welcome constructive, thoughtful feedback; please leave a comment.

© Dawn Quyle Landau

© Dawn Quyle Landau

 Abuela Works (100 words)

Abuela stirs the briny water day in and day out. Six days a week she climbs the steep trail to the salt mines; Sunday she walks to church. In cold mornings she dons her red gloves and sturdy hat, to protect her from the burning minerals and the brutal sun. Her eyes have grown milky from the glare; her skin is dry and cracked.

Do the touristas taste her tears in the salt they buy?

As I walk to my dusty school, I promise God that I will go to college and make Abuela proud. I will ease her burdens.

•     •     •

Can you help a girl out? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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If Wishing Made It So… In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

friday-fictioneersWhen I saw the photo prompt this week, several threads came to me. However, today, as I cleaned my deck and reflected on this day thirteen years ago, this story took root and had to be written.  In remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001 and the tens of thousands who have died in the years since, in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. If wishing made it so, it would simply have been a beautiful late summer day.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields who patiently organizes and herds our eclectic band of writers each week, reminding us that stories should be 100 word– with a beginning, middle and end, and somehow connect to the photo prompt. This week’s photo comes form Janet Webb. There are so many good stories; if you’d like to join along or just check them out, visit Rochelle’s blog Addicted to Purple.

© Janet Webb

© Janet Webb

If Wishing Made It So (100 words)

 Jacquie walked into the bathroom, and dragged her finger along the trim. Dust collected under her chipped nail, and dust motes floated up– reflected back in the streaked mirror. She avoided eye contact with the pale, thin woman there.

She gathered the dry bouquet, another reminder of the desperate weeks since Todd’s death. What had been a thoughtful apology– end of summer lavender, beach grass and a starfish they’d found together– now sat neglected in the vase.

If only we’d stayed on the Cape for the week after Labor Day. If only he’d stayed home with me that Tuesday. If…

•     •     •

What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Yeah, Yeah, I’m a Bad Blog Buddy… But Hear Me Out.

If you’re not a blogger, you may find this behind-the-scenes ditty interesting. Or not. Each link in here will take you to a wonderful world of reading and/or images. Take a trip down the rabbit hole; you’ll thank me later.  If you’re a blogger, you may find yourself nodding your head as you read. I know I’m not the only Bad Blogging Buddy (Yo! Shout out to the BBBs in the house!), or possibly tisk-tisk’ing because you’re a great blog buddy. I can only own my own shit. And yes, this is one mother f’ing long post. I know.  It should be 500 words or less, but I can’t own my shit in that many words. (*You may want to bring some food and water though).  So here goes…

When I started blogging it never occurred to me that I would meet people on-line, or that I might like some of them, and we might even become blogging friends. Really, I didn’t. Initially, I just wanted to get back to writing. Frankly, I was shocked when a few people I know, in real life, actually read some of my posts. Elizabeth F, you know you were the first. The start was lonely. I hadn’t told too many people I was doing this, and when I ran off to Yellowstone, only a couple of people noticed that I also mentioned something about a blog. That teeny tiny group of two people kept me company, as I struggled with my life and with this new enterprise called blogging. I didn’t know how to post photos; I didn’t have followers; I didn’t know how to do jack shit. In fact, it’s a wonder that anyone ever noticed me– least of all the Word Press Freshly Pressed Gods.

layoutsparks.com

layoutsparks.com

But they did. They sprinkled their fairy dust on my post The Grass Is Always Greener On Someone Else’s Head… and voila! I had a few more people reading my post. For the record (and I know I’ve told this story before…) I was so new at blogging (six weeks in) that I didn’t even know something had happened, until others told me. I was only checking my blog every few days, if that… So, I was seriously shocked when there were comments (450 of them!) and that people were actually reading what I wrote! Well, I’d better write something more, I thought– hoping to hold the attention of a few of those people. Since then, I have often thought that I have written much better posts since then, but that is how the ball got rolling.

In the three years and three months since, I’ve worked hard to build my blog and its following. What started as a “platform” for getting a book published has become something I love and nurture, for its own sake. I love writing Tales From the Motherland. I love that some people read it (though, far fewer than the number who have hit follow). I love the comments that people leave– they challenge me to think about what I write, or they support what I’ve put out there. The comments make me think, and that’s part of why I write. The people who read my work and share their thoughts have been the icing on this cake!

Let me introduce you to some of my friends:

Some people stop by once and say hello, or tell me they liked something I wrote– or something they didn’t– and then they’re gone. I appreciate their feedback; I’m grateful they came. Others come back again and again, and over time we get to know each other in this strange little world of blogging– the blogoshere…  And that is where the magic has been. I’ve gotten to know people in a very real and special way through blogging. This too is something I’ve written about; it’s been no secret that I’ve made an effort to meet some of the people who I’ve connected with on-line. Like a benign online dating site, I’ve had dates with Mike and Meagan, to start with. They were local, and having exchanged messages on-line, we took it a step further and met face to face. Pretty soon I was stretching further and meeting bloggers in other places. Heading to New York city? Then I should meet Lisa! we’d been online buddies for ages; I’d been in her anthology Tangerine Tango– so a face to face was clearly in order. In June I was off to North Carolina for a wedding. What better reason for dinner and drink with Jennie, who I’d long had a blog crush on. What a wonderful date that was! She let me sleep over and gave me toffee. My blog crush was officially love.

IMG_6042My son and I headed to Scandinavia this summer, and I decided to take a chance and reach out to Björnone of my fellow Friday Fictioneers, and someone who has long intrigued me. My son and I had lunch with Björn and the lovely Charlotte, in Stockholm. I learned that he was that much more interesting in person, and oh how I wished for more time!

Me, Kylie, Emily and Amy... champagne dream date!

Me, Kylie, Emily and Amy… champagne dream date!

When I went to BlogHer14 I made sure that I got to hang out with one of my favorite blog crushes, Emily. Emily was there for me when I was in the hospital last December– quietly, tenderly helping me get through a hard time. Her heart and her dry sense of humor were twice as big in person, the Memphis accent was a surprise (um, not sure why ’cause she talks about home all the time!) and we had a grand time! When Amy, the blogger who turned me on to Friday Fictioneers (my weekly flash fiction addiction) said she’d be in town too, the icing was butter cream– which was consumed with the champagne that she, Emily and I had together. They introduced me to Kylie and what a grand night it was!

Getting to know you... Tonya and I

Getting to know you… Tonya and I

Then there were the blind dates at BlogHer14– the people I’ve read, but hadn’t really chatted with online. I’ve left a comment there; they’ve left a comment here, but we haven’t gotten to know each other. It was indeed a surreal moment to be in a small hotel room, doing Jello shots with Hedia– even more Geisha-exotic in person– and Aussa looking on! Tonya was a total blindside– a ball of instant dynamo that I am so glad I met, and wish I lived closer to.  Chloe snuck up on me in the most delicious and surprising ways, and has left me with a blogger boner that Julie (who was pure delight) predicted. The three of them were part of the first night’s dinner blind date, which ended up being one of the true highlights of the weekend for me. Julie, Chloe and Tonya, thanks for that! I may not have known them when I left home, but now I watch for their posts and I delight in their updates. And of course the mother of all blind side hook ups, The Bloggess. Yes, I know I was just one of the bazillion women (and four men) cheering for her at the BlogHer14 conference, but when I had my book autographed and my picture taken with her, I know she felt something too… aside from me stepping on her pretty red shoes. And admittedly, my heart skipped a beat when she Liked one of my Tweets… but I have no doubt she quickly realized how boring I am on Twitter and flew south. Oh, but the thrill, for that brief, shiny moment in time. (And don’t think I won’t post this treasured photo over and over and over and over… again!)

Me and The Bloggess... clearly a bigger thrill for me, but she was delightfully fun.

Me and The Bloggess… clearly a bigger thrill for me, but she was delightfully fun.

Perhaps you are now wondering… how does this make Dawn a BBB- Well, because despite all the exciting hook-ups, in the day-to-day I’ve really dropped the ball. Despite all this face to face connecting, I’m actually not a big dater. I’m not that good at the consistent nurturing of blog relationships. My intentions are good, but I get overwhelmed easily. If I hit that follow button on your blog that’s what I do: I follow you. I feel a sincere commitment to read the blogs that come to my in-box, and while that was initially not such a hard thing to do, over time– with so many of you writing really great stuff, I’ve fallen way behind. Recently I had nearly 3,000 emails in my “blogs I follow folder!” (Yes, I really have that) Those waiting posts were making me crazy, and I knew there was no way to read them all! I spent several days, finally, reading what I could (which was a lot of reading!) and guiltily deleting the others.  Being away so much this summer, having had a few rough bumps in the spring (to say the least), I’ve dropped the ball, and that ball involves people I really enjoy and care about. For real.

Recently Samara told me not to feel bad, not to apologize, but I do feel badly and I am apologizing. Samara I love your writing and I should engage more, because you’re true blue and you say incredibly nice things like “Please, never apologize! Are you kidding? That you find the time to visit at all is a gift.” Hello? Such gracious kindness! I feel the same way about so many of you who read my blog, but how wonderful to hear that from another blogger! That comment really got me thinking about so many of you who I have not made as much effort with as I’d like– including you Samara!

It is not personal; it’s not you. It’s me. There are lots of excuses: I often feel not cool enough for your witty comment sections (honestly!); I get busy outside my blog and I forget to touch base; I mean to read your work, leave a comment, say that I care (because I do)… and I miss the boat in follow-up– to name a few excuses! I’m sorry for that, even if I don’t have to apologize.  Many of you deserve better from me, but I am just over extended.

I’m also:

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And so, Sincerely:

KZ, your horror stories are incredible! I should have done more to promote your super scary new book, because you’re a truly gifted writer. Helena, could you be more prolific and amazing? No. Before your self-deprecating self answers that… No. You are so incredibly talented, and I don’t spend nearly enough time basking in your glow. I ordered your book (Volume 1), but I haven’t had the time to read it yet. That said– I need to make the time because I know it’s good, if your blog is even a hint of what’s in there. Rara, I loved your energy and good heart, from the start.  If truth be told, certain unpleasant events in our tight blog world rattled me last January and I pulled away from anything I couldn’t be totally sure of. Let me be clear: I’m not stirring that pot again, but it left a scar. I realized that I didn’t really know some of you, as much as I thought I did, and it’s made me a bit more wary when I read. The mere idea of the Rara I like so much in jail is horrible beyond horrible. The only thing more horrible is that I don’t believe everything I read anymore, and I’m just not sure what to think about this whole turn of events. If that doesn’t make me a truly BBB, I don’t know what does. I’m sorry for that. If you clear your name and come back, I hope you’ll understand that my intentions are good, but my guard is up. Twindaddy, I drop by; I love what I find, and then I drop off. Sorry, you deserve better. You’re such a great blog buddy to so many, you are indeed “genuine” and I enjoy your posts. Even more, Toby what a loser of a friend I’ve been to you! You never fail to tweet my posts; you are such a lovely, loyal buddy! You are truly a Fearless Leader, and I have not been there for you. I try, really I do. I stop by and read, but dumb people piss me off, and while I also laugh a lot, I also get irritated by their… dumbass’ness. Clearly thousands (literally, that’s an understatement) of other subscribers know a good thing when they read it; I’m just… lame. You are too good for me, sticking by me the way you do. Forgive me!  Cyn, your Cynking Feeling is one I had a million times when my kids were little, and now when they come home in the summer… and I am not dealing with autism. You do it so beautifully, and write about it with candor, humor, and heart. I should read more, but:  a) you’re seriously prolific, and I can’t keep up, and b) my babes are grown and I while your writing always pulls me in, I don’t read as much about little ones anymore… just as my older ones are probably very foreign to you as well!  Jen, oh how much fun it would be to have a Tonic (with a wee nip of vodka in it) with you! Given geography, I hope it happens one day– sooner than later!

^^^  I apologize for not making more effort to be consistent with all of you! ^^^

Amy, Sara, Annie, Guapo, Susan, Alicia, Claire, Susan, Björn, Adam, Dana, Brenda, KatrinaHeather, Shavawn, Audra (Where have you gone? I miss you!), Eleanor, Nicole,  Cindy, Karen, KatDeanna, Rochelle, Lesley… All of you, I have enjoyed so many of your stories and posts! Your blogs are the ones I keep going back to over and over– but I acknowledge that I’m terribly inconsistent and annoying in my efforts. For all I know, some of you barely notice when I’m there (or not), and are now wondering why I tagged you, and why am I sniveling away about commitments. But, this is my shit I’m owing here. My inconsistency is not for lack of sincere interest and the real enjoyment I get when I do visit. I love your work; I tell my friends about your blogs, but I get pulled in other directions and I don’t visit as much as I should and want to. Again, that’s me, not a reflection of the great writing I find when I do visit. Those of you who are prolific (posting every day, or multiple times a week), it’s that simple: I can’t keep up! I get overwhelmed–> then I feel guilty –> then I avoid visiting–> then I fall behind   –> and it circles back to–> overwhelmed and lame.

karch10k.wordpress.com

karch10k.wordpress.com

Cathy, Jennie, Susan, Melissa (Lyssa), Carrie, Jen, Meagan, Emily, Lisa, Kelly, Mike, Julie (please come back!), Pam, Jolene (you make me break out in song, I mean really, that song was written for you!)– Guys, I’ve got mad love for you and pretty much anything you write or publish. Your words and images have made me cry; made me laugh– until I lose the little bladder control I have; they’ve made me think. When I don’t visit for a while, because I’m busy being a wound-licking mom in the real world, or an over-extended friend/wife/volunteer– I miss you. Really, I miss YOU. It’s not just about your writing anymore. I feel a connection, and when you’re not around, I miss that. I want to hear about your babies; I want to share some coffee or a drink and laugh– put our heads close and share thoughts. I want to go on second and third dates. Ok… maybe I’ve taken this metaphor to a creepy place, but hopefully you get my point. You’re great, and I’m grateful for our connection. Your blogs rock, and your posts have moved and impacted me!

The platonic kind... that isn't creepy...   (nilrix.com)

The platonic kind… that isn’t creepy… (nilrix.com)

I’ve been a BBB for lots of reasons, and I’m sorry for that. But my heart is sincere and anything I wrote here is because I really feel it. I’ve gotten so much more from this world of blogging than I’ve given. Whether my blog ever ends up being part of that “platform” for getting my book(s)– because yes, there are now two– published, it doesn’t matter anymore. I may not have as many Facebook likes as I want for Tales From the Motherland; I may not be wildly followed on Twitter (and let’s face it, I’m boring there… except for when I’m not); and my blog may be growing but not anywhere near the 10,000 followers that publishing says you need, to be a platform. (Sinks her head and groans) This blog has come to mean so much more than I ever imagined, and so much more than the illusive platform can provide. If it weren’t for this blog I would not have met any of you! Of course I’m glad that some of my posts have resonated with people, and that my writing is appreciated, but let me be clear and say this again: I have gotten so much more in return. And for that, I am very, very grateful.

Final note: It is inevitable– so inevitable that it gives me a knot in my stomach, that I have forgotten someone who I really like. Who knew that there were several hundred-thousand blogs out there (on WordPress alone)?! I haven’t skimmed the surface, and I’m overwhelmed with the great writing I’ve found and enjoyed. So, if I did miss you in the epic Oscar worthy acknowledgement, I am sorry. Truly. Please don’t take it personally; my intentions are good, but Yeah, I’m a Bad Blogging Buddy.

*     *     *

What do I want? I’d love to see my Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I try to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post hit Like, and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think.  Follow along; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  © 2014 Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

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Fairly…

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Each year I go to the fair. It’s a summer ritual, that I look forward to, and plan for. The Northwest Washington Fair, often called TheLynden Fair, is a classic old time country fair and is about thirty minutes from where I live, and I’ve gone just about every year, since we moved here 13 years ago. For a long time our trips to the fair were marked by child-centered activities: which rides could they go on, what sugary thing could they try, and how long would they hold up? Back then I longed for some time to just peruse the animal barns, check out the winning quilts and visit the sea of vendors– all of which my kids found horribly boring. Instead, it was a battery of questions, and pleas for things that only came at the fair.

“Mom, can I get a cotton Candy? An elephant ear? Some curly fries?”

“Mom can we ride the Graviton? The Ring of Fire? The Tilt’a Whirl?”

“Mom, am I tall enough to ride this one?” They stood on tippy toe, hoping.

“Mom, can I bring a friend?” Always a friend who didn’t have a ride.

“Mom, my friends and I want to go to the fair; will you drive?” Or, several friends–

“Mom, I’m meeting my friends at the fair… could you please not hang around us?”

“Mom, the barns are boring! All my friends are at the rides.” Of course.

“Mom, I’m starving! Can we get a turkey leg– it’s protein! Mini donuts?”

“Mom, can I have some money for…” The fair… is very expensive!

There was always an endless list of must haves at the fair; thankfully it only came once a year, and I was never afraid of the word no.

It was often so hot that I wanted to leave, as soon as I got there– the heat amplified by the straw, the dust and and the dry grass all around. But deep down, I loved being there as much as my kids did.  I would follow them around, waiting as they road the rides and bellowed that they were doing it again. I’d get dizzy just watching them spin and flip and do it again, over and over. We generally went with friends, and the adults would stand around tisk tisk’ing the poor choices made by the teenagers– checking out who was there with who, and what they were wearing. We watched our own kids turn green– even as they pleaded to keep going. Their determination and energy was boundless, each year a the fair. I waited, and followed and paid and waved, patiently, hoping that somewhere in the day/night, we’d wander into the barns, and see the animals.

“Let’s go look at the horses,” I’d coax. “I love the way they braid the horses’ manes, and the lambs are so cute!”

“The animals are boring! Want to come on the Ferris Wheel with us?”

“I think it was Socrates that something about all the world being in the eyes of a cow.”

They rolled their eyes at my feeble attempts. “We’re hungry!”

Let’s face it however, without the food and the rides, the fair would just be a farm. It’s the one time of year that we buy lots of junk and celebrate getting it! Outside of Disney, where else do you get a 2 lb. turkey leg?

I learned to park in the back lots, so that we had to pass by the barns coming in and going out. It helped my chances of breezing through a few of them, one way or another. Inevitably, my kids would venture through the barns with me, when they were sick from eating too much starchy, sugary food, and riding one too many upside down, twisty machines. They never admitted defeat, but came along to see the animals as if doing me a favor. Of course they enjoyed the animals too. But for me, this is the best part of the fair. I could watch the baby goats scramble over each other for hours. The pigs amazed me– their violent tussles and their lazy slumber. The ravenous piglet who  are  perpetually suckling from an exhausted sow. The cows and horses are my always my favorite– the cows, with their enormous, soulful eyes, and the horses with their beautiful coats and elegant rink maneuvers. I love the smell of a barn, the light, the memories that are evoked.

One year we saw a baby cow being born. They added a “birthing barn” a few years ago, and if you’re lucky, you might see a an animal being born. This calf was stuck– breach, in its mother. I watched in amazement as the vet attached chains and pulled the calf out by it’s little hooves, feeling a certain maternal connection to the wild-eyed mother. My son Middle Man, watched in silent horror, though he was long old enough to know how babies were born– human or animal. Those are memories with my children, in a place I love, that I will always hold dear.

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This year I went to the fair with a good friend. We’ve gone together nearly every year for the last eight years, but this year, neither one of us had kids to take. Mine are gone, off exploring the world, or figuring out college. Hers are still in high school, but past the point when going to the fair with your mom is acceptable. Admittedly, it all felt a little different. We stayed away from the rides, and I wouldn’t recognize any of the teenagers at this point, anyway. We shared a turkey leg, some mini-donuts and an elephant ear, over the course of the day– after all, it’s still about the food. We took our time looking at the blue ribbon quilts, the collections, and the artwork– not feeling rushed or pulled. We visited the rodeo to watch a shortened version of the big show that would be performed over the weekend. But we took our time in the barns. We watched young riders compete on horseback in the main rink; strolled along as stalls were mucked out, and watched baby animals play, without feeling any pressure to be somewhere else. We remembered the years we’d brought our kids, but also enjoyed the freedom to take our time and enjoy all the other great things at the fair that we wanted to see.

Time shifts; the lay of the land changes, but the fair is still how I mark the end of my summer. It’s a symbolic heralding of a change in season, leaves changing color, and my kids moving on. This year at the fair, there were no kids with us, and while that was a little bitter sweet, it’s also just fine. We enjoyed it on our own terms, and had a blast.

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