Whatcom Writes Honor: A Daughter’s Tale

I am currently overseas visiting my daughter and her family. I came to attend the birth of my 2nd grandson and to help out, and here I’ve been for more than 5 weeks, with one more to go. I’ve been cocooned in our close world here of: birthing and all the drama, magic and change that brings. Our daily routine of driving to preschool, cleaning, shopping, taking long walks, playing with my amazing three-and-a-half-year-old grandson at the park, cooking, bedtime routines, reading, too little sleep and repeat. Day in and day out. It’s heavenly and draining all at the same time.

The day I left home, I learned that an essay I submitted to the annual Whatcom Writes competition, part of a county-wide book group event, was selected for inclusion in their annual collection. This year’s book selection was Timothy Egan’s book The Big Burn, which inspired the theme “Hindsight.” All essays selected will be part of an anthology on the theme.

I’m so honored to be included in this collection, with other writers who I admire and respect; it’s something I’ve aspired to try for several years. As part of this group, this past week and this weekend, I would have been reading my essay aloud at our local book store, Village Books. However, our delicious grandson came two weeks late, and I was unable to get home in time. I’m sharing it here for the first time. Per the rules of the competition, submissions could not be published elsewhere until after the competition.

Needless to say, it’s a deeply personal piece, and while part of me cringes knowing it will be read by so many people–– this is also why I write: to share and connect. I am not the only person who experienced a challenging family history. I’m not the only child who saw their parents divorce, and behave badly, or who was taken by one parent from the other parent. I’m not the only child who felt lost and broken, and who carried that into adulthood. In sharing my own story, I hope others recognize some facet of their own story and relate to mine. I hope that connections can be made through writing. I cringe and I celebrate, knowing this piece is out in the world. I’m proud of this work and so amazed and happy to have had it chosen for Whatcom Writes. I welcome honest feedback in the comments.

 

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A Daughter’s Tale

If hindsight could change the course of a life, my father might still be alive. He would be an incredible grandfather to my three children, just as he was a loving father to my siblings and me. He would be madly in love with his only great-grandson, because that boy is the light of my life. He would be anticipating the birth of a second great-grandson and joking about how my daughter, his granddaughter, will lose her heart to these two boys.

If all the things I now know about child abuse, divorce and dysfunction, about parents who steal children and lie to them, and how what we understand as children is colored by all the things we do to survive–– if all of this hindsight could change the course of my life, I would be a very different woman today.

When I was nine years old, my mother kidnapped my younger sister, brother and I and took us from California to Massachusetts. She told us it was a surprise, and we couldn’t tell our dad, who had been caring for us for a year and half, after they separated and she abandoned us. That’s a mouthful. It’s a lot of dysfunction. Is it any wonder that at nine years old I quickly learned to believe the lies and twisted explanations fed to me?

Small children do what is needed to feel secure. As a Social Worker I witnessed the most horribly abused children plead to be reunited with parents who hurt them. I will never forget an eight-year-old girl who had to be restrained, as she fought to get back to the father who molested her and then locked her in a burning house. That’s how determined children can be to cling to parents, however bad the situation might be.

Our mother abandoned us and disappeared for a year and a half. We didn’t see her or hear anything from her for that entire period. She left us alone in our apartment. I was seven, my brother five, and our sister fifteen months old. Dad showed up as I fretfully tried to change my baby sister’s diaper, and worried that we were out of cereal. Those memories haunted me for years, even when I couldn’t find the context. No one knows how long we were alone there. His family quickly circled the wagons and wrapped us up in a world where we were fed healthy meals, dressed in clean, age-appropriate clothing and sent to school with homemade lunches. It was a world where every Sunday night included The Magical World of Disney and we felt loved and safe at all times.

But our mother was gone. I remember lying awake many nights fearful and anxious, sure that there was a monster under the bed I shared with my brother. Hindsight tells me I must have wondered where my mother went and why she left us. I remember sitting on the curb outside our house, and watching, and watching, and watching some more. Hindsight: when is she coming back? Doesn’t she love us anymore?

However, when she did return and asked to spend a weekend with us, despite my happiness I also felt wary and suspicious of the boxes in her small apartment, after our father hesitantly left us there on a Friday afternoon. I remember feeling a knot in my stomach when she took us to the airport on Saturday morning. I’d never been on a plane, so I was excited. But I also knew we were going to the Ice Capades on Sunday; how would we get back in time? The thick, sticky ball of fear that would live in me for most of my life formed that day.

Ensconced in a new house with my mother’s family, and fed a steady stream of lies about my father, I learned to push down my fears, my questions or doubts. I learned not to trust my gut. I felt helpless to change all of the crazy things happening in my life, and eventually figured it was easier to pretend nothing was wrong. Despite my visceral memories of my father’s love, it was easier to accept Mom’s version of the truth, than to hold tight to my own knowledge and suffer the pain of his loss. At nine years old I learned quickly to believe whatever story kept me fed and cared for.

I cried each night under my covers, afraid to invoke my mother’s resentment or anger. With hindsight I can see my young mind recognized her insecurity and instability even if I didn’t have adult terms for either. My brother and I knew our father loved us, even if she cast doubt. We recognized that crossing the country with no clothes, or any of our toys or belongings, did not constitute the vacation she claimed it was. When our father didn’t call we knew something was amiss. We knew he loved us more than any thing. But I pushed it all down.

It took my father nearly six months to locate us. By then I’d given up on truth, and believed he didn’t want us anymore. Why else hadn’t we heard from him; why hadn’t he come to take us home? Almost a year after she took us, my mother told us our father was coming to visit. I daydreamed and wished that they were getting back together, and we could all be reunited. I couldn’t wait to see Dad again; it was all I thought about for weeks.

My father was thirty-three years old when he was killed in a car accident–– two weeks before we were supposed to see him again. That day is seared in me as the day I swallowed truth and hope and knew I was on my own.

Hindsight is not always twenty-twenty; on the contrary, it can be entirely myopic. As the eldest child of two people who married too young and split when I was seven, I knew helping with housework and going along with whatever my mother told us, was the safest approach after our father died. I was her partner; there was no veering from the script. As an adult, I didn’t look back and see all the obvious truths. Instead, I clung to the safe story my young mind had used to cope; I only accepted hindsight that fit that version of the truth–– a story that made sense of the inconceivable.

With only my mother’s stories in my head, I believed my father hadn’t really taken care of us. I accepted that he wasn’t a good father. I forgot she abandoned us. I buried it so deep I had only dreams about living with Dad. That’s what I did to survive: I forgot key, essential truths, so I wouldn’t be swallowed by my grief and rage. I forgot key things so I wouldn’t feel like I’d helped kill my father. After all, if we’d been with him he wouldn’t have been at that intersection; he would have been home with us. My ten-year-old reasoning stayed with me for decades.

However, this entire story comes together through hindsight. As I grew up and began to question missing links, I began to see things I’d never understood. I got a Masters in Social Work and began to understand the impact of childhood trauma. Most importantly, my father’s family finally filled in the blanks.

My father’s two sisters always assumed I remembered the facts. They didn’t understand why I saw Mom through rose colored glasses and was critical of my father, but they didn’t want to rock that boat. When the truth finally came out, forty years later, the facts collided with all of my previous beliefs, and I finally started down a road to healing and reconciliation.

By then both of my parents were dead; there were no witnesses to set the record straight. My aunts only knew a few critical pieces of the story. However, when I heard the truth I recognized it immediately. It fit with all of the things I’d tried to make sense of all of my life–– all the things I’d pushed down and buried.

Hindsight has finally freed me to love a father who made us his life’s focus. I know he didn’t give us away, or abandon us. He fought to get us back until the day he died. Hindsight has freed me to see that my mother was a broken woman who had her own demons. She did her best, even if it wasn’t the best for us. I can now see that a deep seeded fear of abandonment has been my rudder for far too long.

If hindsight could change the course of a life, my father would probably have still died in 1973, when I was ten years old. But I could have lived my life secure in the fact that he loved me, and I was important to him. Looking back, it was all there; I just couldn’t see it. Sometimes, hindsight is everything.

For my father who in spirit and in flesh always loved me. For my mother, who did her best.

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

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Friday Fictioneers: Hope Burns

Many thanks to Rochelle for her commitment to Friday Fictioneers, I’m so grateful for this happy writing spot. As always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback. Please leave a comment.

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©Anshu Bhojnagarwala

 

HOPE BURNS

As Jen struck the stone against the blade of her Swiss army knife again, she began to lose hope. Her arms burned from the effort; her fingers were growing numb in the cold.

“Shit! Why didn’t I ever practice!” Tears burned.

“Heeeelp!” She screamed again, knowing she was too far away for anyone to hear.

Tightening her fleece, she pressed the top snap.

“I’ve got to stay calm, to get through the night. Tomorrow, someone’ll come.”

She struck the blade again and a spark lit the moss. “Thank God,” she murmured as the dark fell in around her.

(98 words)

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Friday Fictioneers: Call Of The Wild

I meant to get my entry in right away this week, but two weeks past due, my daughter finally delivered a gorgeous, 7lb 6oz baby boy. Our hearts are full. I’m always thankful to Rochelle for her commitment to Friday Fictioneers, and grateful to the wonderful writing crowd who welcomed me back so kindly last week. As always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback. Please leave a comment.

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©ReneeHeath

 

Call Of The Wild

“Ruthie, where are you going? It’s dark out there.”

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom; I’ll be right back.”

“Again? You just went a half hour ago.” Jeff set his book down. “At least take a head lamp, there are critters out there.”

Unzipping the tent, Ruth grabbed the toilet paper and a flashlight.

“I swear, tomorrow I’m not drinking anything after six. I hate going out at night.”

“A hot drink definitely warms you when you’re camping, but then you gotta teapee!” Jeff guffawed as Ruth hid behind a sagebrush, sighing with relief.

95 words

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Friday Fictioneers: Infinity

Like riding a bike… I saw a picture and 15 minutes later, had a story typed out. Cutting down those words is always the hard part. I’m rusty. As always I’m grateful to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for sticking with this and paving a road for so many writers. I’ve missed my FF posse! Just started blogging again, and writing Heavy stuff. As always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback. Please leave a comment. Waiting for 2nd grandson to be born (any day); I’ll do my best to reciprocate. If anyone would like to contribute a post to the 2018 Attitude of Gratitude, please visit this post and add your piece. There is never enough gratitude!

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©TedStrutz

 

Infinity

Bobby groaned. “Come on baby, I love you.”

“Not until we’re married.”

He rolled his eyes.

“A piece of paper don’t change anything. Why we gotta’ wait?”

“I won’t be stuck here. Get a proper job, marry me, and we won’t have to do it in this old heap. “

“This here is one sweet ride, Sue.”

“This car is going nowhere; unless you get a job, neither are we.”
She straightened her sweater, smoothed her hair.

“Daddy will be staying up.”

Bobby turned the key and eased the Chevy down the rutted, dirt road. He was tired of waiting.

(100 words)

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Heavy (not just about Kiese Laymon, or Nathan Phillips or Nick Sandmann or racism or Gillette or lies or truth)

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This week has been Heavy on so many levels. I’m in Israel, waiting for the birth of my second grandson, who after 41 weeks has decided he doesn’t want to come out. He’s very content to float in his dark, safe world, and keep us waiting. I’m waiting with his mother, my daughter and eldest child, her husband and my-sun-and-moon-and-stars first and (until his brother changes his mind) only grandson, in a small apartment high above a small town, that looks over the terra cotta roofs of single family homes and neighborhoods that are entirely different from the ones I know at home. Home feels very far away, in time and space. I’m grateful for a few friends and my family, for daily messages, videos, pictures, encouragements, virtual hugs, and “chats,” to keep me company, when I settle in each night. We are all grateful when we don’t hear “how are you feeling,” or “when is this baby coming?” It was never helpful, in the history of women giving birth, but it is more taxing when you’re waiting beyond due dates.

Waiting. We clean and clean and clean some more. The desert dust blows and is carried in on our shoes, and hour coats, and through each door and window we open. A three year old drops rice (oh dear, rice again!), pasta, whatever he’s eating, constantly. A three year old never wears something twice, so the laundry is always waiting. A three year old buzzes and melts down and laughs and chatters and loves and makes us all notice when we shine and when we fall short. A three year old demands that we not be complacent or lazy. I go to the park, and read, and fix snacks, and clean some more, and howl at the Super Blood Wolf Moon with my grandson. We are waiting, and it’s magic, and it’s exhausting.

My daughter has no TV. She doesn’t live somewhere where I can walk out and find easy experiences. Our days start at 6:30am and end when we fall asleep at 11… or later, because I am no longer young, and the hard mattress and air of homesickness hits me most when I lie down each night. So I am walking and reading. A lot. I finished 3 books in my first 8 days here. I would never get that done at home. I’ve written blog posts, something I thought might be done for me. I’ve read the news and obsessed about the news. At home, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, all of these things collided this week, and I have found myself challenged to break open and face some unexpected truths.

If you don’t read/watch the news, and you’re hiding under a rock, then you might not know about Native American elder Nathan Phillips and the students of Covington Catholic High school, an all-male private school in Park Hills, KY. You may not know that these two worlds crashed into each other and have sparked a biased fueled debate that has all sides crying racism, foul play, hate, ignorance, that has everyone tweeting and texting and essaying and debating and accusing and calling: he said/she said/they chanted/he drummed/they maligned/he smirked/ he did it/they did it/ no they did it/ YOU. DON’T. GET. IT. YOU. YOU. YOU. DON’T GET IT.

And somehow my waiting and reading and watching all came crashing down on me and I’ve been yelled out, and retweeted, and praised and slapped upside the head, and called ignorant (and in a particularly troubling meme, called a “stupid sandwich” by Gordon Ramsey), called out as “she” who could be expected to land as a racist, and maligned, and praised some more, and trolled… Be clear, the people I meet on the street here in Israel don’t want to humor me by speaking English, and they don’t care about what happens to three groups of people on our national Mall. I’m on my own with this. And because of one book I broke open and I’m looking at all of this with new eyes.

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One of the books I’ve read and then listened to this week is Kiese Laymon’s stunning memoir, Heavy. The title of this book literally sums up every thing this book is about. It’s about a heavy life, literally and figuratively. It’s probably one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, and in light of the timing in which I read it, it has shaken me to the core.

Dear God, such stunningly exquisite pain. That could be my briefest of reviews on GoodReads, if I was brief.

Heavy is not a book I can easily write about, because it’s not a book that’s easily read. It isn’t meant to be easy for anyone… but certainly not for white readers. “I wanted white Americans who had proven themselves even more unwilling to confront their lies, to reconsider how their lies limit our access to good love, healthy choices, and second chances.” In this sharp, direct opening, Kiese Laymon’s poetic words–– because, despite all the don’t-blink moments, all the raw truth and raw pain and raw raw, all the history, and racism, and body shaming, and body loving, and family abuse, and family love, and self hate and self love and raw raw raw Heavy storytelling here–– Laymon’s words, his use of words, his phrasing and construction of sentences, brought me to tears over and over. I was mesmerized.  I was triggered and shaken. I was humbled. I was educated in such a truthful and direct manner, that I felt burst open and provoked (inspired would be too easy) to look deeper and digest each word he wrote. I am afraid to write my own words because I know they will fall short and will not be worthy of his.

I read that this book was the #1 Audio book on Audible for 2018. So I read this book and then listened to it. If you want to really get it all, and integrate the issues here, then reading is (I believe), always the way. Laymon is a write of stunning clarity and power; it’s worth reading. However, if you want to be haunted and shaken on a whole other and equally deep level, listen to Kiese Laymon read his memoir to you. Listen to his voice as it shifts and changes with each life experience. Listen to Laymon tell you the truth, in his own voice. I had to check and recheck, sure that there were multiple readers.

I am traveling. I’m far from home, a clear and obvious outsider, and Laymon’s voice carried me along as I walk each day. His grandmama grabbed my ear and demanded that I not waste her grandson’s diamonds. His mama challenged me to be trustworthy, to be worthy of this book and the truths he delivers. There is no listening to this story, or reading these words, and hiding from truth. There is no “white-washing” the raw details he shares. The life he lays wide open to those of us who take up his memoir.

And having just finished this book, I came to the news story with renewed commitment to not make excuses or give these white privileged boys a pass. I saw their hats; I saw the image of one boy standing, “smirking,” in front of a Native American elder, I saw the obvious racism and hate, that the hats alone were indicative of. And I didn’t look any further. I saw a tweet about this, and I added my own. I should have hit pause. I should have waited until I’d read more, viewed more, thought more.

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And at first, I was retweeted and I was liked, and I felt righteous and I felt clever. I was on the right side of race, and I knew that reading  and listening to Heavy had helped me see clearly. When I composed my tweet, I chose these images carefully, and I still feel they provide a true and powerful comparison, if it were entirely true. But it’s not. Because within minutes the likes and way to go comments were replaced with a barrage of angry, hate comments. They were sharp and hurtful to read. I’m too sensitive; I didn’t have my space suit on. Some made me pause and think. Others made me cringe. Some made me sanctimoniously dismiss and label the sender: Hmm, I see why you have only 37 followers. or What a racist pig. or Well, I certainly don’t care what you think! But a few sent other links and challenged me to look deeper. Interestingly, most of the links came from folks who I stand absolutely opposed to–– with gun toting profile pictures, and outright racist and MAGA slogans that I can’t and will not sit at a table with. But I believe in truth, and I was sure I was right, so it made sense to maybe watch these links, and then be able to dismiss these “trolls” completely. I was sure what I’d find there. Laymon’s words are still fresh and sharp in my head; I would not be a fool and make excuses for white boys behaving as so many white boys always have.

One video put forward and filmed by a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, films the event even before Nathan Phillips arrives. The irony of the group’s name, bitter and anti-semitic, rose up in me instantly, because (and this is definitely an aside) these men definitely do not represent Hebrews or Israelites–– something I do know a lot about. In fact, these Black men spewed hate in all directions: saying vile things about Jews, whites, gays, gays and more gays, Catholic priests. They said things that should bother us all. They were also spot on and called it out when they noted that the Coventry students were being disrespectful to Nathan Phillips, as he intervened in the conflict, in what he explained was an attempt to bring peace. They, the Black Hebrew Israelites, filmed every bit of it, from one angle.

But there were lots of video cameras there, though few people stepping in or bringing order. Laura Wagner wrote a piece for Dead Spin that includes a video showing behavior by the Coventry boys that is deeply offensive as well. I’ve read numerous articles I still see the Coventry students’ behavior as wrong on so many levels. I don’t feel they can be fully exonerated by explanations and more videos, but I don’t believe they are the ugly, ugly young men I initially saw.

But, the conflict clearly started elsewhere. Nathan Phillips clearly walked up to the now infamous Nick Sandmann, who explains his behavior very differently than I was quick to assume of him. I can’t presume he’s lying, but his smile still haunts me. I never heard in any of the videos I watched (the longest being almost an hour and a half), from any of the many sides who posted versions, the students chant “Build that wall!” or “go back to the reservation!” I never heard them call out racist slurs. I did see their group surround Nathan Phillips after he begins drumming in Sandmann’s face. I did see the Coventry students openly mock his chanting and make chopping hand motions. In the video that Laura Wagner posted, I see blatant escalation and mob mentality, that expands the incident further. In all of the videos, I see two groups clearly out of control.

I wondered over and over, why no one was intervening in a situation that had clearly gone entirely awry, and could conceivably escalate into violence. Where were the police? Oh, right government shut down. Teachers? Where were they? Parent chaperones? Didn’t parents see this as potentially dangerous, and clearly disrespectful, once Phillips was on the scene. Where were any adults who should have ushered these kids away, and told them they were behaving disrespectfully (I saw that in every video), that this was not a fight worth fighting (the Black Hebrew Israelites will only continue to engage), that when an Native American Elder approaches you and is drumming, and you don’t know what it means, or you don’t agree with him, or you are confused and feel challenged or threatened (all statements made by Sandmann), you don’t stand there smirking while your classmates cheer and yell in the background, you move on.

A day later, when I engaged in a discussion on a blog friend’s FB page, and tried to explain that the initial news soundbites were biased, and that while I believe their behavior was disrespectful I wasn’t sure it was the racism initially reported, or that there was inevitably bias on both sides, I was slammed again. The woman whose page it is is a Black woman who is a powerhouse business woman, out there letting all men know that woman can do it themselves, and do it well. I admire her and I follow her posts. We are usually on the same “side” of issues, and so I took my white privilege right in there and expressed my views. I should have hit pause. I should have waited until I’d read more, viewed more, thought more. A Black man (M) who read my opinion hit back with a comment that cut me much deeper than “Idiot Sandwich” had. “love how she gave a long drawn out precursor to ultimately land where we knew she was going with her statement, which was to give an excuse for his/their actions. Comical.” She being me. She being an implied racist. MAGA tweeters were mean and ugly, but this hurt more.

My blog friend explained that M is direct and that we could both express our views, but she left a heart on his comment, and I felt doubly stung. I found his comment as prejudiced as I was being accused of. I wanted to defend myself, but Laymon’s words kept echoing in my head. I didn’t want to inflict any more pain or be insensitive. I didn’t want to lie, but I knew that calling this man out was a sticky mine field. My father raised me in the 60s to see people, not race. He was a product of his times, and didn’t understand that you can’t look past race. You can be on the right side or the wrong side. M labeled me the wrong side, and it burned.

Still, when I sent my tweet out, I don’t believe I was entirely on the right side there, either. While I think that the behavior of Coventry students was racist and disrespectful, I don’t believe I should have equated the image of Nick Sandmann standing face to face with Nathan Phillips, with the truly violent and hateful white faces screaming at the Hazel Bryan and the Little Rock Nine. They are similar, but they are not the same. I was wrong. I was biased. Reading David Brooks’ How We Destroy Lives this morning, I saw the truth even clearer. The Coventry/Phillips video flies in the face of the Gillette ad that had everyone buzzing and slinging words last week. In my mind, Gillette landed on the right side there, and there is no doubt in my mind that we the Coventry students were bullies. There is no doubt in my mind that this week, I have fumbled with right and wrong.

“I wanted to tell I lie. I told a lie… I want to tell the truth.” Kiese Laymon whispers in my ear. I have to believe that racism and hate and bias can only continue to thrive, when we hold them up as truths. When we are not willing to look at all sides and dig deeper. I was wrong. And I was right. So many others were wrong or right too. I believe that. I also believe that there was racism and hate on the Mall that day, and there is no one story that tells us truth.

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings changed me forever, when I was a college freshman. I’ve read all of her work, all of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin… I studied African American history and experience in my graduate work, to become an MSW. However, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy has demanded that I confront my lies, that I dig for truth and not try to change it when I see it. This week I listened to Kiese Laymon’s Heavy book and I watched heavy news from home and I felt heavy, heavy, heavy. I watched my heavy daughter wait for the birth of a child I will love so much that I burst open again. I felt hopeful and tired and ready to keep seeking answers, so that my grandchildren will be on a right side. That they will speak truth and not turn away or ignore things that should not be ignored. This week has been Heavy, and life changing. This week, this book, this Super Wolf Moon, this waiting, this bonding, this news watching and this truth telling. This is Heavy.

You can read more about the Covington/Phillips event by hitting the links in this post, or reading these. There are countless more, that you can look for and read. I read and watched every link included. You can find Heavy on kindle, hard cover, or Audible. But find it. Share your thoughts, truths, opinions in the comment section; I want to hear what you have to say.

Nathan Phillips’ story, Nick Sandmann’s story, This riveting piece by Laura Wagner for Dead SpinCatholic News Agency, NYTimes’ David Brooks, Hour+-long Black Hebrew Israelites video which certainly shows the BHI launching foul attacks but also gives context leading up to and long after events, GC gives a well documented account with more video that is indicting of the Coventry students, Indian Country Today, Slate, Gillette

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Spotlight On Claire Fuller

Update: Now that I’m (tentatively she said) back to blogging, I want to start with a blog update. For anyone who is still interested in participating in the 2018 Attitude of Gratitude (#BloggersUnite #AttitudeofGratitude), I’ve extended it until January 31st at 11:59pm. One would think I’d learn by now; it takes a while for this to catch on. There have been so many lovely additions, so many wonderful bloggers adding their gratitude posts in the last week, that it only makes sense to make it last longer. I’ve loved reading every one of them, and have been especially tickled (yes, tickled) by the number of new to me bloggers I’ve met. Just wonderful! So I’m extending the deadline, in the hopes that others will join us; there can’t be too much gratitude! So, if you’re interested, or no someone who is, please check out the details here. You can also find all of the other entries at the end of my post. If you join and link back to my piece, I will add your name as well. Join us! (If you can’t tell, all those link backs are meant to lead you back to my post)

And now, drum roll please…. the enormously talented author and writer, Claire Fuller:

 

 

I first got to know Claire Fuller through an online flash fiction group that we both participate in, Friday Fictioneers. It’s open to anyone who wants to create a story form the weekly photo prompt, and brings folks from all over the world together. For nearly two years I never missed a week. Then for another year my submissions were less consistently, and now it’s been a year or so since I’ve contributed… I’m getting ready to change that. Writers like Claire, Amy* (who introduced me to FF), Rochelle, Sandra, CE, Dale, Russell, Louise, Lish, Loré, Bjorn* –– and so many other wonderful writers–– became my online friends and writing community. Each week they provided encouragement and feedback for my stories, and some of us got to know each other a little better via messenger and the comments we left on one another’s stories. *Some of these people I’ve met in person, as I’ve travelled. That is always icing on the cake! I haven’t met Claire in person, but I feel like we know each other, and it’s been a joyful experience to watch her journey from aspiring to now successful published author.

From the start I was drawn to the magic Claire wove in 100 words–– creating beautiful scenes, dialogue and story arcs in so few words. When her first book, Our Endless Numbered Days, was published, I anticipated a wonderful story and I was not disappointed; it’s spectacular! Her second book, Swimming Lessons, proved that she was a writer with stories to tell, and not a one hit wonder. Her newest book, Bitter Orange establishes Fuller as a writer who will be remembered.

In Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller’s writing is atmospheric, sharp and compelling. It reads like an English classic, with modern edge and intelligence. The mood is dreamy and mysterious, but holds the reader tight, as dying Frances Jellico reflects back on a few weeks in the summer of 1969, when her life was changed forever. After her mother’s death, Frances accepts a job in a dilapidated country estate in England, researching and reporting on the condition of a bridge on the property–– her area of knowledge. Frances dreams of finding fame in the discovery of a Palladian bridge; she dreams of connection and normalcy. From the start, it’s unclear whether any of these things are possible.

Staying in the rooms below her sparse attic room is a mysterious, provocative couple, Cara–– fragile and unpredictable, and Peter–– attractive, aloof and an expert on architecture. He is there to catalogue the estate. Frances discovers a spy hole in the floor of her bathroom and is drawn into the volatile and mysterious life of this seductive couple. Their stories intersect and Frances finds herself increasingly drawn into a world she’s never experienced, having lived a sheltered existence as her mother’s caretaker for ten years. Her world and that of Peter and Cara’s could not be more different.

The town’s vicar, Victor, sits beside Frances as her life fades, trying to uncover facts from this shocking summer. He draws out her story slowly, seeking the truth of the events that rocked his world as well. Just as Victor sits on the edge of his seat each day, eliciting more and more of Frances’ story, Fuller’s vivid and beautiful storytelling propels the reader deeper into her strange world.

It’s a story that slowly twists and turns, keeping the reader riveted, while seducing them with languid pacing. I found myself sure of things, only to realize I’d gone down the wrong path, just as Frances does. This book reminded me of Sophie’s Choice in the narration, with thriller elements of Girl On The Train (without any of the cliché), and a magical feel reminiscent of The Little Princess. A strange mix of references, but Fuller’s writing is that special.

I could not put this book down, and finished it in less than 2 days… reading every chance I got. If you are looking for a book that pulls you in, holds you close, and leaves you replaying scenes for weeks, Bitter Orange is a must read. Claire Fuller is a master story teller. She had me at 100 words, but oh what she can do with 323 pages!

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Grateful

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gratitude |ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od|

noun

the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness: she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.

The dictionary gives that definition for the word Gratitude. It’s an expression we use frequently in our society, and I believe, often without thought. “I’m so grateful it’s sunny!” Sure, it’s nice that it’s sunny. You might not want rain right now. But perhaps you haven’t stopped and felt a true sense of gratitude for the sun–– that it provides warmth, it helps things grow, it brightens our moods, it creates power… you’re happy that it’s not raining, happy to see the sun, but are you feeling true gratitude?

I frequently hear people talk about keeping gratitude journals these days. I see a lot of focus on gratitude, but I also notice a lot of negativity and a lack of gratitude.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of complaining, and not pausing to feel gratitude for the many fortunate things in my life. I have many blessings–– I word I use with little or no attention to faith. My life is good, and there is much to be grateful for. Yet it’s easy to focus on the negative political climate, the destruction of our natural environments and the planet as a whole (and if you don’t believe that’s happening; just move on to another post); the person on the bus/at the intersection/in line at the store that was rude to me, or so many other things that happen daily, which do not bring gratitude. These things can mount and easily push my buttons.

It’s easy to forget that the sun did shine; there are people like me, in many places, working to save our planet; someone at the store stepped aside for me or smiled kindly. I might forget that I have friends and family who love me. I have a beautiful home, clean easy water, and good food to eat. I have two dogs that make me smile every morning. I’ve been married for thirty-two years to someone who loves me and is always there for me. I have excellent health care, even if I get annoyed by small details of that healthcare. There’s a long list of things that I could pause and feel grateful for, each and every day, but I don’t always do that.

I think many people use happiness and gratitude interchangeably, but I don’t believe the two are one and the same. It’s often written that “happiness is fleeting” (here, here, here), while I believe that true gratitude is far more sustaining. It makes sense to me, that if someone focuses on gratitude, and feels it in its truest sense, it’s likely to be more lasting. It’s something that fills you and is likely to create that fleeting happiness, and also likely to leave a deeper sense of appreciation that lingers beyond when the happiness has… well, fleeted.

For the fifth year in a row, I recently hosted the Attitude of Gratitude. The history of it is spelled out in that post, but it started five years ago with a focus on happiness, more than gratitude. Over time, my focus has shifted a little. I’ve realized that in asking others to focus on gratitude, I’m asking each of us to really pause and appreciate all of the things in life that we’re grateful for, the things that are not necessarily fleeting–– the things we might take for granted, because they are so essential to our happiness, but in our tendency to notice them in those fleeting moments of happiness, we forget just how grateful we are for them.

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No doubt, there are countless things in each of our lives that we take for granted and rarely express real gratitude for each day:  Clean air, safety, love, companionship, and easy access to food–– to name some basics. For instance, how often do you really pause to think about how important clean water is, and how fortunate you are to have it? So many people in the world don’t. So many people walk miles, often hours each way, just to get safe water for washing and drinking. So many people die because they don’t have it. Such a simple thing, yet we seldom take the time to be grateful for.

So far 14 bloggers have participated in this year’s Attitude of Gratitude; I’ve included links to their posts, at the bottom of mine. I know several other people who chose to write lists and take the challenge, but who do not blog and/or did not post their lists. That’s something I feel truly grateful for! I’ve read every one of those lists, and I’m always struck by how many things other people share, that I too feel grateful for. Many of these things elicit happiness daily, but in that concept of fleeting, I’m aware that I don’t take the time I should to actually celebrate some of them. I don’t pause enough and allow myself to actively feel the gratitude some of they’re worthy of. I’d like to keep a gratitude journal, but I don’t. I’ve tried, and it did in fact make me feel good. But I didn’t keep it up.

So, once a year I’m happy to “flood the internet” with gratitude. I’m under no illusion that the flood is small, but I do believe that gratitude begets more gratitude, and that… is something I feel very grateful for.

What are you grateful for? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. 

The Attitude of Gratitude is scheduled to end on January 15th. If you would still like to join us, please check out the details here. Follow the instructions, and add your link to the InLinkz. I will also add a link to your post on my own post.

 

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  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, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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