So long, Tulsa.

This morning I’m going to go say goodbye to relatives. This afternoon Joe gets here. Then we’re going to spend time filling up two cars with our earthly possessions, and by Tuesday we will be in New York City.

In honor of the occasion, I’m going to repost something that was on my last blog, written while I was still in shock of the good news. (Originally posted May 10th.)

***

This week has been surreal.  I’m going to tell you a secret. Right now, I’m wearing a shirt that has three holes in it large enough to pass a novel through. I can dip my hand into one and wave at people through another. In a few weeks, I’ll be able to afford a whole new wardrobe. Not to mention some garden soil.

Joe got an amazing new job, he’s been working hard taking classes and such, and it’s finally paid off. There’s a drawback though. It’s in New York. This means I will have to miss him horribly while he gets settled in. I might be able to visit, but it will be a bit before we are ready to move the whole family there. All things considered, I might not be able to move up there for several months.

Maybe I get to enjoy my harvest before I go, maybe not. I plan on continuing with what I’m doing for now, I’ll leave a tiny fingerprint of extra diversity behind me already with some of the plants I’ve brought in or grown. I hope to be able to gather some seeds to throw in a few areas, or I guess I will be able to buy a mixture soon. Buying something as frivolous as wildflower seeds is a strange new concept for me.

He leaves next week. I keep following him around like one of the dogs, just to sit near him while I can. But I will move up there.

Which means that I’m going to have to live within commuting distance to one of the largest cities on the planet. It is in the exact opposite direction of my dreams of living in California again. And, well, it’s a city. A big one. A big stinky cement covered traffic jam with cranky people. Sigh.

At least a rebel wild food maniac still gives tours in Central Park, so I can eat a dandelion with one of my heroes. I guess I’ll probably also take up guerilla gardening. And write. I do that sometimes. I admit, sometimes I even write poetry. Tongue in cheek poetry.


Suburban Sunshine


Across the lawn, a man of gold did flow

His grace spoke soft, his strength gave truth

He sang his hope, his pride of glories grown.

But lo, behold, the putrid waves of smoke

Tendrils of bitter lion’s teeth entwined

He fell to monsters beneath soft blue grass

His cries lost to the raw, eldritch madness

Into the soft embrace of well-fed soil.

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The Loop

I almost lost the trail. Here it is, a bit of pink thread, the right shade for the child’s skirt on a tangle of rusted junk. The sun threatens to set, warm light giving a soft glow to the glitters of glass along the sides of the alley. Which way?

The old man returns, stepping out from the shadows. I suddenly smell old paper and hear something rustling. The stern lines on his face are softer, looking oddly gentle. Tired, maybe.

“I’m close, I can feel it.” I say.

He looks down the alley, glancing over his shoulder at the decrepit house with the creaking swing set, then back ahead of himself, his eyes resting on a bus stop’s advertisement, some hotline number for those in crisis. “You need to know where to go.”

“We’ll find her. She went one way or the other, she wouldn’t have had a lot of time before dawn to get to her mama.”

Pa smiled softly, “Well, when you find it, it will feel like you’ve been there before.” He’s gone again. He seems to be fading. Doesn’t seem to make as much sense as he used to. Unless he means that’s part of their magic he told me about. That charming thing they do.

I look at the old swing set. I bet the little leech used to play on that. I step carefully through the cut fence. I can feel them. This place hums with suck, a sickly aura that saps you right down.

I look through the little broken window on the door, down a hall stained dark and trashed by squatters. For a second, I hear a woman screaming, and have a flash, a weird impression of a beautiful woman standing in the middle of the hallway, a child hiding in the corner behind her, the woman holding a baseball bat, her face distorted with rage and hatred. Must be haunted.

I enter the hall, start looking around for places you might be able to hide from the sun. Basement seems too obvious a choice to really be safe, but I’m not so sure these things run on a fully working brain. They seem kind of like animals, might be working on instinct alone, brain trashed when they stop being human. Steps are probably in the kitchen.

Kitchen seems familiar. Did I dream of this tile? That’s right. The old man told me. The right place will feel like deja-vous. I pull out my Maglite and start down the stairs. There they are. Two piles of freshly turned earth. Just like I knew there would be. I grab my stake, and head toward the shallow grave of the bitch monster who killed my wife and daughter, the one I will kill or die trying.

For What It’s Worth

I’m up to my neck in packing, we leave in two weeks. So I’m going to repost an adventure I shared back on my old blog when I had the realization that I was moving into a thicket of people rather than trees.

*** 

This is longer than a blog post, so grab a refreshment and kick your feet up. I’ve been stuck inside for days with a migraine, but I am feeling well enough to look at a screen and write, so I’m going to tell you a story. My current life is nice and peaceful, a quiet little family life. But man, things used to be different.

Once upon a time, I was a street kid in pre-Katrina New Orleans. I landed in town early January, 1996. I had been homeless for about six months due to a failure to see eye to eye with my grandparents when it came to religion, and because I lived with them, it reached a breaking point.

My reverence of nature, science, and evolution has reached spiritual levels, and I see myself as Pagan because of it. Grandma is Catholic. I had no problem with her religion, but she took issue with mine. I willingly left, but my housekeys were already gone from my keyring. Later, she opened up to it and realized I was neither Satanic nor being rebellious. But that wouldn’t happen for a couple of years. So, for about a year and a half, I went on various adventures in a few cities.

I was not fond of New Orleans. Maybe if I had a safe place to sleep, my opinion would be different. Probably not, because crowds kind of freak me out. A combination of loud noises, darkness, and a crowd is likely to cause panic attacks. That will come up later, I promise.

I got stranded in New Orleans trying to get to a Rainbow Gathering in Florida. This is basically an acre of hippies living it up on someone’s land, as sustainably as they can with everyone pitching in. This sounded like where I wanted to be, I was hoping my ability to work well with my hands would mean I could get someone to let me join them on one of those crafty tribal nomad type things, travelling the country selling handmade goods at fairs.

I managed to get myself to the French Quarter where a friend of mine had arranged a ride to come and pick me up, but they never showed. I heard a rumor they were busted with pot in their van. I tried to find another ride, but it was right before Mardi Gras, so everyone was going into the city, and no one would be leaving until the whole thing was done. Nothing to do but go along with it.

Adventures happened, a few weeks passed, and I found myself invited to a protest march for street kid’s rights. Now, I don’t know exactly what was truth and what was rumor, but it was said that cops were picking up street kids under “Napoleonic Law” (I was told it was summed up as “anything to keep the peace”). Personally, I’ve always had positive experiences with cops, even in New Orleans, but I understand the problem.

Kids were being arrested for ridiculous infringements. One girl was “impersonating an airplane” (just walking along the sidewalk making plane noises in the sunshine). One kid committed “assault on a cheeseburger” (took off the pickles and threw them away). A common one was “leaning with intent to fall” (sitting against a wall intending to fall over and go to sleep on the sidewalk, even if the person was fully alert and in conversation with their friends). The city’s method for keeping nasty street children out of the eye of tourists was to arrest them.

To make it even more concerning, these street kids were going to be held until after the next festival (this one being Mardi Gras, but they have festivals all year long and this was routine). Then, when the crowds were gone and the streets were trashed, the kids would be shuffled along in orange jumpsuits sweeping the vomit out of the gutters.

Now, we knew we weren’t the most beloved part of city life, but it all struck us as rather unfair as we were Americans too, so a group of the more politically inclined among us decided to speak up and perform a march. We would all meet in a warehouse that had been converted into apartments, they had a giant community room that they rented out to us.

The huge space was mostly open, except for a few office sized rooms at one end to live in. Residents bathed in the shared kitchen’s industrial sink, sponge baths behind a curtain on wheels. Clothing lines dripped dry near the common area, a wide-open space with scattered couches and a few coffee tables.

The march was to start at midnight, and until then we just hung out. In this crowd of people, that meant there was someone present, a legend I had not yet seen with my own eyes as I was only a casual visitor to drug cultures. A mad doser. Someone who tells you to open your mouth, and if you do, they put a generous dose of LSD onto your tongue.

There was only one sober street kid in the room, and due to the bitter rivalry between street hippies and gutter punks, the room was more populated by flowing scarves and ankle bells than it was spikes and anarchy signs. As a goth with only the soul of a hippie from a midwestern suburb reminiscent of Donna Reed, this was an unfamiliar atmosphere all around.

I was in a room full of kids who wished with all their hearts it was still the sixties, and we were all high as kites. They had drums, guitars, a didgeridoo, tambourines, and finger chimes. Most of them knew how to belly dance from practicing around bonfires. Some of them knew how to juggle fire, but in the warehouse they could only throw their unlit toys in the air. They sure did put on a good show regardless.

You know that scene in the third Matrix movie, the one inside a giant cave where they’re all dancing? Take away the fire, make the music some acoustic world style music, and picture it inside a warehouse with thrift store decor. That’s the party I was at. Similar to a bonfire at the beach, but with a grungy ultra-urban decay feel, almost post-apocalyptic in it’s coolness.

It was amazing, but it was also a crowd in an enclosed space. I needed some air, so my moronic teenage self decided to find some peace and quiet by stepping outside for a little walk. Did I mention I was on acid? By the way, it was the weekend before Mardi Gras, two blocks from Bourbon street.

So, I wandered along, morbidly curious about what the fuss looked like, and I got a little too close to the edge of the crowd. I found myself shoved into it, and I was having difficulty fighting my way back out of it again.

Then, something just fucking perfect happened and some girl on a balcony twenty feet away from me lifted up her shirt. All the young men directly under the balcony looked up, causing a chain reaction that was terrifying to watch approach me. People started tilting backward to the point that they all fell down. Everyone laughed except me, because they all managed to get to their feet before I could.

They closed above me. It was shoulder to shoulder people and I was on my back on the ground, on a couple of hits of some quite spectacular LSD, and I’m prone to panic attacks.

I was no longer in control. I opened up my mouth and helplessly started screaming a wordless note with the very best of my ability. My ability is good. Anxiety makes me loud. Panic had me frozen in place.

Four beautiful, glorious young men came to my rescue, and I’m so sorry, young athletic frat boys glistening in your beautiful auras reminiscent of a paladin’s shining armor, I am so very sorry I could not stop screaming, I assure you I was mortified by my behavior the entire time. Yes, I heard your pleas to stop, and I tried. I promise. Thank you so much for delivering me to safety, despite my ragged appearance and probably not the freshest of scents. You are fucking heroes.

So, I got the fuck out of there as soon as the dizziness passed, and went back to the safety of the freakiest party I’ve ever been too. Well, until I made my way to bonfires later, but that’s not this story.

I settled into a couch where my future ex husband was saving me a seat. Not long after that, our mutual friend stepped outside to have a cigarette, and was immediately arrested. He was high as a kite, but he had no chance to misbehave or make a nuisance of himself before he was in cuffs.

Policemen started pouring into the room. There was complete silence for about five minutes. The young man who organized the event spoke with the police, the more experienced protestors passed around the word to be quiet, we had done nothing illegal (that the cops knew of) and they would not hurt us, be still and do not speak. We held hands.

Still reeling from my previous misadventure, I sat in the most tension filled room in my life. A small forever passed.

Then the one sober hippie did something amazing. He started quietly playing his guitar, something that’s been one of my favorites ever since, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware.”

We all started singing. We sat still, we didn’t talk to each other, we didn’t touch our things, and we all sang the parts we knew, one protest song after another. Some of the cops were smiling and dancing a little bit as they stood in place. Some of the other cops were giving them dirty looks.

So then, the fucking mayor and chief of police walk in. I’m in a movie or something for sure by now, right? I mean, this could not possibly get more surreal.

They quietly talk to our fearless leader while he trips his balls off. Josh apparently forgot to file a permit for his march, or he didn’t do it on purpose I’m not quite sure. I only knew him a little, and only got to talk to him for five minutes after this was all said and done.

Turns out the city of New Orleans did not want a large group of stinky hippies marching down Bourbon street yelling about the things they’ve been arrested for on the weekend before Mardi Gras. Bad for tourism. Therefore, when our friend stepped outside they decided to interpret it as starting a march he didn’t have a permit for.

We never saw our arrested friend again. I kept his teddy bear for him, hoping to return it because I know it meant a lot to him, but a couple of days after Mardi Gras we managed to find a ride out of town, and we took it. I didn’t have a safe place for his stuff.

No point to that. Just a couple of homeless teenagers carrying around a teddy bear. I can’t remember what happened to Toe Bear, I kind of miss him too. Probably one of the things I lost in the few times I myself got separated from my own bags.

Anyway, Josh the fearless leader negotiated with the two city bigwigs for quite some time. The guy who owned the building got in on it, as he was evicting us at midnight because that’s when our lease was up, and the cops were saying they would interpret that as the march starting, we would all go to jail. After several minutes of discussion, he offered to extend the lease for free to allow us time to work things out. Thanks, dude.

Eventually, Josh came back in a daze, and the cops quietly left. His eyes were all huge with shock as he said, “I got us a meeting where they will hear me out on Monday.”

No idea how it went, we left before the aftermath had settled enough for the rumors to make sense. Likely it didn’t accomplish too much, but possibly it got us a little more respect. Whatever the outcome, good job, Josh. You got heard, and everyone involved has a story to last a lifetime. I hope you’re doing well.

Crowds. Mother fucking crowds. Ah, New York City, you’re going to be another one of those magnificent times of both joy and rampant overwhelming anxiety, aren’t you?

Boing, boing, boing.

This week, I dove headfirst into a semi-distraction. One that will help my writing in the end in more ways than one, even if it doesn’t seem connected at first.

Also, it may look like I’m about to lapse into irrelevant whining. Stick with me. This is for writers, I have no intention of boring you with details.

I mentioned that hunting dinosaurs helps me with my goal of whipping my chronic pain into submission, so I can go camping. I can afford equipment and the occasional road trip now, after all. Can’t let pain hold me back from that one, I have bigfeet to meet.

Exercise can relieve the pain of fibromyalgia. Not at first though. At first, it gets worse and it’s kind of hard to tell if I’ve sprained something, or it’s just my nerve endings being idiots and panicking like wussy little bitches again.

So, I take it slow and gentle. My dumb ass has certainly pushed myself too hard in the past, and then gone and made recovery a slow thing because it’s hard to tell if I’m walking around on a real injury or not.

Luckily, milestones still happen even when taking it easy. I’ve finally reached the flexibility that I had before I got pregnant with my daughter. This milestone is simple, but opens a lot of possibilities.

I am now flexible enough to start learning to belly dance again. I was struggling with simple moves when I got pregnant, those isolations are magnificent physical therapy.

Plus, I realized that I have some resources now. I can afford some simple equipment to make my routines more effective. And I realized something else, too. I would be seeing Joe in a month, and that might not be time to lose a lot of weight, but I can get as toned as possible.

So, I splurged, bought some simple equipment from Walmart, and have been using it to work out my nervous energy and excitement. I’ll be seeing him at the end of this month. Bouncing on a ball and kicking in delight is certainly my mood.

All week long, instead of writing I’ve been working on learning to use my new stuff, motivated by my girly crush but incredibly happy that a side effect will be more mobility and (drumroll) better brain health, increasing the circulation my brain needs for writing.

A lot of skill books I’ve been perusing lately (both meanings) have mentioned the connection between writing and exercise. Julia Cameron frequently praises walking and its merits for the creative person. Jordan Rosenfeld praises the merits of moving around so much she makes it part of the learning process for her chapters in A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. In Fire Up Your Writing BrainSusan Reynolds gives the neurological benefits of increased circulation from sustained exercise on brain health, making the general task of writing more efficient.

That’s just the stuff I’ve run across in the last couple of months. I know I have things from school that talked about the neurological benefits of exercise. It also has the indirect side effect of increasing discipline and energy, both traits put to good use in a writing practice.

Anyway, it’s nice how it all comes together. Like when you shop at thrift stores because you’re broke, but you realize that you are also conserving resources, and you know your money goes to a charity rather than “the man”. Never do anything for just one reason, it’s a waste of time.

Now I can dance and play for beauty, for relaxation, for health, for mind, and eventual awesome nature adventures (likely to provide content for my writing). Naturally, I will also dance to awaken my muse.

As long as no one is looking, I get a chance to dance through imaginary and exotic locations while dreaming up adventures far away. Seductive little plot bunnies will lazily drip from my fluttering fingers. The kind of daydreaming that can happen when relaxing and gently moving while listening to music can do magic.

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P.S. – I want to just straight up talk to people in chronic pain now. Those with no need to hear can wander off, this is where I hid the boring details.

Please move around as much as you can. You don’t have to work to the point of pain and buckets of sweat, especially if, like me, you are an idiot with a history of pushing yourself to the point of injury. Just start with something gentle, and do a steady pace so you don’t burn out or overextend.

If there are things that you can’t do, find something you can do. Find things that feel good and provide immediate pain relief, like yoga or water aerobics (YMCA sometimes provides classes if you need more than internet instructions).

I have friends with chronic pain that only faced it with medication and rest, and as the years went on, they collapsed under the weight of it, to the point that they can’t live a life without assistance. I’ve seen people rely on medication, and end up adding opiate addiction to their list of problems, and it looks a lot worse than pain alone.

I’ve had friends with conditions that will always prevent certain exercise (especially spinal conditions) that still do what they can as much as they can, and they live independently. My own experience shows me that if I don’t move around when I start getting sore, I am asking for a very limited life full of pain.

My experience has also shown me how limited money can be, and how priorities often put frivolous things, like simple equipment for physical therapy, aside.

This is what my most recent shopping spree has taught me, and what I want to share with you.

If you suffer from chronic pain, but you’re flat broke and you can’t justify spending $15 on a stupid foam roller or a bouncy ball, do so anyway (if your doctor agrees). Don’t starve, but maybe eat beans rather than hamburger helper a couple of times. Or, see if you can make your home more resource efficient to lower your bills. Turn off more lights, block drafts, that kind of stuff. Find a way to work simple equipment in, it’s worth the investment.

I’d start with a stability ball. Don’t worry about an instructional DVD. Apparently you have internet access, and YouTube is full of instructional videos. Sitting upright and doing slow clockwise and counter clockwise circles with my hips feels sooo good when my lower back locks up. When my upper back is stiff, resting across the top of the ball can really help me open it up for some relief.

The foam roller “hurts so good”. It confuses your nerves into submission. Be careful of your lower spine, and don’t worry about fumbling around like an idiot at first, you’ll get the hang of it.

Other stuff, like walking weights and yoga blocks are optional but inexpensive. They can help you reach your goals more quickly and give you a wider range of options. The more options you have, the more varied and effective your routine becomes. I am reaching areas that need work more easily now.

My best weapon against pain, yoga, doesn’t require any equipment and the internet is full of instruction. I started doing it when I was 14 and my back started hurting. Because I mostly use it for pain control, I can’t do anything super impressive. Just knowing a handful of moves that alleviate my most common pains has been a great way to get more comfortable.

It feels great, and it doesn’t require getting sweaty. Plus, yoga teaches you to listen to your body, and that is a great way to prevent pain from bad posture. You become more aware of areas under strain, adjust your balance to soften the pressure, and your muscles are stronger to help hold you in the new posture.

When pregnant with my son, I was forced into inactivity by bedrest (preeclampsia). Before I was pregnant, my pain was just some annoying bad back stuff and old injuries that refused to heal right. Sometimes they would spasm, but I hadn’t reached the point of thinking anything was seriously wrong.

After he was born, I was crawling on the ground in pain. I had lead an active enough life, walking and biking everywhere because I’m not fond of cars, and the muscles had prevented a lot of my pain. My reaction to sudden weakness and the pain that came with it was to sit on a heating pad and rest.

That wasn’t a good idea, and I spent a couple of years where a week out of every month I had to use a cane. When I started walking instead of taking the bus, struggling through the pain that wanted to hold me back, after a few months I was able to put my cane aside and I haven’t needed it regularly since.

When life forces me into inactivity and I start exercising to recover, there is a certain point were even though I’m moving gently, post-exercise stiffness kicks in and adds another layer to my pain. I’ve learned to love when this happens.

For one thing, the best way to deal with it is to stretch. Get up and move around, work it out. This means it just reinforces my goals, and I start working a little harder, but stretching feels great so I don’t mind.

The next phase is just around the corner, and it’s a great one. The pain starts moving from my joints to the surrounding muscle, and then shortly after that my overall pain starts decreasing.

Stiff muscle pain means they are healing, growing stronger tissue, that stronger tissue starts cushioning my joints and my nerve endings, and makes it easier to hold correct posture for longer periods of time, preventing some of the pain from occurring in the first place. Reward.

This is why I’m drawing out this long, personal, and probably somewhat boring story. If you have pain, and you’ve tried to work it out, but it just got worse and you gave up, as long as your doctor is okay with it, consider trying again. Keep your Epsom salts and heating pads on hand, and work out stiffness with stretching.

Not every condition is like mine, but if your doctor has been a jerk harassing you about exercise, please give into it. You’ll recover some of the bits of life lost to pain.

Bring On the Scent of Fire

Outside, it’s still in the 90s, though we’re coming out of the barren summer and starting to get the first rains of autumn. A lot of the land still looks summer scorched, and no leaves have turned, but the winds are picking up and the sky is clouding over quite a bit lately.

I am already starting to look forward to the harvest season, with more excitement than I’ve felt for approaching holidays for a long time. I will be settled in to a new home by the time October rolls around, and already out on new adventures.

And, best of all, I won’t have to miss Joe anymore. I should be able to move up there in about a month. So, bring on October, by then I’ll be unpacked. Our routines will be settled in, the air will be a more comfortable temperature for exploring, and I get to play with the ghosts of poets and eat sushi in China Town. This is worse than waiting for Christmas when you’re young enough for your gifts to still be awesome.

So, naturally the Halloween season is already beginning in my heart. I’m getting a head start by spending some time thinking about monsters.

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I pulled out my copy of Writing Monsters by Philip Athans and am rereading it, doing the slow, thinky kind of reading while I doodle and daydream. Squamous plot bunnies keep slithering off my pages through the moonlit fog to prey on the unwary traveler.

Sometime soon I’d like to get back to a couple of book ideas I have kicking around, but first I want to spend some time engaging in a little spiral learning, rereading skill books and churning my bunnies through the creativity machine for some practice. It seems that I’ll be more likely to be able to focus on novels after the boxes have been unpacked, or at least most of them.