CNF: 3 Diary Entries from Early COVID-19

My musings from the first three days in Louisiana: when things were shutting down in Florida due to the virus and my guy wanted us to get out of the big city and take refuge in the country. We ended up staying for 6.5 weeks.

 

 

Day One 03/22/2020

 

It’s weird being a guest in someone’s home for an undisclosed amount of time. You open your car door – every space is messily packed with canned goods and spice jars and little girl socks – and step out in unfamiliar territory. 

They ask ‘need help with anything’ as if they are true bellmen. Waiting for you to unleash your bags on them, along with a flurry of ones or fives for their good service. 

You shake your head no and shyly look away because how do you tell someone who is so graciously opening their home to you that you don’t want to stay. You don’t want to unspool your hastily packed belongings because it is the last signifier that you will not be going home – to your safe space – anytime soon. You don’t want to appear ungrateful so you ask ‘meaningful’ questions like “do you mind if I use this space” – despite it being obvious that they cleared it out just for you. 

You don’t want to appear bothersome so you stumble over phrases like “no rush” and “hey, if you don’t mind, can I…” and “I’m going to be doing __insert random activity here __” because you don’t want them to think you’re hiding in your room.

Which you are. You don’t mean to but the pungent smell of wet walls mixed with summer heat and spring rain doesn’t bode with the weed they’ve taken up in the living room. And you have the baby to think about, of course.

They did ask “hey, do you mind if we smoke in here? If the baby is in there?” they point to your jail, I mean room, and with your eyes you follow their finger to the closed door that protects your tiny human. 

You prefer they not. You hate the smell. Despite having done it yourself, you can’t imagine making it a daily, weekly, or even monthly affair if you were back home when life was normal. The smell sticks to you like glue. Permeates your dreadlocks, that are already judged for being what they are – and no matter how many detoxes, oils, or deep conditions you do you can’t get that smell out before an interview.

You say yes, they can smoke, and you move to the protection of the door just to turn the knob, reassuring yourself that it’s all going to be alright. 

Everything will be fine, as always. But everything will not be fine. Or always. 

Day Two 3/23/2020

“Be careful, it’s spicy,” she says as you spoon some veggie soup from your plate onto Baby’s tray. You tell her it’s fine but make sure to cut everything into small pieces to make sure Baby doesn’t get too much heat at once. 

You should’ve known. She’s white. She doesn’t really understand what ‘heat’ is. It’s definitely stereotypical of her but also stereotypical of you to think so. 

When you eat it you blow, there’s some steam coming from each bit of potato, bean, meat, and carrot. The soup is a rusty red and it is clean of food bits or spice or debris. This is the first indicator of the whiteness. 

Anytime you cook anything there’s going to be something to it, you think. Something that shows you’ve put your foot in it. It sounds judgy, you might apologize if you had said the words out loud. It’s not her fault, and not completely true with all white people. But there’s a tug of war going on between you and her. You don’t mean anything by it. No malice. There’s nothing behind this struggle – at least for you.

She is used to being the woman of the house. So are you. She’s used to her way of cleaning, straightening, and vacuuming. She’s surely to be offended if you do something against her ways, because when you’re the woman of the house you rule with an iron fist. And it’s not always with a spatula. But there’s two of ya’ll now. And you are just the guest. So, when you see her kitchen and the way she likes to leave it you try your damndest to keep it that way. 

After you cook your food, chicken thoroughly marinated, cut, skin cripsed, meat juicy, corn on the cob slick with butter and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and rice seasoned with the same, you make sure to tell her ‘I’m going to clean this…I just wanted to let the oil cool first”. 

She smiles and says “ok” as if she had no idea why you were telling her. Basking in the pretense of innocence. But you both know had you left those dirty pots, staining the oven with their orange and black oil sports, she would’ve been angry. 

You might not have seen the consequences. Maybe she would hold that irritation, that small showing of power, close to her chest until one day she explodes with a fire so hot you’d lose your eyebrows. You don’t know because she is a stranger to you, and you to her.  

So, there it is. The power struggle that happens anytime you wake up in a home that is not yours, on a bed you didn’t buy, to the chirping sounds of nature you, and your Midwestern background, are no longer accustomed to due to your 5 year stint in florida. 

But you’ll try. Everyday. You’ll be grateful and gracious. Honest and excited. Content and overwhelmingly sensitive to the needs of others. Because that’s all you can do, to keep from crying. 

 

Day Three 03/24/2020

 

Today has been weird for you. Parts of you wanted to stomp your foot like a child and yell “you aren’t my __. I want to go home!” but you don’t. 

Another part of you wants to be grateful, is grateful, for the time away from the city. You are taking advantage of not having cell-service, the bars that only reach one dot, the smell of fresh air, neon green trees, cloudy (and matter of fact, quite gray) skies and cool nights. 

You appreciate the way Louisiana makes you feel. Big fish, little pond. You think of future days where you might have enough money to contemplate buying that little house next door – white with a coat of green vines and brown sludge. The owners have neglected it. You wouldn’t. You’d take that extra acreage and put together a beautiful herb garden, have a small pond, and windows filled with vining houseplants. And you would take in that stray you found yesterday while getting the stroller out of the car.

You had decided it was time to get out of the house and see nature up close. After packing her into her carseat, you sat the baby on the sidewalk to rest. As you struggle with the mechanics of the compact Hyundai, still packed with all that are important to you, you see a bright tuff of white and brown streak through your vision. 

You didn’t know what it was but it scared you. You sprinted around the car and reached the baby at the same time as a gaunt, swift footed Beagle. It stuck its nose into the baby’s personal space and you screamed out ‘Hey!’ with a voice so hoarse it felt like you never used your throat before. 

The Beagle, Doggy as you will call him, slinks away possibly afraid of you and what you might do to him. You don’t lash out, he seems nice, but you stand like a sentry in front of the tiny human tucked into her carseat. 

Two, three, four times he tries to nose in to see the tiny human. She giggles at his attempts and you can’t help but stare down at her with love in your eyes (because while the world is ending it feels great to see she is none the wiser and happy). Then, when he realizes it’s a pipe dream, he slinks away to the back of the car. You follow him and grab this and that before returning to unleash the stroller from the front seat. 

Doggy follows you on your walk. It’s trying, yelling at him to keep out of the road, but you love it. You love every bend in the road, the smell of air unpolluted, the chirp of birds, the loud barks quickly followed by the cackling irritation of chickens. You love the tiny yellow flowers, growing along the road, that you zoom into with your camera and shoot at different exposures to get the color quite right. 

So you’ll take in that dog for the time you’re stuck in Louisiana, due to the virus. And you’ll let him roam with the freedom he always has, but he’ll stick close. Chomping your scraps thrown out the back door, and barking at intruders, or birds, or squirrels, or anything really.

But you don’t mind. You love this space outside the city. It’s only taken a few days to change your mind about this place. You still don’t want to be here but you aren’t afraid to be here. And you wonder about the significance of this. 

That’s what you think when pondering the house next door to your temporary stay. How you want to go home but one day, you’d think you’d actually want to stay. 

 

***

When your guy arrives on that third day -shortly after you because he had been stubborn and stayed in the city despite the frantic shopping and the terrified winding lines of traffic – you read him the entries from Day One and Day Two. He doesn’t get it. 

He brought you out here, knowing you didn’t want to come – despite the dangers of a city during an outbreak. He made you drive 20+ hours across three states, after having only 2 hours of sleep the night before. Struggling to drive and keep an eye on the sleeping baby, and you’re crying on the floor of Walmart because everything is closed and you can’t find any place to pump breastmilk and dammit, your breasts hurt and there’s no relief and you’re the only one on the road, and you don’t want to be driving here anyway.

He told you – after your hosts were nowhere to be found – to just find any place to sleep. With the baby. He said “I’m sorry baby, I feel so bad,” so many times you wanted to wring his neck. He also told you to go into the major city, when all other places were closed down. The place is so empty it feels like an intrusion just to drive on the streets. It’s sickening, you feel, to see a place so normally filled with verve and pulse to be so still. 

Dead.

That’s what it feels like. Like that scene in the movies and shows when everyone has either been killed by Zombies or forced out into the country. That moment when the hero, or anti-hero, wakes up from his coma, or breaks out of jail cell, or finds a way out of the pine box and stumbles onto a desolate place. He looks in all the corners for answers. Searching for friends, family, and hell, even food. He jumps at a sound, or two, from a nearby alley and discovers it’s just his shadow moving, fighting, pulling him back, silently screaming “get out of here” or “danger ahead”. 

Then the Zombies unleash. And he’s running. Sprinting. His legs moving faster and pushing harder and covering more ground than ever before. 

And then there is no ground. And he’s jumping, climbing, clamoring really. Praying anyone will save him or fight for him or offer their services in exchange for a boon, predetermined or foreshadowed by someone else earlier in the show or movie.

And then he’s free, but not free. He’s out of danger but now there’s another danger. And this isn’t from the Zombies or other mutated beings. This is from those that look like him. Those who would kill you over toilet paper in the grocery store. He must be strong and alert and sharp at every turn. Lest he die. 

You think of all this while getting the baby out of the car at an overpriced hotel and creeping to the door. Watching every shadow as you move. You think ‘I’m alert. I’m awake’ even though it’s been days since you’ve seen a full night’s sleep. You look left and right, although you can clearly see there are no Zombies in suits, holding briefcases here. 

But you do wonder ‘where the hell is my hatchet?” because you’re you and of course you bought one to bring to this place you’ve never been before. 

*** 

Anyway, so you read these entries to him, from the previous two days, and all he – who made you feel all that – can only say in response “I don’t get it. Why is it in 2nd person? It really just sounds like you’re complaining about not wanting to be here” – quoted directly from his perfectly pouting mouth that you sometimes want to slap him in. Because of times like this.

You feel upset, on the cusp of anger, because he knows you don’t want to be here. Why is that a surprise? No offense to your hosts – they are actually very nice. He also knew that you actually meant ‘what did you think’ in a literary sense. Does it flow? Am I crazy? Are my thoughts cohesive? Am I a good writer? Can you tell me something that is real? Are we going to be okay? Will the baby have a future? Will I get to publish anything or will I die before I get the chance? What do you really think? What do you honestly think?

As a writer, there are so many layers to ‘what did you think’ and these layers go even deeper depending on the tone and cadence of the voice when asking. So, you are upset. You try to explain in a deep monotone voice. You tell him what it ‘means’ even though you didn’t want to have to explain. You just wanted him to get it. Fucking get it. 

So, then you wonder if there are only two possibilities. Either: “I am a shitty writer” or “he’s just not my audience”. Which is it? Which one is it? 

Although in this place, stuck in a world that is not ours, during an unexpected time, fearing for our lives and that of our daughter, wondering if this will be The Stand or Pandemic or Station Eleven or The Strain and unsure if we’ll ever be able to go home, I know one thing. Those are not the questions I really want to ask. There’s only one. I really want to know if, in the midst of all this, we will survive. 

 

CNF: Revision of Child-Like Dreams

Note: I decided to revise the Child-Like Dreams essay from my reflection assignment for University. I felt that due to the overwhelming reaction from my peer reviews – how everyone seemed confused and stated it was all over the place – that this would be the best course for growth and revision. I’ve completely reworked the idea of the piece so that it focuses on one topic and one reason for change. I changed the tone and wrote from the heart. I hope you all can understand this one better than Child-Like Dreams. 

 

New Title: Gratitude

In 2018, I almost died during childbirth. My waters had broken at 15 weeks pregnant and I had been told by every doctor that the baby would die. They told me there was nothing I could do. I took to research, as I do with my novels, and I discovered support groups tooting the slogan ‘Where There’s A Heartbeat, There’s Hope’. I decided to try and see if I could make it further along with the pregnancy. When I was 19 weeks my water broke again and I went into labor. I’ve written about those moments on my blog, on Youtube, on Facebook, on Twitter, everywhere that I think could help other women who have gone through the same experiences: sharing my tale of pain, fear, terror, and eventually anger, regret, distrust in god, and self pity and how it translated to healing, trust, optimism, honesty, and more. What I never wrote about is gratitude. 

Sometimes, there are small moments that truly change our lives. When thinking of an event, that was the catalyst for change, I thought of so many that I piled them all into one essay. As peer reviews were correct in saying, it felt disjointed, much like life itself, and I knew that further reflection was needed. Through introspection, I was reminded of gratitude and what it does for your soul, how it heals your heart, and how it can change your life.

After my near death experience (the placenta had been stuck because I didn’t fully dilate; I began to bleed out on the table, and had to be rushed to the OR for surgery) I sunk into a deep depression. My adoptive mother, who had always been a killer of hopes and dreams, had abandoned me in my time of need. Saying ‘you expect too much out of me as a mother’ when I simply wanted a phone call after losing another baby. My guy was dealing with his own grief, and being filled with shame, I didn’t want to hurt him with my pain. My friends were all having healthy babies, even the ones who hated children. My coworkers pelted me with “I’m sorry”s and “you’re still a mom”s and “at least you can have more children”s. There was no happiness, no baby, and nowhere to turn. 

Then my guy said the same thing he had told me after our first pregnancy loss. “You need to find something that you love and just do it, I’ll help you do anything you want but you’ve got to get out of bed.” At first, I was angry and I lashed out at him. “You don’t understand. She was healthy! She was healthy and my body killed her, failed her.”

I remembered my child-like dreams. I remembered what I always wanted to be. A Writer. Not just a writer but a professor. As a child, I would daydream about standing in the front of the room, at University, with a messenger bag, students with open minds about creative writing, and a notebook filled with ideas and inspirations from all walks of life. I dreamed of having a cabin where I could escape the world, and its tragic intricacies, and write novels. I also wanted an apartment in the city where I could live when doing readings and signings at bookstores for all my bestselling works. Boy, wasn’t I ambitious.

I laughed when I told my guy about this dream I had since I was seven and how it had been derailed by all of those who told me ‘writing isn’t a profession’ or ‘writer’s don’t make any money’. I laughed when I said “How funny would it be if I actually went back to school. Enrolled at University over ten years later. Got my degree, went to graduate school, became a professor, published articles, books, and went to signings and writer’s conferences…”. I laughed. It was incredulous because I was a broken, motherless woman who couldn’t get out of bed. Who still hugged her empty belly at night and smiled during the phantom kicks. Who had no money and hadn’t written in a year. 

“Do it, then,” my guy said. A slogan for the man, if he ever had one. He’d always been supportive of my hopes and dreams. Always pushing me to be better than I am. Always right there when I’m too afraid to just jump in. 

“Ok,” I remember saying. Not in agreeance, but in a snarky way that accompanies an eye-roll and a long sigh that says ‘you aren’t even listening’. Later, I took to research, as I always do, and discovered that with grants, light loans, and a structured schedule I could afford to go back to college and finish what I started. I could enroll: get my degree, go to graduate school, become a professor, publish articles and books, and go to signings and writer’s conferences and, and, and… Then I got out of bed. I took a shower. I made myself, and my guy, a huge breakfast – which I hadn’t done in a long while. I cleaned my apartment and took the pain medicine that helped my body recover. Then, after fighting myself over the decision, my resolve won. I enrolled.

That time, when I almost lost my life, was one of the hardest I’d ever endured. I wanted to keep that inside me, that anger and pain and shame, but I couldn’t. I was grateful for the change. How it woke me up inside and gave me renewed passion about writing, literature, and all things “words”. Gratitude let me know that I am much stronger than I thought. I didn’t need a toxic family to remind me of what I’m not. I didn’t need coworkers to feel sorry for me. I didn’t need to hide my pain from my guy, he was healing too and that was something we needed to get through together, again. I didn’t need to feel ashamed for what my body failed to do. I needed to make myself happy and do whatever would help me achieve that.

I was grateful for what came out of a hard time. I was grateful that I was finally back on track with my childhood dreams. That my soul was no longer crushed. Now, years later, I write this essay for an University course assignment with a smile on my face, with journals piled around me filled with writings from the last few years, and my healthy, sleeping baby in my arms and I feel gratitude. 

CNF: Child Like Dreams

Title: Child-Like Dreams

I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I often tell people that the years in between were lost years when I let others tell me what’s best and that I’m finally back on track. It’s true. I wrote my first story when I was seven years old and I knew I wanted to become an author. In high school, I let my parents convince me to change my mind. My mother always knew I loved to write but told me those were child-like dreams. Childish dreams. She said I needed to do something that made money and that “writer’s don’t make money, they struggle, and they can barely pay their bills” and with my soul beaten down, The Great Change happened: I went to school for architecture.

After steps taken backward, and some forward, I found myself 10 years later without a degree, in a new state, fortunately estranged from my family, and unsure of my future and the goals therein. I thought, “why not?” Then there I was, enrolling in school to pick up with the child in me left off: Back at University to become a writer.

Recently, I wrote a piece for an University magazine titled “10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here” about my experience with being a new mother as well as being a student again, after years in the workforce. It mostly covered my emotions after I enrolled, I had completely overlooked the rest of the story. The Beginning.

When I was seven years old I was already reading the classics, adult books, and fantasy chapter stories. They allowed me to escape the constant barrage of memories circling abuse, neglect, and abandonment dealt to me. I filled my soul with Melusine, The Westing Game, Summer of my German Soldier and The Golden Compass.

In these stories, I thought I had the answer to the rest of my life. I was overwhelmed with the idea of being a writer and wrote my first story. I’ll never forget the joy that filled me when my main characters came to life on the page. A cat and a dog, who were best friends, go on an adventure. It was the simplest plot. The dog died, having been injured, and the cat was unbelievably sad. She spent her days and nights moping over her dead friend, afraid to go on any future adventures. Then, the dog came back to life and the cat was rejuvenated.

As silly as this feels, it was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t realize, until I became an adult, that this was my way to interpret my own feelings of loss after our family dog, Pepper, died horrifically. After watching my biological brother, and my adoptive nephew, jump the fence many times Pepper jumped while we were at church – not realizing that she still had the chained collar around her neck. A man who had been driving by spotted the dog, knocked on the door, and told my father what he had found. Although they tried to be secret, my brother and I were in hiding and watched as our dog was lifted from where she hung and buried in the backyard.

In this story, I was the cat who couldn’t deal with the loss of the only person who loved her unconditionally. The cat dealt with the same issues with abandonment that I struggled with, that I still struggle with, and wasn’t able to recover on her own. I knew that in the real world animals, and people, couldn’t come back to life but when it came to my writing anything could happen.

Anything. As an adult this felt like a way for me to be ok with the memories of someone after they’ve gone, whether unwilling through death or wiling through my growth. I didn’t realize that in an odd way, I was writing nonfiction.

Ironically, the person who crushed my dreams of becoming a writer, and made me change my mind about my prospective college major when I was in high school, was the same person who tried to crush my writing spirit. My adoptive mother. I let her read this five page story and she destroyed it. She told me animals couldn’t talk, that they didn’t go on adventures, that cats and dogs would never be best friends, and that – most importantly – no one, absolutely no one, ever came back to life.

I was angry and told her that I could write whatever I wanted because it was my book. My writing. I told her I never wanted her to read anything I wrote, ever again. I vowed, that day, to become a writer. I was more determined than ever to create worlds where impossible things could happen. I wanted to write books where the dead would rise, unlikely pairs would come together, and adventures would abound.

Over those years, I would daydream about becoming a professor with a messenger bag and a notebook filled with ideas and inspirations. I dreamed of having a cabin where I could escape the world, and its tragic intricacies, and write novels. I also wanted an apartment in the city where I could live when doing readings and signings at bookstores for all my bestselling works. Boy, wasn’t I ambitious.

Now, ten years after The Great Change, after the shit show that was my first time in college, after I let others push me down and trample my dreams, and destroy my spirit, I am back here. I enrolled at the University and now I’m close to graduation. I will be going to grad school next year. I will publish in both nonfiction and fiction. I will become a professor and I will finally fulfill my child-like dreams.

Prompts: Communication

Prompt: 100 Word Stories of Conflict

 

Yazmin snatched the steaming kettle from its seat and swung it over to the waiting cup. Pouring its contents out, while bouncing a hemp tea bag up and down, she waited until the water turned and the smell rose.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he wrapped his arms around her, careful not to knock the hot kettle.

“Aaron, it’s not that I don’t want you to be happy. I just wish we’d talked before you quit your job.” Yazmin set the kettle down on a warming pad and placed her hands over his on her waist. “But I trust you.”

10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here

 
My first semester at UCF I cried on my way to campus.

It was 7:30am, the road was clear – as it always is at dawn – and so the drive from West Orlando was quick. I was so excited, the night before, that I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate, barely hydrated, and spent most of the day with the jitters. I’d always loved school, loved learning, loved brainstorming with my fellow students, and this was my time.

But I was also terrified. It had been 10 years, then a brief stint at Valencia College – via the Direct Connect program – since I had been at University. Before, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go back to school, to do what I loved. It was finally here. There was so much fear surrounding the ideal of being an older college student. At nearly 28, it might not seem like I am so removed from the fresh-out-of-high school teens that are enrolling now but I am. We are in two completely different generations.

I’m a Millennial. For some reason, older people forget just how old Millennials actually are. They forget that we played outside as children, most of us didn’t have the internet when we were kids, and we got dirty. They forget that we, too, had catalogues where we picked out our favorite toys hoping our parents would order them for us. They forget that we had CD players and Walkman. They forget that most of us didn’t have these fancy smartphones or our necks breaking to watch TV on iPads all day. We didn’t get those cheapie pay-as-you-go Nokia’s until we were sophomores in high school (barely). Even then you had to get a job because your mom wasn’t going to pay for the by-text fees and waiting until after 9pm, when everything was free, was too long to make plans with your friends. We weren’t using Instagram, or Facebook or spending all day on Twitter. I had Myspace and only when I snuck to get on when my mother wasn’t looking.

So, it’s different. I’m late. I’m behind the curve. I have aspirations but am quickly realizing that there are 20-year olds going for these internships I would be applying for at 30. I’m a part of a writing group with a recent UCF MFA alum, who is in her early 20s, who currently living my life – had I gone straight through like I was “supposed” to.

I want to be strong. I want to feel like I’m not too late but I’m a Millennial. I’m a part of the “graduate high school, straight to college, graduate in 4 years and into a good job by 21 then a family, and a house,” group. We are pressured to do everything so quickly. No traveling, no taking years off, no breathers, no doing “what you love”. If our lives don’t fit into that timeline we’re stuck.

That’s how I ended up here. I was pressured, by my family, into going for a degree I didn’t want because “writers don’t make any money” and “don’t you want to get a real job” or even “is that even a career”? That didn’t work out – does it ever? So here I am. 10 years later. On the cusp of 30 and crying in my car in my first week at UCF. Wiping my tears with Chik-Fil-A napkins from yesterday’s excited-to-be-on-track run. Picking myself back up. Building my confidence as a writer. Gleaning as much as I can before this opportunity is over, in case it doesn’t work out. Again.

I’m also crying because I’m a full-time student and at the same time I’m a new mother.

These first days at UCF will be the first time I am away from my four-month-old daughter, Naomi, for more than four hours. I’m terrified to be so far from her. If anything happens, I’m on the East side of town and must rush through highways, construction, and rush hour to get to her. Can I get there in time? Am I a good mother?

I’ve been told that I’m supposed to forget about myself. Lose myself. I am a Mother now. That’s how they say it. A Mother with a capital M and in bold. Mother. Does me being on campus – finally shedding the pressures of a toxic adoptive family, putting aside stereotypes about strong black women who endure it all and multitasking relationship, baby, writing, and keeping my house in order – mean that I’m not giving my daughter the attention that she deserves? Should I even be doing this? I grip the steering wheel tight and hesitate before I turn off the car. Maybe I should just go home right now. She probably needs me. Even though her father is absolutely amazing, supportive, loving, kind, and spent the last four months learning about parenting just as I have – I’m sure he’ll need help.

I turn off the car. No. I’m here for a reason. I have to do this. I made a commitment to myself and to my guy. He supports me while I am in school. Supports my dreams and my end goal. I made a commitment to the Universe. It deserves my writing. It deserves my voice. I made a commitment to the young, black foster kids who are abused and unloved. They deserve to know it’s possible to survive through it all and come out loving your life. I also made a commitment to my daughter. I want to show her that it’s never too late to do what you love. Because it’s not. Right?

No seriously, I’m asking.

I check my face in my rear-view mirror and dissolve into more tears. I look a mess. My makeup is all over the place. I never wear makeup but today I must. I’m a college student. University student with pious eyes. Everyone is young, pretty, with tight bodies – that didn’t just have babies – and long luscious hair – that isn’t falling out because of postpartum shedding. They move across campus on trim legs in droves, scattering like roaches the moment the clock marks the hour. I watch them from my swinging hammock strung up on Memory Mall, because I get to campus early, and stay very late, to avoid rush hour. Their laughter is a joyous noise unbroken by the ups and downs of life and the monotony of an unsatisfying day job. They cut through the foot traffic on their tiny skateboards (one of which I have but haven’t used because my unfit body can’t figure out how to turn corners). I sit and watch them as they shove their mouths with campus food because they’re not watching their weight as tight as they are watching their budget.

So I don’t belong here but I do. I pay my fees in late nights of homework. I hand make journals for handwritten notes in classes where I sit in the front row. After the baby is down for the night, I stay up late to write, like I am now at 2:30am, to make sure my priorities are in check. To make sure that I said I wanted to be a writer and therefore I am.

While pumping breast milk, I scratch out feedback for in-class workshops and shake my wrists to deal with the lasting effects of carpal tunnel from my pregnancy. While the food is cooking on the stove, I get in a few pages of the many required reading texts and yell “Hey! Don’t eat that” to Naomi who’s found a way to knock a rented textbook off the table and is using the spine to soothe her teething. I pick it up and put it on the counter and then later have to pay the difference because I accidentally burn a page or two.

I hold my daughter across my lap, the bottle of milk I just pumped clutched in her tiny hands, while I type out the answers to busy-work weekly discussion posts. I definitely paid after I was double-fisting open bottles of breast milk, had a squirming baby on my lap, and she kicked them and the spilled milk destroyed my MAC. I paid in the way my shins hurt going from bedrest while pregnant to walking miles everyday either on campus or on the treadmill to get my stamina back. I pay in the way I clean up my apartment every night, picking up toys and textbooks, sticky yogurt melts stuck to the carpet and highlighters, baby socks and post-it notes.

While on campus I utilize the “Nursing Room” in the Student Union in between classes so I can make sure my milk supply doesn’t dwindle. I spend the first month of school pouring the milk down the drain before the fog of mommy-brain lifts and I remember that I can bring a cooler bag with ice packs to keep the milk fresh.

I do a lap of the fitness center with my backpack, my pump bag, and my cooler before realizing that I don’t belong in this place of young energy and sickening innocence. I get a gym membership at a 24 Hour Fitness near my home because – while I belong on campus – I don’t belong in the campus gym. I feel that my insecurities won’t die there, in the presence of adults my age, only thrive.

So; I love that word – So. It leads from one thing to another. I say it so often. And, hilariously, there it is again.

So, I don’t belong here but I do. And I’m here to stay. Well, at least, until graduation. Then I’m done. My dreams are being achieved; I’m hitting my goals with every turned-in homework assignment that’s accompanied by baby puff snack stains. I’m not letting anyone tell me no, or make me go home. Even myself. I have made a commitment and although there have been many days weeping, arguing, and baby bouncing, I am happy to call myself a Knight.

 

Goodbye January 2020! 13 Books Read!

I’ve read 13 out of 120 books for 2020 so far!

Heya!

It is officially the second month of the new decade! How are you feeling? How was your January? Did you read any books that you loved in January? Did you create a Reading Goal for this year?

I have a goal of 120 books for the year 2020.

I wanted to keep my goal realistic as I have a tiny human, a small business, am a full time student while prepping my grad school applications, and I’m also focusing on my own writing. One goal that I made was to take time to read every day. That way no matter what life does to me I am still doing something I love consistently.

Curling up with a great book is almost always the answer!

I’ve split between audio books and physical books. Sometimes I have to do so many things around the apartment, or I’m commuting, and I can’t hold a book in my hand. I’m chasing Naomi, feeding Naomi, changing Naomi, doing homework or cooking, etc, etc, etc, etc, I could go on. Audio books and a pair of blue tooth headphones are essential for a new mom!

(As I type this Naomi has given up playing with her toys. She stood fussing at the side of my chair until I picked her up. So now I’m typing this one handed. Perfect example of when an audio book would be useful!)

us

This is a busy life!

January Books: 

I was able to get in books on minimalism and meditation, a handful of romance novels, a nonfiction graphic novel, science fiction, and paranormal romance!

Also!! This crazy thing happened. The other day I was tired of trying to find a book to read, going through my endless TBR, so I randomly chose an audio book on my way to school. I didn’t read the synopsis or anything. The cover intrigued me so I clicked “Borrow”. It was The Oxford Inheritance by A. A. McDonald. I looooved it. It was fantastic. I really enjoyed listening while the story unfolded.

Then today I was at the $1 Store and I saw the book in person! It was a complete and utter surprise and I knew I had to buy it. I know, I know. “How are you keeping up with minimalism if you keep buying things?” you might ask. I loved this book. It sparked joy for me. And that’s all the criteria I’m using before I buy something and bring it into my home.

oxford2

In total I’ve read 13 out of 120 books.

Good Readdance,
Jade

Taking My Writing Seriously!

Heya,

How’s your 2020 going? Have you been keeping up with your goals? One of my Cherchez La Vie goals was to write more and to take steps toward being a better, more mindful writer. I want to baby my inner writer. Let her know she’s loved and that she can come out to play as much as she wants. In order to do this, I had to make take a critical look at what’s going on in my life that is stopping me from achieving my dreams.

Nothing but me. ME.

I’m the one stopping myself because I am not taking it as seriously as I need to. These things aren’t hard at all. I’m a procrastinator, and if you are too you know what I’m talking about, and I need to work on my will power. I can be completely honest with myself, as I’ve stated in other posts, and I know that ‘Just Do It’ should be my new mantra. (As a nod to Nike of course.)

The Switch

In my attempts to become a better fiction writer, while attending other writing workshops, I’ve discovered that I love creative non-fiction. It was something I never knew I could write before. I always felt that no one wanted to read anything ‘real’ from me. That the things I’ve gone through in my life (child abuse, foster care, racism, shame, sexually-intended attacks, pregnancy loss, etc) were too hard for people to read. Especially coming from one person. I’ve been asked how do I stay so optimistic about life, when up until a handful of years ago mine hasn’t been the greatest, and a part of me always wants to put a pinkie to the corner of my mouth and say ‘keep reading my non-fiction and you’ll find out’. So if you are a fan of my non-fiction writing, please comment, subscribe and like my posts to let me know.

Anyway, so during the 31 Days of Introspection I discovered this overwhelming love for creative non-fiction. I no longer cry when I try to write out my experiences, and if I do it’s because I feel a sense of weight being lifted from my shoulders. I’m able to release all of my demons onto the page and hope that the fact that I’m still standing is an inspiration to others. The reactions that I’ve received have been amazing and fill my heart.

Who wouldn’t want to feel that?

The MFA

Due to my switch from fiction to creative non-fiction I have suddenly realized that I need to rethink my choosing of MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts) programs. I have these large lists of fully funded programs that accept Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Non-Fiction and so far I’ve only been looking at schools that take fiction. Now I need to restart my search to broaden the circle. But I guess, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m also closing the circle. I know now exactly which program I want to go for and whichever schools don’t align with that are automatic NOs.
A Minimalist Office

Another way I’m taking my writing more seriously is by setting up a home office. I have created a Pinterest and everything. I’m just so excited. I’ve included a few photos from my board that are giving me major ‘writer’ vibes. I’m looking at Walmart, Target and Ikea’s websites for a nice desk with a drawer, a computer chair (I have one so I could replace my dining chair and move this one to the office area, I’m not sure yet), an organizer, and a desk lap. I’m really happy about this because I can section off time for homework when I’m at home and Tony, and Naomi, will know that when I’m sitting at my desk I am not to be disturbed. Hilarious that I think that’d work, right? A girl can hope.

 

How is your home office set up? Did you have a list of things to buy in mind? Did you create a pinterest board like I did? By the way, here’s the link to my Writer’s nook pinterest board! YAY!!!
Good Readdance,
Jade

CNF: Unexpected Love

This is a school assignment. I love, love, LOVE, taking writing courses. Anyway, I’ve never written creative nonfiction before and so here is a piece that I wrote about the night Tony and I first met. It’s my first try at it so don’t ream me just yet!

Let me know what you guys think!

 

 

Creative Nonfiction: Unexpected Love

 

I walked in the door of my favorite writing cafe. It’s walls covered in abstract art, a fake tree stretching up to the dark ceiling, outlets and extension cords scattered around tiny tables.

I remember many hours spent sitting at those tables, laptop out, notebook open, pen ready and cup of coffee getting cold.

Tonight was different. I had another agenda. Ask out the barista I saw on a daily basis. The storybook-prince one with the dark mop of hair, smiling eyes and olive skin. I was so sure, if I actually worked up the courage to ask, that he would say yes.

I looked around at the dimly lit faces, turned toward the stage with wide eyes and listening ears. Music blaring, a sweet twill of an acoustic guitar. Sweet smells of seared chicken paninis, roasted cherry tomatoes and spilled IPA beer; I nearly changed my mind. I had completely forgotten that it was Talent Tuesday, or that it was tuesday at all. I couldn’t turn around, not then, I’d already been spotted by the many faces. Not that they mattered. In the least, I’d gotten dressed up for the occasion; picked my fro big and voluptuous, put on makeup for the first time in months and wore my prettiest dress.

Back then, I’d been an avid wearer of wedges and I had picked my highest pair just for this occasion.

I walked up to the counter, wallet in shaking hands, and gave him my sweetest smile. He looked hairied, apron askew and locks tousled. He took my order quick, jabbing at the buttons on the screen and tilting his head sideways.

“It’s so busy, I’m sorry. We’ll talk later,” he said. I beamed at this, nodded understandingly and turned to claim a seat at the bar.

I swiveled on my chair and made eye contact with a man stepping off stage. Dark brown skin, muscles pulling tight on his shirt, long strong arms. He removed his guitar and smiled at me. I blinked shyly but didn’t want to look around, hoping that smile was for me. And it was. Those eyes twinkled as he wove his way around tables and I couldn’t tell if it was from excitement of the night or the lighting.

“Wow, you are beautiful, and that hair…” he said as he came to stand right in front of me, his grin grew brighter, if that was possible. I blushed.

At first, I thought this was just a line to get me to talk to him but as the years have gone by, I’ve come to realize he just really loves black girls with natural curls. Always with his hands in it, admiring the way it curls when wet and bounces when pulled.

“Thank you,” I forced out, immediately reaching up to fluff the curls around my shoulders. I sat up a bit straighter, shoulders back, spine a little more stiff.

I snuck a look at the barista, hoping he didn’t see me talking to another guy, not wanting to ruin my chances at a date before I’d even asked. He was unbothered, flitting around behind the counter on dancers feet, as he usually did. Graceful, knees slightly bent, quickly bouncing from panini press to counter to press to coffee maker and back to counter again. He called out a name and the girl who stood just in front of him jumped and dashed out a hand as if surprised to hear her own name. I giggled.

“What’s your name?” the man in front of me asked. I turned back to him and was swept up in deep brown eyes, glistening under the bar top light. I attempted to push my shoulders back further, and boobs forward.

“Jade, yours?”

“Tony Frenzy.”

His stage name, I later found out, but I have called him Tony ever since.

We talk for a while over the hum of live music, chatting about life, the cafe and his music set. He tells me about the coincidence of how he was supposed to be at another cafe, playing with his crew and I tell him I was actually supposed to be working but figured the job was a scam, so I quit. We laughed.

We’d talk more about this later.

On my second beer, I fumble the first bottle and it falls off the counter, thankfully to clatter and not shatter. I laugh awkwardly, am I tipsy or just nervous? He smiles at me as I bend to pick up the bottle and he helps to clean up the mess my clumsy hands have made. It’s that icebreaker, tension breaker, we didn’t know we needed.

We stood close, two people, somehow ending up in the same place, at the same time, on accident. It baffles how the night had unfolded. Him, resolving to play a set by himself and me finally stepping out of my box to ask out a cute cafe barista.

“Do you want to go get cheesesteak?” He finally asks. “It’s a bit loud in here and I want to keep talking to you.” The last part he almost whispers and I lean forward either to hear or to get a little bit closer.

My self-preservation has taken a day off and I say yes. I’ve never had cheesesteak before and had no idea what it was. I still wanted to go, wanted to get to know this guy just a bit more. Barista forgotten, I gather my purse, and don’t look back as he leads me to the door.

Into the night with him I went. Into a new life with my soulmate.

 

 

 

Good Readdance,
Jade

Writing From Memory

One of the new things I’ve read about, in my CW book so far, is writing from memory, short and long term. Writing from your own thoughts, and memories, can allow you to speak from your own voice and avoid the foreign ‘writerly tone’ some use to meet a reader’s expectations.

One prompt, in the book, said to take a very small memory (nothing extravagant or life altering) and write it down. Start with the words: “I don’t know why I remember…” and just let the words flow. Below is my first attempt at the writing prompt. Enjoy!

 

I Don’t Know Why I Remember

I don’t know why I remember the car ride Tony and I took back when he lived in Davenport. We were in the old, rust red Camry, pulling over at a gas station smack in the middle of nowhere. Half afraid to get out of the car and half excited to just be. Despite his complaints, I bought a bag of sunflower seeds. One empty cup, that hung out with the rest of the rubbish at our feet, worked as a spit cup and clutched companion. The weather is perfect. Florida weather. Weather we moved here for.

A thick breeze blows by and I dangle one hand out the window, wrist bent backwards, fingers flapping like a rubber glove. Our inside joke. I giggle and he looks over with a special shine to his eyes. He gaffs, and laughs at the sight, before his eyes briefly meet mine. It’s happy here, in this place of in between. The jilt of the car, sweetness of new love and the crack of the seed’s shell between my teeth.

It feels like home.

 

Submitting Phoenix to PitchWars

So…I did it.

I actually did it.

Here’s a blurb from the actual site that tells you a little about what PitchWars is:
What is Pitch Wars?

Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better.

Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents. Mentors can participate solo or pair up and co-mentor.

During the agent showcase, each mentee is featured on a post that includes their pitch and the first page of their manuscript. Last year, we had nearly sixty agents participate in the showcase. Participating agents view the posts and make requests. With the help of Pitch Wars 2016, more than 50 authors were offered representation with many snagging book deals shortly after the contest!

So now you know what it is! So, my writer friends, if you would like to participate in PitchWars you have the rest of today and allllll of tomorrow to do so! Here’s the link!

Anyway, so I’ve finished Phoenix and, my, doesn’t it feel good to finally type The End…again. When I revised it the first time, I added a few scenes and took out some things. The second time, when I finished this weekend, I added the new scenes.

I’m really proud of them. Proud of myself. Proud of what I’ve done.

I’ve hit the submit button. It’s out of my hands. The fear is there. So is the excitement.

Let’s get this journey going!!