Read this, and all my columns, weekly at The Holmes County Bargain Hunter:
We are not immune to the horrors of this world. It will live in us until we cast it out and then rein in carefully with love. This morning I woke to a world that had the breath of valued human beings taken out yet again. They were ripped, targeted and snuffed out in the terrible minutes and span of a hot June Florida night.
Stories of grown men are trickling out, stories of them texting their moms, pleading for help ironically from the stalls of a bathroom, the terror building as the communication was cut short and they were gone. Lives taken away by someone who deemed them unworthy to live.
I mourn with those who mourn. My murmurings felt dry as my mouth is a burning desert sent into the stratosphere with a tongue that has uttered the same laments over the years in alarming fashion. It’s another massacre, another shooting, another day.
On cue my social media feeds blew up: talk of gun control, the targeting of the LGBTQ community, radicalized Muslims and how our immigration system has failed because this man was of Afghan descent, but he was born in the U.S.A.
In reading the words typed by others in the immediate hours after this happened, I gleaned that I was to do this: wake up, blame our president, buy a gun, stockpile guns and ready myself for war. I saw words of lament as well, the beauty of empathy, sadness and mourning pouring out like a waterfall. What I didn’t see was the immediate change of temporary profile pictures that happened after the Paris attacks, the support coming in droves as the French flag flew over hundreds of my friends’ faces.
I puzzled a bit, wondering why this was any different, something that had happened in our very country. We just had 50 beautiful souls murdered, just as the Parisians had been, out and about in their town eating, drinking and living, and as the blood was still drying on the floor of a nightclub, I felt a terrible rumble through my soul.
Instead of dining on a continuous meal of online words and commentary of which I’m wont to do we slipped away to the cinema to lose ourselves for precious minutes inside a movie. I shut my phone off, my lifeline to the outside world.
Highly anticipated, we took in a movie called The Conjuring 2. It was a famous case about a family who were menaced by evil spirits, a true story, and the people who helped them claimed freedom from what was happening.
I relish horror movies, and I admit that readily. I sat in tense moments, riveted by every second of this feature, my skin crawling with goose bumps. If you haven’t seen this particular set of movies, know that they are some of the scariest you will see. You might say, I don’t ever watch scary movies. Why would I subject myself to that? They’re evil, but you see evil exists in this world. We mustn’t hide from it.
It’s in the mind of a young man who murdered tiny grade school children in Connecticut. It exists inside the brain of a shooter who shot moviegoers in a Colorado theater, and it lived and grew inside a boy who murdered churchgoers that welcomed him in with open arms. It dwells inside the minds of people who believe religion calls them to murder for their faith as well as the people who have shot their friends and classmates in a myriad of schools across this country. It lives within those who target a community, and it also lives within us the moment we decide that fear will reside in our hearts.
In the end of the movie the evil is banished in highly tense moments after many endless days of terror. I felt electric surges course through my body in response to what good film-making can make you feel, and I walked out of the theater alive and well. My brain was thrumming with thoughts.
What do we deem evil? Darkness can be defeated, but not always how we think it should. It doesn’t reside in all the brown faces that have immigrated here, nor does it reside in all the faces that look like our own. It does, however, reside in us when we become fearful, intentionally choosing to see only what is in front of us instead of investigating and probing to see what might be involved.
I won’t hide, nor blame, nor live in fear. I want to live amongst and show love the only way I can. I want to take root and grow branches that cover those who are targeted by hate, try to help instead of run away from those who are lost inside a religious frenzy. I want to believe in redemption and be a shelter from unfiltered words, which in the end are more powerful than taken-up arms on either side.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Read this, and all my columns, weekly at The Holmes County Bargain Hunter:
Friday, May 6, 2016
I'm posting the second part of my column on cooking here on my personal blog this week. I need a good reason to get you here anyway! Find all my columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter.
Friday, April 1, 2016
I write what I feel and lately I've been feeling a lot. A little bit like life inside our fence is a bit narrow and tight. Read on from my column on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter:
Missy's Life inside the Fence
We built a fence around our yard when we bought our house back in ‘96. Our kids were tiny, and my husband had grown up knowing many fences that surrounded baked-tile courtyards, with stucco buildings. They were warm, happy places you could sit and have coffee in the morning or find shade in the late afternoon as the hot sun slipped away from the day. It wasn’t a way of keeping people out; it was part of their culture, a way of affording privacy in tightly packed streets full of people. I had never had a fence, growing up in the center of Berlin, and was used to running barefoot through the neighbor’s yards. It didn’t matter where you ran; you were always welcome, allowed to roam at will through the neighborhood. There was a wild freedom to it, knowing your light footsteps through your dad’s straight mowing lines and onto the next lawn’s curvy ones wouldn’t get you yelled at.
From the road, you might not know that our backyard is a nice size. It used to be hemmed in by a grove of pine trees in the back that are now lost to chain saws and pictures. But when we built the fence, it closed the backyard in on all sides except for the back stretch where the pines began. Our kids would cross into the pines and build forts in there, dragging broken branches and leftover trellis pieces to create mansions. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t our land because they were welcome there, unnoticed really, but not causing anyone harm.
I loved the feeling that the fence created. I could weed in my flower beds when I wanted to, or lay out in the sun on our concrete patio without concern for prying eyes. The kids frolicked in their plastic swimming pools, making a mess of the backyard that most would cringe at. I relished it though, knowing that it was our space in which to create havoc and memories. Childhood is so fleeting and full of emotions that leaving a mess is sometimes easier than constantly trying to clean it up. It’s a futile effort that’s best left for the days when you find yourself, startlingly, in a home that’s empty yet neat as a pin. It’s those times when you long for a bit of mayhem. Tidy, stark rooms — just like safely ensconced empty backyard spaces — aren’t the same when there’s no one there to inhabit them.
The fence, bit by bit, started to deteriorate. It wasn’t an expensive one, and aside from painting it occasionally, we didn’t do much upkeep on it. The kids grew, not needing to be fenced in anymore, the pine grove was cut down, the swing set sold, and one day I found myself staring forlornly at warped boards that needed repair and replacement. It was in disarray, and I became embarrassed by it. Every year, as the seasons turned the corner and became spring, then summer, I hesitated to look at it because of how ugly it had become. It became a barrier to what was outside of it. The inevitable happened, and as we were re-siding the house, we tore the worst of the old fence down – opening it up to see our neighbors yard for the first time in nearly 20 years.
I sat awhile, pensive and thoughtful, thinking how closed off we had been. We erected the fence to protect our kids from running onto driveways, or to stay safely away from the several ponds that were/are still behind the house. We did it to stop people from coming into the yard, tucking ourselves — and only us — into its safe confines. But life isn’t always safe. Maybe we’ll tear the whole thing down and never replace it. I want to see what’s on the other side — as well as welcome people into my backyard. That’s what neighbors should do.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
As I contemplated my third cup of coffee this morning, I was also thinking on other things. There's the usual world peace, homelessness, and mom getting her wig today for her upcoming chemo treatments. Lots of things flitting through my mind, per the usual Saturday morning. I sipped leisurely.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Sappy and sentimental - that's me. But I've learned to let go and that's the key. Read my column posted several weeks ago on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter:
Reaching a moment that you strive for is like taking a drink of water when you are parched beyond measure. For me, it was that moment when you see your kids leave the house for college, or for a job that will take them somewhere that you don't see their faces but several times a year. The house settles into its bones, moving and sinking into a comfort that doesn't hold racing up and down the stairs, or the shaking that comes with sibling fights and rivalries. Like the house, solid and cozy, I let myself sink in and accept my creaks and groans — the settling of a body that's housed three children and bore each fight, scar and tear. I envelope the silence around me, gather it into my palm, and move ahead to what my now entails: words written and organized, songs played against a blank canvas of time and the silent slurp of my spoon dipped into a bowl of food I prepared for my taste buds only.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Newest column freshly posted on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter:
I just rolled off the weekend – Thanksgiving weekend – and I do mean roll.
The table at our family gathering was heavy-laden and food was partaken of at a rapid clip.
The dressing, glorious in its vintage enamelware pan, is the heaviest of all. In all its fried glory, it is the most anticipated part of the meal – at least for me. I don’t make dressing on a regular basis — who does? If you do, I’m sorry, but there are certain foods I savor on the holiday – unless I’m eating in a local restaurant and get a bug for bready goodness. A dish appears on our table every Thanksgiving called cranberry salad, and lots of noses are turned up. I take a small helping because for one, I like its tart goodness and the way it cleans the palate and enables more food to go down. Bad reason? Nah. Thanksgiving only comes once a cycle.
With Thanksgiving tucked away, that means one thing – lots of sales! Even though this is true, it also means that my Christmas spirit has arrived. While lots of people get crazy decorating for Christmas on November first, I still find myself in the spooky-fallish-themed-glare of October. It takes me weeks to get on board and realize that Thanksgiving is coming. I will not skip it, jump over it, bypass it, or pretend it’s just a ruse to get to Christmas. I will plant my ceramic turkey on the table and enjoy it until it’s time for him to go. I’m a weird stickler for enjoying each day as it comes, and that means relishing in each holiday – one trick or treat bag or turkey leg at a time. We ventured to a tree farm to pick out a tree the day after Thanksgiving (Go visit Fencerow Productions outside New Bedford), and as we were putting it up — with N’Sync blaring “Merry Christmas Happy Holidays” in the background — I was covertly pitching pumpkins away as the pine was drug out. Bring one in, usher one out. Just as it should be.
My gift lists are not yet made — and nary a longed-for item has been bought — but the coffee is hot as it slides down my throat this morning. I’m not panicked because I decided years ago that I would not let it touch me – that I would not let the madness of the season take over and turn me into something that I’m not. I would much rather shop online for a few things, as well as venturing out into the fray when I decide to and taking advantage of the insanity of markdowns. And oh, are there markdowns. I’ve also been scratching the itch to think outside the gift-giving box and shop at tiny collectives, boutiques, and mom and pop stores. There is a vibrant community outside the glow of the big box stores, and at times we need to detox from their warm lights. While I do and will haunt the big box stores – because who doesn’t need a good pair of jeans marked heftily down – I am making a commitment to finding other things that will tickle the fancy of the gift receiver.
I stare at my Christmas tree, warm lights tucked inside its Frasier-furred branches, and I ponder. Only half the ornaments are up and it looks a little bare, but I treasure the light that spills from it around the room. There are bags filled with décor that sit patiently, as well as piles of gold and silver trinkets that await their place on the tree. The manger scene is sitting on the desk with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus haphazardly lying in a pile with sheep and wise men, tangled and expectant. Soon, I’ll arrange them carefully on a surface in my home, thinking of years past when the little hands of my children had this job. I once entered the living room to find the wise men and camels spread out all over the room. When I asked why they weren’t in the manger scene, my son cocked his head and looked at me like I was crazy. “Mom,” he said, “they’re traveling. They haven’t arrived yet because it’s not time.” It made me catch my breath. That particular year, every single day, he inched them closer and closer until they arrived at their destination. That will be me, this month, inching forward day by day. Preparing, nesting and making ready. I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and ruin it all. Instead, I’ll be sipping my coffee and savoring each minute, because each piece I put out has its place – just like each season.
Friday, December 4, 2015
I'm back writing my column! I've missed it, so swing by The Holmes County Bargain Hunter and have a read. Life is weird, but doesn't that make it interesting?
Herrera is back and ready to catch up
Friends, I’ve missed you. Life takes a swing and you’re off on another venture, sometimes leaving behind something that was near and dear. This column was near and dear, but I had a few other things to do, so I was gone for a while, stacking up words neatly in piles. I’m bringing them out and dusting them off to let you know what I’ve been up to since we last chatted.
I’m writing my novel and it’s almost done.
It was a weight that sat directly on my chest, mostly taunting me through the years to finish. I’m nearly 60,000 words in and can see the finish line — albeit hazy in the distance. The last part of it seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and that’s not for lack of being a fast typist. I do have typing medals to brag about from Oscar Miller’s class that I wore proudly on my letterman’s jacket but, um, does that date me? Regardless, my classes were in typing, not the newfangled term keyboarding, and I still position my hands over the correct letters before I start. No pecking one finger at a time for me. I value those typing classes every single day when I sit down to write. I’m sure Oscar would be proud of me today, although he might just chuckle and tell me I typed too fast and made too many errors. This is where I like the technology of now — no whiteout to correct mistakes — just backspace and move on.
In September I traveled solo to Mexico and took part in a writer’s residency I was chosen for. It was a place that sat high in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, and is available for all types of artists to apply their craft. The novel is about my husband’s life, and he is from Oaxaca — can I say match made in heaven? All I needed was a spare room, a desk and a view to sit in front of. I had all that and more as I punched my way through every single day, for three weeks, watching my word count rise and the story evolve. I made several trips to town to do research and visited places that he had been. Emotions and an amazing experience were what I found. The majority of the book was written in that tiny third floor room, and I’m writing as much as I can, now that I’m home, to reach the end. I honestly can’t take in the fact that I’m almost done. It’s been such a far-off thing — an unattainable dream — I short sold myself on. I didn’t believe in ME and my ability to finish. Things happen, friends, when we believe in ourselves.
Life is a blur of days filled with words and love. My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary back in May, we sent the younger two kids off to college in the fall, and my house became empty once again. I’m learning to enjoy the silence. Making a pot of coffee and sitting in my chair, while dust motes float through the slices of sun that break through the windows — isn’t this life? Most days I kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for work, then sit down and begin my freelance work at the kitchen table. Now I can fold in one more thing to that list – this column. Until next week.