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.
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:
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.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Mostly, we ramble along in life doing things the same way because nothing tells us to change. We've always done things a certain way, so we keep on doing them.
What if something comes along that nudges us and says, "Hey, this is wrong. We need to rethink this. Maybe we need to change how we do it?" There will be stubbornness and whining, because we have to learn a new thing. It's like a child, performing tasks and making mistakes until they learn to do it correctly. They find it annoying, but it's part of life.
Isn't it the same with us? Everyone is saying we've become too sensitive and touchy - that we call racism and are intolerant of those who "don't really mean anything by it." Either by the words they say, or their actions that speak one way and do another.
What if we've been doing it wrong all these years?
What if it's time to change and learn a new way?
The cries ring out, "We used to do it this way! Why does it have to change?"
I'll tell you why. We were wrong.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
What's the haunting season without a few short stories to make that chill run up your spine? I offer you a story I came across, that upon reading this morning, has stayed with me. If you tell me you don't read horror, but still read Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti, then you read horror. It's that thrill you're seeking. I make no apology for my love of horror movies and books, just like I don't apologize for reading romance or science fiction. Read on, if you dare.
She still waits for me in the words of her book
|This book does exist. It came out in 1977.|
Friday, October 16, 2015
Every year, a few days after my birthday grants me another notch, I sit down and think about the new number I've been assigned. After I turned forty, I didn't care what the number was, just how I was living. How I was breathing.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
That's how long it took for me to be inundated with life here, in the small corner of Ohio I call home. A retreat is just that - a retreat. It plucks you out of the norm and deposits you somewhere you can turn your brain around in your hands. A place to look at your thoughts, from odd angles, and reflect on what they mean. I found the words in Oaxaca and they poured out of me. I'm searching for a way to keep that unfiltered flow alive in this house.
The world contained in this rectangular piece of electronics that I hold on my lap, that is what stops me.
I get swept away in the glut of information and attitudes that hold my frozen stare, and throttle any spark that may have ignited upon waking. Being away from this sphere, even for three weeks, allowed me to look in from the outside and see the inanity of who we - and I - can be. We sputter and spew on topics ranging from abortion to guns, and gay marriage to politics. I see every day on my feed what is sin and what isn't, as well as who we should welcome and who needs kicked out. Our opinions spiral into the ether and sound petty and small in the scope that is this world - my voice among them.
Whether we realize it or not, we are responsible for what we put out there. When you see words or pictures coming across a screen, they can be taken much differently than how you're thinking them in your head. Our posts are voices, and they can sound full of anger and childish speech - even if we don't mean them that way. I shudder at the posts I've seen full of vitriol and name-calling, horrible things that I could never imagine them saying in person.
What fuels the power we feel to say these hateful words?
I have opinions, and on occasion, have posted them. But I stay away from name-calling and bullying, as well as the "Unbelievable" and "Wake Up" posts. I don't look down my nose at someone because they like certain things, nor would ask them to join me in mine. I've never changed my opinion from someone who makes me feel stupid for my beliefs. I believe in witty repartee and intelligent conversation that doesn't veer into bashing. We MUST learn to communicate with each other. There are ways to do this without belittling the other person, group, or idea.
I know I can shut off this computer. No one has to tell me that. What I've realized is the effect that it can have on a productive life. I love what social media can bring and the connections it creates. It brings out the best in some, and sinks others into an abyss they can't crawl out of.
Won't you join me in creating spaces that aren't filled with hate-mongering feeds that depress? Engaging in bright conversation that doesn't demean? It's a long shot, but for the sake of us as an online community, it's imperative.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
|The wild night sky out my window facing the city.|
|Cacao beans and nancha.|
|My writing space at Arquetopia.|
Sunday, September 20, 2015
This place, so heavy and dense.
It has enfolded me in its palm and I lay here, gently, on the hot surface.
Sometimes gasping for air.
|Graffiti, beautiful and evocative.|
This week my word count has piled up and they are stacked neatly in my computer, waiting for the day they see the light. I have found them and I spew them out as water comes out of a geyser - forceful and necessary. I've found while writing that some characters don't have as much of a voice as I thought, and others are stronger. It's a strange process, writing, and the tiny threads you think won't mean much reveal so much more when pulled. I enjoy pulling stray threads and seeing where they take me. I write each day, every morning into early afternoon, and see where the trail takes me. I jot down notes and talk with George frequently so I can be sure to have details correct. Technology lets us see each other's face as we connect every morning and evening, love never losing itself over the thousands of miles.
|Santo Domingo cathedral|
|The church George took his coins in and asked God to help him.|
I've said before that missing him is the key to me writing the bulk of this story. Many times, as I meandered in the zocalo or on side streets to find a piece of the story, I've felt alone. When we hustled into town for the Dia de la Independencia (Independence Day) the rain pelted us, and as my hood was up and I became drenched, I felt a feeling akin to where will I turn for comfort? None was to be found, just walking and walking until I reached my destination. As independent as I am, I believe these feelings have been afforded me so I can sense some of the desperation yet happiness he found all while being lost.
|Drenched on El Dia de la Independencia|
|The frutas in Ocotlan market|
We traveled to Ocotlan market, a town some forty minutes south of Oaxaca, and spent the day there browsing the wares. It was the cleanest and most delightful market I've ever been to, with the lushest produce and flowers I've seen. The art and handcrafted wares were incredible, and I succumbed over and over to impulse buying. We also said goodbye to Allie, one of my fellow residents, who inspired me with her quest to find a part of her father here in Mexico - a place he was made to leave behind.
|Beautiful graffiti at the train station|
|The little boy I captured. Such irony.|
|I climbed the train. So cool.|
Most importantly, though, I found my way to the old train station - the one where George disembarked and found himself in a lush city, teeming with people. The place where as a six year old child, he looked around and felt emotions of loneliness and uncertainty. When I walked in to this place my eyes pricked with tears and a feeling I couldn't explain welled up in my throat. It was the most connected I've felt in my entire two weeks here, and I walked the length and width of the unused tracks and old train cars until I had my fill. I ran my hands along the chippy paint and iron that once robustly ran the tracks until it reached its destination. I was able to climb up on the train itself, rickety and rusty, and peered in and breathed the air around it. The air was different around this place, somehow sacred, and although George will laugh and tell me - Babe, I'm here. I'm not lost anymore - I know he downplays the emotions he feels. A small boy was playing near the caboose, and he appeared to be around six years old. I approached him, with his mother sitting on a bench near the station, and asked him if I could take his picture. Embarrassed, he ducked his head, but soon looked at me and nodded yes. I captured him looking at me in-between the wheel, and the irony of it stung me. This place was a highlight, and I left filled with something I hadn't felt before.
|The old train station. So many emotions.|
I have one week to go, and I'm working hard to write as many words as can find me. I reach out in each space and tuck it inside my brain, to pull out when it seems difficult to write. This story is hard, and I'm telling it harshly - we aren't holding anything back. You will find it shocking, heart-rending, and maybe see some hope in-between the dark places. There's always a hope, isn't there?
|Magical city streets|
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Today marks one week in Oaxaca.
The house I live in high up in the San Pablo, Etla terrain looks out over the city, like a blanket spread out and sprinkled with glitter. The lights twinkle as I connect them like so many dots on a familiar landscape - at least as familiar as one week can acquaint you. I have eaten calabasa, nopales in soup, agua de melon, and a plate of chicken enchiladas with salsa verde so fine I may never make them again in protest of not having these exact ones. Making them just like I ate them will be a challenge.
|The most amazing enchiladas I've ever eaten.|
I am adjusted, I feel at home, and I am writing.
Today marked a milestone for me as I completed nearly 22,000 words in the seven days I've been writing here. Each morning I awaken, always very early, and contemplate my day. I feel no stress and no urgency to get going...to move. When I finally arise I sit at my computer that looks out an open window to the city below, and I type. For all the years I've tried, and all the times I've procrastinated, it seems the story has been waiting to emerge here - in the place where George's blood and tears flowed. Arquetopia and coming here was the right choice. It was intended for me to know it's name and claim my spot here.
|Flags fly in prep for their independence day.|
I write him, and I feel each emotion as I connect it from my mind to the screen. Somehow, when I look up it's hours later and many, many words have been written. The book is taking shape and finding purchase. If I can complete this many words per week before I head home, I will be very close to done. Although, as with any book, I don't know how many words it will need and I'll write until it's done. I've learned that with writing, it's best to get into a routine of every day. Even if it's just several inches of lines that add to the story.
|I've met myself here...and I like who I am.|
This city is so unique and so special. On two different occasions I've had the opportunity to meander through the zocalo, explore the markets, and eat food from the bounty of vendors that line the streets. I've stood in front of the church where George found refuge and gave back, as well as the market where he slept under the tables for so many nights. I've felt goosebumps many times, as though an invisible finger reached out to touch me and let me step through a curtain of time, to see what I must envision.
|Political activities are always to be found in the zocalo.|
I have several more places I want to visit in connection to the story, as well as some artist markets and shoppes that some of the friends I've made here at the residency have told me about. The old train station is a main place I need to go as that's where he first arrived, stepped off, and didn't quite know where he was. I want to go and stand in his steps and see, at least partially, what he may have seen. I know he is waiting for me back in Ohio, yet I can feel him here. I can sense his little frame running through the streets, lost and not knowing which way to turn. I stand in his small footprints and reach out to hold a little hand that's not there, yet is trapped in time and awaiting the full story to come into the light.
|The simple tamale, Taste buds are alive.|
This I will do, for him and for me. When it's all done, he needs to come back to this place to feel it and find peace. Even though he is happy man, always the life of any party and especially my heart, he needs to come full circle and stand in the zocalo where he ran hungry and tired, and finally let go of that little boy that he was.
|Allie, Ellen, and I - fellow residents!|
Mexico is a country full of ancient wonder and beautiful people. They are welcoming and warm, full of life and vigor. I entreat you to see beyond what you hear in the news and find the real Mexico. It is a lushly wonderful place full of inspiration - if you look for it.
And I write on.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Wanting something and actually carrying out the plan are two separate things. I'm usually on the former end of this scenario and do a lot of wishing and dreaming. Doing? It doesn't usually happen except if it's baking. Chocolate always comes first, hence the name of this blog.
Monday, July 27, 2015
You of normally hurried minutes that diminish rapidly through a hazy time continuum. Today I met you with problems consisting of regular things, yet clouded mind. Money and things and issues and future happenings stirred in my brain this sunny day. Though the sun met me with warmth and color and flowers that were blooming on my porch.
Ordinary days filled with troubles that aren't really troubles.
Ways to meet obligations and fulfill them drift through me,
pressing, gently pushing.
This morning, yet again, I've given it over to the one who knows me, and embraces me still though I've wandered far. Always wandering and wanting something more and different than the light of a regular Monday morning.
Today I work, gather groceries, and scribble poetry in a simple notebook in the dappled light of my porch. My haven and the place where my thoughts come together. A place where the book coming through my heart to my fingers finds purchase, and spills out onto an electronically-organized machine I hold in my lap. I will write these words one inch at a time until they are spent.
I greet you, new week, with messy thoughts and high hopes that will accomplish half of what I normally wish for a refreshed seven days. I will move through each minute and try to make it count. Each word and thought, held captive.
And I begin the day.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
I know you, America.
I see you in the tiny back roads where wildflowers
bloom and droop with the dust that covers them. Where
I wander and watch verdant woods filled with green
inch past my window.
I feel you in the breezes that fall across my face,
as I am free to travel your craggy terrain and find
new places you have hidden from me. This, in your
excitement for me to explore you.
You are on my front porch where I am free to seek refuge
and form prose that falls from my fingertips like
blood, cut from jagged edges. Where I find the hard
words more defiantly than anywhere else.
I know you, America.
You are not 'Merica.
You are more than patriotic vitriol spoken with
careless abandon, without connecting brain or tongue.
Words wrapped in a flag and handed to you at birth
to blindly worship and tread softly around.
You are more than a flag, fibers and pigments colored
to make red-hued stripes and white stars, signifying a
birthright of undying allegiance. The foggy wars we've
fought as we're spoon-fed the pablum of liberty.
Freedom isn't free, because it's a state of mind.
Liberty comes in the freedom to make decisions of
who I am and choose to be. It comes to me in the words
I say and the people I love freely, without fear
of someone saying I can't.
I see you, America.
In the faces of my children as they ford the waters
of this life that aren't easy to cross. As they
scrape and scrounge and do and be. I see America
in their faces, fiercely shining in their will to
accomplish much as resistance presses them.
I see you in my husband, who made your harsh
and beautifully unfolding land his own, leaving behind a home
where familiar creases would have lined his face. Where
smoke from comfortable fires burn and
the smells and senses could wake
him up to what he left, though a home made now,
where he chose to make it.
In myself, though older in body, yet young in spirit.
My chance to also do and be and see new things
and walk different paths. I don't need a flag in my
face to tell me I can accomplish much.
Neither the cold grip of metal
in my hand to say I'm American.
Not 'Merica. Where to be an American means
gripping tight to words long ago spoken,
and wrapping ourselves in a cloak
of rigid freedoms we hold tightly 'til death.
Your wind whispers to me in the night, and I
wrap that caress around me as I find you in a
darkened sky lit with dying stars.
I want to meld you with 'Merica and find an
uncomfortable place, where we can relish in
your goodness together. Instead of divided,
from the precipice I now stand on.
Friday, June 19, 2015
I've learned two things over the past several years:
1) It's hard for people to say the words "racism exists."
2) We use excuses. A lot.
3) The more open my mind becomes, the less I share.
I used to write about every situation that came down. My audience wasn't as broad and I felt semi-protected (!) in putting my opinions out there for the world to read. I say semi-protected knowing full well the privilege I am granted in being a white woman. There, I said it. I know that though I may incite heated arguments, disagreements, or a all-around nodding of heads in agreement - that in the end I will still remain a white woman who tends to side with the minority (at least in our area) of things "better left unsaid." And I will still be able to give my opinion without being bashed mercilessly, or at the very least called a "bleeding heart liberal" which is a wretched thing to call anyone. Wasn't Jesus an open, bloody, bleeding heart for those around him?
Now, I hesitate - and mull over - every single word I put out there.
I tremble when I say the hard things.
But there is no time to tremble.
Our world is close at hand, as close as the glance of an eye at words spoken on a post...through a picture...on a tweet...or through a snap. All is seen and I am quite sure that all is filed away in the memory banks of most to be brought out when the right post or thread spools itself out.
We are separated into neat, tidy piles of humanity starting with Republicans to the right, Democrats to the left, and the rest of us clinging by fragile tendrils to what little purchase remains in between. Christians, you're over there with those beliefs, and those of you who believe things should be a bit more equal, you sit over there with those people. We file people by what they say, do, and especially say on social media.
I'm not sure I want to be so easily defined.
We are a world of sound bites and chunks of flesh ripped away bit by bit. We know immediately that if a black person protests, defends, or is accused that they are guilty until innocent. They are thugs, by nature, to be handled and pressed down.
When Mike Brown was killed all I heard for days was, "But he stole cigars!" As if that meant he needed to die.
"Trayvon was a thug who smoked pot!" As if that meant he deserved to die.
"But that black girl was talking back to the officer!" As if that meant she deserved to be thrown to the ground and SAT ON by the cop. She is 14 years old.
If one is of Latin descent, then they are most likely "illegal" or "working under the table" and had "better go back to where they belong." They are treated as guilty before innocent, and this I know well and will say no more.
If a white person is caught doing something heinous - even committing mass murder - we carefully sift through what we know - in very grave tones - what might be, and deem them to be possibly "unstable" or "mentally off" in some capacity. There are never words being spoken like, "That white guy was a thug. A terrorist." We hear how he was quiet and reserved and got good grades in school. We don't hear how he may have smoked pot, drank a bit, or was a menace to society. Because white kids do all those things. Every day.
Our categories are swiftly brought out, like a menu to be read off and memorized, so that we can say what is happening and put it in its place. I have been appalled and heartsick at what has happened in Charleston. Nine beautiful souls shot down in cold, cold blood by another soul that although also beloved by God, chose specifically to claim these lives because of their skin color.
You may argue that fact if you want. Though you might want to know the shooter said this himself.
What makes me the most sad is the denial I see on social media...on TV...and elsewhere. It crawls right up inside my heart and drops it quick like a punch to the stomach.
From a comment thread on FB:
"I also say that yes Dylann Roof committed a racially motivated mass murder and I condemn his act...but my goodness he looks like such a young boy. It's killing me that this child (and yes I know he's 21 but still that is SO YOUNG) has so much hate in his heart. Hate doesn't kill hate. Only love conquers hate. Condemn the act. Love the sinner. I'm praying for the victims but also for this young man. Tragic all around!!" Find that thread here.
Why do we excuse? Why do we explain away? Why does darker skin mean older and more dangerous? Why does white skin mean young and seemingly innocent? Worthy of pulling a gun first? And before you can say "but" please listen...
Admitting that racism exists can only serve to set you free from excuses.
Can you say the words with me?
Dylann Roof committed a racially-motivated crime. He chose the church, he walked in and sat with them for an hour, then he pulled out a gun, told them he was there to kill black people, pulled the trigger and reloaded, and nine people were murdered.
Say it again
Now say it slower
See the horror for what it is
Acknowledge that racism exists
Roll it around on your tongue
Let it slide slowly off until it feels comfortable
Stop saying the word "but"
Then stop making excuses