Hell Week and a Quart of Oil

Back in my early theater days, the concept of Hell Week was introduced to me. Hell Week, otherwise known as Tech Week, was the time before the opening night of a show, where all finishing touches would have to take place and the show would have to get on its feet completely before Dress rehearsal. It was a grueling week that usually started on a Friday night and ran through the weekend and every night leading up to the Dress. Then there was the premiere, and you hoped that everything went as smoothly as you had planned for the last 567 hours.

I went through my first real Hell Week with Sahar by my side, and I have gone through many, many more since. So when I told her previously about my plans for my past week, she immediately dubbed it Hell Week and remained my cheerleader throughout.

The week was a combination of two things: me working both my jobs and me battling illness when I wasn’t at either of my jobs. Also, throw a kiddos weekend in there. It was not an easy one is my point, but somehow I have made it to today- Tuesday- and I am alive and I am awake and I am not at work and no one is here. And it is glorious.

Did this show go off without a hitch? Certainly not. There were many bumps and bruises along the way, even in the literal sense. Customer service work made me cry for the first time, so I guess I’m in the club now. My job with kids made me cry for the eleventy-thousandth time, and that’s a club I’ve been in for a while. And I cried a hell of a lot last night, when I got weirdly sick. See, I know when it’s gastroparesis that’s got me, and my immediate response is to go to the hospital so they can give me the shot to make it stop. Do I wish they had some sort of pill of this medication then I could just take or a shot I could administer myself? Of course I do, but that’s not an option yet; technology hasn’t arrived. But this time I felt weird. So weird in fact, that I asked my father to stay with me at the hospital. Sometimes he will take me into admissions but he always goes home and leaves me there afterwards especially since the Covid years. But last night I was a little scared because the sickness did not feel the same in a way, so he stayed with me. They came and they gave me the shot, with some Ativan for good measure, and then I went to sleep and when I woke up my dad was sitting next to me watching TV. It made me sad- that man has spent way too many nights sitting in a hospital room watching TV.

When I got home, I went to bed, and when I woke up, I felt better. All signs pointing towards a healthy day but then again- I was fine yesterday. It didn’t hit me until night time, another reason I found the whole thing weird. When I get sick, I get sick first thing in the morning. That is the way the gastroparesis works for me. This seemed like some bug or virus that knocked me down last night. Either way, I am tired. I am tired because I worked for 2 weeks straight and the only day I had off I spent in the ER. I am tired because while my kids were here I was not able to cook them dinner or spend time with them. And I am tired of my car being my car.

But today, I will take a little time for me. I have a nice little morning to myself, and I feel pretty good (fingers crossed,) so maybe I will take myself on a little adventure…to Autozone. Where I need to buy more oil for my stupid car. It’s the little things that keep you going.  Like a quart of oil.


Potato Pictures

We spent 30 minutes looking for the right tree. It was one of the last of the cherry blossoms at the Historical Museum. There was a girl taking her graduation photos at the tree next to us and I was hopeful we stayed out of her way, but who knows? Perhaps years from now she will look back on her Senior album and think “who are those people over by the tree in the background?” Anyway…

I have never considered myself photogenic, although I have been told by others that I am. I have been told I take a lovely picture. Sometimes, this magical planetary alignment occurs, and I think I actually look good in a selfie or something. Usually on days when my hair and makeup are on point, But occasionally I catch a snap of myself as I am on the daily, and that’s not too bad either. But mostly, I delete 95% of the pictures I take of myself. One of my favorite photos is my first author pic, which graces the back cover of my chapbook. You can also find it on my About the Author page here in the blog.. It was a selfie I took at my parents’ house, where I was giving my notorious side eye.

My second author photo, was taken by E while she was experimenting with photography. We went on an adventure to a park and she took some shots, one of which I selected and used for several years. However, I felt that it was getting outdated, especially since I don’t even wear glasses anymore.
So, I went online and I offered free poetry for a photograph, but nobody was in the mood for that, so instead I started looking for other photographers that I would have to pay acual money for. I found a really good one for a really good price, but I remained hesitant.

So, Wednesday, when Mark and I were sitting around the house and wishing that we had a reason to be out of it, I asked him how he would feel about taking a photograph of me for my author portrait. I was looking at a picture he took of me once, when we were at the Japanese Gardens. Not author-photo material, and it’s pretty old, but it was a good shot of me. He said he would love to give it a go, so we drove to find a cherry blossom tree. I wanted a pop of color this time around, and I knew that there were trees in bloom by the history museum, so we took a drive, found a tree, and he took my photo.

I didn’t feel pretty when the photo was being taken- I had forgotten my lipstick at home and thought it left my face looking washed out without it. I didn’t like the wind blowing my hair around, or the top I had chosen to wear. Mark kept telling me to smile, and I kept telling him I already was, and he took several shots that I figured would all be crappy. It wasn’t until we got home that I took a look at them. He took a bunch of pictures, but two stood out to me the most. One was not author-photo material, as you can only see the side of my face and mostly it is trees and history museum and sky – I made that my personal profile picture. The other shot I really liked was of me standing sideways but turning my head toward the camera. I love the pop of pink in the background from the cherry blossom tree, but something about my face seemed off. It was not until I put the photo in black-and-white that I realized how much I really liked it. In black-and-white, you see, you can’t tell that I’m not wearing my lipstick. The photo took on a whole new persona- it reminded me of the photographs that we took when we were in Salem. I said then that if I wrote fantasy I would be using those photos from our WitchPix shoot. Mark managed to capture the same essence that I had in that photo shoot, and I ended up with a great author picture. I told Mark that I think he has a secret skill in photography. While I don’t love the way I look in photos, the pictures he took were beautiful. His eye is wonderful; every angle was precise. I just think I look like a potato sometimes.

Anyway, here are the photos Mark took. Very un-potato like, in my opinion.

The Fatal Faux Pas

Somewhere between South Buffalo and North Tonawanda, my phone gave up the ghost.   I don’t know what happened.  It was fine at home; it was not fine at Carey’s house.  For two days I tried, but nothing, until dad reminded me that we had insurance on the family plan.  So, I headed over to T-Mobile, where they told me they couldn’t do much, but they would look up my plan and see what was possible.  Then, this exchange:

“Oh, I see Maureen is the account holder. She would have to come in with you, with photo ID.”
“Oh, ok, but what if she’s dead?”

I am SORRY, T-Mobile employee whose jaw I dropped. They were simply aghast.  I remembered then that there is a certain decorum folks expect surrounding the dead.  I forgot to put up that mask.  I seemed cavalier, and I’m not. I mean, of course my mother’s death was a huge thing for me.  Alas, I am notoriously not good with death in general.  I don’t have excellent coping skills in this area.  I have been told by a therapist that they are “okay, but not great.”  Some of these include sending the dead “on vacation,” in which I act as though they are simply out of town.  For reference, my aunt Ka has been in the Philippines for 16 years doing missionary work, and I sure hope my mother has been enjoying her first few months in Ireland.  I also use humor in uncomfortable situations, so when death is around, I sure can get inappropriate.  You do not want to take me to funeral.  So coping skills as they are, I was wondering if my blunt attitude was a symptom of something.  Or, perhaps…perhaps people just hate the word “dead.” 

Whenever I say my mom is dead, people get all cringy.  They would generally much prefer that I say “passed,” or “moved on,” or even “died.”  But “dead” freaks people the hell out.  I think I know why, too…it’s because of the fear. 

See, I have a theory on fear. FDR said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Nope, sorry, I don’t buy it.  I fear only one true thing, and it is the root of all fears the very heartbeat: myself.  The only thing we have to fear is ourselves.  If you are scared of something, look within and figure out what it is about yourself that is making you scared, and you will always find the answer…even if you don’t want to think about it.  In this case, we all fear being “dead.”  Not necessarily “dying;” we all have a hope of how that will happen.  I myself would love to go peacefully in the night, in a hospital on a cloud of medication. I want no pain and I want a professional to find my body.  Some people hope to die at home in their beds.  Some even hope to die tragically or famously.  “Dying” has hope in it…however small a shred. 

And death holds hope.  We all hope of an afterlife, from the atheist who expects to turn to compost to the Christian enroute to heaven.  Me, I think there’s options out there, and I’m open to many possibilities. I’m just here for the ride, baby.  Death does not scare me, because I hope for something coming after this.  I hope this isn’t the end…and therefore…another small shred.

But “dead?”  Nobody likes dead.  Dead is final.  Dead makes people uncomfortable.  There is no hope in “dead.”  So, I understand the poor T-Mobile girl’s fallen face when I said what I said, and I am sorry; it’s just the process.

I don’t know if I mentioned before but I have been receiving mailers about grief from a church whose youth group I attended once upon a time.  This month’s newsletter came with an illustration that said “Missing my mom comes in waves. Todays, I’m drowning.” Missing my mom does come in waves, but the hardest part of every day is early morning when the tide rolls in for me.  Which is why today I am enjoying my coffee while typing this blog at 7am while wearing her bathrobe.

I know I have been writing about mom a lot, but it really is helping me process to write out my feelings and share my journey with you.  I appreciate that you are along for my ride, as well.  Even when I get all emo and wax poetic about the concept of death and dying.   On these days, your support means all the more to me. 

Anyway…happy Tuesday.

Early Morning Coffee

I didn’t get to tell her that my eyes healed all the way, and that I only need glasses to read, and that it’s easier to drive at night. I didn’t get to tell her that I got a new job, something completely outside of my comfort zone that I ended up really loving. I did not get to tell her about the trip to Salem I took with my girlfriends, even though she knew every step of the planning stage. I did not get to tell her about the new apartment that we found, smaller than our last but better suited to our needs. I didn’t get to tell her that some of the issues with the kiddos ended up resolving for the better, and her grandchildren are thriving in new ways. I didn’t get to tell her about the poetry reading I did in October, where my husband and my father and sister and best friend all came to hear me read, but none of it mattered because she wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell her about the deadliest snowstorm since ’77, because she died in the middle of it. But for the 8 months before that, I still couldn’t tell her anything.

On Friday, May 28th, the calendar punched me in the face. See, my sister went on a cruise to Mexico. Because her phone has not been working as of late, she took my mother’s phone with her for communication. I went ahead and changed my contact information from “Momma” to “Mexican Bernie.” I even took a picture of Bernadette and replaced mom’s photo. All was fine, until my phone went off with the first text from Bernadette, and I saw, for the first time in a year, my last text from Mom: Sitting out early. Please make coffee for me.

This sent me into an emotional spiral, complicated further the next day when my phone decided to revert to its previous contacts, so when my sister texted me in the morning it said text from “Momma-” her photo and everything was back! I don’t know why, but it was not when I needed first thing in the morning. Then I went to work. I have a tiny paper calendar that I keep under the monitor of my computer so that I know what day it is and what the week ahead looks like for renters. I glanced at this when I got there and saw it was the 28th, and then my brain instantly pulled the text message I had seen a few days earlier out of the ether and reminded me that it was sent on April 28th of last year. Meaning, that Friday was the one year anniversary of the last time I had a conversation with my mother. Meaning, on Saturday it was one year that we have lived without her.

It is a weird thing when someone passes after an illness such as mother’s. While I have no doubt that the one year anniversary of her death will be difficult, in many ways I feel that time to be now.  I don’t know how much I wrote about the events of the day at the time, or even if I did, but I will tell you a small bit.  Perhaps you are a concert reader who already knows, but my grandmother died when I was small, and it was me who found her as she took her last breath. And it was me who found my mom, in much the same position that my grandmother had been, almost exactly- but Mom didn’t die then. Mom fought like hell for 8 months first, then died one day before the anniversary of her sister’s passing. The eerie coincidence of both circumstances stays with me. She went at the same time as my aunt, and in the same manner as my grandmother.

Yes, my mother was with us for 8 months, but in that 8 months, she did not leave a hospital bed. She did not eat, she did not speak, she occasionally would smile at me and I would wonder if it was reflex. But then, I would put my face close to her face and she would pucker her lips on my cheek and I knew she was in there. For 8 months she gave me these sad kisses, and I would paint her nails, and brush her hair, and play music for her. I don’t like remembering this time however, because it wasn’t my REAL mom. My real mom spoke. My real mom wouldn’t shut up, in fact. My real mom was ready every morning on her back porch, waiting for me to come over at the crack of dawn and have coffee. That woman died on April 29th, 2022.

I made it through the day okay. It was actually a little better than I thought it would be, mostly because I picked up a shift at work to keep my mind occupied. Of course when I got home I started to get a little sad, I think. Kevin came over, and then I went to Carey’s, and I talked to Bernie and dad, and I remembered all the friends and all the family that love me and that I still have by my side. So no, I didn’t get to tell her about so many things that happened in the past year, but I did get to tell all of them- and that is just as important.

Now, on a related note, I would like to talk for a quick minute about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walk. If you click the link in the previous sentence, you will be directed to the homepage for Team Sunflower. Team Sunflower will be walking this year in honor of my mother’s contributions to the mental health community. She believed in the AFSP, and participated for several years. When it started to grow and they started having health and community services offered, mom even got her organization to start attending. She would walk with me every year, despite being an arthritic woman with a bad foot. My mother was a mental health and addiction nurse, and worked tirelessly to help those in need. We are trying to get a big group together for the walk this year, so if any friends or family would like to join us on the day, please let me know! And of course, if you cannot walk with us but would like to make a donation, that is acceptable as well. But it is important to me to memorialize Mom in this way come September, because while I know she has helped many people in our community, I can say for certain that there is at least one life she has saved over and over again, and that is mine. So, this year we walk for her.

Okay. It is 5:00 a.m. now on Sunday morning, and I was going to save this blog for Tuesday’s update but…the birds are chirping outside. I am drinking my coffee. I quit cigarettes, and I didn’t get to tell her that either, although I am vaping a little. Oh, but what I would not give for one more morning- just one more morning where I could go over to her house right now and put on the coffee pot and sit on the back porch and have a cigarette with my mom.

Twenty Years of Teaching

I was in eighth grade the first time someone asked me to teach. It was my first grade teacher Ms. Schewe, and she was in need of a tutor for her students that were behind in Reading. This was in the days before remedial classes and special ed, and looking back I know now that the kids I assisted probably had ADHD or learning disabilities. I gave up my study hall at the end of every day to go down to the first grade classroom and help the littles learn their sight words. It made me feel special that my old teacher chose me out of everybody, and it made me feel special that I could help others learn something I loved doing so much: reading!! Around that time, I also started helping my mom teach her Religious Education class on Thursday nights. I was just an assistant, passing out papers and reminding kids to concentrate, but I liked helping them learn. I liked reading them the Bible stories, and I loved when they would give innocent little philosophical answers. Sometime around 16, I got my own class that I kept for about 5 years or so. I also decided at that time to pursue education in college.

However, after a year of schooling, I was unable to continue my classes for health reasons. I then took a job as a substitute Teacher Aide for a special needs school. It was not my favorite job, and honestly there were moments that almost scared me away from special educational altogether. Now, special ed was not my area of expertise- and only became an issue for me when I took that job out of convenience and the need for money. Yet, somehow, my early twenties found me working at Baker Victory Services, a large organization for children with behavioral disability. For a while I worked in the Day Treatment Center, as a one-on-one Aide for various students, but one in particular who I shall call Sunshine.

Sunshine had a lot going on up in her brain, and I am sure that if she were in school now she would have gotten even more assistance than she received when I was with her. But at the heart of it, despite everything she had been through and everything she has seen, she was just a 15 year old girl. It became very important to me that this 15-year-old grew into a functioning adult. We worked together for almost 2 years before she left the school, and I have never forgot her. I don’t think I ever will- because when I think about it, every school I have worked at has a child or two that has never fully left my mind.

Sometimes a kid makes an impression on you, and you think about them as the years go on, wondering what they turned into. After Baker Victory, I moved along to a few daycares for a few years, and then went into nannying. Then early last year I started working in After School Care Program virtually, and a few months into that we finally moved back into the school. I got to actually meet the kids I had been watching on the screen, and so many more…I have dozens now that greet me each day with a smile and a “hi, Ms. Brigid!” I wonder how many of them I will remember years from now- I know us teachers are not supposed to play favorites, but that’s nonsense. The funny thing is, while I do remember my favorites over the years, I also remember others that made an impression somehow. I wonder who I will remember 10 years from now.

See, I follow a couple of mothers from the daycares and nanny gigs that I worked at on Facebook, and I have watched their kiddos grow over the internet. I think right now the youngest of the lot is 14. However, I have seen other children I taught or took care of graduate high school, join the army, buy their first car, make the dean’s list, etc. And then I think of Sunshine.

One day out of nowhere, my friend Jen tells me that her friend, Jimmy, brought his friend along for a car ride somewhere. They get to talking, and it is discovered that this friend of Jimmy’s is Sunshine. I am elated to hear she is alive and well, and when she texts me out of the blue one day, my heart soared. Is her life perfect? No, it is not. But it was HER life, and she worked hard for it, and she fought battles and overcame obstacles for it, and I was proud of her.

I haven’t heard from her in years. I send her a text on her birthday every year, but I don’t get a reply. Sometimes, I worry. Sometimes, I hope she’s out there living her life and is too busy for the likes of me. The thing with Sunshine is that I know for certain, perhaps due to the fact she was already a teenager at the time, that she remembers me as clearly as I remember her. With the little kids I work with, you wonder what kind of impact you have and what kind of impression you are making and what will stay with them as they get older.

I have a little boy in my second grade who is always helpful and kind, in a genuine way as opposed to those who do it for candy or line-leader privileges. He always chooses goodness when he can, and tries to keep things fair and safe, even for peers. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said either an engineer or a teacher. He would be spectacular at both things, so I told him so and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He asked me why I’m not there in the mornings, because he wants me to be his teacher during the day, too. My heart swelled at this, because even though I gave up the traditional teaching path back when I left college, I love that I have been able to help and encourage kids who need it, ever since I was a kid myself.

I am debating whether to return to school in the fall. I love my job there, but there are logistical issues that come into play. For instance, my car is on his way out and while I live in South Buffalo, I work in North Buffalo, and it’s a big city. I spend half of what I make in gas and car maintenance. It also prevents me from picking up afternoon hours at Avis, which pays slightly better. But the logistical issues mean very little when confronted with the issues of the heart- do I want to give up teaching? Do I want to give up working with children, something I have literally been doing for 25 years? I do not know. I don’t think I’m going to know by the end of the year, and I’m not even sure how I’m going to feel at the end of the summer when I have to make the decision to send in my rehire application or not. Either way, I just want it on the record that for over 25 years I have been teaching children. I have taught everything from good manners to New Math, from reading skills to coping mechanisms, from potty training to bicycle riding, and I have done it all while loving a child that isn’t mine as though it was in that moment.

That’s my secret. This is why I worry about school shootings- because I will throw myself in front of your child, as though they are my own. When a kid is in my charge, they are MY kid. They are MY responsibility. And I will treat them therefore as though they are my own. This may be why it is so hard for me to say goodbye to teaching. Because I am saying goodbye to a hundred children that were never mine, but whom I loved fiercely for a moment in time.

Oh well, we shall see.  Happy Thursday.

The Baby Poet with the Purple Notebook

The month of April is flying by, so I suppose I should do my annual Poetry Month blog. In the past, I have shared my poetry, I have shared the poems of my friends, I have written about poets that I like, and about my feelings towards the craft itself. Today I will write about when I was a brand new poet, with my purple notebook.

I fell in love with poetry when I was 14, sitting in Mrs. Halm’s Freshman English classroom. She had us write a poem of any kind, and I penned several lines about the changes I was going through having left Elementary School and starting High School. She told me it was great, she gave me an A, and I hung it in my locker for the rest of the year. Sometime after that, I acquired my purple notebook.

My purple notebook was more important to me then any other book or folder in my backpack. Sure, I’d forget my math notes, but I would never forget my purple notebook. It was full of my poems, and quotes I had heard that I loved, and versus from other poets that resonated with me. Also during my Freshman year, Mrs. Halm asked me to contribute something to the school literary magazine- which now that I think about it, we only did when I was a Freshman, and I really would have liked that as a Senior. But I digress…

Anyway, she asked me to write a short story, so I did, and a lot of girls at school complimented me on it. It was the first time I received real recognition for writing from my peers, because it’s not like any of my grade school chums actually read the literary magazine that I contributed to back then. Plus, that was all teacher-guided poetry- not anything from my heart. So sometime in my Junior year, friends started inquiring what I was writing in my purple notebook. They had assumed it was a sort of diary, and when I said it was full of quotes and poems, they were surprised. I had started sharing some of my poems with my friends, and they all liked them. Then came my Senior year, and everyone was scrambling to find quotes for their Senior yearbook section.

I had one friend named Beth, and I remember sitting in class with her as she asked if she could borrow my book to look for a quote. She read much of it, and the compliments she gave me about my writing have stuck with me some 20 odd years later. We were not good friends; good acquaintances, perhaps- but I have not seen her since graduation. Still, I have never forgotten her due to her reaction to my writing. In fact, when I wrote my novella, I had the events of the book take place on her birthday, as a small homage to someone who bolstered my spirits once.

Shortly after this experience, I gained the confidence to share my work with a broader community- at which point I found the now defunct poetry.com. I mean, it’s not really dead, you can go there, it’s active- but it is not the site that I used 20 years ago. On that site, I was able to submit poetry online. At the end of my Senior year, quite literally the day after the end of classes, I got a letter in the mail saying that one of my poems would be included in an anthology. I’m pretty sure it was one of those things where they pick a bunch of poems and then try and get you to buy the anthology, but it was a big deal for me at the time, if only from a self-esteem point of view.

Fast forward through college, where I met others who enjoyed my writing, not just friends- professors, too. I received an A for a play I wrote for fun and submitted as my final English project. I was told to submit my poetry to the literary magazine, though I never got around to it. I received A’s on every monologue I wrote for theater class. I received A’s on every paper I wrote, in fact. I aced every essay portion of every test except for French. And all the while, I kept scrawling in my little purple notebook. When Mark and I met when we were 20, I remember reading him a couple of poems. He didn’t know a poem from a hole in the wall, but he told me it was more beautiful than the things he’d read in school, and it made me start to love him a little. To this day, my husband has me read him everything I write- the only things he hasn’t heard are the books, because I just don’t have the time to read those aloud. Reading itself is not easy for him, but he loves the words I put together.

Around the time that Mark and I broke up back in 2003, my purple notebook got filled finally,, and then packed away in a suitcase in the back of my closet with the others. “The others” are all the journals I kept from the age of 14 onward. I journaled constantly, as it was my main coping mechanism through my teens and 20s, but then one fateful day in 2007, I had a little bit of a meltdown. I dragged that suitcase down from the shelf in the closet, and I destroyed 15 notebooks. Most were journals, one was a dream diary, one or two were full of poems. Only one survived death- my purple notebook. I could not bear myself to get rid of it, because while it was a symbol of pain like the others, it’s greatness far outweighed it’s sorrow. I have a huge Tupperware container filled with special items from my life, and I put it in that box, tucked safely away. I could not say goodbye to that purple notebook- that would be too much. That would be too final.

You know, if you are subscriber to my Patreon, I urge you to check in tomorrow. I intend to post a poem from that notebook- something I wrote when I was only 16, and the first poem that I truly shared with my mother. I performed it for her and my Aunt Ka, and they were blown away. My mother explained that she didn’t know I could write like that, which is saying something because she thought I was the best writer in the world since I was about 6 years old. I just have to dig up the notebook and transcribe it, which will happen sometime in the afternoon.

I suppose I should take this opportunity to hype my Patreon? It’s $5 a month, and you get a weekly update from me- always new stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. I know I need to put some more effort into it, and if I really think about it I should be moving half the blog over there and charging folks, but somehow that still makes me feel grimy inside. So instead I offer you the latest in my writing world, available only on Patreon. I am considering adding a $1 tier as well, where I perhaps share two items a month or so, but that also means I have to ramp up the offerings for my $5 a month patrons. See, now I’m just thinking out loud…just check out my Patreon, and consider joining up if you really love my stuff. Here is a link.

Anyway, that is the tale of my purple notebook, that traveled with me for about 10 years and kept me sane during that time. That was my Xanax before I had Xanax. So happy Poetry Month, and happy Tuesday. I hope your words come together for you today.  

Procrastination and Anxiety

Why does my anxiety build up in my head and creates obstacles for me? This is a question I am pondering this morning, as I consider whether or not I wish to read poetry tomorrow night.

On Sunday, I awoke nervous. Mostly, it was because of the stress I was building up in my head. I had to work in the morning, which is usually pretty easy on Sundays, but it was stressful because I knew as soon as I left I had to go home and do my taxes. Yes, I am damn near 40 years old, but I have only ever done my taxes by myself twice. My father always handled them in the past, as he has a degree in accounting and is a computer whiz. But then, he retired from his job, and thus retired from doing mine and my sister’s taxes.

We discovered the Cashapp filer, so I used that this past year and again this year. It really was quite simple, especially since I could upload our W-2s, and then just double check the information. Also it auto-filled all of my personal information from last year- I just had to change my address. The state taxes I have always found confusing, and I am 99% sure I got it all right, but I think we all have that one wriggling thought in our brains that makes us worry that we put a decimal in the wrong place or left out a tax credit. I don’t know. Everything seemed to go fine last year, so hopefully this year will be the same.

I submitted the forms and received emails back this morning that they had been accepted, so that is over and done with. My point, however, is that this simple task which took me maybe 45 minutes lived rent-free in my brain for 4 months. Because anxiety!

When I was a kid, my mom told me I had a problem with procrastination. The truth is I don’t think it’s really procrastination, or at worst, that is a symptom of an underlying problem – anxiety! It’s not that I wish to put off my tasks, it’s that my anxiety gives me 5,000 reasons why doing the task is a bad idea. I then have to rationalize through those 5,000 reasons to get to the task. That is why I filed my taxes on April 16th, instead of the end of January like a normal person. That is why I am sitting here right now looking at my three poems I would like to read tomorrow and thinking that they are stupid and crappy- because I have not yet rationalized that they are good and worthy.

Time will tell if I manage to do so and end up reading them tomorrow night at the cafe. I hate having to wait for my brain to catch up with my mood- especially when my mood is good and high and I am feeling alright, but then my crazy brain sends crazy thoughts that ruin the day. If the poetry reading were right now, I would go based upon my mood alone, which has been quite good these past few days. Alas, anxiety threatens that mood, but I shall fight back! I shall not relinquish to my old foe. Even if I have to rationalize for the next 24 hours, I will find a way to overcome. At least, one can hope.

Art is Not Free

It is Tuesday morning at 4:30 a.m. and I have just posted my blog for the day, but here I am starting a new one for Thursday, because I am waist deep in the comments section on my local news station’s Facebook. Here is a link to the article that folks are talking about.

To summarize very briefly, a businessman took pictures in front of the local mural and posted them on his professional website. The artist of the mural then sent a bill to the businessman, citing copyright infringement. A few things to note: firstly, the businessman is not the man who owns the building- that man offered the artist the wall for free to paint upon, just FYI. Secondly, the businessman never received a cease and desist letter. Now, it could be argued that the businessman is not necessarily using the mural to sell anything, although it could also be argued that he is using it to promote his business. The artist wishes to receive compensation should the latter be the case. I don’t think they went about it the right way- you definitely need to send out a cease and desist first. You can’t just throw a bill in someone’s face. However, what is irking me is the belief that because the artist painted it to be enjoyed by the city, they deserve no compensation should it be used for promotional purposes. I don’t think that the businessman had any ill intent in his use of photography of the mural, but if he was using it to sell anything or promote his business, he means to pay the artist. What really makes me angry is the faction of people on the internet who think that it should just be painted over out of spite. As if art is created without time, effort, or money. It was at this point that I closed out the comment section and took to writing this blog.

First of all, copyright infringement is a problem- and the only thing you can’t copyright is an idea. If nobody ever told you that, I am telling you now. For instance, every word you are reading has been copyrighted. There’s a little disclaimer I put on the bottom right hand corner of the web browser version of my blog, and it states as such- I have literally put it there for the people who do not know that everything you publish in a blog is copyrighted. And yes, when it comes to the Fine Arts, the mural an artist paints on a wall is copyrighted by the artist. That is their intellectual property.

Secondly, regarding the fact that you cannot copyright an idea, to earn a copyright you must complete a project. Ergo, you must put forth the time and effort needed for that project. When you think of the steps that it takes from inception of a story idea to basic outline to rough first draft to final edit to finished book, you see why an idea cannot be copyrighted. We all have ideas, but it is only those who make the necessary efforts that get to put their name on the idea. A lot of people who do not work in the Arts think that art comes easily or naturally, and sometimes it does. But mostly it takes effort and time, and often money. That artist probably started out with a pencil drawing and a blank wall. When I think of everything they put into it from buying the paint and brushes to measuring and outlining to actually doing the damn thing- that’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of effort. It was probably a lot of money, too. So of course, if someone were to use that mural to promote or sell something, the artist should be compensated.

And finally, how dare these folks say they should just paint over it? You would destroy someone’s work, simply because you don’t feel they should be rewarded for it? Who, exactly, are you? I’d like to see you try and create something half as worthy of presentation. Gtfo.

Admittedly, I do not know who is right and who is wrong here. I agree with the businessman, in that he should have received a cease and desist letter instead of a bill, and I think that the water surrounding whether or not he has a right to use photos of the mural is still quite murky. And I agree with the artist that they should be compensated for their work should someone else be using it for monetary gain. It’s not like they’re saying tourists can’t take a photo in front of the mural and post it on their Facebook- yes, the artist created it for the public in that perspective. But if someone is trying to make money off of it, any money made should go to the artist. Really, it just seems like a big ol’ mess. And now it is 5:00 a.m., and I have been going on about this for far too long.

See, it just really bothers me, because a long time ago I had a blog where I published some of my poetry. Someone stole that poetry from me and published it under their own name- and that wasn’t even the first time I was plagiarized! It has happened three times to my knowledge, once from a personal acquaintance and twice via blog. Anyway, that is when I started paying attention to copyright law. That is why I put the little disclaimer at the bottom of the page. Because people just don’t know – every word I write is copyrighted. Anything I have had published on the internet is copyrighted. As it should be! I put plenty of time and effort into my ideas, and I do not get paid for it. If nothing else, I deserve the respect of not being infringed upon. Art is not made in a moment, that is only the idea of art. Art is made through effort, and effort deserves recognition.

Easter Egg

As I have written in the past, I have PTSD. I developed this first when my grandmother died and I was 8 years old. I had the unfortunate experience of finding her body as it took its last breath, and it wrecked my little brain something fierce. One of the PTSD symptoms that I experience is that when a traumatic event happens, I completely block out the time surrounding the event. For instance, I do not remember the entirety of third grade. One of my first memories of that time would be spring of third grade, one year after my grandmother passed, and I was walking around the block with my school therapist who was telling me what great work I had done. Do I remember seeing a school therapist before then? Nope, but I did for a year. Anyway, let’s fast forward to now.

I don’t remember Easter last year. The thing is, two Friday’s after Easter, my mother fell into a coma. I was the one that found her, and it was eerily similar to finding my dying grandmother. In many ways, it was different however- because this time I knew what to do. I did not panic, I woke dad and we did our best to rouse her, and we called the paramedics. And that’s the one thing I remember from the three weeks surrounding the incident. When I celebrated St Patrick’s Day not long ago, that felt to me like the last holiday I celebrated with my mother. But in actuality, it was Easter.

I looked through some photos in an effort to pinpoint certain memories regarding Easter and my mother. I found the photo that I included here, of her on Easter in 2020. I remember her being very sad that she could not hold the family brunch she had been doing for decades, but we had a nice little brunch just the five of us, and it was lovely. We maintained this throughout the Covid years, and last year she swore she was bringing back Easter with a vengeance for 2023. Of course, that didn’t get to happen, and it’s not like I was trying to host this year. However, I am considering doing something next year, in celebration of her.

My mother loved Easter, to an irrational degree, in my mind. As a child, it was a three-day affair. It began on Good Friday, where we would go to her high school best friend  Patty’s house. Our families would attend Stations of the Cross together, and return to Patty’s for tuna fish sandwiches and tomato soup. From noon until 3:00pm, we would quietly relax around the house, mostly listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, and- as my child-self would say- wait for Jesus to die. Then we would dye Easter eggs. On Holy Saturday, me and Mom and Dad would trek to the Broadway Market to buy Butter Lambs and Redlinski sausage. Then she would go home and begin the cooking and housework- my mother prided herself on her homemaking and hostess skills. And I will not lie to you, she was a pro! She always said that in another life she would have been in designer, and she would have been great at that. Then on Sunday, once Jesus was risen, we would go to church, which was usually standing room only. Then back to the house, where the family would meet for a brunch of epic proportion. It was an important three days for her.

So no, I don’t remember last Easter. I don’t remember the last holiday I spent with my mother, at least in her full capacity. But I do remember every Easter beforehand, from the little Covid brunches to our big family parties that spilled out into the backyard. I can say however, that while I am not sad as I expected to be, I am missing her a lot right now. I never really cared for Easter, what with the ex-Catholic of me and all, but it was so special to her, that made it special to all of us.

This Sunday we ate our sausage and we had our butter lamb, and Dad invited his best bud over for some drinks and food. It was fine. Nobody cried. Alas, it did not have the feel of Easter’s past. Both Bernie and Mark commented that it just wasn’t the same, that it just did not feel like Easter. Oh well. I guess we can try again next year.

Momma, Easter 2020

Schedules and Such

I almost forgot to go to work today. I don’t know where my mind was, I work every Friday morning, and yet today it did not register with me. Perhaps because I have to work tomorrow instead of Sunday due to Easter, or perhaps it was because there was no school this week. Either way, as I finished my first cup of coffee and went for a second this morning at 6:00 a.m, Mark asked me what time I had to leave. I had a moment of shock followed by a moment of panic, as I realized I now had to completely rewire my brain for a different day than I had planned.

This may be a simple task for some people, but it is a difficult one for me. I like to have a plan. I like to have a schedule. I like to be on time- no, I like to be early. I had myself in a mindset for a lazy Friday morning followed perhaps by an afternoon in nature, topped off by an evening with the kiddos. I had to completely reset my mind frame to be able to focus on work, and it didn’t really take hold until I turned the key in the lock. Even on the drive to work, I felt panicked and discombobulated. It’s not like I was going to be late, and everything was fine- it was even an easy day and I got out early so I could come home and spend time with kids. Alas, I had to get myself in the right frame of mind and that is a difficult task.

So, my day thus far has been work, coming home and relaxing because I think I pulled a back muscle, and soon I have to run to the store. Then the kiddos are coming (E is already here,) and I can hang out with them still, but my day feels off. It has felt that way since 6:00 a.m. I envy people who can make changes, big or small, in a short period of time. It takes me a while to process things, especially changes to my schedule. I often wonder if that is a sign of neurodivergence- probably. I saw somewhere on the internet that there is a test you can take now that tells you where you fall on the spectrum, and I don’t know how medically sound it is but I have considered giving it a shot. I would be very curious to know if my brain works as strangely as I have always assumed that it does.

Anyway, this is a bit of a short blog because I would really like to get out and do some things that I wanted to do today, particularly those that do not involve work or errands. And so, I bid you adieu. Happy Friday!