Wednesday, May 9, 2018

For What It's Worth

I was born into chaos. Try as I might to rid myself of the ever present restlessness that is the result of being birthed into a world of protesting, violence, unrest, war, and resistance, it simmers…and occasionally boils, within me. It’s very possible that I arrived on this planet with my fist in the air, wailing and protesting from my very first moments. The status quo has never been acceptable or comfortable.  When things become too safe, too solid, too seemingly settled, I become uneasy. 

1968 was not only the year I was born, it was a pivotal time in American history. Women’s rights, civil rights, Vietnam, the race to the Moon…the world was spinning fast, and everyone was trying to hang on. The images from that time helped form me. I remember clearly my mother and grandmother talking on the telephone about Nixon and Watergate. The news contained images of protests, of rocket ships, and of war. It was both terrifying and exciting. I had no real understanding of what was going on, or the impact such things would have upon my future, but I was moved by what I saw and heard, and I felt what was happening. I grew up wanting to change the world, wanting to advocate for the underdog, and willing to challenge authority.

Almost fifty years after that first, infantile, screaming, protest against being unceremoniously delivered into the hands of the crazy people I would soon call, “mom and dad”, the world seems no less chaotic. In fact, there are days I feel as if I’m holding my breath waiting for…something. Some undefined, unnamed, terrible and final something. Choosing what to protest is a daunting task. Women’s reproductive rights remain under attack, while those same women go to work every day and earn less than their male counterparts. Civil rights are still being debated while young black men die in the streets at the hands of those who are tasked with protecting them. Heterosexuals marry and divorce, while homosexuals are denied the rights to do the same. The War That Never Should Have Been rages on in the Middle East, while fatigued soldiers come home to America…land of the free, and home of the brave, only to find they cannot get proper medical care, support their families, or find a way to move past the horrors of war. Young people who have only known America as their home, and who go to school, go to work, pay taxes and contribute to the country they love, live gripped in fear that they may have to leave their homes and be separated from their families. Muslims walk in their communities only to hear ethnic slurs and live with the words “Muslim ban” ringing in their ears because the president of the United States has determined they and their families are dangerous, and thus unwelcome. Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized, adding insult to such deep, horrific, inhumane, injury. And, the ragged beat goes on, and on, and on.

Our politicians bow to the Almighty Dollar, and not to those they were elected to represent. Our Constitution takes a daily beating and seems to be weakening under the constant attacks. The Electoral College that was meant to prevent the election of a populist candidate, an unqualified candidate, or a tyrant, failed the nation and we have all three rolled into one bloated, orange, uninformed, lying, man-child.  Our government will not save us. We’ve neglected it for too long. Ignorantly, we have assumed it would work the way it’s supposed to work, and we’ve sat back and let it become dysfunctional, unchecked, and unaccountable. Chaos. I was born into it and it resonates deep within me. It moves me to say something, and to do something. Right now, it feels like I’m screaming into the wind, but nonetheless, I will scream until I’m hoarse. The peace signs that dangle from the rear view mirror of my hybrid hippie car will continue to jingle as I drive, and the silver peace sign on my bumper will shine when the sun hits it, and cause a few people who get hit by the glare to mumble, “damn hippie,” under their breath.  The Human Rights Campaign sticker next to the peace sign will piss a few people off, but it also makes a few people shoot me a peace sign while driving next to me. And, the Wonder Woman sticker is merely a reminder that femininity doesn’t mean weakness, it exemplifies strength, and that I am capable of not only living through chaos, but of thriving in spite of it.

Monday, November 30, 2015


I used to dance with the moon. The brilliant, glittering darkness was my gown, and I wore slippers of perpetual vibrance and youth, (or so I was convinced.) When sleep arrived, it was the heavy slumber of exhaustion, and I delighted in it. My finest hours were lived in the spaces filled by Night; music, dancing, laughter, and nefarious deeds that would have never been carried out in the harsh light of day. Sleep was my companion, and I was faithful to her out of necessity, and truly thought she loved me as I did her. 

A millennium has passed, in hours at least, and Night has lost her shimmering beauty. She has become bitter (or, have I?) and she taunts me now. She and Sleep have become friendly, and they conspire against me, even though I call out to them longingly. I beg for their old, familiar embrace, but they do not answer my pleas. My once beautiful slippers are threadbare, and I mourn their loss, and despise them for deceiving me. Daylight has too few qualities I desire in a companion, so what am I left with, then? Memories of dear old friends, resilient soles (and, soul), a tired old gown that no longer fits, and an aching desire to not only wear it again, but to sparkle.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Frequently, I'm asked to blog again. Frequently, I tell those who ask, that I simply don't have the time. Life in my 40's has become vastly more complicated and difficult than I ever imagined. So much for the glory of adulthood.

This past weekend, I spent a fast and furious 48 hours in Washington, DC. The trip was made on a whim. A snap decision. A half dozen times between booking the flight and taking off, the voices in my head battled it out. "What are you DOING?! This isn't you!" "Oh, hush. This will be fun! Loosen up and see what's out there." So...I went. I saw things that inspired, awed, and moved me. I did things, like meeting an old friend from the blog, in person. Actually face to face! It was marvelous.

While in DC, this old, new friend from the blog, shamanized me. That's right. She worked some sort of voodoo magic. I allowed myself to do something new, something bold, something totally not me, and I let the world in. What happens, happens. What happened, was "epic," as she put it. Energy was put in motion, pain moved out, peace moved in. Breath started fast and anxious, and ended up slow, and relaxed. Calm. Peace. Love.

Whether it was my friend the Shaman, the city, the monuments, the Reiki ...I was repaired. At least briefly.

I arrived back in Texas to news that Baltimore is on fire. Literally and figuratively. The world needs shamanized. We...the collective WE, need to let love in. We need to feel the pain, convert it to energy, let it go, find peace, and move forward.

Don't talk. Just listen. Not to others, and what they want you to hear and believe, but to your inner voice. The voice has the answer.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tuesday Night Lights

You know that book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?” As I was mopping up my flooded upstairs bathroom and downstairs laundry room yesterday, I was evaluating whether or not being a temporary single parent, while single-handedly cleaning, purging and organizing for a cross-country move and handling every single bill, errand, kidtastrophe and bit of minutia, qualifies as “small stuff.”  Stuffing a massive load of soaking wet towels and rugs into the washer, as water dripped from the ceiling onto my head, I determined that yes…this was small stuff. But, I forewent the polite admonition to not, “sweat it,” and just said, “fuck it.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” is more of an admonition, isn’t it? “Fuck it,” is just the decision to not to let the small stuff suck you into the mind-numbing vortex of bullshit that constitutes a day in the life of the average American house frau. So, I sopped up the mess…ceiling still dripping, and headed out to retrieve The Duchess from school. Thus far, my Tuesday had been a comedy of errors created, I’m quite certain, by the mind of a distracted, overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, Me. Too many things to do, too many interruptions, too much on my mind, not enough sleep and not enough help. 

The Duchess and I arrived back at the house, completed her daily 30 or 40 minutes of homework and I poured myself a glass of wine.  From a box. Don’t judge me.

As I was standing there in my kitchen, experiencing a wee bit of the blues, it suddenly occurred to me: “It’s Tuesday!” I picked up my phone and sent a text: “I made red sauce, salsa and dessert.”  Within minutes, a text back: “I’ll be over in 10 with tamales.” Oh, yeah.

You don't even want to know...
For the past several months, my neighbor, Carmen, has come over on Tuesday nights to eat, drink and commiserate. Tuesday nights are her Fridays, so she can stay up late, eat, drink and be merry without having to get up at 4:00 a.m. for work. On Tuesday nights, my house lights up like a stadium. The food is abundant, the cocktails flow, and Carmen and I talk and laugh and gossip until standing up is no longer an option. Usually, at least a couple of her kids come over and eat, talk and laugh until it’s time for them to go home and get ready for school the next day. Most Tuesday nights, her husband gets off work and comes over about 9:30 and we warm up dinner, make him a Shirley Temple or two and yenta it up for another hour or so. Two families, blended into a lovely, cross-cultural oneness, held together by food, laughter and love. Bliss.

At the end of the night, Carmen weaves her way down the sidewalk, two doors down. I do a quick clean up of the kitchen, head up the stairs and take my final cocktail of the night, which consists of two Ibuprofen, water, and a significantly lighter spirit.

You see, Carmen and I have somehow, unknowingly and unintentionally, created a tradition. It’s not just that I have a neighbor who comes over every week to hang out. No. It’s more than that. Over the past four years, we’ve developed a friendship…that has turned into a sisterhood… that I have come to count on.  When Carmen and I are together, the world just fades to black and nothing exists outside of my lit up kitchen and those precious Tuesday night hours.

It was only a year ago that I realized that Carmen is one month older than my youngest sister. The realization floored me and made me sit there on my bar stool with my mouth hanging open trying to process that fact. If you’ve read my blog, you know my past feelings about my younger sister. Hapless, helpless, unfocused, immature, irresponsible, etc.etc. etc.  I’d always considered Carmen my absolute peer and equal. She’s been with her husband since high school, had three children, two of which are very close in age to two of my own, keeps an immaculate house, works full time and despite having had tremendous obstacles to overcome in her life, is a happy, well-adjusted, fun-loving, responsible wife, mother and citizen.

Carmen is the very epitome of the American Dream. Her parents were immigrants from Mexico and she is a first generation U.S. citizen.  She became pregnant at sixteen and worked her little buns off to go to school, work and provide for her son. Her boyfriend was killed when their son was an infant and yet she persevered and worked to create a stable home life. Like me, she has daddy drama and struggles with the emotions of loving her father yet despising his actions. Her family gatherings with her mother and six siblings are boisterous and loving. They fight, they cry, they love and they make up. By watching them, I have learned what “family” is capable of being. When they invite me to family affairs, I feel strangely different, yet familiar. Not fluent in the least in their native Mexican-Spanish, I understand little of what they say when they speak to each other. But, Carmen and her sisters are always quick to turn to me and translate what’s going on and include me in the conversation. I have learned much about love, family, forgiveness and perseverance. For that, I am truly grateful.

Last night, Carmen helped wash the dishes and put away the remnants of dinner and dessert. As always, I walked her to the door and she kissed my cheek and thanked me as I locked the door behind her. In the process of wiping down the counter tops and readying things for the morning, it hit me like a bolt of lightning.  In just over a month, I would be in Texas and Tuesday nights would be, well…just Tuesdays.  No Carmen, no swarm of kids asking what their adopted, “tia” made for dessert, no gossip and no house with every light blazing.

The thought of no Tuesday night lights and no Carmen, makes my heart heavy. As happy as I am to be moving back to the city I consider, “home,” I’m so very sad to be leaving my Carmen. In the past forty-three years of my life, I’ve moved somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty times, but for the first time, I feel as though I’m leaving behind a little piece of my heart. Family is consistent. They are “there,” no matter where you are. Middle Sister and I live on opposite sides of the country, but still speak and e-mail and text several times a month. With a friend though, you have to wonder...will this be it? Will moving away mean the loss of the closeness between the two of us?

Carmen has taken to referring to me as her, “guera,” which loosely translates as, “blonde girl,” in Mexican lingo.  For hysterical reasons I won’t go in to, I refer to her as my, “bandita.” It only occasionally occurs to us what we must appear like to others when we’re together, but neither of us cares. As far as we’re concerned, we are just two of the best of friends, laughing ourselves silly every time we’re within six feet of each other. La Guera y La Bandita. Amigas para siempre.

As I’ve written before, “home” isn’t necessarily a place; it’s who is waiting for you behind the door when you arrive. My new home in Dallas may not have all of the lights lit up on Tuesday nights, but I need my bandita to know that no matter where I am, she will always have a home, a friend, a sister and a partner in crime. Hours and miles may come between us, but the bright Tuesday night lights will burn on in my heart.  
La Bandita y La Guera

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Yesterday, I am clueless as to how my car ended up parked neatly in the garage or how The Duchess got a bath, got her hair braided neatly, and tucked into bed by 8:30 sharp. I think I slipped into a mini-coma and functioned merely out of habit and some built-in Mommy GPS.
I vaguely remember taking The Duchess to school while wearing camo pants, a sweatshirt that didn’t match, my eyeglasses and a clip in my unkempt hair. I may have had Monday night’s martinis oozing from my pores to boot.

My car must have driven me home from the school because I woke up in my bed three hours later feeling no better than I did three hours before. The dog had planted herself firmly next to my disgusting, un-showered corpse and shot me a look that said, “Really? Three hours? I’ve had to pee for the last two.”

My inner fat chick arm wrestled the part of me that wanted to climb back up the stairs and throw myself on the bed again, so I made a turkey sandwich, ate a giant handful of cheese balls and polished off a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. Honestly, I have no idea what I did up until the time my cell phone rang and I answered only to hear Snotty on the other end begging for a ride home from school because she had cramps.

Somehow I managed to pick Snotty up, listen to the one hundred and ten exclamations of, “I’m gonna die…I know I’m gonna die,” retrieve The Duchess from school, return home and help with homework.

At some point I recall having the desire to eat but no desire whatsoever to actually conjure up food. It took about ten minutes of my inner fat girl yelling at my inner lazy ass before I grabbed the car keys and hit the drive-through lane at Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you haven’t had Kentucky Fried Chicken in awhile, just a word of advice: let your inner lazy ass talk your inner fat chick out of getting some.

The rest of the evening is a messy blur of baths, dogs, teeth brushing, etc. etc. Truthfully, I barely remember putting The Duchess to bed.

This morning when the alarm on my cell phone sounded, I had the overwhelming urge to throw it through the window and fake an illness so horrific that it would give me an excuse to not have to take The Duchess to school for the rest of the week. Mr. Right was out of state on business though, so I’d only be shooting myself in my own damn size 8 ½. Up and at ‘em, Warrior Mommy.

By sheer willpower and the strong desire to not let my sweet daughter see her mother once again taxi her to school looking like a B movie zombie, I dragged my bloated arse off the bed and actually managed to put on a little eye makeup and clothes that matched. Kind of.

I’ve spent the better part of the day trying with all my might to be productive and to, “snap out of it,” but Middle Sister’s phone call Monday night is still rattling around in my brain box and I’ve yet to be able to rid myself of the shrapnel caused by the explosion that reverberated through my skull when Sister said, “Dad is going back to jail.”

No child, no matter the age of that child, should ever have to hear those words once, much less twice. But, as they say, “shit happens.”

It took the thirteen years my father served in prison, plus another eight or nine for me to work through all of the shit-that-happened. I had to come up with truthful, yet not completely accurate answers to questions such as, “where does your dad live,” and, “what does your father do for a living?” Sure, I tried the truth a few times, but quickly learned that for some strange reason, having a father who’s in the clink for murdering his girlfriend isn’t the most acceptable fodder for small talk at cocktail parties. Who would have thought that people would judge ME for the sins of my father?! People are odd, no? 

After thirteen years of collect calls from prison and censored letters that my eyes only got to see second hand after a prison guard's…after thirteen years of declared repentance and promises of becoming the father he’d never been, he was returned to society and back to the Land of Stainless Steel Utensils. I braced myself for the impending tsunami of love and affection that was soon to wash upon the shores of my childish and broken heart.

The tsunami never arrived. Nor did a wave, a ripple or a droplet quench my thirsting heart. I reached out. I called, wrote letters and sent items for which he’d asked. Still…not even a speck of humidity.

When my Gram passed away, Mr. Right and I traveled to Illinois to attend her funeral. For the first time in twenty years, I was going to see my father. I have no idea what I expected, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. As we left my Gram’s house two days later, I turned and watched the shape of my father growing smaller in the background. It was then that I knew that the father-sized shape in my heart would never be filled and that it was time to start letting go.

It’s a strange thing it is. I thought I’d done a pretty swell job of filling in that void in my heart. I’d accepted things as they were and moved forward. Nice and neat was the package I’d tied a string around and tucked far back into the corner of my ticker.

With one click of a button, with one uttered, “hello, Sister,” with one blink of an eye and one nervously delivered sentence, I shattered once again.

This time…oh, this time…he’s learned his lesson. THIS time, he’ll never touch a gun or a drink again. No one was hurt this time and it was all just a big silly ordeal, but for sure…he’s learned his lesson this time.

Today I’ve thought about what I would say to him if I saw him. I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t say anything. Not because I have nothing to say and not because there aren’t things I want him to hear, but because he wouldn’t hear them. He's incapable. My words wouldn’t change a thing.

Middle Sister keeps hanging on. She clings by the tips of her fingernails to the precipice of the deep empty canyon of Fatherly Love. She explained to me her yearning to be a better human being than my father and her feeling is that if she continues to hold on and remain a part of his life, she will have done better than he did with his father. She still desperately hopes that one day he will give her heart what it has so desperately needed since the beginning of her memory. I understand her need and her desire, really I do. It just hurts my heart to know her longing.

My path will be different from Middle Sister’s. I will choose, rightly or wrongly, to continue healing until nothing remains but a daddy shaped scar.

Scars have a certain beauty, I think. When I look in the mirror at the Frankenstein-ish scar left on my clavicle from the two surgeries after my car accident, I am vividly reminded of my own frailty. But, sometimes…when my shoulder is really hurting me, I reach up and run my fingers over the uneven scar tissue and smile, because it is proof positive that I also have the ability to heal and to overcome more pain than I thought I could bear. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Finding Home

Growing up, my home life was much like living in a circus whose performers had recently escaped from the local asylum so, the subject of Home has always been a touchy one for me. What is it about Home that stirs within our hearts such emotion, such happiness, such bitterness and such angst?

In my 20’s, day after endless day was spent being wretchedly and miserably partnered to a wretched and miserable mate, and I often found myself longing for Home. After the initial trickle of tears would begin, the realization would hit me that I had no home to which I could go. This thought would completely break the dam, and all hell would break loose in the desolate cavern that was my heart. Where was Home?!? What was Home?

For a while during my childhood, Home was a place. Home sat at the edge of hundreds of acres of corn in Southern Illinois and was warmed only by a pot-bellied stove in the winter and cooled by open doors and screen-free windows during the summer. Home was the place I left every summer morning as soon as the sun lifted its fiery red head and to where I returned when it dropped its lazy round bottom below the horizon every evening. Home was where I ran barefoot, wild and free through fields of corn. It was where my sisters and I skated on frozen creeks in the winter, pretending we were beautiful ice skaters, despite the fact that our “skates” were Wonder Bread wrappers secured with rubber bands to hand-me-down tennis shoes.  It was where my mother made bath soap in a churn in the front yard and where we ate watermelon while sitting on the tailgate of my father’s battered truck. Home was this place…this ancient, run-down, dilapidated, beautiful place. And, as it turns out, this house was the last place I would ever truly feel at home…until now.

After moving from that old house when I was the ripe old age of eight, life became much more treacherous. Home became a place to lay my head at night, a place from which to flee during the day, and at night a place I feared to return. Details aren’t necessary to tell my tale. You’ve most likely experienced very similar bumps and bruises to body and brain, dysfunctions and malfunctions, loss of innocence and hard-earned gains in character. What I will tell you…and don’t act shocked…is that life is hard.  So difficult at times, in fact, that our brain boxes often seek refuge and sometimes in the most unlikely places. In retrospect, I look back on moments in my life and wonder, “Why in the bloody hell did I ever want to go home?!”

Now that I’m in my 40’s, happily partnered and the recipient of large doses of expensive therapy, I can sit back with relative ease and survey my past. I see much more humor in it now.  The harsh lines have softened and memories are seen through the hazy filter of time. My family has become what I refer to as a, “family by choice” and Home is an ever so lovely stained glass window made of places, people and feelings.

In talking to my friends and family over the years about what Home means to them, I’ve heard varied responses. A friend of mine grew up in the same house her entire life and, to this day still goes home with her husband to that same house. She says she gets excited that she’s almost Home as soon as the highway signs over I-35 say, “Oklahoma City.” Getting through Oklahoma City means she’s only about an hour away from her old house and the landmarks become familiar. Those signs tell her that Mama isn’t far away and, as she put it to me, “Home is where Mama is.”

My sister says that Home is where she’s created a history, formed relationships, become familiar with an area and has made memories. “Given enough time,” she says, “Anywhere can feel like Home.” Indeed, when you walk into her house, no matter if she’s lived there for ten years or a month, her shelves contain the same old familiar and comfortable books and treasures. She carries with her those tangible memories that make her feel at home.

My friend J.T., (and former Sadie Hawkins Dance partner, whether he remembers it or not!) says that because his family lived in several houses during his childhood, Home has become something all together different than merely a place. Home is when he’s with friends and family and the conversation turns to, “Do you remember when…?” “That,” he says, is when he’s “home.” Shared memories and shared pasts sometimes have sturdier walls than even the best built houses.

My cousin’s mother passed away last November, and she no longer feels a connection to “home.” Her sister attempts family get-togethers, but the sense of belonging remains lost to her. She has yet to be able to find her way home again, but I know she will because she commented to me, “home right now, is where my sister is.”  Home still exists for her but her heart remains much too broken to accept that Home will be different now.

My sister-in-law grew up in a crowded, loud and chaotic household (Actually, several crowded, loud and chaotic households). She now feels that, Home is where there is “peace, quiet and comfort.” I’m fairly positive that she would be perfectly at home if her favorite comfy chair suddenly took flight and landed in the middle of a jungle, so long as the Natives left her to her iPad (and chanted very quietly). Home for her, is being where there is literal peace and quiet.

Across the country in D.C., I have a soulful and beautiful friend who feels at home when she’s in the kitchen cooking for her closest friends and family. She’s a kindred spirit, she is! Home is not where she was raised, but who walks through her doors, eats her food, and who makes her laugh until she forgets that any variation of Home ever existed outside of her chalet walls.

Then…there’s my sweet friend I’ve known since high school whose longing for home is deep and intense right now. Her parents are fading, and her extended family is in emotional shambles. Mere photographs of her childhood home bring tears to her eyes, and even traumatic memories are all but forgotten to make room in her heart to remember Home as she needs it to be remembered. Although tragedy, pain, and misery happened within those walls, “Home,” is still that old house on Walnut Street where she felt safe and where there was a sanctuary from town gossip and judgmental peers.

In all of these stories, there are differences but, even so, the similarities remain. “Home,” it seems, is indeed, “where the heart is.” Broken hearts feel homeless even among the familiar faces of family. Gypsy feet may wander hither and yon, but always feel at home when planted firmly next to an old friend’s while swapping tales of yesteryear. Highway signs that lead us down well worn roads to houses we know our way around by heart, don’t tell us what really makes that house a home. What makes it “home” is who is behind the door waiting with open arms when we arrive.

Looking back on those times when I wondered why I ever wanted to go home again, I now understand what it was that I really wanted. It wasn’t the chaos, the shabby house, or the emotionally absent parents. What I wanted was comfort and the feeling that I belonged somewhere.  Now that I’m grown with a family of my own, and I’ve had plenty of time to sort through the tattered old memories which comprise the scrapbook of my life, it is clear to me that I am home. I’m home because I’m loved, and because I stay in touch with old friends with whom I share a home town and a heart-shaped box of memories. I am home because I have a sister whom I love, who loves me and who knows all of my secrets and keeps them safe. I am home because when I cook for my friends and family, we eat and laugh and share our souls with each other. Home is in my heart, and it abides there, wherever the road may take me.

They say you can’t go home again, but I’ll let you in on a secret: You can. 

As written by Amy Colclasure Warner for the inaugural edition of Hom~o Magazine, published October 2011. All rights reserved. Content may not be duplicated. Artwork by Alex R. Warner. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dusk Dame

It is after the sun has set that I feel most like Me.
If I were a cowboy in one of those old-time Western movies 
and they asked me to ride off into the sunset,
that's when the real fun would begin.