Purple Dreams #bloglikecrazy

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” ~ Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Come on, wrap me in purple.
As I find my passion again.
Color my nails.
And pick a purple purse.
Remind me I’m not just living,
But, baby, I’m alive!
Purple like when my momma knew me.
And I was a stunner.
Purple like dancing in Vegas.
And a hit of oxygen.
Come on, wrap me in purple.
Purple prayers and purple people.
Purple dreams coming true.
Royal purple me.

How I Lost and Found my Faith. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I’m pretty sure that it is only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way that we come to be healed—which is to say, that we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace.” ~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

I don’t know how it happened, but I lost my faith.

There was a time I believed so deeply in the Universe’s ability to line things up for me—because I had the evidence.

After losing my job, marriage, home, husband, and dogs, I found myself at home with my sister at a time when she needed me and I was available.

I was graced with the opportunity to dive into my writing dream.

And, the cream in my coffee was the Universe, God, and all the angels created space and time for my beloved and I to find each other and open our hearts in a way neither of us ever had, to know sacred love.

I felt like every heartache, break-up, divorce, and disaster led me toward fulfillment. And, it was only the beginning.

You know those chapters in life when everything feels right, you love living in your own skin, and magic moments become commonplace?

Well, if not, that’s on its way to you—because everyone gets at least one chapter like that.

Sometimes we don’t even know it’s been delivered until it’s taken away.

Not me. Not this time. I knew. So did my beloved.

We were old enough to have experienced plenty of so-almost-right relationships.

Our crazy, sexy, cool tasted like pure nutrients after junk food.

We’d also been burned by death’s flame devouring our loved ones and made individual vows to suck the marrow out of life.

So, we did. We loved deep, honest, expansive, surprising, and as undeniable as the three-day storm that shut down I-40 after Kevin’s last Christmas.

We didn’t know when we drove into that storm headed from his place in St. Louis to my parents’ home in Santa Fe, NM that the rain wouldn’t stop and we’d be forced to return to his home.   

We were stuck in each other’s arm with an open agenda. Big bummer. Not! I’ll forever cherish those three days of rain.

Like the time I spent with him the following February. Kevin asked me to stay two weeks instead of the one I planned. I did.

Then, he said, “Come on, Icey, one more day!”

He always asked me to stay. That last time, I did.

Surely, God and the Universe lined up these gifts of added time for us, like the way we came together after decades of never considering anything more than friendship.

People say things like that and sometimes we think, really?

Yes, really. I had zero attraction to the man, like he just wasn’t for me.

Until he was. Our magnified intimacy and connection intensified my faith.

Part of me believes it all went the way it was meant to.

How could something so right be wrong—even though it ended in his unexpected death in his sleep on a random night before he intended to visit?

Yet, in the rightness and grace of it all, my faith in the Universe, or God’s ability to align my life, fractured.

I started striving to survive grief’s pain. Then, when it began to subside, I set goals for accomplishment the way a lonely girl seeks a man.

I came more from sickness and sadness than faith. And that’s ok.

My faith doesn’t have a brand or a label. It doesn’t fit into a box and barely belongs to any church.

However, my faith—somehow reignited today—is as big as the God I believe in. And as mysterious.

Today—days after Thanksgiving, in Ohio—I sit warmed by sunshine on my deck, my dog at my feet, a pen in my hand, and paper receiving my words.

I feel the magic moving in me again.

I feel aligned, although I don’t know exactly what for.

Just as I had no idea the Fire (my nickname for Kevin, my beloved) would melt this Ice (what he called me since the 80s, as in Vanilla Ice’s Ice, Ice Baby). Or that the Fire would go out.

I simply remember this feeling of faith—as clear as the day I laid back in his friend Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, soaked up the sun, smiled at a man who was not yet mine and said, “I’m so happy right now. I love this moment.” It was days before our first kiss.

What a ride!

Thank you, God. For all you’ve given, for how you’ve reawakened and realigned me after the darkness threatened to seduce me.

I’m here. I stand—well, actually sit, in sunshine, in late November, in faith.

 

 

 

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I urge you to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of refugees past and present.” ~ Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

It was the day after Thanksgiving last year. My best friend Andrea was out of town. I called her father, Mr. Mena to see if I might stop by and visit.

I said, “Hola, it’s Alice.”

Papi said, “Oh, mi otro hija!” (my other daughter).

When I arrived, he wanted to cook for me. I didn’t let him, but I said yes to his Chilean wine and pride. We sat at the kitchen counter talking about life, family and politics.

Although I’ve known this man since high school and he once introduced himself to my mother as, “Hello. I’m Alice’s father,” it’s never been just the two of us. Usually, I was in his home visiting Andrea.

You know how sometimes you drop by just to say a polite hello, and somehow time opens up to make space for words never considered?

Mrs. Mena was in the back bedroom sleeping. She hasn’t been the same since her stroke 20 years ago.

Although I never considered this question before, I asked how they met—some 50 years ago. Papi told me when he was a teenager he was friends with Mrs. Mena’s sister. Then, he saw Andree with her long hair, but he said, “I wasn’t thinking anything. I was 16.”

Later, he got free tickets for a concert because he’d pounded a dent out of a bus and the owners gave him the tickets. He fell asleep on the bus ride to the concert and awoke to Andree kissing him on the cheek.

His eyes lit up as he recalled their young love. They used to go out dancing and he’d buy her Coca Colas.

Even back when he was a teenager, Mr. Mena worked on cars. He built a car that was in a three-country race: Chilé, Peru and Argentina. Then, he got hired by the university and earned a paycheck! Mr. Mena told me he never had trouble making money.

Later, Andree wanted to get married. He was 19. She was 17.

Both their fathers approved and went with them to get married. Both moms were opposed, especially his because he was the family breadwinner.

Then, Mr. Mena told me about the coup and Pinochet coming in as dictator of Chile. That’s when Mr. Mena became a part of the resistance.

Because now Pinochet was in charge of all the companies, Mr. Mena and his coworkers would do things like leaving the lights and water on all night to wreak havoc. In the shop where he worked, they made sharp objects to throw in the road to stop the military and secret police.

He also took people to the French Embassy to escape.

Papi described helping one mom and her three girls go out the back of their house and in the front and out the back of three houses to escape the military police, who, he claimed were “so mad!”

“Why were they after her?” I asked. “Because her husband was part of the resistance.”

Mr. Mena drove the woman and her girls to a farm. Those were just the things they did. Yes, it was dangerous.

In fact, the military police captured and tortured Mr. Mena, but he “never told them anything because then they’d have no use for me.”

Then, they’d kill him. Mr. Mena’s sister and many of his friends were killed.

While he was held and tortured, Mrs. Mena searched and did everything she could to find her husband. By this time, they had three small children.

Mrs. Mena pleaded with the French Embassy and told everyone she could that her husband had been captured. She made a lot of noise and with the help of the French Embassy, Mr. Mena was released and the family fled the country.

Mr. Mena showed me some old black and white pictures of one man who came to Santa Fe, NM to visit and thank Mr. Mena for saving his life. He showed me a letter the guy had written him. Of course, it was in Spanish.

Somehow, our conversation wound to God. Papi said he doesn’t believe in God. But he said, “How easy to find him in this,” as he picked up an apple, “or a flower or ants building things.”

He told me he gets mad, all those people dying. ”Why does God do this?”

His wife, Mrs. Mena was healthy, fine, until a doctor prescribed Premarin which caused a blood clot and then she had the stroke.

I listened as this strong, masculine man, my father figure, praised his wife for getting him out of Chile, encouraged him to buy the land the house we sat in was built on and to work hard. She always supported him, and the kids in all their sporting events.

Papi said he talks to his son Ish, now grown with his own kids, about what it means to be strong.

“I say to him, ‘You can’t go to Albertsons, give them money, and say you want to buy time.’”

Mr. Mena emphasized the importance of being strong, deciding what you want and going for it.

Then, he told me—the girl who used to enter road races under the name Alice Mena because I wanted to belong to his family—how proud he is of me, how strong I am, how he sees me as having done everything on my own. (Not quite true, but I ate up his compliments the way I used to devour Mrs. Mena’s langostino empanadas.)

Papi kept preaching about how proud he is of me for finishing school. (Oh, yeah, I completed my bachelor’s degree at age 37!)

He told me what a great example I’ve been and that his daughter, (my best friend) Andrea looks up to me. The feeling is mutual.

Mr. Mena and I continued our conversation, now onto marriage and divorce.

It makes him mad when people say how much they respect him for still being with and taking care of Mrs. Mena.

“Where else would I be? She’s my wife. She’s my life.”

Mr. Mena has always been a proud man. It felt different on this day.

More than in the past, I took in his kindness. How respectful and full of admiration he was for the woman who welcomed me into their home, cooked for me and often restaurants where she was dealt the blows of conflict between her Chilean Spanish heritage and the New Mexican Spanish culture I grew up around.

Mrs. Mena slept for most of my visit. Papi and I went into the back bedroom and woke her up. She looked at me with a mother’s adoration. Tears of joy leaked from her eyes.
I held her, hugged her, kissed her, looked into her soul and told her I wished I could take her pain away. She shook her head no.

Mami pointed to my diamond circle pendant necklace, diamond earrings and rings and her eyes lit up like I’d landed some rich man. I reminded her I worked in a jewelry store for many years. She always loved jewelry. She still loves it and shopping.

Mrs. Mena eyed for (since spoken language is no longer her friend) Mr. Mena to give me a big bag of Lindt chocolates.

Papi told me about the foot surgery she had to fix her foot that wasn’t quite right since the stroke. Now, it’s even worse. She can hardly walk. He drives her in a van and she has a scooter.

Mr. Mena’s doctor told him he better take care of himself or he’ll die before her. “I try, he said.” But, he has diabetes, is overweight and his health doesn’t look like it’s rooting for him.

He showed me a new Mercedes he’s working on making into a truck. He’d sold his old prized Mercedes sedan. “What do I need with a car I can only drive once or twice a month?” He also sold his apartment in Chile. “Andree can’t travel.” It seems not too many years ago he was insisting otherwise.

His priorities have shifted. His purpose is caring for his wife and watching his grandkids grow up.

Mr. Mena told me he spoke in Washington, DC at the UN years ago. His talk was called “The Ismael Menas of the World.”

I considered the multitudes of people like papi who came from harsh circumstances to build their American dream.

The Ismael Menas of the world: people to be thankful for.

Why I Can’t Not Write. #bloglikecrazy

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear. My courage is reborn.” ~ Anne Frank

I longed to be a writer the way some women long to be a wife or mother.

I married my writing without even realizing it. There was no ceremony or announcement, just deep commitment and the cherishing.

Writing is my friend, confidante, and if I dare say, a sensual lover. She aligns me with my purpose.

Writing awakens my higher self to reveal my scary, funny, sad, shameful, passionate truth.

Writing connects me with my tribe and family of weirdoes and misfits.

This gift and joy paved my path since 3rd grade Friday afternoon workshops left me alone and happy under a sign that read Creative Writing.

Writing serves as my bridge across difficult and wonderful relationships and life decisions, encouraging me in a way that my verbal voice only aspires to.

Writing coaxed me through two divorces and too many loved ones’ deaths.

Writing’s my nonnegotiable necessity.

Men come and go, but with writing, I find faith and forgiveness, especially of my own errors, which, were I not to go to the page, I might never recognize.

Writing is essential to my growth and maturity.

For years, I treated her like a luxury for special people and occasions.

Yet, I treasure the writing process: morning pages that may never produce anything publishable, poems just because, and letters that need to be written, like the one I wrote my father forgiving him for not being he’d like to have been.

Writing heals. It’s divinely cathartic.

Once written, I read and relish my writer’s voice, recognizing its uniqueness.

Writing inserts purpose and agenda into my daily life, serving as my clear and commanding calling.

After treating it like a trinket through my 20s, 30s, and too far into my 40s, now any inkling of turning away is replaced by an indomitable spirit within me screaming NO! I will not sell out. I will not get sidetracked.

It’s not, “I will never go hungry again!” It’s even if I must go hungry.

Nothing feeds my soul the way writing does.

It’s easy to be distracted in this world. In the past, I set writing aside to chase money, career, security, and even men who claimed to support, but compared my writing to hunting, like a hobby.

My writing is not a choice. Teaching or selling? That’s a choice. Staying married or not? A choice. Living in Santa Fe or St. Paul? Another choice.

For me, in this chapter of my life, writing is a decision made.

I either own my writing and offer it to the world or to wear regret like a tattoo. I hate tattoos.

 

 

Why I Keep Telling that Story. #bloglikecrazy

If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. ~ James O’Barr

It’s the best story I know. So, yeah, I keep telling it.

We were Fire & Ice and all the metaphors that arise from that.

I’m still in love with Kevin (Fire). It’s not going to stop, ever.

My relationship with a man who no longer breathes serves as my example of what a man looks like when he steps up with emotional courage and as a way of life, whether or not others mirror his feelings.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

I only guarantee I still say yes, I’d choose him. Why concern myself with something that’s not an option?

Because I want to make the best choice I ever made again, even though he’s dead.

Given the choice, I’d choose the man who chose me and erased the pain of all the times I wasn’t chosen, the man who said the words no man ever did when it came to my deepest heartaches.

I’d choose the man who knew me before I was raped, knew my rapist, and saw me rise out of the ashes.

I’d choose the man who competed with me in my selling days, and said to me, “You’re the only woman who actually cares about how my day goes out there. All my other girlfriends just wanted to know if I made money.”

We both knew how hard the sales field could be on a soul. And he knew the challenge of getting my book published.

Kevin believed in my book, my writing, and my dream of success—in such an unselfish-call-me-on-my-sh*t and remind me to go for it way.

I’d choose the guy who said this after reading my book: “This is something I’d buy at Barnes & Noble.”

He’s the guy who taught me to love my imperfections, like the scar on my lip and my tendency to be jealous—because he loved all of me.

He held my judgements up to the light without resentment or attachment.

He revealed his anger, disagreements, stories of drug days and not-always-gentlemanly ways with not one apology for who he chose to be.

I’m always going to want Kevin and the time when we embodied Fire & Ice.

I’m going to keep alive, nurture and defend the connection I have with him still, because it’s worth celebrating.

The memory of Kevin’s love is part of my story of who I am and how I became me.

It’s as much of my story as my first book. Kevin read that because he asked.

He asked to read everything I wrote. I handed him pages stained with my soul. He used them to start a Fire in me. It was more than a romantic relationship we had.

Fire and Ice—a man and a woman transcended together. So, yeah, I’m going to keep telling that story. It’s the best one I know.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop turning the pages of my life.

How to Embrace Opportunity for Metamorphosis. #bloglikecrazy

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~ Rose Kennedy

My friend is lucky.
Her love lives.
She has a wife and a kid.

She’s unlucky.
As writers, we declared
Long ago: j-o-b-s distract.
She’s dedicated to a distraction.

Committed by way of marriage
And her ego’s need for independence
Managing the only 24 hours given each day.

I’m lucky, granted—by grace and my sister’s magic—
Freedom to pursue my passion daily.
The gift every writer dreams of: time
To work on our calling, the way others work
On their professions. Writing defines everything.
Writing rights us. We know no other way.
We’ll squeeze the whole world out to fit our
Writing in, but we don’t want to do it that way.

I don’t have to. I’m lucky.
Certainly luckier than most.
Of course, unluckier than many.
Losing everything, and my beloved dying.

I live my grandfather’s legacy:
I’ve had a lot of loss, but
I’ve had a lot of love.

Both unlucky and lucky,
Like my friend, all my
Friends, family and strangers.

Love, freedom, time and money.
Health, opportunities and obligations.
Coping, managing and manifesting.

Luck. We can’t hold it. It’s a
Hot potato. Good and bad luck.
We juggle them both, knowing:

For all the good, there’s a price.
I willingly pay.
And the bad?
Opportunity for metamorphosis.
I play my part.

I change. I grow.

We’re all lucky. And unlucky. Then, lucky again.

Sometimes life swings full
Circle and you realize
How lucky you are.
How lucky you are!

It’s My Birthday! Version 5.3. #bloglikecrazy

Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever and we’ll meet now and then and when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.” ~ Richard Bach 

It’s my birthday. “5.3, Icey!” I hear my deceased boyfriend say.

Yes, I’m 53. It’s a gift, I tell myself—trying to overcome my feelings with my mind.

I’ve already gotten 26 more of these celebrating days than my brother’s 27.

I’m three years shy of my mother’s whole life.

There was a time when their deaths made me dig in and live with fury.

I’m slower now, not old woman slow, but embodying acceptance that I’m not in control, trusting grace and allowing life to reveal itself.

You know, when I’m not comparing to those I marvel at and clinging to the sweet taste of yesterday (my beloved, aka The Fire!).

I’ve never been one to settle, but I find beauty in coming to peace with it all.

I’ve spent too many autumns of my life missing the colors while cursing the bitter winter I knew was coming.

The seasons are predictable, just not their intensity. Saying I want to be complete with my grief is wanting winter to end.

Spring will come, but there are often the surprise cold snaps after we’ve put our winter clothes away.

I’ve walked a thousand miles in grief’s shoes and I’ll walk a thousand more, because once I move into spring regarding the death of my beloved, another death of another loved one will arrive in my life—unless I go first, which I refuse.

So, I vow to live with the knowledge: people die. We know this. Yet, we resist.

Me? I’m going to live, eyes and heart open to all the seasons. I’ll grow old with grace and gratitude.

Today, I’ll sit back and laugh with my ladies. I’ll smile at babies and pet puppies. I’ll count on the sunset and let it caress my eyes. Heck, I might even dance on tables, just to prove I’ve still got my groove.

I’m still here. I breathe the breath of spring and find the delicious in everyday delights.

Life unfolds. Angels hold me, owning this space and time, infusing me with courage and refining my character.

There’s nothing to chase. I stand in this moment and allow memory to befriend me.

I smile with every drop of my flowing blood, picturing my beloved flexing in his bedroom on his final birthday: “5.8, Icey. Pretty good. What do you think—5.8?”

I thought he’d live longer. I thought he was the most handsome version of 5.8 ever created.

I love the way he saw himself and how he helped me see all of me with new eyes.

As my birthday dawns, I celebrate life’s rich hues. It’s been colorful and even when I can’t feel it, I hear him say, “It just keeps getting better.”

I lean into my belief: “5.3, Fire, what you think? Pretty good. It’s me: Icey 5.3.”