Tag Archives: DPchallenge

Teen Advice in Snippets, Weekly Writing Challenge

Writer’s Challenge Note:  I ran out of time for editing too much, but I did what I could in bold. I’ve been an editor for too many years so I know the value of it; however, here in WordPress World I found myself so much more at ease with writing, so much more confident and content that I didn’t feel the need to slash all my words. I simply commanded them and they stuck. I don’t think I could’ve experienced this without WordPress.

Snipping away at yourself makes for a difficult day, let alone life. A general glance strikes you as a hit with another’s eye. But, really, was it a glance at you or was it something else entirely? You don’t even consider that until years later when you’ve grown older and you realize these snippets never really mattered to anyone but you because, well, just because.

Teens, and often enough Tweens, live in a bubble built upon self-interest and self-conscous slaps to the face. They riddle themselves with bullets shiny and new. Shiny because their “friends” polish them and new because it is new to them.

This age group which is about 11-17, sometimes as old as 18, roams around with so much pain because at the same time that their bodies are changing, they see the world for what it is, and it is not so pretty and sometimes neither are they.

If any of us adults could fast forward teens to ten years later, we might be able to spare them all of this needless pain. We can rewind though for ourselves.

When I walk backward to that day when I found myself taller than the boy I liked, a pimple sprouting in the middle of my forehead, hair too frizzy to feather, voice too soft to cheerlead, butt too big to wear short shorts, lips too small to call sexy, I want to take myself by the hand and walk myself forward.

I want to lie down next to me and tell myself stories about what happens afterward, how life changes, why I shouldn’t be afraid of myself, and why I should definitely stop trying so hard to fit in with everyone else. But, to that girl, buried in her day to day dramas of a changing body and a chaotic life, the gift of sitting next to her older self might not help at all. It could even land her in an insane asylum.

But, here we go anyway.

Listen Lisa, feathered hair looks ridiculous except on that “inappropriate” poster your uncle has of Farrah Faucet. Everyone eventually grows a pimple on the most embarrassing part of their body for the whole world to gawk at because this is what makes you human. Worry about wrinkles, trust me, they’re much worse. Your butt is perfect, perfect for roller skating, perfect for running, perfect for swimming, and perfect because you have a body and you’re not a boy. But, you don’t appreciate this because girls are told to starve themselves or forced to do so because advertising and fashion magazines say so. They blast it from their bony butts perched on their fake everything.

Lisa, if you would just listen to me, really listen with your soul, not just your ears, you’d understand that your lips don’t need to be enormous and red. You don’t need all those kids to like you. You don’t even need one. You’ve got a grandmother who one day will get sick and need you to take care of her like a baby, so enjoy her now. She’s your best friend. There’s a sister hanging out with some really mean girls and she needs a shoulder to cry on. There’s your mom, who loves you so much, but works too much to know how to show it anymore.

There are so many reasons to forget this teen drama and look to the beauty around you. Take my hand and remember this as you go through that.

You’ll thank me someday.

 

 

THIS WAS THE FIRST VERSION:

Snipping away at yourself makes for a difficult day, let alone life. A general glance strikes you as a hit with another’s eye. But, really, was it a glance at you or was it something else entirely? You don’t even consider that until years later when you’ve grown older and you realize these snippets never really mattered to anyone but you because, well, just because.

Teens, and often enough Tweens, live in a bubble built upon self-interest and self-conscous slaps to the face. They riddle themselves with bullets shiny and new–shiny because their “friends” polish them and new because it is new to them.

This age group which is about 11-17, sometimes as old as 18, roams around with so much pain because at the same time that their bodies are changing, they see the world for what it is, and it is not so pretty and sometimes neither are they.

If any of us adults could fast forward them ten years, we might be able to spare them all of this needless pain. We can rewind though for ourselves.

When I walk backward to that day when I found myself taller than the boy I liked, a pimple sprouting in the middle of my forehead, hair too frizzy to feather, voice to soft to cheerlead, butt too big to wear short shorts, lips too small to call sexy, I want to take myself by the hand and walk myself forward.

I want to lie down next to me and tell myself stories about what happens afterward, how life changes, why I shouldn’t be afraid of myself, and why I should definitely stop trying so hard to fit in with everyone else. But, to that girl, buried in her day to day dramas of a changing body and a chaotic life, the gift of sitting next to her older self might not help at all. It could even land her in an insane asylum.

But, here we go anyway.

Listen Lisa, feathered hair looks ridiculous except on that “inappropriate” poster your uncle has of Farrah Faucet. Everyone eventually grows a pimple on the most embarrassing part of their body for the whole world to gawk at because this is what makes you human. Worry about wrinkles, trust me, they’re much worse. Your butt is perfect, perfect for roller skating, perfect for running, perfect for swimming, and perfect because you have a body and you’re not a boy. But, you don’t appreciate this because girls are told to starve themselves or forced to do so because advertising and fashion magazines say so. They blast it from their bony butts perched on their fake everything.

Lisa, if you would just listen to me, really listen with your soul, not just your ears, you’d understand that your lips don’t need to be enormous and red. You don’t need all those kids to like you. You don’t even need one. You’ve got a grandmother who one day will get sick and need you to take care of her like a baby, so enjoy her now. She’s your best friend. There’s a sister hanging out with some really mean girls and she needs a shoulder to cry on. There’s your mom, who loves you so much, but works too much to know how to show it anymore.

There are so many reasons to forget this teen drama and look to the beauty around you. Take my hand and remember this as you go through that.

You’ll thank me someday

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DP Challenge, Snapshots: Spears for Eyes

Her eyes bit into hers and, what a shame, since love often resided there. Brown spears sprung from a deep darkness pooled into circular rounds, cushioned only by a sense of humanity. To blink would’ve meant she’d lose her stance, her power.

A black ring outlined the severity of her response to her mother who could only break with sorrow at having realized her daughter stood stronger than she did.

The daughter’s eyelashes frayed her lids, framing the centers with honor and pride. Those eyes waited for no one, bowed to nothing, spoke to all, especially the figure she knew no longer posed a threat.

The mother’s eyes paled in comparison, a light green, tired and worn. They ached and blinked too much. The black spears, once strong, were scattered and bent, blending into the green with no real destination. The black ring blurred and swirled, knowing no boundaries.

So, the mother’s eyelids fell half-mast, cradling the idea that life need not be a fight. She bore no resentment or anger at losing this battle with the daughter she loved more than life. She even offered what little strength she had left to the daughter who suddenly blinked, then bit her bottom lip to punish herself for such weakness.

Her eyes took her mother’s strength with a glorious grin that crinkled the edges of her Egyptian-eyeliner handed to her by the gods who’d traced them at birth. She breathed and her eyes flew open much wider now when she felt the sensitivity of that strength.

The pump of it meant they remained connected so that to hurt one, would hurt the other.

Locked together, mother and daughter.

Spears for eyes.

DP Challenge

Then I See Red

English: Mother with child; Oil on canvasC...
English: Mother with child; Oil on canvasCategory:technique with mounted parameter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Purple seems a state of grace. Cloaked in it, the world around you bleeds with creativity and honor. A smile isn’t just a smile, it’s a perspective. I see myself as someone I am. A struggle becomes a path, an enemy, a friend.

Then I see red.

Nothing in between.

Just red.

My goal has always been to remain within purple. But, over the last few years, it’s become very clear to me that red must intrude, must kick purple to the curb and salute a raw instinct to fight.

Mothers know this. They may not feel purple, perhaps they walk with blue or yellow. But, in a swift second, they fill with red when their children are threatened, teased, or hurt.

I know. I’m a mother and a teacher. The inconsistencies shock some and are vulgar to others. I’ve been yelled at by many mothers, and I’ve done a lot of yelling myself. However gentle I try to be, especially with teachers, my manners disintegrate when confronted with problems affecting my children.

Knowing this has changed me even more so when dealing with parents. My purple turns to deep red for the mothers who yell at me. I usually sympathize more than they know.

The angrier the mom, the more I can take a good beating from her, even if she’s completely wrong. The last mother who yelled at me never should have. She was wrong, but I didn’t get mad. I looked her in the eyes and told her to understand that when I spoke to her, I wanted to help her. It didn’t take much. I didn’t even have to tell her I had children too. She simply saw it in my eyes.

By seeing red, by understanding it, I can live in red more comfortably now. I know what it’s there for. It’s a call to action, a desire to protect, a need to be heard.

Red is love, pure, passionate love.

A mother’s love.

Written by Lisa Chesser

Occupy Avoids Phantoms of Failure

Unemployed men queued outside a depression sou...
Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone, 02-1931 – NARA – 541927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The undercurrent of dreading the inevitable percolates beneath our heavy layer of cheap perfume. We fear becoming sick then losing our jobs or the other way around. It doesn’t matter because if one happens so will the other. Then, we’ll also lose healthcare. We fear so much that we accept too much.

I look at other mothers and fathers, men and women, and we nod, we smile, a resigned not yet angry smile. Occupy Wall Street hit an impressive nerve. Secretly, in those quiet corners after work ended, we smirked, vindicated for our silent sufferings.

But now, when I look back at Occupy Wall Street, I look back even further.

The Great Depression plunged Americans into a surprise hell where a response left them mute then violent. Today you can view the violent protests on YouTube.

My great grandfather, whom I had the pleasure of knowing for a whole two years before his death, owned a bakery in Chicago, Illinois. He hired as many people as he could invent jobs but still couldn’t help the majority of the people who’d been abandoned by their employers. He fed people free bread on a daily basis. He made sure he sent word to anyone he knew that there was a good man or woman ready to work. He did all this with a push and a shove from my great grandmother who never let anybody she met go hungry.

Even so, they couldn’t help everyone. In fact, the amount of people they could help was simply too small. The circumstances had cut too deep, the wound unable to heal. So the masses had to speak up.

Like the Occupiers, they mustered the strength and anger to do something, anything about their situation. Whether born from desperation or frustration, it really didn’t matter because that’s more than many people could or would do.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 1st week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My great grandfather watched his all-American, capitalist ideals drop from the tears in his eyes as he handed men and women their dignity in the form of bread.

In the 1920s, there were those who misspent their money on extravagant delights. It was a time of overindulgence and rebellion that set Americans up for failure.

The similarities between that and the outrageous spending habits of the 90s blend quite nicely. In 1931, about 60,000 people protested new eviction laws in Chicago. Violence erupted, some were killed, many injured. Read more about it at http://griid.org/2011/08/03/this-day-in-resistance-history-–-the-chicago-eviction-riots/

Protests are cries for help, shouts of the guttural kind, when people just can’t stay quiet any longer. Riots happen when no one listens.

Right now, many of us still have our stuff. But, we’re struggling—our eyes show it.

We, the workers, we’re tired.

But, whom do we blame? Them? Do we blame the credit-crazy monsters of the 80s and 90s? Do we blame the people who bought into the idea that you can live a luxurious life and still pay your bills? Sure, why not. Maybe we can even say, “Look what you did. Take responsibility for it.”

Then what? Do we dig a hole for them and say, “Jump in,” pushing them if they won’t go, covering them in dirt, suffocating them?

Or, do we offer them a hand, a piece of bread in the form of dignity.

Written by Lisa Chesser

Europe Without Email? Just a Dream

The stacks of paperwork stared at me, but it didn’t matter because I was going to Europe for my honeymoon. Bleak cubicles boxed me in, but my emails reminded me Europe was waiting.

With both of us working fulltime at jobs that required 12-hour days, my fiancé and I could never have planned a honeymoon to Europe without email. The negotiations, the pricing, the bookings—email, email, email.

Before email became a common tool, it would’ve meant appointments, endless phone conversations, time away from work, and Europe probably would’ve been a pipe dream.

But, this was the year 2000.

Despite the incessant anxiety of planning a wedding and attempting to transport family from Venezuela to Miami, my emails set a reassuring hand on our shoulders, saying, “You’ll fly away soon.”

I remember thinking, “This isn’t gonna happen,” at one point as I was struggling to battle the seating arrangements for the wedding reception. Then, I turned to my desktop, seeking solace in what amounted to love letters from my fiancé. There, smiling, was an email titled, “Itinerary.” It was done. He had emailed me the agenda for our trip.

We would soon be sipping cappuccinos in cafés in Roma and Firenze. All momentary problems dissolved and those stacks of paper diminished to a simple task at hand.

Even our Eurorail tickets floated to us through email. So, I dreamt of the train that would take us to Vienna from Venezia.

Looking back now, I remember dragging our suitcases from the TRENI down the street to Hotel Alexandra in Roma and I wonder how we survived without our iphones. Facebook would’ve sounded crazy and WordPress would’ve been unimaginable.

The technology we have today would’ve not only made our trip more interesting, but it would’ve saved memories that often slip through my fingers. Most of the pictures I post pop up from my iphone. I can’t believe I lived without it.

But, that good old reliable email…that was just the beginning. Europe without email?

Just a dream.

Written by Lisa Chesser

Refrigerator Art Changed My Life

by Lisa Chesser

One-eyed aliens, giant butterflies, flying dragons, mermaids, superheroes, self-portraits and other masterpieces mask our aged refrigerator. Without that in my life, even my morning coffee wouldn’t make me happy.

All parents believe their child is the next Picasso or Frida Kahlo, but we also recognize the need to connect with our child. Their art connects to a part of the soul where words can’t. At least, that’s what I find when I reach for the refrigerator door.

Family

The first time my daughter handed me a drawing a surge of pride and euphoria swept through me. I rushed to the refrigerator as if it were a wall in an art gallery, quickly selected a worthy magnet, and surveyed its magnificence on the refrigerator door. She has come to see the refrigerator as a showcase for her talent and superior abilities, a confirmation that she is the best.

Now, she snatches a piece of typing paper from the printer, grabs a pen or crayon and waits to see where I will display her next masterpiece.

There are moments when I silently grumble that we never have paper in the printer when we need to print, but all I have to do is reach for the refrigerator door and those words never materialize.

Mom’s Day

Over the years, this refrigerator art gallery has boasted various works of art that expressed her momentary whims and our family’s unique attributes, always with a positive spin. At one point it displayed a portrait of myself accentuating my ultra-curly hair in an afro-like halo with rays of light spraying from my head. When I asked why she added the light, my daughter explained that I looked like the sun in the morning.

My whole perspective changed. I went from being a giant, frizzy-headed mess to the sun. The day I couldn’t find that drawing was the day I realized how much I couldn’t live without my children’s art. I began to value it and make sure that, when it came time to replace old art with new art, the old art had a place to stay. I created a scrapbook where I could slip the ones that meant the most to me.

The depth of meaning has grown over the years. Early one morning, still holding a grudge over an unresolved problem, I made my coffee then reached for milk from the refrigerator. I looked up and stopped. Strange creatures jumped from the door with their disproportionate necks and misshapen lips, kissing each other, flying and floating. Despite all the masterpieces I’ve seen in museums and galleries, I finally fully grasped the value of art. Art exists to remind us of the beauty we forget about while attempting to maneuver through the difficulties in life. Even if the art stands as a testament of our bad behaviors, it still magnifies the beauty we’ve disregarded.

Colorful

Once my son arrived, the art collection filled our house. The refrigerator art migrated to our walls and doors. One evening after a shower, I found his refrigerator art carefully taped to the hallway walls and bedroom doors. He proclaimed that the house was too boring and it needed some color. He placed each one at his eye-level—so I learned to look down for inspiration.

Butterfly Go

Eventually, I myself moved some of the artwork to my little nook in the corner of the dining room where I work. A brightly dressed ninja reminds me of the power to fight but to be careful about wardrobe choices. Two flowing girls, outlined in blue and red, tell me to overcome differences. A butterfly splashed with color spreads its wings across my magnetic bulletin board. I hear its voice say, “Open your wings Mama. You’re still a child inside.” And a turtle calls out, “Slow down!” So, I do. Each piece expresses a new discovery, a silent insight, and an imperceptible moment that I would’ve rushed past had it not been my own child who handed it to me.

Living without that, wouldn’t be living at all.

A Daily Post Challenge: Carpe Diem and a Broken Dryer

It was suddenly too quiet. The loud clank of my dryer, reminding me that there would be clothes to fold, had stopped. I only knew because I wasn’t even aware of that whir and clank anymore. It was like a friend who hummed and clicked a song throughout the day. So, when it stopped, it sounded like an alarm clock of silence.

I walked to the dryer and pushed the button. Nothing.

I turned the dial. Nothing.

I began to panic as I looked at all the laundry left to do, knowing the guy who fixes my dryer would say he couldn’t be here until later, maybe even next week.

The panic arose from the sick feeling that I might have to enter and remain in a Laundromat. The TVs, the screaming kids, the inevitable heat, the creepy guy who doesn’t seem to have any laundry, and the memories of it all laughed at me. But, WordPress got in the way.

An Even Bigger Challenge

Caught between the daily post and this BraveSmartBold blog, I was faced with an even bigger challenge.

Do I panic for real? Or, can I be brave, smart, and bold by fixing my problem with a grace and wisdom that eludes us when faced with difficult dilemmas.

I chose the latter, which didn’t seem that difficult as I was throwing all the dirty clothes into garbage bags. I grabbed my computer and triumphantly found a simple solution to what could’ve been a freak-out session, complete with yelling at my husband for buying a cheap dryer and handling it like the Hulk’s victims.

Triumph Fizzled

Inside the Coin Laundry, however, my triumph fizzled. The familiar sound of my whirring, clackety dryer sounded instead like an old train with a loud, Spanish conductor. The Spanish show blaring overhead screamed a game show complete with dancers. And, there was the guy except he had a load of laundry, I think.

I felt like a mouse in a maze with the enormous silver and blue washers stacked in blocked patterns with no room to walk except in scattered rows, signposts explaining which was what. A bright-blue counter with chipped red paint grinned at me. A heavy-set woman handed me a tattered business card that said Herbal Club on it and she pointed to a back room with a sheet for a curtain.

I had already begun to sweat.

The Choice

“You knew this would happen,” my BraveSmartBold voice told me.

“Just load the laundry and write a post,” the WordPress voice told me.

I did.

And, I enjoyed every minute of it.

A Few Sounds Later

Her notes struck the incessant thoughts from my brain. Each punch on the keys left me thinking only of the beauty the world had to offer, the drops of rain hitting the pool, the light touch of a butterfly.

I know when I’ve lost our fights because my daughter looks away from me, sits, and plays her piano.

I look at her in a state of reverence when she ignores me, her mother, her teacher, her prodder, her leader, her tormentor.

The sounds bleed from a part of her that no piano teacher could ever touch. She knows the notes from ages ago and I know I have no right to interfere in their delivery to this small space she’s found in a limitless dimension, so I stand distant, yet affected.

Her sounds leave me inferior and that’s when I know I can mother her from a place of love, bowing to the majesty of understanding music with only her ears.

A book, a lesson, exists somewhere but never meets this moment when she sits and creates from her soul. She plays by ear.

My daughter blocks my noise, my pressure to do, to checklist, to become and achieve. She seals my lips shut with a sound, the universal sound of song without words: music.

Times when I need her to listen, I have been cut short by the piano.

With her long, tangled hair draping her shoulders, she defies me. And, I’ve learn my lesson.

I stop my rant and listen.

That music plunges into every empty pocket of the house. No one speaks when she plays. She knows this and so do I.

The humility of knowing that my child may know more than me smacks me in the face.

A few sounds later, she leaves the song behind and we’re smiling again.