Tuesday, July 17, 2018

HOMELESS BEAUTY ON BARRACKS

Homeless Beauty on Barracks

I cannot stop thinking about the homeless beauty outside Café EnVie. Tall, athletic, dirty. White t-shirt tied in a tight bow above her belly button.

Walking home from St. Cecilia’s, the taste of brown butter still on my lips, potatoes Lyonnaise crunch still savored by taste buds. I had eaten every bite, my only meal since breakfast. Redfish Almondine, somehow flaky and tender. Only one of our five carried leftovers, the result of earlier Willie Mayes fried chicken. Her ‘food baby’ wouldn’t let her finish her own flaky fish dinner. Barracks Street was busy, of course, and as I was transported to San Francisco’s foggy bay by a friend’s words, I needed to move behind and beside to make room for evening strollers from opposite directions.

We crossed over Decatur, music from further away filling the air. A clump of people crowded, crouched over at their waists on the adjacent corner, like kids roasting marshmallows around a campfire, leaning in to check the brownness. The group huddled, swarming like ants on a hill over the pile of blankets and bedding-four or five of them; it was hard to tell.

Just past the last window of EnVie, her back to us, was another, perhaps part of that group, perhaps not.

As she turned, my eyes locked with hers. I had to look up. She was tall. Not thin. Her skin, exposed above her belly, I thought, would be soft to the touch, like a toddler’s that gives to a mother’s tickling fingers. Backlit by the street lamp, a mass of hair, dirty, thick, the beginning of dreads perhaps.

In slow motion, she stepped out of the street’s light as I moved forward, still listening, part of my mind fogged with San Francisco.

The homeless beauty’s eyes locked on mine. Her sadness, naked. She hadn’t planned on looking. I felt her surprise. She could have been my daughter’s age. She is someone’s daughter, I thought.

Instinctively, I smiled. My smile wasn’t pitying. My face opened without counterfeit. She looked down, found the pavement. I continued walking, hearing my friend’s words, but not.

“Excuse me…could you spare your leftovers, mommy?” the girl my daughter’s age asked the only one of us who had them.

Although I didn’t turn around to watch the exchange, I imagined the passing of the box to the girl as I heard my friend answer. “Of course, sweetheart. You enjoy it.”

I cannot get the girl out of my head. Did she sit down and eat right away? Did she walk across the street corner to share with the other five? Did she sleep alone, somewhere safe or stay up all night until the sky began to light a new day?
     
As I sit inside Café EnVie this morning, an army duffel lies almost hidden on the 2nd story balcony beside the door of an empty apartment. For Lease sign hanging by only one hook. What else lies beyond my line of sight? Is she there, pressed against the wall, shaded by brick and plaster? She was athletically built. Did she climb the black wrought iron post? Shimmy up, dragging the bag, all her worldly belongings upon her wiry shoulders? Was it flung up and over or placed lovingly, carefully where it lies? Is she sleeping there now, belly full of redfish almondine and crispy potatoes?

What changed her path, brought her to the French Quarter? She is someone’s daughter, once beloved-or not, I guess. I cannot imagine her mother’s pain. Does she know where her daughter puts her matted head at night? Does she cry, weep, gnash her teeth or does she sleep soundly, head nestled in downy dreams.

Does the homeless beauty sleep, dreaming of home? I cannot get her out of my head.

POWERFUL WRITING MADE POSSIBLE BY NOWM 2018

Powerful Writing made possible via New Orleans Writing Marathon 

“Why don’t you take a pause and clean your room?” This last line delivered in a humorous anecdote while breakfasting at Croissant D’or, and as I laughed, something clicked in my head and I immediately had to write.
            I was reminded of all the times I had said something similar to my own two kids. Robbie’s carpet was a deep, dark blue, but I only know that because I bought it. Katie wanted red, bright like summer tomatoes, but settled on a dark forest green when Momma put her foot down.
            How many wasted moments, worrying/nagging/fighting about the stupid rooms?
            “I can’t even see your floors!” I would argue. “Why did I pay for carpet if we were never going to see it again?”
          And Katie, preparing for Air Force departure, piles, heaping piles of clothes and all the things she’d collected in her eighteen years so far. She was only allowed one large khaki military bag and a small duffel when I dropped her at the hotel with the other new recruits, so she was cleaning her room and deciding what to do with things.
           Two entire dresser drawers were filled with ‘special rocks.’ I remember standing in her doorway, fighting the urges to cry because she was soon leaving and sigh because clearly, I had missed the cyclone hurricane earthquake that had come through her bedroom sometime during the night.
          “Didn’t you get rid of your rock drawers when we moved here?” I sighed anyway. Sheepishly looking up at me, her hands cupping stones and then letting them slide through her fingers down into the drawer, she smirked. “These are my new rocks.”
          And then Robbie was gone, and I was sprawled on my driveway as sirens howled and police arrived and cars parked everywhere as word spread, and I did my best to stop screaming, keep breathing, and answer unanswerable questions. A special cleaning crew would be necessary. I couldn’t return into my home until then, and I needed to be back inside. Exposed items would need to be discarded, due to the ‘nature of his death’. 
When my best friend asked, ‘what do I do with all the things in Robbie’s room,’ I sobbed. “Get rid of it. Get rid of all of it!” Another friend cried, ‘No, No, you don’t want to do that.’
            Until then, I wasn’t aware of the dozen or more people gathered behind me on my driveway. Had they witnessed the past hours of my destruction, the screaming, me at my worst moments? It didn’t matter. None of it mattered.
          The deep sea blue carpet was ripped up that night while I lay not sleeping, shaking with shock. I returned to my home early the next morning and stood in vacant space. Newly painted walls. White. Floor bare of everything. Plywood, waiting to be replaced with a neutral low shag.
         I can see the floor now, but would give almost everything to have  back that blue carpet, mysterious and hidden again, and my boy sprawled atop the mess smirking, rolling his eyes, and ignoring his messy room. 








Monday, July 9, 2018

Yes, Baby, Yes!

Monday, July 9       EnVie Cafe, 4:30 PM

In the Quarter. Again. Sitting across from Janice, her pen moving furiously across her journal, a secret smile upon her lips.

It feels like home, like it has been too long since I was here last. Less than five months since I walked the hot concrete streets, but an entire year since the NOWM.

More familiar every year, more family than the year earlier, deeper hugs, brighter reconnections, and a bigger pile of lookin' forward to...

'The sounds of New Orleans' on the speakers, jazz, raucous across the scales. It would let me know I was here even if I were blind. My ears would give this place away--the sax and trumpets, the drawling of "Yes, Baby, Yes!" and the bravado of the 'Who dats?!'

New journal now filling, purchased just for this event. New faces to meet, places to discover, words to pen.

Let the magic take me where it may. I am ready to let it in.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & SASSY SALADS

Friday, July 6th 1:54 PM
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Lancaster's Diner

Mmm...my tastebuds already know the Ephemera which awaits them, here at a high two seater table in the front window of Lancaster's. New flavors, delivered by the gingham shirted, overall short wearing waitress, reminiscent of Sweetilicious.

The first spoonful is not a disappointment. Rich yet delicate, the spice creates close my eyes appreciation for the shrimp and crab that sacrificed their lives-heightened as the heaping Sassy Salad-1/2 order sky high-is set beside the cup of bisque.

This place feels like home-warm, cozy, filling me with contented sighs as I settle into the hair. Country music softly plays in the background; Janice across the small square table.

The four boys at the adjacent table finally abandon their video games, devices pocketed as platters of chicken & fries are devoured. Mmm...the oldest groans, biting into crispy fried chicken. Finally, over fries and ranch dressing, the boys begin to make eye contact with each other, sentences are exchanged, giggles from one to another...

"...git a little dirt on my booooots," one sings aloud to his three tablemates.

Hearing the choppy phrases from their table restores a bit of my faith. Seven of eight of the family/group disappeared into their video games when they first sat; the four boys here, the other four across the cafe. Dad sat alone, despite being with his two elementary aged kids and beside his wife.

"Oooh...OohOOH!" The younger teen emphasizes the words of the country song-boy humor-innuendo implied, giggling follows-they go back to eating. He strolls across the floor of Lancaster's to test his mother's proferred spoon of bisque-smells it before dropping his mouth onto the scoop.

The food is loosening their solitude. There is reaching across plates, grabbing from other plates, discussion of past meals, "remember that chicken at Leo's?" More singing, sharing, walks to the parents' table and back again.

The meal has reunited a family that was made of eight separate vessels when they arrived. They leave a clumsy, bumping into each other unit, jostling in safety of ONE, smiling and perhaps even unaware of what transpired.

Hope renewed-even as one by one outside on the sidewalk, they go back into hiding.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chocolate Ice Cream Toddler

Chocolate Ice Cream Toddler

Covington Farmers Market, 7/7/2018 ~11:30 a.m.

Mouth open like a baby bird, the chubby cheeks lend themselves to two deep dimples. Sweaty hair on the back of his neck evidence to his love of the music, as he bops his head in perfect rhythm to Lambert's band. Between bites of chocolate ice cream served to him by his mother, the youngster relaxes back into his stroller seat, blue flip flops tapping to the beat.

Unable to contain the musician inside him, his hands clap and he lurches forward, trying to escape. I can imagine him, dancing, holding the stroller for support, khaki shorts and purple t-shirt rocking.

Dance like nobody is watching I think, or, like you're two, blessed with long dark lashes, and chubby thighs that can withstand hours of unbridled moving, not a care in the world except the music...and that next bite of chocolate ice cream coming your way.

ROUGH AND READY (or not, here they come) WRITINGS FROM NOWM 2018

     Four years ago, I timidly approached my very first New Orleans trip. I still remember my trepidation, sweating in the backseat of an airport shuttle van, listening to some rather horrible women discussing 'friends' of theirs in the most uncomplimentary terms. I remember worrying that I was going to be late for the first night's events, having not realized just how long it would take the shuttle to get me to LeRichelieu, the final destination deep in the French Quarter comprised of one way streets.
     That was back in 2014, five New Orleans Writing Marathon events ago. I've only missed one year. The year my girl was stationed in Qatar and I didn't know when she was coming home. It was a horrible, awful, stressful year, and I needed to be home when the Air Force decided she could come home; so, I passed on New Orleans and my week of writing in good company.
     I was a poopy diaper the entire time, despite gifting myself with day writing trips of my own at home. It was not the same. I missed my peeps. I missed the streets of the French Quarter, freshly cleaned in the mornings and steaming hot during the days. I missed the companionship of friends, and the food, and the alcohol, and the sweaty, sticky, smelly, sensuousness of the place I had fallen in love with moments after first arriving.
     This year I arrived extra early, just to spend four days of time with a friend I made on that very first day of my very first NOWM. We have been writing outside of New Orleans, in parks and cafes, gazebos and benches, in silence and surrounded by bands and dancing.
     To keep my writing honest, and to appease some loyal 'fans', I have promised to post some of my daily writings here.
     The writings will be ROUGH.
     The writings will be REAL.
     But, they will be SHARED and hopefully appreciated.

So, please, read and feel free to comment. I am no longer afraid to throw my words out into the world before they are 'perfect' and revised and polished. Our words are powerful in all their forms and stages.
     Remember, life is too short to worry about things that simply do not matter. SHARE what you have to offer with those you love. I have never been sorry. I dare you to try it, too.

Friday, June 22, 2018

WEEPING IS NOT WEAKNESS

     Turquoise, rosy cornflower, and baby blues traverse the horizon as I settle into my porch chair, coffee in hand. A new day is dawning, and nothing but beauty surrounds me; yet, as I sip my coffee tears well up and spill down my cheeks.
     I don't wipe them away. There is no one here to see, to question, to pat my hand or ask if I am okay. I am, actually, fine.
     This is normal.
     My normal.
     At this point, I cannot in all honesty claim it as 'new' normal. It has been over eight years since my son died. There is nothing new in my tears.
     Sadness isn't the reason for this salty release. I wasn't woken from the grip of a nightmare's torment. Nothing horrendous happened to someone I love or me personally today or yesterday or recently. This week, in fact, has been particularly lovely, filled with moments of total joy. Good writing. New opportunities. Blissful rides. Great friends. Buoyant laughter. Joy.
     My weeping this morning, in this moment, is simply the release of unexpected, inherent loss. Someone foolishly once spoke or wrote the words, 'Time heals all wounds.' No amount of time will fill the hole left by the absence of my Robbie. Anyone who believes that is a fool or someone lucky enough to have never experienced loss.
     Weeping allows the release of sadness, the proof that my boy was loved beyond physical limits of a mother's heart.
     Weeping is proof that he was real. He is always with me. Forever.
     Weeping is not a sign of weakness. It is the oil that greases the cogs of my broken heart so that I may rise another day and enjoy the beautiful things that make life worth living.
     So, I embrace the weeping. Reach out to others and accept their love. Laugh and cry and fight and make up as many times, for as many days as I am granted.
     Because, life is made of all that and more; and, it is worth living.
     It is worth the living!








Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ONLY ONE MORE DAY

     It's only one more day. One more day without him. One more day without his smile, his laughter, his dirty socks in the couch cushions, empty Dorito bags in the bathroom (yes, the bathroom).

     Eight years ago my world was changed for all eternity. My sweet son, Robbie, gone.

     I remember the moment I knew something was wrong. It was in the air as I walked up the steps. It was goosebumps on my skin as I stood in the doorway. There are so many things I remember but don't want to, and so many things I don't that I wish I could have back.

     So now I have a new normal. Dreams sometimes bless me with his presence, younger or 16 year old versions, but never older. Last night I cried while watching a show, flashing ahead to future views of the characters' lives, children, laughter, playing, together. I will never know what he could have become. I will never hold his babies in my arms, snuggle them, kiss away their boo-boos.
   
     In the week leading up to this day each year, there are always nightmares. Always. This year's were particularly, painfully detailed and real. I'd spent the days beforehand congratulating myself on how well I was dealing with the upcoming death-versary. Translation: 'Tamp it down, tamp it down, waayyyyyy down!'

     I know better. I do. Yet...it was the only way I could manage things.

     That is part of this new normal. The knowing of ways, of options, to manage the grief that never goes away. It ebbs. It hovers. It is always, always here, ready to descend when most and least expected.

     I never make plans for this, the 16th of May. I've learned to try to change things up, do something not done before. Today it was an early workout at Greater Lansing Crossfit. Though I give myself permission to change/cancel/add to the agenda as necessary, this morning I did more than I thought possible. One hundred pounds for floor presses, six rounds, followed by as many push ups as possible in one minute. I'd planned on eighty-five. My partner pushed me, and I did more than I thought possible.

     That makes me chuckle. Every day I do more than I think possible, because, well, living with my beautiful boy no longer walking this earth? More than a Mother can imagine. Every. Single. Day.

     The lesson I learned years ago in this journey is simple. This is only one more day. One more day without my Robbie. Today I will watch for signs. I know he is around, watching me, checking in when he feels my need growing.

     Only one more day, followed by one more tomorrow, and then another, and another, and another.

     Yet, it is also one more day to love my daughter, to be loved by my husband, to sit on the porch and drink my coffee watching my equines in the pasture, to read another book, to write another story, to listen to someone else share their needs.

     So, I will embrace this day, and the next, and as many as I have in my future, until I leave this earth and wrap my arms around my boy again. He would expect nothing less from his Mother. He will accept no other options.

     If I can, so can you.

     Embrace this day, and treat yourself to a decadent ice cream treat in honor of my boy, my sweet son, my smirking, messy room, kind, handsome, beautiful, beautiful Robbie.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Struggle is Real

Struggling tonight. I was looking forward to today's workout at my Cross Fit, aptly named 'The Undead.' 5 RFT. 15 DLs, 25 Abmat SUs. I went rx. Seems like lately, my body requires more time to recoup, but I'm trying to do mobility, focus on my gains, etc...

Round 1 and I was already behind, but moving at a steady pace as my coach had advised. 25 sit ups take me awhile, and I tried to keep reminding myself that a year ago I would have been home on the couch, not even working out.

By Round 3 I was struggling, breathing during the ab mats got more difficult. Half the others were already finished. FINISHED. I DL'd forward...my mind swirling with 'leave your ego at the door' and other positives I've reinforced from this site and CF since last May. I'm 52. Oldest by a lot in the class.

Yet...as I completed the entire 5th round alone, my fellow GLC mates cheering, I fought the mental struggle more than the nausea and shortness of breath.

I didn't quit. I finished. I broke down my equipment. I completed the 10 minutes of double under practice, even managing to get some done. I chatted with some folks before I drove home...

and it hit me. Hard. I was last. Again. My mental game was down. Lost. I was near tears. Despite my best efforts, my knowing that for 11:56 I worked hard, held my own, completed 75 #110 Deadlifts & 125 sit ups...I felt rotten.

Made dinner. Stretched. Went outside and did chores (horses, dogs). Nothing.

I know this will pass. I know I should keep thinking about my gains. I know, yet...man. Days like this...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

SORRY MR. TRUMP, THIS IS NO SOLUTION!

*A Heads Up before reading...This piece contains my emotional response to the Conference at the White House with people from the recent Florida shootings. This is my personal reaction. I am not starting a debate. If you want to argue, please don't bother. At least not now. I am too broken right now to play with those people. I needed to write this in order to breathe. There will be more later, but I will not be drawn into arguments on this piece. Sincerely, KEB* 

Earlier this evening, I sat and listened to the round circle discussion of parents, teachers, and students, all survivors of school shootings. My heart was heavy as one after another student shared their fears, the idea that their entire life has included this fear; that they've never known a world that didn't include mass killings in schools. Tears flowed as parents shared their tales of receiving texts and calls from sons and daughters as their children hid, gunfire in the background. 
     
However hard I anticipated this event to be, I was completely unprepared for my reaction when the leader of our country stated his solution to school shootings:

    The solution is called concealed carry. We need to arm the teachers. They'll get special training. 

My heart stopped. My stomach clenched. F*CK YOU, TRUMP! came from my lips, out loud, spewed in a gut wrenching moment of realization that this is what he may be working towards. 

Now, my job is to KILL A STUDENT? 

I left the room, stormed into my bedroom, and then the crying, the frantic gasping for air, the hysteria took over. I couldn't breathe, sat on the edge of my bed, hunched over, arms wrapped around my waist, rocking, trying to gain control. 

Thirty years in classrooms, guiding and encouraging youngsters and teens, and now the leader of our great nation wants to train me to kill. There is no way to wrap my mind around this insanity. There is no way I could aim a gun at a teenager and shoot. A former student? Someone I have worked to help in the past, his life now off track, and now it will be my job to pull out my concealed weapon and kill him? 

No. No. NO!

More guns is NOT the answer to this country's gun problem.

More violence is NOT the answer to this country's violent nature.

It is past time for people to try and defend their RIGHT to own weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing other people. Get over it. Nobody needs them. You may like them, but that isn't the same thing. Don't try to argue that law abiding citizens are the ones being punished; that criminals will still find a way; that our 2nd Amendment protects any and all things surrounding gun paraphernalia ownership. 

Enough is enough. 

Don't arm me. 

Don't train me to kill. 

Fix the root of the problem. Stricter regulations to purchase, keep, and have access to guns is simply common sense. Nobody should be able to walk into a store and leave shortly after with weapons. 

Nobody. 

Please, America, we need to look around the world and own the problem we have created. We need to be strong enough to fix it, using other country's methods that have been proven to be effective in managing gun violence. We need to lose the mindset that in order to be big and bad we need guns. 

My heart is broken. 

My mind is struggling. 

My words are fighting a battle that no gun ever will.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

'First Touch' Reading

I am so proud that my piece, written in New Orleans during the Writing Marathon of 2017, is the kick off to this amazing radio presentation.

This is the link, so please enjoy, and let me know what you think of it at some point.

I love New Orleans and the writing that I do while inspired by all that is 'The Big Easy.'

Decisions at a Deli, by Kristine E. Brickey (jiggle, brouhaha, woozy)


            Sassy was going to kill her friend Cindy for getting involved in her love life, forcing her into this ridiculous predicament. Was it considered a doubly blind date if she hadn’t actually met this Matthew before, NOR was aware he was going to show up here, expecting she knew she was on a date?
Just because he’d seen her article and sent flowers, what, she was obligated to date him? She’d sold the flowers to her coworker, but then Cindy had nabbed the card and made herself matchmaker. Imagining Cindy’s head jiggling as she shook her silly later this afternoon helped a little, Sassy thought with an evil grin. At least rejection in this public place should prevent any brouhaha.
         All this information floated around Sassy’s brain as Matthew sat waiting. Grimacing, Sassy tried to decide how to best explain; but just then, the waitress arrived with lunch.
         Postponing the inevitable, Sassy took a bite from her sandwich, woozy with hunger and anger. Rather than digging into his own, Matthew began sharing. Despite her initial indifference, she was drawn into his stories, laughing as he talked about how many notes he’d written before settling on the one he’d finally sent with the roses to her office.
         “My friend, Cindy, stole that note,” Sassy admitted as she finished her fries. Matthew’s confused expression sent a twinge of guilt her way. Knowing the truth needed speaking, she forged ahead. “The flowers were a lovely gesture, but…I don’t do flowers…or blind dates,” she added.
         “But, we’re here, having lunch now,” Matthew clung to his confusion.
         “Yeah, about this…” Sassy was actually starting to feel bad. “Cindy stole the card and set this up.”
         “You didn’t know this was a date, did you?” Matthew finally understood, waving over the waitress for the check.
         Indecision washed over her. She’d not had a horrible time, but was that basis enough to date Matthew?
         He was standing to leave. “It was nice meeting you, Sassafras Jones.”
         “I’m sorry you wasted your money,” she said.
         “Flowers for a beautiful woman? Never a waste,” Matthew offered his hand to help her from the booth.
         His grip was firm, but gentle. He has manners, she thought, that much was clear. He wasn’t being a jerk because she’d refused him. Hmmm…
         “Ladies first,” Matthew gestured toward the door.
         She was going to kill Cindy.
         He reached past her and opened the door before she could react.
         Dammit, Cindy!
         “Again, nice meeting you,” Matthew smiled and began to turn away.
         “Wait!” Sassy yelled louder.         
         And there, on the busy sidewalk, she made a choice that would change her life forever.