Times together that once were
Days of past, for granted taken
Days of future, forever shaken
Chances thrown away, I curse
To never start anew, nothing worse
Regrets I shout for all to hear
Hopes I guard, their ruin, I fear
I close my eyes and see your face
Drink it in, your soul, your grace
To touch you, hold you, see you too
Your smell, your voice, your eyes shine true
A dream I dream that’s never to be
One dream plus two, alive only in me
With selfless release of love locked away
Let go… ’tis yesterday, some may say
With arrogant self proclaimed wisdom astray
Patience, one day, others will say
But if I might, if I may
With innocent desire, child-like greed at play
Seize the day…this day I say.
Today! Today! …this day, I say.
~ Chick Hughes
“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” ~ James Dean
Nothing sparks one’s imagination, evokes one’s emotions, or speaks to one’s soul like a good book. For both the reader and the writer, the words inspire thought, create passion, and expose vulnerability.
As a reader, I find Eleanor Herman’s Sex With the Queen (a collection of sordid extramarital affairs carried on by some of history’s most highly respected and, as it turns out, sexually starved queens) to be a refreshing reminder of our perfectly imperfect humanity. With each forbidden frolic recounted by Herman, I was able to brush up on hundreds of years of risque royal romping outside the marital bedroom. Not only was I captivated by the author’s nefarious tales of wedded betrayal proving the lengths we, as sexual beings, will go to in order to sate our insatiable appetite for physical intimacy (even when met with certain death as standard archaic punishment)…but I was, once again, blown away by the sheer power of love itself…an engulfing emotion, a trance-inducing spell, a heart hijacking…prompting us to break rules, breach trust, and bring down marital houses.
As a writer, I was captured by her candidly prefaced description of what it’s like, as an author, to put herself out there (heart and soul) with written words and await the merciless criticism that will likely be hurled in her soul-baring direction…most of which she is willing to withstand if only to reach one reader who – like herself – finds liberating understanding and literary growth from her writing. Herman’s sentiments ring true with any writer who has ever written from the heart, unbridled and uncensored.
“Putting a first book out there for the world to read is like standing on a podium naked and asking people to judge you, body and soul. This is because each book is a clear reflection of its author, her personality, her thoughts and experience, her way of looking at the world. Judgement, therefore, will not only be about her writing, but about…her soul! It is extremely frightening to take that step up to the podium, utterly exposed; the least bit of jiggle, cellulite, or sagging clearly visible to potentially cruel judges. It is also an exhilarating experience when the judges agree the results are pretty good, and any minor jiggle can be forgiven.” ~ Eleanor Herman
To reveal oneself through words is to brave, dwelling within us, the inner inhibiting troll.
To break down walls and relinquish control.
To write from the heart, to bare one’s soul.
To break free from the repressed literary whole.
Feel, write, feel, repeat.
~ Chick Hughes
Beginning scene formula for almost any 80′s horror movie ~ A buxom young woman is spending the evening at home with her equally shapely, and questionably legal, girlfriends…challenging her intellectually challenged peers to pillow fights, refusing to conform to society’s bra obsession, and contemplating the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Oblivious to her fatefully awaiting date with the grim reaper, she flaunts her barely there t-shirt and peek-a-boo panties. As she and her friends reenact every boy’s fantasized wet dream ideology of a girls’ sleepover, a crazed murderer lurks in the night, watching her every move, breathing heavily, and waiting patiently for her sexiest moment to slash her into pieces. He watches as she departs from the herd, disrobes, and heads for the shower, where she arches her back, washes her hair, and cleans only her breasts with the obsessive precision of this guy. Once she’s sure they can’t possibly get any cleaner and her back simply won’t arch any further, she deems her shower done. As she slips into as little as possible, an ominous sound outside her window beckons to her. Just when she’s convinced it was her imagination at play, she comes face to face with her serial killer Casanova. He stares blankly at her as she screams frantically into the night. As is the apparent norm for cinematic killers, he is locked in some psychotic trance. She seizes the moment to scream louder and, of course ~ while clumsily looking back over her shoulder ~ run! Squeaky clean ta-tas bouncing to the delight of every teenage boy and envy of every teenage girl glued to, ironically, the ‘boob tube.’ But the omnipresent slasher is two steps ahead of her, and no matter how fast she runs, how loud she screams, how much she begs…those impeccably clean knockers can’t help her now. She’s knocked her last knock.
Now for her friends. ~ End scene
1, 2…Freddy came for you. 3, 4…Let’s watch some more!
Horror movie mania is never more rampant than on Halloween. The need to scare and be scared always dwells within us. Hence, the overwhelming popularity of rollercoasters, skydiving, bungee jumping, haunted houses, and People of Walmart perusal.
We crave fear. But why? What is it about horror movies that keeps us revved up and brushed up on the infamous Zombie Survival Guide?
Theories on our fear flick fetish include our willingness to endure the terror in order to experience the euphoric relief when the credits roll. As one fear enthusiast and haunted house artist put it, “It’s a complete journey from anticipation to anxiety to experiencing the fear and having the adrenaline rush to coming down afterward.” In other words, it’s a drug…and we’re addicted.
Most recently, research on the root of our horror mania points to physiological and evolutionary causes. We love horror movies for the same reason we love any other death defying act. Adrenaline. The hormonal reaction we get from facing and surviving a physical threat is a physiological ganja hit. The ability to experience both negative (threat imposed by empathy for the victim) and positive (relief that we are physically detached from the threat) simultaneously is an emotional high for us. We get high on the fear. We come down on the relief. A hair- raising, nightmare-inducing horror movie is a roller coaster ride of emotion that delivers us safely back to reality.
Once it’s over and we’re still in one piece, we feel victorious and untouchable. We had the courage to come face to face with death, and we survived. Predator survival speaks to our primal roots. Our evolutionary predecessors faced physical threat on a daily basis. Competition for food, clothing, and shelter all required the occasional throwdown with nature’s superior food chain elite. The ability to outwit badass predators was the only way to keep the species thriving and jiving. So not only did we have to face it, we had to be good at it. Adrenaline junkies, we’re biologically hardwired to be drawn to danger and to, hopefully, rock survival.
5, 6…Death’s ass gets kicked!
Of course, as we age, we lose our hunger for horror. It’s no secret that the horror film industry relies mostly on young adults as an audience base. Teenagers, in particular, love a good heaping of horror hangover. Perhaps, as adolescents reach adulthood, they are subconsciously preparing themselves for challenges that lie ahead. Many years ago, those challenges entailed physical threats to survival. So, defense was a coming of age skill. Some psychologists say we dream “in order to rehearse behaviors of self-defense in the safety of nighttime isolation.” In other words, we practice our real life fight-or-flight what-if’s in our dreams…as a means of preparation. Perhaps our love for horror movies is cloaked in the same mental subconscious. Maybe we’re simply training ourselves just in case we ever end up staring down the hockey mask of a lunatic on an unfortunate Friday the 13th. On the off chance that we do, horror movies provide us a play by play of what may get us killed, and what may not. Once the movie is over, we feel more than just relief. We feel properly trained and prepared for our own possible brush with the likes of Freddy Krueger. And we know never to fall asleep.
So, like it or not, our love affair with scary movies is here to stay. Due to evolutionary cravings beyond our control, we will continue to force ourselves through haunted houses, jump from horrifying heights to uncertain death, and gather around movie screens to face off with the latest Paranormal phenomenon or asylum escapee with a chainsaw and a chip on his shoulder. Fear is a timeless fad.
Now to get some female writers for future horror flicks. I mean men take sexy showers too, right?
7,8…Fear is your fate.
9,10…It’s Fright Night again!
“I love horror movies because they’re really fun. They tap into those wonderful primal emotions.” ~ Margot Kidder
It’s been just over a month since the day my sister passed away…August 28th. “Time of death… 6:37.” The doctor’s face as she announced this single solitary moment in time will be burned into my memory for each and every future moment hereafter. Before losing her, I was rarely at a loss for words, ever ready with sarcastic commentary and not easily shaken. Since that day, however, I’ve tried to write. Many times. But each attempt left me overwhelmed with emotion and fumbling for literary dignity … seemingly bound by some invisible force that mocked every word, every thought as undeserving and insignificant. I could barely think, let alone write. Perhaps avoiding a mental confrontation with her death. Perhaps existing in an emotional tailspin void of inspiration. Perhaps paralyzed by this all-encompassing monster called grief, with which I’m becoming far too familiar. Whatever the binding excuses were, they now take their rightful and inferior place behind my infinitely stubborn need for analytical dissection.
And dissect, I have. Having tirelessly studied and analyzed the cutting edge medical treatments she endured and why they couldn’t save her, the agonizing days leading up to her death, how she may or may not have felt, what she may or may not have been thinking, what she may or may not have been aware of, and the excruciatingly final moment in which she slipped away…I am completely lost trying to comprehend an incomprehensible world without her in it. A world without her won’t-back-down bulldog in-your-face protection of those she loved, a world without her impossibly stubborn know-it-all attitude, a world without the sister I’ve known, loved, hated, fought with, cried with, and turned to my entire life. A world with no stubborn baby sister with whom to butt heads.
A stubborn streak was one of the few things I had in common with her. Aside from that, we were different in every way, shape, and form. And regarding areas we may not have been so different, we were both too damn stubborn to fess up to.
As children, we learned, we played, we experienced, we dealt with life together. Side by side. Good times and bad. Triumphs and failures. Birthdays and fall-outs. Love and hate. Protection and rivalry. Stories and secrets. These are the things that define sisterhood. I knew her inside and out, as she did me. As adults, we just never got along. And if, in some rare weak moment, we found ourselves succumbing to the evils of sisterly amiability, we were quick to rectify it. But, family is family. And as two sisters in an incredibly small family circle, she was my constant…and I hers.
So, whether we saw eye to eye or not, whether we laughed together or declared war on the other, whether we stuck together or stuck it to each other, whether we liked it or not…we were a team in this world.
I only wish I’d known that. Death has this backhanded way of teaching its spectators life lessons while simultaneously revoking any opportunity to act on their newfound knowledge.
After fighting a losing health battle for most of a year, she was, at last, able to receive a surgery that we hoped would change her life. The adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind. Her surgery proved unsuccessful and resulted in two subsequent surgeries. Each brought with it more and more challenges for her to overcome as she slowly deteriorated before our eyes. After the 3rd surgery, she could no longer go on without life support. Two weeks on the ventilator were met with little success as her lungs progressively worsened and she was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). The deterioration of her lungs got the best of the ventilator, and that too began to fail. So, in addition to the ventilator, she was placed on a machine called ECMO. A machine we had never before heard of and one that only 6 adult patients had been placed on in the history of the hospital where she was receiving treatment, it was essentially an artificial lung. A beast of a machine, it removed her blood from her body, filtered out carbon dioxide, oxygenated it, and sent it back into her body. The doctors referred to it as a medical “last ditch”effort.
This marked a turning point for my sister. One that rendered her void of responsiveness…one in which she slowly slipped further and further away.
By her side as much as possible, I talked to her, sang to her, yelled at her, made promises to her, begged for her forgiveness, nursed her, cleaned her, treated her to mani-pedis, and learned everything I possibly could about the machines her life depended on. Machines that never seemed to yield definite answers and only fueled my 101 questions to which doctors responded with evasive non-answers.
After 3 weeks of depending on not one, but two, forms of life support, brain scans revealed scattered bleeds and damage in her brain caused by the continuous pressure of the very thing keeping her with us. Respiratory medical advances had kept her alive…defeated death…but the side effects of said advances would produce the same outcome. Through the weeks of poking, prodding, tests, and unknown pain that we subjected her to, we thought we were saving her. That we were prolonging her life. As it turns out, what we were actually doing was prolonging her death…I suspect subconsciously we needed time to come to terms with what was happening. Time to process the inevitable. We each needed our own journey of acceptance before we could come together as a family and set her free. Without meaning to, we were stripping her of her last wishes, her dignity, her right to pass on in peace. She was facing hurdles impossible to climb. Her body was worn down. Her lungs had given up. Her brain had paid the price. The time to fight had come and gone. It was time to give her what she needed most…peace.
Time to turn off the machines, to let her go.
Coming to this conclusion mentally is a vicious internal battle fought by each family member…one that precedes the actual war. Giving up on hope. Ending a life.
Heart-wrenching in theory. Unimaginable in execution.
Being present for the death of someone you love is something one is never prepared for…and something that forever changes a person, I believe. As a family, being forced into a decision to remove life support from one of its own grossly extends the limits of any manageable emotion, any possibility of soothing, or any realm of rationale.
As her last moments approached, I was by her side, as were my parents and brother. We were circled around her as she left our family for whatever awaited her. As a family who rarely (or, in fact, had never) gathered in one place at one time, there we were…sewn together at the hip by family ties, to see her through. Through her battles with the life support that would eventually take her from us, through her last physical struggles, through her last moments of consciousness, through her last gasps of breath…we held her hand. Or maybe she was the one holding our hands, easing us into acceptance of what she knew to be her fate. Inches from her face, I sang to her, pledged my love to her, apologized for regrets I will never be able to undo, cried into her hand, and rubbed her face as the machines were turned off, as she took her last breath, as our tears drenched her lifeless body. We were allowed more time with her after her passing…to hold her, to clean her, to look at her face one last time…before she was taken out of our lives forever. Her struggle was over. But ours was just beginning.
I still wonder what her thoughts were, if any. What she could feel, if anything. What she was aware of, if anything. Did she know we were gathered around her? Could she feel our love, our regret, our tears? Hoping, hoping, hoping that she did. Yet, hoping she felt nothing as she peacefully drifted off to sleep for the last time. And wrestling with the knowledge that we couldn’t have it both ways.
Watching my baby sister leave this world was…
Truthfully, I don’t know how to end that sentence. There just aren’t words that do the experience justice. The love, the pain, the fear, the regret, the loss, the guilt, the realization that a piece of me which was never appreciated enough, never spoken to enough, never loved on enough, is gone forever ~ no do-overs, no make-ups, no second chances. Just gone.
Game over. Nobody wins.
All that’s left is grief.
A monster whose reputation I have only heard horror stories about until recently. A monster who comes with unthinkable force, obliterates its victims, and leaves quietly, only to plot its next debilitating bodily invasion. A monster one can only straddle like a bucking horse gone mad, ride out its fury, climb down from, and wait…with one eye open, dreading its return.
A monster I have now gone toe to toe with…
As I mourn the loss of my sister, as I try to cherish her life, as I gather every precious, and previously unappreciated, memory of her I can scrape from the depths of my mind for my emotional consumption…as I struggle to make sense of her very short and difficult life…as I continue to straddle the monster that is grief ~ wild, terrifying, and unpredictable…
I hold on tight and hope the monster tires soon.
And to my sister, I say…You are forever a piece of my heart.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
~ Chick Hughes
To my sister, who is fighting for her life
~ My sister lost her fight on August 28, 2012
Sitting at your bedside, sterile and cold
Your blue eyes, beneath lids heavy, hide struggles untold.
Your chest’s slow rise and fall dependent on a machine’s rhythmic sound
Keeping your body with us, though your spirit, by sadness, is bound.
Can you feel me, hear me, your name I’m calling
Willing you back from wherever you’re falling.
I speak for you, to you, while you cannot
Recalling memories of old, two sisters scheme and plot.
Skipping school, dodging every rule, our secrets to keep
Times good and bad, I recite as I weep.
With your every twitch, reflex, and squeeze of my hand
Hope finds me, that you’ll fight your way from this unthinkable quicksand.
But hope is intangible, elusive, a state of mind
Vanishing as obstacles mount to keep you confined.
Gazing at your face, wondering where you are
Do you know what is happening, aware from consciousness afar.
A single tear streams down your cheek
Breaking our hearts, rendering hope bleak.
Are you struggling, hopeful, trying to fight
Or ready to give up, a silent desperate scream that we might.
Your body so tired from fighting this hell
Too tired to continue, I wonder, too sick, too frail.
Soul searching, I do, for me, for you, for reflection
Others turn to God for understanding, for direction.
Whatever the age, for comfort, the human spirit will strive
For an all powerful parental shield from life’s cruel battle to survive.
Past words, harsh actions, I regret
More patience, understanding, if one more chance, we get.
Your pain, your struggles, I would all take away
Sadness no more, only your joy, my hope, one day.
But above all, peace, I desire for you
A safe place for your heart, healing, love anew.
Whatever your thoughts, wherever you may be
I pledge you undying love; eternal sisters, are we.
After reading a recent article in the New York Times, “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry,” I was overcome by a myriad of emotions. Anger and empathy dominating them. Once again struck by the struggles of women who, bound by culture and fear, are forced to share their lives with men who lack the education and self confidence to embrace and appreciate the wild, fiery, passionate, dedicated (and, yes, at times dramatic and difficult) entity that is the female spirit. In attempts to thwart off his own handed-down insecurities and assure himself that she will never have the freedom nor independence to see a life outside the one he deems “honorable,” he robs not only himself of the limitless possibilities promised by her ravenous spirit…but he robs her of a spirit that defines her, empowers her, and inspires her. Leaving her trapped in a relationship void of love, in a body void of familiarity…where she can only be, say, or do what is dictated to her.
In spite of this centuries-old practice, some women still manage to find a way to thrive. To write.
This ambitious group of Afghan women featured in the NYT article has found an emotional outlet in poetry. Writing as a form of escape, a form of complaint, a form of freedom. But they do so in secret because the act of expressing her feelings, her ambitions, her worries in written form is cause for extreme physical punishment at the hands of her husband, brother, or father. The men they dutifully answer to are threatened by such things, seeing her expression as a possible flight risk from her strictly defined domestic role. So, she isn’t allowed education or exposure to outside influences that may mar that role.
Feeding an unspoken fear as old as time…education leads to independent thinking. And independent thinking leads to rebellion.
Damn straight it does. Thank goodness!
Expressing oneself through writing is not only a source of therapy, expression, and self exploration for the writer, but also a source of strength, understanding, and inspiration for the reader. Though separated by oceans, cultures, and cavemen hell-bent against evolution, we all have the desire and the right to grow and learn by literary means.
To inspire. And to be inspired.
May these women continue to find both the strength and courage to inspire all women, as they have me.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Be a solitary bird lost in flight
Free to be, to love, to write
No glow of red, only green light
No tether, wrong, or right
Soaring high over mountains, cloaked in night
Shedding, ridding all semblance of plight
And fervently anticipating, with dawn in sight
A bold new rush of wind as I graze the sunlight
~ Chick Hughes
Nookie for the Nook! It seems the latest literary must-have material for women to innocently peruse is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. Filled with daringly erotic sexual content, the book is gaining attention for getting women hot, bothered, and anticipating the next big O in the trilogy threesome. Literary lust or bust has always been a hit with women. Allowing her repressed sexual beast to run rampant with every turn of the sexually charged page. Igniting her inner promiscuous powerhouse. The book’s New York Times bestseller status is confirmation of its ravenous readers’ thirst for all things forbidden.
However, a local (at least local to me) library in Brevard County, Florida has ordered a hit on the book…because of its naughty nature. Pulling the books from the shelves, the library is “taking out” the trash that will cause impure thoughts in the untainted minds of its Floridian southern belles.
“I think they should ship them up north, where they’re more open-minded,” sneered a Florida female conservative touting her intolerance for liberal lit in the confines of a building specifically designed to house literature from all walks of life (regardless of the color of its binding). And apparently, her position was validated by her fellow fuddy-duddies. The book has been deemed unfit reading material for the Florida library, and therefore stripped of its shushed right-wing library privileges. Because only liberals have sex drives. And all liberals live in the north.
Liberals like the beach too.
And this one will be getting her tan on – while getting it on with Fifty Shades of Grey.
Ask any new mom if she’d like to break from pampering her Pamper wearer long enough to become the pamperee. And you’re sure to hear one thing. “Oui, oui!” After taking European women by storm with their doorstep delivered beauty in a box, the creators of GlossyBox are thinking outside the box yet again and launching petiteBox in the U.S. this month. An e-commerce subscription service, petiteBox is making pampering moms their business. Delivered to the doorsteps of new moms and moms-to-be, these beautifully packaged boxes each contain 4-7 products de pampering and promise a mix of goodies that is sure to give “a day in the life of motherhood” that certain…je ne sais quoi. Depending on her stage of pregnancy, or her new bundle of joy’s age, the products cater to the needs of both mom and baby.
Pampered moms will receive organic lotions, calming oils, baby clothes, skin creams, baby food, lavish toys, and mommy joys. With such a delightful treasure box coming straight to their doors, moms are making petiteBox their personal baby “booty” delivery service. Her bouncing baby box will be filled with products from high end brands such as Earth Friendly Baby (providing organic products like shampoo, body wash, baby wipes, and baby creams), Lansinoh (supplying mom with breastfeeding must-haves), basq (spoiling mom with aromatic body oils and anti stretch mark creams), Mam (calming baby with teethers and binky besties), and Angel Dear (cuddling baby with petite blankies and cozily cute clothes). So many chic treats! But, perhaps, my favorite luxurious mommy treat is the flower essences energy mist by Lotus Wei. While not many things can top that incredibly intoxicating new baby smell mommies snort like addicts, full time mommydom can zap a girl’s fresh feeling. And a quick spritz of the sweet misty scent of flowers teases the senses and rejuvenates the spirit…giving mom just the boost she needs to feel fresh, flirty, and tres feminine.
Not only are these experts on everything wee boxing up top of the line products for moms everywhere. They’re also including how-to tips on exercising, baby shopping, mixing alcohol-free cocktails, getting through baby’s first year, and everything pregnancy.
Upon subscription, and once a month for each following month, recipients can expect an elegantly packaged box filled to the brim with these extravagant products and mommy literature ensuring pampering for both the poo bearer and the poo wearer.
Whether treating a mommy-to-be, giving as a gift for her baby shower, or surprising her with a welcome home box after delivery…no gift is more thoughtful or more recurring for a newly initiated member of the mommy sorority than a monthly subscription to petiteBox. And for those DIY moms out there, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving, subscribe to months of doorstep surprises, say “oui” to all things wee, and surrender to the Box.
Little box. Big luxury.