stay soft

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”                                                       – Kurt Vonnegut

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”  – Albert Schweitzer

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

“Kindness is contagious, spread it around.”  – moi  (Léa)

*

stay soft

stay soft

be a sieve

to bitterness

let it run off you

like water

on glass

stay soft

turn away

from the pain

that hardens

a mind so swayed

reach out to

hold a kitten

hear its mews

as a call to peace

stay soft

tread your footsteps

gently on the earth

les oiseaux

sing eternal truths

listen, listen, listen

you can still learn 

open yourself, let love in

whistling in the wind

secrets softly whisper

stay soft

stay soft 

stay soft

bisous,

lea

Fear is not an option

Originally posted on 20 November 2015 in response to the Paris attacks and in light of the recent verbal assault of Donald Trump in a Country where more than 300,000 die in gun related deaths each year I have chosen to reblog this post. France is proud to be a safe country where the purchasing and owning of guns is strictly controlled. We are also proud that our children can go to school without the fear of dying.

“When adults tell me, ‘I have the right to own a gun,’ all I can hear is, ‘My right to own a gun outweighs your student’s right to live.’ All I hear is mine, mine mine, mine.”  – Emma Gonzales Survivor Parkland Shooting 

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will and always so when it violates the rights of individuals.”                                                                                                  – Thomas Jefferson

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask.” – Victor Hugo

I say I am stronger than fear.” – Malala Yousafzai

fear is not an option

le journal

the internet

telematin

France 24

the word floods

all forms of media

as the body count

rises in Paris

islamic states of hate

(i refuse to capitalize hatred)

declared war on France

i set down the paper

address my laptop

john lennon’s haunting strains

filling my head

nous ne nous rendrons pas

our media is not stuck in

shock and awe mode

nous sommes unis

on with life

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

unlike terrorist

skulking about the city

hiding behind masks,

headcoverings, disguises

nous ne nous cachons pas

we take to the streets

le café

le theatré

all life is calling

VIVA LA PARIS

et

VIVA LA FRANCE

bisous,

léa

stay soft

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”                                                       – Kurt Vonnegut

*

stay soft

stay soft

be a sieve

to bitterness

let it run off you

like water

on glass

stay soft

turn away

from the pains

that harden

a mind so swayed

reach out to

hold a kitten

hear its mews

as a call to peace

stay soft

tread your footsteps

gently on the earth

les oiseaux

sing eternal truths

listen, listen, listen

you can still learn 

open yourself, let love in

whistling in the wind

secrets softly whisper

bisous,

lea

RAINBOWS, PRIDE AND JUST LOVING MY DAUGHTER

“Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.”  – Loretta Young

“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”   – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”  – Audrey Hepburn

When I left my ex-husband, I took my children and moved away from a very toxic family of origin. For the fir!st time in my life, I had some support. A young man who taught a class the previous summer provided a link that had been missing all my life. (Yes, Michael, it has been 26 years this Friday.) Michael and his partner, Cliff, became the ‘brothers’ that I had wished for as a child. Michael had lived in Sacramento before and since his ex was moving there with Michael’s son he was going to be there for him. They kept telling me I had to take the children and go there as well. Michael and Cliff were the first openly gay people I had ever met. I remember early on when I first saw Cliff plant a little kiss on Michael’s lips. It was brief but sweet. I remember thinking to myself how beautiful to see two people in love. Yes, it is true that some demonstrations of love and affection probably should be reserved for private venues but that includes demonstrations between heterosexuals as well. However, something as innocent as a kiss or holding of hands are reflections of love and beautiful regardless of the gender of those involved. Life can be difficult with many a rough edge, when you find love, embrace it, rejoice in it.

Despite all my “I can’t do it because…” I knew that I would do it and did not want to be without these kind, generous and supportive people. Upon arrival, we stayed with Michael and Cliff while looking for that first apartment. Within a week, I found a two bedroom just across the alley from their place. Since we didn’t know anyone else, we were introduced to many of their friends and went to numerous events right along with them. The weeks before the children and I could go were a nightmare and re-enforced the decision to move on. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Mid-town Sacramento is also known as Lavender Heights. It was and remains a hub of activity for the LGBT community. Always a champion for those who are are discriminated against, I joined the ranks of demonstrators and supporters. Despite my being straight, I was welcomed with open arms. It was true acceptance from the beginning. One of the first people I met there was a woman named Gayle Lang. She was a tiny but fierce advocate and a vital resource in the community, more than that, she symbolized its beating heart. She advocated not just for gay rights but women’s rights and a variety of other causes. A cause dear to her heart was a library which she was instrumental in establishing. She was determined to rectify the imbalance of literature and information about and for the LGBT community. Gayle died of cancer at a very early age. Yet she lives on at The Lavender Library which remains a vibrant resource for the community. Each year there are requests from students and researchers in the gay and non-gay community for information which is not attainable elsewhere. There is a staff and governing board that is dedicated to maintaining the vision that Gayle set in motion.

A few months after our arrival, I was able to commit myself to my studies. I entered the local community college to begin working on a degree. My background was one of abuse and low self esteem. Yet I also had a history of stepping in and volunteering when ever I could. There were also questions in my mind and the subject that stood out as the focus for my degree was psychology. When I had achieved sufficient units to transfer to the university, the old fears shook me to the core. Michael who had received his Master’s Degree at Sacramento State took me by the hand and gave me the tour of the campus. It was much larger than the community college. Michael’s Master’s Degree was in Theatre Arts and I received an exhaustive tour of the Theatre and associated buildings. There was also a nod to the Psychology building. In his defence  it was rather closed off that day so not a lot to see.

During my undergraduate work I did some field studies which included serving as a case worker at the Sacramento AIDS Foundation. There were always more clients with needs than there were resources. The answer was to network among the community for support. By this time I had become familiar with some of the more prominent members. When a client was faced with having their utilities turned off, a walk over to a nearby gay club, chat with the owner and the bill was paid. I never once had to twist anyone’s arm. They never inquired if the client was gay or straight. Yes, there are and were many straight people with AIDS.

Being a single mom, my children accompanied me to demonstrations and other events. They also were happy to have their two ‘uncles’ who praised their accomplishments and listened to their problems. They witnessed the discrimination of people they cared about and learned a lot about love. Over the years there were frequently people, usually young, who had been disowned by their families for being gay. It was not uncommon for someone to show up at our house just looking for someone to talk to who was not afraid of a hug. Our financial resources were limited but I was an expert on stretching meals and there was always room at the table. Often they would join the children and I for a movie and just be happy to be part of the family. Of the many who crossed our doorstep, each one brought their own gifts. Those without a smile often had them before leaving.

Rich was the one who cut our hair from that first haircut soon after arriving and quickly became part of the family. He would come over and visit and watch Beauty and The Beast with my daughter and youngest son. During a particularly rough patch at our house, he showed up with two sacks of groceries and proceeded to make us dinner. That is family! There was a huge hole in our hearts when Rich died suddenly of a complication of AIDS. Rich was 28 years old. At his funeral, there were two sides. On one side was his mother, friends and my children and I. It was quickly obvious who was running the ‘show’. Rich’s father had a microphone and called from people who were sitting with him and turning away from the other side. He wanted testimony about Rich with no mention of who he really was after the age of five. Numerous people gave their tributes to Rich but it was so strange, it was obvious they didn’t have a clue who he was. As young as Tovah and her little brother Joseph were, they knew that those people were not speaking of the Rich we knew. During this whole time, not one person from the mother’s side of the room was invited to speak. It was clear that they wished we were not there at all. Regardless, we were there for Rich and his mom.

When I had received the call of Rich’s sudden passing, I was angry. My response was a poem. I had not planned to take it to the funeral but at the last minute grabbed it on my way out the door. While the testimonies roared, I shared the poem with two friends, David and Miki who had worked with Rich for several years. Our eyes spoke volumes and they nudged me a bit too far. Now I am quite the introvert and would rather face the root canal than get up and speak but I quietly walked up behind the last speaker and took the microphone from his hand. He was too surprised to respond. My heart was pumping fast but this was for Rich and for his mom. I have no doubt my hands were shaking as much as my knees but I read it as I had written it. There were no apologies for any language used and his mother was very touched. Now the children and I knew all too well why he never spoke of his father.

And I have to believe for now

You’re not that far away(Richard Bonilla 1966-1994)

Good Night Sweet Prince

Yes, it really hurts!

Yes, I’m angry

And a 28 year-old man

Is not suppose to die 

To gasp for his last breath

Alone

Because the onset of P.C.P. (opportunistic infection of AIDS)

Was sudden

He said it was the flu

And he was gone

Before his mother got word

He was sick

Before she could return from Alaska

Before we could be there

He died

Alone

And I hurt

And my children hurt

And the black hole has tightened

Its grip on our lives

And I hate this fucking disease

That ravages the flesh of the young

Stealing their tomorrows

And our tomorrows with him

And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you

That last haircut was the best I ever had

And I’m angry

That you won’t be sitting next to me

When Joseph dances the nutcracker

And I’m angry there wasn’t more time

For more hugs

And there are always more things

We planned to say and do

And I’m angry that when I walk into your shop

Your not there

With your flick of the wrist “hi girl”

And your bear crunch hug

Your toothpaste grin

Your liquid black eyes

Full of laughter and tears

And I’m sad

And my tears are for you

And for us

And I’m grateful

For the three years we had

For the hours you played with the kids

Praising their triumphs

Accepting their shortcomings, and mine

You always saw the best in them

And when their father rejected them again

And when I was down

You left work early, shopped

And cooked a chicken dinner with all the trimmings

(Forgetting I’m a vegetarian)

And I thank you for nurturing the bitch

With bottles of red dye

Coaxing her out of me and into the open

And I am grateful

You were part of our family

For such a short time

I was proud to say I love you

And I’m just so fucking scared

Of how we all will miss you

And the world has grown so much colder

But the stars are brighter now

                    –

As Rich’s father and his friends parted, the rest of us gathered outside. We hugged each other, released balloons, sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow and the sun shown upon us.

Like many parents of LGBT children, I was not surprised when my daughter decided to ‘come out’. A few of us had known for some time and knew she would when she was ready. I was grateful to all of these wonderful people for making it safe for her to do so. “Coming Out” in such a vitriolic society, sharply barbed tongues and ignorance abound and I was unsure of my own ability to buffer the blows. I’ve seen a number of these beautiful young people succumb to the intolerance and judgment that surrounds them. I shall be ever grateful to the dear people who helped surround my daughter with a safe and accepting environment in which she could discover herself. Being gay is no different than the beautiful brown eyes that smile so brilliantly and can coax a grin out of most anyone.

Our lives are punctuated by what is often called “Rights of Passage”. That first driver’s license, the prom, a Sweet-Sixteen, graduations, weddings and so many other ‘Firsts’. Tovah wanted a party and that is exactly what we had. A Coming Out Party was the order of the day. Someone cut a huge rainbow shape out of wood and hung it over our front door after painting it to resemble a rainbow. Michael brought two large canvases, paint and brushes. On one canvas he had painted The Emerald City with a fairy flying above. Guests were encouraged to paint something for Tovah and many did. In the background were playing both the film and the soundtrack from The Wizard of Oz. There were members of the community, friends. My older son, the big jock, invited all his good friends from school and from his baseball team. It was beautiful to see them come to support Tovah. What was missing that day were three beautiful people, Gayle, Cliff and Rich who were stolen from this life way too soon. Gayle knew early and actually gave Tovah her first leather jacket. Tovah was eight years old and Gayle had cut down an old jacket of hers to fit Tovah. I didn’t have the heart to tell Gayle how quickly Tovah grew out of it.

While a parent can not always protect their children, we must give them our unconditional love and support. We cannot decide who or what they will be. That is their job. They must ‘try it on’ see what fits them and not try to copy who we are or who we pretend to be. Our job is to accept, respect and celebrate who they are with them. For some parents, it is uncharted territory. Give your kids a chance, open your heart and your mind and enjoy all that awaits you.

A few years before Tovah made her declaration, I had been thinking about what this would mean for her and her life. In such a situation I try to put myself in the other person’s place. What would it be like? For me, writing, especially poetry, has been a way of processing things and the following poem was the result. It may not reflect what the experience is truly like, but as I said, I could only imagine.

in a woman’s arms (for Tovah in her first relationship)

in a woman’s arms

there is softness

and I fall

into the silky

embrace

and it is new

and different

uncharted

yet

intoxicating

in its hazy familiarity

I trace the

Topography

Of curves

And flesh

I plunge deep

Inside her caverns

Her salty sweetness

Beckons me

Deeper

She quivers

And the rumblings

Echo throughout me

Fanning flames deep inside

So unfamiliar

So new

Caution yielding

Heat rising

Her voice

Deepens

Catches

She moans

We embrace

I am finding

Myself

in a woman’s arms

Today my daughter has been in a relationship for the past eight years. She and Ashley live near Ashley’s family and Tovah cares for Ashley’s two nephews and niece. The children adore her. They are at all the boys sports events and while the niece is still very young, no doubt Tovah and Ashley will be there for her interests as well. They continue the commitment to animal rescue that Tovah has been dedicated to since she was twelve years old. My daughter is a beautiful young woman. She is kind, gentle with a bubbly personality and her eyes sparkle with laughter. Yes, she is a Lesbian. She is also an author, a reader, a woman devoted to those she loves and so much more.

She recently had her first book published and is currently busy with the second. I am proud of my daughter and of the wonderful people who have become our family and friends. They have enriched our lives beyond measure. I shall always remain grateful for these stellar role models who reached out to my children and myself. To those who are so filled with hatred and ignorance, I am sad for you. You are missing out on knowing some amazing people, people of all ages and walks of life who are filled with love and just want to be accepted for who they are. They threaten nobody. Can you say that?

Bisous,

Léa

mirror mirror

If you are ever short of inspiration, I recommend a visit to Creative Bursts for a Writing challenge: One morning, your mirror starts talking to you. Write about this.       – Sandy Ackers at CREATIVE BURSTS: sandy@sandyackers.com

*

“It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.” -Henry David Thoreau

MIRROR MIRROR

*

like the acidic womb

you were delivered from

i’ve reiterated all your flaws

humiliation feeding your soul

fuelling your tears

shattering your heart

*

no conscience bothered me

so use to reflecting the environment

deceptively, i reflect light

while in truth, shallow, cold, judgemental

shaming that tiny red face

quivering chin

eyes twin faucets of tears

no beauty, no value here

*

believing my lies

you sank deeper, inward

hanging your head

turning from my glare, unaware

lies, judgement come from ignorance

my own blindness unquestioned

you looked for others in pain

focusing on their wounds

helping them heal

*

you have learned

to look deeper

reading eyes and hearts

of others

as i could never do

finding beauty that escapes me

learning to see it in yourself

confident a mirror cannot be

believed on face value

*

bisous,

léa

fear is not an option

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will and always so when it violates the rights of individuals.”                                                                                                  – Thomas Jefferson

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask.” – Victor Hugo

I say I am stronger than fear.” – Malala Yousafzai

fear is not an option

le journal

the internet

telematin

France 24

the word floods

all forms of media

as the body count

rises in Paris

islamic states of hate

(i refuse to capitalize hatred)

declared war on France

i set down the paper

address my laptop

john lennon’s haunting strains

filling my head

nous ne nous rendrons pas

our media is not stuck in

shock and awe mode

nous sommes unis

on with life

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

unlike terrorist

skulking about the city

hiding behind masks,

headcoverings, disguises

nous ne nous cachons pas

we take to the streets

le café

le theatré

all life is calling

VIVA LA PARIS

et

VIVA LA FRANCE

bisous,

léa

Tempest Tamer

“Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” – Mark Twain

*

Tempest Tamer

Twain said it – I believe it

Experience as a therapist

Proves it over and over

Again

 

And again in the bar

The party of elite

Voices rising takes me

Back

 

In graduate school

Stressing the importance

Conflict resolution

The angriest client speaks

First

 

Survival skills honed in

Infancy – an excellent listener

Often called on to diffuse the

Tempest

 

There was one storm

Where failure was

Abysmal – one does not choose

Parents

 

*

Bisous,

Léa

Thigh-high

monsieur Aristead et Claude
Monsieur Aristead et Claude

 

Villeseque below
Villeseque below

“It’s not just a question of conquering a summit previously unknown, but of tracing, step by step, a new pathway to it.” – Gustav Mahler

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

Thigh-high

I was thigh-high in

Brambles

Claude, monsieur Aristead et moi

Climbing mount Saint Pierre

The sun beat down on us

Le ciel jamais plus bleu

Thorns scratched at me

Tearing my shirt

And flesh

Till blood trickled

Down my arms

Warm, sticky – yet

Feeling no pain

Still higher we climbed

Un trône de pierre

We have reached its

Crown – our reward

Villeseque et Durban

Tranquility beneath our feet

Intoxicated – together we

Revel in the sunshine

Reluctantly – mais ensemble

We begin our descent

*

Bisous,

Léa 

La flâneuse

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”    – Flannery O’Conner

 

“Poetry fettered, fetters the human race. Nations are destroyed or flourish in proportion as their poetry, painting, and music are destroyed or flourish.”   William Blake

 

“The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history.”   – Czeslaw Milosz

 

*

 

La flâneuse

 

C’est moi –  la flâneuse ( le flâneur)

Moth eaten – béret noir

My imperial crown

Climbing, descending

Village to village

All about town

Meandering the streets,

Villages and cities of

La belle France

Like Walt Whitman

Declarations of poetry

Observations – running

Commentary of my

Scrutiny – meditations,

Entreaties, prayers, odes,

Declarations in verse

Poetry – my creed

*

If you look up the word today flâneuse – feminine of flâneur, the dictionary would give the word stroll. Yet recently I read a brief passage describing 19th century poets in Paris as a flâneur – one who strolled about the streets of Paris crying out in verse much as the American poet, Walt Whitman was known to do on the streets of Manhattan.

Bisous,

Léa

Imagination and a pile of junk

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas A. Edison

imagination and a pile of junk

The junk lies all around me

But does it fit in my poem?

There are several stacks of

Unread books, stories to be told

Genealogy charts, and research

From Sweden’s icy tundra

Spilling loosely across my desk

But does it fit in my poem?

A journal from the 1890’s

Confessions of an ancestor

Crossing the American plains

Covered wagon adventures

Will they fit in my poem?

This most unusual plant

A succulent – leaves like tiny chili peppers

Dark green and growing sporadically

It couldn’t possibly

Fit in this poem, could it?

There are postcards from villages

And towns around France

Stamps for posting to Europe

And beyond

Post-it notes, pens, camera, computer cables

Glasses and more – alas, nothing bears promise

Of fitting in this poem

Imagination regrets its failure

Building junk into a poem

 

Bisous,

Léa