Monday, August 17, 2015

South Asian Vibe

Hi kids! I got out and about yesterday for "The Georgia Center for the Book"'s Writers of South Asia and the event featured dear friends Jaya (To India with Tough Love")Kamlani, Anjali Enjeti and Soniah ("An Isolated Incident") Kamal. Poet and human virtuoso, Franklin Abbott, created and organized this event. Joe Davich runs The Georgia Center for The Book in Decatur, and commented in the introduction, that Atlanta is the envy of many northern cities, given the number of events we offer which are literary, and the huge support we have for them. "Those Yankees are jealous" he said, to the delight of the giggling audience. The variety was stunning. In addition to poets, there were other writers, authors of creative non-fiction, essayists, and debut novelists. Indeed, Anjali read a stunning essay on her blended heritage; Soniah read a just-penned essay on her father, parental expectations, and understanding; Jaya read from her older and newer works, including pieces which challenge the notion of war. I met several interesting writers, all of whom had huge stage presence, and very evocative work. I left wishing I could claim "South Asian" as part of my own heritage. I think I'll probably have to settle for reading about their own journeys, and those journeys will become a part of the way I see the world, anew. Come to think of it, I think I already do.... Peace, kids.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ways of Being.

Hi kids! I'm endeavoring to write more consistently in this Blog. I am losing affection for the Christian-model of humans. Frankly, I do not think we are created, "Broken", though Life certainly tries to break us. Or perhaps, a more-true thought is that when Life is not lifting us up, it is breaking us down. It rarely is "neutral". There are so many ways to "be" in the world. Sometimes--lately, quite often-- I feel like an Agnostic--someone for whom the very "idea" of God seems too distant, too faraway, too nebulous. A cumulus cloud, fading...and, in the very next breath, I'll find myself remembering watch beloved Mom attempting to pray, (try as she might, she could not speak the words; she was able only to whisper "I can't".) as I comforted (I hope) her, saying "Well, that's okay, Mom, I'll say the words, and you can say them in your head, okay?" She looked relieved and muttered, through a slight smile, "Okay...", as I prayed "The Lord's Prayer" and a "Hail Mary" for her. Earlier today, while scrolling through Facebook and friend's posts, I came across a nun explaining the Rosary being "Sung by Dominicans". It was kind of delightful and my joy at discovering that post, begs the question: Can someone be both ambivalent about God, while actively searching for SIGNS of God? Is it hypocritical to have membership in--and truly enjoy--a group on Facebook known as "Liberals, Atheists, Feminists, and Friends", while simultaneously planning a prayer or meditation session, or going into a church or Mass, to light a candle, for those who no longer, can? I can assure you, I suffer from no "cognitive dissonance". I feel culturally like the same "Cradle Catholic" I've always been: honoring Jesus Christ as a man of peace and good will, but feeling inside that God is "within". That we must fix ourselves, alone. I feel such kinship with the "Humanists" who believe only humans can advance humans, that we must respect all life. So that's where I'm at these days, broken-but-not-broken, a doubter, who believes. Peace, kids.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Adventure!

Hi kids! It's nearly mid-August and I have so much I want to say. Sometimes, the words feel as though they are leaping on top of each other, like leap-frogging children, risking getting bruised, they keep piling on, causing dizziness, and exhaustion. Still, I must speak. I am in the midst of many new adventures. I have created a group which will serve to "hear" each others' poems/prose each month, in a private setting, to offer both positive feedback and respectful, serious, critique. I am not detailing much about this group, as I am deliberately keeping the group, at least for now, small, and closed. But after just one session, I know this is a good path to better writing. And "The Demetra Foundation", which I am creating to honor my late Mom--Demetra-- will soon become a reality. I am endeavoring to sign at least five physicians to the Board of Directors. The Board will be responsible for developing an action-plan for raising awareness of Lung Cancer, and pursuing a campaign which will raise funds which will go directly to human research and human trials. Next step will be developing a group of Volunteers, who will be vital to the organization, and will serve in the following areas: public outreach, and working with canine companions for those with Lung Cancer, and ensuring those companion animals be fostered in the event the patient can no longer care for them. In addition to the above endeavors, I am continuing with my so-far-self-designed-fitness-program which I began only weeks ago. Currently, I am running 2-4 miles each day that I run, which is four days per week. I've just added free-weights, 10-pound free weights. Next up? Boxing! That's right. I want to learn to box! Ronda Rousey, this is all. your. fault. And of course, I am leaping back into the wild blue, of acting! I've missed being able to find myself, in a role. Writing and acting, are the only ways I've found to connect, to find me. In writing, I discover what it is I feel; what I need to say. In acting, I find the parts of me, that are lost. They are only found, when preparing to become, and performing as, another entity. Finally, the spiritual side of me is becoming more open. I'm open to possibility. Peace, kids.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Countdown on the Calendar.

Hi kids! So, its July, and she has nearly come to the end. I've noticed that lately, I'm tending to personify everything as Female. I'm not quite sure why suddenly, everything has a "gender". I was perfectly comfortable with the neutral "it", and no pronouns, but maybe my constant "feminizing" of all things gender-less, is some not-so-subtle psychological wish to bring the "feminine" back. As in, my beloved Mom. I guess we tend to anthropomorphize our dogs, our companion animals, and I know I do that: endowing our sweet German Shepherds with all kinds of human traits like kindness, generosity, empathy(I suspect the last quality named, is the only absolute in evidentiary terms). Perhaps I am "mom-izing" all things important to me. The calendar, for example. I am headed towards two dates that are so painful to anticipate, that I won't even LOOK at a calendar. Which of course, makes her (the calendar) even more urgently important to me. September 14th of last year, we lost kind, old "Appa K."--Mr. Ho Chang "Big Henry" (he was about 5'3")Kwon, to prostate and bladder cancer. Sort of. He actually perished as a result of pneumonia. And then, exactly four Sundays later, we lost my beloved Mom to (Never-Smoker)Stage 4 Non-Small-Cell-Lung-to-Brain Cancer. So we are inching towards autumn, and all that we lost. All that we still miss. The doors in my house are left slightly open these days, and these solid "girls"- with their white paint, squeaky-hinged, aching for visitors, are waiting for someone to push them back, enter their terrace-level rooms with remnants of Appa K.--his tweed suits, and on the third floor, bits of my Mom--her ankle-weights that were never used, except to steady the walker she so needed, for so many months. Until near the end, when even standing was something she could not do; even sitting up, impossible. And holding her head up? Eventually, that was a faraway dream. Holding one's head up, even as these doors to bedrooms, hold themselves open, revealing only a glimpse of what our loved ones left behind, and reminding us, like women with whispered secrets, that they can be fully opened, or closed, but left ajar, they conjure shadows for me. I'm imagining Mom in the next room, watching the daytime tv she was reduced to enjoying, a quiet request for melon, or ice cream, "Lisa, is there ice cream?" and I picture "Appa K." milling about, asking for a ride to the doctor, and then complaining that the doctors don't know anything. I hear him tell me a thousand times "Thank you; you are a good daughter. I am proud of you." And I carry the ice cream upstairs to Mom, and Hansoo carries his Dad to the doctors, and then I open the door more fully, just now, and no one is there, except Mom's pretty sweaters, fluffy and vanilla colored, they are pretty girls, curled up, as bereft as I am. If they could pray for a wearer, they would. Perhaps they feel as useless as I do. Peace, kids.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"The Past is Never Past"--William Faulkner

Hi kids! It's been a few weeks since what would have been, my Mom's Birthday: May 28th, 2015, came and went as a day for tears and what-could-have-beens. I miss Mom more every day; it's not true that you "get used to", or somehow feel less pain the further away you get from the time she died: it's just not true. I find myself "reviewing" all the decisions she made, the decisions my sister and I made, etc., etc...the sense of wistfulness remains unabated. And yet. I can--at times--take comfort that we did everything humanly possible for her. Everything I could conjure to show my love, my thankfulness, my joy for having been gifted with her, as my Mom, I conjured. Grateful-Fors too numerous to list, but the laughter she gave me, the untethered thinking and raw, aching wit that I inherited from her, are just a few. Her warmth, her grace, her "all-in" sense of family, this was my Mom. The tears come up, when I write, the tap-tap-tap of keys, a reminder of the sound of her fingers, tapping away, late at night, as she emailed this relative, or that, or checked in at my blog, to "see what Lisa has written...". Peace, kids.

Friday, May 08, 2015

May 7th: It's Been Two Years Since...

It's May 7th, and all day long I kept thinking "Is it someone's birthday?", and, what is it I'm supposed to remember? And then, at approximately 9:30 tonight, I was aggravated at my husband, asking him to please sign Mother's Day cards for our sister-in-laws, and I was writing a note inside the first of several cards, and as I dated the card, I asked him "It's May 7th, right?" And when he said "Yes, it's the 7th..." I suddenly cried out, "Oh my God, this is the two-year anniversary of my Mom being diagnosed with cancer...it was on this date, two years ago, that she called me and said "Lisa, it's cancer. I have cancer." May 7th, 2013, at 7:15 in the morning. Why should I care about the date? Because it is a day that changed my mother's life, forever. And it changed the trajectory of my life, too. She survived an initial prognosis of a few months, and beat back cancer for over 12 months. When it bloomed again, with numerous brain tumors returning, she fought back with new rounds of radiation. And survived awhile longer, albeit with greatly reduced "quality of life". So perhaps I'm grateful for May 7th, 2013, because if the diagnosis had come later, we'd have less success, we'd have had far less time, together. But cancer took away our future together; it robbed my mother of her career as a medical records specialist, it removed her from the gym where she loved to work out, she could no longer run every morning--or any morning-- it damaged out her ability to offer counsel to her adoring (and adored!) granddaughter, her penchant for gardening at her younger daughter's home--the home she'd become a part of, for nearly 5 years (she moved to Lake Worth, Florida in August 2008),it ruined the laughter she could easily share with both her daughters, the easy way mom had of making everyone else feel like the most important person in the room.... and it ultimately destroyed her ability to walk and talk. Cancer morphed my beloved mother into a child, and me, her caregiver in the time she had with me (up here in Atlanta), into a mother, myself. I'd never truly thought deeply about this, other than to accept the inevitability of our roles shifting. The unavoidable pain, and loss. Hers. Then mine. Mother's Day is fast approaching, and this year will be an open wound. As I sit here typing this, I think of how often I've promised myself I will tell my mother's story (her many stories), someday. I think that time has come. I'll begin a new chapter in the book of my life, soon. I am creating a foundation, in her honor, and in her name. Stay tuned. And if you are fortunate enough to have your Mom here on earth with you, enjoy those moments, because they will one day, be gone, forever. And it's always far too soon. Peace, kids.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

After the Ashes, Fire...

It's been three months since our beloved Mom--Demetra Allender--died. I was substituting "transitioned" for "died", but the truth is, she died, passed-away, left this world. I thought the days immediately following, would be the hardest, but there was soooo much to do: paperwork and bills which Hansoo and I had to take care of, a very-brief "family-only" viewing, her eulogy and other pieces to write, her funeral to plan, etc., etc...and lots of travel to accomplish all that. My lovely sister--Tina--was an integral part of the funeral planning process. She made beautiful cards (she even included words from a poem I wrote, for Mom--on the Memorial Cards!) for everyone, arrived early at Sacred Heart Cathedral where Mom's funeral was held, and set out "Kisses from Heaven" (Mom's favorite was Hershey Kisses Milk Chocolate with Almonds) for everyone to enjoy. Tina and Breaz also selected the verses they read from the Bible, and Tina situated the beautiful floral arrangements we received, into a pleasing configuration. She and my sweet niece--her daughter Breaz--read at the funeral, just-after I read Mom's Eulogy. The graveside service was actually exhausting, because even though it was October 24th, a Saturday in Autumn, it was swelteringly hot and sticky. Once we were seated, I stood up to read two poems: the first was formerly-called "For Mom on Mother's Day, 2003", but I re-titled it "Mom, I Can See You". The second poem was from playwright Tennessee Williams, it's called "Heavenly Grass", which Mom heard me read at ol' Theya Helen Hartley's funeral, in Savannah, in August 2007. Our dear Daddy (he and Mom had been divorced over 30 years) had arranged for the cooling/shading-tent for us, chair set-ups, and paid many of the fees. Tina and Tom found a gorgeous Mother-of-Pearl Urn for Mom's Ashes to be placed in. I am mentioning some of the particulars, because I think this kind of "delegating" of duties made it far, far easier on each of us... And, because all of this was so coordinated, the funeral actually went as well as one could expect this sort of thing, to go.... I was definitely heartened to see so many folks who loved Mom, come out to "pay their respects". So, when were the hardest days? Well, um, that would be....Now. Immediately following Mom's funeral and Ashes-Interment, I knew I would address the many items I'd wanted to--but had absolutely NO time for, during the past two, nearly three years (Mom was only diagnosed in May, 2013, but, before Mom got ill, I had begun working as POA for Daddy, who was very, very sick with Stage 5 Kidney Disease; before that, there were numerous illnesses of a serious nature throughout my husband's family). On the short-list of my To-Do's: *Submit poetry for work-shops. *Submit poetry for publication. *Complete a New Voice-Over Demo, specifically for Animation/Gaming. I accomplished all three tasks--not within three months, but within...three weeks. I went to see my fabulous Talent Agent--Jana VanDyke, and she is patient with me, and yet is encouraging me, to ready myself to begin-again, auditioning for TV/Film. I am also completing writing my play which will eventually become a screenplay, "The Taste of Shapes", very soon. So, the next few weeks, I'll be writing until my arms ache, and my eyes bleed. I'll be checking in here with you, kids, and much more often than these past few months. Because as hard as this is, writing about this, it's much harder, when I don't write. Just ask Jessica Handler, author of "Braving the Fire: Writing through Grief and Loss", which is quickly becoming my guide for Living.... My personal message for all of you out there in Blog-o-sphere, in Facebook-land, in the Twitter-verse: When you are filled with Joy, write. When you are devastated, write more.... Peace, kids.

Update

I typed up a new post, yesterday...on the three-month Anniversary of our beloved Mom's death. But somehow, it didn't post...I had, however, taken a photo of the screen, since I have a couple of people in my life, who seldom do this thing called "reading". Rather than becoming hurt or upset when they miss a post which I believe would be meaningful for them, I decided to begin taking a snapshot of said posts(s), for future sharing with them.... More here, later today. Peace, kids.