Lieux Archives: Yoga YaYa and Vogue Yoga

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Have I mentioned my yoga addiction? No? Okay, well…let me explain. Over the last year or so, give or take a month or two, I’ve practiced yoga at least four if not five times a week.  I prefer to practice in the comfort of my own home, that when I fall over or accidentally fart (it happens, as you well know if you yoga,) I can blush in the embarrassing privacy of my bedroom floor.  When I do get brave enough to venture out in to the world of yoga classes, I enjoy practicing Bikram, which for those of you who don’t know, is yoga that is practiced in a room of 95 degrees or higher. So basically…you blink and a Niagara Fall-like sweat begins to pour. The postures in this style practice are designed to open your body, in preparation for the next posture – I am absolutely obsessed with this style. It feels like going to church with the most intense personal trainer that makes you sing while you work out; that’s how I feel when I leave any way.

There are two studios in the CenLa area that offer this style of yoga class: Yoga Ya-Ya in Alexandria, and Vogue Yoga in Pineville. I have practiced at both and loved each experience.

I first visited Yoga YaYa in the spring of 2014. I’d been nannying for a few yoga instructors in New Orleans, which included free studio perks: free yoga and spin classes, close proximity to Whole Foods and great coffee shops; the whole set-up was great. I liked what yoga was doing for my body so much, I started practicing at home a bit and studying the different styles a bit more.  I kept reading articles about, “hot yoga,” and how it was becoming the way to get your body in the best shape; what the articles didn’t say what was it would for my soul.

I showed up at YYY, conveniently located next to my favorite boutique in Alexandria, Her Closet, and hurried inside. I’m never late for anything, but I was driving from Pineville and trying not to speed. Nine a.m. comes early on Saturday mornings! I signed my waiver and paid the $12 drop-in fee (a reasonable price, most places charge around $16) and walked in to the room where the session would take place. I scanned the room for a moment and happily found a place in the back in the corner. “Okay, phew. No one I know.” I was already worrying about falling or…well, you know (it’s called “wind releasing pose” for a reason.)  Before I even unrolled my mat I was sweating. “Okay, “I thought to myself, “This is going to be a challenge.” WAS I EVER RIGHT? During that first session, I released more sweat than I knew my body could produce. I thought I was going to pass out at one point. But the instructor knew exactly what to say to keep me going; to keep breathing and flow through the postures. I focused on how my body was feeling. I focused on the tranquil music and how I felt practicing with my eyes closed, breathing all the while. Before I knew it, the class was over and a giant, toothy grin was plastered on my face. I’d never left a class feeling so satisfied and happy. I’m not sure if it was the heat or the way the class was structured, but I completely lost myself in those seventy-five minutes.

My experience at Vogue Yoga was equally as rewarding, but completely different. I chose an evening class since it fit my schedule better on this particular day, even though I prefer a home-practice for the evenings. – There’s just something extremely soothing to me about unwinding in your own space.

VY offers your first class free so you can check out the studio. I signed my waiver and walked over to the giant wall where storage cubbies are hidden behind a large curtain. The space itself is super cool. It’s a simple, giant, bright turquoise room with black flooring and open ceiling; a spacious place to practice. I was happy that I found a spot in the front (gasp! I know. I’ve finally removed the fear of being in the front of the class from my brain,) and got my mat down. The class filled up quickly! The instructor called our attention to the front of the room, signaling class was about to begin. I was concerned at first because I didn’t hear any music playing – we know my love for sweet tunes by now. Everyone was hanging out in downward facing dog for a few breaths before Megan Trainor’s, “All about that Bass,” came blasting over the speakers. “Oh my!” I thought. I’d never done yoga to any sort of pop music. I listen to weird stuff while I practice, and pop is never my go-to.  I will say this now, loud and clear: YOGA TO LOUD, BASSTASTIC POP MUSIC IS SO FUN! Obviously the flow felt completely different from that at YYY but I had a blast, semi-shaking it during our asanas it for the next sixty minutes, and to all the songs that play on the radio that I never admit listening to (and I know every single word.) VY allows you to have fun while you practice – disproving the common misconception that yoga is for serious students only. Jerri Grafton, owner and instructor at Vogue Yoga makes it abundantly clear that it is more than okay to smile and enjoy yourself while moving through the poses, “it’s okay to laugh at yourself!” – and it is.

I know that the area has amazing facilities to work out like the Louisiana Athletic Club, the Courtyard and all of the Cross Fit gyms, but if you’re looking for something a little different to change-up your routine, grab a mat (and a towel, or two) and head to Yoga YaYa or Vogue Yoga for some seriously awesome, sweaty yoga!

this blog was originally written January 28, 2015

all of my food/music reviews can be found on Lieux.

I burned breakfast. (Final)

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I felt her breath on my neck like she was standing right behind me.

There was a nick in the door way where she’d fallen the day she burned breakfast; her watch must have caught the frame. I remembered that day like it had just passed. The framed puzzle of The Last Supper had fallen to the floor and shattered; the puzzle remained intact, except for the faces of the disciples. Those had been drench thoroughly in my mother’s blood.

I felt like I was in a trance, energy surging through me; I was a vessel for it. I wanted to walk up stairs and look in my old room, but the stairs, upon looking at them, double in size and height; an impossible maze to climb and I was limited on time. Something told me I wouldn’t be alone for long.

My stomach grumbled, my hunger ceaseless.

It was like I was being directed by my mother – or some force – something, that was greater than anything I could control. I was cognizant in my own mind to know that I should leave, which meant I thought I had enough strength to do it. Wrong. I made one half step towards that front door, and my body thrashed against the hardwood; some of the planks popped up, splintering my forehead. I was being dragged, dragged down to that basement.

Oh, what had I done?!

As if handled by a puppeteer, I step by step made my way down the stairs. Creak creak yeeeeaaan, the rickety wood wheezed under me, releasing familiar sounds. I recalled hearing this noise so many times under my bed and it kept my reality in check, though I longed to be truly overtaken by whatever was leading me to this. I didn’t want to know what was happening, I didn’t want to see what I was seeing. I’d seen enough over the last few years. I don’t know what I was thinking by coming here. My eyes wanted rest. Eternal rest, if that was on the menu.

I sunk my hands in to the dingy wall. It was moist, thick with aging fluids that refused to dry up. I tore the wall up, chunk by chunk until a familiar scent flushed my nostrils. I vomited; I vomited lots of blood, enough that it curled like cinder smoke and spelled out, “Mother.” My head snapped, she was watching – I’d awakened her.

I lifted my gaze, and my mother, worn with age, weariness and hunger was emerging from under the staircase – not where my father had supposedly left her five years ago. Energy pulsated in my veins. I was angry, hungry…thirsty.

“Come,” she said in that voice I’d forgotten.

The shakiness in her voice reminded me of how she was before she became this monster. I remember when it first started, her peculiar idiosyncrasies. I thought nothing of her weirdness at the time, I just thought that’s who she was; the emptiness in her gaze, the slurred speech, the mood swings. I thought those were things that just made my mother up.

For hours, we put together human puzzles in the basement; there were nearly twelve, like disciples. Faith, Ruth, Sara, Hope, and so many others I didn’t recognize. Assembled limb-by-limb, with their matching heads….it was a godless masterpiece.

I remembered her packaging pounds and pounds of meat one day, to store in our deep freezer in the garage. I asked her what the packages were for, why there were so many and she replied, “Your father asked me to. We’re going to fee the hungry someday; this is the Lord’s work.” She’d butchered and wrapped up my father’s first disciple, his Simon.

It all made sense now.

There was something about the way my mother moved; not fueled by desire, but more like command. I remembered her standing with her nose pressed against this very wall I’d ripped up – brought to mind the anguish she held on her sullen face that day; I finally put two and two together, though I didn’t want to think it. This…this was the work of my father. “The Lord’s work,” she no doubt thought she was doing; creating perfectly fabricated disciples.Followers that would aid in my father’s demonic mission.

I felt ignorant, betrayed. My father had spent his life in servitude to God, albeit casually and carelessly, but I had nothing to compare it to. Secret alcoholism and casual dalliances were just at the top of the list, but I knew these were marks of a sinner and he constantly reminded me that God forgave. I couldn’t have dreamed that this could be forgiven.

As I was placing the last severed head near its neck – the wound seemingly fresh, but they all seemed like that beneath bare hands, I heard the front door swing open heavily. Time was up.

My mother recoiled beneath her cave under the stairs and I was left to face my father; I knew it was him, his steps had always been loud, I’d just never noticed how poignant and gravid they were. He could sense me, I know – I could sense him too, like flints striking under my skin.

I climbed the stairs and steeled myself. I’d endured this much; to be consumed by the thing that was already killing me felt like a welcomed miracle. My father blew right passed me, heading towards the basement without so much as a head-turn in my direction. He carried a large backpack over his right shoulder, which was stained with blood, the bag dripping.

“Go make me something to eat,” he commanded, shoving passed me, knocking me down, my head hitting the table as  it had so many years before. This time, no blood escaped my crown. Unable to disobey a command, I made my way into the kitchen. My arms and legs moved about as they would have normally, except I thankfully at this moment still had complete control of my mind.

There were no groceries in the house, only pots and pans; a miscalculation on my father’s part. I clanked them around to make noise to satisfy my hungry father – I had no idea what was happening in the basement and I didn’t want to know. If that was the last I saw of my mother, well, at least I saw her in a semi-serene state, putting together her puzzles as she did so many times before. The force that my father had cast upon her, seemingly many years ago, was the only thing keeping her alive, keeping me alive. It was then I knew what had to be done.

I tiptoed to the living room and turned the furnace on – yes, the house was that old. I began to smell the gas and knew it was time to make my way to the kitchen. I turned all four gas burners on the stove on and cranked up the oven.  I snatched a book of matches from the cupboard and headed for the front door. Then, the worst. I walked to the front steps and waited, allowing anger to swell inside of me; anger so ferocious and deep, I thought I’d burst into flames. I knew I had to muster all of the negative, evil virility I could so this could execute properly. I heard my father bellow my name and that was it. I lit the match instinctively and dropped it.

I released a death-defying howl that was heard completely around the neighborhood. It didn’t sound like my voice. It was deep and it echoed, as if I was in the bottomless pit of a molasses-like liquid that spread through the streets I played in as an innocent.The place, the house I loved, my sanctuary of happiness incinerated in seconds. I felt a release; galaxies worth of anger exiting my body, flinging me from the steps.

I was thrown from impact on to the lawn of our old neighbors, entirely across the street. The police came and ruled the whole place a crime scene. All those dead, burning bodies…it was a mess.

Disciples one through twelve were vindicated. Though the bodies were mostly destroyed, the peace of mind that would sweep our town comforted my thoughts. At least, I knew it would before the news of my father came out, if it ever did. I smirked at the thought.

Upon being asked a multitude of questions – what happened, how I knew to come to this place, how I knew to go to the basement, how the fire got started – all I was able to muster was, “I burned breakfast.”

I burned breakfast. (Part 2)

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“I can’t believe she’s been in that house five years already,” my father whispered to me, standing over her fake grave where he’d just placed a new faux-bouquet; plastic flowers, what a sentiment. I was smiling; I always smiled now when I thought of my mother and I couldn’t control it, which disgusted me and worried my father. He never called attention to it and I was thankful.

As we got in the car, I thought about our old house. I longed to see it. I closed my eyes and could envision stepping through the side door of the kitchen, smelling whatever wonderful breakfast creation my mother had made. I could remember exactly where the yellow linoleum was peeling and where the tiles on the counter needed to be replaced. It wasn’t amazing, but it was the last place I remember being happy and I wanted to feel that again. My father didn’t know it, but I was going back. I had to see it, even for just a moment, one more time.

Five years later and no one has linked her alleged suicide to the peculiar and coincidental disappearance of her friends. The deaths, I’d figured out were sequential. My mother had ripped her friends apart, limb by limb, one by one for an entire year, once a quarter. Faith first, right before Christmas, Ruth at the turn of spring in March, Sara in June and lastly, Hope in September; all almost a year to the day since the infamous trip to the Mayan Riviera….before my father walled her up with her human jigsaw puzzle, bound to play for eternity.

I spent hours, between the ages of twelve and fourteen, researching these women, their families, their likes and dislikes, and their deaths; I was obsessed. I found at a young age that media amuses me. “Disappearing Acts: Third Missing Woman, Still Untraceable.”

“Oh no,” I thought, “they’re traceable. You’d just never believe…” my thoughts stopped there as the images came. My body throbbed with desire to Google images of shredded limbs, but I refrained. Father was always watching.

Each case was still open, each family still hopeful for a grand return from their loved one. Part of me wanted to give these women justice. What my mother had done was inhumane and unfathomable, but the families still deserved an answer. I knew what that would require, and I just couldn’t think it. I couldn’t bear the idea of going to our old house to peel back that wall as my mother had done; who knows what I would find now. There’s no telling what kind of evil had manifested in that basement.

I wondered if the truth would ever come out.

My continued research worried my father to his wits, so he forbid me to use my laptop for anything but school work, which had to be under his supervision. This displeased me and flipped a switch inside me. After I cleaned the kitchen nightly – I cooked now – I would fix him a special drink before bed. A cocktail of chocolate milk and crushed up whatever-pills my doctor had given me to control my outbursts. I had to know everything about these women. I had to know everything there was to know about death, depression, and the things that people do when they lose their minds. It’s different for everyone, I suppose…

Since my mother’s been gone, I’ve been in and out of depression, taking various medications which have been prescribed by numerous, various doctors. The meds make me an incomplete zombie – I say this because I lack passion or hunger for anything remotely human. I can’t seem to keep a doctor, I always end up freaking them out around my third appointment or so. I hate having to rehash everything, so sometimes I elaborate, act out parts of what happened, like charades. I do it just to frighten them; the looks on the faces of these scholarly men and women are worth the trouble. I jump around on the expensive couches screaming, cackling loudly like a mad woman, though the actuality of what happened is anything but comical. All those body parts….

“Woooommmmmmmb,” my stomach growled. This thought makes me hungry now.

I conjure the images every night as my head rests on my pillow, willing myself to cry but understanding that my body would never allow it, making my desire for tears grow. Things have been hard for me since my mother…departed. I sleep less – that started immediately after the incident. I mean, who could sleep with images of limbs and decapitated heads floating around their house in their head possibly rest well? Certainly not me. The pills don’t help and there are days that my father can barely look at me.

“You just look so much like her,” he says in a way that sounds like a compliment, but isn’t.

He’s so cold. You’d think a father, dealing with circumstances such as these, would be warmer, more inviting, more forgiving. Instead, he scrutinizes me. Makes my anger uncontrollable, though he’s the only one I am incapable of lashing out towards. I don’t know why.

I’ve grown less fond of everyone at school. They all know what kind of sick “affair” my mother had and that the, “guilt drove her crazy, crazy to the point of suicide. We are very heartbroken.” What a great liar, my father. I suppose he had to make her look crazy to keep anyone from asking questions, but they still ask. I still hear the chatter in the hallway, though no one thinks I do. My hearing has gone nearly sonic in the past year; I can hear a half-whisper pass between lips so close, you imagine them to touch. Rage swells inside me; I fight it to keep from crushing the skulls of my peers, which is all I envision doing. Even a sincere smile in biology lab boils my blood now. I physically feel like I hate everyone; my mind knows better, my body does not.

Physically, I seem to be turning to stone. My hair has gone gray, like my mother’s did before she cracked up. My face is hollow now, my cheekbones and nose are my outstanding features, unless you get lost in the deep pits that are my eyes now. Two rounds of gray, swimming in a pool of white. Such a beautiful sight, if your eyes are sore.

My anger swells to such a degree now that I am nearly unable to control it.

Just last week, I was in the kitchen putting the dishes away and I thought about my mother. I became infuriated at the very thought of her, causing the glass in my hand to burst. I remembered that night in my room, the night she left a glass at the foot of my bed; I remember hearing her scream and watching the glass burst in to thousands of tiny pieces. The moment the thought passed through my mind, my hands started to bleed and every glass in the cabinet crumbled, like an earthquake had just silently tumbled the kitchen. 

My father came home and shook his head at me. I was crying on the floor with no explanation. “I was just standing here,” I said, feebly, “I didn’t do this on purpose, I promise.” 

I’d completely isolated myself in every way possible.  I hadn’t spoken a word to anyone at school in almost a year. I didn’t attend any school functions and my grades were poor. I’d turned myself in to that person. There are several variations …and you’re never sure which one you’re going to get.

People were definitely leery of me now. They all knew. I was crazy like my mother. 

Fall break was approaching, and I’d spent the last few days calm and happy, feeling like the old me. It felt like whatever had been living inside me for years had finally died, releasing me from whatever hold it had been clinging to. I was hopeful, but I’d seen this before. “The calm before the storm,” as they say. My mother had several of these, though we didn’t realize it at the time. My father, being the devoted Christian man he was, always found such comfort in those days with my mother. The days before the wide eyes, the strange behavior, the blood-lust. He always silver-lined those days….clung to them in the years of therapy that followed. “I just knew that meant she was coming out of it.”

None of the doctors would ever say it, but those days of clarity only meant one thing: the worst was on its way.

My father left for his retreat after picking me up from school.

You’re sure you’re okay to stay by yourself? You promise you’re not going anywhere?”

Yes Father, I promise. I have a book I’ve been wanting to read.” My father didn’t press on the subject of religion any more. My aversion to the church was something we no longer discussed, and I was relieved. It’s a difficult thing to completely discredit something your parent has devoted their life to, and my father was a living testament to the word, “service.”

I watched from my window as his car drove towards his sanctuary. “I hope you find peace this weekend, I know I will,” I thought as my lips curled.

When I smiled now, my lips peeled over my teeth in such a way you weren’t sure what you were looking at; like when you peel an orange. It was sinister and sweet, something you wanted to look at, but made you uncomfortable when you did.

I grinned wide, feeling the thing grow inside of me. Standing at the steps of my old house, I knew I was doing a bad thing. My conscious – the part of it that was still intact – knew instinctively that this was wrong, but my body moved forward.

The door creaked open without me touching it – whatever was inside of me and inside of my old house were friends, old friends that had been anticipating a reunion.

I went to the kitchen first, my feet dragging there. I was being lead by a force, an energy. Fear crept in to my throat and I wanted to scream. I’d made a mistake by coming here, a misfortune I would never be able to repair.

prose and conscience

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It’s said the true definition of hell is, “on the last day of your life, the person you are meets the person you could’ve been.” They say its torture in its purest form, that you are plagued for eternity to think about the choices you made and what you could’ve done to correct your trespasses.

This isn’t the case for everyone.

For as long as I can remember, everything in my life can be referred to as, “shiny,” or, “perfect,” – or my personal favorite, “golden.” As if people possess the capability of putting your life through the scope of a looking-glass, that resides behind a rose-tinted window pane. Wouldn’t it be something if people actually lived your life, if we could each know what the other person is feeling. Life lived with overwhelming emotion…what a thought.

These thoughts numbed me further now; I felt nothing.

I died, as I knew I would, from a drowning accident. I was finally rich in 2034, surfing off the coast of Japan – really living the dream, one of them; there were many and the stars were always in reach for me.

I was out for my morning surf – this was just one of the many ways I was glamorous – sparkly, whatever. I could count the others, but a morning surf was my only connecting point to the person I was before I became hungry for power. What’s better than power? Leaving the world as a legend. A woman loved by few, feared by many. Tragically killed by a deadly shark bite; just the way I’d always written it in my mind over and over.

Even death made me narcissistic, it was morbidly beautiful. I’d worn this gorgeous, white-diamond wet suite, my hair trailed behind me in a long, loose braid. The blood stained it, smattering splatters of ruby on white; I was a beached trove of jewels and gems, glittering beneath the golden sun.

The photographers got really lovely shots of me. I remember still feeling a little life in me, when they turned me and a bulb flashed; it took all of the commitment I had left to the image I’d built to keep my face fierce. My last self-portrait couldn’t be compromised with a smile. No, I was going to leave the world and be remembered as a true, tragically beautiful girl.

Even in death, I was chosen. I was chosen to wait in purgatory, for what felt like years. Scenes passed before me about choices I made, and how the alternatives would have played out.

I could feel them. You know that feeling, all humans feel it at one point or another; it’s no different when you’re in limbo. You close your eyes, and you can feel the hot, swelling tears, welling up in your eyes. You can feel your heart pounding, cracking, then ripping wide when it breaks. It doesn’t matter where you are, it floods you, releases you, then drowns you.

It’s too late, the decision has been made and there is no turning back. You’ve got nowhere to go, nowhere but regret. What a place to be.

It became abundantly clear that I didn’t know myself at all. I wanted to rip my hair out; well, the remainder of what hair I had. I looked in the mirror and though she was thinning all over, I still loved what I saw. I didn’t know my brain could have made those choices –  the ones I’d made with such conviction before just felt wrong, though that slight twinge of regret was a bitter taste on my tongue, one which I begged to linger. It some how reinforced the sweetness of defiance and revenge, feelings I cherished – sometimes, more than love. It was a potion, and the spell was working well.

My judgement was fair, and when this time came, I was so curious about my alternatives I surrendered to my sentence with ease.

No one tells you, but there is a holding room when you exit purgatory, one more spot for one more day as you are prepared to make your descent. “Purgandum,” it’s called. This is a place for you to let go, to give in, “purge” yourself of regret, if you have any left. Your humanity leaves you and you become whole in a way you never envisioned. For after that comes excess in forms there aren’t yet words for.

I had no regrets. I closed my eyes and let the darkness envelop me, a soft laugh escaping my lips.

Hell isn’t what you think; the people are much nicer, and the water is cold, not boiling like you think. Hell is cold. I mean, the temperature is different to everyone, but it looks a lot like the world I lived in a few short days ago. It is your perfect paradise, but the stakes are higher. You have to play better, be more ruthless, shrewd; judge harder, love less. Motivation is King, intention a clever pawn and power…the prize. This virtue comes with unimaginable guilt, though it’s not quite unlike the life I lived. It nearly mirrors it; it’s positively frightening.

It’s magical to some extent. It transposes depending on “candidates.” We’re in constant candidacy, if you didn’t know. Forever on campaign, defending our character, though this could be my perception of it. As I said, Hell is different for everyone, it can look like some time and place totally different. The part that drives you mad, the truly hellish part of that destination? You are only watching yourself; prohibited to make a judgement or move, tortured to watch what could have been. A game of chess in an electric chair in paradise, eternally waiting for the shock.

I went backwards in time, to a place I’ve never dreamed of.

Lieux Archives: Tamp&Grind

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.”

…the time has come for me to gush about the miracle that is Tamp&Grind.

I have no idea how I would get anything done downtown (or anywhere) without that place, without a to-go coffee from my favorite brewers. I go to the post office every morning for the CVB and I pass T&G on my way. I subconsciously think about how I can squeeze this in to my quick trip to get the mail – then it dons on me…I’ll just get something for everyone. Who doesn’t love coffee? My buddy Cindy is now righteously obsessed with the chai lattes Kevin makes for us on Tuesdays and Thursdays (our now ritual, it seems) – I order mine, “dirty,” because I legitimately cannot function without espresso.

Tamp&Grind is so much more than coffee though; what Jeff Philips and his team have done for the downtown area is truly remarkable. It’s growing, and at a rapid pace I might add. The strong sense of community the downtown area has now really warms me up.  Though I don’t own a bike and know nothing about the, “riding,” scene here, I know Jeff is involved with that, as well as several other community services. I love going to T&G to see what local products they have out, especially the handmade soaps. (Oma’s…omg. Seriously, best smelling soaps ever.)

I love that when I walk in someone says hello to me immediately, then asks if I want my usual – I have a usual! Yay!  – Or if I want to try something different. I mostly get my dirty chai on Tuesday/Thursday, but I recently branched out and got a banana-chocolate latte, which Kev and I so aptly named the Funky Monkey. This is the stuff I love, that I haven’t found anywhere else. I didn’t have a regular coffee place in New Orleans, except for Starbucks, which let’s be honest….isn’t the most personal place to get coffee (they also don’t support the troops, and I’m not down with that.) I had a spot in Lafayette that I liked, but again, not the same vibe.

T&G brews Reve Coffee Roasters coffee, a micro-roaster that produces specialty coffee in Lafayette. I first encountered these gents in Whole Foods in the L when it first opened – my taste buds were thrilled upon first sip. I hoped and dreamed that one day, a local place in Alexandria would brew this stuff and VOILA! It’s as if Jeff read my mind.

I don’t think anyone understands my obsession with this place. I’m frequent that spot more than any other place in this town. My Instagram is flooded with photos of their delicious, crafty beverages and if you’ve ever wonder where I buy stock in gorgeous filtered photos of my hot-beverage-obsession, wonder no more. T&G provides me with plenty of photog inspiration.

My advice to you, whether you’re biking downtown, strolling around with friends, heading to work or wanting to curl up somewhere with a good book, head over to T&G, grab a beverage – coffee or tea, iced or hot – and let them warm you up with their friendly vibes and awesome brew. Guitars and dogs welcome.

this post was originally written on February 8,2015

 

I burned breakfast. (Part 1)

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WARNING! – this post contains graphic content.

Creak, creak, yeeeeeeeean, I had my ear to the floor and heard the boards of the basement stairs wheeze, directly under my bed. Mom was downstairs again, and this time, I was going to catch her.

I feigned illness to stay home from school the following day so I could keep a sharp eye on her; her behavior has been most unusual for the past few months. Skipping meals, forgetting to shower, short sassiness with my father, missing church regularly – all things completely unbecoming to the wife of a Baptist preacher. She even stopped assembling her puzzles, and that was her favorite pastime. We had all sorts of puzzles framed. Puzzles of Jesus, puzzles shaped in a crucifix, puzzles with a Bible verse and daisies in the background. They were all over our house, tacky-ing everything up.

It’d been months since I’d seen her put together a new one. The lack of her normal neurosis was frightening. My father handled her mood swings with strong ease, but I knew it was killing him inside. I knew he was curious, even more so than me, to know what was happening with my mother. He baffled me too though; it seemed as though he’d seen this kind of behavior from her before. He was never shocked, never loud with her when she would ferociously yell at him; he took it all in unsettling stride.

We came home from getting ice cream one Saturday afternoon to her peeling all of the wallpaper off of the walls. Her hands were bloody and her hand prints stained the walls…everywhere.

My dad had the house repainted the following week.

At age eleven, when things like this occur, you chalk it up to your family being extraordinarily weird, right? I was unable. I was plagued with fervent curiosity. Sometimes, I would wander the hall of the second floor of our house, waiting to catch her in the act – what it was, I didn’t know. Sometimes, I’d hide in the tiny pantry near the basement staircase, but I’d get really worried something was going to crawl on me and couldn’t last for more than a half-hour. Plus, mom found me asleep in there a few weeks ago and did not look pleased. She didn’t even say anything; she just grabbed me by my collar and dragged me upstairs.

I woke up later that night to her standing at the foot of my bed, sound asleep with an empty glass in her hand. I wasn’t sure of what to do, so I just lay awake, watching her stand there, lightly snoring. My father eventually awoke to an empty bed and I heard his feet touch the floor, obviously moving to search for her. When he made his way in to my room, I held a finger to my lips, signaling not to wake her. He nodded and gingerly turned her with a fingertip to the shoulder and guided her back down the hall to their room.

It wasn’t long until I heard her scream at the top of her lungs, bursting the glass she’d left at the foot of my bed. A tiny shard made its way in to my thumb, the pricking sensation sending me silently running all over my room in pain. I removed it with a pair of tweezers in my bathroom and sucked the blood from the tiny wound since I couldn’t find a Band-Aid, the taste of rust lingering on my lip. She frequently had nights like this. Sleep walking, screaming, sweats; my father told me it was menopause…as if I knew what that meant at eleven.

I woke to the smell of bacon wafting through the house, up to my room and filling my nostrils; it was heaven. I pounded down the stairs and was disappointed to find the bacon, pancakes and eggs burning on the stove, my mother nowhere to be found. The entire scene looked wrong. My parents usually make breakfast together; the sound of the dishes clanking is what wakes me up, my father cannot be quiet in the kitchen. Nervous hands.

I walked to the kitchen door and noticed my father’s car was not in the drive way. “Hmm. This is peculiar.” I’m sure I used the word peculiar; I had an excellent vocabulary at eleven. As I turned, I saw my mother peering at me out of the corner of my eye. She was stoic, motionless and said, “I burned breakfast.”

Ten seconds later, she passed out, her head hitting the floor…hard.

I immediately called 9-1-1, then my father, who met us at the hospital. The doctor said my mother was fatigued and needed sleep; “We are not to bother her,” my father said as he closed their bedroom door and ushered me down the hall.

I was sleepless for days. I hadn’t seen my mother. I wasn’t allowed to go in her room, ever. I paced the floor; I had to know what she’d been up to before the fall. I had the brilliant plan of hiding in the basement, as I knew she would eventually return.

I was faced with a problem: How was I going to do it? I knew my father would find some way to keep me out of there, as he always had. “Nothing good happens in the basement,” he would say. I thought he told me this because it was dark, smelly and maybe had bugs or rodents renting space. No matter, I’d contrived a brilliant plan. “I’m going to stay at Neil’s for the weekend; we have a scrimmage in the morning, and church on Sunday.”

“Great, see you then. Be safe,” my dad said and nodded in agreement, without hesitation, which was surprising considering we had church the next day. I could see the exhaustion in his eyes. He was so tired from taking care of my mother; mentally drained from trying to explain her antics to people…and himself. The attempts at rationalizing her actions were wearing on him, especially in his face. He was wrinkled badly, no longer worn from the examination of the Lord’s word, but from sleepless night, worrying with his troubled wife.

Months before her fall – before my fake sick day – mom returned home from “an outing,” completely covered in blood from head-to-toe and refused to explain where she’d been or what’d she done. “It’s just a scratch,” she’d said with the same emptiness in her voice as the day she burned breakfast. My father couldn’t explain it, and neither could the doctor. “There isn’t a scratch on her, and this isn’t her blood.”

This put my father in a very compromising position, as it was obvious that my mother had experienced another episode. This was remedied in no time, what with the powers of modern medicine – and negotiation – having come so far in the last few years and all. The doctor was able to provide my mother with a prescription that would “help her sleep” (the sleep of the dead) and provide peace of mind for my father, for a “very small fee.” I was disgusted.

My father was easily bought; peace was on the table, and sanity wasn’t free.

After my father closed the door, I made my way down the street to Neil’s house to make it look believable, just in case he saw me from the window. After the sun went down, I briskly walked back to my house, around the back fence and tossed my backpack over first to measure the fall, making sure I was silent the entire way. After I hopped the fence, I opened the small window to the basement – which was just big enough for me to fit through – and shimmied down the wall, on top of a stack of paint supplies. My backpack was tough to get through the window, but I finally pulled hard enough and yanked the bag free. I gasped at the smell. Something had died in here; several somethings. The pungency of the room is something I’ll never forget.

I was young when I found out that animals died; I thought they lived forever, I guess we all do when we’re five. We’d been on a family trip to Colorado and my mom had accidentally locked my cat, Mr. Fritzle, in the house the entire week we were gone. No food, no water. Poor Mr. Fritzle. I remembered the smell, multiplied it by eighty-seven, and that was the tip of the iceberg of how bad this basement smell.

I tucked myself just under the staircase, concealing my nose in my shirt so I could breathe, though it only aided slightly. I had enough snacks and water in my backpack to last me two days. I wasn’t risking anyone seeing me sneak back and forth since my father assumed I was going to be at Neil’s all weekend.

Night one, nothing. My mother lay silent in her chamber, no doubt from the another round of sleeping pills my father had insisted upon. I slept rolled up under the stairs, though not soundly. I was anxious.

The next morning I was hesitant to go to the bathroom downstairs, but between my nervousness and the water, there was no holding it. I don’t know why I expected to last two who days. I’d never used this bathroom as I wasn’t allowed in the basement. I knew my father would be leaving for church soon, so he wouldn’t hear the toilet when it flushed. Perfect.

I opened the door and wasn’t sure what I was feasting my eyes on. “Faith, Ruth, Sara, Hope.” My mother’s friends’ names were carved all over the walls in various shapes and sizes. It looked like someone had carved each name with their fingernails. Some of the spots were stained red. I tried not to look at anything as I pulled my pants down, purposefully ignoring my own reflection.

The moment I sat down, I heard my father pull out of the driveway, no doubt heading towards church, driving faster than usual. Next, the swing of the basement door had my hair standing on end. I knew if I moved I’d be caught, and there was no telling what kind of consequences I’d face. I lied to my father to be down here,in the basement, where I was forbidden.

Creak, creak, yeeeeeeean, familiar sounds from the steps oozed under the bathroom door. I crawled on to the floor to look through the keyhole, my heart pounding loud enough that it seemed audible. This was the only way I was going to see what my mother had been hiding.

She was sullen. Her once-recently jet-black hair had now gone completely grey, and in a matter of weeks. Her plump face was gaunt, hollow; it was hard to imagine how beautiful she was just a year ago. I couldn’t picture it, though my mother’s face was something I had trouble remembering often; sometimes, it was like I wasn’t seeing her at all, but someone or something else instead. I never knew exactly what, but I knew it frightened me.

I nervously listened to her breathe for over an hour. She stood there inhaling and exhaling, nearly lifeless, staring at the unfinished basement wall. It was thin, wet looking; poorly taken care of, the whole house was really. I’m sure it became that way when my mom took ill the first time; shame it never recovered afterwards. I don’t suppose she did either.

Her breathing turned in to something I didn’t recognized. It wasn’t a human sound. It sounded like…like growling. She sounded hungry. The room grew hot and the letters on the wall began to deepen. The paint – errr, the blood – began to run, thick. There was an energy in the house I’d never felt before. I’d heard my father speak of these things, about when the Devil comes and takes sinners as his own, but I never believed these things to be true. The blood was running thick, like molasses, and it pooled at my feet, threatening to rise to my now-crouched knees.

I peered harder through the keyhole, praying something would happen soon before this gore show drowned me. I couldn’t fathom what was happening. My mom was “breathing” harder than before and was standing with her nose pressed to the wall. I couldn’t figure out was she was doing, I couldn’t read her expression. With each breath she drew, I sensed a feeling of mourning; something she loved was behind that wall.

A drop of blood landed right in the center of my forehead and I exhaled a little too loudly, with a little too much animation. My mom’s head snapped towards the door, and when it did I heard every vertebra in her neck and back crack like a whip. She dropped to the floor and crawled towards the door – towards me – like an animal stalking its prey.

Some animals eat their young.

She rose, lifted her hand, and without so much as a flick of the wrist, the door was open and I was suspended in the air before my mother. I’d never felt such power surge through my body. I wanted to fight it but the energy my mother was giving off choked me and shook me still. The blood I’d been sitting in was dripping on to the floor, and my mother, without taking her eyes off of me, licked it up. I was horrified, bewildered.

“More,” she uttered, in a voice that didn’t belong to my mother. She whipped her hand and I slammed in to a beam on the opposite side of the basement, now facing the wall she’d been pressed against. With an unsettling grin that smeared across her whole face, my mother began to peel back the soft drywall of my father’s unfinished basement.

The stench, the sights, the scene as a whole, was more than I imagined. I imagined my mother sneaking down to the basement to play cards, write letters to her secret lover, sew…paint, anything besides what I was seeing. I saw pieces of heads, arms, and legs; disassembled bodies. So many of them, it was hard to tell how many there were. I couldn’t make out which part had belonged to whom and I didn’t know if I was next. I knew my father would be home soon, though this didn’t offer me any solace. I was still suspended in the air, watching my mother examine pieces of her most prized puzzle, a souvenir from the Mayan Riviera.

She climbed the pile with prowess, assessing each piece, attempting to assembled what parts belonged to who. My mother stood proud, like she’d just climbed Everest. Her head snapped back in another loud unzipping of her spine and she let out a deep, low laugh.

I heard my father drive up, a welcomed relief, though my mother immediately dropped me to the floor, cracking my head open so slightly, but not enough to keep me from beating her up the stairs. I was panicked and moving too fast for my own good, and tripped on the lip of the top stair, falling face first in to the kitchen as my dad walked in. “FATHER!” I screamed. It was as though he couldn’t hear me. My head was bleeding profusely now.

He walked past me, down the stairs and shut the door.

Air escaped my lungs. I don’t remember the rest.

Hours later, my father resurfaced, drenched in red and unable to speak. He picked me up from the flood, blood dripping from us both now, put me in the car, and drove me to the hospital.

“We’re moving,” he managed, holding my head as the nurse cleaned the staples in my freshly shaved head, before she dressed the wound.

“What about mom?” I said in a voice I didn’t recognize.

“She’s… not coming.” I never asked another question about my mother, though I knew.

A year ago, my mother went on a trip with ladies from her Sunday school – her best friends – to the Mayan Riviera. It seemed as though they had all experienced something earth shattering, life changing while they were there. Their friendship dispersed, she saw considerably less of her friends for one reason or another. My mother was never quite right after that trip, like the way you aren’t quite right after you learn that Santa isn’t real, when your first favorite band announces they’re done making music, when your heart breaks for the first time; you don’t believe it, but for a moment…your world stops. She was a woman, stripped of her beliefs and her faith; her world ceased to rotate.

My mother’s condition worsened when her friends began disappearing just weeks after the trip. One by one, every person that went on the trip vanished in to thin air, except my mother. I never put two-and-two together, but the news referred to these mysterious disappearances as “puzzles pieces. There seems to be a piece that we’re missing.”

My father told everyone she’d had an affair and that the guilt was killing her so she killed herself. When friends asked why we chose to have a closed-casket funeral, my dad lied more. He’d completely compromised his reputation to protect her. “She wouldn’t have wanted any of you to see her the way she’d become.” Father was a keen liar, for a preacher.

The truth of the matter? He walled her up; my mother, the missing, final piece of her favorite puzzle.

bonheur 

Standard

It’s time to show some real gratitude for the happiness that has been bestowed upon me.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever look in the mirror and see my usual, crooked smile ever again. I was convinced I was bound to internally frown forever, until I started making decisions for myself, happiness being numero uno on that list. I know I’ve spoken on this before, but I’ve been reaping the benefits this year and I want to make sure I put something down to remind me when I’m feel a little lackluster – and I have been.

It is possible, yes, it is, for some one to make you happy, but they should not be your only source of happiness. Yes, it is possible for some thing to make you happy; but again, it should not be the only fountain of joy in your life. Your happiness is the responsibility of exactly no one but you. There are so, so many avenues to take to find internal happiness and peace; you just need the desire to find it. Because I made happiness a conscious decision every day this year, I was fortunate to reconnect with yoga, which opened up my heart and mind to all kinds of things, and deepen my love and appreciate for other. Not to mention, it helped strengthen my relationships with those around me.

In that same turn, I feel like my life has been on a deep cleanse, a yearlong Spring Clean, a purge, if you will. It is possible to find happiness in letting go; you just have to allow yourself. I’m not saying it feels good, and I’m not saying it’s easy, but you will be happier when you let go of the things that bind you to negativity. I don’t care to admit it, but I was down – really down, last week. It was one of those weeks where every morning was a wrong-side-of-the-bed-empty-coffee-pot kind of morning and every day rounded out to less than mediocre; just a nonsensical shitty week for me and every single one of my friends and several of my family members. I made jokes about Mercury’s retrograde, but if you’d have seen me last week, you’d have been convinced that yes indeed, the cosmos were relishing in the mischievousness.

I keep losing my other thoughts to this one, so maybe I should just write that down: happiness is a choice. It’s YOUR choice and no one else can make it for you, and you cannot punish the people in your life for not making you happy. That is all on you. Until you can look in the mirror and be happy with/for yourself, you’re going to spend a lot of negative energy, and that ends up being quite expensive. Your insecurities will constantly be whispering in your ear and the longer they persist, the harder they are to silence.

If you look at the world through a negative lens, that’s what you’re going to see. It is more than easy to stand before the world’s destruction and spend your time assessing the damage, wallowing in self-deprecation. People can beg and plead with you, but no one can pull you out of that pool except yourself – trust me, I know.

For crying out loud y’all, we live a world where beautiful things just pop out of the ground, we can feel the sun shine on our faces and observe planets that just so happen to hang out in the sky, for our viewing pleasure. Also….COFFEE BEANS? In a world like this, how hard is it to choose to be happy? Making that decision requires a good bit of raw honesty from you, I realize, and some days, you just don’t want to do it. It’s a pain in the ass to ask yourself these very necessary questions: “Am I making the right choice? Is this choice positive? Will it negatively affect anyone in my life? Is this decision destructive in any way?” BUT! They are essential questions to ask. You can’t reach pure happiness until you let these things fall away. Once that happens, once joy is the forefront of your thinking, the rest of it falls in place. I’m not saying things won’t come up because, shit happens. I’m saying that making these cognizant decisions makes everything so much easier…resulting in happiness. Residual effects, ya hearrrd.

We really underestimate the power of conscious happiness. It snowballs in to so many other things and replicates in to conscious positivism, breeding all the happy things. This kind of happiness radiates; I feel it from other people and its addicting. Once you encounter that one person that you know is internally happy, you want it for yourself.  I think it’s really awful that people associate self-appreciation for arrogance. There is abso-fcking-lutely NOTHING wrong with being happy, happy to the point of irritating. I should know – sometimes I irritate myself, and I’m so grateful for that. When you’ve seen the ugly flipside of that smiling reflection, you’re so beyond grateful to be that annoyingly cheerful person.

“What are you on? And can I have some?”

“Absolutely. Wake up, choose happiness.”  The end.