Who presents this bride?

Personal Narrative

Today makes eight.

For years I went to bed early. As an elementary school teacher, I had an extensive morning routine involving exercise, prayer, and a 30-minute commute. I arrived at work by 7 a.m. – well before the kiddos who often wanted to share household news as soon as they said good morning.
Because I require 7-8 hours of sleep to function well, I observed a strict bedtime of 9 p.m. My friends knew this and generally avoided calling past 8 or 8:30. From time to time an acquaintance would call too late, so I turned off my ringer at night just to play it safe.

That is, until Daddy admitted his health was fading.

It was shortly after Mama died. His prostate cancer wasn’t a secret, yet he seemed to be doing well. But y’all know how (some) men like to hide shit. Reality didn’t exactly align with appearances. I told him in no uncertain terms, he wasn’t allowed to die any time soon. His reaction, some mixture of exasperation and acquiescence, was disconcerting. He said okay because that’s what I wanted, but he hinted there were no guarantees.

I began leaving my ringer on at night.

Daddy and me. Wasn't he sharp?
Daddy and me. Wasn’t he sharp?

My parents eloped when they were 23. As a little girl my mother offered me several thousand dollars if I eloped, too. I can’t remember what prompted her to mention it at that moment. The only possibility that comes to mind is Princess Diana’s wedding, grand affair that it was. I was too young to have heard about the bride’s family footing the bill for weddings or other such traditions. I’m serious, she said. I shrugged. I tucked it away for later.

As a teenager I thought I’d get married shortly after college. My 20s came and went and I remained single throughout. I was grateful, honestly. I hadn’t met “Mr. Right,” and by the time I hit 30, I’d evolved into a completely different woman.

My dad did his best, as much as one can wield control over such things. He held on another three years. My phone rang just before dawn. I sighed awake, already shaking my head. No good news comes at this time of day. The voice on the other end was Daddy’s but softer in tenor. I instantly recognized my uncle, Daddy’s identical twin. Did I call at a bad time? he asked. I pressed him to spill the news. Daddy was en route to the hospital. He wasn’t breathing on his own.

Daddy reading aloud The Night Before Christmas circa 1976.
Daddy reading aloud The Night Before Christmas circa 1976.

I arrived at Grady Hospital eight years ago today. I didn’t see Daddy that morning. Nor any other since. Following my uncle’s lead, we both left without seeing his lifeless body.
 I wanted to say goodbye, but I did not want the image of death burned into my memory. I had made that mistake with Mama.

Toward the end of my 30s, I met my future husband. When we spoke of marriage, I told him I didn’t favor a big wedding, and, in fact, eloping was fine with me. I was down for a courthouse ceremony, or a small gathering on the beach. I don’t think he believed me the first few times we discussed it, but the seed Mama planted nearly three decades earlier bore fruit. I had never planned or even considered a “fairy tale” wedding.

A few months after my 40th birthday, Blue proposed.

I remembered the brides who cried in the days leading up to their weddings. I vowed not to be one of them. As spring melted into summer, we played around with wedding dates, sizes and locations. Nearly every Friday from June through August, we considered jumping in the car and heading to the courthouse. In September we settled on an intimate October affair.

first lookIf we had eloped, we would’ve escorted each other during the ceremony. But the venue we selected encouraged something a little more traditional. I decided Daddy’s twin, my “DNA Daddy,” might be the perfect choice.

He later told me it was one of his greatest joys.

During our ceremony, we invoked ancestors and loved ones who were not present, and that, of course, included my parents. Although neither were present in body, it was a loving comfort to hear Daddy’s voice and witness his smile through his brother.

Said our officiant, Who presents this bride?

My uncle replied, I do. 

Who presents this bride? I do!
Who presents this bride? I do!

Healing. An excerpt.

30 Day Blog Challenge

This is stream of consciousness from my efforts at NaNoWriMo last fall. This is fiction. I wrote 1,000 words a day for 30 days. This excerpt was selected at random this afternoon. This is raw data. For better or for worse, it’s unedited.

I finally arrive and set up as close to the ocean as possible. Only a few people are out. I stretch out my sheet and lay my belongings on top. I quickly strip down to my suit. It’s a simple black bikini this time, and I’m aware of a few appraising eyes glancing at my glutes. I tie my hair in a messy knot atop my head and stride toward the ocean. I sigh as my feet, right first, then left, touch the cool, clear water. The bottoms of my feet barely register the little shells underneath.

I walk on.

atlantic-ocean-103084_640The water is to my ankles. My calves. I stretch my hands out, beckoning the water to me. Beckoning my spirit to it. I keep walking. My hips are underwater now. I stop and slide down, until the water is at my neck. On my knees, I am still. I play a game with the water, keeping my abs tight, trying not to move my body. It’s good exercise.

Once fatigue sets in I stand up and walk a little deeper into the water. The waves come toward me and I draw them to me with big sweeping gestures to pull the water in. a little ritual.  I say a little prayer – I welcome all the blessings and love of the universe into my heart, into my life. I turn around, facing the shore. Starting at my chest, I push outward, pushing the water away. I say another prayer – I expel all of the thoughts and doubts and sadness that no longer serve me. I pray that all the negativity is transmuted for the good of all mankind.

I turn around and repeat this ritual several times. Then I just play in the water for awhile. Spying the few people in the ocean with me. Admiring the sun. I swat at the schools of fish to see what they’ll do. They change direction and keep moving. There’s a lesson in that.

After about 20 minutes, I decide it’s nap time. I stroll back to the beach and begin untying my hair. I towel off and spray the Banana Boat liberally on my exposed skin. I add sunblock to my face and don my floppy beach hat. I stretch out on my back and begin dozing to my favorite sound in the world.

sungoddessI wake up a few times and turn over. Don’t wanna be too brown on one side. Eventually I can no longer ignore the gnawing in my stomach. It’s lunch time. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten alone. I tell myself it’ll be fun. Like old times. Relearning to enjoy singledom and solitude?

I guess.

I begin driving along the causeway just looking for someplace that might have some good fried oysters. I eventually stop at a Green Iguana. I know for sure they have good turkey burgers, and that would be yummy too.

How many? Asks the host. His spiked Mohawk just cool enough.

… Just one.

He begins to lead me to a table when I ask to go outside.  I sit at one of the tall tables, remembering the last time I was here. Sophia and I met in person for the first time. She was a friend of a friend who thought it would be nice if we connected. It was. We did. Although I never saw her again after that. Our lives simply weren’t in sync.

I ordered the turkey burger I wanted. Avocado and pepper jack cheese. Lettuce, tomato. No onion. Fries. Yummy indulgences. I brush away tears from time to time. I savor each bite although I secretly want to wolf it down and get out of there as quickly as possible. Another round of tears I hide as those darn allergies. I even pull out a book to read. Zora Neal Hurston keeps me company. Probably not the most upbeat book in places, although it’s one of my favorites. Maybe I need to get a comedy or something more neutral that doesn’t involve relationships at all.

I think about going to Barnes and Noble to find another book. Then I remember, that’s where I met Daniel. I have a library card. I can go there instead. Or I can go home and download some ebooks.

I tell myself it’s okay. I’ll be okay. Today it’s just an exercise to prove to myself that I can be alone. That I can continue. Tomorrow I’ll do something similar. Go to my favorite dinner spot. Maybe I’ll even cook by the end of the week.

And one day, I’ll even remember what happiness feels like.

I posted a fiction excerpt one other time. Check it out here.

Welcome to cocostudio

Personal Narrative

Last night, Blue glanced over at the clock and smiled as he asked, “How do you feel in your last minute of being 39?” I laughed.

I felt great. I still do.

In my late 20s, I looked forward to turning 30. I was sad though, in those last few minutes. My mother had passed away a few months earlier, and I hadn’t considered greeting that milestone without her in my life. Despite my grief, I joyfully welcomed the new decade and all the excitement 30s held.

Blue's brown sugar bourbon bundt.
Blue’s brown sugar bourbon bundt.

It seems as though I merely blinked, yet here we are at the dawning of another decade. I’m not sure how one is “supposed” to look and feel at 40, but I truly believe another magical time is here. I have life lessons and accumulated wisdom on my side, along with the vitality and determination of youth.

I have big goals for the next 5 – 10 years. I’m not sure of action steps or how they will manifest, but I do know I’m completely invested in creating the life I want and enjoying every moment.

I still haven’t blogged about my theme for 2014 (I have one), but it, along with my 40s theme “building” involves deeper exploration of my identity. Who am I and what do I contribute to the world? In thinking about that, I wanted to reclaim cocostudio, which has been dormant for a couple of years.

I’m still working out the kinks, learning new widgets and playing with layouts and colors. You may notice a few changes in the coming weeks as I get settled in. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments, so please share your thoughts and repost your favorite entries when you’re moved to do so.

Welcome (or welcome back) to cocostudio.

Everything begins from now!
When we live in the present moment with our entire being,
our lives will shine with glory and success!
~Daisaku Ikeda

Go Red For Women

Personal Narrative, Women's Health

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 4.43.53 PMOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness month and it’s all pink all the time. Everything from your favorite football player to your favorite Yoplait can be spotted with a splash of pink.

Despite the importance of cancer awareness initiatives, it’s worth noting that heart disease is the number one killer of women. My mother is in that number. Over 10 years ago, she went to the emergency room complaining of chest pains and never made it home.

The official cause of death was a brain hemorrhage, which was an unfortunate complication of her heart attack. Although she’d been slowly working to reclaim her fitness, lower her cholesterol and free herself of nicotine, time wasn’t on her side. She died a few months before her 60th birthday.

February is best known for Valentine’s Day, but it’s also American Heart Month. February 7, 2014 is National Wear Red Day. Are you and your loved ones doing what you can to get heart healthy or stay that way?

She was right.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

“I’m so sorry.”

The chocolate brown woman shook her head as she embraced me, the two of us in the nearly empty corridor.  It was August, the beginning of the school year. It was my first time seeing Mrs. Jackson, a long-term substitute at the elementary school where I worked. My had mother died unexpectedly just before the last days of school the previous year, so coworkers who saw me still offered condolences.

“It’s been ten years since my mom died. You never get over it,” she said to my cheek. I nodded as we pulled away, not sure how to take her news.

Today is my mom’s birthday. It was ten years this May.

She was right.


Mama’s voicemail sounded an alarm. “I’m not feeling well. Call me back.” I returned her call right away. No answer. Heart pounding, eyebrows raised, I left a message in return, chiding her for scaring me by leaving mysterious messages and then refusing to answer the phone. In my nearly 30 years of life, I’d never heard her say anything so ominous.


Thankful Thursday

30 Day Blog Challenge

The past several Thursdays, I’ve seen Anika tweet simple gratitudes. As I was sitting here admiring today’s gorgeous weather, I thought it might be nice to do a couple.

  • After days of clouds and rain, I’m overjoyed about the sunshine, and thankful I can enjoy it.
  • I was able to run this morning and witness the dawning of a new day. I’m thankful for my good health.
  • She’s on my mind a lot because her birthday is tomorrow…I’m thankful for my mom, RIP.
  • I’m happy for  the chance to reflect upon and learn from past choices. I’m thankful for evolution.
  • I’m thankful for friendships that endure time and space.
  • I’m thankful for vulnerability and love.

Your turn! What are you thankful for today?

On ironing and grief. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

I remember when I stopped ironing.

As a young girl, I ironed all the time. And to some degree, ironing suited me. I’d iron shirt after shirt, and soon enough I’d be in a mindless rhythm. My thoughts were free to imagine new scenes for my current short story, or remember favorite scenes from a Judy Blume in progress. Usually I’d iron in the den on weekends. Daddy stretched out in his easy chair watching sports of some sort, momma half-watching, half-devouring a novel. It was easy, ironing was.

As I grew older, I continued ironing as needed. Didn’t think much of it. Maybe I no longer ironed clothes on weekends. Maybe I simply ironed the night before, as I laid out clothes for school.

In college, ironing happened decidedly less often. Using that mini surfboard on the bed proved neither effective nor fun, and it was college. Everyone knew you just needed to get your clothes out of the dryer while they were still warm. Ironing was reserved for the really stubborn creases, and only then at the last possible minute.

I entered the workforce and ironing again became a regular occurrence. Sometimes it was the evening before, yet more often than not, I saved it for my morning routine. There wasn’t much to it, after all. It was just ironing.

I remember when I stopped ironing.

Months after momma died unexpectedly, grief became stress became a fog. Life was thick. Heavy. Clouded over. Every morning it was time to get dressed and go teach my 4th graders, yet it got harder, not easier. Where was it? Where was the outfit I could just put on? I didn’t want to think about ironing. I couldn’t bear the thought.

I was near tears one day, trying to figure out tomorrow’s outfit and the requisite ironing, when cousin big sister suggested a radical idea: dry cleaners. I had only associated dry cleaning with my dad’s work shirts. Momma and I dropped them off early mornings before school and picked them up in the afternoons.

Neatly pressed clothes sans stress? Sign me up. I sighed away 10 pounds.

And thus marked the beginning of the end of ironing. Soon enough, through geography and professional choices, I all but eliminated the need for pressed clothes from my life. For years I donned sarongs and sundresses, jeans and fitted t-shirts.

As of late, the iron is no longer content to make cameos. It seems to be pushing for a more starring role. Yesterday’s sheath dress required a tap from the hotel iron, as did today’s button-down and slacks. And it was easy enough. There isn’t much to it, after all. It’s just ironing.

But I remember when I stopped ironing.

Moms and May

Personal Narrative

A friend’s tweet about his mother’s passing triggered memories of my own. It feels selfish to talk about it, but I’m owning my need to write, so I am writing. I’m also challenging my fear of sharing, so I am sharing.

Mother’s Day does not bother me too much. My mom’s birthday does not either. Even Memorial Day weekend, the anniversary of her passing, doesn’t make me feel any kind of way. Rather it’s random things that make me think about her, feel her, miss her. Sometimes it’s a song, a picture, a saying… today it was a tweet.

Ours was an interesting relationship to say the least. By the time she died we had learned to express our love for each other in productive and traditional ways. We made it through the tumultuous years when I was filled with rage toward her most of the time. Genuine rage, even when I wanted desperately to feel otherwise.

These memories – snapshots of our complicated relationship – these are the things I’m exploring these days. When I mention writing as inquiry, or truth-telling, I’m talking about writing to understand why couldn’t we say I love you to each other. Why did I threaten her with bodily harm? Why did I think horrendous thoughts about her in the dead of night and how did we get past it? Why didn’t I hug or kiss her the times I wanted to? And why did distance, space, time, and indeed my writing, bring us closer?

We had a happy ending, but was it luck? Or the lesson I needed to learn in this lifetime? Or?

When the doctor announced she was brain dead, I was immediately grateful for the healing that had taken place between us. I was elated that rather than “stuff” for Mother’s Day just a couple of weeks earlier, I had given her laughter and time and love.

My mother was pretty fabulous in a million ways, but I can’t act as if our past didn’t exist. All of it – the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. On days like today, I swallow the lump in my throat and write, and think, and feel.  And I miss her, and I love her and I wonder…