0317 Grey Lane
Dust covered ventricles on the dining room table
I swallowed the days so there is only now and this place. The rest of everything is shades of empty. An iridescent collection of who we once were but will never be again.
These words are as clumsy as the cricket keeping me alive.
"Oh, Pain. You've always been so self centered and consuming. Just let her go."
"There is nothing left for her now. We will sit here together. A cup of tea?"
Heart breathes, the dust billowing into the air, born and dead all at once.
Pain boils the kettle. Thin fingertips so careful and strong.
"Where did you happen to put the world?"
Pain laughs at hearts question. A chuckle with malevolence and quaint disbelief.
"Did you hear what happened yesterday?" Pain asks. "The attack I mean."
Heart crawls to the edge of the table, a slug of meat, slow and persistent.
"Which attack, Pain?"
Again a laugh. So much anger.
"ALL OF THEM! Every day the world is filled with death and guns and madness. What is the point? The shadows of the world were always shadows."
Pain has picked up dishes and begun to toss them against the wall. The crashes each have a distinct sound. First like a gunshot and then a bomb and the last dish Pain throws sounds just like a scream.
Heart waits. "Do you believe the world is bad?"
Pain picks up another dish, and aims for heart.
"I believe the world is angry."
Heart has to leap to dodge the flying china. Heart has been fairly calm and polite but in its attempt to save itself, a few obscenities do slip from its mouth.
Heart lands safely on the ground.
"Fuck. Pain. Just because you're hurting does not mean you can destroy the world around you."
Pain crumples to the ground, gathering heart near to the chest.
"I'm sorry, Heart."
Heart beats and pats Pain in a comforting gesture.
"The world can't live without us both, pain."
"Why? I feel so guilty for my existence."
"Pain, you make chocolate taste sweeter. You make kisses more wild. You turn smiles into laughter. Without you there would be nothing."
A window on 0517 Grey Lane opens.
"We meet the darkness with grace."
Below is a painting from The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
"...even when love comes back, it still is not yours. You just get to exist with it. That has to be enough."
I fell out of love once.
It happened quickly. One day my heart swelled and the next it deflated like a New Years Balloon on January 8th, pathetic-empty.
I have written about this before. One day I was happy, looking forward to our future together and then I wasn't. I tried to explain this in a way that was fair but the truth is, there is no fair way to tell someone you don't love them anymore. People talk about how to manage divorce and breakups in an amicable way. Except if one or both parties still invested, the strings of their hearts entangled in the situation, I don't believe there is a way to really manage. It's just going to hurt. And then one day you wake up and it doesn't hurt as much. So many articles out there give advice on how to get over a breakup. First of all, I don't think you ever get over true love. If you love someone they change your DNA, man. They change the way you breathe. They change you and that's okay. I think that we need to transmute the language here, you don't get over a breakup. You just move on. Yeah, maybe you get over the guy from your local gym that brought you for pizza twice. But you don't get over the big loves, the ones that made you believe that your ribcage was too small to fit their light.
I have fallen out of love and once someone fell out of love with me. Both situations seem impossibly unfortunate.
This has taught me that love belongs to no-one. It is not something that can be owned. You cannot wrap a lasso around a relationship and expect it to stay. Trust me, I wish that you could. I love my boyfriend with everything that I have. If I could bubble wrap us together, I probably would. But I know. I know the tighter you hold, the less that you feel. There is a reason for the cliche, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be."
The problem with this saying is that even when love comes back, it still is not yours. You just get to exist with it. That has to be enough. I know how incredibly unnerving that is for the anxious and controlling among us. I can see your thoughts, my husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/wife is mine. That's just not the truth.
They only belong to them. You are a guest in their life. One that is only there as long as you are invited. Even marriage won't stop someone from leaving you. I swear I'll get to a positive point soon.
I'm in a coffee shop and the women behind the counter received a phone call from her friend. I soon later that they haven't talked in a while when she relayed the situation and phone call to her co-worker.
My ears perked at "God, Ellie, I'm so sorry."
I couldn't hear the other end of the phone conversation but I know her. She is me. She is my friends. She is every girl who was blindsided by someone falling out of love with them.
"He hasn't talked to you in how many days? You're moving out?"
My empathy barrels onto this page. How fucking sad is it when someone falls out of love? My empathy is for him too. I don't think a single human out there wants to fall out of love. I don't think they wake up one day and say to themselves, "I want to feel emptiness around this other human I have built a life with." I do believe there is a difference between falling out of love and getting into slumps. I believe that when you give someone your heart you should do everything in your power to make sure that a breakup is actually what you want before you carelessly take it back. Because sometimes love can kick-start again. See below. However, sometimes the wires get crossed, they get tangled like the cords behind the tv, and from personal experience, nothing can fix that.
It's just there is no good way to fall out of love.
The coffee shop girl, skin like clean charcoal, turns to her co-worker. "He told her that he doesn't love her anymore and that he's been thinking about it for months."
I used to be so angry at people who lead their significant other on, stringing them along for months, even years. It occurred to me one day that sometimes people aren't staying because they're scared or being cruel. They stay when they're trying - when they're hoping it will get better.
For Ellie and this guy. It never did.
I am so damn fearful that this will happen to me again. That fear won't stop time though. It won't stop the truth.
I am so incredibly lucky to have what I have right now and that is what I'm going to hold onto.
My biggest New Years resolution is instead of aiming to love people forever, I'm going to do a better job of loving them right now.
I'm not going to take my love for granted.
If it goes, I'll set it free...
Santa threw up again.
That's what I say to my mother every year as I walk into my childhood home. I know, I am such a sweet daughter. My mom bombards every inch of her house with Christmas decor. The Santa Clauses stare at me with their vacant dead eyes. I know in those instances there's no place like home for the holidays.
My mom picked me up from the airport and we made our yearly stop at the Bolingbrook promenade mall. People bustled around, shopping bags filling their arms, rushing to finish last minute shopping. We were looking for a blush dress that I could wear to my friend's wedding that will take place in early January. Last minute as well, but our urgency was less pressing. The immense tree in the center of the shopping area was accompanied by a blaring song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The tune mixed with the frantic bodies combined to create a cacophony of sounds that pulsed through the small road which was adorned by a decorative sign. The street was named Hemingway. The Chicago temperatures stretched to a mere twenty degrees. I had forgotten that abrupt feeling that occurs as your body exits the arctic air and enters the warmth of a store. It is both pleasant and jarring. You forget a lot of things when you're away long enough.
I was thirteen when my mom decided we should move to Plainfield, Illinois. I remember the many phone calls where she cited her reasoning as "I want them to have access to a better school district." The truth was that my brothers were smashing car windows, smoking weed, and skipping school constantly. I don't know when the last straw was but it might have been around the time that they left me home alone when she was working a night shift. We were living in Bolingbrook, Illinois then. Drew Peterson was the police officer on duty who called my mother to inform her that the boys had broken curfew along with a few other laws. Yes, the same Drew Peterson whose third wife was murdered and his fourth wife went missing. Apparently I was sleeping throughout the whole exchange.
My childhood consists of similar strange incidents such as this. None of them are particularly traumatizing, depending on the person whose reading I presume. Yet, there is something unsettling about visiting the place where you morphed into a cognoscente member of society. You no longer inhabit the place that shaped you but this is where you became you. Anytime I come home I feel like I'm in a movie montage as my past, the good and the ugly, plays out in my head on repeat.
We departed Francesca's and although there were a few more stores I wanted to walk to down the way, I stopped.
I looked at the area where I had been proposed to four years prior. I remember how my glove wouldn’t come off. “You light up my life like nobody else…” He sang the song off tune and my life made sense in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. The montage moves to the moment I gave up on our relationship. My ex-fiance informed me that he wanted to take his friend to New York. My hair was in curls and I was wearing a much too pink dress. We were supposed to take our engagement photos.
This was only four years ago. He is married to someone else now. Memories like this aren’t filled with pain or regret. I think about them as if I’m peeking into the window of someone else’s house.
Whenever I come home, I feel like the ghost of Christmas past, showing myself who I used to be.
I will never understand how people can change and stay the same in the exact same body. The awkward seventeen-year-old who painted her face with neon colors in an attempt to stand out and fit in is more alive here in this place than when I’m back in Baltimore. She’s still alive though. I spend a lot of time running from her, but here she is, waiting.
So I ask myself, does going home have to be this emotionally tumultuous thing?
I lost my first love here. Fifteen minutes away, one of my best friend’s died on a gravel road. This is where I learned that abuse changes people.
All of those facts remain true. They don’t negate another truth, a bigger truth. I am still the new me despite the memories that exist in this place. They do not threaten who I have become. I sit on my couch with a cup of tea, snuggled in my nutcracker jammies. I am simultaneously my teenage self and my now self. I accept that I am not who I thought I was going to be. Is anyone?
I am a teacher in Baltimore City. I am a girlfriend to an incredibly sweet, often times grouchy man who teaches me about patience, love, and understanding every single day. I am presently completing my MFA at the University of Baltimore.
One second I was the me four years ago and then a variety of choices I hardly remember making happened and here I am. It is Christmas 2017. Santa threw up again. Some things will always stay the same and some will never be the same. I spend so much time worrying about this and the future. James always says, “Stop being stuck in what could happen. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.” I hate when he says this. I hate it so incredibly much.
It’s true though. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can prepare and plan and make goals. We can want and wish and hope. And still, we just don’t know.
A Danish philosopher, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I have been living life backward, stuck in between those minutes that have come and gone, long ago. There is a painting on the far wall next to the fireplace that often catches my eye. It has four sleds that lean against a fence. Each one has a name in it, not one of us remotely the same person as we were when the artwork was bought. It hits me then, why would we be? Why is it so surprising that time passes? Nostalgia cracks your ribs open, but if you sit long enough, it can also close those same divots.
I think coming home will always be an emotional time for me. I also know that just because I have been broken does not mean I have to continue to break.
We passed by the house I grew up in on the first day I was back. “Mom, that’s the street where our first house is!” She nodded and turned without prompting. I think we wanted to “take a trip down memory lane.” When the bombs went off in Hiroshima they say that the people and objects made literal imprints on the ground. There were no bombs here. I see the shadows though, pressed into the siding of the house. They’re only visible to us. I snap a few pictures of the house where we lived.
We drove away and I’m back on the couch, just trying to be here. I never knew there would be a day where it would be so incredibly hard to just exist without all of the yesterdays telling you what to do. I never knew that NOW would be so impossibly difficult. I wiggle my toes and yawn. I think about what book I’m going to read. I spread myself in this moment like jam so that nothing from either side of my existence can seep in.
I’m glad that my mom keeps the Christmas decorations up until I leave. It’s my favorite time of the year.
Today was strange.
Well, most of my days are strange. Today, was top of the cake strange or maybe I should say it tops the cake on all of my other bizarre days.
It could have been the student with the machete or possibly the earthquake. I mean, the earthquake may not be that unusual in California but in Baltimore there is not a lot of shaking (the seismic kind at least. Twerking maybe).
I'm not at liberty to discuss the student & the machete. Except to say that it existed (maybe in my school - maybe not) and that just doesn't sit right with any parts of my gut. They always make announcements saying "Students... put your book bags in your locker. Teachers anything could be inside a book bag. Make sure students put them in their lockers." Here's the thing. I just didn't think that anything could be a freaking machete. THIS is not to confirm there was an actual machete in my school, because I can't confirm or deny that. I would just say, be comforted if the zombie apocalypse happens. We've got your back.
This blog is not about machete's or the 4.8 earthquake that happened in Delaware and caused some boogie breakdowns in Baltimore. No, this blog is about my stress level and my need to clean but no time to do it. Cleaning actually relaxes me. I still don't like it that much. People that really really like to clean freak me out. I don't like to deep clean, that's for the birds.
So ... that leads me back to the fact that I only had a small amount of time to clean my stress away.
I set a clock for 30:00 I knew that I was probably going to clean for a little longer than this. However, there is something about the countdown that makes me move quickly and efficiently.
you are bound to lose a little
Tip One: Throw everything onto your bed that you plan on organizing. This gets the floor clean and ensures that you'll do something with your clutter to make it less clutteryyy. You aren't going to leave it on the place you sleep. **I'm not saying that I haven't slept on dirty laundry because I have and I probably will again at sometime in my life but we don't need to discuss that right at this moment.
Tip Two: Hang everything that needs to be hung up, FIRST. For you non-messy folk, this isn't even a problem. You have some kind of magic wand that lets your clothes never fall on the floor to begin with. I don't have this magic wand shoved up my ass, I mean... in general I'm not able to keep that organized, so the pile happens. When the pile happens, I start by hanging the things that need to be hung up. Putting the clothes on the hangers goes relatively quick and if you don't have time to put them in their spots, you can find a place to hang the lot of it, and put them away properly later.
Don't get me wrong, my motto is - or was: Don't do something later that you can do now. However, I'm so busy that my eyeballs literally threaten me on a daily basis. My own damn eyeballs, IF you don't slow the hell down, we are going to pop out of your pretty little head." Eyeballs can be mean son-of-a-bitches.
Tip Three: Fold your messy shit into piles. Tanks into one. T-shirts into another and so on and so on. My Nana used to say that everything has a place and so in my room, everything does have a home, including the most random of objects, meaning I have a random objects bin. I don't have a separate space for each category of random things. I can only aspire to be that epic.
Tip Four: After putting away some of your messy shit take a few selfies and do some strange dances that you swear nobody will ever see until you realize that you left your blinds open again.
Tip Five: Label things that need to be done in regards to clothes. For example, there was a skirt that needed to be ironed. I clipped a post it note onto the hanger with a binder clip so that the next time I went to wear said piece of clothing I know that it is not ready for immediate use. This is not a necessary stop and can be skipped if you're lazy like me.
As you clean, put together a few outfits and find a place to hang them in your room. Now you're ahead of the game. Use these outfits through out the week. #bossstatus To make more room in my space I bought a hanging rack at target for $24! An amazing deal and purchase that I do not regret!
Messy & busy girls don't need just a dirty laundry bin. We need a dirty laundry bin andddd a clean laundry bin. This is supposed to help with the laundry on the floor bit. If I'm trying on a few outfits, I NEVER do what I'm supposed to and hang the clothes right back up. That would probably be the ultimate time saver.
Ok. Stop judging. This blog is for the BUSY girl. Not the totally put together, judgey girl.
The not really a tip, tip: I went to Chicago and then hopped on a plane to Ireland. I didn't have the time to clean my bags out in between and in the few weeks since I've gotten back, between graduate school and teaching, those bags were the least of my concern. I emptied three of the four today and threw the remaining crap in the last bag. That's what we call condensing. Now instead of four bags to clean out, I only have one left. HOW productive am I?
Throw as much as possible away. Really. When in doubt, throw it out. The 99% of the time that you are thankful you have less clutter will outweigh the 1% of the time that you find yourself wondering where that black hat that looked cute in the one picture from 2008 went.
So after zooming around my room like sonic the hedgehog, a miracle happened and I could finally see floor. I have really had to fight against the idea of "perfect" the last few years. There is a lot I want to accomplish and I have to sacrifice perfect in order to be the person I want to be.
I could totally have a clean house, only be a teacher, and go out occasionally. Except, I don't want a small, tidy life. I want a big, messy life.
This means that sometimes I have to set a timer and clean as much as I can in said allotted time. IT means that I have multiple laundry bins. I label things for later. It means that sometimes I find empty candy wrappers in my underwear drawer. Okay... I probably don't have to do that one. I. Just. Feel. So. Guilty (My name is Emily and I love sweets. It is (not) a problem).
Alright, what are you waiting for?
Put that timer on. Go. Go. GO!
A Vegetarian cooking turkey day Dinner, the birth of my nephew, and the very bad case of sunday "scaries"
This was my second Thanksgiving away from Chicago and my family. A few weeks ago my brother sent me a text message informing me that his wife was going into labor. I immediately searched for a halfway reasonable flight, hopped on a plane, and made it in time for the birth of my first nephew. Plane rides are always an interesting time for me. This one being no different. I met a girl named, Kaleechi and she happened to be one of the most interesting people I have ever met. I won't write about our conversation because it was one of those moments that is best left stuck in my heart. To think, I got to experience even more wonder and magic just a few hours later.
He was born a little early, about 5 1/2 weeks. My sister-in-law was a rockstar through out the whole birth. I was standing outside the room when the docors stopped crying "Push. Push Push," and instead were met with a rushing medical team who infomed us she would need an emergency c-section. Not one time did Karla lose her composure. I however, realized that I will never be able to have children. I am a wimp! I was so worried about her, and the baby, and my brother. Words like "Heartbeat dropping" don't sit well with me. I'm sure they didn't for Karla's sister, my brother, or my mom and yet they were able to keep from almost passing out. I on the other hand thought I was going to throw up multiple times. I sat in the waiting room, finishing some homework, and thought about how there was going to be a whole new life being born into the world. I thought about how amazingly wonderful my brother was going to be as a father. How scared he must be. How brave Karla was. I thought about a lot in that waiting room. Within a few hours the doors opened, light peeked out and then came my brother and his new son. I will never forget his tiny fingers or small cries. He was so worth all the fuss. People always talk about their nephews and nieces, about this love they can't describe, and I've now joined that group of people, who have this unexplainable love for a small child that isn't quite their own.
Welcome to the world Declan.
So I had been planning on going home for Turkey Day but going home twice in that small period was not feasible. Instead I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner. My boyfriend and three of our friends attended the little soirée. The end results were beautiful despite a few mishaps during the day.
The next morning with a slightly soree head, I made my way to Easton, PA to visit my "second family." The Townsend/Larsen/McHugh family have been in my life ever since my mom met her best friend on Willoway street back in 1988. We have experieced a lot together and the three hour drive was nothing in order to spend part of the holiday weeked with Karen and her family. Not everyone could be together this year but the splintered pieces seemed closer when I arrived Friday night. Again, this adventure was not boring. On my way I got lost because my GPS stopped working. Of course. I made the most of it
Now, It's 4:00 on Sunday and reality is setting in. We are at the place, I call the "Sunday Scaries." Last year, they were almost non-existent. However, with budget cuts and ever worsening realities, teaching has become a scary place again. I love my students and my co-workers but my job is one that causes most of us to get a lurch in our stomachs on the weekends. Not because of the teaching. I love weaving stories in front of the eyes of my students. That is not the issue. The issues are one created by the lack of funding and resources. Unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable going into details on this platform. I have not come home one day in the past month without feeling like every single emotion in my body has been used on caring and fighting for my students, all well having road blocks shoved in my path every step of they way.
I'll try to hold onto the warmth of the weekend, while not being able to pretend that I can't feel the cold reality of teaching in today's climate. Teacher's get a lot of slack for being complainers. I should say that I'm excited to plan my lesson tomorrow. I'm excited to find material that will light their minds for a moment. What drives the coldness into me is the fact that I will be up till midnight. I have to finish tasks that were created to provide fake accountability. I will do it. I will plan a good lesson. And I will ask myself, "How can we support our teachers and students in a more sustainable way?"
Keep Trying to Find the Love,
I constantly say the words "Never. Give. Up."
So much in fact that it is my mantra when I actually get my booty out the door and run. "Never give up. Never give up. Never give up." The words punch through my brain and hammer away at the voice that tells me to stop.
I say it so much that I will refuse to quit anything. I'll go back to writing projects that I know aren't working. I'll stay in relationships that haunt me. I'll breathe life into the dead, expecting them to rise. The problem is that when something lacks a heartbeat, there is only coldness left. We all know that if you spend too much time without heat, you'll eventually freeze.
For about nine months after my last relationship ended I had a very rigorous schedule outlined for myself. I would wake up at a certain time every morning. Before I went to sleep every single item on my to do list had to be completed. Lunch had to be packed for the next day. My work out NEEDED to be completed, at least an hour every day. I was breaking my back, day in and day out. I was working two jobs and going to bed at midnight at the earliest. Sleep was put last. I was aiming for perfection and wondering why I still felt so imperfect. Looking back the answer is simple. I wasn't living. I was running away from the memories of someone who didn't deserve my fear.
The first thing I gave up was the perfection. It is so very okay to be frazzled. I embrace my mess now. I thought I did before but my inner voice was still such a bitch. "Why did you eat that? Why did you drink that? Why didn't you do ...." The list goes on.
There's a giant pile of laundry at my house that I'm in love with. It's organized chaos that says, "I have other priorities." I have quit trying to make it go away. My bed is made and the dishes are done. If I do that laundry I won't have time to write this blog post. If I do that laundry I won't have time to watch an episode of my new favorite tv show with my boyfriend later. That laundry is a sign of happiness. I just didn't know that before.
I buy lunch every day this year. I felt so guilty about this. Shouldn't I be making lunch and saving money? Except I like going to the cafe across the street from school. I get to escape the madness of teaching in the inner city for a few minutes. I don't buy my morning cup of coffee anymore and it balances it out. That's the key word. Balance.
I preach about balance but the thing is I suck at it. I suck at being balanced. More often then not the scale is falling in the wrong direction and I'm sprawled across the floor.
The last time I was on the floor was because I fell off my boyfriends bed as he played video games. I was attempting to figure out where I should write for a few minutes. When I hopped back on, I stuck my feet in his face. He laughed at me and gave me a kiss. The laundry isn't done, but I'm loved. The laundry isn't done, but I have a job. The laundry isn't done, but I'm happy.
I have no balance, but as I fumble it becomes more of a dance.
You don't have to be perfect. I promise.
We can quit ... just as long as we don't give up.
Sometimes, we don’t get to win or lose. This is especially true for teachers. After talking to a student today, I realized how much is out of my control. He came to tell me that he knew there wasn’t any point to take his final for my class
Me: “Why are you here then?”
Him: “My box.”
I have been teaching in the city long enough to realize that his box is an ankle monitor and he is court ordered to go to school. He was correct. Even if he took my final he would fail my class. The funny part or the sad part, I guess, is that this child is one of the smartest I have taught. This is his second year in my classroom and all I could do was nod. Agree. I felt helpless to have to agree to his failure, as if I was condoning it in someway.
Me: “So, what’s next?”
Him: “Not being here. I'm moving to the County."
The County is outside of Baltimore City and lots of my kids say they are going to the County, to escape the circumstances they are in, but those same children often come back. He told me that he has a mentor that will take him in.
Me: “How are you going to stay out of trouble? Can you study this summer?”
Him: “I have nothing to study.”
Me: “Reading is studying. Keeping your brain sharp."
Him: "I only like certain types of books. You know, true ones ... I know a man who should publish a book."
I nodded, unsure where the conversation was headed. This man, he said, went to prison but he never gave up on making a positive influence in the world. He wrote the judge 500 times asking for release into society so he could make a difference. According to my student, his request was eventually granted. He opened a construction company that worked with downtrodden individuals and people like himself, who needed a second chance.
Him: “I like those kind of stories, one’s where they get back up.”
My student’s mother is a crack head. He’s been arrested more times than I can count. He lives in a group home. If anyone has fallen down, if anyone needs to get back up, it is him.
Him: “Mom has a little house now and she’s getting her baby back soon.”
I might have said, “That’s good" or shaken my head slightly. It was one of those conversations where we were on two different planets. I grew up in another world. My empathy for my students has allowed me to connect to them and become someone they respect. Having taught them for so long, I often forget what divides us.
Him: “I’m going to college.” He said this as neither a question or a statement.
Me: “I know.”
As I looked at him, I saw every single obstacle standing in the way. All the drugs and the violence and the guns that live next to him, that live in him. I took the stories about his life and I tucked them in the part of me that still has room for that pain.
Me: “Maybe, you’ll be like that man. Maybe you’ll have a story that will inspire people.”
Him: “I can’t write books.” After a few seconds, an amused look crossed his face. He knew what I was going to say. “Or poems.”
Me: “A story doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a person.”
I remember meeting him two years ago and never wanting to see him in my class again. This year, I hoped every day that he would walk through the door. It’s funny how stories change.
He turned to walk away, his statements still clinging to all four walls.
Me: “Make sure you visit next year.”
Part of me hopes that he doesn’t. Part of me hopes that he stays out of the city, until the day he can come back and talk about getting off the ground. He failed my class. I don’t count it as a loss though. If I did, that would mean that I don’t think there’s a chance for him. My hope is a deep root, the determined weed that sinks so low that even a skilled gardener cannot remove its stubbornness.
Later that day I walked downstairs and grabbed an award that was placed in my mailbox. It was superlative that some of the students and teachers got together to make. “Most likely to succeed – Don’t forget us when you conquer the world.”
I thought back to a moment in college when I had nearly flunked out. I got alcohol poisoning and ended up in the back of an ambulance. I definitely didn’t imagine that one day I would be a teacher and an author. I didn’t even know if I would ever graduate college.
Outside the school building, I saw my student walking across the street. Please ... I closed my eyes ... let him conquer the world.
I don’t know if teaching will be something I do forever. The student’s though, their memories will be with me, always.
Fairy Tales are everywhere.
No, Snow-White isn’t going to meet you at the corner restaurant for some apple-brie and Cinderella is not quite ready to let you borrow her glass slippers. What I mean of course is that the popularity of Fairy Tales has grown immensely over the last few years. From television shows to books and movies, the creative industry has been saturated with adaptations and modern retellings of the beloved tales. I say … bring them on. From Cinder to Once Upon a Time, the stories we grew up hearing and reading, have been transformed in the most wonderful of ways.
My novel, Grimm and White, is a tale that takes nuances from the Grimm tales and twists them, blurring the line between adaptation and retelling. When I first started writing the novel, I’m not sure that I knew that Fairy Tales were going to be at the foundation of the world I created. However, once I decided that was the direction that I was taking, the world transitioned from its grainy existence in my brain into a much clearer picture. One second I thought I knew where I was going and the next I was being dragged into the plot by forces out of my control. It was like … magic.
There are hundreds of reasons why people love fairy tales, but below are the top 5 reasons I cannot get enough of them! As a bonus, I matched each reason to a song that I would put on the Grimm and White playlist.
So here they are,
5 Songs and Reasons I Love Fairy Tales:
#5: A Lesson Learned
What I knew yesterday is completely different than what I know today. Every time I wake up, I do so with the understanding that I should go into my day, wanting to fill my brain with all the knowledge that I can. I would like to think that literature and writing are at the center of my journey to understand the world. Fairy tales are more than princes and princesses. They are mirrors into society.
Track #5: Be As You Are – Mike Posner
Let’s talk about the magical and mystical elements of fairy tales. In one story we have a wolf who has swallowed a human being whole and in another, there is a giant. Literally anything can happen! Fairy tales are kind of the best!
Track #4: Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
#3: Dark and “Grim”
The Grimm Stories, as well as many other Fairy Tales, have darkness that coats their edges. When we think of the Little Mermaid, you probably only have Ariel the happy-go-lucky mermaid in your thoughts. If you haven’t read the Hans Christian Anderson version, I would implore you to do so. The Little Mermaid doesn’t just lose her voice. Her tongue gets cut off. Let me tell you, (spoiler alert) she definitely never gets her happily ever after.
Although morose, the dark and grim can lead to some really stellar writing.
Track #3: Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab For Cutie
The Grimm Brothers weren’t the original creators of many of their tales. They obtained them from oral traditions, which is how stories were once told. There is something comforting in delving into a tale that you are familiar with.
Track #2: Home – Gabrielle Aplin
Even though there was anguish and pain in a lot of the original fairy tales, especially the ones written by the Brother’s Grimm, there was still a silver lining. I’m a sucker for romance.
“The prince said joyfully, "You are with me." He told her what had happened, and then said, "I love you more than anything else in the world. Come with me to my father's castle. You shall become my wife." Snow-White loved him, and she went with him. Their wedding was planned with great splendor and majesty.”
-The Brothers Grimm
Track #1: I Hate You. I Love You– Gnash
**Also posted on:
Andi's Young Adult Books, http://andisyoungadult.blogspot.com
You only have time for the things you make time for.
As the school year winds down, I feel as if my life is being wound up. Luckily, I mean this mostly in a good context. I have been living in Baltimore City for two years next month. I can't begin to explain how much has changed in those two years. Although I have been busy during my time as a high school English teacher, I have also been able to keep up with my writing. By keep up, I mean ... staying awake until ungodly hours with a coffee on one side of my bed and a glass of wine on the other.
When I got out of college in 2014, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and publish YA novels. I applied for Baltimore City Teaching Residency and was accepted. It's been a crazy journey teaching in the city. I love my students but I'm not sure anyone can be ready to devote the time and attention they deserve. Somehow between lesson planning, grading, and drinking away the pain I still was a writer. It's true what they say. Writer's write. I don't talk about being a writer. I just do it. Sometimes when I'm pressed for minutes, they're more like furious scribbles but I still do it and I make time for it because it's a part of who I am.
Here's some of what I've been up to in the writing world the past year:
**I published Grimm and White which was a major accomplishment. I have said it before but I don't know if Ii would self-publish if I had to go back in time. It's a lot of work. You have to hire the cover artist and a formatter. You have to do all of the advertising and make multiple social media pages. In the end, it was worth it. It's almost like paying for your own college education. Amidst the chaos, you are miserable and without sleep. However, in the end that diploma is yours and yours alone. That's how I felt reaching out to grab my degree and that's how I feel when I look at Grimm and White.
**My blog tour starts May 30th with Bewitching Book Tours and I cannot wait!
**I started a dating blog! I go back and forth about whether or not I should remain anonymous when posting. Mostly because of teaching. I really don't think that the blog is going to get big enough that I'll have to worry about it. However, here's the evidence of my concern if one of my 9th graders stumbles on my very honest, very risqué blog.
I don't have the link on here for that very reason. However, If you message me on Facebook I would be more than happy to give it to you.
**More exciting news: Just Breezies magazine contacted me! They want me to be a contributor to the dating/sex section of their magazine. I'm super excited for the opportunity and can't wait to write some fun pieces. http://justbreezies.com
**I had an article featured in the Huffington Post Blog:
I have had a few pieces published in Paragraph Planet which is a great little website that features nano-fiction. It is a personal favorite format of mine.
Go to the authors page and click on my name to see my poem Syndication in Chicago.
I'm working on a novel called Lies of Lizbeth Dresden. It was supposed to be a fun romance novel. Tell me why it has turned into a painstaking project with lots of emotional turns. Yeah, sounds like me. This might be one I put on hold while I finish the sequel to Grimm and White.
I feel so lucky that I'm doing what I love, even if it's between the minutes. I write on napkins at my part time job waitressing. I assign my student's poems and I write with them. I write when I sleep. Seriously, I dream write a lot. One time I handed a cop the copy of my registration in my glove box. I'm sure he was wondering why there were three paragraphs about a girl with no heart on the back.
Writing is not a chore. It is a gift and I choose to tear open my presents whenever I can.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, questions, concerns.
Recently I read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert
Actually I listened to it on Audio Tape whenever I cleaned the bathroom, but ultimately I loved the book. Gilbert warns against treating writing like work. I had to do some self reflecting on this concept. Like, sitting in a room staring at a wall, drinking many glasses of wine, REFLECTING.
Writing is solace and beauty and home. Does that mean that it isn't also work?
Writing is the love of my life. IF creativity is the spiritual energy that she speaks of, please don't flitter away from me for saying this ... Writing CAN be hard. It is also my best friend. I spend most of my Saturday and Sunday afternoons holed up in a coffee shop, jotting down ideas and sending out stories. However, that doesn't mean that sometimes the process isn't tiring.
It simply isn't always THE BEST TIME EVER. Constant rejection is never easy to swallow. Writing is putting yourself on the edge - always. You are stepping in front of a battering ram, with the knowledge you will be knocked down, time and time again. Gilbert talks about her wildly successful novel and all the bad press it got. Some people hated her novel. Some people loved her novel, but ultimately she wrote that novel for herself.
When I write, I cut my fingertips open and spread my blood across the page like water color paints. I think Elizabeth Gilbert would abhor that statement. IT is fairly dramatic and Martyr-esque. I can admit that. Yet, sometimes I re-read my own words and they are a knife to the gut. How many break ups have I relived from my own dang stories? Memories fade, but I have captured events from my past and tucked them away, so they can never be forgotten. Why?
Publishing is something that wasn't important to me until about a year ago. I wanted the world to read "Grimm and White" because the idea had struck me so brightly. I wanted people to experience the world in my head with me. I didn't feel right keeping it to myself. I wanted people to know my words, to gulp them down like a pill. Publishing had not always been the goal. It was just something that I did.
I started writing bad poetry because Emily Dickinson had so prominently displayed her words on the page, combined they were a crystal ball into her elusive life. I knew that most of my favorite novelists had been tortured artists and yet, I wanted to write despite this. Sylvia Plath. Edgar Allen Poe. All died with a plume of sadness surrounding them. I don't think any of them were writers for the money. No, I think they wrote because they had to. I was in the third grade when I started writing in a prolific nature. It wasn't because I wanted to be famous or because I wanted to make money. I wrote because I was wringing out the sponge. I was taking the pain and putting it on paper. I was taking my joy and putting it into words.
I think that the best writing is done with good intentions. I wrote "Grimm and White" because the story had stuck to every inch of me and putting the story down on paper was the only way to lessen the weight I was carrying. Then there are the stories that I can tell were never meant to exist. They are the 'ego' stories. The 'look what I can do' stories. The 'look at my degree' works.
I was afraid to write fantasy in college because there was a stigma surrounding the genre. Some people were snooty, plain and simple. Now, looking back, I'm really fucking proud of myself for never censoring my ideas. Even when I knew that other people were judging me, I didn't hold back. There was the style that they were accustomed to. That's fine. I'm so thankful for my college education. I don't believe I would be the writer I am without it. I had to learn when to take people's opinions and when to say ... You are a different kind of writer. I don't need my words to be clean. Sometimes I make mistakes and it isn't out of laziness. I write to show people my soul and my soul isn't always beautiful. It is jagged and confused. It is the reflection on the ground when it rains, both bright and dim. My writing can be cliche because isn't that what life is, ONE BIG CLICHE.
Maybe it doesn't matter why I write. It seems silly to question something that I have done for twenty years. I just have to. Some days it feels like work and other days it feels like oxygen. I just have to do it and so therefore I do.
When I wake up I think about writing. When I go to sleep I think about writing. My words are my heaven. They are my hell. They have helped me get through the worst times of my life. I am not the tortured writer. However, I have grappled with its importance within my everyday routine. Where should I place writing on my list? I think anyone who knows me can tell you that answer. Writing is first. Words are first. I'm going to be late to dinner because I'm writing this blog post.
Now that I am finished reflecting or now that I really have to go because if I don't I will be the kind of late that is extremely frowned upon, I have realized the only answers I found may not really be answers. They are questions disguised in a sentence format. I'm tricky like that.
I've had to much coffee. And I really have to go now. Yet, I don't feel like I have found an end.
Writers, the ones who consider the word a part of their blood, don't have endings.
So this is not "The End ..."
It's a story that will continue in some way, some time, again and again.
About the blog:
Emily Ann Hansen
I'm a writer and teacher living in Baltimore City. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. Instead of babbling, I will list a few of the things in life that make me happy: