RIP little kitty

I’m sitting next to her

She died beneath the Buddha

The sound of chimes and bells

Singing in the wind

I can’t smell her yet

But the flies won’t leave her alone

My poor little one

I knew her time was soon

I bought her a bed

They mailed it today

A little too late

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7/31 9pm, the red moon and the man I met at mom’s

You think you see kinship in my eyes

You do not recognize me

You think you see your struggles mirrored in me

You do not see me

You think I am the solution to your pain

A shared existence

Someone who understands

Experiences that are similar to your own

But I see anger

I see rage

I see sadness and the pitfalls of lashing out

I see arrogance and pride

I do not see the softness of myself

The compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness

I see competition and pity

I see conflict

I do not embrace your worries

I see your performance

Even authentic intimacy escapes you

You wonder why you are lonely

Why you are angry and sad

And misunderstood

I see it all

You could hold a mirror to my youth

And see yourself

You may be older

But I am wiser and stronger

And self aware

Where you see similarities, I see immaturity

One day, we may stand side by side

For today, we are miles apart

Keep working

You see, I do not need to get to know you

I’ve been looking at your face my entire life

My morals have ruined me

I’ve gotten it into my head lately that I want to write children’s stories. Not typical children’s stories but ones like The Giving Tree and Stone Soup. Stories that I’ve remembered from childhood, almost clear as the day I read them. I couldn’t tell you what they said verbatim, but I can see their pictures and words in my head if I try to recall them. I think that says a lot.

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I made a series of books recently that dealt with my mom and her recent return home. It’s been weird. Lots of swirling emotions going on. I still don’t have a clear thing to write about it yet BUT I do have a semi funny anecdote about the ways in which my mother manipulated me into being a horribly moral person. I say that with a smile. I love that I’m this way but it also plays into my paranoia and anxiety about getting into trouble (incarcerated parent issues) so that sort of compounds itself in unpleasant ways at times.

As I’m doing my research into “stories that teach children moral lessons”, I’ve stumbled upon something quite interesting. Several websites will direct you to moralistic reading lists for children. Except there’s one clear similarity in my mind amongst every list I’ve perused tonight: I’ve read all of them.

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At first, the lists included a few familiar tales and then I kept searching. What I’ve found is a website that lists almost identically, the stories and books I read as a child. Even really obscure ones. Knowing my mother, she did this either completely intentionally or entirely on accident. I’m going to ask her tomorrow at lunch. I think she did it on purpose, but there’s some part of me that wonders too. Sometimes, there’s books that we just all want kids to read like Dr. Seuss or The Giving Tree because the stories are so sweet and innately good. They’re simple and the images aren’t too complicated. But I also wonder if that’s because we loved them and they shaped us growing up but we aren’t aware of it, or if we look back and know that we’re intentionally shaping these children and their values/morals by giving them these treasured classics? I know that in a school setting, teachers are probably doing it intentionally. At home though, are our parents?

I’m going to the library soon. I know that 9/10 of these books will be there and I don’t need to buy my research on children’s books. But jeez louise! I’d wondered why I was always so honest, brave, unafraid, and accepting. When I was growing up, reading was held in the  highest regard. My mom would sit with us as we watched tv, reading her paperback mystery novels and painting her nails. I can’t remember her sitting in that chair without a book in her hand. When she’d yelled at me or gotten mad at something I’d done, she’d send me to my room and I distinctly remember a few times where I’d purposely place an opened book across my stomach and pretend to have fallen asleep reading it. It was almost like I wanted to shove it in her face that I was a good daughter and she’d been wrong for punishing me. I think I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, I just forgot how young it started.

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July 4th, Independence Day

This is my last post as a prisoner’s daughter. Sort of.

As I walked back to my dorm, the sounds of fireworks popping off around me, the smell of the sprinklers charging the dirt with water, I realized I would be picking her up in the morning. I drove up to Fresno for this summer arts program and it was the first time I’d been on the drive in two years almost. I told her I didn’t want to visit her anymore in the institution because she would be out so soon and other family was going, but mostly because it’s the most emotionally painful thing I’ve ever really done. It literally feels like a hot iron has been glued to your heart and as it’s pulled away, pieces of yourself get ripped back with it.

So I drove to Fresno for this arts program and cried the whole way.

Tomorrow morning, less than 10 hours from now, she’ll be free.

Tomorrow morning, less than 10 hours from now, I’ll be free.

I’ve been forced to keep her at a distance, keep my feelings at a distance for so long. Tomorrow, I won’t have to do that anymore.

I have so much more to say and yet, right now, that’s all I keep thinking: how foreign and alien the concept of closeness and vulnerability (with regard to her) is to me.

I can’t wait to wake up.

Charlotte I think I’ve posted this with you in mind before

For the love of a tree,

she went out on a limb.

For the love of the sea,

she rocked the boat.

For the love of the earth,

she dug deeper.

For the love of community,

she mended fences.

For the love of the stars,

she let her light shine.

For the love of spirit,

she nurtured her soul.

For the love of a good time,

she sowed seeds of happiness.

For the love of God,

she drew down the moon.

For the love of nature,

she made compost.

For the love of a good meal,

she gave thanks.

For the love of family,

she reconciled differences.

For the love of creativity,

she entertained new possibilities.

For the love of her enemies,

she suspended judgment.

For the love of herself,

she acknowledged her own worth.

And the world was richer for her.

Charlotte Tall Mountain (July 1, 1941 to May 6, 2006) was an artist and poet of an Iroquois Native American heritage.

2006 and two more weeks

Kids have weird ways of coping with disasters. In my case, my biggest coping mechanism seemed to be escapism through video games and movies. I was a pro at extracurriculars, academics, and friends. From the outside looking in, I was totally normal and I wanted it that way. Smiling has always been my strong suit.

I say this because as a result of that escapism, I also became a pro at compartmentalizing. They say that the most successful CEOs advocate for a little bit of compartmentalization. I read one article in which a man described it as the only means to success. I wonder if that’s true. For most, I bet it is.

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I think about disillusionment a lot and how things really aren’t what they seem. Like Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman. Mostly, I’ve been experiencing a lot of “full circle” type moments leading up to my mom’s release. It’s pretty wild. Sometimes it feels like I’m all-in. Other times, I’m watching from a stranger’s window. That balance is required.

Netflix recently recommended a movie to me from 2006 The Covenant. I think it was a 96% match. In 2006, I was obsessed. So no, Netflix, you got that one wrong. 100% match. My mom went down that year I think. Might’ve been 2005, I’m not positive. I saw that movie and all I wanted to do was go to boarding school. I think I saw it a dozen times. In the great ol’ days of AIM, I somehow found a kid about my age who went to boarding school. He lived in Massachusetts and I genuinely believed I would be leaving California to go off to some prep school in the middle of the countryside. I wanted to be anywhere but home. We talked online for hours about absolutely nothing. It was great.

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I told my dad I had a headache or a stomach ache probably every other day so I could stay home and play the Sims. I was never an architect in that game. My designs were always so vanilla. I’m at artist so I feel like I’m qualified to say that. Even now, when I rev up the game and play for a couple hours, my designs and layouts are mediocre at best. Something about computers make me literally think in boxes and grids. It helps me focus.

Imagine, I’m at the front doors of puberty, fantasizing about a boarding school boy in Massachusetts living the life I imagined would be perfect. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my closet -because that’s the only place in my room where I wanted my computer- eyes actually glazed to the screen, playing the same DVDs over and over and over until the theme songs and words became ingrained in my mind. My sister and I shared bunk beds. There wasn’t much privacy except in that little computer closet of mine (even if the doors weren’t on it). I would sit there after school (or during school if I was pulling a “sick day”) in my uniform, blast AC, turn on the Sims and watch the same movies on repeat for what felt like forever. Everything else was on, but I was totally switched off.

One of those movies was The Incredibles. I think I watched that movie hundreds of times, even if I was just listening and not really watching. The main menu theme song played about 7 times in a row before I realized it had ended and I’d start it all over again. I don’t know why I remember 7. I think I must’ve counted it from the other room.

At school, you can’t really turn to the kid in line and update them on your mom’s prison sentence without things getting a little heavy. So I kept it light. I played sports, board games, computer games, everything that was a game, I was in on. Even when I did my homework, my friends and I played games or competed to see who could get through algebra 2 the fastest. Private school was surreal. I hopped from one bubble to the next. I never had to interact with the real world at all. It didn’t even matter that I had no idea how to dress myself because we were all in the same colored uniforms. That kind of routine was exceptionally helpful for me. The only times I had to feel anything was at visiting and I stopped going very often after a couple years. I needed the world to blur again.

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I made an art project once and flashed people with an electronic flash from my camera. I described my life as a series of bright white lights. The time between those were just as important as the flashes, but I remember the flashes for their contrast and intensity. You can’t just slam someone in the eyeballs with bright lights all the time, you’ve gotta give em a break.

Today, I saw The Incredibles 2 with my dad and my sister for Father’s Day. It was the best one we’ve had so far. There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on the amount of time they took between the first and the second movie and every time someone brings that up I think, ‘14 years feels like a lifetime ago.’

When I was watching it, I kept thinking, ‘I’m so glad they waited. The content is so much better now than it could’ve ever been if they’d made it sooner.’ I think that parallels a lot of my feelings right now. That it’s opening weekend coming up and I’m stoked to see what the plot line is, who the villains are, what the solution is. I’m not really afraid or anything because it’s definitely happening no matter what and in many ways I need it to happen.

In visiting, I always walked by the glass walls filled with women on LWOP (life without parole) sentences. I saw them talking to their families through the glass. I could literally watch them living out their lives in a fishbowl. They were always really young. Maybe prison makes you look younger sometimes. I don’t know. But I always reminded myself that no matter how long it was going to be, she’d be coming home one day. Maybe that’s why they keep the LWOP ladies in with the general visiting population. It keeps you quiet, humble, and grateful all at the same time. Two more weeks. 

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