Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drip drip...

I learned to swim when I was around 6. I have swam in pools, ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans. I have no problem with large bodies of water no matter what size. I didn't think it really mattered how much water there was, if you know how to swim, you swim. You wouldn't drown unless something tragic happened. You swim in an ocean just like you swim in a swimming pool. 

However,  I have learned in my life  that there is a certain body of water that is just the right amount that could put you in danger of drowning if you aren't careful. Funny thing is, it's not very much water at all. A tiny little amount in relative terms. About the size of a tear. Or two...or three. 

The only body of water I have ever feared drowning in is the one made up of all the tears I have shed in my life and not just any tears, not the ones caused by others but the ones I have caused myself. Those are the most toxic and most likely to fill my lungs and drag me under into its suffocating swirling black depths. 

You would think I would keep that in mind, that toxic body of water, that grows deeper with every new drop I feed it. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Is anything ever going to change?

Once again I open the GDN to read an unbelievable story about sexual abuse and the leniency the Bahrain Courts have when punishing perpetrators. A 15 year old and his uncle beat, raped, and filmed themselves while doing it because the man was engaged in a relationship with the 15 year olds mother. His words were, she was having a relationship “behind his back”. Since when do mothers need their children’s permission to have relationships? She is divorced and free, right? Ok let us make the poor excuse that this is an Arab country and so the mother needs her son’s permission to have a relationship (this is still Bahrain and not Saudi, right?), why did those two feel that a beating and rape while filming it was the correct course of action to take in order to bring this relationship to an end? The son claims it was his right to “honor beat” the man. Honor beat? Once again, what country is this? Since when did using the word “honor” become an acceptable excuse for beating and raping someone anywhere in the world but specifically Bahrain? I have lived here over 22 years and have never heard that word used as justification in court before. Is a new trend in extremism coming to Bahrain? Do residents here now have to fear that at any moment an attack will ensue based on “honor”? Not only that but your day in court will be little more than another assault against you as the judge will view your beating and rape as merely an inconvenience to you because the defendant had to restore his family honor one way or another?  In all the years I have lived in Bahrain one of the constants that has never changed are the atrociously low sentences  (or slap on the wrists if you will) that child molesters and rapists earn for doing the most despicable thing one can do to another, much less a child. Not only did these men confess to what they did in court, it is obvious that they are dangerous men who use extreme measures to deal with their issues. What excuse will the courts give them when they show up once again having done something similar to some other victim (maybe the mother next time, in defense of honor) because human beings generally show you who they are but we often ignore it and assume the best in them.  If I were someone considering coming to Bahrain for work or travel and I read the local newspapers as a way to gauge what sort of country Bahrain was, imagine my thoughts when reading that expats might not be able to drive for much longer, that car accidents due to extremely poor and aggressive driving are a daily occurrence, that if your nationality is not the “right” one you may be treated as less than either physically, financially, or humanely, that animals are often abused and considered disposable, that beaches are garbage dump sites, that elected officials in this country spend copious amounts of time doing nothing more than coming up with ways to waste both time and money,  and that, worst of all, sexual crime is not a big deal and treated lightly by the Bahrain Court system. The Bahrain government has spent a lot of money and effort in convincing the rest of the world that everything is fine here in order to get tourists and business back on board after events over the past couple of years and yet for anyone that has even the smallest interest in coming to Bahrain, all that effort is wasted with just a few minutes spent reading a local newspaper. All the money in the world and the best P.R. firm cannot undo that kind of damage.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dream a Little Dream ...and Make it a Big Dream

This is the story that was printed in the newspaper...along with a second part after the "waiting begins". Hope you all like it. Tell me what you think. Don't worry, I can take it. I might add that originally the story was complete with the "waiting begins" part but the editor wanted a second part, or continuation, in order to have a follow up printing. Like a series I guess. Which means I had to rethink another ending beyond the first ending. Wasn't easy and I'm not sure the second ending really fits the story as a whole plus I wrote it about two years ago so the groove I was in at the time just isn't here now. At any rate, here it is. You all (if you are still here) might remember the first part of this story from few years ago. 

Dream a Little Dream

Lee Ann Fleetwood
As the last page slips into the tray she gathers the pile up, straightens them up, and lays them down on her desk. She sits awhile just looking at them and not thinking a whole lot about anything much. For the moment the "what if" game is being silent and her thoughts are wispy things that have no substance.

She reaches over and takes the single white envelope from the edge of the desk and writes an address on it and then her own. She picks up the papers and starts to slide them inside but hesitates. After a moment she sits back with the papers and once again begins to read what she has written though she has read it many times already. It has been a long time in coming making the journey from the darkest recesses of her mind to the white pristine papers in her printer.

As each word of each line skims across her vision her mind instantly plays out the scenes of her life; the good, the not so good, and the ones she wishes she could forget, but of course, that will never happen. Some things are with you forever.

She reaches the end and once again straightens the pages into an orderly pile and slips them into the waiting envelope. Along with the papers she inserts her hopes and dreams that within these pages her future lies. That the events of her life will finally have meaning because to believe it had none is more than she can bear.

She lays the envelope down while she dresses but can't help looking over now and then and realizes the power that is contained within those pages. The power to change her life the thought frightens her nearly as much as it sparks a bright light of hope within her heart.

She slips on her jacket and collects her keys then walks over and stands in front of her desk looking down. The sudden urge to just chuck the whole thing in the garbage can at her feet is so strong she realizes her hand is already reaching out to do just that before she can stop it. She snatches it back and takes a deep breath. A small pep talk was in order and she gives it and listens patiently to it before grabbing the envelope quickly and heads for the door.

As she sits in her car she tosses it carelessly into the passenger seat almost as an afterthought. If she dwells too long on its importance she feels she will lose herself in the enormity of what she is about to do and, of course, back out while she still can. Backing out is NOT an option. Just start the car and get moving.

Traffic is sufficient to require concentration but she still manages to steal a glance or two at the seat next to her. The closer she gets to her destination the harder her heart pounds until eventually she can hear neither the sounds of traffic nor the negative voice in her head that has been her constant companion these long lonely years.

She pulls up into the parking lot, snatches the envelope, and quickly enters the building as if the hounds of hell are on her heels. She can't help but glance over her shoulder just to make sure it IS just her imagination.

She arrives at the counter and thrusts the envelope that contains her life at the surprised employee. Almost instantly she starts to grab it back as if discovering her child in the arms of a stranger. She catches herself, steps back from the counter and plasters a smile on her face to put the cautious employee at ease, or so she hopes.

“Uhm, can I help you,” he asks?

“Yes, I would like to send that by registered mail,” she answers quickly. She is pretty sure she sounds normal, at least to her ears, though they are full of the sound of her beating heart.

“Ok. Fill out this paperwork and that will be $6.80 and it should be there by Thursday,” he says as he places a sticker on her life and sets it behind him on the outgoing mail shelf. She looks at it sitting there and can't help but imagine the little adventure it is about to embark on. Once again the analogy of a child comes to mind. Her child is venturing out into the world and she won't be there to keep it safe. Her heart not only pounds but squeezes too with pain and trepidation.

She quickly looks away before the tears that threaten start to fall. You would think she had just laid baby Moses in a basket preparing to push him off into the unknown waters the way she felt.

She fills out the paper work and pays the fee then turns to walk away. She can't help but look one more time at her hope for the future lying there so innocently on the shelf. Such power in that envelope, she is amazed there isn't some sign, almost biblical in nature that would indicate the essence of what those pages contain.

She gets back in her car and starts the engine. Buckles her seat belt then turns the radio on. Checks her mirrors before pulling out and heads for home and it is only then that she allows herself to dream a little dream.

And the waiting begins...

Once she reaches home the real waiting begins. Even though she is aware that it could be days, weeks, even months before her intense pangs of labor bear fruit, she cannot help but count every moment of that unknowable future. She will ignore for the moment the possibility that she will never hear a single word about the package containing her dreams for her future and that it could end its short unassuming life lying forgotten and collecting dust in some storage room somewhere. Hardly worth thinking about so has shut that train of thought down instantly whenever it rears its ugly head.  

She gets on with the business of living her life as best she can. Working a dead end job that does nothing to satisfy her desires but pays her bills, what more could one ask for? Days filled with numerous trips to her local bookstore and library to fill her restless need to live an exciting full filling life even if it’s vicariously through someone else’s version of it. She wakes in the morning and falls seamlessly, if not contentedly, into sleep every night having managed to not let her gaze rest too long on the passing days as noted by the kitty calendar hanging in her kitchen.

She keeps busy doing lots of seemingly important things mixed with utterly pointless things. Rinse and repeat, and the days pass. Then weeks pass and slowly weeks turn into months. Turning the page of the calendar from one month to the next has become a ritual that is accomplished with a deep cleansing sigh and a mental kick in the pants to not give up, not just yet. Patience got her through her childhood of fear filled days and terrifying nights and patience saw her through a very long marriage to a very unkind man. Patience was her best friend and soul companion when all others had walked away or simply forgotten she existed. Patience had not let her down so far and she was more than thankful for that small spark of optimism in her life.

If you asked her later about the day she received the call she had been waiting for all her life, a call that started its process of reaching out to her way back in her childhood when every step she took and every action for or against her lead her through her life for better or worse up to that very moment she was meant to answer an unrecognized number, she would say it was among one of the best and worst days of her life. A life filled with a great many worst days but very few best ones.

She was on the side of the road staring down at a flat tire, already very late for a work related meeting, Her dress, torn from a grasping needy edge on the car door and a newly minted speeding ticket tossed angrily onto the passenger seat were just the latest in a day full of “should of stayed in bed” moments. By the time she answered her mobile with an exasperated frustrated sigh hissed through clenched teeth, she was already mentally preparing herself to do battle with whatever new foe was bringing even more bad news; however, the proverbial straw for this particular camel’s back was not in her cards for today. Oh no, not today. Today that camel was about to lighten its straw filled load considerably if she had only known.

“Hello,” she nearly yelled into the phone.

“Hello,” replied a somewhat hesitant voice. “Is this Renee Miller?’

She realized she needed to calm down and not take her escalating bad mood out on the poor stranger who chose to call her at the worst possible moment. “Yes,” she replied in a calm even voice. “Who is this?”

“Hello, Mrs. Miller. This is William Conner calling from Blue Moon Publishing Company. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time?” he answered with no hesitation at all in his voice now.

At the exact moment that he uttered the words Blue Moon Publishing it would seem the world came to a sudden and quiet end for it simply ceased to exist for her. She heard nothing, saw nothing, was aware of absolutely nothing other than the crashing thundering sound of a heartbeat that appeared to have forgotten how to function like a heartbeat should. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing at all came out. She closed her mouth and continued to live in a world that no longer existed for a few more crashing thundering heartbeat filled moments.

“Yes,” she replied again but gone was the calm even voice. This yes was little more than a breath filled release.

He rapidly started speaking but she only heard the odd word here and there accompanied by an odd tapping in the back ground. Somewhere in her mind she pictured this unknown William Conner tapping a pen against the edge of his desk, possibly with his feet propped up somewhere along its smooth surface. Words that did manage to pierce her fog filled mind included, “wonderfully written “emotionally powerful”, and “best seller”. Those two words evaporated the fog instantly and the world came crashing back into focus.

“What did you just say? Could you repeat that please?” she asked with a voice full of fear, incomprehension, and yes, hope. Hope that she hadn’t just miss heard him in the absolutely worst way possible and that this small flame of hope was going to quickly be stamped out before the much needed oxygen of life was breathed into it.  She pressed the phone painfully against her ear to drown out every other sound, including her own still thundering heartbeat. “Could you repeat that please,” she asked with as calm a voice as she could muster.

“No problem. I said that we received your manuscript and we are very excited about it. We at Blue Moon don’t usually say this to potential clients on the phone during a first contact call but Mrs. Miller, you just may have a best seller on your hands,” he answered with a touch of laughter in his voice. “We would very much like you to meet with us and discuss the publishing of your book.”+

“Really? You want to meet with me?” she asked tremulously. Not daring to believe that her dream was about to become reality. Possibly. Maybe.  “About publishing my book?”

“Why do you sound so surprised?” he asked. “It’s a beautifully written book, at least the chapters we have are so let’s assume the rest will follow suit. Could you come see me next Monday at our offices at 9:00 a.m...? Will that be fine?”

“Yes,” she nearly shouted once again but this time from within a bubble of exploding happiness. “Yes, that would be perfect.” Was it possible that all the pain she had suffered in her life, the loneliness and oceans of tears, the dark days that accumulated into dark years occasionally brightened with lightning strikes of happiness was about to finally mean something beyond she just had been dealt a bad hand? Were the hours and days and months spent pouring her grief and pain into her computer while keeping a box of tissues nearby that constantly needed replacing at last going to MEAN something beyond her life just sucked? She was beginning to think maybe it did. If it meant nothing more than her story might affect others in some way that benefited them to some degree than her life did mean something, at least to her, and that was a feeling she had needed to know all her life. The smile beginning on her face felt strange and out of place but also very good.

“Great,” he said. Monday at 9:00 it is. See you then.” He hung up and several moments passed before she closed her phone as well. The flat tire, the torn dress, the late appointment all seemed to fade away as she contemplated Monday at 9:00 a.m. and the impossible possibilities. Several cars passed by and the amused drivers were treated to the vision of a woman in her 40’s with long red hair in a blue flowery dress twirling happily with arms stretched out and her face raised up to the sun. A very odd reaction indeed for someone with a flat tire who looked like she needed to be somewhere important.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I am a published writer...of sorts. Woohoo!!

Hey, everyone. A local newspaper here, The Weekender, started a new thing in which writers' can send in stories and have them printed if the staff likes them. As soon as I heard about it I sent in one of mine (it's on this blog somewhere) and I quickly got a call from them about it. Apparently they really liked it and asked me about myself and why I wrote it etc.. At first the editor wanted me to change a few things, give the character a name and other things and then said he would print the story after the changes were made. I said OK even though I like it the way it is but it's not a big deal. He hung up but called back ten minutes later and said we decided we love the story just as it is, don't change anything. We will print it this week and we would like you to send in more stories if you have them. 

If I have them? I may have a few here and there. Ha ha. 

The cool thing (more coolness) is that they made my story into a competition by asking readers to come up with an ending for it. Actually, the story is complete as it is but he wanted to make it interactive. No matter, I am a published writer (an unpaid one but who cares). This could be a stepping stone for me, never know. 

Check it out. I'm famous for a min. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The scars of our memories.

When I was around 7 years old my father hit me on the head with a wire hanger. My "crime" was that I had scuffed the toes of my new school shoes. He checked them just before I was ready to head out the door to school and his reaction was rather extreme...if I say so myself. 

Grabbing the first thing available, one of those wire hangers that had a cardboard cylinder for a base, he smacked me on the head with it several times. He then kicked my butt, literally, and sent me out the door crying and with abusive words and threats ringing in my ears. Unknown to me, but I would shortly find out, was that he had actually managed to hit me hard enough that the wire had entered my skull...thus I was bleeding quite profusely as I stumbled shaking and crying down the street on the way to the bus stop.

 It was one of those moments where you don't realize you are injured until someone points it out to you. In this case, it was one of our neighbors that happened to be out in her yard and who quickly let me know something was wrong with me by her piercing screams and bug eyed look as she rushed towards me. 

She actually scared the cry right out of me as I saw her come rushing at me and I wanted to turn tail and run back to the house. Not often children see strangers come running at them while screaming and reaching out in such a way...but back home was the stuff of my nightmares...and so I stopped dead in the street and waited for whatever fate this screeching woman intended for me. 

It was then I realized I felt a very warm sensation oozing down my face and shoulder and I reached up to wipe it away only to come away with a hand drenched in blood. I stared at my red hand wondering just how it came to be covered in blood and couldn't think of one good reason. Suddenly the screaming woman went silent though her mouth still made the motions of screaming...only to be replaced with a very loud buzzing sound. Just before I went weak at the knees I was scooped up by someone I hadn't seen coming up behind me. My mother. 

Apparently my mother hadn't witnessed my father's early morning lessons on keeping my shoes unscuffed, but had heard me crying as I left the house and came to the door to see if I had left or not. It was then she noticed blood droplets in a haphazard line leading away from the door and towards the sidewalk. She told me her heart stopped in her chest when she saw that blood, assuming I had been taken by someone and injured in the process. She ran down to the  sidewalk just in time to hear the neighbor woman start screaming...and assumed the very worst.  

As she rushed me back to the house intending to take me to the hospital, not knowing how I was injured but seeing lots of blood, she was met with my stony faced father who quickly took charge of my "medical care". He refused to allow her to take me anywhere and insisted I be put in the shower so all the blood could be washed off. I remember him insisting my underwear stayed on which seemed rather odd when I thought about it years later. All the while he was washing off the blood he was on a long rant of how it was my fault and these were the consequences of disobeying his orders. I made not a peep in my own defense knowing it would do no good and also knowing it could make matters far worse. 

My father investigated my head to see what the injury was and declared there being no need to pay a fortune for the hospital when all I had was a pin sized hole in my skull from the end of the wire hanger. My mother did not fact she said very little. Something I took in stride at the time but would recall years later as being silent acceptance of my fate at his hands yet again. 

He kept me home from school that day and we never spoke of it again until I was grown and my mother came to visit me. She said that she didn't want me  to be hurt more than I was so she remained protect me. Considering what that man did to me over and over again for the next 10 years I find it hard to believe my safety was what motivated her that day...but who knows.  Possibly she had my short term safety more in mind back then.

I think about that particular moment of abuse more than lots of others because I have a scar on my head to constantly remind me. It started out as a small raised bump but over time it has grown bigger and gets scratched my hair brush quite often. My father is long gone but his mementos are still around keeping his memory alive. Yay me. 

Another memorable event that always comes back with unending clarity were when he forced me to stand in the corner with my sodden underwear pulled over my head. I was a horrible bed wetter as a child and it lasted until around the age of 9 I believe. My older sister absolutely hated sleeping with me as I generally soaked us both with my nocturnal offerings more often than not. I remember my father making it a point to come check the bed every morning and me laying there fully aware of what he was going to find yet again. 

No matter how hard I tried or what I did (using the bathroom before bed, not drinking anything for hours ahead of time) it never seemed to help much. I actually recall having dreams as a child of me getting up and using the bathroom, feeling that sense of  release when you have been holding it and then get to finally go as you sit down...only to wake up and realize it wasn't a dream. For the rest of the night I would lay there cold and shaking from both the wetness and fear. 

On those mornings he chose to come throw the covers back and pull me from the bed I knew what fate awaited me...hours with my face pressed into the corner with my own panties snug against my face. Of course it didn't end there. Once his particular brand of punishment was over I still had my older sister to contend with. She always found time to punch or pinch me while hissing in my ear about how disgusting I was and what a baby I was and did I need diapers again? 

For the life of me when I think about these episodes...I can't remember what my mother had to say about it or if she ever did anything for or against me other than once again change the sheets on the bed after letting it air outside for a few hours. To this day the smell of urine triggers memories of those mornings spent in the corner while everyone else went about their routine as if I were invisible and inconsequential. Good times.

Years later when my own youngest daughter had her own bed wetting years, I should have made the connection, one of many, but it just never clicked until hind sight gave me 20/20 vision about that and a lot of other clues as to what was going on. Another reason to feel such guilt about my blindness. 

When these memories, and so many others, suddenly intrude on a perfectly nice moment, I can't help but wonder what memories my own children have locked away that also cannot be forgotten and make for unwanted company now and again? In my own defense (if I even have the right to make one) I did not remain quiet from the moment I learned what he was doing. I know this does not mean anything against the painful memories my children suffer from when I was clueless but it at least lets them know that if I had known sooner...I would have stopped it sooner. 

Small solace but something I try and convince myself means something. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Potentially Exciting News...

Since my return to Bahrain I have been looking for avenues in which to use my writing in ways that will both interest me and possibly pay me as well. I've been looking for jobs in that area but so far haven't been successful; however, last night a whole new potential direction was opened up to me. 

Bahrain has a writer's club of which I only recently discovered. It is actually called, Bahrain Writers' Circle, and we all met last night during the first meeting of this new year. They have been a club for a few years now and a speech by one of the leaders gave a run down of all that they have done and hope to do again this year. Among other things, they have an agreement with Bahrain's Ministry of Culture to present the works of local writers' during Bahrain's many cultural venues held through out the year. This particular man expertise is poetry and he explained how they do poetry readings at the national forts scattered around Bahrain. Apparently he teaches the readers to read with real emotion and flair in order to engage the listener. He detailed how all the poetry is gathered and published in a book and presented to the Ministry of Culture. He also said that he truly hopes that at least one person in that meeting will make something of their writing using all that this club has to offer in way of support and opportunity. Apparently several of the longer term members have done some amazing things they credit the club with and others are equally as hopeful in that endeavor. It sounds exciting to me even though I have never really been much into poetry. I might give it a try simply for the experience factor. 

I met a young lady that wrote and published her own book here in Bahrain and she started with just 500 copies and they flew off the shelves so she is on her second print already. The book is the first fiction novel written by an English writer and published in Bahrain while also being based in Bahrain. Arabs are not big on publishing English books so most would be writers must look outside the gulf to find someone to publish their book. She used a local publishing firm and basically they printed the manuscript out as is, meaning, no proof reading, or editing other than what she did herself. She wrote in on Microsoft Word so it printed out quite badly, yet nobody at the press bothered to inform her of that until all 500 copies were printed. Apparently that didn't stop the buyers though as she sold most of the copies the first day it was released.  She acknowledges that basing it in Bahrain let her write freely because it is what she knows and buyers can connect with that as they live here and recognize every place she writes about. Of course that speaks to my personal experience as well so will definitely keep that in mind. I am impressed with her that she just decided to write a book, wrote it, sat on it for a number of years, then decided to just print it and see what happens. Good things happen to those that get off their ass and do it obviously. 

This club might be just what I've been looking for as far as getting my own dreams of publishing a book off the ground. I liked the people I met, the goals of the club as well as the many accomplishments they have already enjoyed considering they are just a small group of people that really like to write and present it to the public. I also liked the enthusiasm of the that one leader in particular, David Hollywood. He is from Ireland and so very gung ho about making every writer in that room famous somehow. Was hard not to be fired up by his energy levels alone. 

One very interesting thing was that I knew nobody in that room when I entered it but apparently my name preceded me (I joined the Facebook group a few weeks beforehand) as some of them knew who I was based on my writing to the paper etc.. That was quite something and made me feel rather proud. Always does when that happens. 

I do like the potential this group has to offer me in terms of getting some sort of foothold in the writing field and, of course, finding ways to entertain myself with a great group of people doesn't hurt either. I shall update as things progress.