On the first anniversary of my father’s death

Yesterday, after lunch, I stopped to pick up the rest of the printed invitations. My vision got gray and fuzzy, my ears rang, and I thought I was going to fall over (and hit my head) and/or faint. I had to grip the wall, my shopping cart, counter, anything in order to finish the transaction and get to my car. I texted loved one almost every step of the way, trying to focus on each next step. I was light-headed, dizzy, and shaky.
 
There, after I got myself to the car, I asked her to talk me home. I called her and immediately burst into tears. Struggled to keep it together as I couldn’t fall apart that far from home. Drove at a snail’s pace, keeping an eye out for side streets and parking lots where I could pull in if necessary. I kept saying to loved one, “Just talk to me.”
 
Once I got home, then it was another Mt. Everest to get inside. Change into pajamas. Brush teeth and cuddle in bed (alone). I woke up at 2 AM (this crap has GOT to stop), but it was worth it.
 
Loved one thinks I had a panic attack. I think it was due to stress. (Could be both, of course.) I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I did look up panic attacks and saw that…guess what, grief and getting married are two potential triggers for panic attacks.
 
I have one hundred million things that need to get done today, but I can’t do it. It’s going to be a day (or at least part of a day) of cuddling in bed, trying to relax, and doing something that makes me feel good. I bought yarn to crochet a new shawl, and I have crafting supplies for the wedding goody bags (not that I have any idea of the final head count). I like doing arts and crafts as long as it’s simple and doesn’t require artistic talent. Think elementary school art projects. 😀
 
I am scared that the panic attack, if that’s what it was, will come back. That as I resume the frenetic pace of getting everything done (and dealing with people’s stupidity), my coping mechanisms will be insufficient. I’ve been raw and vulnerable for the past few weeks, ever since coming out and losing my family/pastor.
 
I’m really tired of being Vulnerable Ana.
 
I’m grateful for all of the love and support you’ve shown me in this time, but I’d so much rather make smart remarks about wooden spoons and tease loved one about her silly idea that British is best. (<3 ya, loved one).
 
On the other hand, I think it’s been my vulnerability that has called out such loving, thoughtful, gentle, and supportive responses from all of you. I can’t believe the outpouring of support. Who knew this might happen, back when I started putting a few kinky stories on my blog? Who knew? I’ve found my tribe, the love of my life, and the courage to tell people who I really am.
 
This is all good. I know it is.
 
Having loved one is good.
 
Getting married is a good thing. Grieving my father is a natural and necessary part of life. Grieving my mother and brother has happened far sooner than it should, but it would have happened eventually. It’s just that their loss has been one more stamp in a lifetime passport book of losses.

It will get better.
 
Slowly.
 
Surely.
 
One teensy step at a time.

Author Appearance!

If you’re online tonight (this afternoon for those in the US), you can catch me with Nigel Paice at Beaten Track Radio. The show will include a few of my favorite pieces of music (popular, classical, and children’s), an author chat, and questions from listeners. You can tune in at any of the following locations:

The Web Site:http://www.beatentrackradio.com/
Via Facebook : http://www.beatentrackradio.com/
Windows Media Player: http://stream.radiojar.com/k98ef2r2hnwtv.pls
Via iTunes: http://stream.radiojar.com/k98ef2r2hnwtv.m3u
Via mp3 player : http://stream.radiojar.com/k98ef2r2hnwtv
iOS app : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1178446224
Android app : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

I’ll also read a few excerpts, including one from my work in progress, An American In Engla. Plus, by special request, I’ll choose one of my favorite wooden spoon scenes. Do you have a favorite? Tune in and put in a request!

Hope to catch you at Beaten Track Radio!

Attending my first carol service in England

I attended my first carol service last night in a tiny but vibrant neighborhood church (one that actually posts service times and follows them).

To remind me that I am in England, the service contained slapstick humor (in the tradition of Christmas pantomimes?) such as the vicar dressing up as the Health and Safety Elf and pooh-poohing each announced song. He was eventually “booted” by “two strong men” requested by the worship leader/emcee.

Everyone wearing a Christmas jumper was asked to stand, and one woman received special mention because hers had flashing lights. The children sang two songs. Three of the boys wore shirts saying, “Santa, define good.”

A few of the children attempted (very badly) to play The First Noel with children’s handbells (easier and cheaper versions of real handbells). I love children and love children’s efforts to learn music, but every note made me cringe. If kids can sing a song properly (and one is a talented singer who had a solo last week), they can ring handbells properly. The Sunday School teacher in me wanted to rush over and correct their teacher’s handling of the song. 🙂

We sang several Christmas hymns. All of the verses. I closed my eyes and swayed a bit, feeling my dad standing next to me with his handkerchiefs, cough drops, mints, ridiculously bad jokes, and comments before and after the service. He knew all of the verses to all of the Christmas hymns because he’d grown up singing them.

I had to stop singing several times because I couldn’t sing without crying. Not because I was sad, but because my dad’s presence and the experience of worshipping in a foreign land (but still to the same God) overwhelmed me. Ever since my dad died, I can’t say the Lord’s Prayer (“Our father who art in heaven”) without getting teary.

I stopped myself from crying not for my own sake (although it is annoying to wipe tears away), but because I was surrounded by unfamiliar people. If I saw a new person come to my church and cry, I would worry. Ask what was wrong. Try to help. It’s the decent thing to do, right?

But for me, tears are the annoying side effect of feeling my dad near me.

I wish we had a small, symbolic return to mourning apparel. Maybe a button or bracelet I could hold up to say, “I’ve lost a loved one within the past year, and this is my first holiday season without him. If I’m crying, don’t freak out. It’s a roller coaster of emotions for me, and I may be absolutely fine even if I start sobbing.”

Tears are cleansing.

Feeling my dad next to me (closer to me than when he was alive, as we were separated by thousands of miles) is comforting.

Being in a foreign land with the same language but customs and culture just enough different from the US (to serve as a distraction) has allowed me to approach the holiday season as a forever student of everything. What words do people use here? How is this done? What is this like? What’s a selection box?

Underneath it all, I understand that I’ve lost my dad. I know he’s still dead and will always be dead. I know there are complications with family that will never fully be resolved.

But a tiny bit of me is starting to hope.

There may be changes and a new path for my life ahead. Maybe this journey since my dad died has actually been leading me toward something good, rather than just taking away what (and who) I loved.

This past year, I lost almost everything I valued. I’ve learned to hold onto the bits of good in my life, and I’ve discovered who and what really matter.

I don’t know what’s next in my life, but I feel like I’m holding my dad’s hand. That he’s got an arm around my shoulder and a twinkle in his eye, leading me forward.

Maybe we need to lose everything we thought was important to find out what we need.

I need to discover my true purpose in life.

And I need to love and be loved.

Beyond that, aren’t all the details insignificant?

.

.

Blessings to all of you this holiday season, especially those who are grieving lost loved ones.

Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 3: Blue Christmas

By special request, I am including a post or two on the blog rather than podcasts only. Today’s topic is a bit emotional, anyway, so writing may be best.

Podcasts one (on Giving Tuesday) and two (on holiday food traditions) are up on Patreon. Normally, my Patreon posts are only open to subscribers. For Advent Calendar, though, the podcasts will be available to everyone. (Story posts, however, will still be for subscribers only.)

Today, as is a yearly tradition, is a day called Blue Christmas. It’s a time once a year to remember loved ones who are no longer with us. We’ve had guest posts talk about loss of parents and other dear ones, but I never imagined that Blue Christmas might mean remembering my dad.

This year, I’m fortunate enough to spend holidays abroad. Putting physical distance between me and everything I’ve known seemed like a good idea, even if the focus is (supposed to be) on getting work and research done. I have a major writing project due, oh, two years ago, and I’d hoped to get it done. Getting sick and adjusted to a new time zone didn’t help, and mostly I feel lazy. Beyond cooking and basic daily life activities, I haven’t done much.

As we get closer to the holidays, though, I find myself surrounded by the presence of my father’s absence. When I see other dads with their daughters, it makes me think of mine. When I hear familiar Christmas music or see Christmas reminders, it brings my dad so close that I swear I can feel him. Hear his laugh. See the twinkle in his eye and groan at his terrible, awful, horrible humor.

It’s been most of a year since my dad died (many of you were there for me during the process), but the loss hits fresh each and every day. Sometimes it mellows into a dream of remembering, and I wake up feeling surrounded with love. Other times, it’s an unexpected chasm in front of me, yawning open with the realization that today, tomorrow, and a thousand million tomorrows I will wake up a fatherless daughter. I’ll never get to have my father alive again. I’ll never get to see his smile, or feel his arms around me, or hear him announce to the people nearest by that I am his daughter.

My dad had only one sibling, a younger brother. They look quite similar, except my uncle has a mustache and Dad shaved every day of his adult life. Due to complicated family circumstances, I only saw my uncle (and his family) once or twice a year as a child and almost never as an adult. When I went to my parents’ house after we left behind my dad’s body in Mayo, his brother and sister-in-law waited with open arms and an enormous box filled with food and necessities to get us through the first few days.

I knew, instinctively, (I think we all do) how to grieve at first. Our bodies know what they need to do, and they shut down. They force us to focus on the trauma and loss, and they make everything else impossible.

Eight months later, I no longer feel like vomiting at the sight of food. I can sleep at night, and I’ve returned to work. I’ve even started writing again, which in the first days seemed an impossibility. I’ve never returned to full productivity, and some parts of my life may never find “normal” again. But on the whole, I’ve found a new normal. A new way of living.

Except for the holidays. I’ve discovered that my commitment to Blue Christmas and creating a safe space amidst holiday noise is much easier when I create that space for other people. For myself, I don’t know where to start.

How do we find a space to grieve, but to make new joy?

How do we hold onto the love and memories while grappling with the lifelong ramifications of complicated, screwed-up families that commit unforgivable sins against its own members?

How do we live and love while losing and limping?

How do we celebrate, yes celebrate, when our hearts feel as if they will implode from the combined weight of painful memories, a shattered future, and a present full of uncertainty?

Some days, I’d like to wrap myself in a sweet-smelling, freshly laundered quilt and disappear into a ten-year hibernation. I’d like to wake up when the grief has receded, and I want the hurt to go away. I’ve never shied from grief, but I’ve never known it to this degree.

I have lost the man who raised me, helped to name me, and set me on life’s path as a tiny child.

I have lost the hope of family Christmases together, of making new memories, and finding healing as age mellows the sharp-edged miscommunications of youth and young adulthood.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a border collie nudging at me for attention and food, a lovely host urging me to go to the park, and fresh banana bread cooling on the kitchen counter. An uncompromising lump of what should have been bread dough, but either the yeast died or the 18-month-expired flour went on strike. I blame the latter. 🙂

I don’t have any answers for you today, and I suspect that you don’t have them for me, either. What is loss, after all, if not an inherent part of growing up and growing old? If we can’t learn to grapple with loss, we can’t live. Simple as that.

Except it’s one thing to read and theorize about grief, and it’s another to wrestle with it every day.

Dad, I miss you. I’d give anything to have one last conversation with you. One last hug, one last ridiculous joke, one last smile.

Love you, Dad.

And love to everyone else who is grieving a loss this year.

 

 

We must hope

No, hope was not my first reaction to the election news. Nor was it my second, or third, or fourth.

My first reaction was a wave of unrelenting, sickening, and despairing denial.

No.

No.

It can’t be.

There will be a miracle.

After the official concession, I cried. Then I took a shower. I need to clean the news away from me so I could rest–at least a few hours before resuming my life.

I’m not talking policy here, or politics. You and I may have different views on policy, and that’s fine. We respect differences in opinion here, but we also respect decency.

If you want to hear how I’m finding hope, along with a small but mighty team of Giving Tuesdays readers and authors, visit my (free) Patreon podcast here.

We’re supplying a low-income, at-risk elementary school classroom with books, supplies, gift books for the children to take home, and a pizza party to celebrate life, learning, and love.

Let’s hope for the future.

Won’t you join? It’s not too late. 100% of the money goes toward books or supplies for the kids, and you can even earmark your money for a special item.

A.M. Leibowitz is visiting to share her new book Walking by Faith

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Title: Walking by Faith

Author: A.M. Leibowitz

Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

Length: 261 pages

Goodreads

Categories/tags: LGBT literature, Christian fiction, bisexual, genderqueer, romance, contemporary, disability

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Publisher

Synopsis:

For Becket “Cat” Rowland, falling in love has never been easy. The summer he meets Micah Forbes, the intensity of his feelings brings back all the memories of eight years earlier.

Following a brutal attack that left him nearly dead, Cat is a mess inside and out. To cope with the trauma and with his view of himself that he’s nothing but an empty shell, he’s taken three vows: simplicity, chastity, and silence. His once colorful, trendy, and often feminine wardrobe has been replaced with jeans and t-shirts, and he’s sworn off men. He locks himself away from the world, using the memorized prayers of his childhood as his only speech.

Cat is lost to himself and everyone around him until another hospitalization introduces him to nurse David Simms. David takes Cat’s silence in stride, caring for him without pushing and slowly building Cat’s trust.

Outside the hospital, Cat discovers he has more in common with David than he knew, and they begin to build a friendship. As it slowly grows into love, David reveals his own need for someone to take him as he is. Cat begins to let go of his vows one by one, only holding onto the silence.

Despite how far he’s come, Cat’s increasingly severe panic attacks threaten to undo everything David has helped him build. Cat’s only hope is to break the final vow and tell the truth about the night of his attack. When David fails to keep a promise he made to be there for him, Cat has to stand on his own and prove to himself he’s strong enough to survive.

Prequel to Passing on Faith.

About the Author:

A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.

Social Media:

Blog | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | Tumblr | Google | Pinterest

Tour Stops:

Charley Descoteaux – November 1

Caraway Carter – November 2

Shan Jeniah’s Lovely Chaos – November 3

Fallon Brown Writes – November 4

Nephy’s World – November 4

De-blog – November 7

Louise Lyons author – November 7

Dawn Sister – November 8

Governing Ana – November 9

PenPaperPad – November 10

Mann’s Ramblings – November 11

Excerpt:

Cat knew exactly where to go. He’d seen what he wanted there when they’d been displayed in the window a couple of months ago. The bell over the door tinkled as he entered the tattoo and piercing shop.

At the sound, the owner emerged from the back. “Well, hey!” he said. “How’re you doing?”

Cat gave him a bright smile. “Doing fine.”

The owner jumped. “You weren’t so talkative last time I saw you.”

“Things change. Listen, do you still have the hemp rosaries with the hand-painted beads?”

“Sure do.” The owner motioned Cat over to the case. “What are you looking for?”

David wasn’t Catholic, nor was he part of any other tradition which used prayer beads, but it hardly mattered. Cat scanned the various offerings then pointed to one at the end of the row.

“That one,” he said.

The owner wrapped it up for Cat. “Interesting choice,” he remarked.

“Oh, it’s not for me. It’s a gift.” Cat smiled.

“Ah,” the owner replied with a wink. “I see.”

“But I’ll also take…that one.” He pointed to another one, quite different from the first. The one he picked for himself had rose-colored stones and a detailed pewter crucifix. “I need to replace my old one.” He pulled it out of his pocket. “Can you put this medallion on it for me?”

“Sure can,” the owner replied. He glanced at it and laughed. “Philomena?”

“Patron Saint of blood disorders,” Cat said. “I have hemophilia.” It might have been the first time Cat hadn’t felt as though he should explain or excuse himself when he said it.

Once Cat was out of the store, he took the rosary he’d bought for David out of its paper to examine it more carefully. It was made of black hemp cord, and instead of beads, it was knotted. The cross was hand carved from soapstone, and there was an oval pendant of Agatha, Patron Saint of nurses. Cat ran his finger over it, imagining David’s hands touching where his had. He slid the rosary back into its bag, pocketed it, and walked the short distance back to the cafe for his shift.

Interview:

What inspired you to write this story?

People kept telling me how much they loved Cat in Passing on Faith, so I wanted to tell his story. But I didn’t want to simply re-tread his romance with Micah from his perspective. This was sparked by a quote in PoF where Cat’s sister says he’s in “shut-down mode” and won’t talk to her. I wondered why not.

Is there a character you feel especially connected to? Why?

To Cat, of course, although he is really only one aspect of my inner self. His questions and mental dialog about his gender mirror my own. But I also feel linked to Cat’s mom, as a parent myself.

What was the hardest part of writing this?

Getting the emotions just right. It is really hard to show the kind of gender dysphoria both Cat and I experience, and I also sometimes find it hard to pour feelings out on the page—as though I’m revealing too much of myself in them.

Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.

I’m working on several things: The next part of my Notes from Boston series; a young adult coming of age novel; and the last part of Cat and Micah’s story, Keeping the Faith. I’m always busy working on something.

Tell us a bit about your cultural, ethnic, religious, and/or spiritual background and how it informs your writing. I come from a mixed background—Jewish/Italian. Those are both very strong cultures, from traditions to food to faith. Neither of my parents was religious when I was growing up, and I got caught up in fundamentalist evangelicalism to compensate. I’m no longer part of that world. I am now a Christian by choice, but I also honor my Jewish ethnicity and continue to practice customs learned in childhood.

What cultural value do you see in storytelling? It’s how we make sense of our histories, develop our values, and pass them on to the next generation. Ideally, that’s an ongoing and dynamic process rather than becoming stale and stuck in the past rehashing values which no longer fit.

How do you hope your writing influences other people? I hope most of all for people to learn they are not alone, they are not wrong, and they are not broken.

Word Sprints!

  1. As a kid, were you a Goody-Goody or a Wild Child? Goody-Goody
  2. In school, were you more academic, artsy, or athletic? Academic and artsy

If you could have any career (other than writer), what would it be? I’d go back to nursing

walkingbyfaith