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

#SatSpanks, #8Sunday, and #SnipSun: Bastia: The Early Years

WEEKEND WRITING WARRIORS

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Rainbow Snippets, Weekend Writing Warriors, and Snippet Sunday!

Find more spanky fiction at Saturday Spankings!

What if heterophobia were real? What if, instead of religious leaders denouncing love between people of the same gender, a state theocracy decreed, “Our god commands women to marry women.”

What if loving the wrong gender could get you ostracized, imprisoned, and re-educated? In fact, you were turned over to “parents” tasked with re-programming you to live according to their definition of normal?

Yes, we are talking about conversion therapy.

That is, an attempt to “cure” a person of his or her sexual orientation, often (but not always) conducted under religious auspices.

Yes, it really does happen in our world, but it’s the opposite way around. LGBT people are told their identity is wrong, sinful, and an abomination. A perversion, a one-way ticket to damnation, and a morally wrong “choice” to be corrected with persuasion–if persecution can be classified as such.

In Becoming Clissine, I asked what would happen in a world where religious persecution of sexuality was the norm, but the roles were reversed. What if being LGBT were normal, and being heterosexual was not?

As I’ve revisited this world in more recent years, I’ve pondered how this alternate reality came to be. Why would a society choose to disenfranchise a significant portion of its population?

And then I found myself with the story of Altrea, the foremother of Bastia. Years before Bastia (as we know it in Becoming Clissine) came about, a young woman named Altrea lost her freedom and virginity to a man chosen by her father. The consequences of this one decision rippled down for generations and affected another young woman named Clissa.

This weekend’s snippet continues with the story of Terris from last week. Terris has an impressive story of her naming and birth, but near the end of her life she wonders whether the glory was worth it.

(For an audio recording of the entire second chapter, please check out this free post on my Patreon site.)

Bastia: The Early Years – Now available!

 

He told me other countries followed a star in the north, but I couldn’t believe it. How could anyone follow a northern star? We looked to the East, where Mother Sun welcomed us each morning before beginning her journey across the sky. North meant foreigners who worshipped strange gods and women who had no more rights than a child. If a wife displeased her husband, he could divorce her with a single word. If a man slept with half the tribe and fathered an army of illegitimate children, other men slapped him on the back for his “good seed.”

A wife, if she entered into the discussion, would be chided for failing to do her duty.

av-bastia-tey-200x300

What if heterosexuality were a crime?

In the world of Bastia, like must marry like. Basti, the supreme deity, has decreed so. Any deviation results in sanctions, imprisonment, torture, or even death. But how did this society come to be? How can a religion be based on hatred?

In these early chronicles of Bastia, we discover good intentions behind the benevolent theocracy gone wrong. Meet the founder of modern day Bastia, Altrea. Placed in a polygamous marriage to enrich her father, she finds love with one of her sister wives. Their husband’s reaction is swift and brutal. As Altrea struggles to make sense of the violence, she dreams of a world in which one woman can love another.

In this new perfect society called Bastia, justice reigns supreme. No one is above the law. The state will provide for all equally. But as Altrea quickly finds out, nothing is simple. Basti is love. Bastia is founded on love. So what went wrong? How did a land of idyllic happiness turn into the dystopian regime that persecutes a young woman for loving a boy?

Come and meet Karielle and Soris before they reeducate the criminal who dared to love the wrong gender, and ask yourself one question.

Why is love a crime?

Order now!

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Updates on Giving Tuesday, books, and more!

If you have subscribed to my Patreon page, you’ll notice a brand-new feature. Podcasts! For the time being, they are free to everyone. However, subscribers receive their very own RSS feed. This automatically updates your favorite podcast application (such as iTunes) with the newest episodes).

As a bonus, there are book excerpts read by yours truly. Subscribers get to vote for which book and excerpt. This month, there will be a special subscribers-only podcast with one of my personal favorite Kat and Natalie scenes. I wanted to have it ready for you today, but I’m croaky with a sore throat. Sigh! I’ll see if I can do a quick podcast later today (after resting). Crossing fingers I’ll be back to normal (or as normal as I get) by tomorrow.

The latest podcasts have given updates for our Giving Tuesday project, also known as Readers for Ron. THANK YOU to everyone who’s been so generous in your support. For more information, visit the (free) podcast page on Patreon.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful week! Stay healthy.

#SatSpanks, #8Sunday, and #SnipSun: Bastia: The Early Years

WEEKEND WRITING WARRIORS

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Rainbow Snippets, Weekend Writing Warriors, and Snippet Sunday!

Find more spanky fiction at Saturday Spankings!

What if heterophobia were real? What if, instead of religious leaders denouncing love between people of the same gender, a state theocracy decreed, “Our god commands women to marry women.”

What if loving the wrong gender could get you ostracized, imprisoned, and re-educated? In fact, you were turned over to “parents” tasked with re-programming you to live according to their definition of normal?

Yes, we are talking about conversion therapy.

That is, an attempt to “cure” a person of his or her sexual orientation, often (but not always) conducted under religious auspices.

Yes, it really does happen in our world, but it’s the opposite way around. LGBT people are told their identity is wrong, sinful, and an abomination. A perversion, a one-way ticket to damnation, and a morally wrong “choice” to be corrected with persuasion–if persecution can be classified as such.

In Becoming Clissine, I asked what would happen in a world where religious persecution of sexuality was the norm, but the roles were reversed. What if being LGBT were normal, and being heterosexual was not?

As I’ve revisited this world in more recent years, I’ve pondered how this alternate reality came to be. Why would a society choose to disenfranchise a significant portion of its population?

And then I found myself with the story of Altrea, the foremother of Bastia. Years before Bastia (as we know it in Becoming Clissine) came about, a young woman named Altrea lost her freedom and virginity to a man chosen by her father. The consequences of this one decision rippled down for generations and affected another young woman named Clissa.

This weekend’s snippet continues with the story of Terris from last week. Terris has an impressive story of her naming and birth, but near the end of her life she wonders whether the glory was worth it.

My elder brothers and sisters were named after aunts and uncles, grandparents, and esteemed ancestors.

The midwives touched their foreheads. A curse. Some women, crazed with the pain of birthing, lost their minds and delivered curses from another realm. Others feared passing madness from mother to child, and any early signs warranted an elaborate cleansing ritual from our shamans.

When Father heard the story, however, he declared I had been marked by the gods. Terris, the eastern star, shone brightly enough to guide the entire world.

(For an audio recording of the entire second chapter, please check out this free post on my Patreon site.)

Bastia: The Early Years – Now available!

av-bastia-tey-200x300

What if heterosexuality were a crime?

In the world of Bastia, like must marry like. Basti, the supreme deity, has decreed so. Any deviation results in sanctions, imprisonment, torture, or even death. But how did this society come to be? How can a religion be based on hatred?

In these early chronicles of Bastia, we discover good intentions behind the benevolent theocracy gone wrong. Meet the founder of modern day Bastia, Altrea. Placed in a polygamous marriage to enrich her father, she finds love with one of her sister wives. Their husband’s reaction is swift and brutal. As Altrea struggles to make sense of the violence, she dreams of a world in which one woman can love another.

In this new perfect society called Bastia, justice reigns supreme. No one is above the law. The state will provide for all equally. But as Altrea quickly finds out, nothing is simple. Basti is love. Bastia is founded on love. So what went wrong? How did a land of idyllic happiness turn into the dystopian regime that persecutes a young woman for loving a boy?

Come and meet Karielle and Soris before they reeducate the criminal who dared to love the wrong gender, and ask yourself one question.

Why is love a crime?

Order now!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save