V for Valentine’s, V for Victory, V for Violence-No-More

Christmas and the holiday season of 2017 has been…well, interesting. That’s all I’ll say about it, but you may read more of it in the eventual publication of An American in England. Maybe. 😀

In the meantime, however, I’ve realized that this year’s Giving Tuesday (and the entire Ana’s Advent Calendar) went by without notice.

!!!

It’s been a huge part of my life and your lives as well, so it’s something I’d like to rectify.

I put out a call on Facebook two days ago (that’s the easiest place to find me these days), and I asked for help. Last year, we helped children in an ultra-poor elementary school by giving their teacher over $1000 in books and classroom/school supplies. In the past, we’ve donated literally thousands of dollars’ worth of books and Kindles to LGBT homeless shelters.

This time, I wanted to help adults. Specifically, women.

More specifically, women who haven’t had fair shake in life.

Within a day, all of you wonderful people had pledged $392.

Three hundred ninety-two dollars! 

I’ve tentatively teamed up with a domestic violence shelter for women (specific details are being kept private for now as safety is a huge issue).

Once I get a more firm idea of the amount we can give, I’ll contact the shelter and ask what their needs are.

Current suggestions include:

–Tumble dryer (make it easier to dry clothes and save space in small accommodations)

–Dishwasher (save on labor for busy, stressed women who may be pregnant and/or juggling kids)

–Amusements for the children (to help poor stressed moms whose kids may throw fits at being in an unfamiliar environment)

–Various necessities, such as tampons/pads, cleaning supplies, food, and other basics

One great idea, though, is a Valentine’s Day party/gift bag set!

After all, women enter these shelters because their relationships have gone bad. It can’t be easy to go through a holiday dedicated to relationships in that case.

If you’d like to join the VDay effort, here are a few ways how:

Head over to my Patreon site (www.patreon.com/anastasiavitsky) and sign up. ALL Patreon funds for this month will go to the shelter. (You can stop your subscription right away so it only takes one payment)

Email me at ana_stasia2007@yahoo.com. Please put Women’s Shelter Fundraiser for your subject line.

Contact me through Facebook (or comment below) if you’d like to join in. I’m afraid Twitter is a bit wonky at the moment. If you can’t contact me on Facebook but still want to contribute, please comment below. I’ll work something out with you.

I’ve been away from WordPress for so long that I see it now has a donate button. I don’t know a ton about it yet, but I’ll look into it. Let me know if that’s something you’d like.

Please help us make Valentine’s Day a day of victory for this domestic violence shelter! Let’s usher in 2018 by making the world a better place. Let’s believe in the good of people and make good things happen.

I need that faith, and maybe you do as well.

Much love from Ana

P.S. Watch this space for special exclusive offers for those who participate!

Giving back: in memory of Debbie Liles

(Warning: slightly political post)

As I’ve mentioned before, my father was a lifelong educator in the public schools.

When he died, one small comfort was knowing that memorial funds donated in his name would help causes he cared about.

Since then, education has taken a beating from our current administration. The arts, especially, have suffered.

I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful public school system that provided ample opportunities for music education, but times have changed. Title 1 schools, or schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families, especially struggle in the current climate of test-driven education.

Kids need to learn reading and arithmetic, yes. But they also need a reason to live. They need hope for a better tomorrow, safety to develop as a whole person, and encouragement to shine.

What music education gave to me, music teachers in public schools give to the next generation. Through endless budget cuts and inhumane demands and schedules, they give children a chance for a better future.

Last month, a music teacher was killed as part of a robbery.

There are no words to describe what her family and school family must be experiencing.

(Full disclosure: I’m not connected to her or her family. I’m just someone who was touched by her story.)

Debbie Liles’ son has set up a GoFundMe page for memorials, and they will be used to keep her music programs going. I know that many of you search for causes to contribute to, and ways to make this world a better place.

I hope, if you are looking for a place to donate, that you’ll consider keeping Debbie’s legacy alive.

As for me, I can’t afford to give much. But I am putting a small check in the mail and saying a prayer.

In my dad’s memory, I want to honor Debbie Liles’ life work.

Would you consider doing the same?

 

Author appearance! Free reading!

Come and listen to the first chapter of An American in England! Edited by Nigel Paice with a few extra surprises for Beaten Track Radio tonight at 7:30 PM BST (12:30 AM EDT).

The Web Site:http://www.beatentrackradio.com/
Via Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/beatentrackradio
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

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 England. 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!

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.