Friday, December 18, 2009

The Right to Laugh

December D.C. air does not welcome the stranger unaccustomed to cold.

Estefan drew the baggy berber jacket closer to his ribs, sinking his neck and head further into the collar like a turtle hoping a thin shell would serve as environmental protection. But he did manage a laugh.

'Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh.’ But having made it to Washington, Estefan had earned the right to laugh in partial victory, no matter how quickly that laugh was doused in the clamor of icy wind.

The laugh surprised him. He supposed it must be as the Americans said, “like riding a bike.”

Estefan had ridden more bikes in his lifetime than he had laughed.

A bicycle may or may not help now, Estefan thought, surveying the once muddy walkway alongside the National Mall. The frozen imprints of politicos and fossiled horseprints of mounted police could prove lethal even for a mountain bike. While he had ridden over Texas-bound rough terrain and through Houston streets rigged with potholes, winter pitfalls like these should be avoided. Better to walk in his new hiking boots.

The Washington Monument might have impressed him more had the water stretching towards it not been petrified by the elements, had the day offered at least thirty more degrees (though forty or fifty or sixty would be ideal) and had he more than three dollars in his jeans pocket. While arriving penniless in the country’s capital might allow him to fit in with the pressing numbers of street people, it would not keep him from starving or freezing to death. At least in Texas, spreading gravel and slopping cement in warmer weather had earned him enough to buy beef, peppers and tomatoes. It was more than he would have here, he suspected.

Canvass, paintbrushes, charcoal, soft erasers, pigment—out of the question. His last portrait had sold for fifteen dollars to a proud new father of a girl with already a full head of black hair. Estefan was pleased. In the backcountry of Guatemala, that money would feed him for days and buy him art supplies for months. He wondered what he might paint here had he the money. Did street artists earn enough to live?

His feet had been moving in automation, partly as a survival instinct, partly because he knew temporary shelter would not be found near Constitution Ave unless he were seeking an ice-clad bench. No, four, five, six blocks past classical columns, slick marble, carvings of lions and the scales of justice, into the real city, and he might find what he needed.

Estefan knew how to move quickly. He also knew that when, more than five miles into his trek he happened across a child’s lost scarf, he’d best wear it, even though it barely tied beneath his grizzled chin and even though it sported an appliqué of Sponge Bob.

He wore the cartoon on the inside.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I have been doing so much professional writing, I haven't had time to blab on my blog.

"Whew," you say.

Or probably you don't.

Because if you have THAT attitude, why even bother stopping by??

Humph.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yay Yay for InTheFray!

Now, you have to realize that I earn only about $7 when I sell an entire book of poetry. And, if you understand the poetry market at all, you know getting paid to write poetry is a challenge.

And, if you know the poetry market, you also know there are some pretty bad magazines out there.

InTheFray Magazine is not one of them.

So YAY!

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Dear Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt,

I have accepted your three poems for publication in the December issue of InTheFray Magazine. I will include a link to more of your poems at www.poemsfromthebattlefield.com on the same page as the poems.

There is a $25 honorarium but I must ask you to fill out the contributor's form in order for the invoice to be completed and payment to be made.

You will need to be registered at the site and logged in to fill the form out.

I am very pleased to publish your work and to welcome you as a contributor to ITF. My favorite piece was For Alexis, but all three poems will, I feel, resonate with our readers and wonderfully explore the featured theme.

The lead line will be Alexis, stone walls and butterflies and the dek will be Three poems that begin with endings.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

All best,
Annette Marie Hyder
Literature Editor
InTheFray Magazine

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Carol

Because spirits gifted winter on our doorsteps,
because the way the rain metamorphosed
into pieces of Advent and Christmas and New Year,
we celebrated by turning on the fire.

I have often wished for "real fire," the kind
that starts with wood, not gas and switches.
But on a day when trees lean to introduce
themselves, it matters not--and besides,
I can greet the pines without guilt. Good fire
is good fire, after all, and heat as essential as skin.

Our children cut cardstock into Christmas greetings,
shapes transformed to acts of love, the scent
of plenty and light, the sound of pages turning,
and I wondered how the other half lives.

But then again, I know.

There are no fires in the tents of the homeless,
no paper or scissors or glue sticks,
no green bows or hot, spiced tea or computer
keys tapping out poems. There are bellies

and fright of the poor, icicles threatening
canvass and bone, sneakers in lieu of boots,
sterno a luxury sometimes shared.

We light a candle for them--real fire, real wax,
real affluence, these dry matches and wicks. We
recite Biblical stories, angels declaring salvation,
manger protecting an awaited king, animal breath
heating hay. And at this moment, with snow
blocking our way to action,

the best we can do is hope.

Draft 1

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Catholic Flunky

I flunked Catholicism at an early age, in spite of my best intentions. The hours I spent considering becoming a cloistered nun were all for naught when my parents joined the Charismatic Renewal.

I knew I had flunked out when we attended a healing service and everyone in my family "slept in the spirit" except me.

Let me explain how people in this church slept in the spirit.

A leader, often a priest or deacon, placed his palms over the palms of the parishioner, like they were going to play "slaps." Someone stood behind the parishioner, ready to catch him or her--just in case. The priest would pray, and those who weren't bad Catholics like me would fall back into the arms of the catchers and be gently lowered to the floor where they would sleep for a few minutes.

The lengthiest sleep I ever saw was an hour or so, lasting long after the service had ended. I felt embarrassed for that lady when she finally came to and didn't know where she was.

But I wasn't as embarrassed for that lady as I felt when this short, stalky woman with sandy-gray waves in her cropped hair walked up to me and said, "Even though you didn't sleep in the spirit..."

I can't remember what else she said. I was a kid, but I got the gist of it. I was receiving a consolation prize.

So from that day on, I was determined to exhibit a "gift" (which was what the church considered sleeping in the spirit).

We went to prayer meetings where people spoke in tongues. Speaking in tongues is presumably a gift for praising God in a language that only God can understand.

This was something I could do. Gibberish came natural to me. And I really did want to praise God. Besides, I didn't want to viewed as a gift-less Catholic.

So I joined in with the rest of the gifted ones, some of whom actually sang their gallimaufry of syllables.

It was easy to fit in. All I had to do was move my lips or mutter. And after awhile, I couldn't tell if I really had the gift, if I was making the words up or if it even really mattered.

The gift of tears was also something I found easy to demonstrate. A depressed child, I could cry at the hint of a sad thought, and everyone would think I was being overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord.

But I knew the charade was over the day I played an April Fools joke on my dad.

Dad played bass guitar in the church music group. The service had ended, and Dad left the guitar on the alter-side where the group had been standing.

Dad was in the back of the sanctuary, receiving spiritual guidance from the Father.

There I was with what I thought would be the funnies April Fools joke ever.

I busted into the session and panted, "Dad! Your bass fell over!"

He leaped from the chair. "What?? How did that happen?"

As he was poised to bolt back to the alter, I giggled and shouted, "April Fools!"

The words echoed in the empty, high-ceiling church, bouncing against the marble walls of the priest's chamber.

The look I got from Father Jerry, a lovely, aged Jesuit, was enough to tell me I was headed for hell.

The fury of my father whose spiritual session had been interrupted by a fibbing eight-year-old foretold my demise.

From then on, in church, I remained as quiet as I could, and I avoided Father Jerry as if I were trying to run from the Grim Reaper.

I hoped my singing in the girls' choir would redeem me, until one day, I hiccuped into the microphone.

Maybe none of this would have happened had I become that cloistered nun at age seven.

But then again, I might not be blogging today.

Do cloistered nuns blog?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

FINALLY!

Press Release from Senator Mikulski (11/17/09):

SENATOR MIKULSKI INTRODUCES BILL TO STRIKE TERMS “MENTAL RETARDATION” AND “MENTALLY RETARDED” FROM FEDERAL LAWBOOKS

“Rosa’s Law” honors young girl whose brother said, “… what you call people is how you treat them.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski today introduced “Rosa’s Law,” a bill that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.

Under Rosa’s Law, those terms would be replaced with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal education, health and labor law. The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities. It simply makes the federal law language consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President of the United States, through his Committee on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.

Rosa’s Law replicates a law recently adopted in Maryland. Senator Mikulski first heard about the state law from Rosa’s mother during a roundtable discussion about special education held in Edgewater, Maryland. Due to requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each student who receives special education services at public schools has an individualized education program (IEP) that describes the student’s disability and the special education and services that child will receive. Rosa has an intellectual disability – Downs Syndrome – and so was designated as a student with “mental retardation” in her IEP, giving way to people at the school referring to Rosa as retarded. Senator Mikulski promised Rosa’s mother that if the bill became law in Maryland, she would take it to the floor of the United States Senate.

“This bill is driven by a passion for social justice and compassion for the human condition,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the HELP Committee. “We’ve done a lot to come out of the dark ages of institutionalization and exclusion when it comes to people with intellectual disabilities. I urge my colleagues to join me to take a step further. The disability community deserves it. Rosa deserves it.”

“Mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” are terms commonly used in federal laws, including the Individual With Disabilities Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“We know now that words have meaning, sometimes far beyond what we intend,” added Senator Enzi. “Therefore, we must be very careful about the way we describe the people we see every day, including those with disabilities, or those who are undergoing treatment for a variety of health issues. Unfortunately, the federal government has not dropped this term from our laws and it still appears in the regulations and statutes that come before our legislative bodies and our courts. I am pleased to have this opportunity to join my colleague from Maryland, Senator Mikulski, in introducing Rosa’s law. I would like to thank her for her leadership and her commitment on this issue. Simply put, this legislation will make an important change in the words we use to refer to those with intellectual disabilities. It is a much needed change in the law that is fully deserving of our support.”

When Rosa’s Law was being considered by the Maryland General Assembly, Rosa’s 13-year-old brother, Nick, successfully testified on her behalf for a substitution of mentally retarded with intellectual disability. He explained, “Some people say they are just words, and it’s not going to make a difference if we just change the words. Some say we shouldn’t worry about the words, just the way we treat people. But when you think about it, what you call people is how you treat them! If we change the words, maybe it’ll be the start of a new attitude towards people with intellectual disabilities. They deserve it.”

“Senator Mikulski’s bill is a most welcome and necessary step in ending the pervasive discrimination against the 7 million people living with intellectual disabilities in this country,” stated Peter V. Berns, the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the U.S. “With federal adoption of the term ‘intellectual disability’ perhaps our society and others will begin to understand the legitimacy of the condition and treat those living with it in a more respectful fashion.”

The Arc is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 780 state and local chapters across the nation. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Rosa’s Law has garnered support from six additional cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Senator Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.), Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), as well as more than 30 national organizations to date:http://mikulski.senate.gov/_pdfs/Press/Organizations.pdf.

A copy of the Dear Colleague letter circulated by Senators Mikulski and Enzi is available here:http://mikulski.senate.gov/_pdfs/Press/RosasLawDearColleageLetter.pdf.

Senator Mikulski’s full floor statement is here:http://mikulski.senate.gov/Newsroom/PressReleases/record.cfm?id=319975.

From the Disability Policy Collaboration (11/17/09):

The Disability Policy Collaboration Applauds the U.S. Senate’s Introduction of Legislation to Use the Term “Intellectual Disability

Washington, D.C. – The Disability Policy Collaboration (DPC), a partnership of The Arc of the United States (The Arc) and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) to advance federal disability public policy, applauds today’s introduction of “Rosa’s Law,” a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY). Modeled after a recently enacted law in the state of Maryland, this legislation would substitute the outdated, stigmatizing terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy statutes.

The term “intellectual disability” covers the same population of individuals who were previously diagnosed with the term “mental retardation,” and “mentally retarded.” Therefore, the change in terminology would in no way alter the eligibility requirements for services and supports.

“This bill is very important for people with intellectual disabilities who understand that language plays a crucial role in how they are perceived and treated in society and are actively advocating for terminology changes in federal and state laws. ‘Retard,’ ‘retarded’ and ‘retardation,’ once accepted medical terms, are now often used to demean and insult people,” stated Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc. “The Arc believes that changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.”

According to Stephen Bennett, President and CEO, UCP, “By using the term ‘intellectual disability,’ we expect citizens of the U.S. and the world to understand and treat people experiencing this condition – whether it is a result of genetics, injury, illness or unknown causes – with dignity and respect. The descriptions of people are very important and imply how we value people, and the Senate’s introduction of ‘Rosa’s Law’ is aligned with the aim of UCP and its nationwide network of affiliates to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in every facet of society.”

Senator Mikulski’s statement to the U.S. Senate upon introduction of the bill is available at:http://mikulski.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=319975&.

While the DPC supports the U.S. Senate’s introduction of Rosa’s Law, it is only the first step in a lengthy process towards enactment. The Arc and UCP will continue to work together to ensure the bill’s introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives and its progression through the entire legislative process.

A Call to Worship: All that is Worthy of Praise

Something I got to read at a church service our Writers' Group facilitated...


All that is worthy of praise,

direct your voices to we

who hardly

acknowledge the day.


Show us your perfect, pearly feline claw,

your dark dog lashes,

your figure in the fun-house mirror

telling us always to laugh.


Remind us of gardening hands,

the way waves eat a shoreline,

how a pair of pants fresh from the drier

feels on a winter’s day.


Tell us when we spend more time searching

for the crack in the cup than we do making

the tea, when we revel in our own ruin, feasting

our minds on famished souls, rendering

ourselves only empty.


All that is worthy of praise,

when the rain pools on the pavement,

when lightening sears the sky,

and when thunder knocks at our very hearts,

give us wisdom to listen:

“I am here! Come now. Worship.”


Monday, November 30, 2009

Step away...nothing to see here.

I don't feel like writing.

Nope. Still don't feel like writing.

Sorry....still don't.

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And the word of the day is....

Whenever I consider rusticating, my husband reminds me how long his commute is already and how expensive land is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

TMI: Post-Thanksgiving Period

Warning: If discussions on periods and female hormones bother you, then don't read this post. It is chock filled with chick stuff.
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So yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I was so thankful for everything. This post will not nullify that thankfulness for the day spent with family, wonderful food and later, Christmas decor (earlier this year than ever before, I believe).

But...I hate my period. My period is a major reason I want to come back as a lilac in my next life.

When I was a gay black man in the Victorian age, I never had to worry about periods. And I never had to worry about women with periods. I just had to worry about the historical period and having to hide in the basement with my lover.

Here's the pattern of my period:

1. Prior to the period, about a week before, I get alternately cranky and depressed. I want sweets. I feel humungous. I get bloated.
2. A day or two before my period, I get fatigued. I get fuzzy-headed and probably look like I'm on another planet (because I feel like I am).
3. Once I get my period, I become energized and more productive. During this time, I can become artistically driven. I work on my scrapbooks and/or card making more. I write more poetry. I used to paint and do hope to get back to it.
3. I become obsessed with cleaning the house because I am more energized, but probably also because when I was depressed and fatigued, I didn't clean as much. This could also be evidence of a "nesting" drive.
4. I cook more because I have more energy and ambition to do so. (Part of nesting as well?)
5. I get more anxiety. This is not the time to consume caffeine.
6. I have bad dreams.
7. The next three or four days after my period ends, the anxiety persists.
8. Finally, I stabilize until I hit the next cycle.

Since I take hormones, I can pretty much predict when this cycle will begin and end, which is good because I can prepare myself for my iminant, monthly decline. I can recognize my tension and try more not to take it out on my family. But I do tend to rant a little more, online and otherwise.

Thus, I do not have much fun for about a week or so out of the month. But it is better than what used to happen prior to the hormone treatment: my periods would last up to three weeks, and I would bleed to death.

Here's the irony. The hormones I take? There's a class action suit against the company that produces them.

There's no justice in this world, is there?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Grateful List

I still use my list to remind myself everything I have to be thankful for. As Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought I would redirect this post to The Grateful List.

Blessings,
Katherine