I, WARRIOR

by sandra on February 8, 2017

the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it”

By now, it should be crystal clear that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. This is the scenario that we’ve been watching in movies for the past 20 years. Yes, Friends, this is truly a battle of the Light against the Darkness. Now, if you’ll kindly re-read the quote above, which is from the Bible, by the way, you’ll have advance notice of the happy ending that awaits. But this is not going to be a passive happy ending. You’re going to have to participate, perhaps for the first time in your life.

And so, if you believe that we are at battle, then that means that you are a warrior. You can no longer bury your head in the sand (or any other dark and dirty place) and pretend that nothing is happening. This is not going to turn out to be “business as usual”, while you pretend to go your merry way. But you already know that, don’t you?

Your conscious mind may be battling within itself, leaving deep claw marks in the “Denial” section, but you know in your heart that it’s futile to continue to fight. Read the rest of this entry »

Little Hands And His Ballpoint Pen: A Cautionary Tale

by sandra on January 31, 2017

HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON, an enchanting “children’s” book written by Crockett Johnson and published in 1955, extols the unlimited possibilities at hand when we use our imagination. I discovered it as an adult in my 40s in the discount bin of a bookstore and it has become one of my all-time favorites.

Within this story, my story, fueled by my imagination, I will teeter-totter back and forth between Harold and another character I’ve created, named Little Hands. Harold, a toddler in a bunny sleeper and a few wisps of hair, possesses an unbridled imagination and uses his fat purple crayon to create the possibility of beauty, magic, fun, and adventure everywhere he goes. On the contrary, Little Hands, a toddler of 70 years of age who wears an abnormally-long red tie, possesses no imagination whatsoever and wreaks havoc with his ballpoint pen while sitting at his oversized desk. Using his signature alone, (as he has no imagination), he is able to demolish all things beautiful, worthwhile and good.  Carry on, Gentle Reader:

One night, Harold awakens with the desire to take a walk in the moonlight. He steps outside to discover that, before him lies a wide open void.  His world looks just like my computer screen  did before I started tapping away – blank.  Harold has no problem that there’s no moon, no sky in which to hang the moon, nor are there any stars to decorate the sky. Oh, and there’s no place to walk, either. Harold is unfazed, for Harold has his imagination. Harold has a mind filled with creative potential. Harold has his fat, purple crayon, the servant of his imagination, poised at-the-ready in his fingertips.  Harold wields his crayon like a magic wand. Whatever Harold can imagine, whatever Harold wants to see or experience, is only a crayon stroke away.

Little Hands, who lives in an Alternative Evil Dimension, in a void of his own making,  far away from anything moral, ethical or, well, just plain human, steps outside and discovers that the only thing out there is himself. But he’s okay with that.  He sees nothing but the possibility of drawing the world in his own image of fear and anger, madness, chaos and destruction.  Ballpoint pen in hand, he plops his fleshy derriere into his chair. Read the rest of this entry »

I Don’t Believe In Happy (New Year)

by sandra on January 1, 2017

Everyone’s always talking about being “happy” but when asked to define their definition of “happiness”, they have no idea what to say.  That’s because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that if we’re not happy (according to that diffuse definition), then our lives aren’t working.

So, on this day, the first day of a “new year”,  I’d like to share with you my idea of happiness and invite you to re-define your own.

First, we need to look for some other adjectives. Pull out a thesaurus, either a real, live book or find one online. Then, let’s get to work.

This past year,  I’ve done very little writing, as I’ve pursued my acting studies. This, I have discovered, has left a void in my creative expression and potential. I will be doing a lot more writing, starting today. I  am a writer, after all.   This I call FULFILLMENT and RIGHT LIVELIHOOD and SHARING MY GIFTS.

I’ve decided to curtail my use of Facebook to posting links to my original work only, (and, perhaps, an occasional peek at what others are up to). Doing so will help liberate me from the stress of knowing that I’m wasting time that could be spent writing and otherwise creating my own projects. I call this FREEDOM.

I’m currently visiting my family up north. For years, I’ve been talking about coming up here more and being more of a presence in the lives of these people whom I love dearly. I will visit more in 2017. This, I call CONNECTION and JOY.

I’ve decided to eliminate the overconsumption of sugar which makes me feel logy and which is preventing me from losing the weight I keep saying I want to lose. Doing so will bring me RADIANT HEALTH.

I don’t know what Life wants to bring me so that I can learn. I do know that there will always be one more lecture to attend, one more paper to write, one more class to pass.  Showing up for class is always a good start.  I don’t have to be happy about showing up for class but doing so might bring me more SELF-KNOWLEDGE,  a higher level of DISCIPLINE and enhanced SELF-ESTEEM.

Starting to get the idea here? There are as many definitions of happiness as there are people inhabiting this earth.

Showing up for Life, no matter what Life brings, is an act of COURAGE. Some of you, individually,  have experienced a particularly difficult 2016. Collectively, we’ve shared some challenges. Together, we just keep going.

I once asked a Buddhist monk who was visiting Atlanta for his advice when one gets tired of life. I was, you see, very tired of life at the time I posed that question.  His response was simple: “Find what you love doing and do it. When you get tired, just keep doing it.”

For those of you out there who are tired of life, depressed, or just plain weary, I leave you with the wisdom of an ages-old children’s song;

The Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the Rain
And The Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the spout
again.

Here’s my wish for you today and beyond: that your life be filled with creative fulfillment, the attainment of success according to your definition, oodles of fun, and deep pools of love which envelop you.

“Happy” New Year, Everyone.

Love from Sandra

P.S.  Leave me a comment on your new definition of happiness.

Hijacked

by sandra on September 25, 2016

{I first published this post September 21, 2012.  Every fall, She shows up as a complete surprise and today was the day.  Each year, She reminds me that, just when you’re not expecting it, Life will waft something beautiful your way.}

It happened yesterday afternoon. I was being followed. I could feel it.  You know how you just know? It started at N. Highland and Virginia Avenue and continued all the way to Zonolite Drive – a distance of about 1.5 miles.

A mysterious presence drifted in through my car’s open windows, enveloping me, then surrounding me, then holding me captive.  My nostrils flared as I slipped deeper and deeper into a mesmerized state, but – what could I do?  I found myself hopelessly entranced by its power and magnitude, but I had to keep driving. To lose control at the wheel would have been dangerous. I looked into my rear-view mirror.  Nothing.  Nobody.  Nowhere – in any direction. This was a familiar, yet distant experience. An olfactory déjà vu, if you will. I had been here before – I knew that – but I couldn’t place The Where and The When.  

“Whaaa……?” my eyelids drooped. my brain dug around inside itself.

“What is………?” my memory vault creaked.

“What is thaaaa…………?”  i swerved a little to the left. the vault cracked open.

“Ooooooohhhhhhhh… OH! Now I remember!” then, the vault burst.

Sweet Olive! It was Sweet Olive!

How could I have forgotten? I love you so!

Sweet Olive, that exquisitely engaging harbinger of fall, made its first cameo appearance in my life yesterday afternoon, breezing across the stage of our changing seasons; meanwhile, Summer was lingering around the heavy velvet curtains, an ingénue uncertain of when to take her final bow.

A Special Envoy sent by Mother Nature, Sweet Olive’s blossom is a mysterious interloper, a siren whose mission is to lull us away from our attachment to summer. In all of her invisible magnificence, Sweet Olive sidles up to Summer, then… plucking a flower from her hypnotic bouquet, She extends it to Summer, who lowers her eyes. “Another season impeccably performed,” Sweet Olive reassures her.

“Same time next year?” Summer beams at her glowing review.

I never know when Sweet Olive will show up with her atomizer and spritz me into a state of olfactory animation. I never, ever tire of her and I never, ever want to let her go. Each breeze wafting by, accompanied by her melodic fragrance, is received as a gift that feels brand new each time.

And aren’t those the best gifts of all?

PRETTY WOMAN

by sandra on May 7, 2016

{In honor of my mother this Mother’s Day, I offer “PRETTY WOMAN”, EXCERPTED FROM MY UPCOMING MEMOIR, “THE CORNER OF BURCH AND GRACE”, SOON TO BE ADAPTED INTO A ONE-WOMAN SHOW.  (i’m the one woman, by the way)}

Dorothy and Me, Christmas 2015. Sunglasses due to eye sensitivity after surgery. Look at that full head of hair - finally, her natural color.

Dorothy and Me, Christmas 2015. Sunglasses due to eye sensitivity after surgery. Look at that head of hair!  Finally,  her natural color.

“Did you find it?” she pressed. “Can you see it or not?”

It was 1968. My mother and I were in the kitchen. She was bent forward from the waist and I was researching the crown of her head. My job: to find the chestnut she’d placed there amongst her freshly-rolled curls.

My whole life, I never saw my mother’s natural hair color. When wigs were in, she experimented with them just for fun, but my mother’s bottled-red hair was, as she referred to it, her “crowning glory”. Throughout the year, she experimented with various hues. Chestnut-red was her favorite fall color.

In early October, she’d gather up a chestnut, freshly-delivered from the huge chestnut tree standing sentry in our front yard. She’d take the chestnut to the pharmacy and find a hair dye to match it. After she finished coloring her hair, she’d call me into the kitchen to corroborate how good of a job she’d done at matching that chestnut.

For summer, she chose a lighter color, more of an orange-red. One day during my 4th grade summer, my mother was dying her hair and had some dye left over. “Would you like to try it?” she asked. “Sure,” I said.

Twenty minutes later, like magic, my naturally dark-brown hair was an unnatural orange-red. I wasn’t sure if I liked it so I decided not to tell anybody and to act as if nothing had changed. Later that day, when I went outside to play, Mrs. Kinney, the mother of one of my girlfriends around the corner, called out to me from an entire block away, “WHAT HAPPENED? DID YOUR MOTHER DUNK YOUR HEAD?”

By the time I returned to school the day after Labor Day to start 5th grade, I already had a demarcation line of my dark-brown roots re-establishing their territory. My class picture that year depicts the advanced stages of my two-hued tresses. It took the entire school year to grow my hair back to its natural color.

My mother, Dorothy Jean Thelma Reinig Blazynski, was beautiful. Plain and simple. She was charming. Sexy. Alluring. She turned heads everywhere she went. Men’s and women’s. She had a switch that wouldn’t quit. The neighborhood men wanted to be with her. The neighborhood women wanted to be like her.

She dressed impeccably and bought almost all of her clothing at the high-end Sample Shop on Seneca Street. She was crazy about leopard-print. Wherever she found it: in coats, purses, hats, housecoats, slippers or lingerie, she had to have it. One year, she had matching, faux-fur capes custom made for her and my little sister, Tammy. Tammy’s was capped off with a kerchief so she wouldn’t get an “ear infection” and off they’d go, shopping or errand-running, mother and daughter caped-crusaders.

My mother wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without makeup or in a frumpy housedress or with curlers in her hair, or, all three – like some of the other neighborhood mothers did. In the case of an emergency that would have taken her out of the house with curlers in her hair, my mother made sure to cover her head with a kerchief. And she always put on lipstick, no matter what.

My mother loved lipstick. She never, ever left the house without it. She had tubes of lipstick everywhere: in the bathroom medicine chest, on her vanity, on top of her dresser, in her purse, in the ashtray of her car, on top of the kitchen stove (causing the lipstick to melt if she forgot about it when the stove was on). During the sweltering and humid Buffalo summers, before the days of air conditioning, she loaded her lipsticks into the butter dish in the door of our refrigerator to prevent them from melting.

Maybelline Midnight Blue Mascara was her trademark eye makeup tool. And, because our entire house ultimately served as my mother’s vanity, several of those white mascara tubes could be found all over the house as well.

In the 1960s, the only nail polish colors that existed for humans were pink, white, clear, ivory, coral and red. My mother, however, was polishing her toenails royal blue and emerald green. All of the neighborhood women carried on when they saw the intense jewel tones glistening from my mother’s summer toes. “My GOD, Dorothy!” they screeched. “Where did you find those COLORS?”

My mother just smiled and basked in the attention. But she never revealed to the neighborhood women her secret, which was that she was procuring her extra-ordinary toenail polish from the poodle grooming shop right around the corner on Seneca Street – practically right under their noses.

Even if they had known where to procure them, those women would not have dared to wear those colors. Those women didn’t have my mother’s moxy. Those women were all pink, white, clear, ivory, coral and (maybe on a special occasion) red nail polish women. Royal blue and emerald green nail polish existed only for groomed poodles. And, for my mother.

Residing in the long, wooden box under my mother’s bed was her vast collection of spike-heeled shoes. Just like her lipsticks and her royal-blue mascara tubes, my mother’s high heels were scattered all over the house: in her bedroom, in the living room, in the dining room, in the kitchen, in the vestibule, under furniture, on top of the freezer, behind furniture, anywhere, everywhere.

On a spring or summer whim, she would change the color of a white or tan shoe with the dyes she bought at her shoemaker down Seneca Street, always leaving an amateur’s telltale splotch of dye either somewhere inside the shoe or on its sole. When the little rubber piece wore off the metal spike of the heel, making the heel sound like a hammer dragging across the sidewalk, she handed them over to the shoemaker for repair, who rendered them good-as-new.

Funny thing was: my mother always drove barefoot. She said that she couldn’t feel the pedals with her shoe on. Whenever she got into her car, she slipped off her right heel; in the wintertime – her right, heeled- boot – and tossed it over to the passenger-side floor.

Watching my mother get dressed for public viewing was like watching a medieval knight prepare for battle. The foundation of her every outfit was bra, panties, girdle, nylon stockings, slip. She’d stand in front of her vanity mirror and hold her girdle up in front of her, its thick, smelly, rubber just 2/3 the width of her body. “How the heck is she going to get into that stinky thing?” I marveled.

She had a system. First, she stepped her right foot through the leg opening, then the left. Then she started wriggling around while dragging the resistant rubber girdle up her body. As it drew closer to her waist, she started jumping up and landing down, jumping up and landing down , over and over, again and again, as if she were rebounding on a trampoline, until her entire lower body – from her waist down to a few inches above her knees -was finally sealed inside that merciless, ivory-rubber fortress.

Sometimes she wore a panty girdle that left her lower legs free while focusing all of its attention on crushing her abdomen. Whichever girdle she chose, once it was in place, it was time for the nylons.

From one of the eager and teeming boxes occupying my mother’s vanity and dresser, she eased back the tissue paper and gently drew a pair of nylons up and out of the box, like a snake charmer.

Then, being extra vigilant not to poke her fingers through them or catch them on anything that might cause them to run (like an unshaven leg hair or her ever-present anklet), she gingerly unfurled them in the direction of the garters dangling off the hems of her girdle legs.

Finally, if she were wearing a dress that day, she placed a full-length slip over her head and smoothed it down the length of her body. If she were wearing a skirt, she stepped into her half-slip. Once this extravagant foundation had been laid, then, and only then, could my mother put on her actual outfit, usually a skirt and a blouse or a sweater. And high heels. Always high heels.

INTIMATE eau de toilette by Revlon was my mother’s signature fragrance of choice for years and years and years. One heavy spraying from head to toe signaled the final step in her dressing routine before she stepped out the door to go public.

One day, on the bus ride to school, I was having an argument with one of my girlfriends about which Barbie was best – the blonde or the brunette. Out of nowhere and, out of context, she sneered, “Your mother dresses like a queeeen,” drawing her teeth back over her lips to emphasize the “ee” part of “queen”.

I smiled at her, knowing full well that her comment was meant as an insult. My mother did dress like a queen, while her mother didn’t. None of the other mothers did. This was no insult. This was a compliment. I knew that her nastiness was coming through her mouth via her mother’s mouth, so I said nothing and wallowed in the truth: her mother was jealous. None of the other neighborhood mothers were anywhere near as beautiful as my mother. And they all knew it.

I don’t believe,though,that the majority of neighborhood mothers were jealous of my mother, but I do believe that they envied her. After all, most of their husbands were on the lookout for my mother whenever she walked down the street, but then again, so were all the women. But for very different reasons.

My mother filled our house with music on a regular basis. Elvis, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole. She’d stack up the 33s by fives and the 45s by tens and away she’d go, TWISTING TWISTING, TWISTING away! She loved dancing in general but she especially loved doing The Twist and she did it with glee and whenever she got the chance.

She’d park herself at the ironing board, surrounded by overflowing baskets of unrelenting laundry in need of unwrinkling and let the iron dance across the board.
Every once in a while, she’d leave the iron down and step away from the board to dance a little too long, accidentally branding a shirt or a sheet. Her whole life she was crazy about Elvis Presley. She once told me that my father, jealous of my mother’s infatuation with Elvis, forbade her from seeing him in concert when he passed through Buffalo in 1956. (But she did get to see him, finally, in 1977, the year he died.)

Shopping was my mother’s favorite pastime and she practiced it almost daily. Christmas, naturally, was her personal high season. It was the time of year when she retailed with fervor, focus and purpose. She had to see everything in the entire store, no matter the store. She had to travel through each department, peruse every aisle, examine every item. We might be in one store for two, three or four hours and then leave without buying anything. Many times I’d find myself reduced to tears, exhausted and desperate to go home. Despite my begging, my mother ignored my pleas and continued to shop, leaving the stores only when she was good and ready.

With the exception of ceramics classes or an occasional outing with a friend, shopping was my mother’s main activity outside of the house. Besides her wardrobe and heels and her emerald-green and royal-blue nail polish, shopping was the only thing my mother had that she could truly call her own.

Many times throughout my childhood, I recall her singing one particular tune, the lyrics and melody to which she herself had composed:

….”Ohhhhh…. tobe….. sing….uhl…..agaaaaaaain”…..

Our house was too big.
There were too many children living in it.
And there wasn’t much of anything just for her.