madness

what is this madness?
what have we become
to allow hatred and bigotry to have its day?
where have decency and morality gone?

how much longer do we turn our faces away
from what’s really happening out there
as we watch democracy crumble
with barely a shot fired in the air?

instead they’re let in with their flags of division
allowed to do whatever they please,
their hatred for the other
bringing democracy to its knees.

but we are stronger than that,
and for our children, this is my hope
that we can work together
and pull ourselves off this dangerous slope

maybe it won’t happen today;
maybe it’s just too soon.
but we need to start now before the world we know
hurtles even faster toward its doom.

until we meet again

i read the beginnings of the news on facebook
and my heart dropped when the truth sank in
that you lost your battle to cancer yesterday
what a crap year 2020 has been

i’ve looked forward to every post you’ve made
that morning greeting, that nightly goodbye
i love how you ordered us wackadoodles to have a good day
and every night, no mare pants became my rallying cry

reminding me it was time to wind things down
to let my mind rest and my body sleep
as you fought that fight that took you in the end
leaving us your stories and essays, so insightful and deep

i miss you already, my friend,
but i know wherever you are there is no more pain
thank you for being the champion i needed then and now
i have been so blessed having you in my corner. until we meet again.

12/20/2020

stripped

what is it about you that strips me raw
in places i’ve long forgotten?
those dark corners where my secrets lie hidden,
the disappointments, and the self-loathing?

why does it take just a word from you
for all of them to spill out?
and with them the tears i’ve long kept at bay,
all the shame and self-doubt?

what is it with your choice of words
spoken in a voice that always unravels me?
do you know of the places i speak of?
have you seen the things i can still see

the demons in their alcoves,
those moments of shame they whisper in my ear
of the times when i wasn’t brave enough,
when my constant companion was fear

is that why you know exactly what to say,
words that strip me of all the masks i wear?
is it because you know where i have been?
is it because you’re still there?

favor

can you do me a favor right now?
it won’t take long, I promise

stand in front of a mirror and tell me
what you see and be honest

maybe you’re seeing the wrinkles on your brow
or those laugh lines you hate so much

maybe you’re noticing gray roots along your hairline
or that your skin’s no longer smooth to the touch

maybe you’re seeing extra curves that shouldn’t be there
or your skin’s starting to sag it’s pitiful

maybe you’re thinking you’ve changed so much
and that you used to be so young and beautiful

but can you pause for a while with your thoughts
and look at your reflection with a softer gaze

allow a touch of kindness to sink in
let wisdom settle through the haze

for you are beautiful inside and out
with a lifetime of experience to draw from

you are amazing, you are worthy
you are as strong in spirit as they come

there’s so much more i want to say
maybe when you’re ready you can choose the words

like daring, feisty, and courageous
a woman living on her own terms

sure, you’ve stumbled and fallen
and then there’s the betrayal and heartache

but you are much stronger than he will ever know
and you’ll learn from every mistake

so when you look at that woman in the mirror again
i hope you take a step closer and say hello

for she is tough and downright amazing
and she’s the most beautiful woman I know.

a new year

it’s a new day, a new year
and for the first time last night
i went to sleep without you
whispering in my ear

i’m sad. but i’m relieved, too,
for this means i can finally move on
and live my life without
this need for you

a parting gift maybe, that last goodbye
for you were never meant to stay
or be my friend, and now it’s time
to let your good intentions die

for it’s a new day, a new year
time to let go of the things that no longer
serve me like the loneliness
i’ve always feared.


Too Much by Tyler Ford

do you remember the first time you were called annoying? 
how your breath stopped short in your chest 
the way the light drained from your eyes, though you knew your cheeks were ablaze
the way your throat tightened as you tried to form an argument that got lost on your tongue?
your eyes never left the floor that day.
you were 13.

you're 20 now, and i still see the light fade from your eyes when you talk about your interests for "too long," 
apologies littering every other sentence,
words trailing off a cliff you haven't jumped from in 7 years.
i could listen to you forever, though i know speaking for more than 3 uninterrupted minutes makes you anxious.
all i want you to know is that you deserve to be heard
for 3 minutes
for 10 minutes
for 2 hours
forever.

there will be people who cannot handle your grace, your beauty, your wisdom, y our heart; 
mostly because they can't handle their own. but you will never be and have never been
"too much."
from Poetry July/August 2015

do you remember the first time you were called annoying?
how your breath stopped short in your chest
the way the light drained from your eyes, though you knew your
cheeks were ablaze
the way your throat tightened as you tried to form an argument that
got lost on your tongue?
your eyes never left the floor that day.
you were 13.

you’re 20 now, and i still see the light fade from your eyes when you
talk about your interests for “too long,”
apologies littering every other sentence,
words trailing off a cliff you haven’t jumped from in 7 years.
i could listen to you forever, though i know speaking for more than
3 uninterrupted minutes makes you anxious.
all i want you to know is that you deserve to be heard
for 3 minutes
for 10 minutes
for 2 hours
forever.

there will be people who cannot handle your grace, your beauty,
your wisdom, y our heart;
mostly because they can’t handle their own. but you will never be
and have never been
“too much.”

~Tyler Ford

being real

i now come from a forgotten time
when friendships were face to face
so that if one ever ghosted you in the end
you’d have an idea of the disagreement
that happened, some sort of basis.
but there is none of that now
and that doesn’t even account for this pandemic,
the lockdown and the fear,
friendships have simply become virtual
where it becomes so difficult to tell
when one’s being real or insincere.
and while connections – even deep ones –
still do happen, there’s one glaring detail
that will always be hard to frame,
when they disappear as they often do,
did they trust you enough
to tell you their real name?

rebuilt

i learned a lot this year
most of all, about myself
like the fact that i still make so many mistakes
and that i need to take better care of my mental health

that i still need to hear a good word or two
just a little bit now and then
it’s not selfish at all, i’ve come to realize
for one can’t keep taking the hits again and again

without some reprieve,
just a a little place of safety
one i found when i stumbled into you
and you said in not so general terms that i was worthy

little bits here and there
words of comfort and positivity
they helped put this broken heart together again
thank you for all the words that rebuilt me

showing me there’s a warrior deep inside
even if all i am some days is full-on empathy
it took some time but it was one thing i needed to learn this year
that i’m stronger than most assume me to be

so thank you for staying, my friend,
even when all you wanted was to go
but you’ve made my world better by staying just a tad longer
thank you for giving me time to let go



a simple wish

it’s christmas eve and i hope you find yourself
surrounded with love, friends near and far, and good cheer

for although this year might not be like any other
we’ve experienced before, my hope is that love never changes,

that friendships continue to exist and strengthen
even through a layer of digital screens and beautifying filters,

and even with all the data bouncing between us,
there is still that thread of all things true –

friendship, lovingkindness, and trust
and know always that i am thankful for you

Listen

the accidental christmas

Five years ago, I took my son to the Christmas tree lot and told him he could pick out whatever tree he wanted (while crossing my fingers he wouldn’t pick a six or seven footer because our ceilings just don’t go that high). He was five then, precocious as always, and very excited to see Santa and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.

It was a treat to watch him hop between the rows of trees, his little boots crunching the needles that covered the ground as he imagined himself tromping about in the forest with his little ax in search for the perfect tree to chop down and bring home. I held my breath when he announced from around the corner that he’d found the perfect tree.

Please, I prayed, let it not be a six-footer.

It wasn’t. It was just under four feet tall and he told me it was the perfect height – for him.

That evening, with the tree decked out to the max with all the ornaments and lights, I wrote a short story called The Accidental Christmas. It’s a reunion romance of sorts and it features a single mother and her son in search of a tree on Christmas Eve.

I’ve cleaned up the story since I first wrote it five years ago, expanded it and all that. But the essence is still there, inspired by a trip to the tree lot with my LilDude who, five years later, may not so little anymore but is still as precocious.

I hope you enjoy it.

And Merry Christmas!

Liz/MorrighansMuse

By the way, because I can’t seem to do the Read More tag and split this post into separate pages per chapter, it’s a long one. You can also download the ebook and read it on your mobile device.

THE ACCIDENTAL CHRISTMAS

CAMERON

She was afraid they’d arrived too late but from the looks of it, she barely made it. The attendant was just about to hang a Closed sign on the gate when a Land Rover stopped right in front of him and a well-dressed couple jumped out. 

“Got a Noble Fir?” the man asked. “We need a six-footer.” 

The attendant set down the Closed sign on a rickety table next to him and dusted his hands against his parka. “Sure do. They’re in the back and there are a few beauties left.” 

“Well, we want one,” the man said as Cameron slipped into the lot behind the couple now following the attendant. 

As Cameron slowed her pace toward a row of shorter trees, a group of friends walked past the tree lot talking about the ugly sweater party they were attending despite the forecast of a snowstorm. Their laughter brought back memories of the. years when Cameron used to attend similar parties but she pushed the thought away. No use in dwelling on the past, she told herself. Tonight, she needed to find a tree.

She tightened her grip on her son’s hand and approached the attendant before he could follow the couple to the back of the lot. 

“Excuse me, how much for that tree over there?” She pointed to a four-foot tree standing close to the counter, two of its branches hanging limply to one side. Sitting too close to the corner where an old-fashioned cash register was set up next to a credit card machine, it must have borne the brunt of many of the day’s customers.  

“Forty bucks,” the attendant replied absently, pulling his knit cap over his head as he watched the couple browse through the row of trees behind him. When Cameron didn’t answer, he rubbed his gloved hands together and continued, “I ain’t got all day, lady. You want it or not?” 

“Will you take twenty for it? It’s all I got and a few of its branches are already broken.” Cameron figured she could turn the side with the broken branches toward the wall. The rest of the tree was still good.

The man thought for a moment, exhaled and nodded as the couple indicated they found what they wanted. Cameron guessed it probably cost close to hundred dollars, certainly way more than the broken little tree she’d bargained for twenty dollars. But it was all she had. 

“Twenty then. But, look, I can’t help you take it to your car until I help those other guys first,” he said. “But if you don’t mind waiting right here, I’ll come back and help you.”

But I want a big tree, like last Christmas, Jeremy signed to her and pointed to one of the bigger trees at the back lot.

We agreed that we’re getting one your size this year, remember? She signed back before handing a twenty-dollar bill to the attendant. “My son and I will take it to the car ourselves. Thanks.”

The man glanced at Jeremy. Seven-years-old and small for his age, he looked too slight to help her but Cameron couldn’t blame the attendant for needing to take care of a bigger sale first. She’d carry the tree to the car herself if she had to. She wasn’t as fragile as she looked. 

“On second thought, lady, it’s free. That’s why it’s over on the corner anyway. Too many broken branches as it is but you can point that side to the wall.” He pushed away her money and smiled. “I’ll be back to help you when I’m done with–”

“No, no, go ahead and help those other people. My son and I will manage.” Cameron tucked the money back in her coat pocket. She should insist that he take the money but she’d learned in the past year to accept such small acts of kindness—or pity—with grace. Besides, she needed the money to buy their food for the week. She wouldn’t get paid for another week. “Thank you so much, sir.”

“Merry Christmas, Miss… and you, too, young man.” His face cracked a broad smile. “Stay warm.” 

As the man walked away, Cameron led Jeremy to the four-foot tall tree that was really a three-footer up close. But it would still work since she didn’t really have the room for anything bigger anyway, the converted garage they called home barely big enough to fit both of them. With Jeremy taking over the bedroom, Cameron slept on the futon in the living room, which served as the couch during the day. They didn’t have much, but for now it was home. But just because it was small, it didn’t mean they couldn’t get a tree for Christmas. 

Beggars can’t be choosers, Cameron, and this is what charity is, she told herself as she watched the man walk away. Maybe he recognized her, maybe he didn’t. But then, why wouldn’t he? 

She was Cameron Thomas, after all, ex-wife of former city treasurer Edwin Thomas who fled the country after embezzling millions of dollars from the city coffers. Forget that he’d done it while the city was going through a tough time after a giant computer company who’d provided so many jobs moved their corporate offices to another state with better incentives to benefit their bottom line. 

Worse, Edwin left her and Jeremy alone to face the Feds with their evidence, the District Attorney with the charges leveled against him and his assistant, and the condemnation from the public who believed that surely, being Edwin’s wife, she should have known what her husband was up to. 

Complicit. 

But she hadn’t known a thing, not when theirs had been a marriage of convenience—a marriage between two families that now turned their backs on her, refusing to be associated with someone whom they believed should have known what her own husband had been up to. But they couldn’t be any more wrong, Cameron thought. Her only crime was agreeing to the wedding in the first place, forgoing all reason and most of all, her heart. 

Yet through it all, Cameron had kept it together for her son’s sake, even when the news reporters followed her as she picked up Jeremy from day care, leaving her alone only when she had her son with her. At least they granted her that, even though they still took pictures anyway, blurring Jeremy’s face for the final copy they’d plaster all over newspapers and social media. 

The whole ordeal was made tougher when she discovered too late who her real friends were and that just because one was considered ‘family’ didn’t mean they’d stand by her side at all. Who knew Cameron’s own mother would value her reputation more than her relationship with her daughter and her grandson? But she did and Cameron was left alone to weather the scandal. 

But like everything, there was a silver lining. At least, Cameron grew stronger through it all. She stopped relying on others for help because there were no more ‘others’ to turn to. From the personal assistants who fled in droves to the servants who ran straight to the tabloids to report things they’d suspected about the marriage of the handsome Edwin Thomas and his stunning wife Cameron Blake. There were things that were strange, they said. Although the couple appeared so put together and perfect in public occasions, they slept in separate rooms. 

Cameron could have countered each allegation of their sham marriage to save face. That’s what her mother had begged her to do, but she didn’t. What would it accomplish? Nothing that would help Cameron and Jeremy move on, that’s for sure. And so she left everything behind, from the fair weather friends to the old family connections that once granted her automatic access to the many parties she and Edwin had to attend for appearances’ sake, the handsome city treasurer and his shy and beautiful heiress of a wife even if there was nothing financial for her to inherit. The only things left of the Blake furniture empire were the pedigree and the political connections, the very things that Edwin needed to advance his own career. 

And so with Jeremy by her side, she traveled by train all the way to the East Coast, to a small town where once she’d spent the happiest summer of her life. No longer having assistants to rely on, Cameron learned to do everything herself. She got Jeremy enrolled in school and got a job as a temporary caregiver to the elderly. She attended PTA meetings even when she knew that before long, the other parents would start to ask among themselves, wait, isn’t she the wife of…? 

Cameron pushed the thoughts aside and letting go of Jeremy’s hand, she grabbed a roll of twine from the table. 

Jeremy, can you help me with this please? she signed to him. You can push up the branches on one side while I tie the twine around it.

But this tree is too small, he signed back, lowering his chin before adding, why can’t we get a big tree like Daddy got last year?

Because Daddy bought it with stolen money, that’s why, she almost said out loud but Cameron bit her lip, her hands paused in mid-air.

Because it won’t fit in our house, love, she signed instead, sighing when she saw his expression grow sadder. It tugged at her heart but there was nothing she could do. Beggars can’t be choosers.

She tapped his shoulder, getting his attention again, before adjusting the hood of his jacket and his scarf. Remember when we talked about getting you a tree your size this year? You said you wanted a Charlie Brown tree.

Jeremy didn’t answer but he did as he asked her, lifting the nearest branches with his thin arms. Some days he understood what she was going through and other days, he was simply too young to understand any of it. And why should he? He was just a child, an innocent victim to Edwin’s greed and her naiveté.

What kind of a wife are you not to know what Edwin was doing all along? Her mother had asked the moment the news broke all over the big networks. This from the same woman who years earlier shut down Cameron’s first love so she could steer her only daughter to the wealthier, more dashing Edwin Thomas before turning her back on her daughter when things went south. Cameron had barely been able to get out of the house with Jeremy’s clothes and his favorite Legos before the Feds came in to lock the house up.

State evidence, ma’am, she remembered them saying. Is there any place you can go? Friends or relatives? Social services can also help you.

“Cameron?”

Cameron froze, her arms wrapped around the upturned branches of the tree. The voice was familiar, deep and warm, yet she knew it couldn’t possibly be true, not after eight years. 

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