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Well This is a Bit Late

I’m gonna write about my tattoo.
Well, one of them. I have four now, in case anyone wasn’t all caught up.
My writing mind is elsewhere, so pardon the lack of creativity and quality here… I’m just word-vomiting.

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The reason I got this tattoo is because it’s in memory of my little brother, David Matthew. In case anyone reading this doesn’t know that part of my story, David (plus 3 siblings) was adopted by my parents when I was 12 (I’m 23 now). Both David and his brother Chance were diagnosed with Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, a genetically inherited muscle wasting disease that can shorten the lifespan drastically, and almost always puts the diagnosed in a wheelchair. We knew they had DMD, but that didn’t make things any less difficult.

Chance is still with us, a pretty healthy and strong 16-year old who is a menace in his power wheelchair. He’s almost as dangerous as David was. In the last year or so of his life, David turned from a pretty angry and rebellious teenager to a sweet, funny, and clever guy who was a true joy to be around. He got sick often, thanks to an almost nonexistent immune system, and eventually was put on oxygen because he just couldn’t breathe well enough on his own. I know it wasn’t fun for him, but he dealt with it with acceptance and as much grace as a 17-year old guy could.

He passed away on May 4th (the kid loved Star Wars), and I was just getting off work when my husband picked me up to take me out to the Hospice House he was at to be with him in the hours before he slipped away. So much family was there, and though he wasn’t conscious, I know he felt the love.

Previous to this, Seth and I had just finished watching the anime series “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. It was by far one of the best anime series I’ve ever seen, and definitely my favorite. I’ve pretty much seen it twice now. Anyways, that morning at work I was thinking about it, and how the central characters reminded me so much of David and Chance, and I had decided that I wanted to watch it with them, because I was pretty sure they’d love it.

And then I got off work and Seth was there to take me to say goodbye to David.

It could have tainted the series for me, but instead just furthered the impact it had. I’ll tie it in by explaining the main theme of the show. The entire series centers around alchemy (hence the actual symbol I chose as my tattoo design), and around two brothers. In an alchemy related accident, one of them loses an arm and a leg, and the other loses his entire body- his soul instead being bound to a suit of armor. So essentially, the series is about two disabled brothers, fighting their way through life, wishing they had their bodies back healthy and whole.

Sounds just a little familiar to me.

I couldn’t get it out of my head, and the very night after David passed I started re-watching the series with Tamara, and made the decision that the alchemy symbol widely used and depicted in the series was going to be my memorial tattoo. I found the basic design I wanted, and had my tattoo artist draw up a design incorporating David’s initials.

In my researching of the symbol, I also read that it derives from a Jewish symbol that essentially means victory over death. Fitting indeed.

Pretty much worded out right now though, so there’s that. Hope it makes sense, and if not you know where to find me!

-Amanda

Each and every name of each and every victim is read aloud. 

Beautiful names. Names given and learned and loved.

A flower placed for each victim. A flower placed by members of a community who have wept and cared and prayed for strangers across the country.

I watch this and as the tears start to flow all I can think is that there are too many damn flowers on that table.

Fifty seems like a lot and it looks like even more when you see blossom piled upon blossom.

I attended a vigil for the Orlando tragedy tonight, organized and hosted by the local LGBT+ community. I attended to be a part of a community, I attended for solidarity and support, I attended because my heart is broken with my country.

I stood beside a couple that was two women, who silently wept and held each other, and when a speaker called for us to reach out to one another as a show of solidarity, and one of them held her hand out to me I eagerly accepted it and held on tight in the cooling evening. 

The entire circle of roughly a couple hundred people reached out to one another and held on tight.

The tragedy of what happened on Sunday didn’t really hit me until tonight, and there are just no words to express how terrible of a thing has been done. 

And yet, in the midst of this, I have never felt more a part of the community of Coeur d’Alene than I did tonight. 

To any friends of mine who are a part of the LGBT+ community, I know you feel hated, I know you feel rejected, I know you are targeted, I know you are a minority. 

But I also know that you are loved, and you are valued, and you are needed. You are unique and beautiful human beings. 

For every person that stands up and spews hatred, there will be a sea of people rising up to engulf them, to say you are wanted, and you are loved, and I want you to know that I will be a wave in that sea. 

No more flags at half-mast.

No more of these damn flowers piled on black tables.

Maybe this is already a pro-tip, but I just did it all by myself and it worked good, so. 

When you want to squeeze lime juice into/onto things, do this. 

1. Cut lime in half, across the fat middle. 

2. Turn individual halves cut side down. 

3. Make four individual cuts, essentially dividing the lime into four quarters, but keeping it all attached via the top end of the lime. 

4. Squeeze away! The individual quarters make it easier to handle, keeping you from squirting juice all over yourself, and you can use the opposing quarters against each other to extract as much as possible. 

 

Sometimes messy food is the most enjoyable; cheese and limes mingled on wooden board, one spoon to dish up all toppings, every person is the artist of their own plate. Fingers are licked, aromatic fresh-chopped herbs tossed onto food and countertop, arms reaching over arms, the pop-hiss of Mexican colas being opened interrupting the noise.

Messy food can be some of the very best, and I’m learning to relax into that. Messy life is what we’ve been given, and I’m trying to learn to relax into that as well, but I’m very bad at it.

Food is small and I can see it all on my counter and I know how it works and I have a deep and real appreciation and love for it. Life is inescapably large and I can’t see what’s going to happen and it’s unspeakably frightening. I think things are going to go a certain direction and then they don’t and I’m left drifting momentarily. A cold flood washing over my body as my head spins and I spill coffee down the front of my dress in a coffeehouse late at night. I feel lighter than air for just one moment in time as I look across the room and see the expression that must mirror mine and it’s a damning confirmation.

It’s messy; sticky warm coffee smeared across my chin and cold-hot-lighter-than-air-sinking-life jarring my heart.

I never know what to do with it, and it’s as if I’m staring at a table full of food and have forgotten how to cook.

I am missing my great Aunt Shelley right now. Missing her and wishing I could have seen her more recently. Wishing she could have met my husband, because she would have loved him. Wishing there had been more connection, more shared meals, more bread broken.

I wish I could take this life and make a little sense of it. Look at things and think to myself: Okay well this is messy and imperfect but we’ll just trim the rotten bits off and we can just throw in this and that, spice and herb, smoke things up, cure and salt and sear and taste. Make things good. Take the unsures and the new ingredients and learn with it and learn to be okay.

But I never know what to do when the milk of life sours overnight; when cast iron is heated too hot and foods burn, and breads don’t rise and flavors are discordant. When the tried and true recipe who’s outcome you can always predict goes terribly awry.

Food and life; they’re inescapably intermingled and it’s a beautiful emotional thing. It’s messy and unpredictable and sometimes just terrible, but I’m trying. I’m trying to learn, to be okay, to take the messy and know it, learn it, accept it.

To learn to find the hickory taste in the burnt edges, the baking gold in the soured dairy, the lesson in the fallen bread.

It’s disappointing and frustrating and messy and it’s life. And sometimes the messy is also the good.

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One of the most difficult things to learn is how to be proud of yourself for doing one thing right,
when everything else seems to be going wrong.

Photo Credit: Seth Elsom, Christmas of 2014

my orion

At 1 o’clock AM tonight, I walked outside to grab the mail- all careful foot on the ice stairs.

A full moon still hung above our roof, and when I stopped to look up at it through freeze-stripped branches I also saw, for the first time since I had it inscribed upon my skin, my constellation; my Orion.

I recognized it immediately, and almost without thinking my hand lifted to cup the back of my neck where my insignificant reflection sits, inked under my epidermis.

I looked to the sky where Orion flies, and I felt the warmth of my skin where Orion hides, and for just a moment- out in the cold and the blue and the clean- my heart overflowed a little.

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Naming

“Naming is Edenic. 

I name gifts and go back to the Garden and God in the beginning who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence. This naming is how the first emptiness of space fills; the naming of light and land and sky. The first man’s first task is to name. Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing the land from chaos, from the teeming, undefinable mass. I am seeing it too, in the journal, in the face of the Farmer: naming offers the gift of recognition. When I name moments- string out laundry and name-pray, thank You, Lord, for bedsheets in billowing winds, for fluff of sparrow landing on line, sun winter warm, and one last leaf still hanging in the orchard- I am Adam and I discover my meaning and God’s, and to name is to learn the language of Paradise. This naming work never ends for all the children of Adam. 

Naming to find an identity, our identity, God’s.”

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts 

The next time you begin to feel angry or bitter or offended by so-called labeling… I want you to please try and remember this. 

I’m not discounting labeling as a judgmental problem, because oftentimes it can be. What I am saying though, is that there is a reason we, as humans, have a penchant for naming (labeling) things and people. 

The above excerpt is why, I believe. 

Reflect before you react. We are human, we name, it is an aspect that defines us to our very soul.