Wasting Away

I struggled for a while with whether or not I wanted my completed book to include the following excerpt. I ultimately realized that I had to include it. Too many LGBT teens are lost to suicide. And too many more have attempted it. With the family life that Cinnamin had growing up, there is no doubt in my mind that she struggled with thoughts of suicide at one point or another. Years later, as she is dealing with intense grief, of course those thoughts would return to her. Leaving them out of the book would be inaccurate to the emotional construction of the character.

So without further ado, here is the beginning of Chapter Three of Finding ‘Ohana:

 

All I did while I stayed at Lucas’ house was go through my memories. That, and torture myself with the “what if” game. What if we had not run out of flour that week, and I had not seen that toddler who’d dropped the sprinkles? But on the days that I was honest with myself, I knew the flour was not to blame. What if I had ignored the exchange Naali’d had with the toddler? Or even if we had decided to have a baby, what if only I had gotten artificially inseminated instead of both of us? What if I had gotten pregnant instead of Naali? What if I had not been relieved when it was Naali who’d gotten pregnant, when I knew I would be the birthing coach instead of the one giving birth?

But we did run out of flour, I did suggest we have a baby. I did not get pregnant. And I was relieved. I was selfish enough to be relieved that I would not have to go through the pain of childbirth. And so now I was being punished with a worse pain. I was not at home with my new family. Instead, I was a burden in my friend’s home.

I spent most days alone while Lucas was at work and Julie was in morning preschool and afternoon day care. I would not have been able to tell how long I had been there if it were not for Lucas and Julie’s weekends at home.

I thought that maybe if I did nothing, not even eating or sleeping, maybe I would waste away. I might have done more, if I had not promised Lucas long ago that I would never do anything intentional to hurt myself.

When I was in high school, once the rumors about me started, I stole half of Mom’s sleeping pills from the medicine cabinet. I assumed there were more than enough to do the job. But Lucas found them in my bedside table.

“What are these?” he had asked.

When I saw what he was referring to, I froze. The look on my face was enough of an answer for him.

“You were going to take these, all of them?” He sounded angry now.

“No. I mean, not necessarily.” Tears filled my eyes. “I hadn’t decided yet.”

“Then why do you have them?” He was almost yelling. His voice shook with fear.

“Just in case.”

He jerked the whole drawer from my bedside table and stomped into my bathroom. I heard the toilet flush. He came back holding the empty drawer and dropped it. The wood made a hollow echo in my room as it hit the floor.

“You can’t,” he said. “You can’t ever.” His voice was barely a whisper, but I knew he meant it. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I just couldn’t do it without you.”

I nodded.

“Promise,” he said.

“I promise.”

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Cinnamin and Naali are Having a Baby

Continuing my read-through edits, today I am posting more of Chapter One from Finding ‘Ohana. If you want to read the chapter in order, start with the opening of Chapter One.

 

There was a time when I thought I would never want to have children, because I’d always imagined them growing up the way I did. In my mind’s eye, my children prayed earnestly to be able to keep their sinful natures under control. I could see my children viewing the world as though it were created by an angry God, a God who was difficult to please, an extension of myself as a parent. How could I live with myself for bringing new life into a world like that?

Even after I’d devoted myself to Naali, and my own parents had decided I was no longer their daughter, I saw this possible future of myself. I was sure that if I had children, I would become my parents. I was sure that if I had children, they would grow up to hate themselves, as I used to hate myself. And I worried that they would never overcome that hate, as I have finally learned to.

I struggled with this perception until one day when Naali and I were in the baking aisle of the grocery store. I sometimes wonder how my life might have been different if we had not run out of flour that week. I might never have become a mother.

I had just bent down to grab a sack of flour when I heard a baby start crying. Loudly. I turned around to see Naali pick up a container of sprinkles off the floor near the cart the baby was sitting in. She handed it to the crying baby – who I could now see was actually a young toddler – and he stopped crying. He shook the sprinkles a few times, like a rattle.

“There you go. That’s much better, isn’t it?” Naali asked. She was not baby-talking to the toddler, but her voice was soft and soothing. He smiled, his teeth bright with the contrast of his dark skin.

“He likes you,” his mother said, not far away, holding a bag of sugar.

“He’s a sweet kid,” Naali said, and shrugged, as though she comforted crying children all the time.

I put the flour in our cart. Until then, I had always pictured our possible children as though they were born with my parents’ genes – my genes, not Naali’s. I had been thinking of childhoods as though they were all the same. But of course we would not raise children the way my parents had raised Billy and me. If anything, Naali and I would follow Kamea and Ihupani’s parenting methods, as they were much closer than my family was (physically and in spirit). Why had I been worried about my parents’ influence? I had always known we were different, and I certainly knew that Naali and her family were very different from mine. Our children would be happy as I had never been as a kid.

“We should have a baby,” I said.

Naali looked up from the shopping list, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. It occurred to me that while I had been having my inner monologue, we had moved halfway across the store, picked up three or four new things off our list, and Naali had been wondering out loud about whether or not we were out of grape jelly at home.

“So,” she said slowly, “we will need a new jar of jelly.” She scribbled grape jelly on the shopping list, grabbed hold of the cart, and pushed it toward the condiment aisle.

“Naali,” I laughed. “I’m serious. We could start our own family. I know you’ve always wanted to. Your parents would be thrilled. And we’re financially comfortable enough now to have kids. We could buy a house with a couple of spare bedrooms, and—”

Naali’s eyes grew wide again and she cut me off abruptly. “A couple of spare bedrooms?” she asked, “How many kids do you think we’ll have?”

I just shrugged. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

Naali looked down at her hands wrapped around the handle of the shopping cart. I could tell she was thinking it through. After a few moments, she looked up and smiled at me.

“Why don’t we just start with one?”

We fell easily into the routine of preparing for the baby to arrive. We started reading to the baby the day we found out Naali was pregnant. We might have sung, but we did not think the baby would want to be born if it heard our tone-deaf attempts at music. And I loved music so much, I could not bear it if our child did not love it too. So for music, we played CDs, and to introduce the baby to our voices, we read.

“‘I’ll love you forever,” Naali had read aloud.

I sat on the floor in front of our couch, resting my head on Naali’s knees and listening to the soft sound of her voice, “‘I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living—’”

“What is it?” I jumped up, “Are you all right?”

“The baby kicked. Just now.”

I felt a twist of nerves in my stomach. This could be the first time I would have real contact with the baby. Naali never stopped having contact with our child, but all I could do was hope that when I talked to it, the sound actually made it through. My hand flew to Naali’s belly. But there was no movement.

“It just stopped.” Naali saw my face. “But the baby will kick again, you’ll get plenty more chances to feel kicks.” She smiled at me.

I felt cheated. I had been so close to feeling the touch of my baby for the first time. Hoping that my voice might also elicit a kick, I took over reading where Naali left off, now with my hand resting on her belly so I would not miss it again. “‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’”

Operation Rewrite is a Go!

I spent the entire day rearranging Finding ‘Ohana, as was recommended to me by one of the literary agents I had submitted to. It’s a good thing I’m an organization freak, because it was really difficult finding new homes for the many scenes which I originally wrote with a specific flow in mind. But, after six hours, everything is in place!

I actually can’t believe it was six hours, because I honestly enjoyed it. In order to know where I should move scenes, I ended up rereading a few of them. The result? I’ve been reacquainted with my novel,

and reminded of how much I truly love it. I love my characters, I love the experiences they have which bring them together and tear them apart. I love the message my writing tells, and I love the genuine emotion that I poured into the story.

Now all that’s left to do is another read-through of the whole book, and I’ll have a new final draft!

While I’m in the final stages of yet another rewrite, I’ve decided to post excerpts as I review them. Today will be a small excerpt because I am a little exhausted from rearranging and I don’t think I can edit much more in one sitting.

So, once more, from the top:

 

I had been to funerals before, but not like this. Never like this. The mourning ‘ohana on the boat and riding the waves around it was in aloha wear: a white background covered in bright blue Hawaiian flowers. Even the ocean matched them. But I was wearing the black and white memory of a time when I had been happy.

The boat rocked gently on the waves, like a baby’s bassinet. A few people around me closed their eyes and reveled in the salty breeze. They looked as though they were relaxing. As though this were just another day at sea. As though they had not just lost a person that had held them together like glue.

I suppose they still had each other to hold them together. They were ‘ohana, family, and to them that meant they could never be alone.

The boat lurched more vigorously than usual, and I gripped the edge to remain upright, although no one else seemed affected. How did they not notice that everything around us was shifting this way and that, too fast to gain footing and see which way was up? The world kept turning, but I knew it should have stopped. 

Finally, the boat returned to its rocking, gentle as a cradle. Still, I held on, knowing that if I let go I would fall, cradle and all.

Ihupani started the funeral by reminding us all why we were there. But I knew why. We were there because of me. Because I wanted to have a baby.

I listened as friends and family members took turns speaking, and, little by little, bits of gray began to overtake the blue. A voice quieted, a hand turned, and a small amount of ash drifted down to the water. That was better. The gray made more sense. I wished that it would cover all the water, all the sky, all the aloha wear around me. I did not want to see blue anymore, blue that reminded me of our son, of happiness, of what we could have had. I wanted to see gray, so that what I saw around me could match what I felt inside.

Don’t Give Me Songs, Give Me Something to Sing About

Today’s post is in participation with Women On Writing’s mass-blogging event, Everybody is Talking About Finding the Music in Life. We are celebrating the release of Sonia’s Song by Sonia Korn-Grimani. To read Sonia’s post and follow our symphony of participating bloggers visit The Muffin. Share your comments on any participating blog for a chance to win a copy of Sonia’s Song!

Sonia’s Song is the story of one girl, who rises from war’s ashes to sing the songs of hope and love world-wide. A heart-wrenching and poignant memoir, by internationally renowned singer Sonia Korn-Grimani.

 

 

I have been singing since I learned how to speak. So to ask me how I find music within life is like asking me how I find music within a song. You just cannot have one without the other. I think the best way I have been able to describe my feelings about music was in a paper I wrote for my high school choir class. The teacher read it aloud to everyone, and ultimately decided to put it on the choir page in the yearbook:

“Music is the greatest and purest expression of emotion. Every high or low, the greatest ecstasy, the most crushing depression, the most intoxicating hatred or love are all best understood through music: the universal language. People don’t have to understand the words used, because they will hear the passion in the song and know what is being said. Sometimes words just aren’t enough. When a word has yet to be invented for so strong a feeling that it is overwhelming, a song is born.”

I still believe this (although I’m sure every artist will tell you the same thing about her/his own medium of art).

For my twenty-first birthday, my gift to myself was a tattoo. I wanted something that I knew I would always love. Since I didn’t have any children at the time, the answer was clearly music. Nothing will ever take the music from me.

The notes are a line from the Moulin Rouge song, “Come What May,” and the words for the line are: “Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing?” Because when music affects you as much as it affects me, even your heart sings.

 

I’d like to leave you with a short excerpt from my novel, Finding ‘Ohana, of Cinnamin and Naali’s first date:

 

I’d been scared to let Naali know how I thought of her, but I’d still dressed up for her, hoping she might think of me the same way. We went to see The Princess and the Frog, which I had suggested because I’m such a Disney nut. I was excited to see the newest princess movie, but I was more excited for an excuse to see Naali outside of class. I’d had no idea it was a date until halfway through the movie.

My eyes had been glued to the screen as the Cajun firefly, Ray, started singing about the evening star, Evangeline. I’d been too nervous to look at Naali in the seat next to me.

Look how she lights up the sky, ma belle, Evangeline, Ray sang of his true love.

My eyes flicked over to Naali. She was not looking at the screen. Instead, her gaze was focused on me. My face had burned at getting caught looking at her during the romantic song, and I’d retreated to watching the movie again.

Love always finds a way, it’s true. And I love you, Evangeline. A trumpet solo had played and I’d felt Naali’s hand reach for mine. Shocked, I’d turned to her, but her eyes were closed, head swaying gently to the music. I let her fingers intertwine with mine.