The first part of our course was to explore creative nonfiction. I loved the personal aspects of integrating our lives creatively.
#1: Home is a Color:
Is home a place? A person? An object? A feeling? My home is green. And that might be confusing… Home is a color? But if I tried to explain home as anything else, I wouldn’t be successful. Because my home is a compilation of things, and the simplest way I can explain my home is through the color green. Wherever I go, I can see the green in the trees, the green in the grass, the green of someone’s shirt, the green in someone’s eyes… it’s everywhere. But in the situations that I consider home, green is more prominent than anything else.
“It’s Greener in Dublin” the sign reads as I drive back into my Ohio suburban hometown for the first time after leaving for college. We have the most gorgeous sunsets and in this case, a beautiful one greets me home. Green indeed with a park on every corner, soybean and corn fields scattered through our small city, and of course the classic trees and grass that grow nearly everywhere. I pride myself on this upper-middle class town which holds my childhood memories, my family, but above all my home. The actual house that I’ve grown up in isn’t anything special but it’s the emotion that comes along with it that makes it memorable. It’s a classic two-story, 4 bedroom, 2 and a half bath home with a 2-car garage which my creative mother painted a red-purple color. While our house is nothing special, my parents have done what they can with what they have to make it perfect. My dad and grandfather’s artwork scatter the rooms of our house along with other antiques, photos, and other mementos that are placed so perfectly. If it were anything less than perfect, my mother wouldn’t have it. With my artist father, and my mother who was an interior designer, our house is quirky but it has character.
My parent’s look young for having three teenage daughters. My father clearly shows his Italian roots with his dark hair, tanned skin, and brown eyes but my mother is the polar opposite with her pale, freckled face, her blue eyes like the sky on an overcast day, and her dirty blonde, perfectly wavy hair. They are a perfect couple who created a perfect family and a perfect life. When my dad walks in the door from his office job, my mom often greets his embrace with a kiss before she starts on dinner. Our kitchen is newly remodeled because my mom wanted either a new house or a new kitchen and we all would’ve rather had the kitchen than the house. Because to my sisters and I, our house is a big part of our home. My parents both love nature which plays a big part in our lives. Often on the weekends, we will go on hikes or bike rides on local nature trails. Considering that my mother’s favorite color is green, we have a lot of neutral earth tones scattered throughout the house. Well, except for the bright orange bathroom and our bedrooms which we’ve been allowed to customize. Along with our earth toned house, we even have earth toned pets. We have a buff colored cat named Nutter Butter who is the light of my life and a tan colored dog, Tanner, which is a beast but hard not to love. When I walk in the door the first time after leaving for college, my dog starts jumping, ramming all 60 pounds of his muscular body into me. But the muffled, excited cries he lets out through my father’s shoe in his mouth tell me that he’s nothing but ecstatic to see me. I pet him and calm him down while laughing. I suppose I’ve been missed. That’s when my cat decides to make himself known and he starts meowing frantically until I bend down to pick up his bony 7-pound self. He has a thyroid problem and he has surprisingly gained weight since I left. As soon as I’m holding him like I’d hold a baby, he begins to purr out of happiness.
Soon after I walk into the kitchen, my 14- and 17-year old sisters bound down the stairs. Natalie who is 17 got my mom’s eyes and hair color but Sophie looks more like my dad with her brown hair and hazel eyes. “Ew, why are you here?” Sophie remarks. This is nothing new as we joke and laugh with each other on the daily. “You haven’t even hugged Dad yet!” My dad yells to me. This is part of my home with the dinner cooking on the stove, my family all in the kitchen of our earthy house, with both of our pets trying to get our attention. I am whole, I am complete, because I am home.
Dublin, Ohio with all of its greenness has a reason behind it’s madness. All three of our high school’s colors are green of some sort and my mascot was a shamrock. (Go Rocks!) My entire life I’ve been wearing green to support my elementary, middle, and high school. We wore green for marching band and sports. Our halls were covered in green and our football field glimmered green on a Friday night. Green has been a prominent color in all aspects of my home. We are named Dublin for what it was when it was founded. It reminded our founder of his home in Dublin, Ireland which means he brought Ireland to Ohio. Each summer we host the world’s largest Irish festival outside of Dublin, Ireland. We also host a ton of golf events including the yearly Memorial Tournament. Because truthfully, everything’s greener in Dublin. So, when I chose to go to a school where the school colors were green, no one was surprised.
After my long weekend back “home”, it was time for the fun to be over. But I wasn’t upset. It was bittersweet driving back out of the greenness of my hometown but I was traveling back to another green area entitled Ypsilanti, MI. I fell in love with Eastern Michigan because of the gorgeous campus, the wonderful programs, the cheaper tuition, the quirky college town, but above all, the greenness that shone through even on the rainiest of days (which happened to be the day that I visited for the first time). It rained and snowed on the same day that I visited but despite my frozen feet and stiff hands, nothing could stop me from feeling the love that I felt for this campus. So, while driving from one green home to another, nothing felt wrong.
Home is my family, my house, my hometown, my college, my friends, but above all home is the indescribable feeling that the color green gives me. When I wear it, when I see it, when I experience the greenness of this world, it always brings me back home. I go into nature and I take photos because even on the rainiest day, the green still reflects off the leaves of any plant. And even in the dead of winter, I can still manage to find a green pine tree peeking through the sparkling snow that brings me home. Home is green but above all it’s everything that I associate with my health, happiness, and well-being.
#2: Composing the Uncomposable: A Life-Long Journey
“What are you going to name her?” The nurse asks me as I hold my newborn baby girl in my arms. It’s not the first time I’ve stared at her rose-bud lips and held her tiny fingers while watching her six-pound body rest. “I was thinking about naming her Madison” I reply. I have full intention of calling my first child “Maddie” anyway but Madison seems right. “Oh, really?” The nurse remarks; “We’ve had three babies this month born in our hospital named Madison. It’s a really popular name.” After her response, I looked at my baby and decided as her dark blue eyes opened to look at me, that I wanted her to be unique. With that, I decided on Madeline. Madeline Ann. It has a really nice ring to it. Of course, I will still call her “Maddie” but my baby is going to be a Madeline in a world of Madisons.
Madeline is now two and Rob and I are expecting another baby very soon. The second Madeline could speak she told me: “No, Mommy” whenever I called her Maddie, “My name is Madeline”. Even though I expected her to be a “Maddie” I can’t honestly imagine it now. She’s my bright little sunshine and she goes by Madeline. Madeline is such a bubbly child. She is full of energy and giggles. She’s a little bit of a bull in a china shop but aren’t all two-year olds? Rob has had to pick up more of the slack since we’re expecting another child, but he’s a very good father. He allows Madeline to express her creativity and takes naps with her when her energetic self finally runs low on steam. She really is special and I can’t wait for her to meet her new sibling and share her life with them.
Madeline is ten and the oldest of our three granddaughters. She is the brightest, most energetic one of them all. She has the most wonderful glimmer of creativity constantly flowing through her brain and she’s extremely intelligent. I call her “Queen Isabella” because she’s a queen. She knows what she wants and knows exactly how to get it. She can be impulsive but mainly because she doesn’t want to be held back. She’s the sunshine on a cloudy day. Her grandfather likes to call her “Crash” because her energy often leads her to knocking something off the shelf or dropping a plate. When she was younger, she tried to carry a kid-sized toy car up the stairs and dropped it continuing to fall into my china cabinet and breaking most of my china. This is why we keep the china cabinet in the dining room and why we no longer allow running in our house. But nonetheless, Madeline means well. Her energy just runs so strong sometimes that it causes her to be destructive but she always means well. Madeline can be a lot but she’s got personality. She’s her own person and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to change that.
My beautiful baby girl has grown into a crazy young teenager. At 13, drama seems to follow wherever she goes. I pride myself in her because she’s really turning into a beautiful young woman. She never fails to look at the bright side of any situation. She has never stopped being my sunshine regardless of what has tried to bring her down. She is always happy. Along with her ability to be so positive, she is really good with her younger sisters and cousins. She is readily available to babysit whenever we ask and she’s always so good at playing with them and taking care of them. She really has her heart set on being a teacher. I can’t wait to see what she does because no matter what, she’s going to be good at it.
It’s Madeline’s senior year of high school and I am very concerned for her. At 17, she has been through more than I think anyone her age, and Jenni and I have noticed a huge change. Rightfully so, but nonetheless it’s scary. Madeline’s sophomore year, one of her friends from color guard passed away in a car crash. She never talked about it and I don’t think she ever really processed what happened. She has always looked at the bright side and that’s what she continued to do after her friend died. Then her junior year, she had been bullied and exiled by all of her “friends” for standing up for what she thought was right. And those are just the main points of it all. Madeline’s gone to 4 funerals in the span of 3 years. She’s been to 6 funerals before the age of 18. No one should have to do that. Anyway, this past summer was hell and I’m worried.
Starting with our beach vacation in June, my parents took us for 2 weeks. She had been acting weird. She distanced herself away from everyone and would come inside and stay inside before lunch. One night, Jenni got a text from Madeline’s best friend, Megan, at 2 am. Megan had explained to Jenni that she was worried about Madeline because she had begun to hurt herself. Jenni and I took her out to her favorite local coffee place and decided to have a discussion. We were so disappointed and couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong. Our little sunshine had some major storms going through her head and we couldn’t fix them let alone notice that she was struggling. We took the measures we could to help her but she still was acting off. Then late July came around and she went to Pennsylvania with Megan for a few days to visit my parents. We got a call from my parents before Madeline and Megan drove home saying that Madeline might be gay because of an argument Megan and Madeline got into. Apparently, Madeline wrote a letter saying that she was sorry for kissing Megan’s girlfriend. My father has never been good at minding his own business but this put Jenni and I in between a rock and a hard place. So, when Madeline came home and lied to Jenni and I about where she was going, Jenni had to have a talk with her. It was hard to hear that she might be gay but we were mainly disappointed that she didn’t live up to our family’s standards by being involved in a cheating situation… especially with her best friend. She’s still been distant and Jenni and I just can’t wait for her to be her sunshine self again.
“Hey mom!” Madeline’s cheery voice rings through my cell phone. She texted me earlier asking me to call her. Her and I have always been like best friends rather than mother-daughter. This past summer was an uphill battle but also a turning point in my 19-year old’s life. Her freshman year of college was a continuation of her struggles with depression and anxiety. She gained a lot of weight and when she came home for the summer, we barely recognized her. She hasn’t been this positive, bubbly, outgoing person we raised since her freshman year of high school and I’ve been really concerned for her. I know she’s doing what she loves at school and I know she’s becoming the person she wants to be but after last year, I’ve been scared that she may never get out of this depressive state. So, this past summer, when my daughter announced to me that she was going to take control of her life and get on medication to help her, I was more than pleased. She started her job at the zoo working for food and beverage and she always talks about how much she loves it there with the people, the sense of family, her boss, and of course, the pay. Since she came home, she lost 15 pounds by eating healthy and exercising. Her medication seems to be working and I can finally start to see her sunshine peeking through the clouds. But dropping her off at college, I was worried that she might revert back into the negativity and introverted state she developed last year. Her positivity radiates through the phone, however, and I nearly let out a sigh of relief. “Hey baby, what’s goin’ on?” I respond into the phone. Madeline informs me that she just got done with her Honors college advising and she’s going to go ahead and try to pursue all three of the honors’ programs at Eastern. Not only that, but apparently, she has been an active member with photography club and she’s already started to shadow the E-board in order to try to become an E-board member next semester. She also has taken it upon herself to be a member of Active Minds which mainly advocates for mental health. She tells me that she runs their Instagram page now. She loves all her classes and she’s planning on applying for a study abroad program within the psychology department. She also tells me how she already loves her roommates which is a change from last year. She sounds whole, complete, but above all, happy. “I am so proud of you,” I say in response to her, “You really seem like you’re doing everything you love. Photography and art, queer studies, psychology and mental health… You seem like you’re doing so well and I couldn’t be happier. You’re becoming the person you’re supposed to be, Madeline.” For the first time in a long while, I recognize my daughter again. But mainly, I see the sun after a long winter. The clouds have cleared and Madeline is finally my sunshine once again.
Our second project was to do a nonfiction short-story which is what I wrote more when I was younger but haven’t dabbled in recently. This story plays with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person point of view.
Jittery on two cups of coffee and a cup of caffeinated tea with a shot of espresso, I sit in the warm coffeehouse for the rest of this long hour wait. The windows are fogged from the cold winter air. I check my phone and click on the app, “Her”. I observe how Haley’s gorgeous, ice blue eyes, long, black hair, and shiny, silver nose ring stick out compared to her pale skin in one of her photos. I look back on our messages, the last one reading, “I can’t wait!” I check the time. 10:05. We agreed on 10 but she messaged me on Snapchat this morning saying she would be a few minutes late. I’m nervous, not to meet someone new, but rather because so much is on the line. We’ve talked for months now and I feel like I’m so connected to her. She’s not my type but something drew me to her. But now I’m regretting what seems like my entire life. What if she’s not who I expect? What if I hate her? What if she isn’t who she said she was? I know this is my anxiety talking and of course the caffeine isn’t helping but it’s a comfort. I can’t help but think what if she hates me? What if everything goes wrong? What if—is that her?
As she walks into the shop with her beanie and sweatshirt, I recognize her by her eyes and her hair. Just as I had hoped, she is even more perfect in person. From pictures, it’s easy to say that someone is gorgeous. But people are made out of words, thoughts, behaviors, experiences… Some people I want to get to know down to their earliest memory along with their deepest thoughts and emotions. Whereas, with others, I don’t want to know anything more than their name. I was worried that Haley would rub me the wrong way. Once again, it’s easy to like someone online and over text conversations but in person it can be so much different. But as she walks through the door, looking down to put her keys away, I stand up. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I smile and rush to hug her. Upon our first embrace, I know she is something special.
Throughout our coffee, we laughed, talked, and solidified my confidence that I really liked this beautiful woman. There was a level of comfort throughout our entire coffee date. I became less and less worried about the way I laughed, spoke, or looked at her piercing blue eyes. Nearing the last drop of coffee, she looked at me and said, “So? What are we doing next?” I’ve told her many times that I hate making decisions so instead of coming up with a solid answer I simply said, “I don’t know but I know I just want to be with you.” As we stood up, I grabbed her hand out of impulse but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It seemed as if I had done so a million times prior.
Although it was a first date, it felt as though we had been together forever. I’m what seems to be such a hopeless romantic when it comes to my love life. I’ve been with people time and time again who I hope will be “the one”. I’ve always felt rushed, panicked, and anxious because what if I settle? Or what if I find something better and have to put myself and my partner through terrible heartbreak? My anxiety tells me that I will never live this perfect life while my obsessive-compulsive disorder tells me I have to. My depression sits in the background sulking and saying that I never need to worry about any of this because I am not good enough nor will I ever be therefore nothing matters. My mental illnesses have contributed to my life and relationships so much that in order to please them (outside of filling my body with medications) I have had to come to some compromises. They might seem silly but they’re necessary. One: My life will never be perfect but if it is enough for me and I’m happy then it’s perfect enough. Two: If I never find a spouse, I will work on my career until I’m 30 and the I will go to the sperm bank and get a sperm donor so I can still be a mother. Lastly is three: Everything happens for a reason and I have a purpose therefore I can handle whatever life throws at me. These three compromises tell my mental illnesses to shut the hell up and mind their own damn business. For once, however, I don’t feel my mental illnesses trying to dictate how I feel about this gorgeous person that is Haley. For once, I’d love for my anxiety to question my every decision. I’d love for my depression to tell me exactly why I’m not good enough. I’d kill to hear my OCD explain to me why this situation isn’t and will never be perfect. I would love for these things to send me into my usual flurry of panic and apologizing. But instead, I feel strange. I feel free?
As we walk into Haley’s apartment, which is something I’d typically never do on a first date, I feel calm. I feel good. We lay in her bed as we talk and cuddle. Everything just feels right. Her head lays on my chest and my hand strokes her smooth hair. Our fingers entangle, exploring a new realm of comfort. All I can think about is how much I love being around her. She makes me the happiest girl in the world. I wait for my mental illnesses to speak up but instead, there is silence. And that seems to be the only discomfort I experience in this situation. My anxiety takes a deep breath, consults with my OCD and admits that maybe I could have a perfect life with little to worry about. My depression straightens up, pipes in, and says, “Hey Alicia, you might not ‘be’ good enough but to this girl you seem perfect…” My depression, anxiety, and OCD have come to a realization that for once they can be quiet. Everything is oddly under control. I don’t have to be panicking about anything. I don’t have to focus on anything but this moment. I haven’t even kissed this girl and yet I know that when I do, sparks will fly. Normally, I’d be eager to press my lips against hers but this time is different. I feel that the time isn’t right. And for some reason the stupid voices in my head don’t make me feel unsure. So, I decide to take it slow. Something about Haley is worth the wait. But I know that once my lips press against hers, the world just might stop. I know I’m a hopeless romantic but something tells me that she might just be “the one”.
You run your fingers through your thick, curly hair. Your hair is parted just right so that nothing gets in your face and yet still frames your gorgeous features. Your lips are pursed which typically means you’re worried or anxious. Your leg bounces frantically under the table. When you see me, your eyes light up but you are unsure. You do not know whether to stand up or wait. As time has gone by, your lovely features have not changed. Your smooth, freckled skin, grey-blue eyes, and ever-pink lips have become a sign of home. It has been three years since you were sitting alone in the coffeehouse. Three years in which you have been joyful, angry, sad, excited, and everything in between. Your facial features simply changed with the music of life and you’ve taught me what those mean. You are nothing different from that first day and yet you continue to bring me happiness.
A year ago, you dropped to one knee. You held a gold band in your hand with a sparkling diamond perched in the center. You said that I brought you happiness. You asked me to spend my life with you. In response, you watched as I dropped to my knee. You began crying when you earned a proposal right back. You have always thought similarly as I do. You chose the right place, in the coffee house where we first met. You had no idea I was planning on doing the same thing. You knew you wanted to be with me even as mascara was running down your face and you rushed to kiss me after our proposals. In that moment, you were sitting back where you waited for me. Your hair was longer then. But nonetheless it was you.
Today, you walk down the aisle. Your beautiful ball gown white dress with lace detail and the classic sweetheart neckline bring tears to my eyes. Your dad wraps his arm through yours guiding you every step of the way. Your eyes sparkle just as they did that first day but today it is because your happiness comes in the form of tears. You aren’t able to run your hand through your hair because it is up in an up-do with just enough hanging down so that one curl frames your face. Once again, you’re in the coffeehouse. That memory doesn’t last long though because your father hugs you and kisses your make-upped cheek as he nods with acceptance at me. Your lips aren’t pursed because you are not worried. Today, you are happy. You are home. Your lips press against mine and you are never going to be or feel alone ever again.
Throughout the night, your hand barely leaves mine. You find comfort in my presence just you know I feel with yours. You dance and laugh throughout the reception. You cry when family members make toasts that are sentimental. You bite your lip when you try not to smile. You tell me that your cheeks hurt from the grin never leaving your face. You tell me that you’re happy to spend your life with me. You tell me that you are happy.
You reminisce about your night when we are in our limo. You tell me you can’t to get to our hotel. You have planned a surprise for our honeymoon but you don’t know what I have in store for you. You are clearly thinking about our lives and our future. You wonder about kids and how we will be as parents. You wonder about our house and when we will move. Your eyes stare into mine while you wonder out loud about where you’re going with me in hand. Alicia, you will never be unloved. You will never be alone. You are safe. Forever and always now, you are mine.
The first date was an accident. With Alicia in a toxic relationship looking for a hookup and Haley wanting nothing more than another girl to add to her list of women, their relationship shouldn’t have happened. And yet, their conversations changed everything. Alicia spoke honestly about her love of books, people, and adventures while Haley perfectly contrasted Alicia with her belief that nothing happened for a reason. They listened to each other contently while opposing views yet not debating either. With each of them in the rough spot of life that they were in, they needed each other. With the mutual respect came a completely different feeling than what Alicia and Haley felt. While both of these young women were used to emotionless or meaningless relationships, they quickly realized the importance of love, commitment, and waiting for something good.
Now, nearly five years later, good was to come. Married, with the support of their closest friends and family, they were soon to have a child. Alicia received a promotion at her dream job, becoming a supervisor and lead therapist at the hospital. Haley was a detective working with her close friends. Alicia, being 5 months pregnant, was not only excited for their near future, but also ready to stay home and take care of their first child. Haley often wondered if she would have a lesser connection with their baby since she didn’t carry the child, but she was also hopeful that Alicia would help her stay connected with their baby.
Each of the women exceeding their goals, they have little knowledge of what is soon to come. With LGBT+ rights revoked, in the next year, Haley will have a harder time gaining rights over her newborn child. Haley and Alicia’s marriage, while still valid, will be overlooked in some areas of the country. While Alicia is safe at her hospital job, Haley could be looking at a demotion or even being let go of her job because of her sexuality. Taking a step back in history, Alicia and Haley’s lives would be turned upside down. Worried about the life of their child, they would move out of the state to a place where their lives would be less threatened.
With the move and the young child, Haley and Alicia’s marriage became unsteady. Despite their undying love for one another, Haley worked late and Alicia took care of their child and worked often being a single mother. The stress was adding up and Haley wasn’t around enough to be a solid form of support for Alicia. Alicia became more and more frustrated and yet the most Haley had the energy for was to listen. Rarely anything changed and eventually Alicia was on the verge of ending their marriage.
One day, however, Haley came home early from work while their child was still at school. Alicia had the day off and was sitting on the couch. When Haley walked in the door, Alicia’s eyes lit up. They hadn’t had much time alone and this was a rare event. Haley sat down next to Alicia, put her arm around her and said, “Listen, I know I’ve been in the wrong…” Haley spilled all her thoughts and feelings to Alicia. In order to fix their love life, Haley quit her job and began working a part time job within her field to better support her family. Alicia agreed to work less hours and they compromised on having a conversation about each other’s days every night before bed. While the couple went through a lot, and would clearly go through more, love is love. They were both stubborn and therefore never seeing a failed marriage a real option. They complimented each other and were the perfect pair to live their lives together. Their accident turning into a happy ending.
Our next project was right up my alley with poetry, however, I was challenged with forms of poetry I had never used before. Here was my final portfolio (also can be found on the “Poetry” tab).
#4: Navigating My Mind, My Truth, Myself: A Journey
Lastly, we were to do a “final remix” project using other media. We had to combine two different things we had learned in class (either using old or new work) and combine it into a whole new project. I combined spoken word poetry, which I had never done before, with older poems, music, and a video presentation matching my poems to film images I had developed. This is what I came up with.
#5: Untitled Final Remix