Writing: The Art of Romanticizing Life

I’ll be the first to admit that my life is, by no means, glamorous. I am in, in no way, the best at anything. I have many talents but am a master of none, as the saying goes.

But when I tell people stories of my life, they listen. Or they read, because I am a writer and all. I lived a life that was very clumsy, but for that I have stories to tell. I did not live them so that I could make a profit or for the attention. Many of the stories I have to tell about my life, I truly wish I could take back and never live through again.

But why do you even bring them up, if you wished they never happened?

I am who I am today, because of those events. Because of my mistakes. While there is a teeny bit of satisfaction from people being interested in what I have to say, I honestly want people to learn from my life.

How do you get people to listen?

As a writer, stories are told in a way that place people in the moment. I put them there with me in the emergency room in Baghdad, in the concrete shelter of a bunker in Talil, in a helicopter over Mosul, on the seas of the Persian Gulf.  They listen as if they were on the receiving end of the phone call, the bad news, the heartbreak, the fear. Things that they have felt before but claim “I can’t even begin to imagine.”

Oh, but you can. And I will help you.

Writing is taking my day, mundane and routine, giving the details of what would normally go unnoticed, and changing the perspective of the person reading (or listening. I tell a lot of stories, too).

Writers church up the details, regardless of their intent. We make things darker, bolder, sexier, more precious. We put makeup on the pig, and fool them all.

This is kind of embarrassing but I’ll admit to it:

I have a habit of commentating my life as I go through my day. It makes me more conscious of my emotions, easier to control because I imagine people are listening to my thoughts and watching me throughout my day. This exercise also helps me to search out those romantic details of my day, and explore them.

Disclaimer: By romance, I am not referring to any type of relationship with people. I am referring to the ability to make something ordinary or otherwise a footnote and showing it in a light that makes it appear desirable.

Example: I have recently resigned from my job. I will, more or less, be a stay at home mom. For those who live there, they know it’s not as exciting as it sounds. But the writer in me divulges more, because heaven forbid anyone think my life is boring or mundane. I’m quitting my job to write full time and focus on my children. My book is finally finished and I have begun seeking representation. I should be published by the summer of 2018.

See how romantic that sounds? Not once did I mention dirty dishes or poopy diapers. Scrubbing the toilet or folding an endless pile of laundry. My hope was that you would imagine me, in my business casual, typing in my home office while my children play quietly on the floor in their clean day clothes (I just laughed so hard I snorted).

So you, writer, can you “church up” your day to day? Can you paint a sexy picture of your #bedhairdontcare? Can you fool us into believing Beyonce ACTUALLY woke up like that? That is my challenge for you today. Tweet it, FaceBook it, Instagram it.

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#myromanticlife

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Blogger-versary!

Thanks to social media, I realized I began my blog, two years ago! My Very first blog post was about writing my book, which was super fun to revisit.

I wake up each morning and check my stats on my blog, book, Twitter and all my notifications on FaceBook. Understand that my mood for the day is not based on numbers, but I do use them to gauge my relevance in the literary world. Lately, I have been reaching more people and slowly adding to my following. And because I am a huge nerd, numbers really get me going. Seeing a measurable increase gets me motivated to do more. With my book steady at #1, and my blog views as high as they have ever been, I am feeling a little more accomplished as a writer.

SO…. In honor of my 2 year anniversary, I’d like to do a give away. This time there will be 5 winners! The winners will receive a personalized Christmas present from me. A FREE SIGNED COPY OF APPARENT POWER, the novel I’ve been working on for over 2 years!!!!

The give away will go on for about 5 weeks, I’ll pick a winner every Friday until the end of July. Here is how to enter:

  1. Follow my blog!! by clicking +Follow at the bottom right of your screen.
    1. You can also follow my Author Page on FaceBook
    2. My Book Page on FaceBook
    3. Follow me on Twitter @daciaauthor
    4. And Follow me on Pinterest @britestfyrefly
    5. And for about 7 more days you can read a very rough draft of Apparent Power at ChapterBuzz

2. Share/ Reblog/ Retweet/ Pin your favorite Britestfyrefly blog post on your chosen social platform and tag me so I know you’ve entered the drawing.

You can enter every week as many times as you’d like, but you can only win once. Happy sharing!!!

 

Not me. Not this time.

HappyBirthdayMy Love

I have never been the one to mess with. I have either always knew the rule or researched it enough to know whether my stance on the matter was right or wrong. Health/ dental insurance don’t mess with me.  I know my contract in and out. I know what I am “entitled to”.

“But Dacia, you’re a millennial, you’re not entitled to anything!

I am a ten year Army veteran. I have earned my health and dental plans. (But really they are my husband’s work’s so shut up. Yes I have ‘earned’ them)

So let me tell you women something. You do not have to agree with what they tell you.

You don’t have to go along because you don’t know any better

You can learn negative and detrimental things of you own past that bring to light something you held at high regard.

You can learn that ‘”protection” might not have actually saved you from the danger of your own family.

You can learn that after 32 years of existence, what you thought you had built your own foundation  on was a lie or was kept a secret from you, in hopes that it would go away.

I feel ashamed and defensive. I feel like I am owed the truth on the matter before I go chiseling at the details.

I feel that being so comfortably removed from the situation has, yes, saved me from the physical hurt that others have experienced but also left the remaining victims silent in their recovery, personal remorse, and unable to anonymously share their side of the story.

Ladies- You are not alone. Many have felt this pain. It is not my story to tell, but if you can help others by stepping up, then maybe it’s worth it.

It is time that you have felt this validation. That YOU know that you are loved despite the things that happened to you.

I grew up so far removed. My memories are locked in the photos I own. I try to apply principles to my own little family that has very different dynamics.

If you can please help me to understand why women lay so vulnerable to men;   not allowing their own voices to be heard. Why do you place your husband above the love of your children? Then I may be able to sleep tonight.

Six Fact Sunday

So it’s Saturday, but most will wake up to this post so here it goes.

In March I will begin a very intense writing challenge which will limit my time here with you all. So the compromise is that I will aim at doing one very structured post.

Since this is the first, this week will simply be about me. Six things you probably do not already know about me.

  1. I can say “Hello. How are you. I am good. I am tired.” in six different languages. Enough to make a person otherwise isolated smile at my attempt at relating. These six languages include English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Swahili (my personal favorite). The funny thing is, if you have watched the movie Lion King, you know far more Swahili than you think. Simba= Lion. Rafiki= Monkey. Hakunah Matata really means “No worries”. lol Isn’t that fun?!!? In the hospital where I work, there are many African immagrants and they typically speak French or Swahili. When you say hello in their native language their faces light up. It’s so fun.
  2. I once turned in a human jaw bone belonging to a 200 year old Native American man to the coroner’s office. This is a looong story for another time.
  3. I once physically took two children from their home and placed them into protective custody. This is a sad and frustrating story of a young woman mentally unfit to care for her own kids. I would not be in the least bit surprised if they never made back to her. Sweetest kids ever and I was 6 months pregnant and managed to hold it together. Ugh.
  4. I once served someone divorce papers. Very awkward, but he was expecting them.
  5. I have only been a writer for two years. This is how long I have been working on my current novel. I get stuck on character interactions in difficult situations.
  6. Coffee means sooooo much to me. I can go without it, but there is a sense of calm and security it brings me that If it came down to my health or coffee, I would have to make a few compromises.  Sometimes I drink decaf if I get a late night craving because it is far more about the taste and experience than the caffeine involve. I would just consider that a perk at this point.

So now you know a little about me. Want more 6 facts? What subjects would you like to see? Later posts might include:

“Six Facts About Civilian Life After the Military”

“Six Facts About Solo Parenting”

“Six Facts About Sleep Deprivation”

Lawd I think I have my month planned out. Cheers!!


There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter???

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.
You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Good luck everyone and Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

Then there was the time I joined the Army. Throughout my 10 years, I was often asked “Why did you join?”

The easy answer was that I ran out of things to do. In retrospect, at the ripe old age of 19 I find it extremely hard to believe. But looking back at my options at the time, if I did not get out of that tiny town, I would have never left. I miss that place, but it was too small for me.

The real answer and my driving force to join the Army was a Hail Mary attempt at connecting with my father. Growing up, I remember him always coming or going. We would record our voices on cassette tapes and send them to whatever country he was in that year. He would send some back with souvenirs, some I still have to this day.

I remember the way my dad smelled when he would come back from the field. All of his gear would smell like camouflage and sweat. My brother and I would try to hold his feet while he did sit ups and then he would leave the house and run for miles before coming back drenched and out of breathe.

I remember Christmases were the most magical time. Mom and Dad would go all out, rearranging the house and adding decorations we have no idea existed. I never really felt the tinge of needing. I’m sure they went without before we ever did.

2002 sent my dad to Korea. I completed a year of Bible college where the focus was on finding the love of God as a Father. This bought about many glaring daddy issues I never knew existed and a driving need to rectify them.

 

I enlisted in the Army while my dad was at war. I knew he could not tell me “No” once I had done it. Looking back, being in the midst of death and violence, I am almost positive it broke his heart to imagine his daughter in such a place. He was nothing but supportive, and even was able to make Christmas special from where ever he was:

 

“Hello Everyone,

Sorry I’m not anywhere to get you a nice Christmas card. They did finally get some Thanks giving ones in.

A lot of fighting in Ramadi these days. We continue to take casualties, but I think we are doing well. Your Dad is “A Fighting First Sergeant”. I’ll be glad when this chapter in life has concluded.

I miss you and love you. Your invisible Father,

Love, Dad”

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I received a couple of letters from my dad prior to this at boot camp. The Drill Sergeants would call us out of formation to collect our mail. One  day I was questioned as to who the letter was from, seeing that it came from a military base over seas from a First Sergeant with my last name. I told them my father was at war. They let me go without consequence, and I found that quite strange. On Thanksgiving, as we all stood completely still and silent, that same Drill Sergeant called upon me as we waited to enter the dining facility for our holiday meal.

“Private Gilliam! Who is your father?”

“First Sergeant Gilliam, Drill Sergeant.”

“Now listen up, pit stains! While you go inside and file thru getting your fatty-cakes and licky-chewies, remember that there are Soldiers far more discipline than you, eating MRE’s or nothing at all. Private Gilliam’s dad is at war. He isn’t eating turkey. He’ll be lucky to get  peanut butter on a stale piece of bread.”

As “tough” as I wanted to be, I cried. He was right and I felt so ashamed for never realizing that he was not away from home because he wanted to be. That day I realized where he had been throughout my life.

When I went home for Christmas break, I was able to check my email and found that he had sent a mass email to the family.

 

“Hello everyone, It has been a while and communications will continue to be sporadic like this for a while. There has been a great deal of fighting and it is not over by a long shot in this country… Please pray for them [his Soldiers]. I am fine. I am currently on my third hummvw. The first one was blown up an 2 Sep. The second took 2 rpg rounds in the left rear door and out the back of the vehicle in Oct. Now I’m down to a haji armored cargo. It has already been hit by a proximity mortar round which shredded my cooler in the back. Up until that point I hadn’t gotten angry. However, I had hopes of cleaning that cooler up and setting it next to my recliner full of light beer from Miller after I retire. It was more important to me than the big screen TV I am going to buy. Oh yeah and a few new bullet holes in the front windshield, but it is bullet proof so long as we don’t take too many more. We are back to living without electricity, water, the usual. My company has commandeered a large castle (Keep) looking building. The rest of the battalion is holding up in a small post a mile or so down the road. I tell ya, it has been fifteen years since I had to burn human excrement. But it was a most humbling and almost spiritual ritual… Anyway, I am good and all is well today. Never take your life for granted. Love, Jim”

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Not many people know that my dad is a funny guy. In the thick of all that had and was happening, he did not want us to worry but he did want us to know what it was like. I also want to add that he lost his first hummvw the day before his birthday and the second when I left for boot camp. None of us (family) had any idea.

When I returned after Christmas, I found out that both of my feet had stress fractures and my hips were not much better off. I was 5’2″ and 120 pounds tops carrying the same load as the 6’2″ guy next to me. Okay, maybe his boots weighed more than mine but  you get the idea. I had never been athletic in my life. I was struggling to even walk some days but trying to make it through with my peers. Dad sent me this:

 

“Dear Dacia, It was great to get your letter. I mean REALLY GREAT. Glad to hear basic is going well for you. It is a steady paycheck. Do the best that you can and even if you do recycle, it’s that much more money in the bank.

I love you and miss you. I am very, very proud of you. With the way things are  you could probably transfer to Active Duty if you like it. I go along your thoughts and try the part time thing first.

Here in Ramadi we are preparing for the upcoming elections…  We will never make the news though because Ramadi is the political capital of the Anbur Province. So there is too much of our own politics at stake here… Never forget what your job means  in the Army. You take care and do your best. I love you sooooo much. Love, Dad”

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I carried this letter into my own war. In 2007, I deployed to work in Baghdad ER as a medic. For 15 months I witnessed the atrocities of war. I would look into young Soldier’s eyes, talking to them, trying to calm them as we tended to their fatal wounds before they slipped off to sleep and up to the operating room for a last chance at some sort of life beyond their wounds. I never followed up to know if they made it home. We would already be onto another set of young men and women mangled from a fight. Children would come in the same way.

I pushed through that time in my life because I never forgot what my job meant. I had also not only witnessed but experience a small fraction of what my dad went through while his little girl prepared for the same.

The day my father announced his retirement, I cried. Could my father truly be a mortal being? Would he still wear his uniform as a Sergeant Major as he walked me down the isle and give me away to my husband?

Yes, yes, and yes. Over twenty years of an infantry career, took its toll on my father’s body, but he would still dawn the uniform with his rows and rows of ribbons perfectly straight and right shoulder insignia proudly displayed. As we stood at the closed door that represented the rest of my life, the other side a gentleman sang “Lady” by Styx, my dad looked at my and said “Are they going to change the music or are we walking out to this?”

“No, Dad. We are walking out to this.” He smiled and the door opened.

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In his loud, clear, and stern Sergeant Major voice, he announced “Her mother and I” were giving me away.

Later that evening, the moment came to dance with my dad. I do not recall this ever happening before in my life. “We Belong” by Pat Benetar played and I cried.

“How did we get here, MeMe?” His little girl who had shitty handwriting in third grade and who hated to do homework had been to war twice and was now married.

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Even in his retirement, my father has been the one I have turned to for life advice. He would offer it knowing I was going to do what I wanted anyway. He was supportive and always proud even if the road I took to success was not the easiest. I made it work, I made a family, and I grew into a happy successful adult.

I attribute my resilience to having to do things for myself. Needing to find my own way to get there. My dad really is a funny guy. No one else would no that. He has always been my hero. Love you, King Daddy.

 

Syrian Babies

I am reluctant to write such a confrontational post, but the more I hold this in, the more it eats my soul.

Lately it has been a thing to post photos of injured/ dead Syrian children on social media. For the love of everything I just can’t.

I can see why one might feel that this is justified: They are raising awareness of the atrocities that are occurring in Syria and the need for liberation, They are angry at our president for banning further refugees into America, They want to shock people into action.. However they wish to justify sharing these images, I am not in the least bit concerned.

Have you ever seen an injured or otherwise mangled child? Have you been to war and seen first hand the “collateral damage”? Have you treated a little kid whose abdominal contents sit visible while that little one is in so much shock, he does not even realize the extent of his ouchy? No? Never? Then stop fricken putting these photos on your FaceBook! You are not creating a soft spot in people’s hearts, are you making them numb to death. You are turning a subject that should outrage people into another make up tutorial.

“Dacia, how can you just stand idly by while these horrible things are happening to babies?!” I will tell you how. Because hearing the screams from these babies killed and maimed over a war that is not theirs saying “Where were you while we were being slaughtered?!” is too much for me to carry emotionally.

When I see these posts and these babies, all the memories of real children that I have touched, held,  and carried to the morgue come rushing back. AND THEN, the faces of these teeny babies are replaced with the faces of my own children and I suddenly understand that I cannot, no matter how much I love them and try, I cannot protect them. Not my kids. Not Syrian kids. Do you think that the parents of Sandy Hook thought that their kids were safe when they dropped them off at school? Of course they did. I live everyday terrified that the things I had seen and experienced at war, will one day follow me home and show up on my door step. I daily use methods to keep PTDS and obsessive actions at bay when it comes to my children.

So PLEASE, stop don’t share these photos. I have experienced war. I know what happens. It is disgusting, and horrible what is happening but FaceBook is not going to contact your city representatives and voice your opinion about your city’s stance on refugees. FaceBook is not where you go to open your home to a family or even an orphan of a war torn country. FaceBook is not going to donate money to replace what was formerly subsidized by the Federal government to house these people.

 

Mom Snark

 

Like any hobbyist, I have dreams of grandeur. I envision myself being noticed by a publishing company and paid to blog full time. I can see myself with Little Miss on my hip, yelling some strange demand of my son like, “Don’t put legos in your butt!!!” Laughing to myself and writing it down for material to post at a later time. I would sit home all day just thinking of quick witted things and how I would work them into a post to make other moms laugh and tell their friends, “I know exactly what she means.”

Today is one of those days where my cup is 3/4 full. I hate this emotional roller coaster I am on, but the good days are so much better than the rough ones. I have plenty to accomplish at work and the blessing from Husband to work a little late today. I remembered to set something out for dinner before I left which I don’t even really mind cooking when I get home (but probably won’t). All in all, today I feel like I have my shit together.

With my history as a Soldier, it is fun to find projects at work that allow me to relive my glory days in the Combat Support Hospital. Though my time of patient care are long gone, I am beginning to walk a path of physical security in the facility that I work. Now all the the paranoid thoughts I have about bombs and shootings in my work place are being put to good use. I feel like I have that rush of being well trained to handle anything. My dad says you can never be ready, but you can be prepared. Using my brain for this kind of critical thinking gets my blood pumping. Totally nerding out. lol

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Today, however, will be loading with organizing payroll for about 400 people. Tomorrow will be maintenance of the same. I’ll still find a way to feel accomplished maybe write some fiction during my pumping breaks. Hope everyone has a great day.