Lying Tree…

I do not have a conventional family tree. I have a lying tree.

For as long as I can remember the “facts” behind who my blood relatives really are have been blurred and carefully edited to fit a narrow narrative of acceptability. What will the neighbors think? What will random strangers on the street think? And, finally, what will the people at our church think? That last one always created pause for me since church implies certain moral values and the very act of lying to cover personal embarrassment from fellow churchgoers is ironic and laughably hypocritical.

But, don’t say this to the patriarch and matriarch of this fabricated fable!

In modern times there is this little thing called the internet. On this construct exists a massive online newspaper archive called Newspapers.com ( and I am sure there are many more) where anyone willing to pony up a few bucks a month can search the names of relatives, friends, ex-friends, and ex-lovers to see if they ever “made the news” from the 1700’s to the 2000’s.

On this website, I found out that my paternal grandfather was charged with and eventually found guilty of misappropriation of funds while a Justice of the Peace for Cook County, Illinois in the 1960’s.  He was sentenced to 6 months in county jail and not once, in all the years I have known my mother or father have either said one word about this.  Not surprising really since my mother said once, in church, that my older brother was “away at college” when he was actually in jail.  Being a scofflaw runs in the family you see but, Que sera sera, there is not one thing that can be done about it now. The fibbing branches just keep falling…

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Several years ago, after a few glasses of wine around my younger sister’s kitchen table, my older sister mentioned a conversation she had with our mother that included the words, “That was the time when your grandfather was away in jail.” Wait! What?  “Oh, didn’t I tell you that?” was my mother’s response to my sister’s shocked surprise. No, you sure as hell did not!  Much like the various health conditions relatives had that were not shared with us or the fact that she had been borrowing on life insurance policies our maternal grandmother purchased for us for years without our knowledge. I’m sure there is more but will stop at the tip of the ice burg for now. What they don’t know won’t hurt them right?

THIS is the kind of thing I am talking about here. This is also the kind of thing that the truth-impaired bemoan as  “ancient history” and “what’s in the past is the past” but my argument is that this very shit stabs right at the heart of what is wrong with my family and many others. Lying just for the sake of lying, lying for personal financial gain and finally, lying to save face. Once you have protected your image to the point of alienating and potentially physically harming family it becomes clear what is more important to some people:

Not us. Not me. Not my daughter. Not my partner. Everyone is fair game for an attack apparently. I have the letters, emails, Facebook posts and text messages to prove it.

My family is a sad stomach churning potluck of avoidance, delusion, resentment, and selfishness. And, I too have experienced and participated in all of these things over the years and will make that clear. In order to write this I have to be honest and in order to write this, I also have to shore myself up for any pending attacks on my recollection and character. I have been attacked on both fronts by both my mother and my younger sister so any further vitriol is easy to shrug off. They will do what they do and have always done and I will do the opposite because to do anything else is a sure recipe for self-harm and I’m too old for this shit!

As you, dear reader, peruse this little essay I am sure that there are other eyes scanning as well. Eyes that are looking for any mention of them, any mention of blame, any mention at all. Hello! Despite our falling out, I am glad you are here and I am even gladder that you might be reading my words. Take them in. Mull them over for a bit before responding and, might I add, before firing off in a flash of keyboard courage consider picking up the phone to address any grievances with me personally. I will take your call and I will listen to what you have to say. I may hang up without saying more than an initial “hello” but I will listen none the less.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will be HONEST. Everything I write about will involve confession, confrontation and, finally the search for redemption. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to be redeemed in my family’s eyes but in my own. I am looking for peace, nothing more and nothing less.

Stick with me on this journey okay? I might need a cheering section when the wolves arrive…

© 2018 L.A. Askew
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That one time I was almost on the Nate Berkus Show….when he actually had a show.

Whenever I think about this experience I have to squint and move my eyes back and forth like I am concentrating real hard. The kind of hard thinking that smells like toast burning. Curling, white puffs of smoky grey matter twisting around the skull, knocking to get back in kind of hard thinking. It’s rough being the sort that willingly chooses to keep all the bad stuff up front in the window display of their life while keeping the truly interesting bits and pieces back in the storage area. Dammit! Why do we do this?

Anyway, when Nate Berkus first showed his stylish, elf-like face on the grande dame Oprah’s show I was fascinated. I wanted him to release me from the dungeon of “old lady” decorating suggestions (this is a WHOLE OTHER story in itself) and help me find my true style. I wanted a designer middle finger, if you will, that I could display every time said “old lady” tried to tell me how cheap or tacky the things I really loved were.

Take that ya old bat! Nate likes it and I like it so go choke on your frilly toile curtains and musty transferware dishes hung just so on the wall. ON THE WALL!  Dishes on the wall scream OLD LADY to me but what do I know? I needed Nate on my side.

Every time he was on I would watch with great intensity, taking notes, honing my decorating style while also learning that my opinions about what I did or didn’t like mattered. I found my voice and my courage to say what I wanted in my house and what I thought was pretentious, trendy bullshit, designed only to lighten the wallet and not my mood. It didn’t always go over well but satisfaction was gained from knowing money can’t buy taste and bullies hate it when their targets grow a backbone. Mine started out as a flimsy balsa wood twig and grew into a mighty reinforced beam of Brazilian walnut. Strong, unyielding and shiny. God, the old lady hated that. Thanks Nate!

Fast forward to 2010 and I’m watching The Nate Berkus Show when I see a little blurb about viewers sending in their stories of overcoming odds to make their dream career come true or something like that. My memory fails me at times but the gist of this was that I sent in an email to the show telling the producers how I always wanted to write but felt held back by the less than supportive people in my life and how I finally ditched them and started writing in earnest. I wasn’t making any money doing it but I still felt free enough to actually let strangers read my scribbles. That was huge a self-conscious, formerly badgered soul that was so unsure of her abilities.

And…I got a call from the show not long after I hit send on that email. I was asked to explain more about my dream, how I wanted to accomplish it and what my roadblocks had been. Great, so far I thought, but then came the shit cloud…Bethenny Frankel.

What did I think of her? Did she inspire me to try to make my dream a reality? Uh, no. Honestly, if I had to give credit to anyone for prompting me to get my shit together it would be a 50-50 split between aging and my therapist, Dr. Tarrasch. A reality show “character” doesn’t even make the list but I sensed they wanted me to gush about how much she helped and inspired me because they wanted her as a guest. The true indication of this came when they asked if I would be willing to stand up and ask her how I could “make my goal of writing a reality” from the audience. Good grief and lumpy gravy, NO! But, I said sure! I wanted to be on that damn show!!!

Next, I was asked to write a little bit more about my goal and when I first became aware of Madam Frankel as the paragon of business acumen and goal reachiness (my own word but it fits) so I did just that. Maybe too well because I didn’t get a callback and the next thing I know ole Bethenny Big Eyes is on Oprah on the date she was supposed to be on my Nate’s show.

What happened? Did she realize she had no viable advice for me or did Nate’s producers just decide to chuck the segment? Or, and I think this is more likely, that publicity hag tied her line to the mothership Oprah and cut Nate loose at the last minute.

She got a better offer and ditched the person that brought her to the dance. And THAT is how Bethenny and many other questionable business entrepreneurs succeed. It’s easy to keep your high heels un-scuffed when walking on the backs of others.

Okay, rant over and memory released. That felt great. Do I still like Nate Berkus? Yes, yes I do and I always will. He’s likable and seems genuine. Did I learn anything from BF? Yes again. I learned that the outcome would have been the same even if I said I didn’t give two shits about her supposed power to influence or motivate because the segment was going to get dumped anyway.

Always be honest about who or what really motivates you because, in the end, self-respect tastes much better than an over-priced watered-down vodka or margarita mix. Go for the damn bourbon you babies! It’s strong, true and never pretends to be what it is not. Now, get your ass out there and work! That’s my advice.

The “little things” that are actually quite large…

A welcome from Reverie…

Small gestures, little acts of kindness, minute details that get overlooking while searching for the big picture…in these, most, if not all answers to, “why am I here” can be found.

Yet, they are little, tiny, unimportant things and we like grand entrances and annoyingly bombastic noise signaling something hugely awesome is about to happen, so much so that many times we miss what is truly “awesome” completely. On to the next big event! And make it larger than the last one please!!!

I like the little things because I find great intricacy and inspiration in their simplicity. A smile given at just the right moment or a nod of accepting acknowledgment.  The sun shining after a particularly shitty day is what triggers my sense of awe in the unending discoveries unfolding around me. It nudges me forward with a, “See? The show ain’t over yet. Stick around to see what else you can do!” And, it’s that anticipation that fuels me and keeps me moving forward; the validation received from the world at large that we are here, we are seen and yet, we have so much left to see, hear, touch and do because we all matter.

And, we do matter. I matter and you matter. Not our things or accomplishments or even our failures but our purposeful connectivity with one another. I smile at you and you smile back in return…or frown, scowl or even, maybe, laugh. All are fine because they are reactions to my action. I caused it simply because I am here! That is power my friends.

When I touch the hand or heart of someone I care for that little thing grows into a large thing that promotes growth, expansion and continued expression. How is that a small or insignificant thing? It is not. It is massive, all important and amazingly enough, free!

Several years ago I had the great pleasure of being introduced to a very wise person who told me all the supposed “big” things I worried about and expressed anger over were horse shit. He also told me that I was the architect of my life, no one else, and it was my responsibility to choose who and what I wanted to be.

I want to be a simple little player in a large extravagant play with a few excellently memorable and quotable lines because I wrote them and I want to set my creations free. I want to see where they float, who they touch and what happens next when they are picked up and carried forward by a new player. The true adventure in life is fluid after all, not planned or plotted but stumbled upon.

Let’s stumble together and maybe the next path we crash onto, laughing or crying, will be one that leads to yet another great experience. Come on! What are you waiting for?

© 2018 L.A. Askew
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to “In the Land of Reverie” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.