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Verseday 2-20-2019

A belated Valentine’s verse.

She is small, but fiercely sensual. Enjoy.

 

Amorous

 

Mirror me the methods of seduction

from centuries long past

The age of human desire, shifts and sways

yet it’s lustful stripes remain unchanged.

What words stole breath,

What visceral aches prevaded?

How did Romulus lay the captive Sabine lover?

How Andromeda on rocky outcrop chained?

How beckon come hither, Aphrodite? With such plentiful bounty?

To set the trap,

What sweet bait

Ensnared the lover to tumultuous beast

What hook begat line,

Sinking knees, penitent, to ground.

Tender tongues and trembling thighs

Shiver of universal pulse,

How does the mere mortal set tap to your celestial vein?

By what rounded needle do we spread the skin?

And draw out the life of love incarnate?

Book Review: “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies”

 

If I could tell you one thing that I know to be true it’s this: Words are power.

Words have weight.

Words matter.

What we say to others will shape not only their perceptions of themselves, but also their perception of us and the world at large.

 

The old adage of sticks and stones breaking bones but words as ineffectual, is dangerously incorrect. Physical wounds heal over. But harsh words, implanted on the heart and brain of a young, impressionable human last and can shape the way a person’s brain is formed.

 

As a parent and mentor I can tell my kids in countless ways and repeatedly why others sling these arrows and try to reason with them that the hatred and hurt is a result of the bully’s own feelings of inadequacy. But it does little to sooth the pain.

 

In the higher stakes of a social-media driven society, words are slung at a faster pace, with a farther reach then we ever had to deal with as kids. Farther than the playground, and in more permanent ways that have lasting and sometimes deadly consequences.

 

So how do we change these verbal arrows from something potentially life-altering, into something that can offer hope and let the victims of bullying take back their power in the situation?

In Dean K. Miller’s latest poetry anthology, “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used By Bullies” he utilizes acrostic language to change the most common words used by bullies into more positive, life affirmations.

The time he spent analyzing these words and what they could be changed to is evident and Miller offers us a bright light in an otherwise dark topic.

As he says:

“Through the use of acrostic poetry, my goal is to reshape the words used by bullies into positive pictures, thereby creating new lists of a thousand words that spark upbeat feelings, inspire positive self images, and defuse the stress associated with bullying words.”

 

In “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself”, Miller takes the worst and most cutting words and breaks them down into ideas that can, hopefully, offer an alternative way for victims to think about the word. Like taking a tarnished penny and turning it over to reveal the untouched copper shine, this poetry anthology gives victims of bullying a tool to reshape the negative words into positive ideas.

 

If you’re familiar with Mr. Miller’s work, I don’t need to gush about his poetic prowess (though I could if you had a few hours). If this is your first time hearing of him, I urge you to check out his work. Miller is a master at crafting poetry that resonates and paints images in your mind.

 

If you are a teacher or in another profession that holds responsibility over the health and wellness of our kiddos I highly recommend you check this book out.

 

You can even contact me and I’ll offer it through The Beautiful Stuff at a discounted rate.

 

Here’s the link on Amazon:

 

“Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies

 

Also, I highly recommend that you read some of his other work:

 

Dean K. Miller Poetry on Amazon

He does excellent work and programs for Veterans with the use of poetry and the outdoors as therapeutic methods.

 

 

 

 

VerseDay 2-7-19

 

Promise

 

I promise these words are worth the weight

And not to waste your time

with useless pleasantries, talks of weather.

I promise, these words carry their own storm.

 

I promise,

Just spare me a moment, undistracted and connected

Where I can sink into your soul, by hairbreadth and angel width,

and get under your skin, if only for a moment.

 

I promise I can move you,

To hate, to love, to think, to want

With nothing more than warm syllables on lips

or cold letters on page.

 

But you have to sit still with me.

You must take pause.

With me.

Even when you’re afraid to.

 

Is it me that frightens you?

Is it the words?

Or is it what your heart might do,

When faced with such brutal transparency?

 

Didn’t I tell you?

I would make it worth the weight?

That only the before knowing

Would seem the time your life was wasting?

 

How Dark; How Frightening

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 
― Elie Wiesel

 

 

I’m back after a short hiatus.

I could bore you all day with the details of how much mucous I’ve been producing, and how little sleep this incessant cough has left me. The sinus pain, like a vice grip against my cheeks and teeth. How little the pills, and vapors, and natural cures have cured.

But there’s something darker that reared its head last week as result of this bug.

I’ve suffered a lot of mental hiccups. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and all the twisted coping mechanisms that come with them, have been the monsters in my closet for a while now. But something else slunk out, ironically, in the midst of my attempts to get well.

Apathy.

I’m not talking about your general and passing lack of fucks to give.

I can’t explain to you how frightening it was to feel nothing. To have no care. Ordinarily, this might be a good thing for me, a way to let go, if you will, of the petulant details and relax for once. But this kind of apathy left me in a strange state. I wasn’t hungry, and didn’t eat. I stopped caring that I wasn’t sleeping. I fell into a lull wherein the idea of quitting my job, retreating from friends and relationships, and even throwing myself in front of a truck didn’t seem like such a big deal.

I just didn’t care. I felt so utterly numb that I didn’t recognize being in my own body or  the life that surrounded.

And it scared the shit out of my rational self, who sat locked in a store room in the back of my brain during this apathy’s hostile takeover.

It was like having my mind overtaken by The Nothing. You remember, don’t you? The Nothing?The Nothing2

Maybe, if you’re into more modern day SCIFI/FANTASY you could say it was like the Alliance Conspiracy on the planet Miranda. Nothingness. A utter and complete lack of care.

Miranda

 

What made this feeling worse than other things I’ve felt, was its lack of any dramatic or shocking arrival. It was only a calm letting go of everything–so easily laid over me that it seemed nothing ever really mattered to begin with.

Worse than black. All was gray.

Then I stopped taking the little clear pill that was supposed to suppress my cough. And the gray receded, like a wave pulling back from the shore. Just enough, that I remembered to take out the trash. That I felt hungry enough to eat something. That I cared enough to engage in my children’s lives again, and get the mail.

It took me a while to understand what had happened. That a combination of lack of sleep and fighting a virus, and the pressures of life, my hairbreadth distance from depression, and that little suppressive pill were like a team of anti-heros that kidnapped me for a few days.

I started to wonder if maybe the things that drive us to fight so hard (or even cough), even when its a stupid and pointless battle (and sometimes pops your hernia out or makes you pee yourself), shouldn’t be suppressed.

Because maybe the instinct that makes us react to even small things is a switch that could turn off our fight for and against the big things.

I don’t know where you are in your life, in your creative process, in your flu season. But I wanted to offer you a few key things I learned in hopes they can help you fight off any oncoming Nothingness in your own world.

1.) Stay grounded. With something, anything, that is important and true in your life. Maybe your family, or your job, or your art. Maybe it’s something as simple as your breath. Just keep yourself tethered to that one true thing. So you don’t lose sight of all true things.

2.) Know your body. I get a little head heavy on this blog, and that’s ok, but remember that our brains are organs too and when the body is out of balance and we’re throwing weights on either side of the scale, willy-nilly, things can get out of whack really fast. Listen to your body. It’s okay to be tired, its okay to rest. But it’s not okay to be consciously asleep with indifference.

3.) If you suffer from a mental illness, you should probably make sure your doctor knows before they prescribe you anything, even a simple expectorant. I’m not sure if my reaction was common, or just a fluke, but I’d hate to think what could have happened in a more severe scenario.

4.) Be better than me. When you feel this, if you feel this…please reach out to someone, hug on your babies, go to coffee with that friend, reconnect even when you don’t see the point. That little rational slice of brain locked in the cleaning closet will recognize it, cling to it, and hopefully use it to pick the lock.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Heavy stuff. Leave your comments, questions, experiences below. I look forward to talking to you again…soon. And I mean that.

VerseDay 1-31-19

The last day of the month of new beginnings.

How goes it in your world? Did you evoke change? Did you come to terms with what you are and are not?

Big questions. I blame the sinus meds.

Enjoy a little verse, carry it with you today as you head into the next month of possibility.

 

Bricks and Stitches

 

The cocoon of pleasantries

A trap of sorts,

to keep at bay the dark undercurrent of 

what this heart aches to shout.

I lay, brick by brick,

this wall…this shelter

to keep the storm inside.

Pin the chaos down, 

safely tuck it away,

guard what is true, in its own alluring ugliness.

I’ll bluff the hell out of this hand

of clubs and hearts,

and keep it close to my chest.

Though it flutters against my throat,

a tickle of cough, a threat of reveal.

The magician’s trick 

exposed and flooding secrets over the sharp edges,

like an infected wound held too long with faulty stitches.

less magic,

and more disease simmering.

I try to hold it all inside,

by bricks or stitches, magic and pins

keeping it to myself,

so only my heart suffers the weight. 

 

VerseDay 1-24-19

Before you immerse yourself in this succulent little slice of verbiage, take a moment to remember that I’m still calling for submissions to the poetry anthology and look forward to featuring your work here on my website. IT’S FREE PEOPLE…and you get all the feel-good bragging rights of being ‘published’. So consider and send me your stuff.

 

Okay, proceed to the Verse…

 

 

Puzzle

If I could stand in those empty fields once more.

The sun and wind bearing down,

Driving back the faint of heart.

If I could catch the notes of sage on the back of my tongue,

And the distant blue horizon

Far and stretching for eons

The time of endless days, turned eye-blinks.

If I could walk those creaky halls, and the comfort of shadow

The patterns of wood and love

If I could smell the dust of my bedroom, hear the closet door creak,

Lean against kitchen countertops, where the coffee pot left

Traces of brown on the laminate.

If I could just go back.

To that time

To that girl.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

The places before broken lines were drawn.

And piece the puzzle back together.

Maybe in this place, the dirt that grew beneath my fingernails,

The dust that scattered through my hair

The sweet sunshine that painted my cheeks in freckles

And the smell of an innocent child who belonged to the wild.

If I could just run those tracks, single and winding through empty fields,

On the squeaky tires, of the most faithful steed,

Who’s cracked seat pinched tender thighs, if ever the thought to sit occurred.

If I could spend the day on an adventure,

I could find the greatest one yet.

The one that tells the story,

Of a girl who was fearless

A girl who loved the wind and the sun

And the freedom beneath her was a fair gale to wings

Of a girl who wouldn’t give up.

Not ever.

Of a girl who persisted and

Stayed wild.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

Before the broken lines were drawn,

And piece the puzzle of myself together again.

Soul Food

 

Sometimes opportunity knocks on the door…sometimes it knocks the door down.

 

Gentle readers, this week I’ve been filling my life up with a few new opportunities though time is sparse and energy is waning.

 

Times like these often make me question my ever-lovin’ sanity.

 

I know that we’re all busy. I know that we’re all overworked, and underpaid, and hanging on to the ledge by our fingernails. But sometimes…

 

Sometimes a light breaks out of the storm clouds above you and shines on a seemingly small and inconsequential moment. Everything else around it falls away… And you just know that this is something worth exploring.

 

This, a diamond in the rough.

 

When that kind of light shines in your life, the reason you tend to drop everything else is that what you’re looking at isn’t just an opportunity; it’s something more.

It’s food for your soul. In a world where we’ve been starving our spirit for lack of genuine sustenance, these moments and opportunities strike a stark contrast.

And we have to re-learn what we so often forget; that the soul will not be dissuaded.

Despite that fact, sometimes we fight the idea. We shy away. It’s too brilliant, it’s too bright; it could burn us or illuminate all of our own shortcomings. It will be too much work and presents a slippery a slope.

It could be our downfall.

It’s the sun and we, Icarus.

T’was ambition that killed Caesar… and all that jazz.

 

 

But what if this light is something so much bigger than you and your human fears of failure? And what if it’s not just an opportunity for you but for a better world, a small piece at a time? What if it’s a hand to someone who’s been too long forgotten. What if this dangerous journey, hard-pressed and gritty, means more than just your own happiness?

What if it’s a chance to use your voice to change the world?

 

Well then, you chase that light. You open that goddamn door.

 

You don’t hesitate, you don’t reconsider. You fling it open and feed your soul.

 

Times in this country are pretty fucking dark. I’m not even kidding, ya’ll.

We’re spiraling down the bowl of a very large toilet. Hate, hurt, injustice, anger, suicide, depression, gloom…it’s all a shadowy mass, constantly pressing in.

I’m asking…nay, tell you—chase the light. Find a way to be of some use…not for the perpetuation of hate and hurt but for the healing of our country, our world, and our place in history.

How do you want your grandchildren…your great grandchildren to remember your actions in this time? Will they remember your hatred? Will they look back to see disgusting and disrespectful behavior towards your fellow human beings?

 

If that’s your idea of legacy, you can go kick rocks, kid…I don’t want your kind in my playground.

 

It is no longer enough to sit idly by and just do no harm. It is time to actively participate in doing good. In lifting the downtrodden, and striking out against those who keep us all underfoot.

 

So go out there, find your brilliant light, your opportunity to make a difference, and throw yourself into the fire of it. Feed your soul.

VerseDay 1-10-19

Here. Take this. Do something with it…read it, mull it over on your tongue, let it open memories and old wounds. Enjoy the flavor of heartache…pass it on.

You Are

 

You’re a force of nature, you are.

Something that calls

Wild in the night

And speaks to the deserted heart

Wheezing in my chest.

 

You are a decadent mouthful

Notes of salt and earth,

And the spikes of truth

That pierce my tongue

You, the taste of blood

Sucked from fingertip.

 

You are the dark, uneasy night

The reason and fulfillment

That I cannot reach,

And I cannot have.

You are the endless envy in my chest

The dropped world

And the wound

That won’t heal.

 

Writer vs. Idioms

 

Biting the Dust and Chewing the Fat: A Word About Idioms

 

My daughter is learning about idioms in school. With new eyes on them, these expressions and figures of speech can range from all-out ridiculous to so over used that we barely notice them. Keep your eyes open, I’m about to idiom all over this place.

 

The conversation with my daughter got the ball rolling in my head, thinking about the idioms that pepper my own work. Writing coaches and how-to books tell you constantly to watch out for these little story killers, and with good reason. They dull your dialogues. They’re cliche, they’re drab, and boring and are the written word equivalent to a speaker saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Idioms are skipped over by the reader’s eye because they are so common as fixtures of language and culture. In other words, they’re time and space wasters.

bath-splashing-ducks-joy-162587.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t want to steal someone’s thunder or throw the baby out with the bathwater because sometimes idioms can be useful. Occasionally a specific phrase used in dialogue can denote or solidify where your character comes from or give us insight into their personality.

 

Saying ‘that dog won’t hunt’ or that someone ‘doesn’t know shit from Shinola’ (oh, and ‘please excuse my French’) are phrases one expects from a certain region or even generation. But unless it is something your character is at home saying, or that paints them in more vibrant colors to the reader, avoid them like the plague. After all, do we really need to swing a cat in a room to see if it’s big enough to do so?

 

It’s hard to cull the herd of idioms in our language; to make our work more precise and original, but it is part of fighting the good fight. When editing, ask yourself if the line has a double meaning. Ask if it’s the best possible way to say what you mean. If it’s an obvious idiom, what could you use instead? Does it contribute to the scene and charm of the moment, or distract from it?

 

So don’t beat around the bush or cry over spilt milk. When the ball is in your court and you’re back to the drawing board, remember; although idioms can be a cloud with a rare silver lining, it is always better to hit the nail on the head and kick overused phrases to the curb.

 

Now, if I can get the use of the Oxford comma right and stop double spacing after periods, I may just level the playing field.

 

If it’s not one thing…it’s another.

 

What are some of your common (or favorite) over-used expressions?

 

VerseDay 1-3-19

Happy VerseDay, the first of the 2019.

While you’re making all of those resolutions, resolve to send me some of your poetry, essay or flash fiction to be featured on The Beautiful Stuff. Just use the contact button on my WordPress site, or e-mail me your brilliant stuff at sereichert@comcast.net

Enjoy!

 

Don’t lose your direction, nomadic heart.

Look to the needle swaying

In the depths of blood and bone

Old soul encased.

 

Waylaid by the plans of men and monsters

Fears and agitations,

False desires and hollows.

 

Don’t lose your direction, traveler.

Your feet alone touch dust and rock

Trails of world and earth,

Don’t let them plot the miles you go,

Before you rest.

 

Do not waver into their squall.

 

Do not falter, drifter.

Remember what your feet are for

The strength of legs, unbuckling

Remember, you…heart.

The pulse of your rhythm.

 

Find it.

Cling to it.

Let it draw your map,

Let it lead you.

 

You know you.

You know the truth of your existence.

Though they’ve taught you to fear it.

Though they’ve convinced you to deny it.

To question it.

To distrust the very core of your happiness.

 

Do not let them take your journey.

Do not let them own your path.

 

Be the master of your fate,

The commander of your soul.

 

Do not falter.

Do not falter.

Seek the astrolabe inscribed on your heart

The Heavenly body.

The incline of space.

That can’t be measured by the methods of any other man.

You made no promise to tread on their pristine track.

Their paved and acceptable roads are not your obligation.

You owe nothing but to your soul.

Only you can pay the debt of your happiness.

Here’s To The Old

Good afternoon ladies and gents.

I hope that you all find yourselves well and recuperating from a holiday season that seemed more like a mac truck hitting us than a season of joy and light. But now we’re past all of the wrapping paper, and crowds, and tortuous replaying of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, and on to bigger and brighter things. Right?

That’s what the New Year is all about? Starting over, becoming a better, new and improved version of you? Everyone say it in your heads… “New Year, New Me!”

Let the marketing campaign wash over you in brain-addling waves.

Well…I’m not here to crush your dreams, or dissuade you from improving yourself. I don’t want to take the proverbial wind from your sails in the early stages of the month, but I do want to remind you about last year…and the year before that, and the one before that as well…

You know what I’m talking about.

The years where you went in, guns blazing to become the ideal human, clean of diet, kind, financially responsible, organized, and positive to a fault.

Don’t look away, you know you promised those things.

I’m not here to judge or berate your failure…quite the opposite actually.

I’m here to let you know that the old you is a fucking amazing individual.

S/he isn’t perfect, sure. Who is? But think, for a moment, what you’ve survived this far. The battle wounds, the trials, the breaks and heart aches, the falls and doubts. The beautiful human failing that’s left you with regrets and scars.

Why in the hell would you want to change that warrior? That warrior has seen some horrible shit and lived to tell the story. That warrior’s roots run Earth-deep. Don’t discount the strength of who you already are, in this moment.

You want to lose a few pounds or not blow your paycheck at Target? Fine by me…great goals…but don’t look to change the beautiful beast you are. Look to change your perspective on your own imperfection.

Wanting to be healthier is good, but I’m asking you instead of drinking lemon-juice laced vinegar three meals a day, to try taking care of the warrior. Good food, (things that build us up and make us stronger, not limit us or feed on weird ideas of food guilt), exercise (to keep us strong, flexible, and energized), more sleep (put your goddamn phone down at bedtime, lovey). All of these things are important to keep that warrior ready for the next battles they’re sure to face in the coming year.

So stop telling lies to yourself, stop trying to fit your old, battle-scarred body into the cute little New Me box. Don’t be a New Me. Be the impeccable Old You…just aim for a slightly better version…one that eats a salad once in a while instead of a bag of Cheetos. One that goes to bed before ten instead of playing an extra hour of video games. One that forgoes the hard runs once or twice a week to pay homage to the beautiful abilities and flexibilities of the human body in other ways.

Hell, walk to the post box instead of driving.

You don’t have to pin a board of ideas on how to change yourself to be ‘better’. You don’t have to change you. Just tweak some of the things that aren’t good for you.

Good luck out there, you old battle axe. Go find a salad…and a bag of Cheetos (for later).

VerseDay 12-27-18

For the last VerseDay of 2018 I wanted to give you something amazing and powerful. Alas, this is what you get instead. (Well? Laugh!)

 

Next week, dawning the New Year, I will once again be promoting my submissions to VerseDay for the anthology out next fall. If you want to see your poem in print, please feel free to email or contact me with your poetry and/or essays.

 

And now…the final poem of 2018’s VerseDay adventure…

 

Honey Bee

 

Sometimes,

I miss you.

Miss the sound of your voice,

And the slight buzz 

Dripping Carolina, Honey

 

sweet.

 

I miss your fire,

the uplifting energy; an element so unconfined

The rushing ideas,

The rebellious feeling and defiant

 

heart.

 

I miss you, and your hover,

The way you called my flower the sweetest,

The only, under this sun,

You’ve ever loved, and danced so delicately across my

 

petals.

 

I don’t miss the way

Your deluge engulfed me,

Suffocated and overran in conversation,

The sting of barrage, welting my heart over and over again

And feeling that I was never quite important enough

To stop and take a

 

breath.

 

I don’t miss the pain,

Of the aching guilt you pierced me with,

The weight of what I should be,

What you wanted me to be,

The ideal you set

A high ivory honeycomb of complex,

 

deception.

 

Life does this.

It educates us.

Sometimes in human form,

and one sweetly hovering honeybee

Hard and hurtful once lured by the beguiling warmth

We must choose the limb to chew off to spare our

 

freedom.

 

You were my lesson

To enjoy the drawl but not submit to the voice

To know the sweetness of honey, without succumbing to its

 

taste.

 

To stoke my own energy,

To comprehend that I don’t need yours.

Orbiting in the clouds of your unfathomable passion taught me

To look for the fire in

 

Myself.

 

On Being Alone

I’m an introvert.

 

Okay…that’s not entirely true. Those of you who know me outside of the blogosphere know that I can be extroverted in some situations. On the floor of the dojo, I have to be loud and energetic under the necessity of keeping a five-year-old karate kid engaged and focused. I must be direct and clear spoken towards older students to convey the intricacies of technique and motion. Amongst friends at book club or UFC fight night I can be lively and even, occasionally, funny. But I have a very finite well for social interaction.

A friend once told me she could pinpoint the exact moment when I become introverted. She said,

“Your expression all the sudden fades from open and smiling to gray and downcast and you just sort of sink back into the furniture, and I think well, she’s done.”

I couldn’t have described it better myself. That’s exactly how it feels inside too. Like someone turns a light off inside of me and I’m no longer open for business. It isn’t that I stop caring, I just run out of the ability to express concern. I am overwhelmed with the individual energies surrounding me. I absorb too much.

I like people, in small amounts. I like to hear their stories and their laughter. I like when they feel they can open up to me even about the hardest subjects… but it takes a lot of energy to be honestly and truly engaged in other people’s lives.

And it should.

Some people have an endless well for this kind of interaction. Unfortunately I am not one of those people, not for lack of trying. Sometimes I wonder if I engage too well and end up caring a little too much and the energy that takes sucks my well dry faster than if I remained more aloof.

Some people are no good at alone. From a woman I know who can’t stand not to be married, and going on her sixth husband. To the friend constantly texting all the contacts in her list looking for conversation or justification, or just someone to escape normal life with…to the guy who’s always got a better-than-yours story and has a pathological need to share…constantly. The world needs all types and, to be clear, they aren’t bad people, they just need connection in a different way.

Sometimes I think they fear being alone. And I’m not sure why but it may have to do with how scary introspection can be. How scary the thoughts are that come up from the dark recesses when called out by the lack of outside stimulation.

Such things are easy to cover up with noise, and new love, and impressive stories.

If you’re uncomfortable in your own company, that’s something you should really take a look at. You should ask yourself why. Chances are, it’s because you’re afraid of what you might find.

We are scary, us humans. We have scary, weird thoughts, irrational, sometimes haunting. There’s a reason horror movies exist and why Steven King has sold millions.

Don’t forgo the experience and the knowledge it brings just because you’re afraid of what you might find on the inside, of what you’ve ignored. Facing it will help to make it real, and we can only deal with/solve/accept what we know to be real.

Most introverts know how to be alone. We don’t just know it; it’s our homeostasis. The safe place we return to at the end of the day to recoup and refill the well. We thrive in the quiet, where our brains and hearts can focus on one thing, usually of our own, that doesn’t involve the constant dance of keeping another person’s feelings and thoughts in our mind, ahead of and instead of our own.

That’s not to say that all introverts are good at self-reflection, but I think it happens more often for us, in part because of the quiet we seek out. Quiet fosters uninterrupted thought. I, like most introverts, am a person who needs to shut down everything else in order to check in with what’s happening in my own head.

Sometimes, without the quiet, and only the loud and obligatory, chocked-full days, emotional backlash catches me. I will spend time with friends, co-workers, students, etc and wonder why I feel so frustrated or angry, or sad, or antsy when I return home. But with all the obligations at home and work, I often don’t have time to understand that they aren’t my feelings, but ones that I have absorbed. So I am angry, frustrated…sad. It’s only when I can spare a moment to look at the interactions from a place outside of them that I begin to understand their effects.

From the quiet I can understand that one friend is an attention seeker, outwardly sweet, but always demanding of justification and the need to be right. So I walk away feeling drained and always wrong. From a distance, I see how I am often captivated by an individual and every tiny crumb of attention they drop, because they give them so sparingly. So that when they give I feel like I could fly from the elation in my heart, and when they hold back, I am cast into a hopeless darkness.

The friend who swears she is here to listen to me but every time I begin to talk, barges over my words with stories of her own so I can be assured that she understands my exact feelings. To the person who shrugs off my insecurities, because how can my life be as hard as their own…and proceeds to tell me why. To the parent who makes up their own side of a conversation when what comes out of my mouth is too hard to face.

It’s often difficult to convince myself, at the end of the day, that I’m ok. Just me. Outside of the worldly distractions, outside of the demands of family and friends, and coworkers and students.

I don’t know if I’m okay.

How can a sponge that absorbs so much of the dirt, and grime, and ugly underbelly of the world be okay? How can I be fine when my whole being takes in the emotions and worries of those around me? I can’t be.

Which is why being alone is so necessary to repair my damaged calm.

jane
Raise your hand if you miss this guy.

With only my own company to keep, I feel weight lifted off of my heart. I find I’m quite a pleasant person to keep the company of. I’m quiet. I’m funny. I’m hard working and driven. I don’t make a big mess and am an excellent stretcher. I’ve been known to cave into a nap when left alone, and always, always leave space for thought and breath.

I like who I am without people.

But I have to carve out this time and space for myself. I have to make my health as important as I’ve made their company, even though it’s not an easy task for someone who wants to help others, to be sympathetic and supportive. As much as I enjoy being alone, I will always gravitate towards helping others lighten their load.

It’s in being conscientious enough of my own health to let it go of that burden at the end of the day that’s my challenge going into the new year.

 

VerseDay 12-20-2018

 

 

Kiln

 

When you sculpt me today,

What shape will I take?

In careful, wet mud strokes,

What vessel will I become?

 

When you dry my skin in sun and wind

And abrade away the rough edges of my humanity,

What curves will your desire play upon?

Green and still so breakable, still changeable.

Scraped carefully down with blade and grit.

 

When you cast me in fire,

Warm bed that hardens the bonds.

What will I become then?

More permanent a fixture?

Or a mistake, forged.

 

Ruined.

 

Will you toss me into shattering pieces

Still not quite good enough?

Pulverized into nothing-dust

Mixed again…all over,

Cold wet lump returns

And I sigh, bottom flattened on table top

While itching fingers reach into me again.

 

What will you need me to be today?

 

Yes, My Dearest, There Is A Santa Claus

Dear Madelyn and Delaney…

I hear there have been some questions at school and amongst your friends, about if Santa Claus is real.

There comes a time, in most kids lives, when they are taught to grow up and out of what some adults call “silly, fanciful, daydreams.” And so adults and peers will go about destroying everything that even whiffs of magic, and work hard to wipe away every ounce of stardust from the eyes of children who believe.

 

To this I say…shut it your mean-hearted pieholes, you wankers. (And anyone who hasn’t, at some point in their existence, called a middle schooler a wanker is probably lying. Let’s face it, middle school was/is not our finest hour as humans.)

 

And I’m willing to bet that these are the same little judgmentalists that gave you sideways glances for not going to church.

 

These are the people who say it’s obviously impossible for a generous old guy to deliver presents to kids one night of the year, while simultaneously cherishing and accepting the “fact” that a deity impregnated a virgin and their child wiped away the entirety of sin in the world…

…uh…

nativity

If they can suspend reality, nay, even base their lives around this idea of, albeit a cool, hippy/demigod, is it such a stretch to believe in a jolly old elf that spreads the ideals of generosity and selfless giving for just one day?

(To be clear–I’m an equal opportunity believer so I won’t touch your demigod hippy if you don’t touch my fat guy in a red suit.)

jesus-santa-bff
I bet Jesus calls him St. Bro-cholas.

I refuse to lose my stardust. As Anne Shirley would say; I refuse to be poisoned by their bitterness.

 

You want to know if there is magic? If Santa is real?

 

Here’s what I know…

 

Santa is real and magic exists.

 

How can I be sure?

 

I’m here aren’t I? You’re here, yes? We’re all here.

 

We were sprung from the unlikely combination of a chemical lottery and dumb, cosmic luck. We went on to survive hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary death traps.

 

If that’s not magical, what is?

 

Here’s what I also know.

 

There are two types of people in the world.

Those that destroy joy, and those that spread it.

 

I say, it does no harm to believe in something better, more beautiful, and magical in our lives (Hippy Demigod or Santa Claus).

I say, it does no harm to fill our eyes with wonder and joy in the midst of the darkest day of the year.

I say, it does no harm to hope and anticipate.

I say, it does no harm to walk into these short cold days with elation in our hearts.

 

I say, what a horrible, dark and sad world it must be for those that seek to take away such light; those who disbelieve and ridicule others who hold magic in their heart.

 

It does harm to take someone’s joy.

It does harm to smother the fire of giving and generosity.

It does harm when we seek to oppress the light of selflessness in a world so dark.

 

I know this; each one of us chooses what we believe.

 

We choose what we fill our hearts with. And in a world that can be so gloomy and wretched, why would you want to fill your heart with anything that would make it even more so?

 

I choose to believe.

 

I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in magic.

 

I believe that there is light in the darkest of times. And I believe that the joy radiating from the hearts that hope, and love, and give, is more real than any hot air getting blown around by a bunch of self-conscious, hormonal, dying-to-fit-in middle schoolers.

 

I can’t decide for you, but neither can they.

 

You choose.

Embrace the joy, be the magic, and light the dark… or reject the lot of it and wipe the stardust from your eyes.

 

As for me and my heart; I choose joy.

 

I choose to believe.

 

What will you choose?

red and white ceramic santa claus figurine
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Giving Thanks

I’d created some pretty flashy, quiet-inspired, philosophical posts last weekend on retreat. They’re beautiful but I’m leaving them in the bank because today I want to repost something that I’d blogged about years ago that is timely and still rings true.

Have a safe and happy holiday. Be with the ones you love. And if you can’t; love the ones you’re with.

 

 

Making Do and Giving Thanks

 

One of my earliest memories was of waiting in a dark and crowded hall while my mother picked out ‘groceries’ from piles of white and black generic boxes. I didn’t understand at the time that the blocks of Velveeta-like cheese, powdered milk, and bags of rice were part of assistance programs that kept us from going hungry when the insecurity of the uranium mine had left us teetering on the edge of destitution.

 

My father is, and always has been, a hard worker. He took whatever job he could to support us, but in the unstable energy economy of 1980’s Wyoming there was always a fear behind my parent’s eyes. My mom was a teacher on and off and she stayed home with her three wild and creative kids. Anyone who’s a mother knows that each child is a full time job just in themselves, with no hazard pay given and no time off.  She was a genius at making ends meet, and squeezing out the most of everything we had, including our time together.

 

Their amazing resilience still brings tears to my eyes, especially as a parent myself. Because, back then, I never knew we lacked for anything.

 

We were always fed. We were always clothed. We had a roof over our heads and wild game in the freezer. We made do. When lay offs hit, they squeezed the most out of what we had and made do. When dad went back to college for a second degree in teaching, we lived in a small house in Laramie and made do. When Christmas came around and three kids rushed to the living room, there was always something there to be thankful for.

 

I didn’t have cable as a kid; I had books. I didn’t have a TV in my room; I had the library less than two blocks away. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t afford vacations to far off places because I could go there in my mind. Pages were like my wings, rocketing me towards new and fantastic horizons. My parents couldn’t give me designer clothes or name brand shoes. They gave me Jean M. Auel, Jack London, L.M. Montgomery, Louis L’Amour, Piers Anthony, and Jane Austen. They gave me hours and days of uninterrupted reading time. I still remember mom peeking in on me, sprawled out in bed, pouring over a book, completely lost to the world around me, asking if I needed anything.

 

Looking back now, and knowing what I do about how much it costs to raise a child (nonetheless three), I really couldn’t have asked for more.

 

We made more than just meals from small staples. We made worlds out of our love and support of one another. My parents gave us the belief in where our minds could take us. And we made do.

 

The best part of Thanksgiving, is the giving. If you find that you have an abundance, I urge you to consider donating to some of the fine folks listed below.

Remember; Money is like manure, it doesn’t do a lick of good until you spread it around and encourage things to grow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Cross

Larimer County Food Bank

CASA Fort Collins

Larimer County Humane Society

Meals on Wheels

Wounded Warrior Project

(Early) VerseDay 11-15-18

Happy Early VerseDay, my lovelies.

Normally I would do this tomorrow, but my days have been very scattered this week.

So–

This one kind of came out of nowhere, but…it’s a lip bite and a coy look over shoulder. Share it with someone you love. (and I’m not talkin’ about your mom)

 

Ut Cupio

 

Chemical tendrils,

Desire laced and wrapped

around my underfed neurons,

Where every shimmering shiver of anticipation

Swells the wave.

Way back to the dark corners, where thoughts are safe to roam.

Where you lay,

Reposed and calm, but for your heart.

Beating faster,

Rolling thunder of hooves against Earth

Nerves and skin, sweat and breath,

Saturated in the quickening of time,

That it will come,

For us

both.

 

 

Half-Way To an Unknown Destination

Good morning fellow readers, writers, and friends. This morning marks nearly the half-way mark of NANOWRIMO.

In the month of November a gauntlet is thrown, where in writers of all types, genres, and experience levels attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. While this ain’t my first rodeo (fourth year participant) I’m quickly finding that every year is different.

Most notably this year’s project has been a study in what happens when I let my “pantser” out.

Before you call the authorities and request a restraining order, what I mean is that usually I have a rough idea of what my novel will be about, some basic plot points, a shady little arc where in I can fit most scenes with relative smoothness. I’m not an all-out “plotter” I don’t have graphs, or charts, or beat sheets. Usually later in my process I come up with something that formal if it helps me fill in the gaps.

But this year–

This year I just started writing about a girl who’d suffered a horrifying assault, ran away, and returns to her childhood home with no intention of staying past the point of handling her grandfather’s affairs.

That’s it.

That’s all I had.

Oh…and a murder has been committed.

And there’s this seasoned old detective who’s lovable but grouchy as shit.

Oooo, and lets make him a divorcee, trying to quit smoking while raising a curious 12-year old boy.

And let’s say he doesn’t deal well with horses. Or heights. And he’s got a paunch, because he’s over forty and can’t get rid of it no matter how many weeknights he plays rugby.

And she gets panic attacks. Bad ones.

And what happens when the lady in question has a panic attack while driving just ahead of the cop and his son on their way to rugby practice?

And her sisters hate each other, and are polar opposites hippie versus yuppie.

And I need to learn Greek. And I gotta start looking into regional varieties of grapes and how rare the Andravidas horse is…and what’s the shape and size of a typical head wound from a roncola…

See what I mean? I’m all over the place. And this book, ladies and gents, it might be the messiest first draft I’ve EVER written. I jump from scene to scene, character to character, out of time, out of place, sometimes contradicting myself within the same paragraph. I’ve never had such a mess of a project.

I’ve never worked on a book that I wasn’t sure I would absolutely finish and make into something better.

But this fella, he’s a different breed.

He’s a quirky little story and I’m sort of hopeful that all of the pants-ing going on here is going to produce some really raw and gritty emotion, boiled down description, some complex characters in tender situations that will amount, later and with a lot of elbow grease, to a decent and intriguing novel.

The point, (yep, there’s one–it’s coming. Wait for it–) is that by jamming out words, even in their flagrant misuse of proper grammar or form, even with complete disrespect for story arc, has allowed me to explore a genre I’ve never written in before without the halting self-doubt that might have stopped me before. I’ve discovered characters who are more than a little fucked up (*gasp* where’s the romance in that?) and may or may not find out the truth let alone a happily ever-after. And that might be okay this time around.

If you’re in the middle of it, and have a day that knocks you back, jump ahead, jump behind…write the characters ten years in the future or what their sixth-grade year was like. The words don’t have to be in order, they just have to be there.

Good skill writers. 16 more days, and you are all over this like a bunch of bacchantes on Dionysus.

Get to it.

 

VerseDay 11-8-18

Hello!

We’re back this week after a short break with a new entry from Stephanie Chou. Stephanie is a mom, writer, photographer, and poet in the Northern Colorado area. She is currently working on some new projects. Enjoy a quintessential Autumn verse.

The gorgeous photo featured above is also Stephanie’s work. How lucky are we?

Feel free to comment and share!

 

Portraits of Autumn

Pumpkins posing on porches,

Toothy smiles lit from behind.

Apples bobbing in barrels;

Stiffened corn stalks tied with twine.

 

Chimney’s smoking with wood fire,

Cozy couples couched with wine.

Heads drooping, drowsy from school

Clocks ticking backwards in time.

 

Leaves turning vivid colors,

From green, to yellow, to red.

Foliage buckling in wind storms;

They swivel, sway, falling dead.

 

Shingles shimmering with ice,

Moonlight mirrored from below.

Window panes painted with frost;

Nearly time for Christmas and snow.

 

On Creativity, Word Count Deadlines, and the Immortal Curse of Want-to-be Novelists

Hey ya’ll, listen up, I don’t have much time. I’m on a deadline, with not many words to spare.

 

So far, in this week, I’ve managed to keep up a hearty 2,000 a day word count on a new novel idea that sprung from my last trip to California and it’s vibrant rolling hills of vines and orchards. It’s been a trip of a different kind these last seven days. I’m dipping my toes into a new genre and, of course, committing any and all time in my day to getting the words on the page.

 

I haven’t had much time to spare a thought for much else, but I did want to share what I’ve discovered on this year’s NANOWRIMO journey, in the event that it could help you on your own craft.

 

Not all of us are reaching for 50,000 words in 30 days but I think we’re all striving to finish something and, in doing so, come across many of the same road blocks.

Here’s some bulleted info to keep you engaged.

 

  • Word counts help. They give you a goal. Goals are measurable, ensuring that you have a start, an end, and a way to track your success. Pick a word count and stick to it. Even after November is over, I plan to recommit to my pre-NANOWRIMO word count ambitions in order to keep myself in the thick of it. The inspiration of word count goals should do a lot to…

 

  • Unclog your creativity ducts (Okay, I’m not sure we actually have those but…) there’s definitely a correlation between writing without the time to edit and the uprising of new and unfettered ideas. You may start with a stupid sentence but one word of it, or phrase, or character trait will pop the top of the bottle and unleash a whole outpouring of possibilities.

 

 

  • FINAL THOUGHT—The Curse of The-Want-To-Be-Writer, the thing that stifles us most and keeps us from getting those word goals is the self-editor sitting on our shoulder EVERY TIME we sit down to write. He’s the jerk that points out the misspellings, the grammatical errors, and the plot holes. He whispers, “Oh no, go back and delete that, it’s not good. And take out that part, and fix that ‘they’re’ to ‘their’, and you forgot to use an ellipses, and is that name spelled right? Let’s make sure the spell check learns it. Now…that’s a pretty sentence…nope! Just kidding, it’s awful delete it! Ah…now, a nice fresh blank page to start…over…on.” Do you see what I’m getting at? Don’t do that shit.

 

JUST WRITE.

 

Leave all the grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and mistaken names or plot holes where they lie.

 

Imagine someone excavating the tip of a gemstone. But instead of digging all the way down, seeing how big it is, what its natural shape is, picturing what can be crafted from it, they just dust off the tip, and begin carving it meticulously, polishing it to a shine. Then they uncover a little more, but that doesn’t look like the first bit so they hone it down even more. They uncover another bit and another but there’s no flow because each part of the gemstone is cut differently, polished oddly.

 

First drafts are made to give you raw material. So make it raw as hell.

 

So far I’m at about 16,000 words and I’ve typed things that I’ve regretted the second they’ve left my fingers. Mistakes. Glaring ones. Things that don’t fit, behaviors that don’t gel with my characters, point of view shifts.

 

Honey, I’ve seen it all in the first twenty pages.

 

But I also see a story. An interesting arc with characters that are starting to smile coyly in my direction with secrets I will only learn if I stop telling them to shush.

 

If you’re writing a novel this month—Keep at it and kick your nasty self-editor to the curb. You can go pick him up later (or send an uber for him if he won’t get in your car again)

 

If you’re just thinking about writing a novel sometime: stop thinking and do it…we ain’t getting any younger sweetheart.

 

Now, I’ve got to get back to my work in progress, because these 753 words don’t count on my dashboard and I’ve got words to go before I sleep.

 

Send me your word counts, send me your questions, send me your inspirations. Let’s keep this sprint going.

 

Happy Writing!

VerseDay 10-25-2018

What Was. . .
Hours fall silent in Autumn’s dappled shade
The undertone
Impending death
Swallowed in fiery grandeur.

Illusion of beauty
Laid waste by crackling footfall.

Wind torn branches
Stripped barren
Their cold black fingers
Silhouetted against the potential dawn
Where murderous flocks huddle
Waiting for light,

Warmth.

Never comprehending
Both are gone.

Giving Light

It’s a whirlwind of lies and vitriol out there right now, am I right? Social media sites spreading memes about the other party, the dangers of our world, the arrogance and wrongness of the side ‘opposite us’.

There’s something about fighting with someone online that can whip us up into an adrenaline laced mania. Maybe it’s the anonymity. Maybe it’s the conviction we have in our own righteousness, the hard line we draw against any challenge to our perceptions.

And when you try to disengage you are still frowned upon. If you don’t stand up for what you believe, you’re in danger of being part of the problem. That is true to some extent. But there’s something to be said for the deep-breath pause that begs us to consider if the argument we’re forming is going to change any minds or just throw gasoline on the fire.

All of this made me think of the world, and what we contribute. What we give to it.

So often we give our opinion, we give our hatred, we give our disapproval and judgments. We give our anger and our raised voices. So we give. But we give things that hurt our humanity, often, without making worthwhile differences.

I’m not judging. It feels good to vent.

It also feels good to do heroin, I’m told. Doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for us to do.

See what I’m getting at?

How about, just for today, you and I think about what we can give to the world that will lighten the dark?

Can you give your time?

Can you give an open mind and a willing ear?

Can you give forgiveness that you’ve been holding back?

Give to your charity. Give full un-technology distracted attention to your children. Give your boss a break. Give your smile, even when you haven’t been able to in a while.

Sometimes, I think we feel if we give these things (our love, compassion, forgiveness, time, etc.) then we will have none left for ourselves.

But just like the worry that comes with a second child, (how could we possibly love another as much, when we love the first so ardently?) we quickly learn that love doesn’t subtract or divide.

It multiplies.

The more you forgive…the more forgiveness you will want to give (you’ll find the lightening of your heart is such sweet reward).

The more you love…the more you want to love.

The more you listen…the more you learn…the more you learn, the more compassion you give…and the more you feel it in and for yourself.

And you spread light, you lighten sadness, and lightening of sadness drives away the haze of hatred that’s settled over us all.

You may not get it back 100% of the time, that’s ok…because that’s not the reason we give.

We give because we can.

We share our light to push the darkness back from one other.

If it comes back, it fills our cup to do it again.

And again.

And again.

So this isn’t a rocket-science, grand-idea blog today.

This is a remember blog.

Remember, human. You are a force to be reckoned with with both great and terrible results. You’ve a light inside. And you can guard it with closed arms and gnashing teeth, suffocating its power inside for yourself alone. Or you can open your arms to the dark, and let your light spill across the vastness.

The night is dark and full of terrors. But we’re pretty terrifying too. Beautifully terrifying.

And the darkness won’t ever leave if we do not light it up.

So light it up.

Letting Go of Illusion

“How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied–or, for that matter, awarded–because someone failed to see you properly? How many friends have you lost, how many have you gained, because they glimpsed some element of your personality that shone through for only an instant, and in circumstances you could never reproduce? An illusion of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway.” 
― Kevin Brockmeier

As a fiction writer, especially of the romantic persuasion, it’s often easy for me to get caught up in my own imagination. My writerly brain has been trained to play out scenarios and let them run wild. It’s part of the creative process and the free reign I give these thoughts allows me to write the scenes and stories that cause heart palpitations and fingers to eagerly turn to the next page.

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But sometimes, the delicate barrier between the two halves of my brain is a bit too porous. Sometimes the barrier is permeated. Sometimes, the imagination bleeds over. And it begins to skew my reality. What is actually before me can be muddled with the over-active nature of my creative process. Instead of observing at a safe distance, I scoot in closer and start to ask…”and then what if…”

It’s taken me to some interesting and inspiring side roads, but it has also led me  this to some pretty dark and hurtful places. Places like paranoia, obsession, depression, and a loosening of the bonds of my reality. It can cause a false sense of what is real and, from that place, I have made poorly founded decisions.

I have been in situations where I lived in an heightened-aware but still fuzzier, reality. Lines get blurred and harmless words and actions became life altering. Sideways glances were sure signs of betrayal. Meaningless banter, the grounds for turning my back on people I loved. I’ve spent a lot of time hurting, in tears, wondering why the path I saw ahead felt so wrong to what my brain was telling me. I was at sea. Lost and drifting with no anchor to keep me grounded.

What’s the cure? What’s the fix? What can any of us do when our brains run away from us and our behaviors follow suit?

Sometimes the consequences of those misguided actions we take, in our obsessive/paranoia state, are severe enough to shake us back into reality. That may be the only way, when we are in too deep, to regain proper perspective.

But it is also the most damaging.

Occasionally it takes someone who can see your reality outside of yourself. Who cares enough about you to point out the cloud surrounding you and who can start asking the right questions. Like snapping spiritual fingers in front of your eyes, breaking through the rosy hue of illusion.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy. It’s often a long fall and a hard landing when you come down from your illusion. It’s painful. Reality isn’t usually a fun place to live in. But walking around, shrouded in falsehood, does nothing to better our humanity and the way we interact truthfully with one another.

Take a good look at your life. Be aware of the way you react to situations, be introspective with the perspective you use and step outside yourself to see what’s really going on. Because the further you go down the rabbit hole of the world you want to live in, the worse the consequence, the higher the risk, and the deeper the damage in the world you actually live in.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to keep my mouth shut and calm the creative-brain response, until I’m sure my words and actions are justified and are coming from a place that is true. It requires that I remove myself from being the central character in a story and take a moment to look at the setting, the other characters, their perspectives, the actual thread of what is going on.

Being a good human is hard. But if we truly love, when all illusions have been stripped away, then we owe it to our fellow humans to try to live the most honest, real life we can.

“Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly -the thought of the world’s concern at her situation- was found on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.” 
― Thomas Hardy

VerseDay 10-11-18

Today your weekly dose of culture-building poetry comes from the talented Ben Brizell, a writer, poet and blogger. Check out his other work at: Benbrizwritings

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Further

Looking back through

all these memories;

ticket stubs,

scrawled notes,

stacks of poems,

leaves a painful taste.

All I can do is wonder

If it all really went that well.

I’m a cynic at heart,

which leaves a little room for bias.

 

 

Ben Brizell

Fate vs Free Will

Throughout history numerous wars have been waged between opposing forces. Dark and light. Good and Evil. Nature and Nurture. Life and death. Star Trek and Star Wars, Marvel and DC… TP rolled over the top or under. (Only savages prefer the latter.)

marvel vs deathstrokeOpposite ends of spectrums that often are viewed in our tiny human brains as opposing sides of a coin. The polar ends of a hard line. The divisiveness of the universe that plays out in a constant cosmic game of tug-o-war. One such spectrum is the dichotomy between Fate (Destiny if you will) and Free Will (Choice).

Do our choices determine the path of our lives, or are our “choices” merely preconceived steps towards a destination we’re meant to arrive at? Does the idea of free-will make us feel as though we have more power in our lives? Or does the idea of Destiny free us of the responsibility of how our lives pan out?

I’m honestly asking, because I don’t know the answer.

When I was young, I believed in fate. Because fate is more romantic, and epic, and dramatic. It made me feel like I was on the path to something amazing. It made me feel that one day I’d fall into the life that had been preordained and made especially for me. That it would all work out, because it was foreseen by some great hand of Destiny.

Then I grew up.

And I started to realize that every single choice I was making was branching me off in an ever complicated tree of life. Going to a party or not, where I may or may not talk to someone who would, unbeknownst to me, cause waves of change in my everyday life.

red trees
Photo by nien tran on Pexels.com

Stepping into a dojo on a trial basis, no intention of becoming involved. Even going so far as recognizing that one heated moment in a shower could lead to a phenomenal, empathetic, intelligent beautiful being who shares my house and riles my bassets up with her french horn practice.

Every single moment I was living, I was making choices and those choices made my path. There was no destiny, only the narrowing of options as I peeled away the possibilities with strokes of priority peppered with chance.

But some days, some cloudy Wednesday mornings, I swing back… back to the idea that maybe… maybe every choice I’ve made, in this ‘long and scattering set of tracks’ has led me exactly where I’m supposed to be.

blur bubbles clear close up
Photo by Ruatsanga Hmar on Pexels.com

And I like feeling that way, not because I feel it relieves me of responsibility, or that everything will work out to be something decided long ago, but because it helps me to know that every pain, every ill, every challenge and heartbreak I’ve suffered has built the scar tissue I needed to be where I am and to be the person I am.

Did the universe know I’d be this person? Did the universe need this person? Am I meant to be here for the fate of someone else, to be their lesson, their ill, their challenge. . . their heart break? Or am I here for something better? To be the hand in the darkness. To be the mender. To be the balm for broken hearts, and the gentle touch after life’s severity? I suppose that, too, is a choice.

Fate or Free Will?

I’m not sure it really matters. Except that you can’t let your life be decided for you. And if you wait around for your destiny to find you, it might not be the one you expect or want. Sometimes, in that glimmer of knowing what you’d like to see your life manifest as, you must weave through the murky waters and make the choices that lead you to the end you want.

Life’s not much more than a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. There are about fifty ways to kill yourself prematurely, and only a few paths lead to success, but most importantly, it ends no matter what choices you make along the way.

So make the choices that bring you happiness, that bring you beauty. Make the choices that fill your cup.

VerseDay 9-27-18

Happy VerseDay! Beginning next week, I will be featuring some of the amazing stuff that you have been sending in. Until that time, please enjoy this triplicate of Haiku.

The feeble heart stroke

Little beats against her ribs

Sparrow trapped within.

Rush of blood to brain

Thoughts misplaced; edged with remorse

For words said, too late.

The trouble with love

Is the world in which it’s borne.

Death springs from context.

Fallen

I missed last week’s blog post. I’m not sure if anyone out there even noticed, which is fine. I tell myself that I don’t write to garner a following. I write to hold myself accountable to the passion that shapes me.

But last week…

I was fresh out of passion and had given up on myself. I was feeling shapeless.

This is not a new story for myself and, probably, for all writers, artists, musicians, and those who contribute slices of our brains and hearts to public scrutiny. There are days when the offering of our thought, time, and energy to the craft is returned with silence, or rejection. Most days we let it go and move on.

heartbreak
Aw…Sarah’s gonna have to clean the cat hair off of that before she puts it back in.

But even for more sane people than myself, a long drought of success, can cause us to question the path. We question if it’s worth putting our hearts in the hands of others. We start to wonder if a nice, minimum wage job in a cubicle somewhere isn’t the better option. (At least the coffee is ‘free’, and I’m done at 5).

So, last week, I didn’t bother writing a post. I didn’t even think about trying. I just said, nope, fuck it, what’s the point?

Because sometimes life is like that. And sometimes we need to throw up our hands and surrender to our own suck-itude, (sure its a word).

But this week I’m back. Not because I’m feeling any better than last week, but because writing is what I do. And I’m not quite done with life yet, so as long as I’m drawing breath I’ll be drawing thought. Some days those thoughts are vibrant and inspirational. Some days they’re like walking in a bog of hopelessness, and I apologize to those reading when I drag you along behind me on those darker days…but no human is a ray of sunshine all the time. (Unless they’re one of those freaky-uber-happy-Suzie-sunshine types and nobody really likes those Pollyann-kool-aid-drinking assholes…but I digress.)

The point is, I was in a hard place last week. And I don’t know if it’s much better now, but at least now I’ve mustered enough fucks to sit down and write, pour out my self-pity and self-doubt and let you all make your own judgements about what I’ve got to offer.

Whether you write or not, we all have days. Days when we’re tired of fighting and tired of trying. Days when we’ve fallen and we don’t care if we stay down. Days when the battle hardly feels worth the effort. It’s part of what makes getting back up so beautiful. To win the battle over apathy and despair is a shade of divinity particular to humans. Not only just for physical survival, but for our emotional and psychological longevity.

I’m not all the way back up, but I’m not dead yet. And I guess that’s something.

VerseDay 9-20-18

I don’t know about this one.  It’s a little rough. I think it needs something. Severely lacking in hope and warm fuzzies, to be sure, but something else. What do you think?

 

Time

 

Time is moonlight through the branches

of a tree that once sat lower in the window

It’s the gray hair in the washbasin you notice while brushing your teeth.

The teenage screams of “I hate you” and the slamming of doors,

Doors that once could not be shut for fear of being too far from you.

Time is the ache that once whispered,

And now holds you hostage.

 

Time is the moon and gray hair

A change of pace,

The wobble of temperament,

And the cruel device flashing revelations in pops and crackles of bone and joint.

 

Time is the tired vacancy of your parents’ eyes and the sudden realization

That you will be an orphan in less time than you’ve already lived.

It is the knowledge that they will be gone…

And so will you…

And that howling teenager, once so sweet a baby,

 

her too.

 

And we think it so unfair…so sad.

But our thoughts and laments do nothing to change it.

Nothing we do will ever stop it…

Because Time is an uncaring bastard,

who marches by and leaves you along the side of the street,

waving your tired little human flag.

 

And nothing matters really.

 

We humans are so infantile, never growing in our short span of century.

Cry babies for truth and justice,

Never grasping that we lack the ability to really understand there is no truth…

Justice nothing more than a construct of simple neurons needing to find order.

We are not ready for truth, we are not big enough for justice.

 

Nice try, pea brain.

You can barely remember where you parked your car.

VerseDay 9-13-18

Here’s a thing….

 

Atomic Hit and Run

I am in need

to feel your atoms against mine.

Even though it is short lived and often

 

unintentional.

 

Because your matter on mine,

matters.

 

Gives my particles cause to spring up from apathy.

As if I shared your stardust once, so long ago.

As though we had a place in time long before this,

When oceans were gas, and metals made mountains

Comets careening off of placid moon-dusted plains.

 

Somewhere back there,

You careened into me

And my soul still remembers.

 

It drives my poor lizard brain to ache

just once more

Maybe I’m just looking for the particles you stole,

when you astral side-swiped me.

Like exchanging insurance numbers.

A slight streak of sanguine against metal.

Small token of our shared space.

 

It is miserable

and noble.

All at once.

Time is a boundless roundabout

And all exits bring me back.

 

I tell myself it is a finite dance

I can only spin so long,

Until the friction of physics halts my motion

And particles lay in defeat.

 

I have to tell myself it is finite.

I need to know it ends.

I need to know it ends.

On Mucous and Memory

A plague is upon my house.

Must have been all that divine-smack talk from last week.

We’ve been set upon by a viral invasion from the petri dish that is the pubic education system. I’ve been fighting it off with sheer force of will, exclaiming to the ear-less, microscopic, entities that I’m simply too busy for their nonsense and to go pedal their crazy someplace else.

In the meantime, I’m emptying out the trash cans every two hours and trying to explain the gentle art of using more than a nostril width of space for each tissue. (Yes, they are ‘disposable’, but that doesn’t mean we need to dab and toss as though we were participants in some game-show challenge. Unacceptable tissue usage

For god sakes, even the lady at Costco is giving me the eye for how often I’ve been stocking up…

 

This blog is sometimes about life and sometimes about writing, and today I was inspired by the less-than-beautiful aspects of life.

Take my dogs…please.

sick basset

Anyone with lovable, furry companions knows, they’re a plethora of bodily fluids. And, as with any creature in later years, these leakages seem to come more frequently. My bassets are mass oil producers; through their skin, through clogged pores, through bursting, bleeding cysts…gulp back that bile taste in the back of your throat…it’s actually quite fascinating.

 

What’s the point of this? Well…the giant mess that is life I guess.

 

I remember when the idea of a child’s slobbery hand touching my skin would make me want to bathe in hand sanitizer and invest in a personal HazMat shower.

mucous decontamination

Now…oh now… can I tell you gentle readers how I sometimes use the puddle from a melted ice cube my child has left on the kitchen floor to wet my sock before mopping up some random bloody streak from my dog’s tail sore? Disgusting you say? I say…efficient.

 

Can I tell you how I can pluck a booger from my child’s nose with illusionist prowness (move over Criss Angel). How I can be sneezed on, coughed on, pooped on, peed on, vomited on, and still somehow maintain a soft focus on the words. “Its ok. No worries, baby”. How I now can look past the moist factories of human and canine function and see a moment in time. A very fleeting moment.

 

When I am needed.

 

That sounds narcissistic and I suppose it is. I know that a stable, self-sufficient woman doesn’t need to be needed. But I also know that a deep part of fulfillment for me (lets bound into the hippy side of things and say it’s the Earth/Nurturing Energy I’m predisposed to) is in being able to provide for others. To help them, to comfort them, to clean up after them and whatever that trail they’re leaving behind them is made up of.

Someday those trails will be gone. The house will be spotless, and puddle-less, hairless, and smell-less. And what an awful thought that is.

Someday, I am going to miss the loud and crazy sneeze fest. The croaky little throats asking for juice. The whining howl of a dog in the midst of a squirrel induced nightmare that causes wet flatulence.

 

Love life for the mess, not in spite of it.

 

The mess is where the magic is. The imperfect and chaotic is also the joy. Because it pulls us out of auto pilot and makes us pay attention…Because it tests what we are made of, what we can handle, and how we handle it. Because it makes memories and memories are how we count time, relate to others, and look back on a life well, if mucousily, lived.

 

I could live a beautiful, picture perfect life. With clean floors, and quiet halls, and never have to ask “What did I just step in?” or “Is that poop or chocolate?”. But god, what a horrible life that would be. Give me the mess. Give me your booger. Give me the bleeding, oily cysts. Give me the tiny arms and fevered foreheads pressed close in times of need, and the saggy brown eyes of an uncompromisingly loyal companion.

Give me all of these things, and I will not cringe. I will embrace. Because mucous makes memories.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I feel a sneeze coming on…are we out of tissues?

short red hair woman blowing her nose
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

 

VerseDay 9-5-18

Okay. So this is a weird one.

The picture alone is disturbing. Sometimes in life we stumble across things that are perfectly normal aspects of the natural world, but they affect our human emotions on strange levels. Mother Nature’s everyday can make us feel uneasy and strange. Maybe it’s our too-advanced brain reading depth where there is none. Notions of mortality and empathetic wondering.

 

In any case, I acknowledge that it’s strange, and a bit unnerving. But then again, so is life.

 

 

Evisceration

Yellow stripe teardrop burrows deep into her leafy green belly

Once so full of harvest and good planning.

The seeds to feed the hungry nesters

Spilled across the glass table top,

Like a cornucopia

A feast for jagged takers.

Did she feel much after the first piercing sting?

Was it just all black?

Or did she feel the tugging pull of her insides, turned out?

What if Katydid?

Divinity

First…an important disclaimer: this post isn’t about sugary egg whites. (Might I suggest Pinterest? You can find anything on that fucking site. Good Ol’ Fashioned Divinity)

No, this post is about an often-divisive subject, so if you’re easily offended, PLEASE keep reading and stretch that narrow mind. I promise your brain won’t fall out, no matter what the bumper sticker says.

This week’s post was inspired by my daughter’s study of religion in her 6th grade Social Studies class. What I can deduce from her thoughts on the class and the homework itself, there’s a definite sway towards Christianity happening.

And that sticks in my craw.

I have no problem with her learning about religion in school.

But I do have an problem with one religion being given more attention than the rest.

I have no problem with kids of other faiths sharing thoughts and ideas about their beliefs, in fact, I encourage the exchange of ideas.

But I do have a problem when other kids criticize my daughter because we deliberately do not attend church. Persecution, even from the under 12 crowd, should not come as a shock in our current state of affairs, and yet witnessing it happening to your child first hand for something so deeply personal makes me ill.

I choose not to attend church.

It doesn’t not mean that I don’t know about world religions, or hold any misgivings about what they espouse.

On the contrary, I minored in Religious Studies and majored in Anthropology. If anyone has a good handle on different peoples, cultures, and faiths, it’s me. It’s because of this knowledge, that I don’t practice Christianity. I could write an entire book about the whys and why nots, but that’s a discussion for another week.

So when my daughter asks if its wrong that she doesn’t attend church I have to take a deep breath and explain…

No. It is not wrong.

Your dad and I decided when you were born, that we would let you make up your own mind about what you believed. If you ever want to go to church, I will gladly take you. I will also ask that you attend other services in other religions, so that you can understand them across the board.

I would like you to believe in something, whether it be divine intervention, natural energies of the earth, physics, magic, god, goddess, Zeus, Harry Potter, Giant Donut in the sky, or aliens…as long as whatever you believe makes sense to your heart and feeds your soul.

Because religion practiced out of fear of eternal punishment does not do those things.

Because religion that bases its forgiveness and kindness towards others on if they’re judged worthy of these gifts, does not do those things.

Because religion that puts you in your place, makes you feel less than, or takes away your autonomy or ability to chose what’s right for you, does not do those things.

In other words, I want you to understand that Divinity resides in you. The system of belief that you surround yourself with must honor this Divinity.

Because you are the Divine.

Your brain is capable of phenomenal things. It visualizes and conceptualizes. It controls your body, it’s thoughts, your will and it drives your existence. It’s so amazing that it can create gods, and myths, and religious systems, and therefore, god is in all of us and we are god.

So You Are The Divine.

And when you understand this, you will also understand that so is everyone else.

Divinity resides in all of us.

(I call this the “Everybody loves their babies and mommas” theory. No matter what faith, race, ethnicity, country, political party—all of us love our babies. All of us love our moms. Not a one of us wants harm to befall those we love—no matter if we pray five times a day towards Mecca, or say fifty Hail Mary’s for last Saturday night).

We all benefit by recognizing the divinity in one other and understanding the connection we share.

We would not hurt the divine.

We would not alienate them for what they do or don’t do on a Sunday morning. We would not spew hateful rhetoric in their faces for who they love, or for how they show their divine, or the color of the carton they’re contained in.

We would treat them worthy of their divinity just as we would treat ourselves in ways worthy of our Divinity.

So gentle readers, I don’t care if you worship in a synagogue, a church, a temple, a meadow, or in your boxers on the couch watching Star Wars all Sunday morning (Side note, Star Wars; highly Buddhist…look it up, fascinating stuff. Buddhism and Star Wars.)

I don’t care how pious you are or what percentage of your paycheck you’re throwing into a golden plate every week.

I care that you are honoring what should be the cornerstone of every religion; treating others as you would like to be treated. Loving one another. Forgiving one another.

I care that you stand up when you see injustice. When you see someone hurting another, when you see someone defiling the divinity in someone else.

That’s all that really matters.

That’s what the beautiful divine in each one of us is for.

So study the religions, know what they’re about and what they espouse. Then come back to your own heart and, as Whitman once so artfully wrote,

“re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;”

Stay Divine.

VerseDay 8-16-18

Good morning, Darlings. Here’s a little something to start your day.

 

Frailty

How precious, the fear,

Of casting your frailty,

Out into the jaws of a desolate world.

How brutally important

To stretch the lines of comfort

 

Throwing the weakly bonded cells

Into the universe of chaos and rock

The stone that tears,

Branches that bite,

Fire’s searing kiss.

 

How cherished, the heart-pounding uncertainty,

That drives us to the far away,

Against the pleading of timidity

Begging us to come home.

 

Safety is not safe,

Until we step into the treacherous.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Change

 

Gentle readers, today I’m writing to you from a house full of tile breaking, wood tearing, abhorrent hammer striking, and general disarray. The bassets are petrified, the cats have taken to hover beneath beds and cower behind me on an already ‘cozy’ chair.

scardy cat
Penny Dreadful isn’t afraid of a little crowbar banging…she’s only here to protect me. Last furry line of defense.

Times of transition are like hurricanes. Confusing, loud, messy and intense. There is uncertainty and a sense of powerlessness that directly affects our peace and sanctuary. Some of us deal with the changes with decidedly more grace than others. Some are rocked off their foundations, never to be the same again.

 

The point is that no one is safe from change. And why the hell would you want to be?

 

Change is the great motivator. It is the one unequivocal trait of the progression of human life. Without it we are stagnant lumps. Change breeds invention and new ideas, it sparks, hopefully, encompassing understanding and empathy. Compassion even.

 

What happens though, when we have too much change? When we are in a constant state of upheaval. When everything in life is a transition?

 

It is proven that children who suffer chronic instability (experiencing transitions so often that instability becomes their norm) can suffer from toxic stress.

 

Toxic stress increases the risks of several physical and social problems including but not limited to increased risk for cancer and diabetes, heart, lung, and liver disease, increased risk for smoking, drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, domestic violence and depression.

 

While a normal amount of stress can be good (it stimulates healthy growth, promotes resilience, and helps us to learn coping mechanisms), constant stress and insecurity in our lives actually causes the body great physical and psychological harm.

 

The effects are more pronounced in children but adults are not immune. Just ask the millions of people living with high blood pressure, depression, cardiac disease etc. We are in over our heads.

 

So how do we balance the change and transition? How do we grow and push our boundaries without breaking apart our safety net?

 

Balance seems a cop-out idea. Of course balance (*eye roll*). That’s like asking “how do I lose weight” and some smart ass saying “Just diet”.

True…but too general. Diets, like balance, are not a one size fits all idea. What is balanced for me is way too much for someone else. One man’s half-dozen donuts with no metabolic detriment is my sure-fire step towards acquiring the diabetes.

 

How do we find our balance? How do we find the right amount of change? I think the answer lies in retaining sanctuary in our lives. Now I’m not talking humpy-backed bell swingers walled up inside the cathedral, sanctuary. I’m speaking of it on a more personal and sometimes mental level.

 

Are you safe in your own mind? Do you have a place to go, in your brain, where you can let go, remember to breathe, where your shoulders can drop away from your ears and you can feel at peace? Or is it all hell-fire and disaster, 24/7 from the moment you wake from stress-induced nightmares to the moment you’re knocking yourself out with Nyquil just to escape?

 

We all need peace. We all need change. How much of each is dependent on who you are.

 

One person may be content taking 15 credit hours, while raising a family of six and working part time for the PTA. Another may be perfectly happy chiming into an online forum on bee-keeping once a week and counting her reading in hours not minutes. One person may be at home living from a suitcase, jet-setting to all parts of the world for a story and a perspective never gleaned. Another may never leave their childhood hometown and yet still maintain contentment in the smaller world around them.

 

I’m not here to tell you how much change to accept. I’m here to tell you to accept some change. Pursue some change. But if you find that all you do is change, and you can’t recognize yourself or the people you love anymore, then it’s time to come back home.

 

Use that one word…what is it? Shoot, I’m not very good at this word, though I’m learning to let my lips form it’s simple monosyllabic music…it’s… NO. The word is NO. If you’re genteel you may even tack on a “Thank You” at the end.

 

NO is a great place to start. No I do not want to go to that party. No, I do not want to volunteer sixteen hours a week when I’m barely getting my chapters written. No I don’t have time to bake seventy-two cupcakes for the basket-weaving club…would you take a donation instead?

 

Conversely…don’t forget your YES button in the gleeful mania of refusing. Yes, I would love to meet you for coffee, it’s been too long! YES I would love to take a weekend class in basket weaving. YES, it would be an honor to help out for five hours a week. YES, I’ll go to Italy with you, tall-dark-and-handsome stranger…(*guffaw* still waiting for that one to come around).

 

You know you best. If you aren’t sleeping. if you’ve bitten your nails to the nubs and can feel the bonds of your family life deteriorating. If you’ve sacrificed what you’ve loved to do what you “should” for too long, then its time to take a long hard look at your hurricane and find a graceful exit from the storm.

 

If you’re still in a dead end job because you’re too afraid to throw caution to the winds of the hurricane blowing outside, do yourself and everyone who loves you a favor and chase that storm. Live a little for gods sake, we only go get so much time! Don’t waste it wishing for something better, when you are perfectly capable of hunting down the something better and taking it back to your sanctuary.

 

Now I’m going to go see how the holes in my walls are fairing and make myself a quiet cup of tea whilst in the eye of the drywall free hurricane. Ductwork is fascinating.

 

 

Verseday 8-9-18

Good evening! Today is about the terrible habit of looking behind, and being tethered to memory… and I also think I might have a hankering for fall.

Enjoy!

 

autumn autumn leaves blur close up
Photo by Vali S. on Pexels.com

Lie in Weight

 

Now the days of yielding past

And fallow fields in quiet repose

Beckon down dark geese in flight

 

The crackle of air settling cold

The dusty birth of Autumn spreads

Waits for coy light to brave horizon.

 

I am still and lingering.

Patient like the fading light

The callous bite of snows to come

And the bitter taste of wood smoke in lungs

 

I remember the hush frosted grass beneath feet

Like your breath on the apple of my cheek

Clear as the fading day and vibrant as fog on the moor

How I long to miss the memory

 

When will it burrow beneath ground

Settle somewhere in the dirt where you hide

Silently waiting.

For my dawdling to cease.

Cross-Writing

Today was my official first run on an abbreviated 10-week marathon training plan. Okay, that’s a little fictitious. I’ve been running. I trained for and completed a 200-mile relay race last weekend, surpassing my hopes to not die by not only surviving but actually enjoying the whole thing. But this morning I dusted off the old chart and began to slowly start building the mileage I’d need to not die again in October for the Blue Sky Trail Marathon.

runnerIt got me to thinking about different types of runners. Some would have started training much sooner than this. Some are going to show up on race day with minimal miles and legs full of ego. Some have calculated calories to the numbers, selected precise nutrients per ingestion, and are weighing their shoe laces. Some are probably going to drink the night before and show up with four-year old sneakers and a day-old bagel with green chili cream cheese for fuel. The rest of us will fall along the spectrum between.

We’re all in the race, we’ve all got different reasons why, and different motivations to pursue that finish line.

In the same way, there are many types of writers in the world.

Those that dabble only when the muse traipses through their line of sight. Those that succumb completely to the words, to the exclusion of all else in their lives. The researching non-fiction gurus and the world-building sci-fi pros. The haiku aficionados and epic scribblers. The plotters and pantsers. The pious and the pornographic.

We cover all the bases.

penThe one thing we shouldn’t be as writers, no matter if we’re outlining or winging it, is stagnant. Yes, we need periods of repose  where we can recoup our mental losses and rest the neurons. Just like runners need a resting season, writers should take breaks as needed. This doesn’t mean we sit still. We are always, in some way, in training. And sometimes, the best way to train is to diversify the hours we spend at our art.

My suggestion for today’s post is to make a plan with your writing.

HEY! Come back! Hear me out…sheesh…pantsers!

When I say plan, I’m not suggesting you go investing your hours in spreadsheets and calendars. I’m saying expand your repertoire. It’s one of the best ways to grow as a writer.

If all a runner does are long, slow-paced runs, they will only develop a certain set of muscles. If all a runner trains at, are speed drills around a track, the same thing occurs. Unless you’re an olympian in a specific event this is a waste of your potential and a recipe for injury.

Balance, writer. That’s what I’m talking about.

If you are a novelist, take a break and work on a short story (you can even make it about a side character or your main character thrown into an alternate universe). If you’re a flash fiction genius, take a couple minutes to start plot building a novella or research a topic for a non-fiction essay.

If you spend your writing hours researching and plugging away at your non-fiction novel about the long line of Fredricks ruling the Kingdom of Prussia in the eighteenth century, try giving your brain a break and write a noir short story set in 1920’s Chicago. Or, *gasp*, try your hand at a little poetry.

writingStretching your brain is just as important as stretching your training plan to incorporate different activities.

Just like miles for runners, words for writers are not a waste. It doesn’t matter if they’re on paved or dirt roads, up hellacious hills, or on even city streets…the miles are the work and the work makes you stronger for the bigger tests ahead. Your words, your writing, grows stronger and better with every method you use to stretch it.

So get to it.

Go out and do ten fartleks of sonnets and a long-day of article submissions to Knitter’s Weekly.

Get uncomfortable.

Get better.

Damnable

 

For the love of all that’s holy it’s hot. My garden is parched, my houseplants are wilting, their stems thrown across the table in dramatic death scenes. My hair falls in flat, dirty-dishwater blond against sun-damaged cheeks and sticking to shoulders that sag, heavy, with heat and sweat.

 

It’s the doldrums. Insomuch as February is the lull of winter, the end of July is it’s sweltering kissing cousin. When the novelty of sunny, endless days, snow cones, and happy children is replaced with the nasally cries of “I’m bored!” and the gnat-annoyance of siblings chiggering under each other’s skin with parasitical genius, the world becomes a stagnant hell.

 

The words don’t come, the ideas dry up, and the desire to do anything but lie beneath the AC unit and wish you could take off a layer of skin just to ease the burning, is squelched. (And let’s not even get into the latent idea, sitting the back corner of my brain, knowing that this is a trend that will only worsen due to my own species’ idiotic, selfish, money-obsessed path to self-destruction. I don’t need anything else piled on the heap of hopeless sagging.)

 

It’s Damnable.

 

What do we do in these contestable times? To find the beauty? To find any reason for heaving off the physical discomforts and brain lag?

Push on through, I guess. Isn’t that what the tough do? Get going?

 

Remind the under-five-foot rebel rousers of the house, with knowing eyebrow raises towards the shiny new school supply displays in every store, that the end is near and these day should not be wasted just because the heat and boredom has drained us all of the will to step up with any kind of exuberance.

 

Push on through.

 

Keep going.

 

Write the words even if they’re awkward and faltering. Even if over half will be cut and the other half will be changed. Get out the gunk and keep at it.

 

Turn your heated brain fog into the crisp daydreams of low-lit falls, exultation of Autumnal leaves and the bite of cool in every morning breath. The dark early runs, clean and shivering, cheeks pink with cold and breath puffing in perfect clouds before you.

 

With anything in life, any challenge, any weight, any trial; Just. Keep. Going.

Because the one thing that I do know for sure, is that it all changes. Always, it changes. Today was not yesterday. Tomorrow will not be today. The heat to cold, the children to young women, the sapling to tree…it all changes. You have this day. It’s all yours. Damnable or not, it’s the only time given with any sense of certainty.

setting sun

Bust open an otter pop, strip to your underthings and sit in the shade-drawn room with your thoughts. Write them down.

Run through the sprinklers with your children. When they get sassy and obnoxious, remind them how you used to rule the kid-kingdom of summer time boredom with a decent water balloon fight.

Plenty of things will make us miserable in life. Annoying heat or total emotional upheaval, bitter cold or catastrophic life events, none of it is permanent.

 

We are not permanent.

So live.

Push on through.

VerseDay 7-26

Good morning! It’s a busy day around here and in honor of my reader’s limited time as well, today’s VerseDay is short and sweet. (I’d say ‘like me’ but we all know I’m of average height and more bitter than sweet.) Enjoy my first haiku in a long while.

 

Caught

In tepid stillness

Dark thoughts seize hold of my mind.

So I keep moving.

 

 

Two-A-Days

IMG_5400

Hey, ya’ll. If you know me, you know that I’m a runner. Sometimes more of a hobbled, panting jogger. Occasionally a hitch-in-her-giddyap mosey-er. Currently I’ve worked up to the ‘two-a-day’ portion of my training schedule for the 2018 Wild West Relay

Basically, this tortuous routine requires two runs within a ten-hour period. They say it will help the body learn how to run on tired legs and get over the mental barriers associated with that. I say, gushing sweat on a 98-degree afternoon, beet red, and looking like I just stroked out, that mental barriers are only half the issue.

I’ve been participating in relay races for the last 4 or 5 years and have captained the team for two of those. It’s one of those stupid, addictive things that once you agree to do it, you hate yourself.

From the nerves that strike even before you start, all the way until the last section of your race when your legs are throbbing and you’re sleep-deprived-drunk and everything and nothing is funny, and you’re pretty sure between the altitude, miles, and meals made of gels and power bars you might be hallucinating that there’s a raccoon pointing you in the direction of the next exchange…where was I? Oh yes.

You hate it.

You f#&king hate it! And why in the hell did I sign up for this goddamn thing again!?

Except there’s this sweaty group of misfits that welcomes you back into the van and gives you the roomiest seat after your leg, and feeds you bananas and homemade pasta salad and nods as you commiserate over all the shoulda’s you encountered over the miles.

 

Except there’s a group of total strangers that cheer you on as you come across every exchange, smiling, and clapping and honestly glad that you made it there…because runners (almost every single one I know) know what you go through on those miles and what it feels like when you feel like you can’t go another step. And they slap your shoulders and congratulate you and it gets to that you are disappointed when you walk into the grocery store and aren’t met by a group of moms cheering you on.

“Atta Girl! You made it and you’re dressed! Look at that, choosing fruit over cookies for the kids! You rock! You got this momma!”

Wouldn’t that be nice? We should start doing that…

Except that you stick around at the exchange to cheer on those tired, aching souls that are pushing themselves beyond boundaries and comfort zones. Those runners, those humans, striking out against every thought that tells them they can’t. That they shouldn’t, and getting to look them in the eye, smile and cheer and say, “You did! And you should! And you will!”

 

Except the stars. The countless masses, splashed over the night sky coming out of the expansive heaven of Wyoming plains and into the hills of Colorado, painted above you and reminding you of how small you are. And yet how beautiful an existence, to stand in awe while recognizing your own insignificance.

 

Except the cold beer at the finish. And the sleep you get in a real bed the first night after. And the way you have to Lamaze breath just to lower yourself onto the toilet for the next couple of days. And the medal hanging in the closet, and the smile that lasts for a good two weeks after…

 

So what can this insane process teach us about writing?

 

That it’s not all easy.

 

That it’s turbulent and painful. Merely signing up for it can cause panic, and self-doubt, and the desire to quit. That training for it, sacrificing other areas of our life to devote time to it, doing the hard editing, admitting to our faults in order to change them, and opening up dozens of rejection letters are the painful “two-a-days” that build our mental stamina for the road ahead.

That there are people, in your own circle, waiting back at the table for you with open arms (and maybe bananas, I don’t know… I’m not in your circle) able and ready to listen to your trials.

That there are people, not even in your immediate circle who are cheering you on to the finish line. Because, like many runners, writers know what it feels like to drudge through the pages, to cut out the organs of your favorite story, the elation of inspiration and the crushing self-doubt of the whole process.

That there will be an end product, and perfect or not, it will be yours. And that’s something, insignificant human speck. It’s something to have your voice put into pages.

 

If you’re a runner of any level and have considered a relay; Do it.

 

If you’re a want-to-be writer who hasn’t committed to it; DO IT.

 

Because the work is hard, and its dirty and painful…but the work is where you find the deeper level of strength that you haven’t met yet. Where feet hit the road and pens kiss paper, that’s where you discover yourself.

 

Get out there and do it.

VerseDay 7-19-18

Good morning!

Here’s a little poetic sidetrack for your day.

Remember to send me your stuff and I’ll enter it into the running for The Beautiful Stuff’s poetry anthology due out Fall of 2019.

 

Not Ours

Count you now,

The minutes and hours of indiscretion against civility.

The innumerable times the heart wandered far into the woods

Captivated by the sounds and sights

Of a universe untouched

Count the ways

You failed to be the raging commercial machine

Felling the bounty of a sphere so generous

Count the ways you threw off the endless hunger

And returned to the beast that made you

The first beast, the wild.

Count it down

The moments we have left her

She fades against the nuclear brilliance of human greed.

Soon to be lost

Only remembered in poems and pictures

Of vagabond souls who understood their own hearts

Count you the ways we miscarried

Crowned champions of the self-destructive species award

Annihilating our gifts as toddlers in a tantrum

Always wanting more

Always seeking to control, to own

That

Which

Is

Not Ours.

It sickens the heart

It drops guilted weight onto the body and cannot be shed

The wrecked and torn pieces left those to come.

Count the beauty lost

The moments yet found

Ephemeral and far between

Fill your heart with them

Spur the fight.

Remember, you upright beast

Rabid and teeth-bearing

Mere genes shy from clamoring in trees

Defend your home.

Worth for Awhile

A large part of human nature’s beauty lies in our failures and follies. Perfect people are rarely very interesting. As a writer, creating ‘perfect’ characters is a sure-fire way to distance your readers and lose their interest. Why? Because no one wants to read about someone who always gets it right. Who can share commonality with that? And yet…our reality is often ruled by what we, as actual humans, fail at.

When thinking about human frailty and my own failings I stumbled across the largest stone in my path of late; Self-Worth.

I know I’m not alone. I see you out there.

It’s more than fair to say that we are comparative beings. The media propagates it, competitive constructs in work and school demand it, and long-standing cultural threads tie our successes (and our failures) to what we’re worth in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Its the single most destructive lie we’ve ever been told.

And its easy to say that it doesn’t affect us. That we don’t care how we stand in relation to other people, that we don’t have a competitive nature, that we don’t feel the need to be anything else than what we are. I say those things all the time. And they rarely do more than offer a feeble disguise over the surface of self-doubt.

If we didn’t care, we’d cease to try. We’d stop looking for ways to improve. But something that should drive our greatness often tears us apart and we are left with shreds of the human we used to be, torn apart in an effort to create something more inspirational in the eyes of the world.

I was recently told, by a very generous soul, that my self-worth shouldn’t come from anyone but myself. That I couldn’t let the berating, criticism, or comparisons of the world let me feel any less than what I was worth. That it wasn’t the outside that should decide, but what was inside of me.

So it made me wonder; What am I worth?

In terms of chemistry, my physical make-up is probably no more than about $3.00 worth of material.

If you broke down my daily tasks and how much you’d have to pay someone else to do them, some would say I’d be worth about $140,000 a year. If you based my worth on what I contribute to the world with my writing we’re looking at a solid $50 a year. Monetarily, its not very impressive. And again, I’m basing my worth on what other’s consider useful tasks/materials.

So what am I worth? What are you worth? Sit still with yourself and ask the question:

“What do I do, what am I, that matters to me? That impacts the world? That brings me contentment?”

Deep…yes. Sometimes we gotta get past the cloak of simple thought to really understand why we matter. We have to, for the sake of our own self-preservation. After all; if you don’t see worth in yourself, you start to feel like a burden to the people you love. And all sorts of ugly outcomes arise from that train of thought…trust me, I’ve been building a scary set of tracks in that direction myself of late.

So I sat down, prompted by my friend’s words and suffering through a trough of depression, and asked myself what I was worth.

I came to the conclusion that for a long time I’ve let the words and actions of other people (in their own beautiful human imperfection) determine my self worth. If they were mad at something in our shared existence, I took it on as a fault of mine. As a problem that I didn’t fix or prevent. If comments were made about appearance, I took the darkest path of focusing on my imperfections and felt the need to correct them by any strange and unhealthy way possible.

It left me wanting and sick.

Why do I let my brain do that?

Because we’re taught to improve. To impress. To be better. To strive for more. Instead of just being what and who we are and understanding that we aren’t responsible for other people’s happiness or conforming to ideas of perfection. We must set boundaries to the information we let affect us. Even my friend’s well intentioned advice was still someone on the outside telling me what to think about my self worth. It’s not about letting someone tell me I am worth-while. Its about knowing my own worth and not letting the outside world sway that knowledge either negatively or positively.

Now there are times, when someone who loves us may come to us with good intention, and full hearts and offer us a viewpoint about something destructive they see in us. There are times when someone has honest praise to offer. With careful appreciation of the information we’re given we can chose to look at it with neutrality and see if there is helpful advice within it, and take it as an opportunity for self-reflection.

I love you guys, for all you are. Just as you are. Have a beautiful week and stretch your brains and hearts to fit the worth inside of you. It’s there.

 

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.

VerseDay

Despite the urge to limerick you with inappropriate words that rhyme with Enis, I’ll attempt to reach for something more high brow… Enjoy!

 

The Heart

 

I spring up from the heart of a wooded path.

The smell of pine needles breaking down, and the crackle of acrid leaves

Feed my roots

The heat rising from Earth, through dirt and granite.

The brush of seeded grasses,

Passing along their generations to my body as I stride on.

The scratch of bark,

The quiet bending of grass

The warning cry of finch and chickadee,

Telling me in no uncertain terms

That I don’t belong.

 

It Bears Repeating…

Hello friend.

Listen, I feel like we’ve known each other a good while now. I feel like I’ve showed you some pretty vulnerable and tender under-belly stuff here in the last few months so we’re working with a good soul-rapport. Therefore, I feel comfortable spilling the beans.

This is not a new blog.

I was pounding my head against keys last night in the midst of a very stressful and busy week, wondering what I could possibly come up with that was meaningful and timely. I began looking through my old blog posts from the NCW Writing Bug days (still a FANTASTIC blog, go and check it out if you can; The Writing Bug) and found this one. Though years have passed, it was serendipitous to see myself immersed in the same turbulent cycle of stress and not writing, so I’m sharing it again for all of those out there who are suffering in kind as a gentle reminder:

Find your joy. Life’s too short and miserable to live without it.

“I haven’t been writing.

There. I said it.

I thought I’d give it up for a little while, because, hey, life is busy right now and I have things that NEED to be done.

Writing is a luxury. It feels selfish and languid to sit in front of my computer and write, especially with such little measurable profit for my effort. It feels greedy. I mean, how can writing be more important than getting through the never-ending pile of laundry or the constant but unnoticeable job of keeping the house from tanking into disarray? How can it possibly be as necessary as feeding the kids or taking the dogs to the vet? The living things must take priority after all.

I haven’t been writing. I’ve been cleaning out closets and cutting back the dead and brittle death of winter in my garden. I’ve been carting the kids to school and extra-curricular activities and logging countless, mind-numbing miles in the process of training for a marathon (which, have I mentioned? I’m so over the joy of running).

I’ve been planning and executing birthday parties (which I wish meant that I actually got to execute the idea of gift baggies filled with tiny, un-organizable stuff). I’ve been replacing broken crowns and Craiglisting the contents of my crawlspace. But I haven’t been writing.

The result: It’s been one of the most stressful, anxiety-ridden months of my life. I can’t ever seem to catch up on anything, and when I do it falls back into needing done. There’s no progress. I’m as irritable and surly as a hamster stuck on a wheel, running but not moving. I have no patience and no joy. In short I’ve become a jerk.

And I can’t help but wonder if the lack of doing something, just one thing, that I love is letting the dark and ugly side of me run rampant.

Somewhere in the scramble to be an independent adult I sacrificed the idea that my own joy was a worthwhile venture.

When did following our happiness become something selfish?

I’m putting “WRITE” on the top of my list today, and I’m not doing anything else until I’ve given time to my own happiness. It will pay more than money. It will pay in fulfillment and give meaning and beauty in a world of laundry piles and dentist appointments.

What brings you joy in life? Have you invested in your joy today?”

Reincarnate

Happy VerseDay!

dewdrop-morning-sun-mirror-blade-of-grass-106150

Reincarnate

 

The patter of rain,

Softness of baby cheek,

And the feeling that we’ve done it all before.

 

Cyclical sway of life,

Birth to death,

And over again.

 

Rain to ground,

Grass rising,

Breathing out,

Clouds to earth

 

How quickly we forget our place.

 

Soul to body,

Body to soul, and over and over again.

Recycled lives going round and round

 

Until we get it right.

Until we find the exit

Off this spinning ride.

 

So it goes.

Independence

For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, catering to my daughters’ obsession of the rhythmic and addictive lyrics. I realize there’s some language in it that many would deem inappropriate for kids. But being a lover of all language and knowing my kids’ ability to differentiate between words used for flavoring and appropriate alternatives for mixed company, I don’t shy away from it. Because more important than a few f-bombs is the fact that they love it, and by loving it are learning from it.

Miranda

I love it too. I love that this amazing man (hats off to you, Lin-Manuel Miranda), took an overlooked story and breathed life and passion into for a new generation with quick-witted writing that tied the past with present day issues. Suddenly, not just my family but our nation as well, is interested in history and the grit it took for our country to break free of tyranny.

I have to look up the answers to questions my littles bring up and I love that they are making me revisit it, because we should all strive to remember our past. When we don’t, we stop being on guard for the behaviors and situations that can lead to tragic ends in our own country.

I don’t make political posts, in general. Tempers flare quickly and civil discourse takes too much compassion and introspective thought for most people. However, we are living with a surreal administration and I think we can all agree that when one person in power disenfranchises entire groups based on their gender, race, religion or economic status, it sets us back as the nation built on the idea that all humans are created equal.

Larger scale problems deserve attention, but for this post let’s think about independence on a smaller scale.

On this day, I want you to consider what it means to you to be independent.

Independent in thought; independent in pursuing your true self. Conversely, think about how dependent you are.

What makes you dependent? What ties you down, what chains you? Is it your past? Is it your job, your partner, or your family? Is it your fear?

What keeps you from being your best self? What keeps you from following your passion? How can you, today, on this Independence Day, free yourself?

Revolutions rarely take a day. They are years in the making, with sacrifices of blood and lives. Revolutions are not free. There is a cost to rise up against the powers that seek to tie us and use our one precious lifetime for their own gain.

So today, I could tell you to sit back, relax, enjoy the barbecues and hot dogs, slather your standard American body down with potato salad and jump into a kiddie pool filled with Bud Light while waving sparklers from every available appendage…but I won’t.

Today I’m going to tell you to remember the past, remember the fight. Remember there are things worth standing up for and things won’t change unless you rise up and change them. One person’s anarchy is another’s revolution.

Free yourself from the fear, trepidation, and self-doubt that keeps you from the things you want. Free yourself from the ideas and practices that hold you back.

Rise up.

Don’t throw away your shot.

Be young, scrappy, and hungry.

Take back your life, your country, and the principles that sparked revolution and won freedom to pursue happiness.

VerseDay: Stardate June 28

Today is Verseday!

I’m still accepting submissions to be posted and considered for the anthology due out Fall of 2019, so send me your good stuff, your hard stuff…your beautiful stuff.

Here’s your verse of the day. Enjoy!

Stupid Heart

Beacon in the night, the safety of arms I know around me.

You are the dark expanse to my nebulous cloud.

What primordial gene, residual trait,

Makes my heart blindly ache?

Succumb so wholly to the stardust swirling

Catching me in its current.

This animal heart roams ever closer to yours.

I love you in gnashing ways, unbreakable

Unrequited.

A worsening disease; malignant and wild,

You are the celestial mess embedded in me.

The something deep in cells and will not be ignored.

I want to climb you like an oak and shake your leaves,

Nest in your branches. Feel the wind whipping ’round,

While I hover in your safety.

I want to touch my thoughts to yours

Have you understand how you upend me.

The ways you break me. The need filling its home where the lowest point is.

Where it’s meant to be.

Like water in a gully.

My heart, a nightingale, shooting across the darkening dawn,

Pounding breast with no purpose but to take to your air.

It cannot be explained or dissected.

It just is.

It does

What.

Love.

Does.

Aimless and reckless.

A butterfly tottering into the arms of a hurricane.

Beating paper wings against walls of wind and rock

Orange dust scattered across concrete,

Rendering itself useless through stubborn insistence that,

There’s something about you…

Given no instructions and taking no advice,

It flutters into the burning embers of you,

Happily meeting the char of death.

Stupid Love.

Free Stuff

Not everything free is worth the taking and there’s much truth to the adage that nothing is ever, truly free. But occasionally, in life, we land a jackpot. Its all about in our perspective.

I bring up this subject for selfish reasons that will be discussed later on, but for now, I want to talk about appreciation of free stuff.

What kind of free stuff?

The samples at Costco? The swag bags at your local 5K races? The couch sitting on your neighbor’s lawn for four days with a sad cardboard sign begging someone with a large truck and a strong back to take it home? (Sorry, by the way, Harvest neighbors…you’ll be happy to know the large brown beast is gone).

Sure those things are “free”. Somewhat.

I mean, you pay for your Costco membership, you pay for your race fee. You pay with a minor rotator cuff tear from hoisting a giant sectional onto the roof of an Elantra. In some way, we always pay.

We pay with our time. We pay with resources or trades of our services. We do favors and scratch backs. But what’s really free? It deserves a moment to slow down and think about it.

Take a deep, slow breath.

Notice that? The air. Free of charge, yet something we take for granted. Take a moment to notice the summer finery around you. Hear the birdsong, allow yourself to be mesmerized by the sunrise lifting over clouds. The laughter of babies, the hug from your child, the cuddle of a furry friend. (I hesitate to expunge on the ‘free’ affection between adults as, sadly, a price is sometimes attached.) A smile from a stranger passing on the street. Someone opening a door for you. Even better–you helping someone else with no expectation for reciprocation.

Here’s the main point I’m making…Free doesn’t always mean cheap. Free doesn’t always mean worthless. We can give freely our hearts, our compassion, our empathy, our decency and respect for our fellow humans.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

So today, think about what you have in your life, the little and big, that you get for free. The 86,400 seconds in every day you are gifted with, your dog’s love (minus the cost of a beggin strip or six), the beauty of the natural world, daydreams, sunshine, and most importantly, your human capacity to love others.

With all this talk of free stuff, here’s the shameless plug:

Today only, my novels will be available, FREE, for download from Amazon. If you’re looking for something to enjoy in your summer hours, please check them out and let others know.

Fixing Destiny Book One

Finding Destiny Book Two

Fighting Destiny Book Three

Enjoy your day, and breathe a little free into everything you do.

 

VerseDay 2.0

Hey Darlin’. Listen, I know this is a little late in the posting, but I was spending an amazing afternoon with my kiddos touring Fort Collins’ awesome Museum of Discovery and spending upwards of three hours testing out every. single. musical and weather related experiment. It was a rare moment of beauty when I could drop being the “serious parent” and play. I hope you can find this in your life too.

Today is an oldie but a goodie. I’ve hung on to this one, revamped it, tweaked it, poured over it and abandoned it in a thousand ways, so I’m submitting it to ya’ll with a grain of salt and the caveat that I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Partly inspired by that amazing song of Paul Simon’s “Train in the Distance”, partly from the muse of young love (like I said, this one’s been around a long while because we all know, I ain’t no spring chicken.)

Enjoy.

Letting Go

Hard is the moment when your heart loses hold,

Throws you down the last stair you didn’t see.

Shakes your body, breath-catching, squawk of fear.

The impending release, a train in the distance.

Hear the canyon-rolled moan, feel the grumble,

Shaking through the bottoms of your feet.

When you thought there was time.

Time to roll the memories over your tongue.

The smell of his shirt,

the fleshy warmth of his bottom lip between your teeth.

The particular scrape of stubble against your neck.

Time to hold your lonely gravity against his charming heart

Time to hope for a chance

that his soul might settle into yours

Like some god made him just for you.

The key to your dreams.

But that damn train…

Howling as it knife-edges closer.

Until, predetermined on its track, it rolls in

and the horror hits you.

They have to go.

And trying to hold them is like holding on to madness

Except, you’ve already stitched him there,

With that unreasonable spark hope. Incredible notions of destiny.

The train pulls away; tugs at delicate threads,

Unevenly, where your heart has grown around the stitches.

(Like the stitch of crows feet around laughing eyes.

The stitch of a stolen kiss while he watched you sleep)

And you ache from the pull. but you can’t stop the train.

And when it’s billowing stacks are all you see,

When its mournful bawl is all that’s left your ears,

you look down.

To all that remains… a gaping, bloody mess.

Shredded tissue, dripping a fever

Soaking wooden platform beneath feet.

That’s what letting go feels like;

Dripping blood, hot on your toes, shadowed by the fading

light of a train in the distance.

Where You Hang Your Hat

This particular phrase came to me me during last week’s abbreviated post on home. I was limited on time and a bit “Chihuahua and fireworks” excited about Verseday, so I didn’t do justice to what home can mean and why its important to filling our lives with good things.

I’m from Wyoming, born and raised, with some detours along the way.

Wyoming has some pretty awesome colloquialisms (for more on that, keep in the loop about my new series set in Wyoming—very romantic-west) and “Home is Where You Hang Your Hat” is no exception. (Some other, unrelated, favorites; “wouldn’t mind if his boots were under my bed,” and “wish I had a swing like that on my back porch.”)

 

I could go into the history of hats, cowboy and otherwise, what they meant, where they came from, who wore them, the political and pop cultural significance each one carried, but you didn’t come here to listen to the historical social scientist in my back pocket, you came here for an expansion on home.

Cowboy Hat1

Hanging your hat up was something you used to do when you came in from a long day of work. I’m looking at you…slack-jawed twerker, with your suuuuper cool trucker’s hat turned sideways at the dinner table…you realize that it’s the same ‘model’ my 97 year-old grandfather would get free from NAPA (that’s the part store, not the wine country) and wear until the brim fell off… And, he wore it better but never at the table… sorry where were we?

 

Yes, gentlemen used to take off their hats inside and, in the case of coming home, would hang them on a hook or rack by the door.

 

A simple move that signified something so much more profound.

 

Hanging your hat, coming home, dropping the world at the door and breathing. Breathing in the place of your own, the space you occupy, the people who wait for you; who love you, who have seen your head without hat, your hair going gray. Coming home meant escaping the life’s demands and the outside world’s burdens and just be.

 

Why is it important, that we take off our ‘hats’ in today’s world? Why does it matter?

 

I’m glad you asked. It’s kinda why I’m here.

 

Humans these days are so connected by technology and the speed-of-light information bursts, that there’s really no such thing as a safe space anymore. Now your home has multiple outlets for this information to stream in, constant and blaring.

 

And the ‘hats’ have changed too, haven’t they? We used to wear one, maybe two. Now, we’ve got them stacked one on top of the other until they tilt in the breeze and wobble when we try to move forward. We’re doctors, and scientists, social activists and martyrs. We’re frienemies and friends, lovers and exes. We’re husbands and mothers, daughters. Victim and accuser, the pious and the demon.

Caps For Sale
Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business. Esphyr Slobodkina (how is it I never knew that was the full title?)

We’re chained to the images that we build on our pages and constantly feel the need to live up to the happy smiling selfie that the world thinks we are. It’s getting so one can’t even close the door and drop what’s not real for a few minutes.

 

And if you can’t ever drop it, how do you even know who you really are?

 

It’s no wonder we’re overmedicated, depressed, anxious and stressed. People constantly shoving hats into our hands, telling us what we should be, what we could be, showing off how beautifully they’re balancing their own stack with perfect pictures of perfect lives through perfect filters that they post fresh every day.

It can leave a person feeling that if they aren’t getting enough ‘likes’ that no one actually likes them. That the measure of being loved is dependent on some superficial and meaningless emoji.

Listen, kid, ain’t nobody that happy. Ain’t nobody that perfect.

And the brilliance of those images, I guarantee, is hiding the same nasty, visceral darkness that resides in each of us, fed on self-doubt and anger. Jealousy, dis-ease with the person in our skin, and the pressures squeezing through our walls each day.

 

I just want to go home.

 

Let’s go back to that place.

 

The place where you put your phone on the shelf by the door and kick off your shoes. Leave your meal un-Instagramed. Your run un-shared. Write down the cute thing your two-year-old said, and then tell your mom face-to-face over a cup of un-tagged, un-pinned coffee.

 

Wait for your meal in silence and anticipation. Look up something– in a book. When you feel the need, the itch to pick up that screen, or turn that television on, or otherwise disconnect from real life, don’t. Over half of our lives are spent looking at the world through our screens and its becoming a new, cold, disconnected home where we find no respite.

 

The ball is in your court, the stack of hats in your arms. Drop them all, for just a moment and pick up only the ones that satisfy your soul. Even those, hang up once in a while and sort through how they make you feel when you wear them.

 

Find your home by letting go of the things you feel you need to be. Find the home in the center of your chest, your truest self, and come back to that. Hang your hat there. That’s your home.

Inaugural Verseday!

Welcome to the joyride, ya’ll. Today is the the first Verseday of the year and I’ve chosen a simple little thing I’ve dusted off from a few contest entries ago.

excited

 

Remember to send me your poems, and/or thoughts and comments on what you’re reading here. I’m so excited to begin!

Enjoy!

 

 

robin

Soul, Lifted

 

I watched a robin take the sky today

Bright red breast striking blue cerulean,

a rocket cutting through air

Silent beats

 

Free. 

 

That must be what it’s like to die.

Wing lifting, pounding rush.

Air swirling behind feather tip.

 

Untethered

Unbound

from the confines of earth and expectation

Like too-high clouds, out of reach. 

 

A soul lifted.
 

VerseDay 1-17-19

 

Klutz

Today I stumbled

Head long.

Tumbled over the errant thought, that came from nowhere,

Like a toe caught on the lip of concrete,

Stopping my heart while the Earth’s momentum continued.

I crashed,

Scraped both knees,

Bloody and torn

 

In love with you.

 

I raised tattered palms

The shock of surviving

Such pain

Embarrassment,

Stupidity.

I looked up to see who’d noticed.

But the world carried on,

Oblivious to my fall.

And me, staggering to rise,

Unable to take any of it back.

Left with these scars.

Can I Get a Prompt?

Pssst….

Hey there kid, want to do something different?

Well, if you read this blog I’m willing to bet that part of your time is spent on creative endeavors of some kind. And I thought it might be a good time to remind you about improvisation exercises as a healthy and fun part of your writing routine.

Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a technical writer, historical non-fiction guru or children’s phenom, everyone’s creativity waxes and wanes with the progression of our career and lives. It is, therefore, important that we spend some time practicing in different ways to jog the old idea factory into an efficient, work-producing machine.

This particular exercise is about improvising (on the fly you might say) with one sentence prompts. You may have had to do this at conferences or class and present your material after the allotted time. As an introvert it might have be akin to a claustrophobic getting stuck in the kiddie tube slide at the park (Breath, Sarah…breath…just keep squirming.)

So, in defense of all of those out there not wanting to share their words yet but in need of something that boosts their creativity, I’m going to give you some pointers on prompts and let you go to proverbial town on them.

The important things to remember with these kinds of exercises are:

  1. DO NOT (repeated it after me) DO NOT, censor yourself or edit. Let yourself run with the idea, no matter how stupid or silly.
  2. Stay true to the character you’re given to work with or the situation, this is not about what you’d do, it’s about what they do. And they’re crazy bastards. So let their freak flag fly.
  3. The funnier the better. The sadder the better. The more horrific, the better. Improvisation should be a lot of things but none of those is BORING. Make it snappy, or if it must be reserved, do it to build tension for a whiz bang ending.
  4. Emotion is important. The only time to pause in writing for a prompt is to ask yourself, what’s the most intense thing this person feels in this moment and how does that look on the outside. How do I make my reader jump into the character’s skin and feel that intensity?
  5. Challenge yourself with prompts that may not seem interesting or your ‘type’ of writing. You will surprise yourself at what comes out from behind those locked doors.

 

I’m going to give you three prompts. I could give you a length requirement, but we’re not middle schoolers here (though my humor sometimes digresses to such a level). Get dark, get dirty, get freaky, get sweet. Make it something that shocks you. Share it in the comments if you want to or in a private message to me.

At the end of this article I’ll link some really amazing references for doing more of these kinds of exercises on your own. If you are gripping your computer screen, shouting at me with spittle flying, that you “DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME!!” calm your tits…this will take five minutes tops. You can do it while you wait at the doctor’s office for your appointment for excessive salivation. You can do it in the car while you wait for your kids to get out of school. You can do it over your first cup of coffee…

Think of it as the second-most-fun form of “quickie” you get in life.

(Come on…I warned you about the seventh-grade humor, don’t look shocked.)

Ok…. Here’s your prompts. Pick one, or two, or make it a trifecta. In a perfect world, quickies are not limited. (And, yes, I mean that in all the ways)

  1. A rancher comes across a mutilated cow in her field, and all of the organs have been replaced by…
  2. A man is dared by his friends to ask the next woman who walks through the bar’s door to marry him. The next woman who walks through the door is…
  3. A child finds an ordinary rock on the playground that begins to make his wishes, big and small, come true. He brings it home and his mom finds it in the wash and puts it in her pocket without thinking…

 

Go play.

Here’s some books you should read or apps (for you tech savvy geniuses) you can download to help bring a little fun and playfulness to your art.

 

“A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves

“Pocket Muse” (1 and 2) by Monica Wood

“The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice” Kelli Russell Agodon

Apps:

Prompts for Writing

The Brainstormer

WordPallette