Birthday in 32 Parts

OneWord2013_Ignite

I.

TODAY, I’m celebrating the big 32, or if you prefer 2-3 reversed.

II.

This is also the month in which my friend, Sarah Bessey releases her book  Jesus Feminist. Her words are pure healing for those of us who have been set adrift by the evangelical, fundamentalist movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s. She traces how women have been both excluded and the need for inclusion in the church. While the beginning part of the book does unfolding slowly and methodically(necessary since she is putting forth foundational truths for the later chapters), Sarah Bessey moves quickly into her natural cadence of Warrior Poetess and hand-raising Pentecostal.

(Full disclosure: I received an ACR from NetGalley. The review and thoughts are entirely my own)

III.

This past year has been full of healing. My 31st birthday wounded me, but I’m slowly recovering.

IV.

Cake.

V.

Something finally snapped inside my head, and we got a kitten.

VI.

My new kitten, Lily, will never “haz cheezeburger.” She spells correctly and uses proper writing mechanics at all times.

VII.

I really should be writing for NaNoWriMo, but I’m not.

VIII.

I need all of the coffee in the world…forever…

IX.

I have developed a thing for wine bars, good cheese, and cured meats.

X.

I have no dignity about bragging about my new obsession on Instagram  or Facebook.

XI.

Did I mention CAKE????

XII.

After years away from teaching, I’m back teaching. I love it!

XIII.

There are many papers to grade, many, many papers.

XIV.

The kitten tried to eat a student’s paper. She could taste the quality of the writing and went back to licking herself.

XV.

After years away from church, I finally feel able to sit in the service and Sunday School without a minor panic attack.

XVI.

Trying to remember how to do Roman Numerals is hard.

XVII.

My writing group is the best ever. Who else would put up with all bazillion rewrites of my stories? Also, there is beer and wine, so that might be why.

XVIII.

I HAD SOME SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!!

XIX.

I have had lots of rejections too.

XX.

But I kept on writing.

XXI.

Because I don’t know how to evict all of these crazy characters from my head.

XXII.

I can neither confirm or deny that I may have hugged my new Keurig coffeemaker.

XXIII.

Trying to focus on being healthier…but it’s my birthday and CAKE!

XXIV.

I should be using my words to advance my word count, but I’m blogging because in reality I really like blogging.

XXV.

I have to remind myself that blogging was part of my forays back into writing for fun and fiction and poetry and being creative.

XXVI.

The music by HEY OCEAN! is amazing and lovely. Also, I could listen to Vampire Weekend all day on repeat.

XXVII.

But I lose all hipster street cred when I admit I have an unabashed love for country music.

XXVIII.

Deal with it.

XXIX.

Also, I am married to best husband in the entire world, and of course, I am his very best also.

XXX.

Why yes, my 30’s were far better than my 20’s.

XXXI.

My library has swollen to epic levels and I must needs read!

XXXII.

Here’s to another year, a better year than the last.

When the Morning Comes Too Soon

I usually love mornings. 

Fall mornings. Air crisp with decay. So cold you have to snuggle deeper into the blankets, wear the fuzzy socks. I smell the coffee and listen as the birds sing their last songs before flying farther South. As the only resident morning person, I like the alone, the quiet, the relaxing into my day.

Not this morning. To Autumn

After yesterday’s flurry of grading and writing and planning and doing all the things my little self could–I’ve hit that proverbial cliché wall. I feel the exhaustion running deep in my veins. I feel so tired that I could bite into it like an apple. As I look over my to-do list, I’ve crossed off one thing.Just  one thing. Hell, the list only has 5 things to do. How hard is that? I keep telling myself  while listening to that inner drill sergeant shaming me, guilting me for not being further along.

Perhaps, I’m a bit of a work-a-holic.

For this college English instructor, I’ve been on Fall Break. I had promised myself that I would catch up on all the grading, all the household chores, all the things I’ve pushed to the end of my to do list.  This long weekend, I’ve scrubbed and graded and planned out my library and packed up my books to paint the room for it. I’ve worked and worked, and of course, I wonder why I’m so freakin tired.

Slowly, I have realized that when I truly commit to anything that I hyper-focus and overwork myself. I drain every last store of energy into lesson plans or home improvement projects or writing projects. Until there is nothing left and I can’t run on fumes forever. I feel hollowed out and stretched too thin, and I know I need to disengage and recharge. But the guilt is sometimes worse than the exhaustion.

But I’m at a loss for how to relax and refuel when my mind keeps telling me that any kind of recreation is for WHEN ALL THE WORK IS DONE!

Really, it’s not. I know that I’m a better person when I have written, when I have sipped a bit of wine on the porch and watched the golden hour melt into twilight, when I have read a novel that I’m too embarrassed to admit to reading because it isn’t high brow or literary enough, when I sit down and watch TV that feeds my muse.

Maybe, you’ve got this thing all figured out, how to live balanced and centered. But I don’t. Tomorrow, I will run passionately wild and collapse from exhaustion, but today, I’m ignoring the to do list.

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My Voice is Loud

My voice is loud… OneWord2013_Ignite

I’ve always had strong opinions. Most of the time, I keep the locked away, rumbling around like caged prisoners in padded cells. Being a typical INFJ, I revert to my private, natural quietness until I get to know you, and be warned…I may not filter all of those opinions, quirky thoughts, or hey, this is so cool as often (unless there are Mojitos or wine  and that’s whole other blog post).But if I simply stated WHY I don’t share my thoughts, sit there smiling, more content to listen, it would be this:

I don’t want my loud voice, my opinions to hurt your feelings.

Somehow, I got it wrapped in my brain that if friends, whether online or in real life, had to like everything that the other was in to. Total crap. Hell, I even spend extra time and energy telling my kids that they don’t have to like everything their little friends like. Your friends don’t like country music, that’s cool. You don’t want to read the Harry Potter books, fine read something else. 

For my own friends, I will listen to the recaps of reality shows I don’t watch. Quite frankly, if I wanted to see cat fights and backstabbing, I would have stayed teaching middle schoolers. But I listen and nod at the proper times. That’s what good friends do, right? Now, I won’t mind if you don’t like the same books, same TV shows, etc. That’s fine. I love your strong opinions, but it is far easier to quiet my loud voice than hurt your feelings. Even on diddly things like books and TV shows.

Why? I effing suck at giving myself the same level of grace that I’ll give you.

Part of learning radical self-care has meant stating how I truly feel about something relatively innocuous (although, people do have strong feelings toward Gone, Girl and A Prayer for Owen Meany).  I’m perfectly justified in NOT liking Dancing with the Stars or Arrested Development. I tried so hard on AD, but sorry, it’s not for me. Neither is The Office. Or pretty much, most of the comedies on NBC.

And I hope you and me are still cool as my voice gets louder, stronger, kinder. If I insert more of myself into the conversation, then I did before. I’ll still listen. I promise. But I  need to remember how to speak out my words, my joys and fears. I need to remember what my voice sounded like before fear hit the mute button.

If I Tell You Where I’ve Been

If I tell you where I’ve been… OneWord2013_Ignite

I’ve been hiding behind piles of student essays pondering how one teaches writing. Some days, I have no idea why the words I string together like beads on a necklace create something beautiful; or why some days, I can’t write a coherent sentence to save my life(or use cliches for that matter). Yet, I taught my writing courses anyway.

This is the one strange quirk of being a teacher–I will never know how well or how much of a “difference” I made. Perhaps, none at all save the assignments which allowed said students to pass a required course. I hope for more than simply that, but I know the teacher who first walked into those classrooms is not the same one who walked out. I’m changed. I learned. I hope they did as well.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been hiding behind my computer screen clicking-clacking keys into letters and ideas until they form stories and characters and plot lines. Rolling around behind my eyeballs, stories of Southern life and its quirky, beautiful people keep coming like bowling balls down the lane until I must write them down on lose those stories to another writer. Slowly, I’m forming my mish-mash stories into a collection that I will finish by the end of summer (someone hold me to this, okay?).

I’ve labored through drafts and classes and characters who won’t shut up until I finish their story, or sometimes, those characters sigh and step into the shadows for awhile. One of the odd quirks of writing fiction really, I can’t force my characters to speak or show me something knew when they want to nap or sip sweet tea on the front porch. So, I wait too. When they are ready, I put their lives on the page as they would have wished to known to this world.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been reading and writing and cooking and living and remembering. This is where I’ve been for the past four months, and now, my words are here again. Thank you for your patience.

On Boundaries and Radical Self-Care

I believe in radical self-care. IMG_0134

There, I said it. After years of relying on others to make me feel good about who I am, I stopped and began taking care of me so I could take care of others. Perhaps, you think I’m selfish. Fine, your opinion. But I need to sip my coffee slowly, dance in the falling snow, read poetry and novels and plays, write out my feelings even when I know there are some who can’t wait for me to say/do/write something that they can use against me. Fine, your prerogative.

But I believe that radical self-care begins by establishing boundaries even on the internet.

I understand that Google exists. That we can search and find the dirty dark bits, the tweets of rage/depression/joy/whining. The Facebook posts begging for spa days and an end of homework agony. I know how easy it  is search for the ex and his wife or the best friend who spited you or that ever so perfect family member who you just wish would mess up so royally. Isn’t that the glory of the internet? To search for all the hot mess and shit so we can feel morally superior, then crash into a wall of anxiety because those people may actually have a better life than we do!

But the truly sad thing is this: we keep up this behavior, hoping for different results, hoping to feel better about who we are. It will never happen.

And we get more of the same. Always. We compare our behind the scenes with our nemesis’ on stage performance, and it hurts because deep inside, we crave all the bad, all the mess to be showered down on those who wronged us. Perhaps, this is why we have no respect for boundaries on the internet. Cyberstalk your ex’s significant other’s blog? Perfectly justified. She’s probably just as wretched as you dreamed her to be. Comb through tweets looking for all shitty things happening to a former best friend? Of course, she deserves it.

When we justify our cyberstalking ways or crossing internet boundaries, we essentially poison ourselves with bitterness, fear, and anger. For what? So whoever it is will feel awful? So whoever we truly loathe will just *poof* out of existence? Let me be the first to tell this: no matter how much we cross boundaries on the internet, we only hurt ourselves. Most of the time, the person we try “hurting” has no idea. Completely clueless(granted most bloggers do use some form of analytics tool to show where their site traffic comes from, so in that respect, they may know. If they keep writing, said blogger doesn’t care. Think of it as they are flipping you off with their persistent words).

Behind this self-harming behavior, I think we keep crossing boundaries because we want to feel better about ourselves without actually doing anything differently.

We take the repressed pain from broken relationships, failed attempts at happiness, and disenchanted dreams and channel all of this mess into hurting others. But do we really make ourselves happier? No. It’s like having a headache and simply looking at the Advil bottle then hoping the pain will stop. It won’t. We have to take the medicine. We have to stop trying to bolster our self-esteem by digging up the shit of others.

Our medicine may look like therapy or writing or walking in the crisp winter cold. It may be saying kind words in the mirror or reading poetry in bed. But we must stop our cycle of self-abuse. It begins by respecting your boundaries and those of the people whom you really want to hurt.

I believe in radical self-care, and I believe we begin by respecting our worst enemies.

A Moment of Soul Care

I refuse my soul to shrivel up

Like a shrunken head

For a new exhibit at Ripley’s.

 

 

I believe in soul care –the kind that stares at the early morning bathed in dew, sips coffee, and learns to breathe again. The soft tendrils of gray smoke curl around the  Tulip Poplars whispering secrets before the wind lifts them too high for tree-ears. Then, dog paws stretch out and yawn in the fullness of the morning. Scratch their ears and flop back down on the earth, dogs understand soul-care. Maybe, this is why I keep a few around my feet–to show me how to take care of myself(it is most certainly not for their smell).

I am learning, 

To pump life-blood

Into this heart, once broken.

I woke up this morning, my life rearranged, and I find myself with new puzzle pieces to fit together. I jamb the old ones down in the back of a drawer because the pain hurts too deeply, but stuffing the fragments of an old life–for now, a temporary one– discredits their existence, their beauty. I pull them out and mingled them with my new pieces, and I find my life, my soul.

For many, today is the first day of school, and today is another chance to care for my soul. Right now, I need to read poetry and write short stories and finish this damn novel, drink more coffee, attend more writing classes, heading to the library for books. This is soul care. I will change my writing schedule for this little blog to a Monday, Wednesday Friday. I am feeling the pull to a bit of prose each week in addition to the poetry. What do you say to that? I ask for a measure of grace as I venture into this brave new world(ah, literary references, no matter how cliche, make me happy too).

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These Quiet Mornings

I wake this morning aching grateful. Morning comes, and I greet it leash in hand. The dew grass spit as we trampled down the knee stalks, the water splashing between my toes and out my shoes.I watch my dogs put noses to the ground, waddle off into the higher grass, spring back, jump up to my nose and lick it. I pet their heads and call them by name. We meander back to the house. Door open; wet paws slip on the hardwoods.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

Coffee sputters and gurgles. I stand and wait and wait and wait. Favorite mug, a touch of cream, breathe in morning’s smell. One child up already makes breakfast. Perhaps, I shall write a bit before the burden of the day begins anew. In those stolen bits, I burrow away in my writing corner, my desk to give life to my thoughts. I need this ritual of writing in the morning. Before the email blares its siren song, before the “I can’t take another minute of you” bicker begins, before the demands of video games and television and whinings all crash-land in my living room. Now, I write before the day steals my morning from me.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

Today, deep in the South’s wet blanket humid summer, it’s easy to allow day to rob me of this morning. I never wake without a list of things to do, hardships breaking my resolve. In short, my mornings aren’t always grateful, sunshine-filled gloriousness. I have bad days, but isn’t this what grace is for? Don’t we all have days when the bed throws us into a world ready for a new victim? But mornings do come again for me, and I embrace this morning with grace.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

 

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On Grace and Story Salvation

“Glory be to God for dappled things–For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow…”

Morning rises early. Dogs bark, paw at the crate “wake you sleeper”, be ready for this day. Some mornings, I mush through the tall grass, dogs wagging around me, and I miss all of the world’s messy beauty. But some days, I walk in quietness. Above my head, the red-orange morning filters down, shines upon the dew, sparkles out upon the hay and grapevines, trickles into the crevices of this poet’s heart so the only appropriate response is poetry. I write out the morning’s lines, its images filling my heart.

I wonder if anyone ever reads my few poems here. Sometimes, the storm clouds roll in and trample down my thoughts. This act, so futile, pushes me toward giving up and settling for the rat race of hasty words. But poetry eats out my soul, and I must write to save my life. Poetry bleeds me dry of myself. This is grace; this is saving me.

For rose moles all stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings; Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow,and plough, and all trades, their gear and tackle and trim…”

Five hours east, we drive past dunes and sea oats, watch the wind whip the sand into wraiths billowing across the main artery for these islands. The sky darkens back to the west where we were, but we drive onward. Our destination, the sea. High tide leaps upon the shore, and the wind sprays our faces with salt water to purify us. I fight to keep my sundress down, avoid the Marilyn Monroe moment,  watch the sunlight retreat behind the thunderheads. I breathe deep, and I remember what it is like to be alive, to be myself. I had quite forgotten.

We watched the sun drown itself in the sound, never quite waking up in time for sunrise. I sat in the shade as others climbed up Hatteras lighthouse. I leaned over the ferry’s rail to have the ocean steal a kiss. Running to the breakers, we floated on top of the waves until the sea, now just perfect, let us ride it. I couldn’t resist this siren song. The sand wedged deep everywhere. The undertow pulling out the water, then its sudden rush back. The joy of being on top of the wave, gliding into shore. The desperate prayers that I don’t lose my swimsuit bottoms after riding a wave much too big, much too sloppily. The make-shift ties and adjustments to do it all again. This is grace; this is saving me.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled(who know’s how?) With swift, slow, sweet, sour; adazzle, dim…

In my hands, I hold vine ripe tomatoes, coffee mugs, purple ink pens, books like dear friends.I need to hold on to things for a moment. The world, the one I’ve known, loved, built and mothered changes soon. I hate this change. I cry and lament and beg  God whom may or may not give a damn. I pray for vindication, for peace, for my heart to heal from two years burden carrying. Peace trickles in slowly like a leaky faucet, and I try to loosen it but can’t. I rest in snatches of the gospels and Psalms and poets and novels. I spin worlds on the page, stories for the asking. I drink wine and cuss and laugh. I steal time midday to drink coffee and eat cupcakes and write furiously. Once in awhile, I know I’m not so alone. There, I find my hope and my peace.

This is grace, and this is saving me.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.”

 (Pied Beauty Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Today, I’m linking up with Sarah Bessey and her syncroblog “What is saving me right now.” Join us here.

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Where No Internet Lives

Last weekend, 

I went where no internet lives.

Drive east across the flat sandy hills,

Over bridge so tall

I see over rooftops

To houses, to dunes, to beach, to ocean waves.

Walking to the end of the pier,

Silent and reverent

As fishermen cast out the lines,

Reel in and cast again.

Below me ,

I see the ripples form

Mere wavy lines this far out,

Then white caps roll over

Like an obedient dog

Crashing and tumbling on the shore.

I stand there present.

Where No Internet Lives.

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To My Daughter’s Dreaming

Sunset droops behind knotty pines/ and the hush of wind whispers/ Sleep, Sleep, Sleep/ Tonight, the fan whirrs and small lights flicker in the dark/ You dream/ Pink candyland pony wonder falls/ I wait/ Morning comes too soon/ Robs you and me of our fuschia tinted faeryland/ Plants us in the now/ Book bags, blaring bells, long quiet days/ So, let’s tiptoe past day’s guardian/ Sneak away to the moon dancing./

 

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