What I’m Into June 2013 Edition

IMG_1012I’m not really sure where the month of June went… Also, I say this every June. Without fail.

But we’ve marched past the halfway marker for 2013, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year being full and rich and crazy as the first half. Also, my birthday is now months closer. Priorities, priorities.

But, back to June. Each month, my internet/Twitter/Facebook friend Leigh at Hopeful Leigh entices us with all of the lovely things that she has found on the interwebs, real life, or some combination of all three. While I don’t always join in the fun, this month I decided to give it a go. (Note: the month of July, I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and this post is just s distraction from plotting, writing, and noveling stuff).

 

Without further eloquence….

What I’m Into June 2013:

Books(some books may have been read in May but really doesn’t matter at this point):

  1. I’ve stopped reading a lot of blogs so I could get stuff done.  IMG_1011
  2. I read all of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle. Written about the same time as Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, the magical worlds felt familiar and lovely. I loved her Left Hand of Darkness novel, and this series was also terrific as a whole. My favorite books were the 2nd and 4th because they featured a strong female character, and I’m drawn to those. 
  3. I’m  sorry that I wasted my time on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I hate all the characters, the ending did not ring true, and I should have just left the book unfinished. Meh…
  4. I’m currently working through my 11 books from My Read Your Shelves challenge. Working slowly through East of Eden, Kitchen Confidential, and Sinners Welcome. I am loving ALL of these.

Television/Movies/Video Games:

  1. I haven’t really watched any movies this month. Not a single one. 
  2. I tend to watch my favorite shows repeatedly. This month, I re-watched ALL of The Big Bang Theory’s 6th season because y’all, I’m still hoping Raj finds someone soon or he steals Amy away from Sheldon. Leonard was way too whiney, and Penny’s kinda bossy. I watched some Dr. Who episodes sporadically. But I adore Anthony Bourdain’s new show Parts Unknown. The Congo episode was freakin brilliant.
  3. I tried playing some more video games because I buy them and don’t play them. I beat several cave trolls, a big ass orc, and a barrow wight in Lord of the Rings: War in the North. I’m now up to Level 10…this never happens to me.

Writings/Other Musings:

  1. I finished another short story for my collection and feel pretty damn good about how it turned out. I love the characters, and I can neither confirm or deny that I cried when I killed this character off at the end. 
  2. I got really brave and started submitting stuff for publication.
  3. I got really sad when I got rejection emails saying that various magazines didn’t want my work.
  4. I got super excited when I found out a magazine DID want my work…I danced like a happy hippo and didn’t even care.

Real Life Adventure Time: IMG_0965

  1. Paddling around Jordan Lake because the water was lovely, the sunshine, and looking for Bald Eagles.
  2. Hanging out with my writing group because even an INFJ like myself needs to be around other people too.
  3. Good pizza, good wine…there is no explanation required for sitting down at the table to eat well.

 

 

What are you into this past June?

Celebrating the Small

When I practice silence, I realize how often we over-emphasize the big. These days I’m more interested in the small things. IMG_0070

Epiphanies come to me slowly, in the quiet space between, when I have shut down all excess and choose to be.

I’ve called myself a writer and a poet for a long time now. Well, long in terms of how the internet measures time which means I have probably lost all relevance whatsoever. But I really don’t care. I’m writing my stories and poetry anyway.

The internet likes big victories, big announcements, big anything really, but I’ve grown tired of this constant waiting for that one BIG break to come. I’ve spent too much time on the merry-go-round of I’ll be successful, happy, excited, when… that I have forgotten all those small things that led me to where I am as a writer, a poet. The right now sort of things that sneak past us when we don’t look for them because we have our eyes fixed on a nebulous horizon.

In truth, I want to dance like the happy hippos from Fantasia about my small everyday things rather than some “maybe it might happen…” down the road.

  1. Not killing the petunias in my fancy planters…my home is usually where all plants die except for weeds. And a few rogue sage and oregano plants.
  2. Finishing two books on my 11 Read My Shelves Challenge despite one being so utterly dull I almost gave up…and didn’t.
  3. Writing each day even after receiving all those lovely form rejections…rejection comes with the writing life. Not especially my favorite part, but it makes the excitement of publication even sweeter.
  4. Asking myself–what have I done to make my writing a priority today?  Then, I do something about it.
  5. Learning to place the those little voices of doubt on the shelf and just write.
  6. Totally beasting my To-Do list each day and holding myself to daily word counts.
  7. Allowing  grace when I don’t check off everything on the To-Do list. Life happens. It will be okay.
  8. Being brave and submitting my writing for publication. My natural response is to horde my words, to hide behind my computer screen and just play at being a writer. No more.
  9. Showing up to writing class with pieces that I’m genuinely proud to say I wrote all those words, string images together like beads.
  10. Showing up to writing class with something less than amazing and still being brave enough to read it. Time spent writing isn’t wasted just not always worth pursuing further.
  11. Remembering to eat all of my meals. You would think this would go without saying, but sometimes, I forget that I need to take care of myself too.
  12. Practicing radical self-care. Write, Read, Eat, Cook. Living well despite  life’s shit factory.
  13. Ditching the drama making machine and all those who contribute. If you’re all into drama and being a royal bitch, consider this an eviction notice from my life. I have too much good, too much to do, too much to write to be bothered with petty people.
  14. Not ending my list on a 13 because I’m still a writer who is slightly superstitious  and doesn’t want to anger the fates. Or it could simply be my OCD acting up because I have an affinity for even numbers. I really don’t know…

What small victories are you celebrating today? Share in the comments.

Those Liars

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greed and envy

twin whores standing

underneath the forbidden fruit

polishing a single plumfleshed orb

until it reflected

our blueblackgreenbrown eyes back to us.

we stared into this mirror–

into our unspoken wants

like  sea monsters lurking down

below the ocean’s perpetual tide

tugged by the marionette puppeteer, the moon

(another silver tongued liar)

we plug our ears to the quiet voice whispering–

wait…”

and grasp, bite, see

those whores cackling at naked bodies.

 

Chance Meeting: Part II

Today, we’re finishing up the short fiction piece (because I write in this genre too) from Tuesday. If you missed Part I, here you go.

Part II:

“No, she’s not cleaning it up,” said Bernard. From three people back in line, he saw the whole ordeal, but he kept his mouth shut. Once the TSA worker grabbed a broom and dust pan, his holy ire burned white hot. This wasn’t how the dead should be treated. 4355765412_edb4064599

“Give me the broom. Don’t know you this is holy ground.” He unzipped his carry on and handed Hilda an empty water bottle.

“I promise it’s never been used.” He swept up the remaining ash, carefully funneled it into the bottle, and screwed the lid tight. “Now, let’s find us some holy water.”

Bernard helped Hilda to her feet and guided passed the security line, past the horrid worker still smacking her chewing gum, past the impatient passengers. Hilda, too shocked to resist, allowed him to lead her the bathrooms and the water fountains. Pulling out his rosary, Bernard reached for the bottle of ashes and turned the water on. Despite being a priest for over twenty years, he struggled to remember all of the liturgical prayers for blessing of the waters, the faithful dead, the dead in purgatory. So many prayers, so many almost empty words now. They sounded hollow every time he said them, but it was the only thing he knew to do. Looking down at his rosary and its well-worn beads, he began mumbling the first Our Father.

“But sir, I’m not Catholic,” interrupted Hilda. “Neither was my Robert.”

“Don’t have to be. But the dead deserve more respect than a broom and empty water bottle,” said Bernard. He continued the prayer then began reciting the Hail, Mary with more vigor.

“Now, go in peace.” Bernard handed Hilda her Robert’s ashes and tried walking away.

“He wanted to see the world, and I fucked it up.” Hilda cried, and Bernard knew he wouldn’t escape so easily.

“Look, lady, I’m sure you didn’t ruin anything,” said Bernard. Hilda kept standing there, shuffling her feet, waiting for him to say something. Anything would help.

“The accident was all my fault,” said Hilda. She held on to the water bottle filled to the brim with Robert. “He, my Robert, loved watching the Panthers play. And I told him to go to Lucky’s by himself.” The tears started again, and Bernard knew the drill well. He moved her to the gray plastic chairs to sit down before her uncontrollable shaking caused her to drop the water bottle.

“I told him to call a cab. I told him to call a fucking cab,” she said through her gasps for air. “But no, I let him go by himself, then there he was lying in the bed with tubes everywhere. Couldn’t walk or wipe his ass.”

“Ma’am, you can’t blame yourself. Everyone makes choices.” Bernard’s voice quieted as he choked on his cliched advice. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“To a stranger?” Who does that?” She blinked away a fear tears.

“Trust me. Lots of people line up to sit in a wood box and tell me their secrets,” he said. “This isn’t as private, but you do what you gotta do.”

“I’ve never told anyone,” said Hilda. Her hands tightened around the bottle.

“You can tell me.” Bernard rested his hands over hers and waited for Hilda to begin.

Hilda stared at the floor silent, waiting for the chatting businessmen behind them to leave. Somehow, she didn’t want everyone in the whole airport knowing just the one stranger. His black shirt and stiff white collar gave her an odd sense of comfort, even though, she never found religion very comforting at all. Too many bonnets and prayers and itchy tights and musky old ladies touching her new dress with their oiled up fingers. But today, she liked this priest’s version.

“The morning of the accident, I got laid off from United,” said Hilda. “Cause the other flight attendant told our supervisor I was having an affair with Thomas, the co-pilot.”

“Were you?” asked Bernard. The question punctuated the conversation with silence. Both of them could feel the gap widening between them and shrinking at the same time.

“Don’t I wish, but no. Thomas never noticed me until after I got fired. Felt bad about that lying bitch.” She smoothed the wrinkles in her shirt and watched the people milling about the airport’s Starbucks.

“As I was driving home, Thomas called and wanted to talk. I swear just talk. Nothing else,” she whispered. “Besides, Robert went steady with Jessica Burns anyways. Every time, I was away. I never said a word. That morning was supposed to be my turn.”

“And was it your turn?” Bernard shifted his white choking collar, loosened it a little, then just took it off. The only nice thing about the confessional box, he didn’t always wear the full garb. Sometimes, he sounded more like a therapist than a priest. If given the chance, he would switch professions. His direct God connection burned out years ago.

 

“Why else would I tell Robert to go by himself?” She brushed away a few tears and hugged the bottle tighter. “But Thomas never showed up. Typical.”

Bernard sighed relieved that he wouldn’t be listening to a litany of carnal sins. He grew tired of listening to men confess their affairs, women their lovers in such detail that he swore they climaxed again after the retelling. Another unfair blow by the church. He listened but couldn’t partake.

“The accident took away any hope I had for Thomas,” she said. “Took away Robert too.”

“How long before Robert passed?” Bernard asked as he put his hands on top of her again. She gripped his fingers and squeezed. They sat holding hands in silence for several minutes. By now, she missed her flight to Brazil and Bernard his flight to Detroit. Somehow, neither one of them minded.

“A couple of weeks. I left him with the hospice nurse to go to the grocery store. That bitch walked out after I left and Robert strangled himself.” Hilda couldn’t finish. Her words interrupted by choking gasps and tears and sobs.

“I shall pray for his soul,” he said and whispered some jumbled version of the Purgatory prayers.

“Guess you never get a day off in your line of work?” She asked once she stopped crying.

“Not usually. But it’s time for a career change,” he said still holding her hands.

“You mean God let’s you just quit?” The question hung suspended between them as if they hoped God would write on walls again.

“Suppose so.” He stood up offered her his hand, and they walked toward the ticket counter. Two tickets for Vegas.

 

Chance Meeting

Today, I’m changing gears just a bit and offering up a bit of fiction “Chance Meeting.” Besides, poetry and blogging, I’m currently working on a collection of short stories about living in the South. 

Part 1: 4355765412_edb4064599

“Ma’am, I’m going to need to see what’s in that vase,” said airport security. He passed her precious urn to a fellow worker. Her long manicured nails didn’t quite get a good hold, and the faux Ming Dynasty urn slipped from the grasp of the TSA worker. Crash, thud, shatter. Hilda saw everything blur except the urn, and she shoved her way through the metal detector slipping on polished floor to get to her only carry on luggage. “Oh, shit,” she muttered softly. “Oh, shit, oh, shit.” The TSA worker chomped on her bubble gum loudly and stared at Hilda bending over the ashes, the shards of her dear Robert’s urn.

Somehow, time slowed down as her fellow travelers maneuvered around her. Hilda remembered the day she and Robert picked out their matching urns. The flea market aisles were hardly large enough for Robert’s electric wheelchair around, but it made him so happy to be with other people. He never noticed their cruel stares, whispered comments like Hilda did. She heard every word. But Robert insisted that they pick out how his ashes would be displayed, and Hilda never could refuse Robert anything. The white urns with bright blue peacocks mimicked some ancient Chinese pottery, but they would look nice on the mantle. Until that damn TSA worked dropped Robert’s urn and let his ashes mingled with the sweaty feet, dirty shoes, and dust at O’Hare.

Perhaps, bringing Robert along was silly. She didn’t need anyone flying with her before. When she could find work, she jetted from LAX to JFK to RDU. She sweated her ass off in Bombay, nearly froze in Moscow. She never needed Robert by her side because he was waiting at home. Before the accident. When she wasn’t wiping his ass or giving him medicine, she tried to find work on smaller commuter airlines. She never did. They didn’t appreciate her running off to tend to Robert because hospice failed to show up, or he woke up with night terrors again. Always reliving the crash, the river, the near drowning.

But he was gone. With no one waiting for her at home, she took her sole companion with her. He often bemoaned that Hilda got to see the world, and he was stuck in that goddamn wheelchair. She swore this trip to Brazil would make up for his lack of exotic travel. Of course, she wished she could just have her teeth bonded in the States, but her dental insurance wouldn’t cover such a procedure. Too risky.

Sitting on the ground, she looked up to see two young flight attendants saunter past security and into the staff only room. Their uniforms wrinkled from sitting down, and Hilda rolled her eyes at their lack of professionalism. There was only one way to keep those uniforms perfectly pressed till boarding, and she knew it. But her airline didn’t care for her outdated ways.

“Ma’am, you going to clean this up?” asked the impatient security worker. “ Or do I need to call security?”

 

To be continued….

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For the Infinite Collector of Books

Somewhere on my resume, I should have the title: Infinite Collector of Books.

I really also should be in some 12 step program for this literary addiction. 

If you were to visit my home, you couldn’t help notice just how many books I have stacked and double-stacked on sagging bookshelves. I prefer the term collector rather than hoarder, but really there isn’t too much difference. IMG_1009

I set up alerts in my iPhone for the Dollar Days sale at the used book store.

I know what time the nearby Barnes and Noble closes, the aisles and genres in Ed McKay’s, and the fastest way/cheapest way to get the most out of my Amazon Prime membership.

Lest I should forget, the library located down the street from my house and the wonderous thing that is InterLibrary Loan. As if the title of poet/writer didn’t clue you on my love of the written word, let me just spell it out for you:

I’m a bibliophile, and I love books.

But even good things, like books, can turn into a wretched white elephant if we’re not careful. Because I could/always will be able to justify used books or the occasional new book, I accumlated more books faster than I could read the ones that I had already bought. See the problem? Lots of books+ More books= a reader with shelves of lovely short stories, poems, memoirs, novels–ALL UNREAD.If you follow me on GoodReads, I even created a whole shelf for books that I own, and most of them fall under the category of “to read.”

As cliche as it sounds, part of the solution is admitting that I have a problem.

But the other part of the solution is doing something about it! While it will break my heart and help my wallet, I’m giving up buying books for awhile or even checking books for myself at the library.  I need to read what I own before I parade any more writers, novelists, poets into my house to sit upon those tired shelves.

Beginning today, I’m giving myself a bit of a summer reading challenge.

I’ve selected 11 books from my own library that I will read. In order to bring any more books to my loving home, I have to finish all 11 books. Now, I’m not setting a timeline or some due date because I already have a long wish list/library list of books waiting for me. Throughout the summer, I will blog about my progress through these books. How much I love/hate/apathetic toward these books…there could also be some wailing and gnashing of teeth…

IMG_1010

The Read Your Shelves Challenge:

  1. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
  2. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  4. Sinners Welcome: Poems by Mary Karr
  5. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  6. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  7. The Writing Life by Annie Dilliard
  8. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
  9. A Year in the Life of Shakespeare by James Shapiro
  10. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  11. Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

What books on your shelves need to be read before you get new ones? How many do you have unread?(I can neither confirm or deny that I have A LOT)

Baptized

IMG_0410

i’ve been baptized

in the pure love

of dog’s tongue.

wetness sticks to skin,

slobbering pants

stinking of the corn

or rotting deer carcass

you buried behind

blackberry briars and johnson grass

now, resurrected.

In just–

time splits open

and the holy beyond fuses

together in fur and paws and tongue

and licks away

my fears.

Where Fear Has No Home

I thought I knew how to come and go as I pleased.

To load up the car, drive the tree-lined drive to two lane roads toward the behemoth interstates. I don’t. Or at least didn’ until I forced myself to do so this Memorial Day weekend. In March, I bought my ticket to a writing retreat in which I knew only the other attendees by their avatars on Twitter, years of blog posts, and that awkward moment when I friended a few of them on Facebook and hoped that they accepted. They did. IMG_0134

For three months, I scrolled through the #RRforWriters tweets and mapped out travel plans from the safety of my desk surrounded by all of crazy but comforting knick-knacks(doesn’t every writer have a Jane Austen action figure with a mini-poseable Shakespeare kneeling at her feet?).

But then the day before I was to fly out of RDU toward Michigan, I felt the old panic rising upward, fear tingling away whispering this was a bad idea. I’m an introvert. I’m fairly certain if Dante wrote about the circles of Hell for introverts meeting new people that one has only known through the internet would be in there somewhere. My mind grasped for excuses to stay where I was comfortable. Where I could be safely at home.

Home on five acres surrounded by pine trees, towering dead oaks, and blackberry vines. Where I can click the red circle on my browser to get rid of unnecessary blogger drama, to escape to my porch where I notoriously overwater my petunias, to tend my herbs–sage, thyme, lavender, rosemary. Where I feel both trapped and secure, where I have the power to keep all who’ve hurt me away.

Sometimes, we confuse what is supposedly stable, safe, and secure with what lurks beneath in the shadows. Our fear. 

Perhaps, fear doesn’t always look like the bogeyman under our beds. For me, fear wears Sunday dress clothes and carries a Bible, sits in the pew next to me, and waits until I offend to unleash its fury. These emotional scars came from those who claim to love the same Jesus I do, and yet, there are such deep hurts that I’m not sure will ever fully heal. Being around other believers causes me to panic, but the only I way I know to deal with this terror is to silence myself, push others far away. I’ve spent years bouncing from church to church, stayed seated when the old panic bubbled up, kept other believers far away so I could lick my wounds. Now, emotional callouses, hard and numb.

Fear took away my ability to be in community with other believers because I let it.

But I signed up for a Christian writing retreat anyway. Out of sheer bravery, doubtful.  Over-confidence in my own abilities, more likely. How hard could it be to sip some wine, talk about writing, meander about during free time writing poetry, endure the spirituality portion? Again, I tried to keep other believers at distance, walls built up from years of brick laying, plaster the everything’s okay smile on, no one would know the difference. Except for the Holy Spirit. And probably, everyone there.

During Vespers, we sat in silence. Sometimes, we stared at the flicking of the candle flame. In the silence, I felt these simple words–love, peace, and seen. While I had never been to Michigan before or this retreat center, this place became a new kind of home. Where I was loved, where I was seen, where I could break down the emotional walls for a much needed period of rest.

 

 

wash here

Poet Prayers

wash here. i crowd last night’s dinner

plates, cups, spoons coated in grease and leftover chicken

down deep in the soapsuds like a baptismal font.

between the scrub, rinse, dry–

silence eats into the back corners,

recites all of the caked mess life spattered

all over my heart, or worse, i did to myself.

i need to be clean too. with feeble words

heart murmurs, stir up the old woman lies

dunk them in the purifying water–

come out forgiven, new.

 

This month, we will begin a series of poems on grace. I’m looking forward to spending time contemplating this idea in poetry.

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.