What I’m Into: January 2014



January was a big month.

For me, it wasn’t just a month to kick off 2014, but a rapid paced, do all the things, read all things while everything is fresh and new and I have energy kind of a month. One Word

I began January with a new semester, new students, and teaching online for the first time. And because I’m an all in kind of person, I’m teaching four college online courses. What I’m noticing is how much I really do enjoy teaching in my pajamas, searching for cool interactive tools to teach literature, but I also miss the classroom, its hodge-podge of students brought together, the in person community of learners.

Of course, it never hurts to be able to read Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Alice Munro for work and GET paid to do so. Although, I could have left William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” off the reading list because that story creeps me out. Every. Time. I. Read. It.

But January did bring some exciting news…

My short story, Three Tapes,  was published in Quaint Magazine! You can read it here.

For any writer, being published is one of the best feelings ever. Someone else loved your work and wants it. Of course, money sweetens the deal too. And it also helps that I adore the premise behind Quaint Magazine, a publication that focuses on female identifying writers.  You should read the first issue because it is amazing.  cupcake driveway

In book related nerdness:

I read four books in January. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like a whole, but I also teach literature courses which mean plenty of my reading time is taken up by research and literary criticism.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Any time a novel breaks the rules like telling who murdered whom in the first chapter, then I’m on board. The middle of this very long book felt a bit too sluggish for me, but I really did like the overall plot lines.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple: Quirky, very quirky. Not entirely sure how I feel about the unusual presentation of the story, but I found myself thinking about long after I finished reading it.
  • Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach: I love food memoirs. I love food memoirs with recipes. I love reading food memoirs with recipes that aren’t overly hard and I might be able to cook.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth:  My closet genre of choice, my real love will always be Young Adult Dystopian novels. Please, please don’t judge. I loved the premise of the book, and its kick ass female protagonist, but it lost me somewhat when she needed a cute, brooding guy.

If you want more of my thoughts on books I’m reading or have read or want to read, you may follow me on GoodReads.

In TV watching land,

I should point out that I don’t watch a lot of television. We gave up cable a long time ago for Netflix and Amazon Prime, and I don’t miss the bazillion channels with nothing on. But I do have a few favorites:

  • The Big Bang Theory: This month’s episode with James Earl Jones was the funniest ever. It may even eclipse the episode when Sheldon becomes the crazy cat lady.
  • Game of Thrones: I’m late to the party, but damn…my favorite characters are dying left and right and I have only made it through season 1.
  • The Taste (both US and UK versions): While I don’t do reality TV, I love watching Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, and Chef Ludo bicker over food. This go around, I’m siding with Team Ludo because Team Nigella was all crazy, Bourdain’s team isn’t as exciting as it was last year, and Marcus’s team could be feisty too.

In blog land,

I have been relatively quiet on the blog, but this year, I am going to be making a effort to be more consistent with my content. I did write about my OneWord365 and how it is really hard to live out. I took pictures of my dogs when it snowed because we don’t get a lot of snow in the South and we enjoy it to the fullest.

So, what did January 2014 have for you? Share in the comments section below. Then go check out all of the other submission for Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Link-up.

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Southern Snow Day

By now, you probably have heard that it snowed…in the South.

Having lived my entire life south of the Mason Dixon, I feel the need to make something clear–SNOW IS A BIG DEAL!

We don’t see a lot of the white frozen stuff. In fact, we have had entire winters in which there was snow at all. So when the almighty weatherman calls for snow, we run out to get our eggs, bread, and milk because we don’t want to be unprepared. Or we might just have a hankering for french toast.

But I digress. Since we get so little snow, I took the opportunity to romp around, to take pictures of my dogs, to enjoy the powdery white stuff until my toes felt numb and my hands were too cold to press the camera buttons. So about 20 minutes have real outside time, then it was all roaring fire, big stacks, and puppy piles for me.

Today’s blog post doesn’t have any literary significance just showing off I spent my snow day or how I took lots of pictures of my dogs which will convince my readers that I am that crazy dog lady.


Cupcake chase Ophelia

Ahh, observe the natural taunting of Springer Spaniel siblings–Cupcake and Ophelia. Can you not see the love? The tenderness? Cupcake’s crazy eyes as Ophelia runs away.

Cupcake cold

You can almost hear dear Cupcake saying: “But MOMMY, I’m cold! I promise I will sit on your lap and be your heating blanket if we go inside now.” Yeah, he broke that promise later when he flopped on to the couch and started snoring.

Ophelia runs


But Ophelia trots ever so lightly on the snow. Its icy crust tickling her toes as she runs toward me. Of course, she wants her belly rubbed because that is the only thing that I am good for…and putting kibble in her bowl. Priorities.

Cupcake and Ophelia run


“Look Mama, we’re flying!”

cupcake driveway

Never knew my dog could fly, did you?

cupcake happy

But at the end of the day, everyone is happy, tail wagging, and glad that the snow will be gone tomorrow.

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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.

On Dreams and Effed Up Theology

For the past four months, I’ve begged God for a dreamless sleep.

Sometimes, I crawl between the chocolate sheets, and sleep crashes into me. Darkness, rest, morning. But some nights, sleep isn’t so kind. Perhaps, it was the Valentine’s Day energy still buzzing from dinner and wine and an the horrific assault of too many perfumes and colognes all in one place. Or too much television, electric stories blinking on and off the screen, my mind worn down to its barest, rawest place. Sleep should have been easy–slip off into that good night. Morning and dog walks and routine. It wasn’t.

Dreams have a way of fettering out all the mess locked away during conscious moments.

Maybe, it’s just mine. But between night and morning, I remember standing on my front porch. Thankfully, fully clothed. Sitting next to me, my Ginger dog, the first birthday present my husband ever gave me, lay on her giant green dog bed, tail wagging and alive. And then, she bolts. Head bounding, legs springing like Tigger, but she runs farther and farther away. For moment, she turns her head back toward me, still standing on the porch calling for her, and  she disappears into the blackberry thicket and pine trees. Gone. IMG_0396

In my dream, she’s alive and vibrant. In the waking world, she’s been dead for four months. The day before my 31st birthday to be exact.

I wake up sobbing into my pillow, a guilt ridden mess. I can hear my other two dogs squirming in their crate ready to go outside, but I’m not ready to face the empty space where Ginger should be. But isn’t. Through the curtains, sunlight streams down on the kitchen floor, and the skies cold and clear blue. But I see only darkness, everything tightly closed up. I feel the bitter hand of self-abuse grasp my heart, and I allow it to whisper guilty lies–“if you hadn’t been selfish, Ginger would still be here.” Or another variation, “if you were normal and asked for stuff, Ginger would still be here.” The guilt and self-shaming kept telling me, “your fault, your fault, your fault” like drums banging out Taps.

Even now, I can’t write about Ginger without sobbing and feeling the searing hot guilt all over.

Days like these that I drop f-bombs into my prayers and desperately whisper apologies because my version of God looks more like a vindictive chain smoking whore than loving being. Growing up, God  took things away from us if we loved something besides Him. And I don’t want him to take away my other two dogs because for a long time I felt certain that he stole Ginger from me like a pissed off toddler who can’t play with his favorite toy.

I lived with this view of God for most of my life, and it plunges me back into the black hole of shame and guilt. There is no lightness or love  or kindness in this vindictive deity. Just shame and fear and despair. I imagine I hear God saying, “well, it’s your fault, bitch, deal with it.”

That’s some fucked up theology to live with everyday.

But then I pray for a miracle, and it snows in the South after sunny and 60’s. Maybe, you think I’m crazy for seeing a few pure white snowflakes and miraculous, but they were. Slowly, the light is coming back, and God doesn’t look so angry or bitter or vengeful. I can sort through all the self-imposed shame and be free. Truly free.

On Puppy Birthdays and Crazy Eyes

Today, my life is covered in dog fur.

Fine, it is always covered in fur because I have three shedding machines…a.k.a. Cupcake, Ginger, and crazy eyes Ophelia.

Happy Birthday, Ginger Snap! The only dog I know who is more cat than dog…at times. This is her angry, glare at Mommy face or “Bitch, Please…get that camera out of my face.”

Birthday Girl Ginger was not amused with the Princess Bunny Ears.  She still brings this incident up in therapy with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Ginger among the flowers…zinnias to be precise. Well, I hope. I don’t know, can’t remember.

“So, how did that make you feel?”

Therapy sessions and napping, I talk she naps.

So, today, I say:

Happy Birthday Ginger!

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My Life Through Instagram

Another day, another tweeted picture, another memory frozen in the damn, near perfect filters of Instagram.


Ah, the Lego man so unaware that his mortal enemy Red Peppa Flakes is stalking him.

Dear Teens,

Not sure how y’all define new, but Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility was kinda like published 200ish years ago. Ok, fine, compared to The Epic of Gilgamesh…it is newish.

This is not giving someone personal space.

Now, this is giving someone personal space. See the difference?

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Searching the Fringes

Today, winter unleashed her full rage.

Picture courtesy of Mark Askins

Bitter cold winds gnaw at the threads of my purple down coat. I stuff my hands in my pockets because I left my gloves inside. Frosty pale clouds hide the moon, and the flood lights shine out over my sloping yard. Tethered to my right hand, Ginger tugs at her leash bouncing in circles, trying her best to dart farther than the six feet allowed. I really don’t enjoy our night time walks because they scare me just a little.

I would rather stay close to the light, the safe zone, the place of certainty.

Close to the house, the light floods the porch and twenty feet into my yard. Living in the middle of no where, I imagine all sorts of things lurking in the shadows. Snakes, raccoons, coyotes, rabid dogs–anything could jump out, attack me from the imposing woods. I tug gently on Ginger’s leash all the while knowing she will drag me closer to the fringes, closer to my uncomfortableness. But my Ginger doesn’t like to stay in those well-lit twenty feet. She wants to search the fringes. The place where the light meets the scraggly tree specters, the place where I can’t see my next step, the place where darkness overpowers light. The fringes.

But I don’t want to go near the fringes.

In the light, I am certain of everything. But life can’t be lived well if we don’t venture beyond what we know is safe.  Too often, I refuse to leave my illusion of safety, to risk being away from the light, to search the fringes. Most of my life, I shied away from those risky fringes. When I chose to major in English, I knew I would teach rather than write. Why? It was safe. The fringes of risk beckoned, but I didn’t move toward them. My feet firmly planted in the bright, blinding light because I believed God only gave us safe, antiseptic choices. His will intertwined with maintaining our comfort, with working in rational ways.

Sometimes, we must search the fringes.

I wish in all of my church going days that someone would have motioned me toward the fringes. But it pushed me towards the sensible things–marriage, family, domestic endeavors. All wonderful things, but far away from those dark fringes where faith and grace await. The places where it is risky, the place where God wants us to go, the place where faith overpowers our delusions of safety. The fringes give God a place to show us who He is, to illuminate His Will. But first, we must get out of the light, the safe zone. I admit that I don’t really know how to leave my safe zone. I never have. When I read about the glorious risks others attempt, I feel that tug towards the fringe, towards the uncertain.

This year, I resolve to search the fringes.

To understand God, beyond my safety zone. I want to explore those wild, dark and risky places where Grace awaits. I need to learn how to escape this prison of safety.

Question: How do you search the fringes?



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