Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dear Lizzie,

This is one of those posts that you've decided not to share. Bye, bye post! See you tomorrow or never.

Get back to work writing essays now. Or take a break; go rent a bad movie. You've been working hard. The work is harder when the writing goes badly. Your brain feels a bit like clay you've been squishing too long. It's drying out and not good for molding into anything.

Have some dinner.

Have a glass of wine.

Drink some cold, cold water.

But, please, don't use the toaster for a while.

Love,
ej

ps - Last night, I decided to have a frosted cinnamon Poptart for dessert. The frosting bubbled up and off the pastry onto my thumb when I tried to pluck the damned thing out of the toaster. It's going to be a long time before I have a Pop-tart again.
Love,
ej

the one where i fail to make a certain poem, but it's all right

I am trying to write a poem, not any poem, a poem about a dress. The poem isn't really about the dress; it's about two distinct events, one that happened in February 2009, one that will happen this Saturday.

Saturday the high school band boosters host a jazz ball featuring music by the high school jazz band and the alumni jazz band. I didn't attend last year (was in a mood), but this year I crave a party. This kind of party requires a dress. I don't have many dresses, and since my body changes shape with my age, some of the dresses I do have don't fit quite right. But there is one.

Before my girl left for her dad's, I pulled this dress out of the closet and said, "What do you think? Would this do for the ball?"

"Yes! It's pretty."

"The only thing is that I wore it to Karen's funeral and haven't worn it since."

"Oh," she said.

The "oh" echoed in my head, my own oh oh oh.

This morning, I open my closet, my terrible closet, which was designed for a man who stands 6'5" (I'm not kidding. Bought the house from a tall couple). The dress hangs on the highest bar, so I stand on tiptoe to turn its front toward me, study it, finger the fabric, scoop up the skirt, bury my face in the blue and white print, expect to smell perfume of Tide laundry detergent when I inhale deeply. I exhale on a sob, drop dress skirt, spin around and mutter, "Yep, still smells like their living room. Puts me right back in the middle of all that grief."

I bought the dress specifically for my friend Karen's funeral. At some point when she started to feel that she was dying before she stopped communicating, Karen told her daughters that she did not want anyone wearing black at her funeral mass; she wanted the women dressed in pink.

I couldn't find a pink dress anywhere in my little frozen city. Still, I knew my friend would be happy simply to see me in a dress instead of jeans, to see me slide a brush tipped with blush over cheekbones, slide an eyeliner pencil over lid.

When my mother died, I wore a favorite dress that I'd worn a dozen times before to her December funeral. Kept that dress in my closet for many years, even packed it and brought it from Texas to Ohio when we moved, though I suspected I'd never wear it again, couldn't stand to wear it again, finally gave it away.

I don't know what it is about clothes and events for me. I cannot wear this dress to a ball. It's Karen's dress. Stupid maybe, but when I touch the skirt, I fall back into my friend's house crowded with people mourning. Of course there was much laughter in that house, too, because my friend loved to laugh, and the stories we shared were funny, but... .

So. The unmaking of a poem. I won't wear the dress Saturday night, and I don't think I'm ready to write the poem yet. Apparently I haven't waited long enough to find the distance to write a poem that isn't too maudlin or dumb, maudlin and dumb like this post (pardon my self-deprecation. Bad habit I seem unable to break). Maybe I'll be able to write it in March. That's just next week. I can wait until next week.

Now I need to go find myself a dress, something comfortable and pretty that I can slide over my matronly hips without feeling like I'm turning into a hippopotamus, though I could think of myself as the hippo doing ballet in Fantasia, couldn't I? She's a sexy thing. Maybe I could write a poem about being a sexy hippopotamus.

Monday, February 21, 2011

the one where I remembered what I wanted to say too late to be coherent

One of the lovely things about Facebook is that we can have discussions about things that matter to us if we choose to engage. I rarely post controversial status updates or links on my Facebook. I have little more than 100 friends on there, about a third of them under 18. I'm not a boat rocker or a rabble rouser, though I have high aspirations of changing that about myself before I die. When I'm in my 60s, I plan to be delightfully charismatic and radical. I have eight years to achieve that goal.

I posted a link to an article about why the teachers in Wisconsin are so enraged about Gov. Walker's attempt to shut down most of their rights to collective bargaining. I tend to be supportive of teachers, partly because I have a lot of close, close friends who teach in the public school system, love their jobs, love the kids they teach, are an asset to our country, and partly because we have been lucky, and our daughter has only had a few bad teachers (she has one this year who breaks my heart because she's an English teacher and makes my daughter hate English).

Wisconsin is not Ohio, and it's not Texas. When my friend from Texas writes about her difficulties trying to advocate for her dyslexic children, not stupid, not lazy, just learning challenged (normal learning, anyway), I don't want her to feel shut down because I have so many friends who are teachers. She knows what she knows. They know what they know. I know what I know. We all make assumptions based on our experiences. Our experiences are true, at least for us. I think hearing each other's experiences can do more good than harm.

I'm happy that my friends tend to be polite, civil, passionate, but not rude. That's how we can get things done.

I worry when friends feel the need to delete their own comments because they assume I have more teacher friends than parent friends (my teacher friends are just more vocal than my parent friends. Also have parent friends who teach). Don't delete yourself. Just don't. We all need to use our voices, tell our stories so that we can understand more how to help our children, all of our children.

Off the soapbox now. Local schools are on two-hour delays for tomorrow; some are closed. None of it will affect me since my daughter is at her dad's.

little heart breaks buffered by joy and kindness

1. Go ahead, dear Lizzie. Number your thoughts.

2. Still raining.

3. The Girl is at her dad's. I got her there before he finished teaching his last class of the day. i found a daughter in my house when i came home!

it was a wonderful surprise!


4. The rain will turn to ice later.

5. I may decide it's not a good idea to drive north two hours in this wet, slick weather on unfamiliar roads with my terrible sense of direction, no GPS (because where's the fun in that? Most of the time), mediocre night vision .... I'll just keep in touch with the MFA representatives, ask my questions through email, if I have any. The Open House is not required, though I'd like to meet Stephen Haven.

6. This Saturday, our band boosters are hosting a "ball." The jazz band and alumni jazz band (the Blue Knights and the Rusty Knights) will play from 7 to 11. My daughter isn't in jazz band this year. Last year, I couldn't tolerate the thought of attending a ball though she played keyboards for the group. Her daddy attended. I'd been to almost every other performance in which she played since I worked on the pit crew (hauled stationary percussion instruments around. Was great fun last year. This year I quit because it, well, wasn't fun). Last year, the ball like a romantic sort of event, and though I have much love in my life, I have no romance, not that kind of romance. I think I'll go this year. I've been reclusive and have pulled back a lot on my volunteer work. I'm baking cookies for the dinner and have offered (because I'm an idiot) to cook if my friend who is in charge of food needs me to.

7. My band booster buddy has been so kind to me. She is emailing me instead of calling me because she knows a) I hate the phone, b) I have a tendency to turn off the ringer on the land line and/or turn my cell phone to silent.

8. I really am quite a brat.

9. I am trying to connect with someone else for her. She's needing an approximate head count so that she knows how much food she needs to get donated.

10. I don't envy her.

11. She invited me to sit at her table with her and her husband.

12. Yes, I think I will. She makes me laugh.

13. Three minutes after I was laughing at her emails, I checked Facebook and saw a post by a young friend. She and my daughter are (or used to be) quite close. A's mother died two years ago tomorrow.

14. I was in the airport in Texas two years ago when my daughter sent me the text with this news. I was returning home from a good friend's funeral. I'd spent a week with my friend's family as a gift to myself and to them. Something about me (I never quite figured out what) calmed them and gave them a place to store the words they needed to say but couldn't seem to say to anyone else. Maybe that was it. Maybe it was that I'd been through the loss of a mother, loss of a father, knew their mother so well and loved her deeply, understood a lot of what they were experiencing.

15. February 2009 was a sad month.

16. I am listening to music this afternoon.

17. Oh. Wait. It's evening.

18. It still rains.

19. I'm listening to a duo known as the Civil Wars. Singer-song writers. Lovely stuff.




20. Time to quit and work on some essays or read my friend's manuscript.

the one where rain determines the mood

(note: came to some conclusions while I was sleeping about what this space is for me. It is for me. I'm going to stop apologizing for the posts and for myself.)



1. Today is the shift. Girl goes from me to her dad.

2. She still sleeps. Day off from school for Presidents Day.

3. I write essays in my head, bad essays.

4. The last time I went on a road trip alone, I drove from Ohio to Seaside, Fla., for my niece's wedding. The best part was driving the back roads through Alabama, a light rain falling, scent of summer filling my little car. I sensed magical creatures in the country alongside the roads.

5. What if you do all this work, select the poems and bits of fiction, write the essays, beg friends and teachers to write recommendations, and no school accepts you?

(then they don't accept me, and I move on to plan A, the original plan, which was to find freelance work, continue writing on novels and gathering poems, maybe sign up to substitute (despite girl's insistence that I not). if no one accepts me, it will not be a death sentence. it will be an answer to a question.)

6. "todotoday": a little more laundry, shower, get Girl to her dad's (which means rousing her, gently nudging, suggesting, folding, packing), continue working on essays (like I've even started), keep eye on weather, run to grocery store for half gallon of milk, orange juice, athletic socks to replace the ones with holes in the heels, use the abs wheel, use the stepper or [gasp] even get out the NordicTrack........

7. This summer, even if no one accepts me and I can't use the excuse of a residency to pack up my car and drive out of state, I will pack up my car and drive out of state, alone if I can, though it would be all right to take my Girl with me if she wanted to come. I don't know where I'll go if I have no educational destination, though every destination is educational. Maybe home to Texas? Maybe up to Canada? Maybe north to the coast of Maine? Maybe back to New Mexico?

8. Heat spilling from vents is too hot.

9. The posts on Facebook become more and more political - unions, public education, Planned Parenthood, PBS & NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts. I read the posts and follow the links, make comments of my own and get too caught up. The certainty that we are impotent makes my finger tips tingle. Still, I write my representatives (letters never acknowledged), make phone calls (never returned), share information.

10. If I didn't think my right knee would give out, I'd thumb my nose at all these negatives and dance through my house to Gipsy Kings.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the one where I rock myself awake

Today. Lazy day. Laundry. We all slept late. Girl's friend stayed the night. They "nested" on the living room floor in front of the television, watching Shutter Island. Late. We were all a little spooked even before they started the movie. Tugged shades down to keep the night out. Girl has a fear of night face pressing against the glass of the living room in the window. She jokes about it, but I still pull down those shades when she asks me to. I remember a dream I had when I was 8 or 9, still vivid. A face pressed against the glass of the bay living room window in the little house where I lived with my parents and my three siblings. Mottled face. Angry man. In the dream, I left the house and ran around the block with friends to escape, to try to find someone to help us.

Ancient dream still stays with me.

This evening, my girl is at another friend's house until about 10:30 or 11. A guy friend. Not a boyfriend (she's given up dating for a bit). A buddy like a brother.

I am lost in all that laundry - her clothes, my clothes, sheets, towels, so many mismatched socks.

I am also trying to focus my mind on grad school application essays.

Instructions on one application read, "Three to 6 [the editor in me wants to correct this to "six"] single-space pages, thoughtfully composed."

I may need to stop thinking to get myself to compose any essays.

Need to turn away from news, stop obsessing over what's happening in Wisconsin, what's going to happen in my state of Ohio. Need to let go of what's happening in Libya. Need to focus. These news things take up too much room in my head.

I have three hours or so to focus except for the time I need to spend washing a few dishes, hand washing a few delicates, folding the mountain of laundry.

Focus.

Have been hunting through old files, saved journals and saved entries from an online diary. The hunt is a way to prove something to myself that I can't quite articulate. Evolution of self? Don't like to use the word "evolution" when it comes to me. Found the following. It's fiction based on fact. Not wonderful, but true and raw.

I'm writing in short hand tonight. Should stop that.

Here, just for kicks. Must have been winter of 2004 or maybe late 2003. Estelle is fictional. Lucinda Mary is fictional. The file was undated:

*

Dear Estelle,

I woke up today with the taste of lemon zest on my tongue. When I glanced in the mirror as I was about to splash wake up water on my face, I stuck my tongue out at my reflection, and sure enough, the red had a yellow tinge. The whites of my eyes, too, had a bitter yellow tinge.

I sipped my coffee without sugar this morning hoping that the taste of bitter would overwhelm the bitter taste. But it was no good. Sweet cookies, pizza, salty Sun Chips, nothing would make the bitter yellow dissipate. I'll just have to live with it. I think what happened is that I let bitter words flow out of my mouth, and now that they've been said, now that their target has heard them, now that I can't unsay them, I'll forever taste like a bitter little woman.

The sun is as yellow as my tongue, but it's bitter cold out there. When I cleaned up the blown-around Advertiser this morning after I dropped my daughter off at school, my shoes crackled on the grass. The noise frightened me. It felt and sounded as if my shoes were crushing light bulbs. I could almost feel tiny, dusty glass penetrating the rubber soles. I was relieved that I felt no pain.

I have started filling boxes with the junk that's been covering every surface in the kitchen for weeks. I'm afraid to toss out the bits of junk mail and ads because I worry that I've tucked some important bill or notice in among the trash. My stacks become heaps, mountains, whole worlds. I can't climb them, I have no explosives, so I can't blow them apart. I long for the sights of shreds of paper blowing down the street toward someone else's house.

I will tape up these boxes and risk having gas or electric or phone turned off. I can't stand the sight of them any more, can't stand the odor of stale paper.

My driveway smelled like dog shit when I went out to rescue the dog from her senile sniffing. She was obsessed with a pile of old leaves that were smashed up against the edge of the closed garage door. She was so confused when she felt my arm scoop her up. She didn't see me coming. It's so sad. I could feel her dying through my sweater.

I am a weak woman today. I am incapable of taking this new, clean month and starting over with a new, clean personality. Vacuuming my bedroom doesn't help because I have to shove the machine around laundry baskets filled with clean clothes. Dust is everywhere. Dust rags, dust mops, Endust, water, Swiffers, nothing can conquer the dust. It's breeding in my lungs. When I cough, now, I cough out three-inch layers of dust.

I believe, Estelle, that if I don't write down these lies, these fake thoughts, these fickle leanings of mine, my feet will get tangled up in them as I'm dashing down the stairs to answer the phone or the door or the oven timer. I'm afraid I will fall and break my neck. I don't want to die, Estelle, even though I feel as if I'm already walking dead. Isn't my self-pity beautiful? Don't I have a lovely whiny way about me? At least I have my health. At least my child has her health. At least my house is still standing despite all the dust, maybe because of all the dust.

Tomorrow I will write you about cinnamon and folded sheets. Tomorrow I will write you about balanced checkbooks and filed bills. I will smell clean, like Jergens Natural Bath Soap and Neutrogena moisturizer. Can you bear with me until tomorrow? If you can, maybe I can, too.

Love,
Lucinda Mary


*

Enough delving into old writing now. Really should have done something with all those journal entries. All that writing, raw and angry and so, so sad. I'm glad I have it. Back to laundry now, to essays and thinking about who I want to become based on who I've been.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

But, Lizzie, it doesn't matter...(with silly edit)(with less silly edit)

(started at about 11 a.m.)

I've been trying to catch up with and follow a conversation on Twitter and elsewhere about the nature of blogging and the ways in which it maybe could/should/might change? I must admit, I'm lost. The lovely woman who initiated this trend or project or process scrubbed away her "presence," so I can't read back to follow her journey. There's nothing I love more than following someone's journey. Oh well.

The discussion seems to be about wiping one's Internet slate clean (I'm sorry. I cannot seem to think or use "clean slate" as a verb. Must be the editor in me) and starting over again with a more "focused" intent (that would never do for me. I'm a haphazard journal keeper)? I've done that before online. Sort of. I've done it in life a bit, too, but mostly as a child.

I was an Army brat, and each time we moved, I would leave behind bits of myself because we had a weight limit for how much a family of six was allowed to ship to the next location. (you know, Gwen Bell dear, you might have triggered a poem! Thank you! I've been a little less than prolific lately).

We always chose to keep our books over everything else (even furniture), to keep the repositories of words and story.

It's possible I've just encountered a community by accident that isn't mine, isn't meant to be mine, where I could never fit. And that's fine. Hell, I barely fit here where I live, but I'm a pleasant and innocuous enough person (hold back enough when necessary) that people who may not understand me don't mind me, think I'm charmingly eccentric.

What I'm wondering is if it's now considered disgusting narcissism to keep a blog. Well, of course it is. I've been a narcissistic diarist since I was a preteen.

As I type this, I've come to the conclusion that there's nothing wrong with writing down my life, my memories, my history, with sharing it here or there or anywhere. It's a way for me to connect. I love a good connection the way I love following other people's journeys. I love story, and in my past, in your past, my family's past, my daughter's present, my own future, I find story. Story, story, story.

I love exchanging ideas and opinions. I find that I do this on Facebook with a certain group of friends who are politically aware. I am not as charismatic or confident in my own thoughts as they are, but I'm learning to trust myself. I'm learning to use my voice.

Tempting though it would be to join the discussion that seems to be unfolding about this issue, to share ideas, to open up my mind by looking into other minds in the way that this group seems to be suggesting, I cannot justify the $20 a month to join. Not with a daughter heading to college in a couple of years, not with this urge I have to go to grad school, not with my diminishing funds. Well, no loss to them, I suppose.

I wouldn't have anyway. I don't have time.


May continue this later, a discussion I'm having with myself about something puzzling but not "shattering." This doesn't matter. I will continue to be what I am. Writing here (and elsewhere) helps me to grow into what I want to become. Or just helps me to release thoughts that clog me up and puzzle me.

For now, I need to live. I need to pick up my daughter from Winter Percussion, figure out if I need to scour the house in the event of an impromptu sleepover (though how can one plan for an impromptu anything?).

ciao bella baby.

*

(12:24 p.m.)

I need to let go of what other people think "blogs" should be. It really doesn't matter. I ought to be a bit careful about admitting this here since people who know me in real life now have access to this "journal" type stuff, but I will admit it as a way of practicing honesty. I've had an online diary since late February 2000, started it eight months after my father died partly as a way to write through my grief. My life was complicated then, as lives tend to be. My marriage was complicated. I was a full-time, stay-at-home mother but also did freelance work. I was lonely. I was lost. I was sad and happy. I was searching. I wrote through it all.

The first version of that diary is no longer on the Internet, but I do have it downloaded to my hard drive. I use that diary when I'm writing poem or story or essay (a new thing for me, the concept of "essay" writing). When I reread my entries from all those years ago, I find myself able to read the story as if someone else wrote it. I feel great compassion for that woman. She did the best she could and fuck all, she managed to keep her sense of humor and all her hair. I'd be so sad if I couldn't go back and read her story whenever I wanted to.

*

I have nothing to sell to this digital world. I don't mind if I'm just writing here to myself, not really. Now and then, I want someone to hear me or see me, true enough. But I'm a rather happy, little fly on the wall most of the time.

When I go to meetings or try to participate in discussions in classes and workshops I've taken, I often find that I cannot get in my words. People talk over me. I don't quite know how to interject without being rude and interrupting someone. Raising a hand doesn't seem to do it. So I sit back and wait for someone else to say what I wanted to say or to ask the question I had. What I find more and more lately is that no one does say what I meant to say, no one else does ask the question I wanted to ask.

I would like to teach myself how to speak up more.

*

Distracted. Went to gather the mail from our mailbox, muttered to myself as I glanced through to find a bank statement, credit card bill, invitation to yet another grad school open house.

"You're talking to yourself again," my girl said.

"Yes, I am," I said.

"You're always talking to yourself."

She's right. I'm always talking to myself. Here, there, everywhere. Maybe that's what I mean when I say that it doesn't really matter to me if anyone reads here or hears me. I'll "talk" anyway.

And, oh, I am so grateful for the right to speak out. I need to use my voice more often.

*

1:41 p.m.

Still thinking about this, but as a friend suggested, the whole wiping slate clean and evolving into new digital creatures is a bit abstract for me. I didn't acknowledge that I am a concrete person until I was in my 30s and took a kind of a survey.

When my father's cancer metastasized from lung and bone to his brain, he began to forget things that made him feel like his true self. For me, he continued to be Daddy, a bit confused and muddled, fragile and more emotional (though my father was never afraid to show emotion), but still Daddy. For him, loss of memory meant loss of self. It was the thing he most feared when he was diagnosed with terminal, stage 4 adenocarcinoma. He wasn't afraid of dying. He was certain that he would join our mother when he died, whatever that meant to him. He was afraid of losing his intellect, his ability to read, to write, to think, to converse.

He never reached the state where he forgot us, his children, though I think he got a little confused about who was who, maybe confused my sister with me, a grandson with a son now and then. He always knew my daughter, saw her there with us in his little duplex in Texas even when she was home in Ohio, those last days, at least.

I haven't quite made the connection between wiping digital slates clean and my father's brain mets, but I'll get there eventually. This is not a finished thought. I suspect I rarely do finish thoughts. That's all right. I'll just think of myself as a conversation I pick up with myself after hours or days or months or years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

the one where I try to defeat self-consciousness by making a list

1. My daughter is off with friends finding a bite to eat, laughing, talking.

2. The Sprint towers in our area have been having problems for at least a month. We all thought our phones were dying until my girl's dad took her phone in for repair and learned from the technician that he couldn't even run a diagnostic on her phone because the damned towers aren't working right.

3. I never used to like cell phones. They made me feel as if someone were always watching me, waiting to catch me something at embarrassing.

4. I don't like this sporadic connection to my child when she is out on a Friday evening, especially this day when we are having a "fake spring," as my friend Laura called it. I worry that people might be moon- and spring-crazy.

5. She promised to use someone else's phone to reach me, but what good will that do if Sprint won't connect to my Sprint account?

6. It will be fine.

7. I'm just complaining.

8. I have eaten a bunch of rice chips with sea salt.

9. I don't regret much in my life, but I do regret eating all those chips.

10. I'm looking at the printed guidelines for applying to a master's program that interests me.

11. If I take the process step by step, try not to look ahead, I may not freak out too much.

12. It's windy out there.

13. I started to go for a walk but got caught up in a conversation with a kind of a friend who lives around the corner.

14. We see each other rarely. I don't regret the conversation.

15. I returned home pretty quickly because the dastardly wind kicked the 60 degree weather down several notches.

16. Plus, the wind was braiding my hair for me.

17. It didn't feel all that good.

18. By Tuesday, our temperatures will be back to "normal," the 20s. If we're lucky.

19. Of course Tuesday is the day I'm to drive a couple of hours north to attend an MFA program open house.

20. It will be fine. I'll layer up and try to remember my gloves.

21. When I lie dying,
I want someone who loves me
to lay me in the dark, rich, oozing mud
of southeast Ohio, the kind of mud that clings
to the edges of high school football fields
after days of hard rain,
the kind that sucks tennis shoe soles
deep into its saturated filth.

22. "At least one letter [of recommendation] should be from a former teacher or an academic advisor." Of course this is a problem for me since I graduated from college in 1979. Some of my professors are, sad to say, dead. The rest probably don't remember me because I was silent, invisible girl when I was 18 through 20.

23. I'm not worried about it. I'm going to fake my way through all of the applications anyway.

24. Another asks for a critical essay, you know, one of those essays in which you write a kind of academic essay. Or maybe not academic. I don't know. I think I'm supposed to write about a favorite couple of poems or a novel or something. It's all right. I read all the time. I think about what I read after I read it. I'll just write those thoughts down and pretend I'm merely thinking them to myself.

25. Must submit between 15 and 25 pages of writing, depending on the program and which genre I select. I started going through poems yesterday. "Oh, damn!" I thought as I read a somewhat recently revised favorite. "I remember this being a better poem. The first stanza absolutely sucks." That, too, isn't really a probably. I thought of how I would revise the poem while I was driving to the post office to mail a transcript request to a school in Paris that I attended when I was 17.

26. Must schedule: in-car driving lessons for daughter, appointment with money guy, dental appointment (aHAHAHAHAHA), doctor's appointments for me (aHAHAHAHAHAHA) and the girl.

27. Damn. I meant to change the flood lights on my back porch when I got back from grabbing a few groceries (one of those times when I meant to get $25 worth and ended up with $45 worth. I have no self-control). It's too dark now.

28. Had this terrible dream last night that frightened me so much I was afraid that when I got up to pee at 3 a.m., the creature who was haunting the tunnels where the dream was set would slash me to ribbons, back first, with his metallic wolf's claws.

29. I often have terrible dreams, but they rarely scare me.

30. Have run out of steam.

31. Don't know if the list worked.

32. It doesn't really matter, does it?

33. At least I didn't end up posting the draft I wrote earlier that started out, "This winter has shut me down. Since before Christmas, I have been struggling to stay out of this dangerous place in my heart where I get caught in grief and self-loathing."

34. I'm only a little bit pathetic.

35. I'll start to think of this as a journal again instead of a blog. That will help.

the end

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

posting on the fly

What does "on the fly" mean, anyway?

Today, it means that I have yet to get cleaned up but must be out the door in 40 minute to pick up a dear friend to take her to the eye doctor. From there, I'll skid over to the high school to pick up my daughter, will take her home, return to the eye clinic to pick up my friend and take her home.

My new printer/scanner/copier and I are having a battle of the brains.

The machine is winning.

I left my teenager at home alone last night to attend a local writers group meeting. The guest speaker was Sarah Wells. (I would link to some of her work if I had more time, but I don't, so there you go). Not only is she a stunning poet (Pushcart Prize winner), but she's a really nice, down-to-earth, open-hearted person.

Next Tuesday, I'll make the drive up to Ashland, Ohio, to attend a "brief" open house for Ashland University's creative writing MFA. It may not be worth the drive, but something will be worth the drive.

I just hope I don't get too lost.

The roads leading from here to Ashland are confusing. Drove partway there last summer to Gambier, Ohio, where our little high school marching band had band camp in August. Ashland is twice the distance to Gambier, but only two hours or so from here.

Committing to the open house is ....................

Consider each one of those periods above a reason for doing things, for opening up, stepping out of my old carcass into some new form that pretends it's Lizzie, but is really someone completely new.

I'll just trick myself into being brave even if I've never, ever been brave.

(Oh, that's not true. I've been brave enough. I've done things I dreaded that drained me, good things, even things for other people that were also for myself.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the one where I continue talking to myself out loud

Mailman crunched up steps, crunched to my little mail box, crunched back down the steps. I managed to shovel the back walkways, but not the front, in time for my husband to bring my daughter's things at 11:30 or so.

I'm sorry, dear Postal Carrier. I fully expect you to leave me a nasty note soon about how you are providing me a service, and I am risking your safety by being a lazy sot who hasn't shoveled her porch since the last snow.

I'd claim back pain, but only sleep hurts my back, not movement.

I think I'll make a list:

1. I went outside to help B unload his car with my winter coat unzipped, shed the coat inside, stood on the patio and waved goodbye when he got back into his emptied car just in my long-sleeved T-shirt. "Ah, that cold feels good," I said.

2. "You're crazy," he said.

3. "I'm menopausal," I said.

4. My daughter shared some of her weekend plans with me via MSN Messenger last night:

5. "There's a basketball game Saturday (pep band duty), and, oh a music thing Friday night in the cafetorium." (A young rock group called Obliged has been performing all over the county. They're making quite a name for themselves in this area. Still high school students. Passionate about their music. Models for the rest of the school.)

6.

7. I mean, holy shit! The guitarist! And the drummer! My Girl is so envious of the drummer's skills, has been since he was in eighth-grade, she in sixth.

8. Young people following their bliss. What's more beautiful?

9. Nothing.

10. They aren't just examples for the high school kids for whom they'll play tomorrow night; they're examples for 50something women who need to embark on new adventures before it's too late.

11. Here - listen.

12. Todotoday:

13. Vacuum.

14. Mop bathroom and kitchen floors.

15. Start a load of girl's laundry (she can help later if she doesn't have a crushing amount of homework/studying).

16. Dash to store?

17. No, no time to dash to store.

18. Write that lovely person about that lovely graduate program.

19. Order transcripts.

20. B (my husband) laughs and says I am about graduate school the way he is about cars - I can't quite let go of the idea of reaching for a master's the way he can't quite let go of wanting the newest, most powerful, prettiest automobile. He is sorry I won't qualify for FAFSA since we're still married. I'm less worried today (after getting a statement in the mail) than I have been.

21. My head still hurts from yesterday's encounter with that pink font on the blog post about bad reviews.

22. The ache is not too bad.

23. A shower and a nice, cold glass of water should help

24. or maybe a few hours away from the computer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the one where I'm talking to myself (as usual)

My daughter sent me a text at about 5 p.m. letting me know that she's returning here from her dad's tomorrow.

Did you hear my relieved laughter crack the walls of some fortified city on another planet?

Because her father and I don't have a custody agreement, we have to trust each other to do what's best for her, give her enough time with each of us, let her go when it's time to let her go.

Her father decided to let her decide when to leave him for me.

She's been with him for nine days, since Feb. 1, a long time in my eyes and heart, but she'd been with me for 14 before that.

I wasn't expecting her back here until the weekend, so my plans change. My mood, too, changes, of course, and if my body didn't hurt so much, I'd be skipping all over the house.

I need to learn how to balance myself better when my daughter is with her father. I'd be much more productive, much more beautiful, a much better person.

Well, I'll get there.

*

I've been reading stray blog posts tonight on book reviews, negative book reviews, to be exact. One author whined about a bad review she's received from a book blogger (the author who complained about the blogger's review is a romance writer. Honey, not all people think of romance as pink. I happen to think of it as a bleak, smudgy gray (I'm a fan of love, but romance has killed me). That pink font not only made me want to barf up my dinner, it also gave me a whopping headache). The blogger who wrote the bad review is not an author herself, but shares a site with other book lovers.

I don't want to offend or upset anyone so I'm not linking anywhere. I'm really just talking out loud to myself, realizing something about myself as both reader and writer.

OK, so, some day before I die, I'm going to finish my Lily novel and then the "Feathers" novel, and then I'm going to go back to "The Invisibles" (which has a different title, but I'm keeping it to myself) because I love that novel. And after that (or maybe before), I'll get to "Spattered" and then the really, really dark one that may mean I have to write more authentically (GAH! There's that word!) by traveling around for a bit on a Greyhound bus. Problematic since the older I get, the more I suffer from car/amusement park ride/small plane/bus sickness.

Once the first book is out in the world (and it will be out in the world because I say it will be. I may occasionally suck at follow through, but I rarely tell out and out lies, so I'm not lying when I say my book will be out in the world), I hope I'm so busy falling in love with my next book, polishing it, sharing it, that I don't have too much time to get suicidal over the inevitable negative book reviews the first book is sure to receive.

I have a friend who had a friend who wrote a complicated but beautiful book many years ago (it was a kind of a time travel book, art history-related). It was a difficult book. It sort of reminded of my attempts to read Umberto Eco or A.S. Byatt. Dense prose. Long, unbroken paragraphs. But I read and finished it. It wasn't a wonderful book, but I've read far worse, and it had a beauty that I can't quite articulate.

The author received a dreadful review from Kirkus Reviews (I think) and the snippet of a review posted on Amazon by Publishers Weekly is less than flattering and dwells on my friend's friend's "copious descriptions and ponderous prose."

I don't think J. went to bed for a week after the review, but my friend told me he withdrew, spiraled for a while into a depression.

I'm so thin-skinned that I'm certain the negative reviews I eventually will receive WHEN I get my book published (after I finish writing it, of course), will slam me into many metaphorical brick walls, metaphorical face first.

It will hurt.

I'll get over it.

It's inevitable.

As a reader, however, I'm happy for both positive and negative book reviews.

Sometimes I'll be in the middle of a highly acclaimed book that I know I'm supposed to love (like the one that included Turkey (the country, not the food) and poetry in the same story, two things I love), but I just ... don't. A review may have led me to pick up the book, but sometimes what I then need is to find a review that helps me to understand that I'm not an intellectually stunted, vapid, shallow dork for being unable to plow my way through something that makes me want to poke a sharpened pencil in my eye rather than read

one

more

word

It's always a relief to know that I'm not the only one.

In other words, as a reader, I find reviews helpful, even the bad ones.

As a person who hopes to be an author (is a writer) I dread the first reviews and hope I have the discipline NOT to read them

Oh, here's a confession: I haven't once been able to make it all the way through a Man Booker Prize winner's book (except for Possession).

I've been trying for years to figure out what's wrong with me. I've come to the conclusion that I am, indeed, intellectually stunted and shallow.

But, really, life's too short and there are too many books out there for me to feel obliged to keep reading something that makes me want to stab a sharpened pencil in my eye.

Let's just say it's not you (the writers of these beautiful books), it's me.

*

Lordy this is long.

*

I still have a headache, though it's a little better since I'm typing black words onto a white screen instead of pink on white with a pink border.

Here, I came to the blog post about bad reviews through Charlotte Rains Dixon's Twitter page.

*

Oh. I'm hearing noises outside my house. Probably a neighbor slammed a car door.

Either that or an icicle has just fallen from the porch over my patio roof and cracked the concrete.

Man, this winter just needs to end. Doesn't it?

a free write that was as hard to do as 50 sit ups

I am trying to burst through a kind of a block, though it's not really a "writing block" because I don't actually believe in writer's block, not for me. I do believe I am blocked. Life blocked? Writing through is the best way for me to scrabble to the other side of whatever this is. I can taste rock dust on my tongue from all the chiseling I've been doing. One hell of a hell thick beast of a mountain. heh.

I sort of "stole" an exercise from Judy Clement Wall, who writes on Zebra Sounds, has challenged herself to write for herself, the fun stuff, for 15 minutes a day. The post to which I've linked kind of makes me feel like a loser because of the lovely things she's accomplishing in her 15 minutes. I know she wouldn't want me (or anyone) to feel like a loser, so I will set aside that bad habit like I'm trying to set aside other bad habits, at least for the moment, and share. here. my. 15. minutes. of. free. writing.

I set a timer. This was a mistake. When the time went off, even though I was aware of how much time I had left, it made me jump. I'll do it differently the next time.




11:20 a.m.

Hallways that stretch like taffy.
too much sound with the time ticking and Vampire Weekend playing on Pandora
Fortunes lost.
Tell me my fortune, but don’t tell me anything I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know the good things. I don't want to know if I succeed, if I fall in love, if Oprah calls me up and asks to interview me, if I get married again or fall in love again, if I plant roses in my garden, if I get my house powered washed, if I lose 20 pounds, if my face starts to look younger instead of older, if my feet sink into the mud of my spring yard. I just want to know if I will get out of bed tomorrow, make one phone call tomorrow, continue the beginnings of breaking one bad habit tomorrow. That’s all. So. Tell me. I’ll even let you use my crystal ball or my tarot cards or my bag of runes.

My fingers seem to stop a lot. This stems from laziness or lack of practice. I need to warm up every day again the way I was warming up when I participated in 750 words. I lost the delicious point of that site after several months, stopped working for me. I kept it up for 185 days, more than 100,000 words, blew it one night when I wasn't feeling well and never went back. My writing practice can't be about "streaks" and badges, not right now, not when I'm so eager to find evidence that I'm a failure.

On the Internet, a girl can find so many ways to distract herself. It becomes not even a matter of procrastinating. It becomes a matter of obstacles discovered, bought, paid for, set up in front of me so that I trip over them. (It's like I'm hunting for them on purpose just to prove a point.)

All these websites where people encourage each other to find good writing processes, to stop being stuck in their own personalities – for me, they simply offer new ways to fail.

I think what I need to do is embrace my failure side, redefine failure. Or redefine myself?

I wish that when I did these free write things, I would write more fiction or poetry, but I’m not in that mode right now.

My back aches. I feel as if something is trying to be birthed out of my back. Back contractions. Back labor.

I miss my Girl. I have no point or purpose without my Girl. I have to create a purpose. But that feels too hard. Feels artificial. I am authentically useless. That’s another thing people talk about, being authentic, being genuine. So here I am authentically useless, a genuine failure.

I like that.

Authentically useless
a genuine failure.

Authentic and genuine.

Those words have no meaning.

Words like “snow shovel” or “shredder,” now, those having meaning.

Monday, February 7, 2011

the one where I write a pep talk to myself (way too personal, probably, but oh well)

I'm going to call this a placeholder.

Vanished the words from before.

It feels dishonest to take them away since they are part of my process, and I want to share my process.

Whatever it is I'm processing.

Still, I feel protective of the woman who wrote those words. She's a little fragile. I'll give her a break and let her hide out a little longer, until the snow stops, maybe longer.

*

I met an old friend at Walmart this evening. She's the secretary at St. James, the Episcopal Church where I was once a little too involved. It's been 10 years since I left. Well, I've been sneaking back now and then. Christmas Eve, an occasional Wednesday evening Eucharist (I have to remember to tell Father Rob not to anoint me with the healing oil since it triggers asthma in me).

I'd forgotten how much I liked Jane Ellen. We attended at least two church-related conferences together, got close during the drives there and back, during the free moments between sessions.

This evening, something warm and generous sparked between us during the lovely conversation we had. She clung to her shopping cart full of bagged up groceries; I clutched my bike gel seat cushion I was returning (too small for my stationary bike seat). I was relieved to discover that she still loves me though I left them in 2001.

Our conversation was short, but not as short as it could have been if we hadn't wanted to see each other, to be seen.

We laughed
talked about Paul
(the writer of the Epistles, not some random Paul we both know, though I suppose we do both know him),
talked about Father Rob,
about the terrible weather,
my daughter,
her son,
the church music.

Everything I loved about her flooded back.
Everything.
The mini-encounter made my month.

*

I returned the cushion then left for the library. I love our public library even when it's crowded with people who reek of cigarette smoke or unwashed clothes, even when a haggard mother of three can't rein in her 3 year old who must run in circles around the square tables.

I so love books.

I found three books (and a movie), sat and wrote a tiny bit:

Ambrose is like a rudimentary Geoff, unrefined, undefined, purer, more like the demons they were born to be, but innocent.

I don't know if I'll actually read the books I checked out. I've been having trouble with "follow through" when it comes to books, especially non-fiction, and two of them are non-fiction:

The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro and Shock of Gray by Ted C. Fishman.

The fiction is a young adult novel by Kelley Armstrong called The Summoning.

Tasty mental treats.

Nom.