Friday, January 26, 2018

what will you do for work?

People want to know what my plans are.
"These are my plans," I reply.
Because I am a writer and I plan to remain one.

"But what will you do for work?"

And then I realize that although this life I have carved out works now--now while I'm finishing school, now while Holden is only three, now in this season of life--maybe it won't work forever.

I have a philosophy that things will all work out, that ends will be met. But I don't think about how they will be met, I just trust they will be. Other people don't think this way. They want me to be practical, to think about paychecks and health insurance and structure to my days.

So when I think about my future, practically, I know that I want to work somewhere that doesn't suck all my time, energy, and creativity. I want to work somewhere that inspires me to write. Like yesterday, at the high school, these kids shared their words and I was so inspired, I wrote right there with them, these hard words I've been trying to get out for months.

Reading good writing, suggesting ways to make it better, is what I want to do. I want to encourage others to write their best work, I want their work to inspire my own. I want us to use words to tell stories, I want us to read stories to understand the world in new and exciting ways. I want the art we create to be a part of the world we live in.

So I guess that's what I want to do for work. Those are my plans.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

the parallel of love and attention

Don't you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention? 
 -line from "Ladybird"
I have been thinking a lot about the right way to love someone. How we love someone the way we know how, the way we've been loved. Sometimes, that's not the way the other person needs. Sometimes the other person won't feel loved that way, because it's not the way they need to be loved.

I haven't read the book, but in college, people would talk about the five love languages, which I believe are physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, and acts of service.  It got people talking, that book, about different ways to give love and to receive it. And I think there is something to that: to knowing how we want to be loved, knowing how we are conditioned to give it. Knowing how we can change and how we can't.

If I ever have a long-term relationship again, the romantic kind, I will do a better job. I think after divorce we are slippery and cautious. We have seen that love can fail us; we have learned just how breakable it is. If I have a next time, I will communicate better, I will listen better. I will treat love like it's fragile because it is and manhandling it will shatter it.

If I love someone, it will be presently. I will be there. Not somewhere else. I think we owe it to each other to be where we are wholeheartedly. I think we can extend each other that kindness, if we love each other. I think we can pay attention.

Monday, January 15, 2018


You are extremely sensitive to your environment.

Recently, I felt the grief of a friend, and I felt it deeply. I excused myself from the people around me, went back to my room and cried for a loss I never had. I thought, is this crazy, am I crazy, for feeling this intensely? And the next day, I met my mentor for lunch and listened to how he is still trying to please his father, in his fifties, and I realized he too feels deeply and he told me, "that's what makes us writers" and I thought, OK.

Others tend to see whatever they want to see in you, and you thus can come across very differently to different people! You might encourage this, even without knowing. Your appearance and mannerisms tend to be chameleon-like.

Years ago, I read, "Never judge anyone by another's opinions. We all have different sides that we show to different people" from Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. I wrote it down, and since I've kept it on my desk.

As years go on and I discover who I am by discovering who I'm not, I want to hear less and less about people. What I mean is that I want to talk to the person I'm with about him/her, not about people we know. I don't want to gossip. I want to be present where I am, with who I'm with.

I have never regretted being present in the moment. I certainly don't regret dancing weirdly at a concert or buying homemade ornaments at a craft fair or saying "I love you" when I first recognized it.

But I do wonder what my funeral will be like one day, all these people who knew me meeting other people who knew me, now all of them thinking they didn't know me at all, when really, they all just knew me differently. 

*Italicized quotes are from my natal chart.
  If you know what time you were born at, read yours for funsies here

Thursday, January 11, 2018

cracked screen protector

I am trying to learn 
how to give and foster forgiveness in a body
that wants none of it.
-Sierra DeMulder

Yesterday I bought a new phone screen protector,
because the one I have has a few cracks.
The new one, although its sticker was still on
was covered in cracks, more cracks
than the one I had before:
cracks running down it like rain down a window,
a hundred streams maybe more.
But even still, I peeled off
the old cracked screen protector,
stuck on the new, more cracked one.
I bought it, after all.

I wonder if I'm becoming more forgiving,
if I'm seeing the world not as a set
of problems now, but as a series of
beauties, one stacked upon another
like the way the cracks splay out
like a pleated dancing skirt
that twirls and lifts in wind,
spins around the dancer, splays,
transforms, becomes something
more like a parachute.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 in review

 We ate donuts. Holden knows my order, and I love to hear him say "maple."
 Holden wore me out, wore himself out.
I started running again.
 We went on adventures: to parks, museums, landmarks.
 Holden and I became pretty much co-dependent upon each other.
 The boys fell in love with Lincoln. We went there a lot last year for furniture at my favorite store.
 Some days brought sun, headphones.
 Some days brought cake pops.
The boys dressed up like Alvin, loved running around the main floor at night with flashlights singing the spooky song.
 Holden turned three.
 I placed third in that half marathon I equally love and hate.
 The boys became obsessed with stuffed animals.
 My sister had a baby. I traveled to Portland for a few days to hold her at her smallest.
 Brandon turned five.
 Stephen graduated with his MBA.
 Brandon graduated from preschool.
 We traveled to Denver, saw Chris Stapleton at Red Rocks.
 We had a garage sale.
 Holden went to the dentist for the first time.
 We had sno cones.
 We traveled to Shickley a time or two.
 Holden and I remained co-dependent on each other.
 Did I mention there were donuts?
 Brandon made up stories, found a real knack for storytelling.
 I went to school, dreamed.
 The rains came. Hard.
 For the fourth of July, we entertained two sets of twins. Or, they entertained us.
 We spent a lot of time in the car.
 We went to Kansas City.
 I cut off my hair, divorcee style.
 Holden started preschool.
 We saw the eclipse in totality. Of course, there was sugar.
 Brandon started Kindergarten.
 I traveled to Milwaukee with my two best friends.
 The pumpkin patch opened. There was kettle corn.
 Brother time became more special, with Brandon gone so much now.
 I spent a weekend on a riverboat, writing.
 It kept raining. We smiled through it.
 The boys were superheroes. They are superheroes. They save me every day.
 Leaves fell.
 We learned to sleep in another place, in new beds. Sometimes it was hard.
 Sometimes, we were just fine.
 Baby Avie came to visit us in mom's new apartment. We love her.
 Holden was in a Christmas concert. Brandon ran to the front to take a picture of him.
 We sustained each other.
 Again and again.
 And again.
There were cookies, too.

Monday, January 8, 2018

favorite books of 2017

2017 was my only full calendar year of grad school. So yeah, I read a shit ton of books. Fifty, to be exact. And if there's one thing I am, with my lists and spreadsheets, it's exact.

(only last semester's reads are pictured)
 Here are my top reads from last year: 

1. Moon Palace
by Paul Auster
This isn't a book. It's an experience. It's a story within a story, within a story. Each story more fantastic than the last. It's a story about a family of men forging their way through loneliness without women. This book serves as a reminder that literature can transport us to places we've never been, make us feel what we haven't, make us see our world differently.

2. Truth & Beauty
by Ann Patchett
This is a book about a friendship between two writers: Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face). I read Lucy's book years ago, in Salt Lake City, by the pool while my sister and mother tanned. I remember how good it was and now, many years later, I got insight into the pain behind her words as told by her best friend. Writer friends are deep friends, I know this now. I just returned from a residency where there were so many emotional moments and days. Writers skip past the bullshit small talk and get to know each other at our cores. A friend like Ann is every Lucy's dream. I have told my friend Jen that she is my Ann Patchett. One day, when she has time to read not for school, she'll understand what I mean.

3. Ron Carlson Writes a Story
Ron Carlson
Craft book
Such a quick and easy read that I have referenced so many times since finishing. Ron Carlson tells writers to stay in the room, follow the energy of the story, don't stop. I have used his advice many times since, while reading short stories that weren't even for credit, just because I wanted to write the way he does, feel myself sweat through a story, see what happens. 

4. Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff
A story about perspective. It is divided into two section: Fates is written from Lotto's perspective, Furies from his wife Mahilde's point of view. How many ways are there to view a story? Mathilde will turn what you thought you knew on its head (as women often do).

5. Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami
A 37-year-old man remembers a love triangle from when he was 19 while he's on a plane when the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" plays. It's engaging, compelling. There's coming of age, sex, and the descent into craziness.

6. Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
The intersecting lives of  family members who live together but barely know each other. Beautiful: the way the author knits together what is said and what isn't. What we really mean and how we do or can't say it.

7. Without a Map
by Meredith Hall
I re-read this last year. You might remember me talking about it here or here or here. The fact is, I'm obsessed with this book. In fact, this book inspired me to write about my daughter and her adoption. About who I was then, about who I am now, and the versions in between. That is what I worked on last semester with my mentor, my fantastic mentor who happens to have once been a student of Meredith Hall herself. The world is such a fucking beautiful place.

8. Safekeeping
by Abigail Thomas
Memoir (in short vignettes)
Sometimes I read a book that is new and different from anything I've read and I begin to think of writing in a whole new light. Abigail Thomas did that for me. She wrote this series of vignettes (most are a page or less) that create her story in pithy, poignant, and funny ways. She has mastered discovering what she has to say and saying it with as much brevity as possible.

9. The Chronology of Water
by Lidia Yuknavitch
This book. This fucking book. I loved every page, every word, every scene. Lidia writes so unapologetically, so honestly. She writes the bad, the mistakes, human ugliness. Let me leave this excerpt here, this excerpt that I read again and again: 
He treated this thing I'd done - this DUI - the dead baby - the failed marriages - the rehab - the little scars at my collar bone - my vodka - my scarred as shit past and body - as chapters of a book he wanted to hold in his hands and finish (pg. 243). 

10. Birds of America
by Lorrie Moore
Short Stories
Lorrie Moore, every time I read her, teaches me something new. What it is to exist in this world, sucking in it as if through a straw, then spitting it back out as words onto a page. Her stories are hilarious and poignant and sometimes sad and always, always, beautifully written.