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Finish one task, onto another

Ever get to the point of wondering how many more bouts to go? How many times have I freaked and feared a creek after a rainstorm? How many nights did I go to bed with heavier fears as a child? It’s a grey day and the goldenrod shawl with white daisies over my shoulders barely puts a cheerful dent in the grey shirt I’m wearing. It is a glum-dreary Wednesday and though I put in 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo to officially “win,” it is not a book, and the end of this dedicated writing marathon is hitting especially hard. Does anything ever get easier?

A magic eight-ball somewhere answers, “Check again later.”

Tomorrow officially begins the old holiday scrimmage to do a million things in 24 days and hope I don’t forget to offer holiday cheer to someone. Fun! What will help, what has been helping, is reading the tenets, thoughts, and truisms I’ve written out on a page I see every day. Two of the most helpful have been, “Do what is necessary, then what is possible, and soon you will be doing the impossible,” and “If being mean to yourself worked, you’d be thin and rich. Try loving yourself instead.” The first one is especially helpful in clumps and spirals of self-doubt when I’m faced with an overlong list, and in December, there are many. Triaging my needs over my wants ends up saving time, too.

For Thanksgiving, I realized I didn’t “need” to make pie crust when I had premade in the freezer. I didn’t “need” to set a table properly, but I wanted to and it all worked out to look like this.

And talk about gratitude this year! I want to cry from the beauty of it all. Nina Fosati, Gloria Berlinghoff, Susan Tepper, Natalie Condor-Smith, Joni Kalinowski – all of you have touched me deeply with your kindness this month. I’m inept in expressing the gratefulness I feel for those kind words and gestures recently. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And thank you for stopping by and for the read! I’m off to write the holiday letter, address envelopes, and make those cookies. Maybe I’ll even submit some work, too. Take care of you!

Red and the horror in the country but not like you’re probably thinking

The hills are alive with red around here – or at least the leaves that insist to my senses to pay attention to them are the red oaks, sumacs, parts of the sweet gum, those little perfectly manicured bushes I drive by that beam. I swear some of them are full of pride, which is weird to think about, a bush with vanity, but it is a living thing. Unfurling leaves and petals in the spring are a vigorous horror fest of ugly green. Hostas are particularly creepy, reaching up to the sky like fingers from that hand thrust from the grave in Stephen King’s “Carrie.” Their alien, emerging shape insisting on an audience, too, so maybe it isn’t vanity but me assigning moral attributes and failings to things rarely thought of as having such things because I’m bored.

And I’m not bored, but avoiding some work. Mostly cleaning. Some plotting, some renaming, some rereading, some more horror films watched and then I think I’ll be ready for November. I’m considering going back to the “happy writing day board.” It was a paper calendar on the refrigerator where I wrote my word count each day. Stamps were put on the days I made my count or went over 1667 words. One time it was stickers. Husband could also look at it and praise or ask jokingly if he needed to put a lock on the library door because I was short. I don’t remember where or when (yes I do, part of the exercise/calorie counting insanity I am still prone to participate in because it is another control issue I rarely own up to) I learned that about myself – that visuals help with a goal. Yes, say it with me now, I am going to win NaNoWriMo. I have an “it” which rhymes with bit and that’s just the start of the story.

Another thing I know is that I should never talk about “it,” just write it, but it isn’t November and I crave that structure because it’s worked before so I’m here, binging on movies.  It’s nearly Halloween so the basis for selection is “Does it sound scary?” and to me, “Wicker Park” sounded scary. It is not. It’s odd and I’ll need to watch it again – and I will because it’s shot in Chicago and you can tell that it is real snow in some of those shots. The Elisabeth Moss “Invisible Man” is great and lovely but I couldn’t help remembering “Sleeping with the Enemy” as I watched it. “The Hollow Man” remains 6 degrees of stupid. “What Lies Beneath” – plenty of scares, but so little sense. Who brings up a box thrown in the lake back to the house, where the potential killer is, to open it when you had the key and could have done it on the dock? And omg the creep factor of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer to begin with, and then he says the line about her daughter and…just…I…was struck wordlessly gross. “Ghost Story” was bad, “A Quiet Place,” eh, and the standards of “Hocus Pocus,” “The Addams Family,” and “Beetlejuice” hold up. I don’t know what I’ll watch tonight, but probably two movies I’ve not watched before.

I’ve started quite a lot of essays spinning off the first one currently called, “A Taste of the Good Stuff.” For some reason, I’ve sent it off to what I know are not faceless editors, but there is still a distance. Should it ever get published, I’m not sure I want to share it with friends unless I regain some weight. It felt exactly like the slide down the scale opened up a view of another time I was not expecting to visit. And it was a rotten thing and I wrote about it. I know part of it wasn’t my fault, but part of it was. A choice I made because I thought I had to and now I wonder why. I don’t like writing cnf since it exposes me harshly – at least in my own mind. It shows I’m such a moronic person, full of vanity and pride so afraid of what others would think of me, I want to turn into a tree. Or a bush that resembles a warm flame when its leaves turn. Better yet, a hosta planted on a dark hillside under tamaracks and walnut trees.

~~*~~

Until we meet again, I wish you good health and joy. Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Plotting to Plot…or not

Exhausted by our weekend chore list before it has even been written, I walked out to the overflow woodpile for the picture before sitting down to write this. Inspired, I know. There are pictures on the camera of a tree that was obliterated by lightening. Last Monday I’d heard the tremendous crack and waited, but nothing fell and the electric stayed on. After our neighbor returned from a trip, he found parts of an 80-foot pine on his hill. Some chunks were longer and thicker than humans, strewn all over up there. Something ripped through a piece of ¾ inch plywood. I did consider downloading the pictures I took up there when he showed us, but the dishes needed to be done.

Not much later, I noticed the fluorescent orange sky, finished up, and stepped outside. I leaned back against the church door and took in the pleasant crisp air, the beauty, and I wept with gratitude instead of running for my phone or the camera. It’s weird to be swept up by natural beauty in that it isn’t weird at all.

The furniture is arranged in an unusual pattern and a generalized straightening up is in progress. Somewhere I started an essay about how reading “How to Keep House While Drowning” by K C Davis awakened other self-help books I’ve read about tidying and organized and unleashed a monster of neat in me, but I’ve been too busy rearranging Husband’s workshop to finish it. I did finish Sheila Heiti’s, “How Should a Person Be?” but it took forever because I loved it and did not want it to end. I’m currently enjoying Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi’s, “Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions.”

The month has been filled with the normal abundance of things to do before winter as well as some much needed in person visits. Thank you all who I’ve seen and congrats to Kim Chinquee on her forthcoming book, Pipette. Online, I attended a reading and this Christmas gift from Nephew in Oregon (Thank you Michael!) has been deemed the bearer of workshop notes and exercises. The first entry is from Kathy Fish’s 3 in 90.

I was pleased to have a story of mine make the long list in Pigeon Review’s contest, but that’s as far as it went. Once the house is a bit more under control, I plan to tweak it with lines I’ve thought of since the last rewrite. And rewriting might be what I do forever because I can’t figure out a frame for another novel nor a reason to write one what with the way the world is falling apart at the seams. How else do you explain my face on local TV for no other reason than showing up at a meeting? And yes, I do have that segment DVRed and plan to transfer it to a jpeg to post online but, you know, time…

I was asked to look over a story for someone and they also sought writing advice to follow. I gave him the usual places to look:  

‘Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver

“The Art of Fiction” by John Gardner

“Writing Down to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

I have many others, but it’s these four that I gravitate to time and again. I also suggested picking up any of the “Best ______ of the Year.” Myself, I’ve delved into the angry-yelly, no nonsense, shut up and write book “Robert’s Rules of Writing,” by Robert Masello. Maybe it will spark something other than the urge to pick up a different book.

Well, it’s September’s end tonight. I have a fire to tend to, beasts to pick up after, and a chore list to construct. I hope you are well. I hope you are safe. Thank you for stopping by and for the read.

Slow gliding into the fall

Are you a bit edgy, excited but apprehensive, feeling yourself wanting to stand tall and say, “Let’s do this.” If so, it may be your season change alert signal going off. Loud little sucker, isn’t it?

Every year I replenish my notebooks and consider adding new desk supplies to my already adequate supply. It takes a long time to realize it isn’t the cost of the equipment, but the dedication to use that should weigh on investments. I have enough beautiful, lush, gorgeous to touch notebooks I never write in – the 70 page college rule notebooks are my go to.

As I sit here in my extremely stripped down office space, I consider the tweaks I want to make for my comfort – and pet interference reduction capabilities. I don’t recall the impetus for the tear down of all the notes, pictures, postcards that had surrounded me, but the lack of clutter now is noticeable and appreciated. Is it affecting my writing? Perhaps. I recently took an old 1600 word story down to 890 words and sent it out. Before that, I expanded a less than 500 flash into a ten-minute play.

I’m looking around and finding it a bit hard to believe I’m as organized as I am now. I really wanted it to be this way, and I made it come true. It’s teeny tiny moments of forcing myself to stop and appreciate how my hard work has paid off that make me say “Yes, but.” It’s the same feeling when I’ve written, published, or won something. “Yes, but.” It’s hard to be alive when nothing is good enough.

No matter. We’re all on our own journeys and apparently this is mine. I meant to take more pictures, but I did the whole scrape, scrub, scour, and paint with the beautiful parlor stove…

… and Husband assembled it in time for our shindig.

Thank you amazing people for stopping by. It made my whole soul happy to share the evening with you…

and Coiletta.

It seems the end of summer rumbles have propelled me back to writing life. I’ve signed up for classes with Kathy Fish, am fairly certain I’ll be attending the Barrelhouse conference masked and in person in October and am mulling taking a Beth Gilstrap class. Plus Community Craft’s series is amaze balls and I want to attend more of those. As well as Hannah Grieco’s Readings on the Pike and Timothy Gager’s Virtual Fridays Dire Literary Series. And there are more I’m forgetting

Adding to the abundance of those good things – my critique group exchanged emails this morning. So, as I’m saying goodbye to August, I want you to know that you are pretty great as is. Thank you for stopping by and for the read! You are awesome and you know it. Ciao!

Squirrels are chillin’ while we toil and other fun near the creek

I’ve decided to find it hilarious that I must have thought out 5 different blog posts this month – with interesting titles – but don’t remember one as I start this post, mid-summer afternoon on the last day of July.

Wood has been an interesting adventure this year. Normally, the last of the wood is being put up in September, just when we need to rearrange the house and stack a partial wall of wood near the stove. Instead, the woodshed is as full of wood as we usually have for a season and no end in sight to the pile. I am grateful for the dilemma.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the amazing generosity of fantastic friends. C and Nina Fosati dropped of a stove and this is the part that goes on top.

Isn’t it fancy? I’m a sanding fool, dancing between restoration and good enough. We’ll be painting it in a manner pleasing to the eye and the environment of the patio upon which it will stand.  I’m excited and it’s a boring chore with a vast reward, so I really do find it a cheery endeavor.

Part of my quest to live in a better world involves more color. I painted the awful blue chair – loot a thief left behind – to something less ugly.

This is my first Thistle design and in person, it does not look this boring.  (I was working with flaws in the wood to tell a tale of how I see plants not coping in the conditions they once thrived in.)

Work on the back of the house stalled as paint had to be hunted down and then someone sold one of the four we ordered so hopefully it will be enough.

Omg! The lack of intelligence like that in customer service has recently been wild. I’m especially singling out the “new” girl at Citizens Bank in the Springville Tops. Ffs, I was paying a little extra on two credit cards. She asked how I wanted my change. I was like what? She only applied the amount due to the account, not the amount I wrote on the slip I was playing with. I asked why she’d changed the amount and she snapped back that she had not changed it. She started over, finally got it right. As I was leaving, I said, “You did change the amount. At least own what you did.” I mean seriously, it was a mistake, but to be so snitty about it? Maybe she needs to explore a less public vocation. Tax preparer, maybe? Perhaps a mortician?  

The computer problems I’m having are deflating my gusto toward the written word – reading, writing, editing. As with the wood, I will remind myself that I don’t need to fix everything all at once, just take one breathe at a time. I snagged this guy to help remind me. 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I hope your home and world are stable. The weather I’ve heard about/seen clips of from where friends and family live overwhelms me. I am thinking about you and hoping to hear you’re safe. Sending love and comfort to those reading who need it. Take care of you!

Cheers!

Later

I heard an analogy about how life is a juggle and you’re going to drop balls no matter what, so the trick is to keep the glass ones in the air.

Financial dealings are a glass ball of sorts, so in a banking snafu caused by Key Bank when some moron in a suit decided to fix one problem, he created annoying ones that others have to live with and therefore I got to spend time in a bank today. The problem is unsolvable, so I was searching for any payments linked to a card and in the process I came across a surprise email from a dear friend. Thank you Teresa Tucker – and the owner of Julie’s who took this cover photo! It is from May and I have a shiny rock to also remember this lovely dinner with great friends.

Well, the hour to compose a blog grows late, so this will have to be enough. I don’t need to sweep up glass shards on top of everything else, so off to the dishes I go. I’m full of gratitude today and wish the same for you. Thanks for stopping by and for the read. Cheers!

What did I expect?

On a Tuesday that feels like a Monday it is also two other things. One is having been married for 22 years. I suppose we could have exchanged a card (me) and a rose (him) but it was a hot holiday weekend and we didn’t put up the roof of the writing camp I use in summer. It’s just a 10 X 10 screened in “tent” where I have some chance of being outside in the fresh air without the bugs savaging my blood vessels, but it has become a thing. We fight when we put it up. Scream, bitch, mutter under our breaths. Throw things – not at each other – there are always branches you’d rather move than work around. It always seemed a test of if we’d survive another year. Not doing it has me feeling forlorn.

Everything has extra meaning or no meaning right now. It’s a fall, gravity tugging while the air is as heavy as molasses and you swear again, you’ve done this before, heard the same things and the anger from before is still there and now there is some in every damned place. Maybe not you, but me.

 I’m mad that women and trans aren’t respected enough to be considered whole. They aren’t “adult enough” to make decisions about their own bodies – not ones they’ve bought on credit – but ones they’ve lived in since birth. But 18 year-old-boys can rape and pillage and shoot the unaborted children with hollow points when they are in class learning about presidents and founding fathers but ignoring the part that those white men owned slaves and that they beat them. If they don’t learn about it, they also don’t learn slavery is wrong.

When some white jihadist with a shady bankroll starts spouting off about “owning the libs,” by doing shitty things I know it’s untrue. They don’t want to own the libs. If they were honest, they’d tell you they want to own slaves again. They want to beat and manhandle and be awful to other living creatures with no repercussions. They want to go to all white churches and be soothed with twisted biblical verses to serve their purposes. They do not weep and think Jesus was born in the wrong Testament. It’s not a mental health issue, it’s a caveman attitude and we all know cavemen have no souls.

Everyone wants to rule the world, but there are too many people on the planet to even have 15 seconds of fame so these infantile minds fall into white “supremacy” and shoot to eliminate those they have convinced themselves are beneath them. And so far, America has let them.

I am so angry about so many things and I didn’t get to vent some of that out by putting up the tent roof. Sorry, but you chose to listen.

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe while you go off to school/work/a graduation party/the grocery store/church. I hear no guns are allowed at NRA events…

I’m taking time to admire flowers wherever I find them and I hope you do, too.

Life Goes On Until It Doesn’t

The house is tidy, organized. It’s been a massive undertaking, this year’s “spring-cleaning.”

I no longer remember the specific impetus that led to the first bit of sorting. I know I was quite sick of the mess my office had become. We’d move things in here to get them out of the way when we had visitors, and not everything made its way back to where it had come from and so I was living in close proximity to a lot of clutter. I didn’t like it, but we were storing somethings and even when those things left, I didn’t immediately do a tear down/clean out.

I know an Apex discussion a few months ago made me consider the fact that I’ll probably never publish a book traditionally, and even if I did, well, what then? The “what then” was that I wanted to live in a cleaner and more organized house. I mean, if this is it – the best it will ever be and I never write or publish again – then I’m kind of okay with my life ending up here (except for the wasting of my whole life on literature.)

One of the silly little motivational quips I have taped to my office computer says, “What you are not changing, you are choosing,” so I’ve been choosing to improve my conditions.

Life doesn’t offer a lot of choice in some matters though. We had to say goodbye to Kobi and it sucked to lose my sidekick, but he had cancer in his lungs and even if I were able to afford chemo for him, I don’t think I could put him through that. I know – supposedly – there are new options for cancer treatments but…

I haven’t picked him up yet – his ashes. That seems too final yet.

Our remaining cat made it known that a pet sibling was important, so today – weirdly enough Cat Adoption Day – I went to the Ten Lives Club. (They are a no-kill shelter, so if you’re feeling generous, they have a wish list here.) “Freddy” is acclimating now – though we’re definitely changing that name. This is what he looks like:

It’s not the same as a dog, but I need time to mourn, too.

Creative writing hasn’t happened in a long while, though I have written letters. I’m sorry if I owe you one and you haven’t received it yet. You are very likely on the list.

Until next time (or your letter arrives) I want to thank you for stopping by and for reading.

Cheers!

A chickadee home outside the bedroom window

Mundania Strikes Again

How are you? I hope this post finds you well and your problems solvable. To be honest, I can’t recall if Mundania ever struck before, but there I was, sitting on a toadstool when I noticed my feet were getting wet. I swam to the waterfall and tried to reach the diverter but I lost my grasp and fell into a never-ending chasm called real life. Don’t you hate when that happens to you?

If you’re interested in the boring version: Earlier I was sitting on a wooden stool beside a file cabinet, tabbing the folders with large letters written in magic marker on crisp white paper when I realized the washing machine should have been done by then. I walked into the bathroom and noticed the water like a crime scene. I saw the pool of liquid and marveled at how hard I must have hit something to have made the copper leak. Eventually, my attention was pulled to the larger pool and the true source of the problem. I shut off the washer, but I couldn’t reach to unplug it. I shut the water off. I cleared everything I saw as a possible hindrance. I pulled out a measuring cup and began filling a bucket. As I was filling the bucket a second time, I thought about getting some towels to sop up the water I was standing in. As if there was some cosmic joke running around on the loose, I felt a tingle in my ankle. I don’t think I was shocked, just my sense of self trying to highlight the whole “you are standing in water in front of a machine that might be suffering an electric problem,” shouting to be noticed. I looked to the electric panel, but it’s a 50/50 toss up on which switch to pull. I cleared a path to that closet for Husband to figure out when he arrives home.

 (As I jot this, I’m still waiting.)

Sorry for no interesting pictures. I didn’t think to photograph the bouquets recently. I bought three and washed windows. I forgot a lot about how to host, but also remembered arcane things. In pulling away from what it turns out were contrivances, I do feel quieter and very in tune to the futility of all the things that I think are major in life – but in pursuing those, I ended up where I wanted to be. I think. Maybe. Does that make any sense?

And attuned, I’ve been. I have a “master list” of things I want to “get done” and have put off some tasks. One was taking care of the sleeping bags. It turned out that I was glad I didn’t force the issue because they were used for a makeshift bed for someone. Likewise, there has been a hesitancy to clean/clear the shelves above the washing machine and now this has occurred.

That sounds like a rationalization for procrastination, doesn’t it? Perhaps they are magic words that cast a spell and when someone says they will do something tomorrow, there will be a tomorrow – otherwise the guy doesn’t ride out on his chariot or there’s a minor tremor and Sisyphus catches a break. Who knows how the world works when myth or quantum physics enter the conversation? And look, Mr. Quantum Physics is wearing that damn green felt hat with the long brown feather again even though several variations of this entity know exactly how much I hate that thing…  

Oh! Two deadlines just walked in draped in grey lace. I have to return to my toadstool now. Take care of you and know that you matter to me somehow.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Cheers!

Ready for Mardi Gras; Even More Ready for Lent

How are you and I’m happy to see you here!

Well this month went fast. Until 6:45pm, it didn’t register that today was the last day of February. Speaking of which, if for any reason you are not reading Fictive Dream, you should. I am honored that Laura Black chose to include an experimental story of mine in Flash Fiction February alongside other fabulous pieces by Nina Fosati, Len Kuntz, Meg Tuite,  Jude Higgins, Rosie Garland— the whole month is stellar. Please enjoy them all and the accompanying artwork by Claudia McGill. I thought her piece paired perfectly with mine.

I finished the bird story and resurrected an old one. Most of it was written 10 years ago, but there was no ending. I thought about it, reread it, even swapped it with another author for insight (Fun fact – that author was Tommy Dean whose workshop inspired “All the Love You Cannot See Told in Three Parts.”) When On The Premises announced contest #39, I went back to it again, cut the first two paragraphs, rewrote the beginning, and the ending finally arrived. We’ll see how it does, but I’m happy with the outcome.

Last week I virtually attended Literary Cleveland‘s Flash Fiction Festival. It was a lot of fun, well organized, and it generated new work. Such gratitude to Executive Director Matt Weinkam, instructors Kathy Fish, Vanessa Chan, Lindsay Hunter, Desiree Cooper, editors Tara Isabel Zambrano, Amy Stuber, Scott Garson, Aaron Burch and all the fabulous people who were also attendees!  I plan to spend Lent with those drafts and revisiting some other work. I bought bins to organize and reduce. I’m thinking about pulling together a chapbook or two.Today, I sent three submissions. I won’t say I’m feeling upbeat because that might jinx it, but I’m setting goals.

Thank for stopping by!