Friday, May 29, 2020

To Think On Peace

When I think of peace
I think of water
Of smooth surfaces
Of oceanic depths

Of cleansing
Of quenching 
Of succor
Of need

(Of tears of drowning)

Peace like water
Is contorted stillness
An ocean holds so much
Life and death within 

The waves are the rhythm 
The breathing of its heart
The cadence of the souls
That reside inside 

There are constant changes
Occurring to and through
Any body of water
As with all things

Yet unlike land
When storms pass
The water 
Is as it was

And unlike fire
None can stifle
The power 
Of its flow

And unlike air
It is seen and heard
More than effect
Of its passing

Is that the essence
Of peace?

To truly live
A life of peace
Is it not to live
A life apart

But instead to live
A life connected
Feeling all the things
That happen to and through

Always changing 
With every squall
But remaining true 
To who you are

(To who I am for who you were)

These things in life
Will wash through me
Will wash over me
Changing me within

Without destroying 
Who I am

A frog sitting
On the surface 
Of a placid pond
Water so clear

The frog begins 
To call its call
Sing its song
Creating vibration

Rippling out
Through water
In the shape 
Of the frog

Each ripple 
Reflecting the other
Connecting the frog
To the water

When the song
Falls silent
The frog and pond
Are as they were

Yet they have changed
I have changed
The world has changed
Around and through us 

I want to be the water
And the frog
And the vibration
And the stillness

I want to be the trees
Mirrored in the pond
The clouds overhead
And the space between

Peace
Is all these things
I want to be 

Peace

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Going Back to School

TL;DR - nerves about grad school, work, life, grief, illness, and writing

Tomorrow I start back to Grad School with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign online LEEP program working towards a Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree after taking a year off. I'm only taking one class called, "Community Engagement" and I'm really looking forward to it.

But I'm also nervous. Not nervous like I was when I started since I'd been out of school for several years and it was my first time doing any Graduate classes. But nervous that my concentration / focus isn't what it was due to my grief about Joy being killed, my two cats dying, and other life concerns like Kess having cancer and Bek breaking her humorous, though not her humor, making me feel more fragile than I know myself to be. I've also found, with the help of therapy, that I am mourning my mom since when she died, the family was consumed with making sure Joy was taken care of and I never really mourned her at that time.

This mourning, grief, and worry has stolen my focus, my sleep, given me nightmares, and taken my occasional migraines into the realm of chronic migraines. Don't get me wrong, I am ever so grateful and delighted that my bestie and my sister have both recovered. I am blessed that my job and my school have been so understanding of my circumstances. And I feel ever so loved by family and friends. But I still am grieving and I feel guilty for it going so long since I am just a bystander in all of this - it was not my body being crushed, having cancer, breaking, dying... Then, on top of that, I feel bad for feeling guilty because there is no timeline on grief. It's a vicious cycle of grief and guilt. (And yes, I'm in therapy. My therapist is awesome and helping me through this.) My other concern is that I know I need to make time to write even with work and animal care and grad school. My writing has been vital for me staying above the waters of deepest depression that I nearly died in a few years after Joy's rafting accident. I cannot and will not slide into those waters.

I had hoped to get my room rearranged and cleaned before my class started. But I have been sick and the migraines have kicked up a notch (which happens when all three of my main triggers - stress, hormones, and weather shift - hit me at the same time, especially when I'm sick) so my free time, including the weekend I had off, has been spent in bed. I'm trying to be okay with that. SELF-CARE is my mantra. I also keep reminding myself that yes, I am more than halfway through the MLIS program, I have all 'A's, and, when I started, I was working 2 jobs and taking double the course load, so I can do this.

I CAN DO THIS

I WILL DO THIS

*breathe*

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Look Back on Writing in 2019 & 2020 Goals for Writing

Even though 2019 was a rough year, one thing I did really well was making sure I had time to write and I wrote. I did not write every day, but I definitely wrote several times every week. I had been trying that "treat it as a job" approach for over a year, but it wasn't working for me. It sucked all the passion out of writing and I felt guilty if I didn't write during the times I had set aside due to a migraine or whatever. So I decided to try the "I Will Write Every Week" approach. Basically, writing became my place to relax and unwind. I was still writing down times to write in my planner, but it wasn't a, "YOU MUST DO THIS OR YOU FAIL AS A WRITER" type mentality. It was more, "hey, look at all this time you have to write! I know there's a lot going on, but once you get done with the stuff you HAVE to do, look at this fun thing you GET to do." Just a shift in perception and it made all the difference. It also helped that I had/have my writing groups and open mics as deadlines keeping me accountable. This is what I succeeded at this past year:

  • Wrote every week
  • Wrote every day for November & surpassed the 50,000 word mark for NaNoWriMo
  • Sent out one Short Story (It got rejected, but with some pointers on how to fix the story so I'm seeing that as a win)
  • Set up and started a Grief Journaling Workshop at the Library
  • Continued with the Writers' Word Feast
  • Visited an open mic I wasn't running
  • Ran The No Shush Salon open mic
  • Finished my memoir & gathered readers
Here are my writing goals for 2020:
  • Send my memoir to my readers (Edit: DONE)
  • Continue writing every week
  • Send out writing for publication at least once a month
  • Visit other (not run by me) writing groups
  • Visit other (not run by me) open mics
  • After getting back feedback from readers about my memoir (March 1), Edit it
  • Figure out what direction I want to go with my memoir & go there

Sunday, November 3, 2019

NaNoWriMo!

The Writers' Word Feast is hosting a #ComeWriteIn location for #NaNoWriMo every Sunday of November. If you're in the Oak Park area, come write with me!!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney

I am blessed! I got to read this early.
But you, dear friend, I envy the chance to read it with fresh EYES that have not yet consumed the decadence of these words. Or maybe it's your EARS that get to enjoy the sharp sultry prose of these pages. Either way, what bliss!
In Cooney's own words:
"A poet is in love with the world. She is like a virus born of love; she must travel to live, and her vehicle is poetry. Was it any wonder a poet is the preferred candidate for travel between the worlds?Desdemona was not a poet."
But let me tell you... Desdemona is fierce, tenacious, completely ridiculous and entirely entrancing. I love her despite myself and almost as much as I love FARKLEWHIT!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Year My Sister Became a Swan

*** I am poking at a speculative memoir. This is part one of a chapters. ***

I stand at the threshold of my parents’ house. I have been here before. Don’t open the door, my mind whispers. If I don’t open the door, I will never know. The bliss of ignorance. But the knob has already turned. The door falls open. My father is there. It begins again.

My father, a stout man with black hair and serious eyes, chokes out, “there has been an accident.” Accident… If it had been anyone but him, I would think it an April Fools joke. But coming from him, the word hangs thick in the air, echoing and reverberating. “Accident, accident, accident…” I want to breathe fire on the word, incinerate it, eradicate it from my life, from being true, from the new reality of what my family will become.

The year was 1995. Joy, a high school Spanish teacher, was in Costa Rica as one of the chaperones for her school's International Club. They had taken the group white water rafting on the last day… THE LAST DAY. And it was beautiful. But rafts collided, sending everyone into the swirling chaos of the rapids. All around were sounds of shouting and water breaking on rocks and animals in the jungle. The adrenaline of the calamity that was going on making it impossible to know anything.

What we do know:  A man drowned, he died.

Joy might've dove back in. Joy, who was a very good swimmer, might've been pulled under by the drowning man. But we will never know for sure.

We also know they found her body floating, face down. They pulled her out. She was dead. Too long in the water. But they revived her. A miracle! (The miracle she could have used, was not drowning in the first place.) An ambulance bouncing over rough terrain. She survived, survived, survived...

Joy, in a coma; Joy, out of the coma. I was not there. Her voice changed; she changed; she was not the Joy I knew. She became other. The accident caused her to transform.

“You have to be the big sister,” she said to me in a moment of clarity, before her transformation was complete. I watched as her neck arched and stretched and feathers sprout all over her body. She squawked as wings blossomed where arms had been. Her legs thinned, her feet flattened and spread out. She became awkward and unsteady on land. Her words were barely intelligible as they poured forth from her beak. “They need you, you’re the oldest now. You have to take care of them.”

But I didn’t know how. I was too busy wallowing; too busy avoiding. My parents turned to paper. I only saw my younger sisters when I would squint. They were so far away. My eyes went black, unseeing. My sisters changed too. One became a veil of darkness and silence. The other was a smile so tight she cracked at the edges. And Joy had become a swan.

Feathers landed on everything. Everything.

The care and feeding of the swan fell to my mother. She rarely asked for help though we knew she needed it. I did not offer. She did her best, but there are no manuals on how to care for your swan daughter. Feed, shelter… but what happens when she flies into a rage? What happens when the swan who was your oldest daughter attacks your youngest daughter? What do you do when the whole family is covered in bruises? How do you explain the feathers everywhere; the beak marks; the three feet of water in the basement?

The water in the basement...

The basement flood broke me and my mom. Sewage water drowned my belongs; my writing. It destroyed much of what had been saved of Joy before her accident; before her transformation into a swan. We cried. My mother and I held each other and we cried. The swan swam.

My father, the engineer, focused on fixing things. He could not fix his daughter who was now a swan, his daughter with blackened eyes, his daughter who had become a dark room, or his daughter who’s smile shattered inside her heart. But he could gather people to empty and clean the basement. He could fix the basement.

It began again… I went back to the basement. It was fixed, but the same. Nightmares waited there. I opened my eyes, no longer unseeing, but everything was faded. I tried to help my mother with my swan sister; gathering feathers; cleaning; trying to understand her.

But my swan sister swam further away.