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.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Dying Rainbow


I dyed
My hair
Rainbow colors
Because it was fun
Because I loved to see
people smile and giggle
When they saw my hair
But after tragedy
A cat dying
The killing of Joy
I shaved my head
Then a second cat
And an aunt died
Sad, wanting to hide
I instead covered my head
With scarves, hats, and hoods
No more bright rainbow colors
For I have not found happiness
Though there are sparks
With caring friends
A new found dog
And a foster cat
But my hair has
Been growing
The grayest hue
It has ever been
In the grays are
Flecks of silver
Persist in
Shining
Through my grief

Someday, I’ll share my silver

Friday, January 25, 2019

Has It Only Been Two Months?

I've never been one to think, "oh, it couldn't happen to me and mine." Life is too strange, too chaotic, people are too careless and really, shit just freakin' happens all the time.

But the way Joy was killed was so bizarre that two months later, it STILL feels unreal. I'm still flinching everytime I notice I have a text or someone calls me, afraid that they're going to tell me that someone else I love is hurt or dying or no longer on this plane of existence. That, combined with her previous rafting accident, I get nervous whenever anyone I love goes on a trip. Add to all that my cats dying, my sister's dog dying, my aunt dying, and the five year anniversary of my mom's sudden death --- it was a pretty shitty holiday season and ringing in of a new year.

So what can I do?

Do I stop living, stop loving, stop caring, and let everything scare me? Bar myself away from the world? Lock my loved ones in... in what? Not a room, 'cause a truck could come through the wall and kill them all. In a box? with a fox? in a house? with a mouse? And now we're sitting with Dr. Seuss eating green eggs and ham... but I'm a vegetarian!

NO

I WILL NOT DO THAT

I will live BIGGER, love HARDER, adventure WIDER, cultivate a DEEPER sense kindness, and create MORE! EVERY MOMENT counts. I get that. My life is what I make it. I get that too. Despite all speculations and beliefs, I don't know what comes next, so I have to make this one life AMAZING.

Yes! Absolutely! I get it! I will do it!

Now if only I could stop crying every single fucking day, sleep for more than two hours at a time, and reignite my ability to focus... If only I could wrap up this whole grieving thing...

As soon as I do, I'll get right on that living BIGGER HARDER WIDER DEEPER and making my life MORE AMAZING EVERY MOMENT.

But not just yet...