Sunday, October 23, 2016

Six months ago

My mother passed away. It was sudden and unexpected. She died of Non-Hopkins Lymphoma, and we were told that she would pull through, but because she did not have health insurance she wasn't able to start treatment. When she finally could, the cancer had spread so rapidly that her body just couldn't keep up anymore and 6 weeks after her diagnosis, she slipped away while I held her hands in mine. 

As some of you may know, I am an only child and have no family in my city except for my own child. I do have many lovely and amazing friends, who have been kind and supportive as best they can be, but it has still left me with the burden of grief to deal with alone in most ways. The profoundness of losing a parent, my only parent, is not something I can easily put into words. It is this grief that has stopped me from writing more blogs as I had planned for in 2016.

So, many have said to me that this grief will become easier, but for me it has become more acutely painful the more time that has past. I don’t try and pick up the phone to call her anymore, or leave her a post on her facebook, but I seem to miss her more and more daily.

I've gone through a lot of transition and change since she passed.

My child moved out into their own apartment.

I ended a long-term relationship.

I lost my job with a company that I enjoyed working with because the company downsized.

I started working a new job registering voters and will end soon which means I will have to find another part-time position to take its place.

I painted the kitchen, my office and started on the bathroom.

I almost fell in love again.

I’ve done many things to just try and stay busy, because when the mind is busy it is hard to think about grief. Grief like work can be put off till the last possible minute, I’ve found.

But, grief is a cruel animal that will bite the heart just when it’s calm enough to believe it's safe.

What has been hardest for me has been when I have ventured out of my house to see friends or have a drink. If I run into someone I haven’t seen for a while and they ask how I’ve been or what’s new--the questions is almost always followed with, “Well, my mother past away in April.” Which is then followed with, “Oh, I’m so sorry” and then “Are you okay”? 

Most days, I don’t know how to respond to either of these remarks. It is only polite to say “Sorry” and I am okay. I mean, I must be ‘okay’. I still go to work every day. I still take care of my home and my full house of rescue pets.

Many of my dearest have commented on my strength. Which I find puzzling. The world doesn’t not stop because you have lost a piece of your life. It moves on either with you or without you. I can’t stay in bed and not live. I must make money so I can pay all my bills, and write bad and sometimes okay poems, and teach students. I’m not sure if that is strength or if what mode I am in right now is just survival.

But, I do know, that my mother would never want me to give up. To stop. She frowned upon such things as just giving, because she gave up many times on many things, and as with all parents, she insisted I become more than she was. That I work harder. That I continue to keep going no matter what.  

I also know she would want me to do more than just survive. She would want me to thrive. 

So, I am working on thriving part a bit more than ever before. I am, for the first time ever, able to do exactly what I want in my life. I wish I had understood this more after she passed away and had used my small inheritance on making a big leap, but I also was not ready. I didn’t know what it was I wanted to leap to, but it’s becoming clearer now that some time has passed.

I am working on starting a Patreon account to help me accomplished some things. I hope to in the next 7-10 days have my goals and awards all ironed out, but if you would like to help me before I officially launch, here is the link:

For those of you who don’t know what Patreon is, it is a fundraising site for artists to help us have a living income while we create. I hope to gain enough support to finish my second book (those who follow know that this goal is one of my New Year’s goals for 2016 and progress was slowed due to my mother’s illness and the aftermath of her death), finish and shop around two essays, one that was started in this blog and another one that is just at the moment an idea, and would require travel for some interviews and  a lot of research, relaunch the online poetry journal Poetry for the Masses, and maybe even start a podcast to go with the journal.

With the support of a loving and kind friend, I have been writing, not as much as I would like or hope too though because after teaching and then working in the evenings, sometimes I am just wiped. I hate making the “I’m tired” excuse though, but we all need to sleep sometime.

I don’t believe that my mother is looking down on me or watching me, in fact I had a Buddhist Powa service so she couldn’t, but I do hope that even after her loss I can keep living my life the way she had hoped and wanted me too. With tancity, kindness, compassion, and love. Even when it feels bleak.

Till next time:


 The last picture of my mother and I. Christmas Eve 2015.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Three stories of love at first sight—for my friend Lily who doesn’t believe that such craziness exists.


It was summer and I was out of high school, but not because I walked with my class, but because I decided high school meant waking up early and at 18, I was generally against such things that required me to be anywhere before noon. My friend, Kristen, was having a hard time at home. I can’t remember what the circumstances were now, but I am sure it involved a disagreement with her father, who was odd in ways that even I didn’t understand at the time, or with one of her two brothers, Daniel, who was a decent guy, or Mike who was not a decent guy and once burned me with a silver tab off a pop can just because I was sitting next to him. Kristen was finished with high school but was only 17, but she could drive and often we rode around in her father’s small two-door something or other. She had started a long distance romantic situation with a guy I had introduced her to a few summer nights before at the river or at the park that I had meet under similar circumstances a few weeks before. There wasn’t much for young girls to do in those days in Wichita so we often found ourselves in whichever park was deemed cool that day by those who were cooler than we were. Brian was a pilot for UPS and 21 or 22 and had just inherited his grandmother’s house in nowhere Iowa, and because Kristen was having issues with her family and I was constantly restless, when Brian offered the house to us while he finished training for UPS, we packed up the car and a kitten that I had recently adopted and my mother hated, burrowed money form my mother for gas and oil and drove through the night. It was a drive that should have taken 6 hours that somehow we turned into 13. 

When we arrived Brian had told us to call his friend, Tony, and that Tony would drive us out to the farm since to get to the farmhouse, back roads had to be taken and many of them were unmarked. We called Tony from a gas station on the edge of town. He was angry on the phone that we had bothered him at work, but agreed to meet us at Wal-Mart and drive us out to the farm. 

We drove into the parking lot of the only Wal-Mart store for hours, and there Tony was laid out of the hood of his car reading Grapes of Wrath. He as long limbed and tan, blonde hair that needed a cut, wearing a Guns-N-Roses shirt, and there was something about him I felt pulled towards. It was most likely the fact he was reading and I preferred boys who read. 

He was still rather annoyed to have to drive us the ten miles out of town, but motioned for us to follow him and as we did he took curves too fast and the dust from the roads flew around and once we did lose him, but he stopped and we caught up.

The house had been empty for a while and was run down and had no electricity or running water—things that Brian had not told us about. It did strangely have a working phone and an outhouse with a moon cut into the door. 

As soon as I opened the car door, my kitten hopped out and took off and as I ran and called for her Tony ran after me and when he caught up with me he coolly said, “Did you lose your Kitty”? And then from behind his back he handed her to me. 

We walked back quietly to the car, and as I went to pull my suitcase out of the hatch, he grabbed it from my hand and it was energy and we both knew, though we didn’t say it till two days later. We spent the next days being so in love I ached when he wasn’t near me. He is the reason I can’t listen to Janis Joplin without seeing a dark rainy night, candles glowing and so much thunder. 

I couldn’t stay there with him though. I left and came back home. I hitch a ride back with a farmer down the road and I cried the whole 6 hours. It was too small of a town for me. And Tony wasn’t ready to leave its quiet safety and easy ways. We tried to stay in touch for a while, but long distance calls were expensive and letters were slow. I don't know where he is now. Which is probably for the best. 


I was recovering from a second time around break-up with a man, DL, whom I had once loved, and who when we broke up the first time 6 years earlier after he told me that our sex felt like sin. But despite such proclamations, I found myself again in deep heartbreak atet he left the second time, and  when  I found out by accident  that a band I was not sure I actually liked, but knew DL loved was playing at a biggish venue in Wichita. I decided to pull myself together and go see that band just to show DL that I didn’t actually care that he had left me again. I was over it. 

I felt ridiculous as soon as I got to the venue. I knew that this ploy of mine was fairly transparent and almost turned around to go back home when I ran into some younger friends of mine at the time who asked if I would buy them beer because they were not yet 21 and they offered to share, so I stayed. 

As the four of us stood there, the first band came out, and in the middle was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was tall and wore these yellow tinted sunglasses but it wasn’t the way he looked. It was something else., and when he started to preform, I knew what it was. He was one of the lowest people I had ever seen and I understood that depth and how deep it went. 

The show went on, all the bands played, but all I was thinking about was how I would get back stage. This was usually not an issue for me in my 20s, but for some reason, I had to actually work on gaining access so finally I told the security guard I didn’t want to meet the headliner by the lead singer of the opening band. 

Once back stage, I just waited and made small talk till I saw him, but I didn’t just walk up and start chatting, I just stared at him and if he looked back I quickly looked away. I didn’t talk to him, but had lengthy conversations with everyone else in his band and when the asked if I could help them get to their hotel, I was surprised when this man, whose name I still did not know, who I had pretty much been stalking all night, told his band mates he would ride with me. 

What happen afterwards are things I don’t talk about often. He left me with a copy of The Alchemist, and a few weeks later I wrote him a crazy long letter, that my best friend said was too much but I sent it to him on MySpace anyway. For a few months, we talked on and off and then lost touch for 4 or 5 years, and then when my book came out and perhaps because the poem on page is 18 was lifted directly from that long letter I should have never sent, that we found ourselves for a while speaking daily, and I flew to him twice to visit, but distance and timing and loneness to deep for stability…


I met Bjorn on okcupid. He lived 16 hours away and we started as just pen pals and sent books back and forth. He was 24 and I was 32. He went to a great liberal arts school and thought maybe he would be a writer one day, and I was working on my last year of my MFA. Soon after we started corresponding, I started dating, Nathan, a PHD student in the psychology department at my college, but when things fall apart with Nathan, Bjorn and I started talking on the phone and it was not long before Bjorn found the perfect town half way between him and I to meet, and it was in Iowa. 

I drove to 7.5 hours and saw shooting stars but then felt ridiculous making wishes. I got into town before Bjorn and went to the hotel we had booked for a couple days an hour before Obama won the Iowa primary. I watched Obama's victory speech and unpacked. The room was what you would expect from a Day's Inn. Standard queen bed, standard bad hostel room art on the walls, a coffee maker with enough Folger's to make two cups, which stiff towels. Everything is different shades of brown and soft yellows. It was cold when I arrived and by 8pm had started to snow and added upon the three or four inches that were there from the past.

 I took a long hot bath, settled in and tried to not be nervous. When I heard a car door shut, I hurriedly looked at the window, saw him, and could tell he was nervous and shaking. I knew that nothing would be the same. 

I have tried many times to write about those first few days with Bjorn. Those days stretched to infinity and ended too quickly and are still so heavy with memory that when I begin to match words together in my head in attempts to record them in some way, those words don’t hold enough weight. Those memories mean so much to me at the core that in the very back of my closet are a worn pair of round toe red Italian heels that I wore for miles and miles through a cold January day holding his hand and wondering a through the second smallest town in Iowa like we were enough. 

The moral here, if there is one—love at first sight happens, but to keep that glow everything must be perfectly aligned, and those things mostly are not for a majority of us, so we leave, we move on, we change too quickly, so we are left to remember those short sudden times on nights when the world burdens us with sadness, and we fiercely hope we will feel that way again and soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


It’s a new year. Almost everyone I know is glad it’s 2016. Some of my friends are referring to this year as 20Sweet16. I’m not one for resolutions because to me, it’s always a disappointment when I don’t actually make those changes so I tend to make goals, and they are usually impossible to actually reach, like last year I made two goals to quit smoking (almost happened) and to do 1000 miles in some form at the gym (2015 total was 699, only 301 short). This year, I made a lot of goals because I am either going to conquer 20Sweet16, or possibly be really disappointed on December 31st.

1   1. 1000 miles in some form. This goal actually feels attainable this year. I’m already at 65 for the year. My time at the gym has become precious to me. It’s where I clear my mind and to think. I like being sweaty. I know if I don’t go to the gym, since I work from home, there would be days where I wouldn’t leave my house in the winter.
     2. Read 60 books. I used to read all the time before grad school and Facebook. I mainly blame Facebook. It’s a huge time sucker that usually adds very little to my actual life unless I am chatting with a friend in massager since no one really calls anymore (which is fine. Being on the phone is not always a way I want to spend my time).  So far, I have read 11 pages of You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, a book I’ve been meaning to read for a year. It’s great but my attention span for reading needs improvement.
3  3. Work on paying off some of my debt. This is a four-year plan and as long as I can stay in my two current positions, this feels really doable.
4  4. Quit smoking. This one is hard, but it needs to happen. I’m probably ruining my skin. The thing about smoking and me is I am a stress smoker. Smoking is what I do when I feel like I have no control and need a moment. Working on cutting back now and I have a date in my head picked.
    5. Find more sources of income. I need to make more money so I can do more things like travel. I am working on starting an etsy store and finding some tutoring and I have some other ideas.
     6. Make the bed everyday. Since I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my kid, I sleep in the living room and he has the bedroom. When my bed isn’t made the whole house feels disorganized and off. So far, I’ve made my bed 11-out of 12 days.
     7.  Paint the kitchen and bathroom. My kitchen is orange and brown. It’s awful. I have also been saying I would paint these rooms since we moved into this place two years ago, but I think I have a plan now and a friend who has offered to help.
      8. Volunteer more. This is so happening. I have been approved to work with a child in the YMCA’s Reach and Rise program and I have a volunteer position with CPRF and will be screening for the Tallgrass Film Festival again this year.
      9. Buy no new clothes till June. Already feel off the shopping wagon today when I went to donate some things at the Goodwill and went inside… But, I really needed this awesome velvet skirt for this dance party I’m going to on the 29th, so…

      10. Take four trips. I am going to Hong Kong in March, Tulsa to see Leon Bridges in May and Kansas City to see the Cure in July. I would also love to go see some friends in Michigan and maybe go back to Indiana in see my BFF (and Ryan Adams is playing in Louisville so I’m hoping to be able to make that happen).

     11. Finish my second book. This book has been on ongoing process for two years. My issue with it seems to be lack of inspiration and self-discipline. I know I have to sit in the chair to write, but lately I seem to let everything come before my writing and I need to change that if this book is going to ever be published.
     12. Keep journaling in the mornings. So far I’ve done this 6 out of 12 mornings. Not bad, I guess…

     13. Submit to 10 journals. It’s time to start publishing my work again.
     14. Go out twice a week. I don’t always socialize as much as I would like. Sometimes I simple just don’t have any money to go out and sometimes I am just too tired or I haven’t made plans and no one has made plans with me. I have told myself for years that I prefer going out alone, but I use this as an excuse to not be sad when I’m lonely. SO far, I’ve gone out twice a week and it was awesome. I haven’t been out this week yet, but I have plans for the weekend, I think.
      15. Write 12 book reviews. I have started my first book to review, but I need to find a tablet to read it on, as my phone is too small to really read and my iBook sort of bulky for bed. I’ve been pricing tablets the last few days.
      16. Get a new tattoo. I know what I want, now to find the right artist and plan it out.
      17. Practice yoga 100 times and mediate twice a week. So far, I’ve done yoga twice but no mediating.

      18. Send more cards to my godchildren. That’s doable.
       19. Spend only an hour a day watching television and on Facebook. This has not happened not at all. I forget that I love television.

      20.  Be kinder. Because we can all work on being kinder.
      21. Fall in love. Love isn’t something missing from my life. I am surrounded by love of family and friends. I am blessed, but I have not been in love for a very long time. There is someone in my life who I love, but we are not ‘in love’ because he won’t allow himself to be emotionally attached to anyone and it is a sad mess of two years we have spent on and off together, most of which was good and some of which was hard and some of which was not fun at all. Then there is the PHD who thinks maybe we could have something, but doesn't actually put in the time to have something with me. Last summer, a man who I’ve had an on and off again romance with told me he loved me but was moving to Thailand with the woman he was seeing and it was upsetting, but I also knew he didn't’ actually mean those words. On NYE, I was kissed a tall handsome democrat party organizer on a dance floor and it was fairly telling it is probably time to make some changes on the dating front if I want to have a something strong and lasting in my life.
     22. Be a better mother. I’m actually a pretty decent mother to my kid (who just turned 21), but last summer my child told me that they are transgender and it has been difficult and a progress that involved a lot of tears and searching, but I think we’re making some progress together. I love Sid. I’m lucky to have such a strong and amazing child.

Do you have goals or resolutions? I had thought about adding a goal to blog more, but 22 seems like a lot already. I do have a new series I am working on though for my friend and stylist Lily about the three times I fell in love at first sight, so look for those to be posted around V-day.

I hope you are having a great 20Sweet16 so far. XOXO

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What My Mother Has Given Me Part 1

When I was a kid, my mother used to work a lot, so some of my favorite memories of spending time with her are of riding in this huge brown car she drove for year, and later replaced it with a big blue one, to and from the babysitter’s house. My mother used to sing a lot while we were driving and she had (still has) the most amazing voice. Like she could have won American Idol if that had been a thing in the earlier 80s. I would often try to sing along faking the lyrics are we drove. I wanted to sing just like her, but sadly, I wasn’t blessed with her talent. According to my ex, I am often flat and off tune and while that idea hurts he is probably right.

These are just a few of the songs I that when I hear them I think of my mother:

Jesus Christ Superstar “I don’t know how to Love Him”

“Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts

Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”

“These Eyes” The Guess Who (which my mother could also sing in French)

I still sing all the time—in the shower, at the gym, while making dinner, and the in the car. I sing in the car all the time. I’m singing along to Neutral Milk Hotel as I type this up.  For a while, in the mid-90s, I was even in a Riot Grrl band that never actually preformed because we broke up. I’ve always wanted to sing on a stage with a band, but I know this will probably never happen now because as I have gotten older I have developed awful stage freight. I can’t even do karaoke without my knees shaking and my hands shaking. It’s the worst.

It is because of my mother’s voice that I learned to love music. I used music as my way to find identity and find friends when I was a teenager. Music was a (and still is at times) a common bond when I didn't know how else to interact with people.  In high school, I started to get really into punk rock, and my mother had a friend she worked with, a younger college kid, make me tapes of some bands I was into and gave them to me for Christmas. It was the best gift. I listened to those tapes till they wouldn't play anymore. My mother didn’t always like or understand what I was listening too, but she would laugh at Dead Milkmen songs with me.  She would let me stay up late to watch 120 Minutes on Sundays, and listen to me as I went on and on about new videos by The Cure and Nirvana. She would laugh at my mad dance moves to Public Enemy and Dal La Soul. 

She has helped to teach my son to love music too. Since Sid was a baby, my mother has made up silly songs with him. It’s something that they still do even though he is almost 21 now. The songs are usually about whatever thing they are doing at that time, but it is a sweet thing to watch and often hilarious.

Music is important to most people, but for me music is one of the many gifts my mother gave me.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This week in things I did that I thought were a good idea but actually were not Week of September 6 - September 12

I have a cold which means I haven't had much time to make many bad choices this week which is sort of a blessing I guess but I did,

1. Use an avocado instead of bananas in a smoothie because I am out of bananas and since I have a cold I haven't gone to the market. I like avocados but bananas are better in a smoothie.

2. I posted a joke on twitter about some grading of papers I'm doing that led to a close friend and I have a fight. Which is fine, but it sucks that sometimes you can't just say, "Okay, I love you and I'd rather not keep having this discussion anymore because we're not going to agree on this subject." This is why I find discussing some issues on the internet through social media to be so odd sometimes. Words can be read in the wrong context and lead to issues that aren't really issues at all. Yet, this is how I talk to a lot of my friends anymore. I don't see them face-to-face and have these conversations but instead, they are had in 140 characters where clear thought doesn't always come through properly.

Hopefully, Readers, you are all well and don't have a later summer cold, because last summer colds are worst then middle of winter colds.


Friday, September 11, 2015

I Want All the Things--Or why I Struggle with Minimalism Part 2

There's a movement  in blog culture to get rid us of all that 'stuff'' that makes our lives complex and complicated and to simplify to what we only need, and to only keep the things that bring us 'joy'. 

Marie Kondo in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up says that paper brings you no joy, and while she is right that some paper does not bring me joy: bills, stacks of ungraded papers from my students, junk mail--some of the paper in my house brings more joy than I can express some days. Example: I have a vast collection of poetry. I've read all the collections many times over. And since I have read them many times over, Kondo would suggest that I let them go (unless they bring me joy. Or Option 2 I could check them out at the library if I wanted to read a certain collection again. That is if the library had a copy, which quite often is not the case since most public libraries lack decent contemporary poetry sections), but sometimes all the sudden, I just have to read that one poem by the one poet and that moment may be 3am. 

This sudden urge to read poetry happens so often, that I keep an always growing pile of poetry next to my bed, along with a pen and paper incase I need to write.

And, records, I have a lot of vinyl records, probably more than I listen to on a regular basis, especially now since my turntable isn’t working, but when I think about giving them away to a new home, I can’t decide which ones I could live without. I never know when the moment may hit that I have just need to listen to that Hall and Oates album or the first movement of Firebird (while playing this score, I often pretend I am a dancer and glide around on my wood floors on socks and vintage nightgowns. My 20-year-old son and dogs sort of find this both funny and crazy.)

One thing though that I do not collect or care for are knickknacks of any shape or form. I do have a lot of art and paintings and pictures of family and friends around, but little cute little figures and such. I see cute things at friend’s houses, I admire their ability to decorate, but then I think about how much dusting I would have to do if I started filling my nooks and crannies with such adorableness.

I also don’t have much furniture. I have a desk, a couch, two beds, a kitchen table, one chair for that table that doubles for a desk chair (this is something, I need to rectify soon if I ever want to have dinner guests again), three dresses, and five bookshelves—all overflowing with books, and records, and CDS. 

I think in the end, we have to decide what our stuff means to us and not worry about it too much. If you like all your stuff then who the cares! Enjoy life and stop worrying about it.  Go get ice cream with your kids and dog and have a good day.

Lately, though, because Sid and I may be moving soon, I have been going through stuff and getting rid of some things on this app Yerdle. Does anyone else use this app? I find it weird and useful at the same time.

First, people will sale just about anything on there. Half used cans of Axe Body Spray—yep, someone will buy that crap because I jus sold two of them the other day. Board games missing pieces and rules—you know it, someone wants that and will pay for it. But the catch is (because there is always a catch, right?), they’re not paying in real money. They’re paying in Yerdle dollars, which are not real dollars at all. Unless the buyer doesn't have enough Yerdle dollars, then they will pay with real US dollars, but you won’t get that money, nope, you’ll get it back in Yerdle money. And there’s some sort of crazy inflation and price gauging that I can’t really explain because I am a poet and not an Encomiast, but I do know that a box of 12 Swifter Wet Jet pads does not sale for $25 dollars at my local market, but they do on Yerdle, and you’re also going to pay like a $2 to $3 dollar handing fee and a shipping cost. Which means you just paid $7 in real money and $25 in fake money for a half dull box of Swifter pads, and I am pretty sure I can get 4 for a dollar at the Dollar Tree. 

I have though, been able to sale some things that were no longer a use to me and taking up space in my basement: a couple of board games and some of Sid’s old Captain Underpants books, a He Man Battle Cat from 2000 (Sid was actually a little upset I sold that one). I’ve been pricing everything between $1-$5 dollars. Because if the sprit of Yerdle is to give away your stuff to other people who may need or want it, then shouldn’t it all just be free? Like, “Hey. I got these full size sheets and no full size bed. They’re clean and ready for you. You pay for some shipping and I’ll send them next Tuesday.” No fees to Yerdle. Just two people being good to each other while also letting go of things no longer needed, because that’s how it should be, right?

Someone make that App. I'll pay $10 real money for an app like that. Free stuff to good people. That's how it should be. And, then I may also become a better minimalist too.