Living the dream

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Kansas City, Missouri, United States
I am a former English teacher, reporter, and newspaper columnist. These days, I write for sheer enjoyment ... and because I still have lots to say.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Freelance writer perk #14

Wouldn't you like to be here right about now?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Missing Mom

Today would have been my mom's 69th birthday. I still can't believe she's not in this world. I miss her phone calls, most of which went like this:
Me: Hi, Mom. What are you doing?
Mom: Not a damn thing.
Me: You should get out of the house today. Get some fresh air.
Mom: I don't need fresh air.
Me: (changing the subject) What's Kimmie making for dinner? (Mom went to live in the basement of her house when my sis Kim moved in with her partner and two children.)
Mom: Burger King. I'm so damn tired of hamburgers.
Me: I'm making (pick one) a) enchiladas; b) meatloaf; c) spaghetti and meatballs ...
Mom: Ooooooh, boy, does that sound good. When are you bringing me a plate?
Then I would promise a visit, which generally didn't happen, because Mom lived fifty miles away and I hated going to the house that wasn't her house anymore, and seeing her deteriorate physically and emotionally .... So. Hard.
‪#‎wishIcouldcookformymomnow‬ ‪#‎missingmom‬ ‪#‎theimportanceofmendingfences‬ ‪#‎callyourmother‬

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Obama ... in the (coffee) house

Hey, now. Look who stopped in for a cup of joe at a coffee house in Parkville, Missouri.
My favorite president.
Dang, I wish I were there!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Glorious weather, glorious golf

Guess what I'm doing today?
Yup. Hitting the greens.
GORGEOUS blue skies. Temp: low 80s. Is this really July in Kansas City?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

And on the last day ...

I have been on a news fast recently. Already I am too emotional on account of my unemployment issue and ever-burgeoning upper abdominal fat roll, and the fact that I'm closer to fifty than forty--and so I figure it's good to stay away from the issues that make me anxious and angry: immigration (the babes at the border, seeking refuge: my God, let them into the country already, and feed and clothe them), the legalization of marijuana (very bad idea), airplanes being shot down (WTH?) ... cancer and death and dying and more cancer and death and dying.
And so this morning, when I scrolled through my FB newsfeed, I came across this magical offering from Anne Lamott--my favorite writer, my soul-sister, my Sister in Christ.
Her writing is a soothing balm to my splintered self. And she got me to thinking: What if today is the last day of the world? What would I do?
Would I buy a pack of cigarettes?
Yes, yes I would buy cigs.  I would smoke them until my throat hurt and my lungs burned.
I would buy a dozen donuts and eat them all.

And I would definitely pick up a pint of orange vodka. The day the world ends, I want to be smoking, eating, and drinking, I want to be buzzed.

Thank you, Anne, for giving me hope ... and for giving me ideas. I love you. XOXO

Here's Anne's take (July 27, 2014)

Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M's etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards.
I used to think that if the world--or I--were coming to an end, I'd start smoking again, and maybe have a cool refreshing pitcher of lime Rickeys. But that's going too far, because if the world or I was saved at the last minute, I'd be back in the old familiar nightmare. In 1986, grace swooped down like a mighty mud hen, and fished me out of that canal. I got the big prize. I can't risk losing it.
But creme brûlée, nachos, maybe the random Buche Noel? Now you're talking.
The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember, and yet, I have not gotten out the lobster bib and fork. The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop.
The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.
And let's not bog down on the stuff that was already true, before Ukraine, Gaza, Arizona, like the heartbreaking scenes of young refugees at our border, the locals with their pitchforks. The people in ruins in our own families. Or the tiny problem that we have essentially destroyed the earth--I know, pick pick pick.
Hasn't your mind just been blown lately, even if you try not to watch the news? Does it surprise you that a pretty girl's mind turns to thoughts of entire carrot cakes, and credit cards?
My friend said recently, "It's all just too Lifey. No wonder we all love TV." Her 16 year old kid has a brain tumor. "Hey, that's just great, God. Thanks a lot. This really works for me."
My brother's brand new wife has tumors of the everything. "Fabulous, God. Loving your will, Dude."
My dog Lily's ear drum burst recently, for no apparent reason, with blood splatter on the walls on the entire house--on my sleeping grandson's pillow. Do you think I am well enough for that?
Let me go ahead and answer. I'm not. It was CSI around here; me with my bad nerves. And it burst again last night.
Did someone here get the latest updated owner's manual? Were they handed out two weeks ago when I was getting root canal, and was kind of self-obsessed and out of it? The day before my dog's ear drum first burst? If so, is there is an index, and if so, could you look up Totally Fucking Overwhelm?
I have long since weeded out people who might respond to my condition by saying cheerfully, "God's got a perfect plan." Really? Thank you! How fun.
There is no one left in my circle who would dare say, brightly, "Let Go and Let God," because they know I would come after them with a fork.
It's not that I don't trust God or grace or good orderly direction anymore. I do, more than ever. I trust in divine intelligence, in love energy, more than ever, no matter what things look like, or how long they take. It's just that right now cute little platitudes are not helpful.
I'm not depressed. I'm overwhelmed by It All. I don't think I'm a drag. I kind of know what to do. I know that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things. It begins by putting your own oxygen mask on first: I try to keep the patient comfortable. I do the next right thing: left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. I think Jesus had a handle on times like these: get thirsty people water. Feed the hungry. Try not to kill anyone today. Pick up some litter in your neighborhood. Lie with your old dog under the bed and tell her what a good job she is doing with the ruptured ear drum.
I try to quiet the drunken Russian separatists of my own mind, with their good ideas. I pray. I meditate. I rest, as a spiritual act. I spring for organic cherries. I return phone calls.
I remember the poor. I remember an image of Koko the sign-language gorilla, with the caption, "Law of the American Jungle: remain calm. Share your bananas." I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, "I take care care of my own."
I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours--I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other's. Thee are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Following (unpaid) passion

"Little White Pill," my newest short story submission to Glimmer Train, was rejected today. I had great hope hanging on that piece: It'd been in the queue a long time, an "in-process" submission still in process, up to the last minute, an entry in the lit journal's Short Story Award for New Writers "contest." Winners will be announced tomorrow. And, now, that hope, burst like a sad balloon.
"Assistance," rejected. "F & M," rejected--both Glimmer Train submissions last spring. "She Should Have Known Better," a submission to Ploughshares, rejected June 9, 2013.
"All That Jazz," rejected  by The Missouri Review on March 4, 2013.
Why I continue to do this to myself is a pitiful mystery.
If it weren't for my current (unfruitful) job search, these rejections wouldn't sting as much.
And yet ... I persevere. I write because I cannot NOT write.
Look at me now, feeling all shitty and a tad bit despondent, and still I turn to this blog.
Thank you, Mom Sequitur, for your steady companionship.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hemingway's way

From The Writer's Almanac~

Today marks the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway. He didn't start writing until his 26th birthday: two months later, he had a first draft. Years later, he told a friend: "Toward the last it was like a fever. Toward the last I was sprinting, like in a bicycle race, and I did not want to lose my speed making love or anything else." This novel, first titled Fiesta, was revised to The Lost Generation. 
We know it as The Sun Also Rises.

I'm certainly no Hemingway, but I know a thing or two about writing, and so it came as no surprise to me while watching a PBS special last night to discover that reclusive writer J.D. Salinger routinely holed up in a bunker outside his home in New Hampshire to attend to his writing.
I know that Maya Angelou rented hotel rooms when she needed to get writing done.
The need for solitude without distraction is the very reason why the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire exists, or why Hedgebrook in Washington state exists.
When I was at MacDowell, the gift of time and space allowed me to write eight to ten hours a day. Within twenty-four days, I had written (and revised) six short stories, four essays, and seven poems. I kept a detailed journal of my time there, too.
Ask me how much I've gotten done since.