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. (Also, it'd be nice to sell a few stories.)

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.

(Pink and green and blue and brown, sprinkled
and drizzled and sugary and yeasty.)

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 and silly.

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.
Crazy!
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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Unemployment haiku

I need to make bank
The spousal unit is mad
And I need a life.

Someone, please hire me.
Am I a hard worker? Yes!
I will be on time.

Not teaching again.
So tired of the little turds.
Grading also blows.




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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meh and bleh

Today, I wasted twelve hours of my life.
Read a little, ate a little, got on Facebook a little, napped a little.
Took a shower, dressed, and then went nowhere. Unless you count the front porch or the back patio. I went there four times each. Had coffee; had tea; drank ice water.
Read the Sunday newspaper, started a book (seven pages and then put it down), trolled Facebook some more, made the bed, dusted some furniture, walked in going-nowhere circles.
HAS grilled salmon for supper. Veggies and garlic-herb pasta rounded out the meal.
I ate; I asked Child Three to clean up supper dishes. She did, without complaint.

And now it's 7:15 p.m. and still I have gone nowhere. I feel restless and melancholy and anxious and tired. I feel guilty that I've had an entire day stretched out before me and I have wasted it. Cancer patients know not to do this; people vacationing know not to do this; lovers spending weekends together know not to do this. So why am I here, (boringly) holed up in my two-story suburban home, dreaming of city life and food vendors and people passing by?

I tell you: this life here is backing me into a corner. I need a career job again; I need my own money; I need another Sunday--the kind that doesn't have enough hours to get everything done that I have planned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You Just Never Know

In 26 days I'll turn 49. That's a four PLUS a nine and I am losing my (aging) mind.
How in hell did I get to be 49? I still feel 14 in my head; I am quite immature. Someone farts around me and I laugh. I get much enjoyment watching a dog chase its tail. Cartoons still crack me up. I know every word of every song from Disney's Frozen. (I saw the movie twice, by myself.)
Then I wake up each morning, feeling cadaverous: stiff, I mean. The back, the neck, the shoulders, the knees, my right ankle. Left wrist.
And I am (only?) 48. What will 58 feel like? Seventy? Eighty? Will I be too stiff to stand erect? Will I be one of those humped-back women I see pushing the grocery cart?
***
Fortunately, my Uncle Neal called me, out of the blue, two nights ago. He was requesting a phone number that I didn't have, but given my reporting acumen, I was able to get what he needed within two minutes. (Sometimes I am truly awesome.)
Me with Uncle Neal, 2013

Here's the fortunate part: Uncle Neal, my grandmother's big brother (she died in 1985), told me, proudly, that he turned 89 five days ago. Eighty-nine years old and still capable of using the phone and hearing well enough not to ask, even once, What? I didn't hear you.
After congratulating him and promising to visit--I would bring a sugar-free cherry pie-- I told him I was turning 49 in less than a month. He laughed. (Swear, he laughed!)
"You're a baby," he said.
"Don't feel like a baby," I said.
"Every day's a gift," he said. "When do you think you might come visit? We're here all the time; can't go anywhere."
The "we're" is Uncle Neal plus his beautiful wife, Marcella. Each is home bound and in various stages of life-ending poor health. Marcella had a severe stroke about a year ago. Uncle Neal has congestive heart failure that has advanced. Hospice nurses come three times a week.
"What about the other four days?" I asked.
"We have round-the-clock care," he said. "Twenty-five hundred dollars a week."
I gasped. "A week?" Good God, I thought. Highway robbery.
"It's getting too expensive," he said. "That's a terrific amount of money every week."
I changed the subject. I become outraged and start feeling insane whenever the cost of elder care is being discussed. It's a hot-button topic for me, almost as bad as the immigrant-children issue that's bringing out the mean in people.
***
"When you were my age, did you think you'd make it to 89?" I asked my uncle.
He laughed again.
"Oh, no. No, no, no."
Suddenly I felt better about my upcoming birthday. Maybe I do have a few good (stiff) years left.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Have I Not?

There are holes in my upbringing,
knowledge, absent.
Consider Walden, the woods-lived
life--the proud pond;
sixty-one acres of knowing,
trusting simple existence:
that it was enough.
                -Kate Churchill

From The Writer's Almanac, July 12, 2014~
David Henry Thoreau was born July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. He went to Harvard, but he didn't like it very much, nor did he enjoy his later job as a schoolteacher. He seemed destined for a career in his father's pencil factory, and in fact, he came up with a better way to bind graphite and clay, which saved his father money. But in 1844, Thoreau's friend Ralph Waldo Emerson bought land on the shore of Walden Pond, a 61-acre pond, surrounded by woods, and Thoreau decided to build a cabin there. It was only two miles from the village of Concord, and he had frequent visitors. During the two years he lived there, Thoreau kept a journal that he later published as Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In the conclusion to Walden, Thoreau wrote, "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."