Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I don't think I need to password protect my blog. The other night, I played around with new templates for awhile. If I am going to make a little home here again, I need to dress it up a bit. I really like CSS and blog design, but I don't want to get caught up in that right now. This is orange and swirly. That makes me happy. I really respond to bright colors.

But after it was all dressed up, I felt sort of paralyzed. So, I wrote one of the most maudlin and whiny blog posts that has ever been written. And had the good sense to realize early into it that I did not have to push that orange button that says PUBLISH POST. I could hit the soothing blue SAVE NOW button. So, that is what I did.

Yesterday morning, I decided to go on strike. "Against what?" Dereck asked me via IM. I thought I could detect a certain wariness in his tone (except that he was typing, so I was projecting). "Against the crazy," I told him. Not the crazy so much as the depression, the endless loop of frustration I've been caught in. When I wrote that blog post Sunday night, I didn't have any idea how I could get off the merry-go-round. But somehow, yesterday, I knew.

It was sort of a combination of things that revealed themselves. I closed the computer yesterday, determined not to spend all day either looking for jobs or sending off resumes or wondering what I was missing. I grimly assessed that if I were smarter or more creative, I'd have found a way through, out, or around this. I decided that every other person on God's green earth gets to spend time cleaning their house without fear of judgment because they are cleaning instead of searching for more employment. So, in that case, I could spend some time on hearth and home too. In fact, I think it's generally encouraged.

I vacuumed, and then I got a basket full of unmatched socks. I turned on the television and stopped surfing at 8 Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. I wanted to see Kasey Cuoco in it, as I like her character Penny on The Big Bang Theory. Of all the episodes to be airing, my introduction to the show was the episode in which the family deals with Paul's sudden death, which mimicked that of John Ritter, the beloved actor who died far too young. I sat and folded and sniffled a bit. With the second load of clothes, I got smarter and put on some Lie to Me.

While I was vacuuming and folding and sniffling and watching, I sort of gave my unconscious mind a break while I was awake and let it work on some stuff for awhile. A friend asked me last week if she could hire me to help her with some writing. I agreed, and she was happy with the results, and I got a little ego boost and a reminder that my lack of projects right now is not because I am incompetent. And by projects, I mean outside of my part-time contract here in town. But that contract is up on March 31, 2011.

So, as a result of doing this work and kind of calming down all day to take care of my home and things for my family, I found myself blurting out a small business idea to a friend. So, that's something I hope to launch soon. Last night at dinner, Dereck and I were talking about the permaculture center here in town. We were saying that it's hard to go backward in time and also standard of living to a permaculture kind of life. Maybe if we didn't have teenagers, we could consider it. Maybe sometime we will. But that conversation, paired with all the crocheting I've been doing, and a reminder that I make really good bread (I'm trying not to be boastful, but really. I have earned my stripes.). And suddenly it started to gel that when I had a much busier schedule as a medical writing consultant, I still got my paychecks from a number of different sources. It takes getting used to. Having a set monthly income is a gift, and I've had it long enough now to get soft. I have become dependent on it-- and despondent at the thought of no longer having it.

Wow. Need to get a grip.

Really, it's technology that we would have a hard time giving up. Both the acquisition of it and the monthly fees to sustain: internet, cell phones, cable, World of Warcraft, and so on. But how much do we *need*? What and where can we cut so that it is feasible for me to pursue things like writing a lot more while still putting bread (no matter who makes it) on the table? And why is it important for me to be able to pursue that right now? Because it's time. It's time for me to seize my career instead of waiting for it to come and invite itself in. And not just a way to make money. I want a career. And my vocation is that of writer. So, in order to have a career, I must write. And in the spaces in between, I will write grants and edit manuscripts, I will crochet hats and scarves, and I will bake bread, and do whatever else I can to bring in money. I want, but do not need, new shoes for Fall. I want but do not need to buy new books. Jen, meet Library. We have put our Netflix on hold.

And all of this is because I'm a freaking ant and not a grasshopper. If you looked at my bank balance, you might think I was being premature. However, I look at that and think, "Income in April. Okay, now think about May." Being an ant is hard. You are so small that every crumb you carry back to your hill or your nest or your hive or your swarm or wherever it is that ants have to travel to makes just a tiny dent in the amount of food you all need to survive the winter. I'm an ant making tiny dents, almost imperceptible to the human eye.

But what I have come to see this week, thankfully, as a way to preserve my own mental health and the subsequent happiness of my family, is that what was working before-- making my entire living from medical editing-- is no longer working. I need a different infrastructure, a different way of looking at how much money I think I need to earn, and from where I feel I need to earn it. If my primary identity and career are that of WRITER, then anything I am doing that is not writing is feeding my family. However, the WRITER will feed me. And frankly, I'm starving to death.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hickory dickory dock

I don't want to think of this as a return to blogging. I don't know yet whether this is a solo post or a beginning-- I don't want to commit to it, because the commitment won't be genuine. I do need a platform that encourages daily writing, though. If I get warmed up by blogging, I'm hoping that will lead to more work on other writing projects I seem to have a hard time opening and working on.

One of the bad things about blogging over a period of years is that you can see when you haven't made any real progress in your life. For example, I'm once again struggling with not having enough work to keep me really busy, and that leading to depression. I start to think, "If you were smarter/more creative/better at what you do, then you wouldn't be in this predicament. This is all within your control, and the fact that you are attempting to control it unsuccessfully means that you are simply not good enough. Your all is not good enough."

Writing it down is helpful. It's easier to see on paper how ridiculous and whiny and self-victimizing that train of thought is. Dereck is really good at saying, "Okay, you've done your best, so just wait for a bit and see what comes of it."

I tend to think that consequences should be immediate. It was so easy for me to get new clients when I first started consulting that I grew to expect that. I could simply ask the universe, and I would go check my email and have a new project or a new client. This Fall, I've had three promising opportunities that I've had to halt in the middle of discussions because they required relocation on my part. This has been incredibly frustrating, because there are so few opportunities to earn money here, if this community is the sole source of that income. People are facing losing employment at the university. It's not just me who is facing this. In my case, it's just a shorter contract this year that has me in a dither, worrying six months in advance about what I will be doing in April.

I am a worrier. I cannot, now that I know this situation exists, wait until March or April to worry about April. In April, I will be worrying about August. I've always been this way. You can tell me that worrying is a waste of time. Well, so is playing Bejeweled Blitz, but I still do it. You can tell me that worrying isn't good for my health. I will point to the cigarette in my hand. I am a worrier. Some people are neatniks, some people are hipsters, some people are jocks, some people are geeks. I am a worrier.

I just re-read the word worrier as "Warrior" and laughed. I wish I were a Warrior! I admire warriors. I can be inspired by them for brief glimpses. I can be a warrior for others, on their behalf. I think I can calm people and bolster their spirits genuinely and provide a groundedness and support for them that I cannot bring to myself. You would think that in order to provide strength for others that I would have some kind of perception of personal strength, but it's really quite the opposite. I'm much more likely to experience self-loathing and feelings of personal uselessness.

On the one hand, worrying is useless, but if you're always doing it, people can't accuse you of ambivalence and apathy. So, I must be afraid of those labels. If I can't support myself when I've worried about it for six months, then it isn't necessarily my fault that I have failed, it isn't necessarily something I deserve. Wow, there are some really mean and vicious voices in my head. I was just starting to wonder where *those* came from when it dawned on me.

Writing really is great. I really have to start doing more of it just for my own benefit. Blogging has really spoiled me, I think. I have a hard time writing now when I am the only audience, whether it's journaling or whether it's working on a creative writing project I may someday want to publish. I like the immediate gratification of blogging. I like having readers. I like the feedback. I tried starting a paper journal, but I write so slowly with pen and ink anymore that I lose thoughts before I can write them all down. I am an extremely fast typist, though.

So, I've created password-protected documents. But I have a hard time opening and beginning to work on it. The password makes it seemed locked down. All of these interior barriers I've let my mind set up around any work I try to do. How did this happen? When I was young, writing was as easy and necessary as breathing. Now, I feel breathless. I can't remember what it was that made writing so easy: my own room? Lots of time alone? Taking my notebook and pen down to the basement to watch television and write? It wasn't just privacy-- I was an avid journaler in college when I was surrounded by roommates and other people.

Oh yes. Silly me. My journals were subpoenaed during my divorce. If that isn't enough to shut you down as a writer and make you afraid of doing it in anything but a very ALREADY public forum, then I don't know what is.

Any suggestions on how to get over this?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The most reassuring lie

She is sleeping too much. When I was here three weeks ago, I noticed it and thought she was tired from the week. She gets out of bed and dresses. Then she nods off in the leather recliner, her head tipped back, mouth open, snoring, audible over the impossibly loud volume of the television. In the winter, it's basketball; in the summer: baseball. She rouses briefly to drink an ensure at lunch time, then sleeps away the afternoon. She falls asleep in the car on the way home from dinner. This does not keep her from sleeping at night.

My dad and my brother silently pass sections of the paper back and forth. My brother points out a half-page spread advertising the book The Lonely Polygamist, featuring the author Brady Udall. I sneer. Brady and I were friends (?)/friendly our freshman year of college at Brigham Young University. He is part of the fabric of my memories from that time, that luminous time in my life. We went to a dance together (Sadie Hopkins), and sat on an outdoor grate in the dark with hot blowing air warming us. I think it was November, but it probably wasn't that late into Fall. I don't remember what we talked about. I still have old pics around somewhere.

I sneered because when I knew him, he was a reader, and I the writer. (As Dereck just pointed out to me, "Hey, he got out there and did it." True.) I remember walking through downtown Provo with him during the spring term of our freshman year, when the town had emptied as much as Provo ever did, and perusing used bookstores. He asked me if I had read Harlan Ellison. I still have not.

Now our roles seem to have reversed. I pick up his book at the airport and read the jacket, look at his largely unchanged face. Ah, men, since you don't carry other people within your bodies, you are so much less subject to change than we are. Then I set it down and buy a paperback instead.

Almost every time I come to visit, my mother persuades me (mostly through asking incessantly) to take her shopping. She buys clothes she regrets within 5 minutes, and my father is left to return them. This visit is different. My brother drives our dad to the doctor, so I spend the day with our mother. She really can't/shouldn't be left alone for longer than a half hour. On the rare occasions that she finds herself alone, she calls the neighbors and frets. She speaks of buying a bathing suit. I do not answer.

Instead, I drive her to the Senior Center. We ask about classes, buy a membership for $3. I sign her up for a beginning computer class that she has already failed. An oil painting class she will never attend, because it meets too early in the morning, but I am feeling sort of desperately optimistic. There is a chance she will attend one of the free handicraft classes. The woman at the desk says, "You can bring your project."

"I don't have a project," my mother tells her.

"No," I say cheerily, "but you have a crochet hook and yarn! And maybe someone can help you get started." Actually, I know from experience that this has about as much chance as the computer class. However, even if she can just show up and sit and not nap, that will be enough.

She repeats like a parrot that she wants the crochet class. I tell her that this is the handicraft class. She tells the woman at the desk she'd like to take an art class. I point to the oil painting class description on our brochure, upon which I have been circling classes and writing "Free" with arrows pointing to them. I ask for a stapler and staple all the receipts together to the brochure, to put on the refrigerator later. My mother bristles when I say about oil painting, "We just signed you up for this... remember?"

Next, we go to the art supply store. However, it's not for supplies for her class. There is a difference between paying $3 for a class and droppi9ng $100 on supplies I'll just end up sneaking into my suitcase on subsequent visits.

We get pastels, a coloring book of geometric shapes she picks out and hates 5 minutes later. We get some sketch pads and pencils for me. I get an instruction book on drawing Mythological Creatures for Sam, but dissuade her from buying a $20 water color instruction book. In the evening, she watches me make rudimentary sketches: circles with shading. A tree and some grass. She wishes out loud for an instruction book, but I am loathe to give her Sam's. She won't use it. And I have already told him about it. I bought a paperback the other day, and she immediately asked me if she could have it. I order chicken with goat cheese for supper when she gets the Marsala, and she stares longingly at my dinner and picks at her meal. She drinks half my beer, after asking for a "taste." She wants what other people have. However, as soon as she has it, her interest immediately wanes.

I get out the pastels and coloring book. She no longer likes the geometrical shapes, and claims she needs something more whimsical. She knows that I am worried because she literally eats, sleeps, and poops. That's it. She is in pain and depressed. She isn't allowed to drive anymore. But this sleeping bothers me intensely. It's pathological. Even if she colors like a child, it is better than the newborn state she has entered. My father says he'll consider... something when she is either incontinent or hurts herself or others. My brother and I hear the sound of inevitability and wonder why the consummate Eagle Scout is failing to prepare. My brother and I take a walk after dinner and discuss the issue. We fear our window of getting our parents to move to one of our states has passed. We envision continuing to trek to Utah to visit them in assisted living. My father is an immovable object. He is still cognizant, competent. I read a copy of his will. It takes a court order or two doctors to declare someone incompetent. My father is in no danger. My  mother is another story. I suspect I could find more than two doctors who would be willing to sign away the remaining remnants of her independence and dignity.

She looks at the coloring book she picked out and now hates. She says she is tired. She repeats that it isn't whimsical enough. For 15 minutes, she pleads to be let out of the task of picking one shape from one page to color. She says she will do it tomorrow. I insist, until she has colored 5 geometrical shapes. She pauses after the first square to ask if there are instructions somewhere for the coloring book. I stare. "Have we really come to this?" I say quietly. "Can you truly not do this?"

I mentally shake myself afterward. I give her the crayons and colored pencils I have brought with me. I give her two of the three blank sketch pads. I give her my unread paperback. I put my arms around her and tell her everything is going to be OK.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gloaming

Several months ago, my friend John told me that he had a belated birthday present for me from last year's birthday: He had tickets to go see Avenue Q in Cedar Falls, Iowa. At the time, that seemed very far off. We had an entire winter to endure and survive first.

John is the friend who turned me on to both Rent and Wicked. He had a long grudge against Avenue Q when it beat Wicked for the Tony.

We stayed with John's parents. I felt like a kid again, because his mother made us dinner (bacon/shrimp quiche, strawberry pie!!!) and we went with them, in the back of their mini-van, to the show. His mother also baked us cookies to take home with us. But John stole my cookies.

I had had reservations (no pun intended) about the show, which I shared with John ahead of time, because all I really knew was that there were muppets. I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy it, because I don't like cartoons, generally (i.e., The Simpsons). I needn't have worried-- I loved it. Of course, in addition to being a good (if not one that will endure for the ages) show, the cast was phenomenal. So much energy and talent. They acted and sang their little hearts out, and it was such a pleasure to watch.

I am now following some of the cast on Facebook and Twitter. John and I speculated that they probably went back to their hotels after the show to sleep and take care of their voices-- but I found out that they had gone to a strip club. They must have gone to Waterloo (that is an Iowa joke).

Then, we went out with some of John's friends from High School, and went back to his parents' house very late and ate strawberry pie.

I slept in the next morning. John and I went out for tapas, and then we shopped some of the city's boutiques. I was charmed into buying some replacement wine and cocktail glasses for our birthdays. This is my entire birthday month, by the way, LOL. I can justify many things.

The Hy-Vee there has an olive bar, so we went and got so. many. olives. They were Dereck's Easter present. Then, we got some cheese and crackers and huge Diet Cokes for the ride home. The ride home was just beautiful. Why is Iowa so much prettier than Missouri? I told John on the way up, "This is my favorite light-- the purplish light when the colors are all very vivid-- the Gloaming."

John was stunned not only that someone else had noticed that light, but that there is actually a name for it. I was stunned too when I found out about the Gloaming-- I think it's one of the coolest things ever. You see it after rain sometimes, as we did  Friday, but I used to catch it daily when I was in college. I would be on my way to Ellis Hall for poetry class with Wayne Dodd, and I somehow thought the magic light was connected to that magic class, to the experience of being young, in love with poetry, in love with Spring, in love with a man I later divorced. Isn't the grandeur of everything we love, though, somehow linked to its impermanence?

When I got home, we chilled with some friends and drank some wine I'd picked up in Cedar Falls. And then it was Easter.

Usually, I try not to eat before running, but I couldn't say no when Dereck offered to make Easter brekkie. So, he made us some bacon he had braised the day before in HONEY BOURBON. He also made us an egg in toast, but did I tell you about the BACON? The only thing that kept me from eating more of it was the fact that I was going running. But that did not stop me that night. Sinfully good.

Carol and I had planned a 5-mile run for Friday morning. We went three. I went 5 Thursday evening. Then, on Easter, we had again planned a long run, and we did 3. We are both a bit creaky right now in training (though hills are getting easier). We decided to hold off on a long run til this weekend so we can make sure we don't get injuries. Chafing season has begun too. Yay!

Then, I made bread dough, went to Hy-Vee, got eggs, boiled the eggs for decorating that we never got to, and cleaned a bit, showered, dressed in a dressy dress, and our company was arriving and bringing yummy wine and yummy deviled eggs (they made the yolks with roasted red peppers, oh yes they did) and dirt cake. So good. Dereck grilled some of our grass-fed steak and we had olives (of course) and cheese, asparagus, lentils and tomatoes, and a lovely salad. It was a great meal. And my body has hated me all day today for what I ate this weekend, but I would do it again.

Today was very low key. Ran 3.3 miles, and we had leftovers for dinner while Dereck got to go eat sushi with a guest speaker. Then, after dinner, Christian and I took the puppy and headed out for the gas station to get pop. As we were passing the run-down school we live across from (that the university owns), I saw Tommy standing, his group of female-12-year-old friends sitting in a circle, and a university police officer writing in a notepad. So, I headed across the grass toward them. I said, "Can I be of assistance?" and she looked at me like I should butt the hell out, so I pointed at Tommy and said, "I am the young man's mother."

She ran my driver's license, which irritated me, but I guess that is what you get when you walk up and say, "I am responsible for HIM." Apparently, someone had called and reported Children! Playing! With large metal pipes! And hitting a concrete wall! and going down some stairs! Oh my!

The cop took down our information, wagged her finger a bit, but ultimately was nice to the kids before letting them go. Yeah, nice to them after one of them had had a panic attack (I discovered later) and another one was still in tears when I got there. The kids were all slightly traumatized, and I don't think they will touch stuff over at the school again. I have to admit, I was slightly impressed with Tommy for standing his ground and literally remaining standing when the girls were sitting.

I have no idea why that was or whether it meant anything at all, but if I were writing a story about Tommy, he would be standing at his full height, arms folded, trying to be cool. That would really say a lot about the character of Tommy  in the story: A little bit of cheek (he may have been asked to sit and refused for all I know), and bravado. He was nervous and scared, but ultimately ready to defend himself. He told me after that he could have outrun the cop. This is true. And she would have asked the girls where he lived, and then he would have really been in trouble, and I told him this. I said, "You should be freaked out by this. And don't make me nervous by trying to tell me that you're not." I also explained that even though the kids hadn't damaged anything, nor had that been their intent, it wasn't their property. Even though the school appears to be abandoned, it is not.

Tommy said, "I never thought this [shake down by the police] would happen to me until I was about 23."

I said, "Well, maybe now it won't happen when you're 23."

One can hope.

The cop told the girls she wasn't going to talk to their parents, but in hindsight, after I then went over to check on H, who was home alone and freaked out (I gave her many hugs, told her they hadn't done anything wrong, invited her to come with us, but she was fine staying home), and then called another girl's parents, I thought maybe the cop hadn't realized that a bunch of freaked out kids were going to go home and tell their parents anyway, so maybe it would have been nice to make a little call to explain? I don't know how to reach the parents of two of the other girls, but another neighbor does, and so it goes. Small town. Tommy also remarked, "I wish all this didn't happen so... publicly."

Yeah, no kidding. Small town.

Last week, I drove to Quincy, IL, and back two days in a row to pick up (then drop off) a grad school friend of Dereck's from the train station. He gave a talk here. He got to hear all about how much I hate Missouri and Kirksville on our ride. I said, "I'd show you where you're staying, but that will ruin most of Dereck's tour."

Later I said, "Maybe you guys should bike so it will last longer than 5 minutes."

I'm a terrible person. There are so very many reasons I am going to hell.

But I hope you are well.

The Time of the Roly Polies Has Begun

My six-year-old passes seasons by their bugs
and tells us
April is the time of roly polies.
My three sons and I
walk down to the lagoon,
stop for newborn leaves curled around their branches
like the inner petals of the artichoke
heavy with butter
we ate for supper last night.

The two older boys run to hide til I
burst after them, an elephant,
clump through yellow grasses, boom and bellow,
swipe with open hands.
Overgrown bushes and
clumps of young elms
stand to watch around the dried and leafy oval.

Across the clearing,
the spot I just left,
green and white cloth moves
against the gray-barked trunks.
Two-year-old Tommy, lonely with the sentry trees,
strips his shirt sleeve, calls me back with
one bare arm,
pale as the artichoke
cut at its alabaster heart.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

White Chinook

Often you wake
surrounded by sleeping forms

husband, baby, child
and it is dark.

Wind is blowing
from the back of the house,

you hear bells
on the front porch,

windows shut, front door locked
your bedroom door is closed.

No one answers when you speak
sees you sitting in darkness.

What you hear is sleep
breath and chimes

sound the wind carries
all the way over to the house to you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Running out of things to say

I don't know what to write about. I realize I haven't been here for awhile. I could write about the day I spent 6 hours cleaning my house. Or the great dinner party we had that night. Or I could write about the grant I'm writing, and how intimidated I am by budgets. Or, I could write about the contract that is ending in May, and how my nonchalance about it borders on irresponsibility.

I finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I read a crap book during the time it took Amazon to send me the next book in the series, and then, last night, began reading The Girl Who Played With Fire. I am obsessed with Lisbeth Salander, even though the only person I discuss her with is my father. He recommended the books. I want to go to Sweden and be a writer now. Salander is NOT, by the way, a writer in Sweden. She is a goth computer hacker with a harrowing past. But if living in Sweden (and smoking 60 cigarettes a day, by the way, which killed him before he could write all ten books for this series) can help me write like this, sign me up. (Kidding-- everyone knows that to be a truly great writer, you have to go live in the South and be an alcoholic!)

Lisbeth is truly bad ass (and if you ran with me, you would know that I talk about my desire to be bad ass during about 90% of our runs; it has now overcome my desires to have a great ass and to buy a bikini this summer). She has had said harrowing past (which we continue to learn about), yet she is by no means a victim. Lisbeth gets revenge. Tiger Woods would have had a real problem with Lisbeth Salander. She is also a genius. And Salander thinks about more interesting things than I do. I have my loop of thoughts that circle and iterate (kids, husband, coffee, food, Facebook, work, my puppy, my parents, running, and Radical Honesty) rather uselessly. Salander has a photographic memory and has memorized Dimensions in Mathematics and solved Fermat's Last Theorem. She also lives in Grenada and sort of lopes around writing calculations on cocktail napkins and prying into her neighbors' affairs. Granted, she has a lonely, empty, kind of horrific existence, but she is fascinating. And instead of thinking about mathematical proofs or how to improve conditions in Chile or Haiti, I am thinking about someone who doesn't exist.

It's a little demoralizing.

I know people, however, who do not read fiction. And while I can appreciate this, I will always read fiction.

Dereck said something Friday night that honestly astonished me. A friend asked, "What was the first book that made you cry," and as I was searching my memory, Dereck said he didn't think a book has ever made him cry. We will have to fix that directly, and I, apparently, will have to finally read 100 Years of Solitude.

[Tommy just came in before bed, talking about how a character on an episode of the show Community had run forward into her own pepper spray. "She was trying to be a bad ass. More like a dumb ass. But what's the difference, really?" Thanks, son!]

Running is starting to take over. It used to be that I ran so I could keep in shape (now that my medication change has helped me get into shape). I ran so that occasionally, I could eat peanut M&Ms, and still be able to button my pants.

Friday, we ran 2.5 miles. I had had a very slow work out week. Yesterday, we ran what we thought was 7, but was actually 7.7. And I don't mean that we ran 5, walked two. I mean we ran 7 and walked parts of the .7. Then, today, we ran over 3 as our recovery run. Our bodies are breaking down, hopefully to be rebuilt with muscle. My knees hurt. Carol's left calf is tight. Mine has been tight on and off for three years. I am thinking of taking up yoga, as I am stretching now to make sure that my muscles get elongated and not bunchy. Carol (5'2") laughs when I say that I feel short, squat and fat (I am 5'7"). However, Carol's thighs are the size of my wrist.

Our goal for the next two weeks is to run 8 miles each Saturday (we run at least one long run per week, and balance out the rest of the week with 3-to-5 miles depending mostly on time, with one day off) (we have a lovely, flat course for the 8). When we run 9, it will be a personal best for us both.  I have to tell her that I am going up to Cedar Falls next weekend with John to see Avenue Q. He got tickets for my birthday LAST year. It's kind of ridiculous when one of your first thoughts is that you will have to work your run around your fun, isn't it?

At the same time, we are snarky on our runs about the middle-aged women (besides us) at races who have sun-and-wind-leathered faces from hours running outside, the women who don't smile, who don't chat with us, and who wear T-Shirts that say, "If you don't puke, you're not running hard enough." What kind of quality of life do they have? I always wear my hair in a ponytail, and I am running out of pants that fit me. They either threaten to fall off, or I have to wear a belt and they just look stupid. But I don't want to buy new pants NOW because I'm in between sizes. Not quite there yet. So, I end up just wearing my jogging clothes all day. I build my days around my runs. I have to plan what I eat (not too much before hand, don't pig out after or you'll GAIN weight while training), my sleep (don't stay up that late; it will ruin your run), and my work schedule all around my runs. Or at least keep them in mind. It's almost like the running is a newborn I have to take constant care of.

I am starting to eat and sleep to run, instead of vice versa. I colored my hair brown in part because it's too much of a time suck to maintain the blonde (also? Too damaging. Also? Ridiculous). What is the point in running all these miles when I just walk around in sweats and a ponytail all day? Carol can't even wear a skirt to church without people commenting on her bony knees and how the veins pop out of her legs. She thinks they are disgusting. I think they are beautiful and bad ass. I can't wear skirts because they are too big now.

I'm not really complaining, you know. For one thing, training for a half-marathon is a choice. For another? It's a privilege. I will be 41 in one month. And I ran almost 8 miles yesterday. That is a gift, my friends.

So, even though, like my friend Libby from High School who reads a lot and is a Dean of Students and has lovely dogs and drinks wine and enjoys the same pleasures (a good meal; a good bath; exercise) that I do, she claims she feels boring, and often,  I feel boring too. One of the reasons I don't blog is that I really don't know what to say-- because I'm doing the above-- or because I'm thinking too much or having conversations so private that they both exhaust my desire to write and there is just too much to write, and you don't have the background and context, so where do I begin?

Still here. Time goes by. Things happen. The sun goes up, the sun goes down. Just like always.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Running away with my thoughts

Bah. I'm tired today and a little emotional-- probably hormonal. I can tell I'm starting to make mountains out of molehills, so I am trying to nip these little thought loops in the bud. Sometimes I am a big fan of being a masochist, and making myself upset by the little stories I tell myself. Stories that either used to be true, and now aren't; aren't a big deal; or just are not true at all.

There is a group run (for Kirksville Multisport) this evening at 5:30. I know Carol would like to do it, but she was also looking last night for people who run at her pace-- which is significantly faster during races than mine. So, that means I'm looking at a 6.5 mile run by myself-- or alone in a crowd of people who run faster than I do. I think I'm going to give her a call, but I'll probably run earlier today by myself just so I can clear some cobwebs. I am feeling a little twitchy, like I should get outside and move my body before I can concentrate on thinking work. That's one of the reasons I'm writing this morning, in an effort to clear my head a bit.

So, far with my dad, no news. He should get a call today or Friday with the results of the scan that was done (looking for cancer) on Monday. He said Tuesday was a long day with his finger amputation, and then he dipped his bandage in ketchup at McDonald's on the way home. He then drove himself back up to Salt Lake City yesterday, in spite of the fact that he'd not only had surgery done on his dominant hand, but they also removed cancer cells from his elbow (lymph nodes) and under his arm (same). He claims not to be feeling sore, not needing his pain killers, but I'm not sure a two-hour drive is a good idea anyway. Today they get a day at home, then back up tomorrow to have staples removed. I probably should have gone out this week despite his protests and despite the financial cost. But I didn't. So, move along. I think my brother is going out there this weekend.

Also, as people keep telling me, if he does have more cancer that requires treatment, I'll need to go out. His brother-in-law lives nearby and drove them on Tuesday. But his brother-in-law is older than my dad is. I'm not [trying to be] ageist, but all these old people driving is making me nervous.

The kids are with their dad this weekend. Yesterday, despite being told that there would be a lot of waiting around and boredom, Tommy came to the St. Patrick's Day run. He jogged up to the DuKum with me and Carol. Then, he found some classmates to hang out with before the run. He ran pretty well! He did the 1.5-mile run, and someone handed him a glass of water at the end. He did it in 19 minutes and something seconds. I know this because he says he came in at the same time as Royce, who did the 5K in 19 min 2 seconds.

I did not meet my personal goal of not walking during the race-- but during my first mile, I did it in 10 min 30 seconds (which is quite a bit faster than the 13-minute mile I usually train at); at mile two, I was still well under 22 minutes (so still going faster than 11-minute miles); then I got tired, and had to walk a bit during the third mile, but picked it up and ran the last half-mile hard. My time was 34 minutes, even, as I heard it. Nice, because my time last race was 37 minutes and more than 30 seconds. So, I shaved off some nice time. That wasn't even a goal!

I did meet my goal of not coming in last. In fact, people kept coming in for awhile after I was done. I was also out of breath and tired after the run-- I hadn't really been at the last run, because I didn't run it hard enough. My high school track coach used to get pissed because I'd hold back during my runs. My foot doctor (from 13 years ago when I had one) was at the race wearing a green shirt that said, "If you're not puking, you're not running hard enough." I told Carol, "If I don't feel like crap at the end of this, I'll kick my own ass." So, I felt like I acquitted myself well, despite the walking.

Should *really* *really* just give up the cigarettes for good. I went to karaoke Tuesday night and not only smoked a little, but drank and stayed out late. I smack myself and think, "How much better would my run have been if I *hadn't* done that?"

Last night right after the race, Carol and I were talking about going back out for St. Patrick's Day after we'd gotten our families home after dinner and showered and changed clothes. I called her, almost dead on my feet, at around 9, and we both bailed. I was in bed by 10pm. That, of course, led to being awake for an hour or more in the middle of the night, and now I've been up since 6 a.m., and I would like a nap. Or more coffee. Or something. But at least since I'm writing right now, I am keeping the other stories at bay.

The sun is out, so I think I'll take a shower and walk up to the coffee shop, order some mocha, and see if I can get some more work done on the project I was working on yesterday.

What is new with you?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Picking Up

Where I left off...

I was so angry about my keyboard last night that I just got off the Internets and went to bed to read. Today, I tried to re-install my keyboard drivers. Fail. Then, I discovered that Dell customer support is via chat-- if you want to have it via phone, you have to pay for the privilege. So, I opted for chat. The representative took temporary control over my computer, and downloaded a new touchpad driver (after uninstalling the old one), and that seems to have fixed the problem.

Of course, with my bad luck with laptops, I immediately assumed that I was at fault for the keyboard's wacky behavior. Fortunately, I was not. Still, as Dereck said, you shouldn't have faulty drivers on a brand new computer. I don't care though. The problem is fixed. And it is turning out that using a PC is sort of like riding a bike. I am remembering how to do this. Though for some reason, I was just typing in Facebook in response to a message, and my keyboard is starting to sound like a typewriter... interesting and possibly alarming. I wonder what key I hit to turn this on. Why can't these things ever be simple? Open the box, take out the computer, plug it in, and Bingo. But no.

So, anyway, enough about my computer (the problem vanished when I first muted my sound and then turned the sound all the way up-- does it have a poltergeist?). In addition to interesting conversations about Truth and the State of Things (do we fear not being loved because we think that the endgame of existence is to be worthy of love? Do we feel unworthy of living if we don't think we are worthy of being loved? Despite the fact that the thoughts appear to be oddly juxtaposed, I do think that everyone who exists deserves to exist-- whether they are loved or not. That seems largely irrelevant. Nice bonus, but not a pre-requisite for life), I am also reading probably the closest thing to a Real Book that I've read in awhile. At my father's recommendation, I picked up The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Denver airport, when I was done with the thriller I'd read on the plane.

These are the four ways in which I know I am reading a Real Book instead of the Usual Crap I read:
  1. It took me a bit to get into it. I started it, then put it down for a couple of nights and was grumpy because I was a little bored by it. 
  2. I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. The plot is not predictable or formulaic.
  3. It's about twice the length of the Usual Crap. 
  4. It's going to give me nightmares.
That seems to be a hallmark (and a reason why I don't read) of Real Books. They are complicated, and also disturbing. Because if there aren't obstacles, if nothing happens, then why read it? I am fascinated with it, but also filled with dread about where I think some things are going. It does (sort of, kind of, a little bit) make me curious to read some *other* real books. Good thing the sun is starting to shine, so my tender psyche can hack it.

We decided to introduce the kids to The Godfather over Spring Break. I am not a film student, but I have seen that movie a bunch of times. And seriously, the more I see it, the more I see IN it. It not only holds up, but I think it gets better as I age and notice things and understand them more deeply. Sam is the only kid who made it through the full length of the movie, which we watched on Friday then Sunday. Michael Corleone really impressed him. As Sam put it, "Michael Corleone is BAD ASS."

Just watching that movie makes me want to go buy some Francis Ford Coppola red wine, because it is delicious. I told Sam that if he thought Michael was hardcore in the first movie, well, hang onto your hat. Dereck has not seen the second movie, so it should be great to watch that one with them both. I think that as far as good movies go, part I and II are equally good movies-- I honestly couldn't say that one was better than the other. The second one might even be a smidge better, technically, but the first one is my favorite. I love the wedding, the scenes in Italy, its wide-sweeping grandeur. I don't really care for the move to Las Vegas in the second movie. But the history and the story are rich and detailed and disturbing. I don't have to be nearly as careful with movies as I do with books. Maybe I just have a more visceral relationship with the written word than I do with images and the heard word.

On top of the conversation, the Godfather viewing, and the book I'm reading, we went to see Crazy Heart yesterday. It is a quiet little movie. To some extent, all of the ways you can make a movie about an alcoholic singer/songwriter have been tapped. This movie definitely had the typical elements of the performer whose personal life falls to pieces due to alcohol (not drugs in this case, unless you count the chainsmoking). But Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are just great to watch. Dereck said he had read somewhere that the critic thought Gyllenhaal had been miscast, but I thought she was terrific. I'm so glad her work was recognized in her Academy Award nomination. I just like to watch her move, watch her face, watch her think. Jeff Bridges is always terrific (exception: The Fisher King with Robin Williams. I hate that movie almost as much as I hate The Lion King).

So, the point of all of this is just that I've got all sorts of things rattling around my head right now, and that usually makes for a pretty happy Jen.

Sam is texting me that he doesn't feel well. He woke up this morning and asked for a hug because he had such a sore throat. He says he is having trouble focusing. He is at his father's. I replied that he should lie down for a bit. I may keep him home tomorrow just to nip this in the bud.

This morning in the car, Tommy was angry with us for making him change his shirt, so he tore into Christian: "You have officially become WEIRD!"

I said in my best, "Don't even try to talk your way out of this" voice: "Knock it off. I am so tired of you picking on him. Christian has a diagnosis of Asperger's. So, if he is doing things that you find quirky or odd or irritating, it is because he cannot help it. And it's not hurting you or affecting you anyway. Besides, I wouldn't change one thing about Christian."

I wasn't even really thinking about the fact that Christian was listening to all of this, until I saw him wiping his eyes in the rearview mirror. "Thanks, Mom," he said. "I worried that maybe you were irritated by me too."

In all honesty, I have been a tad irritated with him because every day he asks me what my favorite Disney movie is, and he is relentless about taunting me about my hatred of The Lion King. But I am not irritated by his Asperger's or his quirkiness. And I wouldn't change any of them for anything.

People always ask me how the kids are doing. I never know what to say to that. Christian is managing his diabetes well, but I have started to wonder, when he has an unexplained 'high' blood sugar, whether he is cheating a bit (which would be normal for a 13 year old kid, I think). He gets good grades, struggles with math. He likes to write, wants to be a writer, and enjoys watching The Nostalgia  Critic on the Internet. He doesn't often speak of it, but I know he struggles socially at school. The other kids don't seem to make fun of him. They ignore him, which may be worse. His speech is still a little hard to understand, so instead of taking the time to try with him, I think it makes them feel less embarrassed just to pretend he hasn't spoken. He is shorter than Tommy, and still has trouble with the motor skills required to tie his shoes. But he is funny and empathic, highly self-aware and intuitive, and sometimes he has a real attitude (namely about bedtime) that I am secretly proud of even as I encourage him to respect me. He is so mild-mannered and sweet that sometimes it's fun to see a little sass.

Tommy has matured incredibly since summer. He still doesn't like to change his shirt, but he does his homework, does his chores, and is a lot less belligerent about both than he was even a year ago. I mean, he is just pleasant about it now.  He adores our animals and actively plays with them. He likes to shoot the puppy across the hardwood floor, or make a wheelbarrow with him. Or just carry him around and put the puppy into people's faces, which I have to have chats with him about: "The dog may be floppy like a beanie baby, but he is a live animal, and he could snap and decide to bit someone when you do that." The dog really is so mellow it's ridiculous, though. All of the boys are still very affectionate, unless it's right before school and they are getting out of the van. Christian isn't bothered or embarrassed by blowing me kisses, but Sam and Tommy both pretend they have no idea who was driving that van they just hopped out of. Tommy has a natural gift with metaphor and simile that thrills my writer soul. He is also almost as tall as I am, and has started bathing voluntarily.

Sam. Such a little adult, but still asks his mother for hugs. I embrace every single one. When I think about Sam leaving for college in two-and-a-half years, my throat starts to close. Sam is the one I still have the most difficult time separating myself from. He is a mini-me. He looks strikingly like I did as a teen (poor him). He is kind, mature, scary smart, highly irritable, bossy to his brothers, a reluctant pet owner, introverted, shy, with a great sense of humor. The things that seem to concern him most in this world are the idea that someday we may develop the technology to download ourselves into computers-- that humans will some day lose their humanity. He has heavy heavy ideas weighing on his soul. He wants to change the world, even though I don't know that he realizes that that is what he is suggesting when he speaks of how we just need to cure AIDS already and move onto other things. He is furious with the government for not making that a priority. He is a true socialist in his soul, and I would not be surprised if he chooses not to live in America when he is finished with school. That both pleases me and breaks my heart. One of the things that astonishes me and compliments me most in this world is how much Sam likes me and seeks out my company. I don't know that I could ask for a greater gift as a mother. All three boys are like that-- but Sam is the oldest, and the fact that he still feels this way-- there are no words.

I don't really know how I got from point A to point Zebra. But that is how the boys are.

My father, today, is having dye injected into his bloodstream so he can be screened for cancer, to see if his melanoma has infiltrated more than just his finger. I am trying not to think about that.

Running is still going well, but I'm reaching the stage where I am getting hungrier, need more food. Blast it. Today, Carol had to get back by 4pm to leave for a kid's basketball game. I was finishing up a project and we didn't get on the road til 3:35, so we did our 2.5 mile route. And dammit if we didn't get back by 4. I am tickled pink. Carol has been tired, putting in extremely long hours at work. She commented today, "You are running faster than I am. I am having a hard time keeping up. You have now become The Dom." It's true that I am usually the driving force now behind our runs. I have noticed that when she is tired, she won't call me for a run. When she is on her game, she will call by 1pm, regardless of the day, to discuss running plans. So, if I haven't heard from her by 3pm, I know that she thinks she can wait me out, that I won't call and that day we won't run. This winter, I have surprised us both by not only calling, but by being the one pushing us to go farther, faster. I have to admit that my days are mostly centered now around these runs. It's a gift I give myself, and I am pretty selfish about it.

That's Life in Lake K-Vegas. How are you?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nope, haven't quit the Internets. Haven't quit blogging either. When I slow down in content here, it's a safe bet that my writing energies are focused elsewhere. They have been last week, so I have found that writing to be engaging enough that I haven't really needed another forum or outlet for it-- sorry! I have been having some interesting conversations about truth and honesty lately, also happiness and intelligence. I imagine that some people would argue that if you are truly intelligent, you would find the answer to happiness. But the only people I can really imagine saying that are sage, white-haired movie protagonists. Most of the people I know struggle with it. We compare anti-depressant prescriptions. We speak rather matter-of-factly about our depression and the ongoing role it plays in our lives. We wonder whether happiness itself is possible or over rated or why it remains so elusive to *us.*

One concept I have been introduced to recently comes from Brad Blanton and his philosophy of Radical Honesty. Not a big fan of Brad. I think Radical Honesty as a movement has far too many similarities to Mormonism in its fans' testimonies, and also the Charismatic Leader. But I admit that he has some interesting things to say. One of them is that there are differences between the actual experiences we have an in the stories we tell ourselves about those experiences. And it is possible to get lost in those stories, or to have them create negative cycles and spirals for us. I remember that right after my grandmother died, I started obsessing about my mother and her dementia. I couldn't stop thinking about my regrets about times I'd lost patience with her, worries about her asking for promises that I would never move her to a nursing home (I have never made such promises, and won't), etc. I finally went to my doctor and told him I thought I was depressed. I told him what was going on. He said, "You're not depressed. You're looping. You are trapped in useless thought patterns about things beyond your control. Stop it."

So, I did. It really was almost as easy as that. I stopped telling myself those stories and was able to get back to my life.

I have to pause. I am on my new computer, a Dell, and the keyboard is driving me batshit crazy. I have been trying to adjust the settings so it stops opening other windows every five keystrokes, but it's continuing to do so, so I have to stop, close the other windows, or hit undo when everything gets selected and deleted. I have never had a computer behave like this before.

If this continues, I am sending it back to Dell tomorrow. Grrr

Thursday, March 11, 2010


You can try to hold it
stand in the rain all day

hands cupped, head up, mouth open
you can even see

sun standing in that rain
and the drops will hit your face

arms and slide down
til they fall to the ground

The rain in your mouth sinks in.
You taste before you can

swallow. It sinks into
your tongue, becomes

part of you or part
of waters your body can make.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


One of my college buddies is breaking up with the Internets. He writes about it here. I'm sorely tempted to do the same thing. I did stop blogging for a long time, and I was fine with that. However, I have discovered that when I don't blog, I do not write.

I admire his chutzpah. He notes, significantly, that he is getting a divorce from the online world. The thing that holds me back from the same thing is that I think it might actually be as painful as getting a divorce. And I am grieving enough these days.

But perhaps not if I kept the email door open...

Monday, March 8, 2010

She doesn't cry in the dark*

The tears surprise her when she
pours her coffee, fills
the tub.

she presses hands against
salted sea-blue eyes:
for her grief,
then once more
for his.

*Diana, this is the last. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Another pome: This one has two versions:


no apples fall from these

fallow trees, my branches

ache in their empty poses

reaching upward, frozen

I have no honey

words to

drip into ears plugged

from years spent in closed

underwater spaces

winter briskness

slows life to

cold isolation

silent stillness

puffs of white air

we breathe

in, out

In February moonlight

I can give you this:

one hand on your face, one

at your waist,

your shaven neck my

frosty mouth



In February moonlight

I can give you this:

one hand on your face, one

at your waist,

my frosty mouth,

your shaven neck

I have no melted

whispers to

drip into ears plugged

from years spent in closed

underwater spaces

winter briskness

slows life to

silent stillness

puffs of white air


we breathe


Thursday, March 4, 2010


Earlier today, I got an email from a friend that made me realize that I'm writing this blog in shorthand sometimes. I [erroneous monkly] think that everyone has not only read Jenorama, but that you also realize when I am referencing things from 2008. Oops. I do this with Dereck frequently, and I often find myself saying, "Oh, you mean you can't read my mind?"

I find that inconvenient. However, I am willing to admit it is not his failing. I often also find myself saying, "For someone who earns a living communicating, how do I manage to do this so badly?" Obviously, I need an editor. But I would rather have a housekeeper.

I also expect you as, y'all or you all, not only to understand that the word erroneous above reminded me of Thelonius Monk, because the words rhyme (except for the "r" and the "l" of course, unless you are my friend John, in which case, they *do* rhyme perfectly), but I further expect you to then make the jump to MTV's Tabitha Soren not knowing who Thelonius Monk was. She then asked presidential candidate Bill Clinton who "the loneliest monk" was. [Also rhymes with with erroneous and Thelonius... are we following*? Lost? Sometimes, I think I must be the loneliest monk because my brain makes these leaps, like Sam Beckett, all by itself and all alone. It is times like this that I miss Karl the most, because he was usually leaps AHEAD of me, and for some reason, our brains sort of worked the same way sometimes].

What on earth did we do without hyperlinks? Ah, yes. We did not blog.

Would you believe that I haven't actually clarified anything yet? Yes? Okay. Without further ado:

1) The grant from hell was the 934-page monster I wrote during 2008. Its submission coincided with the death of my best friend. The two have merged as one terrible even in my mind.

2) The roof that is failing is actually a bit over our TV room, but mostly in the studio behind our house, that I use for as an office. That houses PAPER and COMPUTERS, neither of which like water. But the studio roof was repaired before the house roof, and by another company. The company that then fixed the house roof (also in Fall of 2008) managed to ruin the studio roof by tromping and dragging shit all over it while fixing the house roof. So, now, we have ceiling tiles that are sagging beneath the weight of so much water, like huge zits, and then exploding all over the place.

I go out there and stare underneath them and am sorely tempted to lance them like boils, but I really don't want to deal with the mess. Clearly, though, something needs to be done. And whatever needs to be done will cost monies. Le sigh.

3) The Mac has NOT, in fact, failed. It may, however, be epileptic. Time will tell. In the meantime, have decided to go ahead and get the Dell so when/if the Mac *does* fail, I won't have to wait 2 weeks for a computer. Truthfully, the Mac will probably get turned over to the kids or maybe even sold...

Clear as mud? ;)


*Last night in the car, Tommy asked us to remind him quickly of the definition of a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. We told him, and then Sam started talking about gerunds and participles, and I said, "No! Don't give him more than he asked for. You will just confuse him."

Sam: "Pronouns, prepositions...:

Me: "To Infinitive... And Beyond!" And to my complete joy, Sam burst out laughing hysterically. That's my boy. 

Which came first, the Karma or the Egg?

I am half-way through working on a manuscript, and I am literally nodding off, drooping over my computer. I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night. I got up around 7 a.m. because Christian spent the night with his father last night-- so no insulin or finger pricks this morning. However, I am dismally tired. I've been a little headachy the past couple of days (and today) and sluggish, very tired, so I haven't been running. I would really like to run today, but I think I am going to have to take a nap this morning just to get through the rest of my day. I think I am fighting off a little bug. I know there is one going around (when isn't there?). It could also just be exhaustion from an emotionally draining weekend. Even though I run and I'm feeling a lot better these days, I am still not very resilient. Don't have what my ex used to call that "hearty peasant stock" constitution. I am a delicate flower. (That is an inside joke: My father always used to tell me that I am no delicate flower, nor am I docile.)

Yesterday was sort of exciting: My MacBook Pro had a seizure and started making a clicking noise while flashing scary screens at me.

I manually shut it down and turned it off, and then it did this: 

Then it wouldn't even show me that much: Just blue screen of death with multiple vertical lines doing down the screen. I tried several times to restore it, after turning my house and studio both upside down looking for my external hard drive so I could back up new music and the most recent documents I hadn't had a chance to save yet. Of course, the stupid hard drive was in my laptop bag, right where a good little external hard drive should be. I didn't remember it being in there from my trip, though-- I usually try to take out everything except what I will really need, to save my back. (Funny, I never had to do this in my twenties...)

So, after hours and hours of dead computer, I decided that I better just order a replacement. This time, a Dell. No more Macs for this girl. Not intuitively a Mac person. I am a Windows, and I am OK with that. 

So, I ordered the Dell, nothing fancy, got the really, really, really super awesome advanced warranty program so if Aliens come down from space and shoot my computer with water guns, Dell will replace it. 

After we picked up the other two boys from their dad's, they wanted to see what my computer was doing, so I pressed the power button (without it being plugged in). It made a horrible noise and wouldn't turn on. So, I plugged it in and tried it... And I'm using it right now... It works again. 

I immediately backed up EVERYTHING. So, now I am wondering: Do I cancel the Dell order? What is wrong with my computer? I got this screen once on Monday morning when I was still in Utah, but I didn't have time to think about it then. Is this going to happen today? Tomorrow? Is this a video card, a RAM, a hard drive problem, or just a loose cable? How do I know? And oh yeah, Apple won't make their people work on the computers of people who SMOKE anymore, so what if I take it in and they say, Oh nonononono, we are not going to look at this. We might die of cancer if we look at this. You know. In 50 years. 

There are two competing truths here: 

1) I have been wanting this computer to die so I could replace it since, oh, um, I got it. 

2) It is really, really, really inconvenient to buy a new computer right now during Tax season. April truly is the cruelest month for the self-employed. I got a huge whopping check in the mail today, and every penny has to go for taxes. That is brutal and heartbreaking. Especially because our ROOF is FAILING. The new roof we got last year with money from the grant from hell. 

In a moment of schadenfrade, I actually laughed the other day when I was grousing about the guy who did our roof, and Dereck told me, "Well, his house burned down, if it makes you feel any better."

I mean, of COURSE it doesn't. But I did laugh. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When Doubt Becomes Knowing

on occasion it has come to me
you know me well enough

some have traveled far to get here
all I do
who have always been here
is stand

it is hard
to count the matches on the shore
I know they are there
because I am looking

for all my pretended wisdom
I am not calm
it does not then become easy
to mold myself to the present
is astonishing

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bucket List

This weekend was so brutal that I felt fairly crushed under the weight of it. I can tell when depression is settling in for a visit when I stop feeling that I have anything to look forward to. So, when I was on the plane today, I decided to figure out what I still need to do with my life. I have to admit, I do feel better now.

Here is my Bucket List, which I hope is a work in progress:

  • Maintain my close relationship with my kids. Give them whatever support for their growth and endeavors I can, while being able to be true to myself and what I would like to do with the next stage of my life.
  • Be good to my husband and help us both continue to grow and develop in the ways we seek.
  • Get my PhD in Creative Writing. I want the body of work I will have at the end of it.
  • Go to Alaska and see glaciers and bears. Seriously. I need to see a bear. And hopefully survive it. Go camping in the wilderness there, spend some time.
  • Go white water rafting again
  • Go skiing again
  • Go snow-shoeing and cross country skiing in Minnesota, dontcha know
  • Run a marathon (starting with the half I am running on July 3)
  • Grow a really long, groovy, hippy braid down my back
  • Camp in the desert again without a tent, just under the stars
  • Go visit Old Faithful (if you were a reader of Jenorama, you know why this is funny)
  • Go to Paris, England, Italy, Greece. Be a traveler, not a tourist. No fucking tourist packages. I want a backpack, a camera, a notebook, a pen, and a pack of cigarettes. I'd like to visit Austria. I think I can survive without ever visiting Germany.
  • Learn how to throw pots.
  • Break out my paints and overcome my fear of them.
  • Spend more time with Jes, Elliot, Beth, Mary, Vanessa, and Brad, my St. Louis crew
  • See Ilona again, more often, my Ottawa crew
  • See Carol Ann again, more often, my Seattle crew (Fall 2010 conference FTW!)
  • See Brooks, Kim, Suz, Jeny, and Dara again, more often, my BYU crew
  • See Mike again, more often, my OU crew
  • See Robert, Jason, Steve, Todd, and other Kim again, (East Coast OU crew)
  • Hang out with the Yeagleys
  • Vacation with Kathy Howe every year, my Minnesota crew
  • Have a huge party and invite ALL OF YOU
  • Go back to Athens, Ohio for a visit
  • Go back to New Orleans
  • Go back to Savannah
  • Travel
  • Find meaningful employment. To some extent I have it, but I think I would like to return to teaching. Literature, creative writing.
  • Go ghost hunting again. 
  • Heal myself.
  • Learn to write songs.
  • Watch Erica continue to become herself.
  • Pay off my debt
  • Continue to learn and embrace financial simplicity.
  • Read more “real” books. [Overcome my fear of mind-numbing depression caused by reading them]
  • Read more Faulkner.
  • Do a mandala. [Overcome my fear of them]
  • Go snorkeling again
  • Pet a dolphin
  • Learn more about coyotes and the role they play in my totem
  • Get the Karl tattoo on my shoulder
  • Figure out how to help young women be stronger, kinder to themselves, and more loving to themselves
  • Hang out with my brother, nephews and niece more
  • Go horseback riding
  • Survive my parents’ old age with some dignity and grace.
  • Face my hardships with some degree or decorum, dignity, grace, kindness, and love
  • Get the HELL out of Kirksville, Missouri
  • quit smoking

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Just as no one can prepare you for the complexities of bringing a child into this world, no one and nothing can prepare you for the utter suckitude of ushering your parents out.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where the sidewalk ends

Ran 4.85 miles today. It was a slow, really nice run, because I took a ton of pictures and amused myself vastly in the process of seeing how many LDS Churches I could find during one 5-mile loop.

Hidden Treasures

Just now, I was looking through my mother's desk drawers for a tape measure, so we could take her measurements for clothes shopping.

In the bottom drawer, I came across about 5 old cassette tapes from my BYU days that almost made me cry with surprise.

Most salient: Les Miserables and 10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe.

p.s. The birthday party was really fun. I couldn't have been more wrong or twit-minded.

Friday, February 26, 2010


My training suggests that tomorrow, I should run 7 miles. The long, Saturday run, after all. I just mapped out what 3.5 miles from my parents' house is, and it turns out it is almost exactly where I lived my Freshman year of college. Hee, I should map the distance to where I lived Sophomore year. So, run down, turn around, run back. Right?

I keep thinking about how long it took me last week to recover from 6.5 miles. I'm only here til Monday. This may sound like a huge cop out, but is it really fair to my parents to a) spend two hours running (oh yes, oh definitely, because there will also be walking) and then the rest of my stay here recovering from said experience.

The half-marathon is in July. I think I can have a shorter run tomorrow.

Titles are for people who can think of titles.

My dad went to the doctor today to have some stitches taken out of his finger. He said this morning that it was bothering him more than it had been.

He has a melanoma on the tip of his finger. The lymph nodes in his right arm look okay, but now they need not only to look more closely at the finger, but also to make sure there isn't cancer anywhere else.

He is going to have to have about an inch removed from his right ring finger. We are feeling pretty somber about it. Today my mother (who has chronic pain) noted, "Dad doesn't have any pain, but when he gets sick, it's serious." [See: Triple heart bypass in August.]

After we found out, I showered, and was checking in on my computer, and my mother remarked, "You don't seem very upset about Dad's finger. I'm very upset. Are you upset?"

I glanced at her and pulled a Spock*: "What would you like me to do? Would you like me to lie on the floor weeping? Yes, I am upset. But there is nothing I can do about it." 

"Will you come out when he has the surgery?"


This conversation occurred about 5 times in the next ten minutes. Mom wants me to come out when Dad gets his finger operated on. Dad says I don't have to. It was the opposite when he had the heart surgery: my mother thought they could handle things fine on their own. But an inch of a finger? Well, my dad might need help counting out her pills.

I don't mean to sound glib or bitter. I'm not. I'm just tense, and I will probably be tense throughout this visit. That's the way it goes.

Sigh. I will see when his surgery is scheduled. He probably won't be able to drive himself home, depending on the anesthesia.

Today, my mother and I debated whether or not her autonomy in wishing to drive to the grocery store on pain meds and with severe arthritis and slow reaction times was worth someone's life. We chose to disagree. Guess which side I fell on?

I took my mother to get her hair done, then, as I do every single time I am here, went to buy her some clothes that she won't like, that won't fit, and that I will have to return tomorrow. We came back, and it was sunny and gorgeous and almost 60 degrees. I changed into my running clothes and then heard my mother faintly calling to me from her bed. I should perhaps note that I absolutely fucking HATE when I hear her faintly calling to me from her bed. It grates on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. I went into the bedroom and she told me the clothes didn't fit.

I said, "Imagine."

"Can we take them back?"

"Yes. But not right now."

I left the room, and heard her faintly calling my name, so I faintly called back, "I am going running, and I cannot hear you."

I ran in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I am seriously irked that I do not and cannot seem to have more control over my thoughts. They are my thoughts, they are in MY head, and I do not want to have them. Is it enough just to bite my tongue, not to act on them? I found myself thinking on my run today, "I shouldn't have brought myself with me when I came out to Utah. Who thought *that* was a good idea?"

I take out on my body my frustration with my mind, running again today until I felt like I would throw up. My time on my workout seems to suck, unless you consider how much of a vertical climb up a mountain that I walked (about half mile). I will take pictures tomorrow.

This evening, we are going to the 50th birthday party of my cousin Greg. Greg has struggled with an incurable, familial, genetic disorder for years. It mimics Parkinson's. His older sister Nancy had it and died at age 50, so Greg's goal has been to make it to 50. I haven't seen him for about twenty years, since his wedding, which ended badly three kids later. Greg has lived with his father (my aunt died shortly after Nancy died, probably of a heart attack) for many years. He has turned into an extremely talented painter over the years, which I find heart-rending, admirable, and beautiful.

I don't want to go to the birthday party. It will be awkward. I ran 4 miles today. Greg is dying. I don't know him. I don't know what to say.

I want a nap.

*Leonard Bones McCoy: My God, man, you could at least *act* like it

was a hard decision...
Spock: I intend to assist in the effort to reestablish communication
  with Starfleet. However, if crew morale is better served by my
  roaming the halls weeping, I will gladly defer to your medical
  expertise. Excuse me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Driving down to the mall for a burger
Sitting in the backseat
40-year-old teenager
my parents sit in front , my mother
talks about neighbors
Connie doesn’t like the word dementia
So many variables

I stare out the window at the mountains
How beautiful the light is, hitting
Trees, brick buildings, windows.
Well, then what word should we use?
The sun lights up the bottom of the mountains,
Craggy brown rocks seep through snow.
There are just so many variables.
Breaking through
All that light


I am in Utah, otherwise known as the land of a thousand sticks of gum. Or maybe that's just my parents' house.

It hit 50 degrees in the car on the way to Provo from the airport. It was sunny and the skies were blue. So, even though I just got there, having sat a lot in the past two days, I immediately changed into my running gear and headed out.

I didn't want to take the time to map out a course before going today, so I decided to run out 20 minutes and then turn around and head back. I started by running half-way up Foothills Drive. I'll take pics tomorrow. I need to work on hills for the 1/2 marathon, but I didn't try to do the entire hill today.

Before I had gotten half-way in my run, I came across a small dog in the road. So, I paused my music and crouched down and tried to get the dog to come to me, so I could look at his tag and maybe return him. He growled and barked, so I sat down on some steps near the sidewalk, leading up to one of the many LDS church parking lots. I was sitting there, looking at the dog, who was growing and yipping and hopping toward the traffic, when two women drove past me in a little yellow car, glaring at me. I muttered, "It's not my dog. I don't even live here. I just got off a plane."

They pulled into the parking lot behind me, and the dog moved farther away, so I said, "Screw it," and continued on my run. Bad not-pet owner!

It takes me awhile to warm up sometimes when I run. I haven't run since Saturday. Took Sunday off, and then did the elliptical trainer Monday and Tuesday. My back is finally not hurting from the Sunday run anymore. Typically for me, once I hit the last leg of my run, I started to really hit my stride. And I found myself suddenly running faster. I was to turn right at the stop light and run about a quarter mile more to my parents' house, when I surprised myself by veering left and bursting into a full sprint. I ran the block hard, then crossed the street, ran another block at top speed, crossed the street, and repeated this for about six blocks until I felt like puking.

Then, I turned around and back.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I have one foot in Missouri, and one out West. Whenever I have a trip, the days leading up to it are sort of dreamlike: I still have things to do: Feed the children. Pack. Pick up minivan from the mechanic. Drop off a contract on campus. Laundry, errands, packing. I have a list. I can't find my sunglasses. My belt is too big. My glasses are resting oddly on my face and leaving a bright red mark by my nose that alarms my youngest child, but I can't be bothered to stop and have them adjusted. I wear contacts. I can't find my sunglasses.

I am reminded of a poem that I wrote twenty years ago-- is that meta, or just narcissistic? Or just evidence that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's the last stanza that I am reminded of. I actually say these lines to myself often: (will post the entire poem separately another time).


these are my concerns     oil
on the piano       cats

who keep their claws
perfectly out stretched


durable as egg


I walked through the snow today to drop off a contract for a project that has already been completed. Chasing down my own paychecks is one of the things I avoid the most, for some reason. If I could afford it, I would hire someone to take care of my invoicing and billing, depositing checks, etc. 

Speaking of meta and narcissistic, I was speaking with young poet Kasey today. She has a life story that should be written down. The fact that she is a beautiful writer just solidifies that fact. I told her that today. She said she doesn't think it's that interesting. I told her that that is how I respond when people tell me I should write a book about my first marriage. She replied, "I think it's fascinating." I said, "That is how I feel about YOUR life."

I think to some extent, we both worry that if we write about it, it will be viewed as a cry for sympathy, as, to quote Kasey, "an invitation to the pity party."

Her favorite book has some of the same subject matter. I said, "Why does this author get to write about it, and you don't?"

She said something about loving the author, but I'm not buying it. Kasey and I dribble little bits of information to each other, and she says things like, "Did he really do that?" and I say, "Is that a joke question?"  She makes offhanded comments, and I say, "I am absolutely horrified."

We sound like a fun pair, don't we?

Last week when I was with Aaron, we were standing outside, smoking Pall Malls (Garrison Keillor describes Pall Malls as "such a lovely cigarette for a young man," or something to that effect in one of his marvelous stories; I have decided that that makes it okay for me to smoke them sometimes too). Aaron said, "Most of the people I connect with the most are broken in some ways."

I have found that to be true of me too, though I am trying to balance that also with people who are either not broken or also fixed, lol.

Aaron also told me a quote by either Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut: "The difference between smokers and non-smokers is that non-smokers know they are going to die, but smokers know what they are going to die from."

While trying to find that quote exactly, I came across a couple of other ones I like:

Thank heaven, I have given up smoking again!... God! I feel fit.  Homicidal, but fit.  A different man.  Irritable, moody, depressed, rude, nervy, perhaps; but the lungs are fine.  ~A.P. Herbert
He who doth not smoke hath either known no great griefs, or refuseth himself the softest consolation, next to that which comes from heaven.  ~Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, What Will He Do With It? 
Here is a Vonnegut quote that approximates what Aaron said:
The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.-- Vonnegut
[By the way, you should go here to read more Vonnegut quotes. I forget how much I love him.]

Here is a Mark Twain quote, and then I'll stop:
...when they used to tell me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew the devotee they were wasting their puerile word upon -- they little knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it!
- letter to Joseph Twichell, 19 Dec 1870
It's probably wrong, but most smokers I know can identify with all of these quotes. Sometimes, if I am in the midst of telling a story from my life, I feel provoked to light a cigarette. I light it, exhale, and then gesture widely with the cigarette between the fingers of my right hand and say, "When people ask me why I smoke, I tell them, 'Why don't YOU smoke? Of COURSE I smoke!'"

Where was I? 

I was wobbling between today and Wednesday, hovering between now and then, hanging in the liminal spaces.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow Day

For once in their stupid little lives, the weather forecasters were right. 

Air Held and Let Go

His death was not air
held and let go:
gurgling, rise in the chest

head up, fighting for breath.
Years later

are no easier.
Hospital rooms, long
corridors, dark
curtains drawn.    She draws her body up

night after night going deeper.
morning awake

she is startled
she is here

she has found her way back.


It's snowing. I've heard we should get ten inches. We already have... 3 or 4? Big fat flakes. The kids have been invited to go to a movie this afternoon, and I need want to get to the store. Of course, with a diabetic kid, there are things you *should* have around like milk, orange juice, fresh fruit, and carbohydrate snacks. We can get through today and possibly tomorrow without a run to the store, but I don't like to cut things that close. My van is still in the shop, so we'll see how the car does in the snow.

I doubt the kids will have school tomorrow. I mean, it's possible, but MODOT is not the quickest at clearing the roads. I understand that the school district hesitates to cancel school because of financial and other bureaucratic reasons, but if I [still] lived in the country, there are days this winter that I would have openly flipped off in the general direction of the superintendent and kept my kids home anyway. As it stands now, we can walk it, so we have no excuse, except my general grumpiness when I have to clear off the car and drive on shitty, slippery streets just so my kids won't have to go to school in June. I feel for the teachers; the kids can suck it. If a bus has an accident, they might reconsider their priorities; just hope that isn't what it takes.

My back still hurts today-- mostly from being pressed against the back side of the sofa while I am on the computer-- but the rest of my body feels much better today. I am still not running today, even though running in the snow doesn't bother me. My body needs a break. I logged 33 miles last week. I feel pretty good about that, and not like I need to push it. I didn't go to the play last night, though. I lay on my hardwood floor and tried to keep my puppy from sticking his tongue in my mouth while I stretched my back.

The first time Devon ran with Carol and I this week (we have all run together intermittently in the past), she told us, "[Mutual friend] Torbjorn says the first time you run with someone new, you should ask them to tell you about their relationship with their mother. Then, they will talk for the entire run, and you can kick back and breathe."

I thought that was really funny. I spoke with my mother last night, and we had a very circular, confused conversation. Par for the course. But as I lay on the floor with my own sore back, I was able to have more empathy with her, so I just modulated my voice and murmured soothing things to her as she had the same conversation, going around the track like a limping racehorse, four or five times until I decided that we could either do that all night, or I could end the conversation.

She is upset that I am only going to be there for a weekend. I told her that this is what I can do right now, but I will try to come out more frequently. Always easier to do when the weather is better. Fortunately, I don't think today's snow will keep me from driving to Kansas City on Wednesday, but, whatever. I guess I'll find out.

Yesterday, Royce posted about an April race on Facebook. With a note that it's to raise money for a local church. I messaged him for details. Specifically, it's to raise money for a youth program for the Baptist church. I wrote back and told him, "I'll be skipping that one." Fundamentally (haha, get it?) opposed to giving money to Baptists. Especially for their indoctrination youth program.

What are you up to today?