Tag: stories

Baggage

Baggage

26 August 2018

We all have that proverbial emotional baggage in our lives. For those who don’t, congratulations, but most people do carry this heavy weight or burden.

I’m certainly one of those people. I’ve recognized it a little more over the past two weeks when my anxiety and depression came to the forefront for various reasons.

I have been spending a few spare hours of my evenings (after writing) with a new friend…the one who’s not sustainable…and I try extremely hard to keep my baggage out of conversations. First of all, my space is my safe space; it’s my cozy space; it’s my quiet place void of drama and other negativities. Point-blank, my baggage doesn’t belong in discussions in my house.

I’ve developed something called empathy while continuing to be careful along my new path, and always watching my back.

Oh boy, this blog is full of clichés today. Sorry folks.

In a recent discussion, I wasn’t an active listener. At one point I didn’t keep my mouth shut and the flood gates opened. I was challenged. I was questioned. Then the “where is this going?” words flew out of (not my) mouth. My answer, “Why does it need to go anywhere?” The baggage of another person was out in the open.

I guess vacation is coming at a good time…

My emotional, physical and mental well-being is still my number one priority. My writing ranks up there because it helps with everything. From these past two weeks I’ve learned that I need to keep some of my baggage away. I’ve also realized that some people haven’t gotten the hint that I’ve axed them out of my life. The good news is baggage discussions have become less of me. I talk less about my life shredded instantly, Duke and I abandoned, blah, blah, blah. I don’t have time for any of this. I have better things to talk about.

A good example is my short stories that I’m trying to move out in the world. Every rejection that comes in, I’m sending out the next query. I’m not stopping.  I wonder if that should be my new mantra. I’m also talking more about my life as a writer.

I can see where baggage can take over a character’s development. I saw it with Natalie. Kiki has some, but pales in comparison to what Darius does to her and what he carries.

Yes. Much writing to be had. I have been writing. I have time blocked out on my calendar once again now that I feel semi-solidified in my life. Semi…

This is a fairly short blog, but the recurring thoughts about baggage plagued me over the last 48 hours. I have better blogs to produce. More loaded with fun. With adventure. With a flair that adds to my, as JDF has written and coined (trademark, if you will), “bad asserie.”

Overall, I can’t let this baggage take control of me. I need to continue moving forward, and if writing is what it takes to persevere, then the pen is mightier than the sword.

And that is the last of the clichés…

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Fly Short Stories, Fly!

Fly Short Stories, Fly!

I am interrupting my regularly scheduled blog to briefly speak about the art of querying short stories.

I’ve been focused on fiction and poetry for so long, I am learning (today) that a cover letter for short stories is not as big of a beast as a query for short stories.

We really do learn something new every day!

As I conduct my research around the internet, I am trying to find homes for (6) of my short stories, of which one is sci-fi. I seem to break away from my traditional role in writing women’s fiction, but that’s okay because it means I am diversified.

Plus, I have a degree in scientific communication where all things writing were in and about the sciences, so my degree is a qualification for some of my writing. I won’t  discuss the influence and impact of engineering osmosis and once being married to a geophysicist for 14 years. I call it environment. But all of this knowledge contributed to my  sci-fi short story, “Manna,” that needs a home.

For anyone trying to break out into the sci-fi genre and needs a little help with writing a cover, letter, the author for the article (linked below) did a really good job breaking it down to simplify what to write.

via How to Write a Proper Short Story Cover Letter

Now back to the task at hand…more writing.

Have a great afternoon dear readers.

Time

Time

11-13 May 2018

Time sometimes feels like a black hole. It’s amazing how fast, yet how slow, we perceive time in our lives.

We let time dictate our daily routines from waking up in the morning to falling into bed at night, and everything in between. Time can be our ally and enemy all at the same time.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s Ground Hog Day, where Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving February 2 over and over again. There are some days when we have that deja-vu kind of feeling, and I certainly felt like I had similar days early 2017, and it could easily be explained as time playing tricks on us.

I was in a very different place this time last year, but the real driving point is it’s been eight years since I lost my mother, and my siblings and family still feel the sting of such an unexpected loss. We are truly orphans, even in our adulthood. However, we don’t feel as alone because we have a super large family (both a blessing and a curse) and a large network of friends. We are surrounded by them and we keep them close.

Eight years seems like an awful long time; an eternity in fact. And we lost my mother Friday of Mother’s Day weekend, also the weekend of my father’s birthday (May 12). That was a horrendous 36-hour drive from New Mexico back to New York, making a 900-mile detour to pick up one of my mother’s sisters in Missouri because she didn’t have the money to really get home, and it was important to have her there. It was also the last major road trip I would take. It took everything out of me and challenging as I was placed in a walking boot, coming out of a minor surgery, only a few days before.

Time is also like a sinkhole. Ten years before losing my mother, I lost my father. Also, a sudden death. He’s been gone 18 years this November. It doesn’t seem possible.

It will be seven years in August since I lost my brother, and nothing puts more of a hole in the heart or a hole in the line of children as losing a sibling; the death of a child trumps any of this. My siblings and cousins I grew up with are truly my best friends. They are always answering right away. Unfortunately for me and my siblings, we are scared to answer the phone when there’s a call from any of us; we know it’s generally not good news. My poor sister-in-law felt this when she was calling in December about my brother’s 20 foot fall out of a tree. She thanked me for answering the phone. I had no intentions of ignoring the call, even though I knew something was wrong immediately.

After both of my parents’ deaths, some people would say, “This too shall pass,” or “It will get better.” I wish people wouldn’t say these things to someone experiencing a profound death, or even any type of death. The moment of grief does pass, somewhat, but more at a slow-motion kind of pace, but it doesn’t get better. I always call bullshit. This warrants repeating: it doesn’t get better; we simply learn how to deal with it, and the waves of emotions will always crash upon us during holidays, birthdays, other events, and memory triggers. My heart bled for my cousin who lost her brother in December just before the holidays. I understood her grief. I understood her singularity in the universe and all the questions she had. There are moments in life, and in time, where we have to walk it alone because we need to find a way to wrap our heads around life events.

This is where time can be kind to give us the space to do so.

Time can also surprise us: a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new beginning. For my moment in this time, I am shocked that I have been receiving gifts. They are small gifts, but one that warms the heart just the same.

In 2006, my mother sent money for me to buy a rose bush after a major surgery; one that finalized surgeries of a thousand knives. Rose is my birth flower, and the only flower I am not allergic to. I went to a nursery in Albuquerque and the rose bush was planted by my then-husband. The bush flourished, and I know I’ve included pictures of the “gifts,” as I call the flowers, in previous blog postings. The delicate flowers appear at the perfect moments: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, my birthday, and in August (the month of my parents’ anniversary, formerly my anniversary month, and the month my brother was killed).

When I had to leave the home I’ve lived in for over 16 years ─the home that stole my inheritance to turn it into a really nice place to live, and one that eventually sucked the life out of me─I refused to leave the rose bush behind. I contacted a specialist at the nursery who gave me very specific details regarding uprooting and transplanting the bush. He told me several times, “The plant will go into shock.”

My neighbor helped me, at the last hour, with the uprooting and gave me a large clay pot, with a drain tray on wheels, to keep it in until I become more established to rebury into the ground. The same week as my patio opening, that began with hosting a dinner, I woke up to find two small roses. They blossomed despite the stress of the bush. This weekend, I am gifted with two more flowers. Right on time. They’re small, but I don’t care.

Time will dictate the size and range of robust fragrance from the roses, but I am patient.

Time also slowed down to give me a chance to “soak it all in,” as Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) President, Paul LeBlanc, told my graduating class last year. I have two degrees from New Mexico Tech, and proud to say I’m a Techie, but my dream degree, that I fought and worked so hard to achieve even through a divorce while thesis writing, is from SNHU. I am a proud Penmen! What’s even better is my cousin, also known as my twin, lives 20 minutes away from campus, and I am looking forward to returning to participate in Homecoming.

Time and a calendar dictated this was graduation weekend.

I chose to ignore time after my work responsibilities were done on Friday. I spent the rest of the evening attending alumni and department receptions, then celebrating a friend’s journey to her M.S. degree. During the final evening socialization, I grabbed her and two other friends to toast my parents.

I, along with the petroleum faculty (in town), attended graduation. I don’t know of another department whose admin shows up for support…yet, is the only admin who gets ZERO recognition on Administrative Professionals Day. I grabbed a water for my friend (celebrating her degreee the night before) and stood listening/watching NMT Commencement unfold for another year. At two points I caught the face of a stranger I know as an adulterer and positioned myself to be out of his view during and after the ceremony. I wonder how many other faces judge the way I do or judge the offender as a complete asshole because he’s a narcissist: has no idea what he’s done, the damage and hurt he’s caused, and how many bridges he continues to burn.

After NMT graduation, I went to the gym to get in a hardcore 40-minute focused workout before going home to shut myself in, and away from the world the remainder of the weekend that became another roller coaster for me. BUT, I did make sure Duke got his walk before 10pm, and we had a great walk exploring different paths taken. Sunday was far too windy and vicious for allergies to survive a walk that would include grass, trees and weeds.

Time wears many hats and comes at us in different visions and appearances. Just like the silence we often need to open our ears to hear, we need to keep our eyes open to feel.

Happy Mother’s Day to my readers who are also mothers! Mothers provide a secret foundation to any child they bring into this challenging world, and they should be commended (and spoiled) often.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018 for any of my readers graduating, and those at New Mexico Tech and SNHU. It takes a tremendous amount of grit and perseverance. You’ve worked ridiculously hard to get here. My advice to you: take time off and enjoy life, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.

Photos: April and May roses.

Feeling the Silence

Feeling the Silence

26-28 April 2018

These days, I close my eyes when the lights are off, and listen to my breathing and heart beat.  Darkness void of music, text messages beeping, and other distractions. Then I tune my ears to hear Duke’s breathing. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night when I listen because it’s a reminder that I’m still alive and survived another day. And to hear puppy dog’s breathing is a wave of relief, and I am thankful he is with me for a little longer. He isn’t in any pain, but the tumor continues to grow silently in his nasal cavity, pushing into the right side.

I know I’ve come a long way since last year. The silence felt last year was like a deafening crash; powerful with a haunting echo, taking me back to a time I was in Portage, Alaska, watching a piece of a glacier calve. Phone calls, texts, messages and emails ceased while still in a marriage because someone was behaving like a 2 year old, throwing a fit for not getting everything they wanted or their own way (it was a one-way street marriage, and I was not on the receiving end).

There was the silence of friends during the last six months of grad school, but their silence was more of a supporting silence, knowing I struggled with a life turned upside down and inside out. Their fantastic support is what got me through life as I had to really grind my heels in to finish and write a thesis.

The dead, white noise that infiltrated the house Duke and I dwelled in after a forcing someone to exit (to maintain my sanity) was the next struggle. I filled it with music that spread throughout and kept Duke company while I was away. Music has always been a part of my life: I write to music, I read to music; it’s hard not to dance and sing to music; I fall asleep and wake up to music. It’s always on in my new home, in the car, at work, and it’s with me on the patio.

There is a type of silence that we embrace as writers; it’s the silence of being alone with just a keyboard and a screen. Writing is a lonely process, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because this is what I want. This is my full-time job; I work to pay the bills.

It’s interesting how life-altering events change our perceptions. Some of the silences lately in my life provoked these thoughts. I’ve also learned how to use silence as a positive light that helps to purge anything negative. People come and go from our lives for a reason. The paths we travel, those placed in front of us, even if we have to muddle or trudge through rough terrain, becomes our own.

My next transition is sort of stalled as a silent cancer takes time off of Duke’s life. I cannot move during this period because I fear the stress will be far too much and accelerate the inevitable. I use the silence to spend as much time as I can with him. Everyone loves Duke and he has become my most ambitious project. His story has begun, and I’m almost ready to share it with the world.

Meanwhile, the silences of these past two weeks has driven me to finish my November novel. From the energy harnessed to the motivation to get it done propels me to close what’s left of a book from a former life. This also means it’s time to switch gears and get back to storytelling.

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Lost-Time for Patio Writing

Lost-Time for Patio Writing

22 April 2018

I’m not completely lost. Some days I do wonder. And on those days it feels like I’m wading, carefully stepping to avoid sinking deep down in the mud or dropping into a hole.  It’s not treading because that was part of last year.

I trust the timing and the path I’m supposed to be on…mostly. My impatience shines through on days I feel like it’s time to have more, do more, be more.

It’s hard to have conversations with people who seem more scattered than I am, and I try to hide so many things with walls up. I hide my heart, locked in steel vault so that nothing can hurt it; it’s already breaking from the days and months that are ticking with my dog. I remember the pain when I had to put my Bassett Hound down. Devastating.  The circle of life.

Rock bottom line is I think I’m more lost in my thoughts. Writing. Definitely losing myself in writing again, and it feels good. The story ideas just keep coming, and I keep writing them down.

So, the patio is now open for writing! After an exhausting month of work, that continues to eat at my soul, I was able to get 12 hours of intermittent sleep. It wasn’t a full 12 because Duke woke me up, but that’s all part of being a pet owner. We do what we have to for our pets because they are our family, and he is the one constant I come home to every day. It’s hard to resist a grin and tail wag after walking inside.

I am questioning some of the paths that are coming up soon, and I always think of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken;” my favorite poem. My motivation extends beyond my own wants, needs, and goals; I am inspired by writers who have found themselves in situations and rise. It’s all about the timing, but until it arrives the element of feeling lost remains.

It’s a sunny Sunday morning and the wind isn’t roaring for once. However, it’s still early and they tend to arrive in the afternoons. I have my very first dinner party in my new home this week, and excited with the simple menu that includes a couple of bottles of fine wine that’s been cellared for a while. Good wine should be shared.

I am going to take advantage of the grand opening of my new patio and get down to work for several hours before I meet a friend at the movies. There is more writing to be done, more stories to be told, and stories entering the revision stage so that they can be shared with the world someday.

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Life’s Curveballs

Life’s Curveballs

14 April 2018

We had 34+ mph winds yesterday. Without the sun, the sharp wind bit through light layers of clothing, as I was not prepared for such a blistery day. When I left the house for work yesterday, I took the brush and hair dryer to my hair. I let the cold morning wind finish tousling it for me. I must say, it looked pretty good!

Spring winds are typical for New Mexico. I’m not a fan because it kicks up so much dust, aggravating my allergies. I’ve kept Duke minimally exposed from the dust, too.

I’m a summer and fall person, and I am impatient, waiting for the sun and heat to arrive. My patio is almost ready. I rinsed the fall and winter particles (webs, leaves, etc.) off my favorite reading loungers, fully equipped with a beverage shelf for those afternoons with a couple vodka and tonics. I own two loungers and a sun bathing chair my parents gave me ages ago. Maybe this summer I’ll have someone join me for afternoon cocktails and conversation on my patio.  You never know.

My depression is at the forefront again. I really can’t wait for this to be over. It’s still all tied to a life I’m still shedding while blossoming into something better. I’m still in a transition phase as I continue to job hunt and will move again in July. In addition, I received the final prognosis for Duke’s nasal adenocarcinoma and it’s not good. The vet specialist estimates I have nine months with him, but the tumor was prominent in January when my local vet treated him for a sinus infection; a second treatment, but with more antibiotics and prednisone in February. In theory, the clock has been ticking and it’s less than nine months. Despite this annoying depression, I try to remain optimistic, but I’ve had some really hard days since the call on Wednesday. So what am I doing for my depression? How am I trying to deal with this horrible news? Same thing I did while going through a divorce: focus on myself, write even more; use reading to escape to other worlds, and I’m back in the gym again. It felt good yesterday, as I sweated to my new workout playlist humming in my earbuds.

Canine cancer sucks. And it so unfair to Duke. He’s been just as stressed as I have since 2016. He is my little rock and was there for me so much last year. Now it’s my turn to be there for him.

Here comes my next writing project. Everyone loves Duke. What’s not to love about him! He has a great personality, is lovable, social, and simply the cutest dog. Friends, family, colleagues and even students who know my dog are heartbroken about the news and are giving him even more love. Yes, Duke is very loved. So, I am going to share Duke with the world: he’s going to be on social media with his own blog. The project starts this weekend because I don’t want to waste any time.

Writing my way through the depression and anxiety will help me clear my head. Moving around the house, reorganizing, and preparing to entertain (very soon) is good, too. But the gym-returning to my workouts-is critically important to me, especially as my weight continues to drop, I need to tone the muscles. I am still going to my bootcamp/Tabata class. And walking Duke on days when we don’t have strong winds. I’ll be on the golf course once again, adjusting my game to my strength.

Mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health is important to all of us. As I enjoy the time I can with my dog, I will monitor him and not let him suffer. In this current moment, he is happy and active. With that, it’s time to switch gears and introduce Duke to the rest of the world.

If you have a pet, give them a big hug. Have a great weekend.

Photo: A happy Duke enjoying his walk.

happy Duke

Bookstore Adventures: Reading and Writing Conversations

Bookstore Adventures: Reading and Writing Conversations

5 December 2017

Some best moments of my weekend happened in a bookstore, when I was with my cousin and his family.

  • As we entered I said, “You know it’s dangerous for a writer to go into a bookstore, right?” Of course, I walk out with three books. In my defense, only one is for me, and the others are gifts;
  • The10 yr old boy asks his parents for one of The Boxcar Children books; his sisters search and ask to read other books; ones that make them cry. A decision is made to visit the local library to check out the book the girls and their mother will read. Warms my heart. It’s good to hear people still go to libraries;
  • Talking about reading & writing, a woman overhears my conversation, apologizes for eavesdropping, then begins to ask me about my writing, and explains why she loves to read. She enjoys the escape, even if it’s short-lived. We talk about genres. She is someone who finds a moment to escape the craziness of daily life by picking up a book;
  • My cousin tells me about the Star Wars books written to explain what happens between the movies we grew up with and why the latest movies begin where they do. I add more books to my ever-growing list, talking about why I love having a physical book in my hand and how I’ve been packing up all of my books first the books, the books I’ve already donated to the library, plans for another large round, and why I can’t pass up the great prices to own some books through Kindle. I notice another woman nearby laughing, shaking her hand, and I know she identifies with everything I’m saying.

The above accounts are only some of the reasons I love to read. My nieces and nephews always received the gift of books from me. My new nephew is going to be exposed to a world of books, golf, and Disney. It helps my sister is also a big reader.

More importantly, I read because I also write. I have been marketing my November novel, to strangers in wineries, and other writers at the Night of Living Dangerously; to friends and family, and I have ambitious goals to send my books to certain individuals (author uses confidentiality clause in this post).

I write for myself, but do not mind sharing my books with the world. If any one book, story, or poem makes an impact on one single person, then I am happy to say I’ve done my job. I heard the stories over and over after my poetry chapbook was published, and now in second print. Life is far too short to keep any story hidden.

Share in the excitement of a child wanting to read books. Enjoy conversations with family, friends, and even strangers, over reasons we read, and how some of us have books as our largest collection. It’s almost an addiction. Expensive, but very healthy.

Take time out to read. Visit a bookstore. Visit a library. Donate your unwanted books to your public library.

If you like to write, write that memoir, or poem, or story; take the time to write it all down, no matter how long it takes you.

Beyond the words of conversations in bookstores and libraries, are an infinite amount of worlds waiting to be discovered. It only takes a spark of a conversation to help someone else opens those doors.