Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poetry Stuff

"And your very flesh shall be a great poem." Walt Whitman

I consider myself to be a bit of an over-sharer. I have this deep desire to be known coupled with a fear of rejection and so I find myself confessing things inappropriately and making random people uncomfortable. I don't mean to do it, but the words leave my lips before that filter sets in and I realize I've said more than is socially acceptable just about the time that the smile drains from the person's face and they quickly change the subject. I remember being in a mom's group after my son was first born. The women liked to swap stories about how they were teaching their infant to talk and how they had mastered the latest technique that insured their baby was sleeping through the night. Then I'd walk in and drop the mic with a "does-anyone-else-want-to-shove-the-baby-off-her-boob-while-he-is-feeding?" Judging my the slack jaws and blank stares, the answer was no, or at least, not that we are willing to admit. 

So imagine my surprise when my confessional word-play made it into this publication. Most of the amazing work featured in this book seems knit together with the kind of creativity and skill that I would only hope to possess, but here I am, pouring my unfiltered history onto page and there is a group of actual people who say they hear me and they like what I say. Wow. I am humbly blown away. To add icing to my cake, another poem  (Beyond the Wall) had been selected for the online publication. Can I just say that after the year I have been walking through, these felt like huge gifts to my psyche? It was inspiring to say the least. I don't know where I go from here but it gave me a bit more fuel for the journey. 

I've included below the poem that was selected for the Moorpark Review as well as the latest poem I've written. 

Reasons I Drink

I drink because life looks a lot different from here than I thought it would.
I drink because I'm twelve years into a promise of forever.
I drink because age and children and choices often make it hard to look in the mirror.
I drink because pillow talk in my thirties includes subjects like mortgages and investments, discipline and responsibility.
I drink because motherhood is a constant confrontation of frustrations, fear and failings.
I drink because my six-year-old's anger is fierce and expressive and allowed, but my rage is bottled and simmering and scary.
I drink because when I was six, I already knew the lustful gaze of a grown man.
I drink because a bomb went off in my seven-year-old life and my home became a war zone.
I drink because shortly after, my father married a younger, prettier version of my mother and while they were happy and she was pissed, I was ripped open and uncovered and alone.
I drink because seven-year-olds are really crappy at triage and so I bandaged myself with insecurity and self-hatred and shame.
I drink because by twelve I was depressed and suicidal and that was really inconvenient for parents who work full-time.
I drink because at 15 I threw away my virginity to a 21-year-old expectant father who liked to fuck me in cars and on couches but mostly in secret.
I drink because my teenage years were spent trading my sexuality as currency, but the price of esteem was too high for my soul so I gambled away what was left of my worth.
I drink because when you feel worthless, you become friends with binges and purges and razorblades.
I drink because at eighteen, a new bomb landed me in an emergency room with a tube of charcoal forced into my throat and a doctor telling me not to throw up. That was a funny thing to say to someone like me.
I drink because that second explosion locked me in the type of place where sharp objects are forbidden, strange women scream words about feces from their wheelchairs, and people you love share their disgust for who you've become.
I drink because I spent years in anonymous meeting halls, but then I found Jesus and got married and had a family and thought that should be enough.
I drink because I don't know the first thing about enough.

The Secret

I am the secret you never want known
Hidden among your closeted bones
Sometimes I rattle, other times I moan

I am the spiral in your web of lies
Lying in wait to catch misfortuned flies
Who soon will discover I am their demise

I am the echo you cannot call back
Haunted footsteps beating a lonely track
I break your silence with a deafening crack

I am the fire producing the smoke
I am the inhale, but you are the choke
Trying to suppress all the words that you spoke

I am the suture into your flesh sewn
I stitch up the cover that you don't want blown
I am the secret you never want known

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stranger Things - One Act Play (Dramatic scene assignment)

A park bench along a pathway. A lamppost and trash bin at stage right of bench. Green grass, trees and shrubbery behind the scene against a backdrop of city scape/tall buildings. Blue sky, warm spring day. A young woman is sitting on stage right of the bench, reading a book.
A man enters from stage left and walks toward the bench.

MAN: (gesturing to the empty space on the bench) Mind if I sit down?

WOMAN: (looks up from her book briefly) No, go ahead.

MAN: (sits and stretches out a bit) Perfect day, right?

WOMAN: (doesn’t look up from her book but rolls her eyes, doesn’t want to talk) Mmm-hmm

MAN: (ignoring her annoyance) My favorite season, Spring. All the fresh air and people walking about.

WOMAN: (adjusts in her seat, keeps reading)

MAN: (glances around for a bit, lights a cigarette)

WOMAN: (notices the smell of the smoke and looks up irritated) I’m sorry, do you mind?

MAN: (confused) What? Oh, would you like one? (offers her the pack)

WOMAN: No I don’t. And I’d appreciate you not smoking either. I don’t like the smell.

MAN: (doesn’t put out the cigarette) Yeah, it’s an unfortunate side effect. I suppose I’ve gotten used 
to it to some degree. They say that happens you know. (takes another drag but blows it the opposite direction)

WOMAN: (annoyed, closes her book and gathers her things to leave)

MAN: (notices the book cover) Hey! Thistles in the Darkness. Good read. What part are you on?

WOMAN: (somewhat flustered) Um, Cairstine just met Niall at the drawbridge.

MAN: Ah, so you haven’t read about the battle yet?

WOMAN: (puts her hand up to silence him) No! Please don’t say anything else! I want to read it for 
myself. (sits back down on the bench)

MAN: (chuckling, takes another drag off the cigarette) I won’t spoil it for you. It’s worth finding out on your own.

WOMAN: (eyeing the man a little more closely now) It seems like an odd choice of book for a guy…

MAN: (speaking with the cigarette pursed in between his lips and reaching into his pocket) Hey, 
there are no rules anymore. If girls can go to war, why can’t dudes enjoy the occasional historical love story?

WOMAN: To each his own I suppose.

MAN: (hands woman a card) I’m just kidding with you. I’m not typically into romance novels. I write reviews for a literary publication, but I’m not that good so I have to read whatever crap comes across my desk. (chuckles) Most of it makes me want to staple my eyelids shut, but occasionally something worthwhile comes my way.

WOMAN: (takes his card, looks at it and sticks it inside the book) Well, thanks for the tip. It’s not always clear which books might give you the urge to self-harm. (sarcastically)

MAN: (chuckles) Very true. Do me a favor. If you do feel the urge, use the card. I can talk you down off the ledge.

WOMAN: (smiles) Good to know, thanks.

MAN: So, what do you do? No, wait. Let me guess. I have an uncanny knack for people and professions. (puts out cigarette and turns towards woman on the bench) Reading on a park bench in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday…casually dressed…comfortable shoes…Ah! Got it! Dog walker.

WOMAN: (laughs) Nice try, but you’re missing one crucial piece of the puzzle there. Do you see a dog anywhere? I’d be the worst dog walker in the entire city if that were the case.

MAN: Hmmm, I guess I missed that little detail. Ok, hang on. Let me try again. (gestures like he’s thinking hard) Oversized Louis Vuitton purse…manicured nails…Independently wealthy socialite?

WOMAN: (laughs harder) Oh boy. I would strongly suggest you do not quit your day job. Not even close!

MAN: (sighs) I guess I’m having an off day. Ok, I give up. What’s your story?

WOMAN: (turns her knees towards him in conversation) I’m a student, actually. Finishing up my Master’s in social work. I don’t normally have manicured nails. I just came from a place. It’s, um, my birthday today actually.

MAN: Ah! Well, Happy…sorry, I didn’t catch your name. (puts out his hand)

WOMAN: (grasps his hand) It’s Leah.

MAN: Happy Birthday Leah. Paul. Nice to meet you.

LEAH: (chuckles) I don’t normally sit on park benches either. (more seriously) I was supposed to meet my husband for lunch but it appears he has been otherwise disposed. I was just killing time.

PAUL: And what is it that your husband does?

LEAH: Good question! (laughs) No, he’s in finance. He works downtown, but with the current economy, there is no such thing as a normal 9 to 5 anymore.

PAUL: Ah, yeah. That makes sense. (stretches out and lights another cigarette) Well, his loss is my gain.

LEAH: (smiles at his complement in spite of herself)

PAUL: So, how long you been married?

LEAH: Uh, about nine years.

PAUL: (whistles) That’s a long time. You must be happy.

LEAH: (uncomfortable, shifts slightly in her seat) It’s not that long, but yeah, I suppose we are happy.

PAUL: Well, don’t sound so convincing. People might think you’re not telling the truth. (winks, takes another drag off the cigarette)

LEAH: (offended) That was rude. You don’t know me.

PAUL: I didn’t mean any offense. I’m sorry. I’m sure you are happy. I…was just thinking what a shame it is that you’re alone on your birthday. I can’t imagine what could possibly keep me away from spending a beautiful day with a beautiful woman is all.

LEAH: (considers leaving but stays put) No. You’re right. I’m sorry. I was wondering the same thing actually. Well, not the beautiful woman part, but the other part about not showing up. The first birthday I had after we got married, he rented a little house on the lake for a weekend. I’m not even sure when the last time we spent an entire day together was.

PAUL: (puffs on his cigarette) Well, it’s a shame. I’ve only spent ten minutes with you and I can assure you that you are quite lovely to be with. (smiles)

LEAH: (laughs) Oh boy. So does that normally work for you? This, ‘flattery will get you everywhere’ approach?

PAUL: It might not get me everywhere, but I do okay. Grandma once told me, (in an exaggerated southern accent) ‘Pauly, looks only go so far, and yours are in short supply. You’re gonna need to figure another way in if you don’t want to be the only one pullin’ on yer pecker.’

LEAH: (laughing) Oh my god! That’s terrible!

PAUL: Yeah, well, classy may not have been her thing, but you can’t say she wasn’t honest.

LEAH: (still laughing) I’m sorry, that’s hilarious…and incredibly messed up!

PAUL: (chuckling) She was married five times so she was well-versed.

LEAH: Oh, man. (shaking her head) So, what about you? Married?

PAUL: Once. A long time ago. She, uh. She got cancer two years into our marriage. Sometimes the 
death in ‘til death do us part’ comes sooner than you’d expect. (leans over his knees, reflective, smoking)

LEAH: (leans closer into Paul, instinctively puts had on his leg) I’m so sorry.

PAUL: (looks down at Leah’s hand)

LEAH: (pulls hand back sheepishly)

PAUL: (adjusts back to his seat on the bench) It’s okay. What can you do? Like I said, it was a lifetime ago.

LEAH: (a long pause) Sometimes I wish my husband would die.

PAUL: (looks at Leah)

LEAH: It’s awful. I know. (runs her hands through her hair) It’s just…this is nothing like I thought it would be. Sometimes I just want to hit the restart button on my life. He’s a good guy. I love him. But when he canceled today, I wasn’t terribly disappointed. (pauses, reflecting then looks at Paul) What kind of marriage is it when you prefer to be alone?

PAUL: (holds her gaze)

LEAH: Oh, god. I’m sorry. I can’t believe I just said that to you! Here you are talking about your dead wife and I just blurt out the most awful response. I should go. (gathers her things to leave)

PAUL: (reaches out to stop her) No! No, stay. It’s okay. (they both settle back on the bench, Paul puts out the cigarette) My wife…I loved her. And losing her so quickly was hard. You know, people want to believe the best of themselves. That they are somehow immune from the terrible things or terrible choices that happen every day. That their marriage will last. That they will always choose the higher road. That those fairy tale fantasies from childhood will somehow manifest into their own happy endings. And I’ve just found that isn’t the case. Jenny never got to the acceptance part of the grief process. She was firmly locked into anger until the moment she died. And who could blame her? Preparing for your own death at the time when you should be preparing for a child’s birth, that just sucks. But the thing is, the closer to the end that she got, the angrier she became. And I don’t know if it’s because I was there or if she resented that I was still going to have the chance to do all the things we hoped to do together, but she was most angry at me. When Jenny finally died, do you want to know what the first thing I felt was? (looks at Leah)

LEAH: What?

PAUL: Relief. Not sadness. Not depression. Certainly not anger. Just relief that it was over and that I wouldn’t have to bear the brunt of her resentment anymore.

LEAH: (leans over and kisses Paul on the lips, pulls back, covering her mouth in shock and stares at him for a moment) I’m, I’m, uh, sorry.

PAUL: I’m not.

LEAH: (leans back in and they kiss again briefly, they separate and sit in silence on the bench for several moments) I don’t know what came over me. I’ve never done anything like that before.

PAUL: (laughs) It’s the sob story. Gets ‘em every time. (winks and nudges Leah with his shoulder)

LEAH: (chuckles)

PAUL: I guess all I was trying to say is that we can live in the fantasy of how we think things should be or how we think we should feel, or we can live in the reality of it. The hard, brutal, often unpleasant truth that life isn’t always what you hoped it would be and people don’t always turn out the way you think they should be. Are you happy? Maybe. Maybe you’re not. But you’re not really going to be able to do anything about it unless you can answer that question honestly for yourself.

LEAH: Well, this birthday may not have gone as planned, but it certainly will be memorable. (laughs) I should probably get going. (gathers her book and purse and turns toward Paul) I’m really glad to have met you Paul. (sticks out her hand)

PAUL: (shakes her hand) Happy Birthday Leah. It was nice to meet you too.

(Leah walks off stage right, Paul lights another cigarette, lights go down)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Weekly Word Count

What am I currently working on?
As the end of the end of the semester approaches, I am starting to scramble to wrap up the loose ends I have still left to do. I haven't done a ton of creative writing lately, but I did finish my dramatic scene that is due on Monday. It is a one-act play (my first-ever attempt at a play) about an encounter between two people on a park bench. The woman is initially disinterested and slightly disgusted by the man, but as the conversation unfolds, he ends up bringing exactly the kind of insight she needs in her life.

Word Count: 1875

How do I feel about the process?
Pretty good. I'm glad to have finished something. I have a hard time completing anything, as evidenced by the several stories on this blog I have failed to follow through on.

What am I currently reading/watching?
Still only reading text books and bedtime stories. My son is into Minecraft fan-fiction novels. The writing style is pretty simplistic so I've been paying particular attention to the way the author formulates their sentences and details to see what is required to do something along those lines.
I've run out of free episodes of True Blood, so I can finally stop torturing my eyeballs with that show. I started Transparent, which is an Amazon original series, and I think the story line is really interesting and relevant. The acting is pretty good too. I grew up loving the movie Now and Then, so watching Gabi Hoffman act as an adult is always a bit of a trip. Lastly, I've actually been really inspired by music lately and my latest favorite album is Halsey's Badlands. It's a 'just-let-it-play' type of album, so I would totally recommend it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Word Count Wednesday and Final Experiment

What am I currently working on?
Honestly? Mostly waking up and breathing. Life sucks right now. Before I had kids, people would talk about how incredibly hard parenting was and it's not like I didn't believe them. I had plenty of naive thoughts about what kind of parent I would be or what kind of children I would have, but I never struggled with the ridiculous notion that it would be easy. Even without that delusion, I had no real way of knowing just how difficult reality would be and how much stamina is required.

The same can be said about divorce. Having borne the literal and emotional scars of my parents' destruction, I had no qualms about what divorce could cost. However, within the last year, it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to be able to outrun this particular storm. It is the last option I would ever want to chose, but here I am, walking through the remnant of the life I had planned on living. And it is hard. WAY harder than I could have imagined. It is multifaceted and layered and the loss shows up in unexpected ways like the absence of a much needed hug, sleeping alone and people who say they can no longer be your friend. So, some days (or if I'm being honest, weeks) I wake up despite the overwhelming desire not to*, and move forward simply because there is no other viable option. And those are the days that I count breathing as something that I have accomplished.

Thankfully, the past few days have been more productive that just 'not dying', which is good for many reasons, one of them being that my second narrative project is due today. It is chapter two to the story I shared several weeks ago. I had started it shortly after submitting my first work, but due to the suckage of my life, I hadn't really made any progress on it again until recently.

We also have been challenged to take on the final two creative experiments of writing a slam poem and/or writing a letter to our future (possibly 100 year old) self. I decided to combine the two since frankly, who has time to do both when breathing is already taking up so much of my to do list? I'll post my take on the end-of-life reflective slam poem at the end of this blog post.

Word Count: Somewhere around 3000, but I'm including the choose-your-own-adventure story from the previous week since I didn't post a word count then.

How do I feel about the process? 
Mixed, I guess. I'm grateful to get anything productive accomplished, but I'm not thrilled with the chapter as a whole. I feel like I should submit it with an apology, but I'm not exactly Miss Optimistic so I'll just let my housemates and professor make up their own minds and I'll be sure to slice myself an extra big piece of grace when I read their critiques.

What am I currently watching/reading?
Embarrassingly, I'm still binge-watching True Blood. It has gotten somewhat better than the disappointing first season, and it gives me things to be grateful for, like the fact that I don't have to worry about a vampire or werewolf (or werepanther for that matter!) trying to attack me at any given moment. So, there's that.

*By the way, I feel like I should write a disclaimer that this blog post is fraught with sarcasm. This isn't a cry for help. No need for mandatory reporting.

In the end

When my grandmother died, I sat under a holy steeple
Surrounded by a hundred mourning people
They dressed in devastation
With arms intertwined in desperation
And I watched from my removed location
Wondering what would be said of me

When the day comes that my body breathes its last
A long exhalation into oblivion cast
The final ending of my sentence
The reckoning of all my repentance
My sharp decline or great ascendance
Would my dead ears hear the words like she?

Her goodness, they claimed, was unexceeded
Return this stolen life, they pleaded
Their mouths spoke words of great affection
Of beauty, of kindness, unbroken connection
I wondered if she really lived such perfection
Or if death simply spit-shines reality

I don’t understand why we let the truth die
For the sake of respect, polish life into lies
Cover the blemishes, hide the decay
Take no notice of dirt, simply wipe it away
Rewrite history with the homage we pay
It seems a shame to lose life and accuracy

I don’t want flowery eulogies espousing my sainthood
Or my terrible deeds in retrospect made good
File virtue next to my promises unkept
Let bitterness intermix the tears that are wept
I don’t want my mistakes to be under-rug swept

In the end, I’d rather be known for my good, bad and ugly.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Experiment #12

The kids were on spring break from school this past week and though I swore they were not going to spend all their time being electronically stimulated, the truth is that they had more tablet/xbox/youtube time than I would care to admit. The funny thing about public school break is that they add on an extra day at the end just for kicks...and/or to possibly torture/prepare parents for the unstructured time of summer that looms just 8 short weeks ahead. By the time Monday rolled around this week, I determined to redeem the last day of the break with some constructive and engaged time with my children.

Anyway, we took a quick jaunt to the library in order to procure a few choose-your-own-adventure books. Much to my son's dismay, however, the library does not actually carry these treasures anymore. Seriously?! It felt like a one-two punch of dating me and disappointing me at the same time. I decided it might be worth the effort of trying last week's experiment on writing one of my own. Thanks to Jodie's tip to use this awesome website I was able to satisfy both my son's desire for electronic access and my desire to not feel like such a schmuck parent. My son supplied much of the idea content (which explains the seemingly unrelated introduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the many, many links that end in your demise) and I wrote the text. It was great fun for us both and I would absolutely do it over again!

Feel free to check it out here:
Crash of the Unknown

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Weekly Word Count

What am I currently working on?
Now that my writer's block has effectively passed, I've actually done quite a bit of writing in the last week. I've been capturing ideas for chapters in my novel, practicing writing memories as short stories, and began my first attempt at a script.

Total word count: 2984

How do I feel about the process?
Unfortunately, very little of what I have written has netted a completed work. I'm stressing out a bit about my second chapter narrative. I get so caught up in the details and word selection, that rather than just capturing words on a page and going back for revisions, I find myself revising as I go. It's a painstaking process, which often leaves me frustrated and defeated. Seeing as the deadline to turn something in is looming in the next couple weeks, I'm going to try to just move forward without the expectation that it be perfectly composed. We'll see if that helps.

What am I currently reading/watching?
I didn't do a lot of reading this past week but I have had the opportunity to binge watch a few things. I ended up devouring the rest of the season of Big Little Lies. I can't say enough about this show. I was so excited to see what came next, but apparently the seven episodes I watched in one night was it. There is rumor a second season might happen, but it was based on a book and the first season covered all the material. Do yourself a favor,, though and look up the soundtrack. So, so good!

On the suggestion of a friend, I've been watching True Blood. I'm not quite through the first season, but I seriously wonder how such bad writing and bad acting could be that successful. I promised I would push past the first season to where it supposedly gets good in the second, but so far I am regretting wasting the hours of my life I cannot get back from watching it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Weekly Word Count

What am I currently working on?
I've been working on some poems and character development in hopes of returning to my narrative project.

Word Count: 571* (I'm gonna be okay with that since I tend to be long-winded in my blog postings)

How do I feel about the process?
I haven't made a ton of progress in terms of words on paper...I'm getting rather bogged down in the details to be honest. I think it would be advantageous of me to work on a concrete outline in order to give myself a real sense of direction. I have a very general idea but it's time to nail down a less vague concept to build upon.

What am I currently reading?
One of my favorite things to do is check out the books for sale at the public library. I prefer to buy rather than rent books. I can hardly be trusted to return them. I once racked up $150 worth of late fees at the Thousand Oaks Library. I bet you didn't think that was even possible, did you? Yeah, neither did I. So much for the public library as a 'free' resource.

Anyway, it's just best I pay my dues up front so no one gets hurt...or publicly chastised as an incredibly irresponsible library card holder.

There is just something about coming across a book that someone else has cared enough for to own at one time. I like to peruse the shelves, head cocked to read the vertical titles, occasionally tilting a book from it's sandwiched position to further inspect it's potentiality. I've yet to be disappointed by any of the books I've purchased this way. Some of my favorite titles have included A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, The Unexpected Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, as well as some non-novel books like Post-Secret: Confessions on Life, Death and God by Frank Warren and FOUND: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World by Davy Rothbart. The latter two books are fascinating peepholes into the more secretive parts of society and highly entertaining. My latest find is a compilation of short stories by new writers called McSweeney's Unpublished, Unknown &/or Unbelievable. It features "twelve new stories from twelve new twenty-nine stories written in twenty minutes each." I am enjoying getting a feel for different writing styles and ideas.

Oh! And per suggestion by Wade, I read Kate Chopin's The Storm last night and hope to start on her story The Awakening soon as well. Click on the links if you would like to read these online for free!

What am I currently watching?
I rarely have time to watch any shows of my choosing, although now that my kids are getting older, it's nice that they occasionally choose shows that are of interest to both of our age ranges. We end up watching a lot of Food Network and Nat Geo-type shows. I have, however, carved out some time to watch Lena Dunham's GIRLS (definitely an after-the-kids-are-asleep kind of show) and just discovered a new HBO show called Big Little Lies. I'm particularly interested in watching this program again because of the character development and varied story lines that are showcased. After watching the first episode, I think that I could gain a lot of insight in my own characterization by continuing to watch the show.

*P.S. Hey! What d'ya know? This blog post is nearly 600 words long...looks like I met that 1000 word goal after all. (wink-wink)