"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Retrospective of 2021, or Brushing Off the Past

Today, while I was trying to locate my Shopping List document in Google Docs, I came across this piece I wrote in December, 2020. I had intended it to be the first post of my return to Splitting Poles but was never published due to technical difficulties.

What is a life? A life is made up of pictures, of snapshots of memories, a collage of things that are important, representative of who we are. I had a feeling yesterday, a memory, of a friend that I made back in college, the first friend I ever made and who happened to have the same birthday as me. Sadly, she died many years ago, but somehow the memory of our moments together stay strong. Why do some memories stay with us more than others? Hopefully, we can count the good ones more than the less pleasant ones. Nina, my friend, was so important to me. We lost touch - twenty-somethings are wont to do impulsive things until they realize 20 years later that none of that stuff matters. We started to write to each other - actual letters - for which I am so grateful for it was not much later that she died too young. Thanks to my friend, L, for keeping me in the loop about such things.

I’m thinking today about the new year, how the hype is that suddenly 2021 is going to erase everything that happened in 2020. The words that resonate with me this year are these: “Let go of the things that don’t matter, and focus on what’s important.” That’s a quote from Robert Herjovic, one of the sharks from Shark Tank. During COVID, Deril and I watched the series twice (don’t ask). Strange thing to glean from a “reality” TV show, but it resonated with me, and I haven’t forgotten it. I hope to follow this idea in the year to come.

In the meantime, my NY’s resolutions look to me more like a to-do list rather than a “these are all the things that are going to change my life and then I’ll be happy” list. Minor things, like buy some ceiling fans, learn how to make béarnaise sauce and crème anglaise, make an appointment to get my mammogram. And possibly, go back to NYC, a place I should have lived in a long time ago. I love my job and my husband and my baby, Niko. I’m very lucky. I have food and a roof over my head and people who care for me. When you peel all the layers of everything else, that’s all that really matters.

Happy new year, friends. It’s taken me a while to formulate my return to Splitting Poles. I hope to return more often.

End note: I did buy ceiling fans and had my mammogram. I did not learn to make béarnaise or crème anglaise as I am still trying to master brown butter sauce :). I haven't gone back to NYC yet. Perhaps my next trip will be when I go to Paris via JFK airport.

I continue to aspire to "forget about the things that don't matter, and focus on what's important." Thanks, Robert.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Six Years Later

I am a writer.

It's about time.

I guess.

I've been spending the last million days since I started this post trying to expound on those three sentences. I had an idea when I wrote those sentences where this post would go. It has been more than a million days ago since I even posted on this blog. Here I am today, tentatively, reviving this blog. This effort reminds me of a time in college when my friend, Jen, and I decided to try making a "flaming Rum drink" we'd heard about. So we went to the store, bought some Bacardi 151 and took it home. I don't remember what else was supposed to be in this "flaming" drink. In spite of being just/not quite 21, we were not experienced in the fire-inducing qualities of alcohol. We poured the 151 into a large pot, set it in the center of the kitchen and then circled as though we were the witches from MacBeth, teasing it with a lighter until it ignited, hopefully without burning the house down.

Well. Not only did we avoid a renters' insurance claim, we were resigned to non-flaming shots of rum (there's no way we wasted our hard earned cash/credit). Successful or not, the memory doesn't fail to elicit (semi) hysterical laughs from the two of us, and others, if we tell the story correctly.

So. Circling the pot.

I thought I had a pretty profound idea going when I wrote those first three lines at the top. And then I forgot what that profundity was. As such, I'm taking a new approach, albeit less aggressively sure of myself, and it's this:

We'll figure this out.

Not as glamorous, but this has to be the mantra because just as I wrote this, in front of the TV, someone on the show said, "we'll figure this out." No kidding, this happened. It's like, as my friend recently pointed out, the moment you hear about cooking "sous-vide" on Food Network, sure enough, your mom and your neighbor are sous-viding (not a word) their Thanksgiving dinner and everything else.

That's it. I don't have anything more far-reaching to say. I am just figuring this out, this return to writing, a return to me. Here I am! I say to myself, looking around, as though for someone else.

And so.

Here I am.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good Bye, 2015

This year wasn’t ideal.

Well, that doesn’t make sense. What would it take for an entire year to be ideal? It’s one thing for a day to not be ideal. Perhaps you wake up late (or too early), you forget you have to stop and get gas. Or the first thing that happens when you get to work is chaos and you have to sort it all out, tired, in want of coffee.

Or maybe you fight with your husband and your dog won’t leave you alone even though you just took him out for a walk an hour ago (what does he want?).

Probably your dog – and your spouse, for that matter – just wants attention. The good kind of attention. The affectionate kind, where you just spend time being with them. Maybe that’s all I need from myself. Maybe if I had given myself enough attention this last year that would be all it would have taken to make it ideal.

Paying attention takes patience. It takes the ability to put down everything and not be completely irritated about it. And why should I be irritated? Pretty much everything I do can wait a few minutes, an hour, sometimes even days. I let my housekeeping go for days at a time so why not The Amazing Race, especially when I am watching it on Hulu? The good part will still be there in 15 minutes. Or tomorrow.

I started 2015 with Big Plans. I found out in January that the major retail store that I managed was closing my location, which actually coincided well with my Big Plan to move out of state with my husband to parts of this country unknown. It was going to be an adventure after living 15 years in Phoenix, Arizona, suffering six months of summer temperatures so that we could enjoy the really lovely two or three months of ideal weather (there’s that word again). After spending a year of living at my mother’s house to save money and help afford us our adventure, we were finally going to be able to be on our own again. Keep in mind that we are quite grown so while I truly appreciate the time spent being close to my mom, I was really looking forward to having a place of my own again.

Closing my store was difficult in the way, I think, that teachers and parents experience sending their kids off to college or at least to find a place in the world. It was also like having the wind knocked out of you for some of my coworkers. A world turned upside down. Perhaps this is why I am struggling with paying attention now. Everyone in my work life in the first 4 months of this year needed my attention. And maybe that’s why I created an unhealthy mantra of “everybody wants something from me.”

That’s definitely not ideal.

I’ve tended to live my life propelled by what’s going to – or might – happen next. Or rather what I anticipate is going to happen next, and by that I mean that what happens next is going to be something great, something better than what is happening right now. As a child, this was a coping mechanism. As an adult, consciously or not, it has become a habit and an excuse not to attend to the present. This is why having Big Plans propelled me through the first half of 2015. I brought my store to a very satisfying close, all pats on the back for a job well done. I extricated myself from deeply unsatisfying and sometimes destructive relationships. I moved on, for there were literally unseen landscapes ahead of me, a new life full of promise and what I naively expected to be something akin to magic.

Some of it was magical. The verdant green of Tennessee foliage and what I could only imagine (for I'd never seen any) were copses and thickets were breathtaking as we drove I-40. North Carolina was our destination, a place we had only just decided on a month before leaving the dry, monochromatic concrete desert of Phoenix. Even as a California girl (both southern and northern), I had never seen anything like the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

We settled in Winston Salem (here I prefer to take license and not use the “dash” which I have learned is a point of controversy to locals; hence the name of the local minor league baseball team, The Winston Salem Dash.). Potential still held thick here because of Winston Salem's history of culture and arts; my husband, retired ballet dancer and teacher, had sent many a student to the North Carolina School of the Arts here in Winston. Possibility abounded.

And then reality set in. By that I mean that Big Plans or no, we carry with us who we are, no matter where we go. I should know this by now; I’ve started over at least four times over the last four decades (is it any coincidence that I turned 45 this year?). This is not to say that our Big Plan was for naught or that there is any regret in the choices we made. It’s just that perhaps, finally, the lesson is that one should not put such great stock into Big Plans.

Big Plans are great. They’re phenomenal. They can be life changing. My Big Plans were life changing, literally, but not in the way that I wanted my life to change.

I realize now that it was not my life that I wanted to change; it was me. I wanted a miracle, but not just any miracle. I wanted a miracle handed to me like the special red plate some families use on birthdays - if you’re not familiar with this tradition, go ahead and look it up – inscribed with instructions on how to use it. The miracle, that is, not the birthday plate. Too many metaphors – let me get to my point.

My point. My point in writing this is that 2015 has ended on a rather disappointing note, compared to how it started, and I’m okay with that now. Today, that is; I finally realized this today, December 31, 2015.

Today, I realized that I’m okay if I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or in a month or two months or next year. Well, at least today, I’m okay with that. Remember, I have a habit or two I need to work on breaking; but my hope for 2016 is this: that I pay attention. I intend to pay attention to today. Tomorrow I will pay attention to tomorrow. At this moment, I am paying attention to the fact that my sweet puppy is sitting very closely to me and resting his head against my elbow, tolerating the fact that I am typing at the same time. I am paying attention to the fact that I have a job, I have a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator and the best man I could ever wish to have love me as my partner in all my Big Plans, even if they just end up being "big plans" going forward.

As a child and an adult, I have always found stashed in my mom's bookcase a copy of Ram Dass’ book “Be Here Now.” I’ve never read it although I have a vague understanding of what it’s about – spirituality and yoga and meditation. For me, the title is enough. It’s another way to say pay attention.

Be here now. That’s a way better mantra than my old one. 

Good bye, 2015.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seedling Thoughts

I don't know if this counts as a proper blog post or not.  It's been a long time since I've added to this blog, but I have a lot of thoughts going through my head because of the latest book I've read, "Wake" by Anna Hope.

It's written by a British author and takes place in 1920, following the aftermath of WWI.  She does a wonderful job of painting a realistic picture of what life in London must have been like with all the returning war veterans and the absence of those who died during the war.  The story is told mostly from the perspective of women which gave me great insight into what life must have been like for them, left at home while their beloved men went off to fight, seemingly doing their duty, motivated by a great cause, propagandized by the governments of both sides.

It's a beautifully, poignantly, honestly written book that reminded me of another masterful book that I read last year, "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson.  That book spans both World Wars and is entirely different in terms of the style of narrative.  It's similarity is in that it features strong female characters juxtaposed against a war-torn England and a host of mentally and physically deformed veterans.

I was moved to think about women in the U. S. during these times.  I had coincidentally watched an episode of "America:  The Story of Us" which depicted American women going to work in munitions factories during WWII, risking their own lives for the sake of the war and their men abroad.  Watching this, there is no wonder that when their soldiers returned and women were expected to fall back into their roles as housewives and homemakers, there would be fall-out, which makes me think of two other books I've read and loved, "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham and "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates.

Both of these stories depict restless women yearning to break out of their societal roles, plunged into depression and despair of ever doing anything remarkable, held back by the men they love because they love them.  Throughout all of these books there is this idea of trying to reconnect pre and post war, which conjures a visual for me:  a friend of mine broke her foot a year ago, and in spite of all attempts it refused to heal because the bone had fractured in a way that one part was resting higher than the other half.  It took surgery to realign the bones to make them meet again so they would fuse together.

I haven't thought this all out too clearly - these are just thoughts that struck me, moved as I was by "Wake."  It's an excellent read, rich in language that conjures imagery and feeling.  One feels transported, and it's hard to believe the author did not live through these actual events herself.  At any rate, I had to get this out of my head.  Maybe someday I'll do something with it.  In the meantime, check these out, if you haven't already:





Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lavandula For What Ails You

I was driving to work last week, a little absent-mindedly (my car knows the way) because I was thinking about my next homework assignment and how in the world was I going to bring science into my writing and craft it as expertly as Elizabeth, my writing teacher, does, when I found myself behind a car whose personalized license plate read JSTRLX – just relax.  Hm, that’s nice, I thought, and relevant to my life at this point.  Thanks, buddy, I silently replied, for the reminder.

I continued my drive and about 10 miles later as I was exiting the freeway, I came to a stop behind the same car!  JSTRLX.  Is someone sending me a message?  Is this divine intervention helping me with my writing assignment, because after seeing it the first time, I remembered the bit about the lavender fields in Victoria.

I have trouble sleeping.  I can’t seem to turn my brain off.  When I was at my doctor’s office last week, she suggested lavender oil to help calm down before bedtime.  I’m open to that, but at $50 a pop, it’s a little out of my price range (although if I added up my prescription co-pays, it would probably come out the same, now that I think about it.)

Aside from just smelling good, lavender, or lavandula if we’re going to use scientific names, has many uses.  It is an herb whose flowers and oils are used to calm restlessness, help with insomnia, nervousness and depression, and can generally improve mental well being.  Its other medicinal uses are for easing digestive complaints, migraine headaches, toothaches, sprains, nerve pain, sores, joint pain and can be used to ease agitation due to dementia.  It can also help with hair loss when applied to the skin and will repel mosquitos and other insects.  Of course, as an herbal remedy, it gets no support from the FDA.

Sign me up!  For the nervousness and depression alone, I’ll take it.  Perhaps that is why I felt so happy when I was riding in that upper deck of the bus through the lavender fields in Victoria.  Or maybe it was a sense of general peace and calm, like everything is going to be okay.  I should have fields of it in my yard, row upon row of lavender, so that when I eventually am able to open my bedroom window, the sleep-inducing aroma will lull me into pleasant dreams, like the characters in The Wizard of Oz who fall asleep in the poppy fields, but without the opiate affect and all the mess that comes with delving into the drug underworld.

I’m realizing that my doctor was really onto something with her $50 essential oil tincture (my mom, the herbalist will appreciate all this, especially when I use the word “tincture.”  She has a tincture for everything).  The next time I have a migraine, I will apply lavender oil to my upper lip – yes, upper, not lower, don’t know what happens if you put it on your lower lip – and voila!  I can save money by stopping my Imitrex prescription.  And my foot, where I think I may have tendinitis – certainly if lavender works for sprains, it must help tendinitis?  I can cancel my appointment to the podiatrist. 

I will rub my husband down with lavender oil to ease all his joint pain, his inflammation – how he will look forward to that, I think, knowing how much he despises lotions and anything greasy touching his skin.  And as for that bald spot on his head, surely he wouldn’t mind a scalp massage?

Ah, the time and money I can save just because there is lavandula.  However, it does also presumably cure loss of appetite, and that is one thing I prefer not to lose; or rather, I would like to gain a loss of appetite, as it would help with my current weight loss goals.  There’s always a trade-off, I suppose.

Oh, and if you are interested, lavender taken in pill form will also ease constipation.  Just sayin’.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


It's dusk as I sit outside on this late September Arizona evening, and I am peaceful because I have realized just now that I don't have to be perfect.

I woke up from a lovely late afternoon catnap - the kind that makes you want to stretch, literally, like a cat.  It was a nice nap, except I started to have some very anxiety ridden dreams:  I was spending money I didn't have, I was late to work, I was even being hunted by some killer robot or something.  What it was escapes me now.  I awoke in a panic until I realized that everything was okay, even though I have been prone to spending money I don't have and being late to work, just not quite in the extremes represented in my dream.

Outside, my kitty Maya joins me, and she is being good.  Unlike last night when she was gallivanting around the back yard, chasing gnats, testing her boundaries (literally), and then stopping to eat grass or sniff a tree as if to say, "What?  I'm just sitting here, checking out this tree," tonight, she is sitting calmly on the pavement, even as birds - sparrows probably - take roost on the rooftop of our next door neighbor's house, squawking back and forth to one another.  She, who would be the one of our cats to jump the wall, just watches.

I don't know why I had the overwhelming sense come over me that I don't have to be perfect, but it felt cathartic, as though my nap was truly rejuvenating, my bed a cocoon to help me reinvent myself.  Maybe I finally relaxed, it being my second day off in my series of two.  I came home from an outing, utterly exhausted (I must be rundown, I thought, contemplating B vitamins on my way home), nearly collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep.  And, well, now, here I am, and all is right (I almost wrote "write" - what a slip) with the world.

The birds have moved on to some other rooftop.  Maya is now testing her boundaries, as is her nature.  Even as I say her name in that warning way, she is leaning over, sniffing the ground (what?  I'm just checking out the pavement here).  The sun is setting more now, and finally, FINALLY, it is cool outside, and by that I mean only 82 degrees.  

This kind of evening reminds me of a period of time when I lived in Sacramento with Deril on Sweet Way.  On days I didn't go to ballet class, I would leave work and head home.  It was Spring, the days were starting to get longer.  I'd go to Long's Drugstore and pick up a few things, including an ice cream bar, and I'd come home, sit on the steps of the front porch and eat it, enjoying the weather, the peacefulness of the hour before nightfall.  It's a special time of day, dusk, when you can do almost anything you want, but once the darkness falls and it truly becomes nighttime, chores beckon.  Lights must be turned on, dinner made, perhaps laundry.  Back in those days, I might watch the nightly news (I was a fan of Peter Jennings).  Real life tasks had to be accomplished, but in that time when the sun sat low in the sky and the day cooled, time could stand still.  I could eat a Popsicle, sit on the porch, think without being distracted or interrupted.

I could just be me.

It's almost dark now.  I'm still outside, but I'll have to turn the porch light on.  Tonight, dinner doesn't have to be made and there is no laundry to wash, but there are things to be done to prepare for my workweek ahead.  It's only 6:42pm but I have to work early tomorrow so there is only so much time between now and the time I have to go to bed to ensure I have a full night's sleep.  Maya has gone back to being good, just sitting, waiting for me to say, come on, let's go inside.  As I sit here, contemplating that and dusk and the cool night, I realize that maybe I am so content because I am finally free from Arizona's summer confinement period - the time when it is so hot outside, the best thing to do is stay inside.

Dusk will come again tomorrow, and the next day.  It makes me happy to know that.  I just have to remind myself to stop for an hour and appreciate it, to be me.

Finally, my latecomer, Maisy-cat, joins us outside, so even while it is dark and I have to turn the porch light on, I think I'll stay just a little while longer.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where I'm Writing From

It was bound to happen.  I saw it coming.  After all, one can't just go to Starbucks everyday and pay full price for espresso and a water when both can be had for free at home.  At least, I can't.  Application fees are fast approaching; I could easily pay for one with a week's worth of studying at Starbucks.

So here I am, at home, at my kitchen table, not really minding it as much as I thought I might.  Deril has been very supportive of my time spent writing, and besides, he's all caught up in watching "Dark Knight Rises" so I may as well not even be here.  Even the kitties are leaving me alone.

I am procrastinating, though.  I don't really have a topic for this post beyond the first paragraph, and I thought of that on my way home.

I'm currently reading "A Permanent Member of the Family" by Russell Banks.  It's a collection of short stories, an Advanced Reader's Copy I got through work.  I've never read Russell Banks before, but I thought it might be a good idea to get myself back in the groove of short story writing by reading some.  You see, part of my reason for starting this blog in the first place was to get my writer's brain flowing.  While I would ultimately like to be a novelist, I am fascinated by the short story ever since I took my last class as an undergraduate in college.  It was called "Creative Writing for Non-Majors" and book-ended my college career very nicely since the first class I took in college was "Introduction to Creative Writing" or something like that because that was why I went to UC Santa Cruz - to be a Creative Writing major.

Bless my 18-year old heart, I thought I knew everything about writing.  I had, after all, already written a manuscript, just waiting for some editor or publishing house to look at it and call it the best thing ever written by a 16 year old.  The most exciting point in my life at that time had been when I'd submitted it to Avon/Flare's young adult novel competition.  What, you say?  No, I didn't win.

I couldn't hack the Intro class.  Truthfully, I was intimidated, but I told myself I just didn't like other writers.  They were too boastful, always wanting to talk about their writing and give out advice.  I was a quiet writer, kept it to myself, and I overestimated myself.  I barely remember that class, finishing it out, but once done, I began to pour through the UCSC catalog to find another major.

Four years later, I had lost my false confidence and gained some humility, so while looking for a final class to take to complete my undergraduate career, I stumbled upon this "Creative Writing for Non-Majors."  Cool.  No intimidation factor at all (I still wasn't sure I liked other writers).

I wrote a good short story for that class, and then I wrote another.  I read even more, all written by the other students.  I had already fallen in love with Raymond Carver and his short story collection, "Where I'm Calling From."  What I love about the short story is how much you have to pack into a short amount of space, how far you decide to go with it, when to end it.  Every short story I read leaves me asking the question "what did the author mean by this?"  I love that.  A long time ago, at the beginning of this blog, I wrote a piece about interpretation.  Interpretation is the number one thing I loved about studying literature.  Reading is a personal experience; no matter what the author might have meant while writing it, the reader is allowed to take whatever she wants from it.  It screams, "what do YOU think?"  Independent thought is gospel at UC Santa Cruz and probably one of the things I value most about my time there.

Anyway, "Splitting Poles" is supposed to be a short story collection interspersed with poetry, which I used to think I was good at.  I haven't written any in a long time so I'm not sure anymore.  About poetry, that is.  I think I might be still okay at the short story, but I need to write one. . .any suggestions?