"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, 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?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't Kill Jesus

I can't help it.  I'm going to start with this in spite of how I tried to argue myself out of it on the way to Starbucks tonight.  I saw a dog crossing the other side of the busy street I was on, and someone hit him.  Hit him and continued driving on.  The poor dog.  I had already slowed before it got hit in case it made its way to my side of the street, but after seeing it lying in the road, I had to slow even more, make a U-turn and stop with a couple of other cars who had stopped when they saw what happened.  I wasn't much help.  Two other cars had stopped and three women were stopping traffic and trying to carefully put the dog in the car to take it to the animal hospital.  It was awful.

And then I made it to Starbucks and sat down, ready to work.  I connected to wi-fi and saw a link to "The Economist" and an article discussing Syria.  Because I have become a rebel to local news stations and rarely see the national news, I am very out of the loop when it comes to world events, so I decided I should probably read a little to inform myself because it sounds like more military action.  You know what got me in the article?  It wasn't the political debate, the should we or shouldn't we.  It was the fact that anyone would use chemical weapons - no, not even that.  I was just overcome as I have been in the past with why people have to inflict pain and harm on others?  I had to keep myself from crying.  I don't understand it.

I talked about this before in my post "Latchkey At Last", about being devastated to learn about slavery, and how I would cry every time I watched or listened to Jesus Christ Superstar.  I guess I'm just sensitive at the core, in spite of how hard I try to present myself.  I've been told by some peers at work that I am too personal or share too much with some of the people I supervise; that as a boss, I should maintain a certain distance.  I have learned the hard way that this is sometimes true, but I wouldn't be me if I couldn't be someone they could talk to, if I couldn't allow my empathy to enter into my professional life (and Empathy is one of my strengths, according the Strengthsfinders).  I put on a good front, the persona of someone who has it all together, but we all know that's not the real me.  I've been through a lot, and I've made it through.  I learned to survive it, that's all, but I'm not unscathed.

I did something nice this morning for someone who needed something nice to be done for her.  Later, she told me that my small act of kindness somehow snowballed several other acts of kindness toward her.  I was glad, happy that I'd done something good, but as I told her, she makes it easy to be nice to her.  That's what I tell Deril whenever he says I am being nice to him.  It's easy to be nice to him.  It's easy to love him.  Some people are just like that.

So do an act of kindness today, or tomorrow, or the next day.  Stop if you see a dog lying in the road, hurt, even if you have somewhere to be.  Don't harm people with chemical weapons.  Don't perform dehumanizing acts on other people because they are different from you.  And don't kill Jesus; that is, don't persecute someone out of fear and for political gain.  You get the idea.

I'm going home now.  It's time to spend some Q. T. with Deril and Maisy and Maya.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Thelonious Monster

First, forgive me, if this post comes out all muddled.  I need to write today, and these ideas just started forming in my head so I wanted to get them out.  I'll try to put something coherent on the page.

I just finished reading the advanced readers' copy of "Running With Monsters" by Bob Forrest.  Reality TV fans will know him from "Celebrity Rehab", the self-named "guy with the hat."  He's Dr. Drew's sidekick, one of the counselors.  Music connoisseurs will know him from punk rock days in the late 80's and 90's.  His band was "Thelonious Monster," and I'll admit, I'd never heard of them before this I read Forrest's book.  I looked them up on YouTube and listened to some of their music, and I actually kind of liked it.  Not really my style but anyway, that's not the point.  The point of reading the book was that it is his chronicle of his life as an alcoholic and drug addict, all the while trying to be a successful musician which was pretty much impossible given that he was drunk or high all the time.  And then his sobriety, which he actually doesn't talk much about.  He just decided, finally, to get sober and stay sober.  There are much better books out there that are much more thoughtful and searching than Bob Forrest's.

I have this thing for reading about real-life alcoholics and drug addicts, and if they happen to be celebrities, so be it.  This mini-obsession comes, I'm sure, from my experience with my dad's addictions and Direll's drug abuse.  So I was reading the book and trying to like it and get lost in the craziness of his downward spiral, trying to learn about how he got where he was and where he is today.  It was okay.  I think I had a nightmare one night about drugs while I was in the middle of reading it, so I thought about stopping but I wanted to know how it turned out.

And it made me kind of mad.  I mean, he's very nonchalant about his drug use and the people he hung out with.  While he doesn't play down how bad off he was, there was nothing that made me want to root for him to get clean.  It's a book about musicians, I suppose, and celebrity lifestyles.  He's a big wannabe, if you ask me, but I keep trying to stop myself from making judgments.  The most honest part of the book was when he describes River Phoenix's death, which he witnessed.

I don't know.  I guess what this book did was inspire feelings in me about my dad.  I can't pretend to know what was going on with my dad when he wanted to use and drink.  I can make suppositions.  I can make up stories in my head to make him seem more sympathetic to me, like he was clinically depressed and undiagnosed.  He probably had generalized anxiety disorder, too.  Beyond that, I don't know.  Maybe what bugs me and makes me think about my dad while I think about Bob Forrest is that Bob Forrest is not exactly a sympathetic character in his own story.  He just used and used and didn't give any thought to the people in his life, like his wives or his accidental son.  Even his supposed "real" friendships seem superficial, and I guess that's what I don't like to think about my dad.  I've defended my dad my entire life, made him into some fallen hero.  I know he loved me, but at times, he loved drugs and alcohol more.  That's just the truth, otherwise, he wouldn't have done a lot of the things he did at the expense of his relationships with his children.

Deril and I were watching some reality crime show on TV the other day, and part of the story involved a mother who was so fucked up she missed her daughter's birthday party.  "Can you believe a mother would miss her own daughter's birthday party?" Deril asked me, honestly bewildered.  And how did I respond?  Without even trying, I answered, completely emotionally detached, "Well, my dad missed my high school graduation."  I suppose I wasn't so detached that there wasn't a hint of bitterness, but the answer came out so fast and easy that Deril felt like the most insensitive jerk on the planet.  He didn't know.  It  wasn't his fault.  After all, there are so many stories I could tell, I forget what I've told Deril and what I haven't.

I'm glad for Bob Forrest that he got sober and is straight and doing what he can to help other people.  The other thing that reminded me of my dad was that Forrest went to Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena, CA, and that's the hospital my dad went to for detox and rehab.  Matt and Julie and I visited him once while he was there.  It's very pretty, very green.  It looks like the complete opposite of what the patients are probably going through.

Anyway, I guess that's all I have to say about that.  Family, friends, don't feel like you have to make me feel better about my dad.  I know who he was at heart; I don't have to be reminded.  It's just that sometimes, the shitty stuff comes out and there's nothing to be done but look at it for what it was.  My dad loved me, and he still relapsed.  He loved me, and I watched him get drunk and high right in front of me more times than I'd like to count.  He loved me, and he tied a noose and hung himself off his balcony.  I have to live with that.

It's because of that that I have this sometimes annoying habit of finding the bright side of everything.  Oh, I take antidepressants and have had some serious bouts of depression and anxiety, but I'd never consider suicide, and it's because of what he did.  I'm going to be morose for a moment - don't panic!  Because he took his life, he forces me to live mine, and sometimes I don't want to.  But I'll never to do my family what he did to me, and I resent him for it.

Anyway - well, I was going to apologize for my honesty here, but I changed my mind.  I had to get this out of my head, and I had to write something down - you know, get the garbage out so I can write something good.  Will I ever?