Archive for February, 2014


Marking the Miles, February

photoAh, February. We can’t believe it’s over so fast. Simultaneously, we’re over it, weather-wise.

And you, well, you lived it with me, blog fans. As I said in January, I’m beginning to see the the importance of recognizing where we’ve been, appreciating how far we’ve come.

Here’s a look back at our February journey, from my view:

The most popular February post was Groundhog Day. My edgiest post, in my opinion, was Recompense IV, which was posted on a Friday, of course. (I tend to have attitude on Fridays.) I admit I like edgy. I have small moments of terror when posting edgy blogs, but I post them nonetheless.

In February, I posted two series: the Recompense Series and the Walking in the Woods Series. Recompense began as a reaction to my friend’s comment: “It just doesn’t pay to be a nice guy.” From that, I wrote four reactionary blogs about expectation, giving freely, thankfulness, and the reality of turning the other cheek, which was Recompense IV. My Walking in the Woods Series reviewed my very first three experiences in the woods here in Minnesota. Each of them were vastly different, from watching my footing to listening to my inner self to, finally, picking my head up during the walk and seeing what was actually around me.

In Life in the Snow Globe, I posted during a blizzard here in Minnesota, one that we are still digging out from under. Mid-blizzard, I’d lost power during that blog, so I wrote and posted for the first time via mobile app on my phone. Immediately afterward, one local blog fan sent me the text: “Are you posting via candlelight now?” Indeed I was.

My typical Friday rants included a rare Sunday rant in February with Take a Stand. I must say, month-wise, I’m most proud of Take a Stand, Recompense IV, Edge Riders, and The Greats.

I ended the month with some poetry, and it received good response, so I may include more poems in the future. I typically perform new poetry at monthly readings, so I can certainly share what I’m working on with you. Upcoming events are always posted on my website.

I tried not to get too word-nerdy this month, but that’ll probably change as I have many words that I love and want to blog, and many phrases being used today that I can’t stand. Additionally, I’m a practitioner and witness to risks being taken with language that I find astounding and expanding to our vocabulary. I won’t continue to remain silent about these great wonders and their gorgeous effects.

Truth be told, I enjoyed the end of Lunacy. I wrote it, posted it, and then added it to my lineup to read at a local college two hours later. (Special thanks go out to poet Pam Whitfield for organizing that stellar poetry performance February 14.)

Readership numbers increased in February, and, as I said in January, they’re reading your great comments as much as my posts. Thank you, readers!

And though I have no idea what is coming in March, readers, mark my words: It will be epic. And we’ll do it together.

Signing off from February. See you tomorrow in March.

-J

~

Support an artist! Check out my book, Upside Down Kingdom, on Amazon!

Advertisements

Tickling Fibers Make

For my 100th post, a little outside-the-box thinking. Read this poem twice if you will, the second time, a different way. photo-2

Tickling Fibers Make

Tickling fibers make
dust-scented pages flip over
like rap music of the tenants below,
like the wooden ticking of the old clock,

this itchiness in the skin.
In a nearby book,
its presence felt in the vibrating floor,
and the hollow dripping of the tub,

And despite heat and itch, my skin,
still with unknown knowledge,
just goes on and on and on and on
(no one will stop it).

Still isn’t leaving the carpet,
it’s just waiting to be read,
that same damn song.
No one will stop it.

~

Find Upside Down Kingdom on Amazon.

Noises Undone

When we were little, my sister and I would watch the Incredible Hulk on TV.

photo

I remember a time when I was terrified to sleep at night because I was sure the Hulk was in my closet, coming to get me. Then one night, I was pulled from sleep by a strange rustling sound. I told myself I’d been dreaming.

But then I heard it again. This time I was sure I heard it, no dreaming involved. There was something in my closet. I lay there as the rustling got louder, too petrified to try to get away or to defend myself, when suddenly, out of the closet jumped our cat. I was spared.

The next night at bedtime, I told my mom how scared I’d been, and I expected her to tell me that the Hulk wasn’t in my closet. She didn’t.

She didn’t tell me I was being silly. She didn’t say the Hulk wasn’t real. She didn’t say anything forgettable like that.

Instead she said, “The Incredible Hulk never hurts children. Think of all the shows you’ve seen. He goes after the bad guys and protects the children.”

After that, I still heard noises at night. But I stopped telling myself I was just dreaming. And I stopped being afraid.

~

Upside Down Kingdom is on Amazon.

GlastonburyA zillion years ago, (or perhaps 15), I traveled to Glastonbury, England on a writer’s retreat with author Emily Hanlon. Glastonbury is said to be King Arthur territory, and before that it was entirely covered by tidal water. It’s mystical, full of myth, ruins, and lore. The entire place seems to hum, from the ground up.

A group of us, all female, stayed in an old Abbey House for a little over a week. We wrote, met, discussed, ate, danced, explored the town, and wrote some more. It was a week of adventure, friendship, and writing discovery, from which I have great stories–actual and written.

Recently, I came across an exercise that Emily asked us to do during our very first meeting, which involved making a list of what we would like to get out of the Glastonbury experience. My list includes 16 items, mostly about becoming a better writer, trusting the ability, making friends, etc., etc., the usual suspects. I don’t mean to belittle these things. They’re important, and I believe in them. But stuck toward the beginning of the “My Intentions Are” list was #3.  And #3 just knocks it out of the park:

“3. To move the blankets when I sleep here–to sleep with such fury and passion with ideas that I move those heavy blankets in my sleep and have to completely remake the bed in the morning.”

Remembering that trip, where I was, who I was, the way I thought about writing (even then), the pieces I wrote then and since, and finding #3… I was stunned silent. After a little while, I smiled and thought, “Dear ’99 Me: You can, and you will.” 

~
My first book is called Upside Down Kingdom. Check it out on Amazon. You won’t be disappointed.

In the Attic

Let’s start this week out right. Here’s a short story, for your Monday pleasure:

In the Attic

photo-5Something is up there, I’ve seen it myself.  It might just be an old Christmas tree or similar item.  But whatever it is, it’s bundled in a blanket and wrapped tight with cord.

The attic is accessible by a trap door built into the ceiling between my bedroom and my roommate’s. I needed to change the hallway light bulb, which is conveniently next to the trap door. So, flashlight still in hand, I decided it was time to have a look.  After all, I’d gone to the trouble of lugging a dining room chair up the stairs to stand on.  I expected spiders, and I wasn’t too thrilled about that expectation.  But opening the trap door just partway, I immediately saw the bundle.  It was impossible to tell its exact size because my flashlight quit working and I wasn’t about to go head first into the attic with the bundle up there. I couldn’t, anyway. The chair I was standing on was too short. I’d need a ladder.

The neighbors might have one. They’ve lived there for two decades and have everything that all the neighbors need to borrow, from wine glasses to the only snow shovel on our street. I’m sure they use their attic space as usual, for their personal storage.  No one has used our attic in years, why would something be up there?  Catherine lived in the house before us, for five years, and never even ventured to the upstairs landing–let along the attic–since her bedroom was in the basement.  Whatever it is, it’s been there for a long time.

I’m not sure what I know about our landlord.  I’ve never met him, but I did talk to him on the phone once.  My roommate has met him, though.  I know that he never wants to come by, even if there’s a problem with the house.  He’s glad to have repair receipts deducted from the rent, no questions asked, and we’re on our own.

I’m thinking all this, and fussing with my flashlight, on the chair at the top of the stairs, when I suddenly felt as though I were being watched—which is silly. There’s nobody here. Just me and the bundle. And it’s not like the bundle had a smell, even.  But the more I looked up at it, the more I expected it to move.

Standing on a chair at the top of the wooden staircase isn’t the best place to be when you’re waiting for the thing in the attic to move.

So now I’m on my way to convince my neighbor to have a look with me.  With another person around, maybe I won’t fall down the stairs.  And then there will be two of us for the spiders to land on.  Divide and conquer.

I’m also thinking now about finding a stick to poke at it…

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is on Amazon.

Take a Stand

photo-3There are measures of people in the world. I hate that it’s true, but it is.

There are people who will leave you stranded because it’s a burden to them to help out. And there are those who will stop to help no matter what it costs them.

Here’s the gist of the story: In the aftermath of the blizzard, a car skidded on the ice in front of me at an intersection, and it was clear that the car was stuck. So, a bunch of us jumped out to get the lame duck car going again. It took a few minutes, about two light changes and one man fell down in the process, but it ultimately worked and we got the car on its way.

And then, let’s just say that a certain someone returned to her car after work, around midnight, to find that it wouldn’t start. She called a friend who agreed to meet up to try to jump the battery. While she’s waiting, she decides to go to a nearby restaurant where she knows the staff and can sit inside to wait. She tells the staff about the dead battery and that she needs to wait about 20 minutes. The staff lets her sit down and they go back to talking amongst themselves. But roughly ten minutes later, the staff abruptly turn out the lights. Our favorite character gathers her things in the dark and proceeds out the door. On her way out, the staff pause their conversation and throw her way, “Hey, hope things work out with your car.”

Dear Readers, which people are you? I’m asking you to take a stand. The past doesn’t matter.  All that matters is who you are now and who you’ll be when the call comes.

These are the moments, the moments that matter. Make them count.

~
I wrote a book called Upside Down Kingdom. It’s on Amazon. I’d be honored if you’d check it out.

The Greats

photo-2It’s been a crazy week. Aren’t they all? Today, I’m running to the solace of my favorite writers to put the world back to right again.

I have to start with Hemingway, because he’s my favorite. He knew how to tell a story. I especially love when he writes about writing. He believed in finding that “one true sentence.” And he liked to end his writing day right in the middle of a scene, that way he had a place to begin when he returned.

I enjoy Faulkner’s lack of punctuation. I trust him on it (there’s that trust factor again) and I enjoy the ride. I liken reading Faulkner (yes, liken) to riding down an old dirt road a little too fast, and then taking your seatbelt off. In the middle of what seems like crazy prattle, surprising confession and adventure emerge. Really, who else could write a tale about a dead woman and toss in the woman’s own present-day-dead thoughts?

This next writer is a poet. When you read her, even wrecklessly, you start to see a pattern. I’d say every seventh or eighth poem (because she wrote and kept them in numerical order), she wrote about the insights she had when dealing with people. She really could see through all the pretense and could cut right to the chase. A master at human motive. I’m talking about Emily Dickinson. Next time you’re at Barnes and Noble, look up to the writers depicted on the wall near the ceiling. The Greats are carrying on in a barroom or café together, laughing, drinking, reading, writing, sharing ideas. And then there’s Emily, staring straight back at you. Whoever put her there thinks about her the same way I do.

I love Aaron Sorkin’s writing, the way he connects one small sentence at the beginning of an episode to the “Crispin Crispian” moment at the end. I’m thinking of the Newsroom here, and the brilliance of the episode where the staff write checks to Will because they realize the greater importance. I’m also thinking of the line from West Wing, “I’m Toby Ziegler. I work at the White House.” These are writing moments that stick with you–even years after the fact they give you goose bumps and move you to tears. Truly, I get through daily life by thinking about these story lines.

Neil Gaiman rises to the top of the list. There’s always a hint of warm darkness from him, from the alien in love with a machine on a wasteland planet, to the child’s bravery when faced with monster parents, to a demon’s love of humans that prompts him to team up with an angel to try to save mankind… Okay, sometimes there’s more than a hint of darkness. But it’s the warmth in that darkness that is so signature Gaiman. And he’ll make you laugh out loud, literally.

There are plenty more writers who make my Greats list, and all for different reasons. Today, these are the ones I come back to, and honestly, I come back to these five a lot. In my mind, I spend my days with them. I study them. I listen to their advice. And I practice. Oh, do I practice.

~
My first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Grabians

photoAs the blizzard leaves us in its wake and we begin to start the cleanup process, my mind is prone to wandering. As it does so often with this weather, it wanders either to the beach or to the clouds. Today it’s clouds. Here’s a bit of fantasy prose I call The Grabians. It all started with an unreplied email…

The Grabians

Okay, I was going to write you back…but then:

A giant spaceship landed and a green (because that’s a dashing color) alien jumped out and told me that I had to go with him to planet Grabian for a pool tournament that’s only held once every quarter century and a half.

I protested, saying that I had to write an email to my buddy Patrick, but you just can’t reason with these Grabians, not when victory is on the line.

Not much of a pool player myself, we had to detour the spaceship to Bob’s Pool Lessons, “Sticks and Balls, We Teach It All” in Hoboken, New Jersey. Bob was unavailable on such short notice, but his former son, Bob Jr., offered his services.

By 4:20 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, I was shooting pool like one of those skinny women in a vest and tie on the cable channels.

My Grabian friend paid for the lesson since I forgot my purse back at work with your half-finished email. Bob Jr. sure was surprised to see that Grabian money looks an awful lot like New Jersey bus tokens.

Well, we were off again in the ship, and made it right in time to begin the annual quarter century and a half Grabian tournament. Unfortunately, their gravity is different than ours, but being a system analyst at WorldCom, I’m sure you know all about that.

It came down to the final shot, (doesn’t it always?) and lo and behold I was the only one left holding the stick. That made it was my turn, according to the Grabian Constitution. (Hey, they’re aliens, not barbarians.)

Taking all my new-found knowledge from the infamous Bob Jr., I shot the ball directly into the corner pocket for the win! I was crowned Queen of Grabian and given the keys to the city of Neldar, which I quickly gave back because they were toxic to human skin.

It was the greatest achievement of my life (sad, eh?) and I would have called you from the victory party but my cell phone was back at the office in my purse.

Phew! I only got back a couple minutes ago, and contrary to most alien abductions, I was gone for what seemed only a fraction of an hour, but it took nearly 4 whole days in Earth Time.

Sorry, buddy, it really was out of my control. A tournament junkie Grabian is not a creature to mess with during a crescent moon…

~

Stay safe out there, everyone. And check out UDK on Amazon when you get a free moment.

Life in the Snow Globe

20140220-174356.jpg
You know you’re getting a lot of snow when…

5. It starts thundering. I was working in an office building in Minnesota the first time I experienced simultaneous thunder, lightening, and snow, and I tell you, for this East Coast kid, thundersnow is a weird anomaly that belongs only in a SciFi movie.

4. The power goes out because the snow is too heavy for the lines. I remember last May when it snowed 18 inches here, and my friend Dawn had no electricity for two days. She made homemade Mac ‘n Cheese on her grill and fed all the people who came in from the cold to stay at her house. Leave it to Dawn…

3. You can’t differentiate between snow bank and snow-covered garbage can. Numerous times, my neighbor has helped me dig out my garbage container when it gets buried by the plow. It’s an experience, though, to dig shoulder-level with the shovel, hoping to hit something.

2. Your house starts making weird cracking noises. Earlier today, I heard a loud crunch that sounded as if the front door had fallen off into the snow. I ran downstairs but nothing visible had happened. So far, the house is intact. But it’s groaning. And this thing is only getting started.

1. When you have to exit the front door, round to the back door, shovel to uncover the back door, then take a screwdriver and a hammer and chisel the ice under the back door, then repeat these steps for four days until the back door opens again–just as today’s blizzard was about to hit.

So far, today’s snowpocalypse includes heavy snow, blinding snow, hurl-down-an-inch-per-hour snow, thundersnow… The wind will pick up soon and them it will get worse. At least we didn’t get the freezing rain they predicted here before the snow, or the tornadoes. But the power just went out. Only 15 more hours of snow to go!

…….
If you have power, check out my first book on Amazon.

photo-3Over the last few years, I’ve walked many, many times in these particular woods with my friends, in daylight, at night, and in all seasons. I wrote after each of the first three walks I did, the first time, watching my feet. The second, noticing the path as I struggled internally with what was happening in my life then. This is the third walk, and as they say, the third time’s the charm. I’m still introspective—it is me, after all. But this time, I picked my head up:

Another walk in the woods!  The walk was vigorous.  We’d taken a different route today.  The weather was nice for a change this week, and all seemed easier in the world.

I’m filling my skin more and more each day, coming to the surface.  I’m not hiding deep within myself the way I’m so prone to do.  I’m hovering just below the surface of my own skin, and at times, I think I’m hovering just above the surface.

Here and there, sadnesses creep up, and I give them their time, but I don’t let myself dive further and further into them.  I’m done with that.  I’m not willing to break myself to pieces again to feel the sadness at its fullest.  I have no need to keep breaking myself.  I feel them, I recover.  I don’t dwell.

Though I have lost a lot, I have gained a lot.  The gains shouldn’t be overlooked or overshadowed.  Maybe I’ve lost more than I’ve gained, but it’s life, not a game of pick up sticks.

I have time.  I didn’t have that before.  I’m always in a hurry, always running late, always needing more time and feeling rushed against the clock.  Now, I’m just as busy–if not busier–and yet, inside, I know I have time.  There’s no deadline but my own.  I feel a lot more relaxed.  I feel like things are easier.

I also am counting my blessings more and more these days.  There are lots to want to fix, and things that need to be changed or even mourned over, but there are many, many blessings in my life, more and more each day, and I try to find them and not overlook them.  I am blessed.   Every time I start to think or say that something’s lacking in my life, I stop myself and immediately start looking at what’s not missing.

This walk, I felt very comfortable and I kept my head up.  I was sure of my footing.  My footsteps were firm.  I kept my head up and looked around at all the new greenery.  And I smiled my head off.

~
The woods writings are part of my book, The Forty, which is unreleased and pending edits. My first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

%d bloggers like this: