Posted in Art

Photography Reflections

(Reflections inspired by my latest experiment in photography)

And when you’ve traveled so far down this road
You’ll never find your way back home
And when you’ve run so long

You don’t remember what it is you’re running from
Stop chasing empty dreams
And find beauty where you are

Because it’s only where you are that matters
And it’s only when you let go
That you truly find a home

 

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Posted in Art

Poetry for The Day: Emily Dickinson

In honor of last weekend’s National Single’s Awareness Day, Emily says it best. 

If you were coming in the fall,I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting

Posted in God, Poetry Stories

Sunday Morning Rituals

Several years ago, I lived right down the road from a Border’s bookstore. The entire chain has since gone out of business, but for a couple of years, Border’s was my church of sorts.

In my young twenties, I didn’t own a car, but lived in a pedestrian-friendly master-planned community. We had beautiful biking trails that spanned most of the town, and I used them to walk everywhere.

Near the middle of town, was a mall, with an outdoor shopping district, a Border’s, a Barne’s and Noble, and a public library, all within a mile of one another. A trolley regularly drove the entire district and took people around for free. This became my Sunday morning ritual.

I had never really been big on churchgoing. Which, seems a bit of a contradiction as I’d always been big on God. But, oddly enough, I had learned to keep the two separate. Church is run by people. People, even the most well-meaning ones, said and did stupid things. God was almighty and powerful, and transcended our ideas of church. And he never does stupid things.

Besides, church had always felt like a duty, a legalistic chore, that requires one to adhere to certain beliefs and ideas. I didn’t like that. l wanted to be a free thinker. That’s what I wanted to be remembered as—someone who thought on her own terms and wrote well about it. God was bigger than our ideas of creed and doctrine, I reasoned. And I wanted the freedom to be able to imagine it, without being influenced by other people’s ideas.

There was, however, a semi-artsy church I attended irregularly. They turned off all the overhead lights, ran colored lights on the stage, and lit candles throughout the room. They played a lot of Jesus Culture, and had their own recording studio, a full coffee shop, and had trendy couches artfully disheveled in the lobby.

The pastor wore Vans, dressed in Urban Outfitters, and dyed his increasingly salt and pepper hair. That is, until his daughter went off to college. Then I guess he decided the gig was up and he had to admit he wasn’t twenty-five anymore. But, he was super intelligent, had graduated from Duke and spoke with a meandering style of cynical and verbose wit that instantly appealed to the writer in me.

From time to time, when I would feel lost in life, I would wander in the doors, sit through a funny and engaging sermon, and feel like I had pushed a giant reset button in my mind. I would leave refreshed and good to go for another month or two.

The rest of the time, I believed in Sunday as a day of rest. I would wake up late and walk the two miles to Border’s.

I’d get a snack in the coffee shop upstairs, and then settle into the big leather chairs where I’d read until evening. I would everything. I read classics. I read young, contemporary books of poetry. I read books on art, history, and photography. I read the random bestsellers they were promoting. I read salacious chick-lit novels with stilettos on the cover. I read books by talk show hosts, and the tell-all memoirs of the girlfriends of rap stars. I read biographies of women in entertainment and internalized their success tips. I read funny books by raunchy comedians that made me laugh out loud even though their humor was clearly on the wrong side of “questionable.” Yes, in those days, Borders became my own personal library, free for the reading. A church of sorts.

After a couple of years, I got too busy and fell out of habit, and then Border’s closed down anyway. I went one last time to the liquidation sale and it felt like a grave.

The posters were all gone, and the picked over inventory was going for basically whatever last penny they could still get for it. Whole emptied sections were roped off with yellow caution tape, and even the shelves had been pre-sold. I ran into one of the cashiers and she smiled sadly.

“It’s good to see you,” she said. “None of the regulars come in anymore. They say it’s too sad.”

I looked around. “Yeah,” I said. “This is definitely sad. It was a good store. Good times.”

“Yes, it was,” she said.

I bought a few bargain basement books, took one sad look around, and walked out the door for the last time. The building sat empty for several years, until I moved away, and I have learned it has most recently turned into a Z Gallerie.

But I have found that this is what Sunday morning means to me. Not church. Potluck. Or stuffy dress clothes. But lazy restful shopping…. Reading….Sleeping in….Breakfast…

Although, my ideas on church are changing. I believe that church is good, and made of up of good people who try do their best, and fail sometimes. And, I get the idea of community—church at its finest. Like-minded people coming together to help one another do life, love, laughter and faith. I respect that, and give myself to it in a lot of ways.

But, I still believe in being a free thinker. And my heart has still never really found home. And I think it’s bigger than church. It’s a search I somehow can’t explain. There has always been a piece of me I could never quite leave anywhere. Still searching. Unfulfilled. Looking for something that only God knows what. The vagrant writer.

Bono said it best, “I believe in the kingdom come. And all the colors will bleed into one…You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains. You carried the cross and my shame. You know I believe it. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

It’s hard to find what you are looking for, when you don’t even know what it is that’s lost.

*This is the reflection behind the piece, “Thin Volume,” in my poetry book: The Lament of Captain Hook.*

Posted in Life

How to Change Your Underwear in Public and Other Lessons for Mobile Living

 I don’t really have a home. I mean, I do, but I mainly live in a number of different places for intermittent spurts of time. Right now, I am on a six month stay in an art house of sorts. After this, I have no idea where I am going. This is fine, I have been know to travel the country staying in homes. 

And in these adventures, I have learned a few things about the mobile life. Things like Wi-Fi passwords are a pain to track down, instead travel with a good data plan on your phone. Also, coming from a fairly large city, I thought wi-fi was just as reliable and natural to our society’s fabric as electricity. Turns out, I was wrong. There are still plenty of places in this great country of ours in which the wi-fi revolution has not yet reached. Many places the signal is sketchy, and you have to pay attention to things like bandwidth capacity–all foreign concepts to someone used to urban cable services. 

For the technophile, by all means travel with your laptop, but use it sparingly. Laptops can be bulky and excessive travel can cause damage. (I’ve been through four laptop cords in three years). Instead, get a good tablet, and use it for simple tasks, and keep the laptop sheathed for heavier use. 

Also, don’t travel with books. They are bulky, and you always pack too many on the off-chance that you might run out of reading material. And then when you do finish one, you’ve still got to cart it around. Joan Carter, Johnny Cash’s wife, was famous for giving  hers away after she finished it to keep a lighter load on tour. We have better methods now.

Instead of books, make excessive use of your tablet’s e-reader function. Classics are free, and other books are usually cheaper. That way, you can have as much reading material as you want, without adding an ounce to your luggage. This goes for texts like Bibles as well. Bible apps are free, so keep the five pound top grain leather study Bible at home, or in storage or whatever, and do your devotions by  tablet. As a matter of fact, I don’t use a regular Bible at all. I do all my Bible reading by app. Just makes life that much simpler. 

On sleeping, keep a stock of good earplugs with you. They come in really handy sometimes.  Especially if you are sick and need more sleep than others, or you know you are going to bed much earlier for some reason. 

Never underestimate the power of a book light, not necessarily for reading. But for late night undressing in dark and unfamiliar sleeping quarters. I have a low wattage one, with a flex neck that I can adjust enough to get around in a darkened sleeping room, but not bright enough that most will notice. 

 On showering, two in one shampoo/conditioner combos make for lighter luggage, and towels are a pain to pack and store. Don’t be a germophobe. Just use your host’s or the hotel’s. It’s just not worth all that extra bulk to carry around. On the account of lady business, I will say there are fewer things worse in life than making a van of fifteen people stop at the store because you need “supplies.” On long group trips, plan ahead and stock up. 

If you travel by road, make sure to have a good throw blanket and pillow with you. Sitting in an air-conditioned vehicle for hours on end, your body temperature fluctuates. Be prepared to handle this without bothering the other passengers. Headphones are essential. No one else wants to hear your music, movie, or hilarious YouTube video. Keep it personal. Shoes like flip-flops are great for long days on the road. They are easy to slip off and get comfortable, and easy to slip on when stopping. 

Don’t carry cash. It’s too easy to lose.  And whole purses are frequently cumbersome to unbury at every truck stop. Get one of those smartphone wallets to bring your debit card and phone and other essentials into rest stops and restaurants. Use your bank’s mobile app to make sure you are on top of your finances, and before you leave on a long trip, call your bank. If they see charges from unfamiliar places, they may suspend your debit cards for security. It really sucks to have to find this out at a random gas pump in Nowheresville, Nevada. 

Finally, you will meet many people being a vagrant couch surfer. Be nice to everyone. You never know when karma will come knocking. 

Posted in Writing

My Life As a Writer Part Deux

  • About a year and a half ago, when I was fairly new to my blogging life, I wrote a post called, My Life As A WriterI talked about my creative process and largely relied on my experience writing my new blog and still unpublished novel. My work has grown tremendously since then, and I read that post and laugh at what I thought being a writer meant. So, I would like to revisit that topic and explain what my life as a writer is now. Maybe in two years I will laugh at this post. But, here, in my rough sketch of my weekday schedule, is what it’s like to be a writer.

830 am:

My day begins with journaling. I have a simple, but fun journaling app on my iPad, and I just ramble about the day before and what I hope today will bring. Since I always have my iPad with me, I keep a running journal account all day of what I’m thinking and feeling. It helps identify patterns, and over time, it has proved very useful by reminding me exactly when things happened in my life.

9 am:

Side job. Like many writers, I am not yet full-time. I’ve got a pretty cushy side job homeschooling kids in exchange for housing. I work with two kids-5th and 7th grades, and right now, they’re gearing up to go to Europe for a month. I can’t afford it, so I’ll stay here, and grade their papers when they get back. (haha! Month off!!). So, as it is, we get through the essentials…math, history, and my all-time favorite-English. I kick some serious bum making these kids write essays and papers. These kids will be literate as long as they are on my watch! And, of course, we read. A lot. But, right now, we are doing a current events project that involves researching all the 2016 Presidential candidates, as well as writing about the entire election process. This is turning out to be the meat of our school day.

Noon:
I end school around this time, and don’t usually eat lunch. I’m not big on food. I may grab a sandwich, but food is just not a big priority with me. I can go days without eating and not notice until finally one day I don’t understand why I’m so emotional. I’m sure this is not good. I drink a lot of coffee throughout the day though, and I’ve read that it’s an appetite suppressant. Maybe that’s it.

But, in any account, I pack my computer and head to the adjoining building to my office. My writing day starts with my e-mails. I get assignments and communication this way, and so I sort through them and plot out their due dates in my editorial calendar. This is an invaluable spreadsheet I created that serves as the backbone of my writing life. It keeps track of everything I have to do and when, helps me keep a regular blogging and social media schedule, and has slots for long term projects like books.

Then I get to work. I make phone calls. I prepare inteviews. I research sources. I conduct interviews. I takes notes. Lots of notes.   I leave voicemails. I get return calls. And I send lots and lots of e-mails. And I get lots and lots more. In all of this, I write about one or two full articles per day. I email the finished drafts. I get revision requests. I revise them. I email them again. They get published. I put them in my log of finished articles so that I get paid.

I love writing, but it’s hard work. Sometimes the articles fly out of my fingers. Other times I really have to work at it. In those times, I will take a walk, listen to music, or make hot tea or coffee while I think. I find these things can help the creative process.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of focusing on a piece. Other times, I just don’t “have” the piece, and if I force it, I will spend hours writing something really terrible that I will just delete later. But if I will let it percolate a day or so, the piece will just write itself. With practice, I have learned to tell the difference.

6ish:

My brain is fried, and there is probably a lot more I can do. But for now, I can’t think anymore. I grab something light to eat, and then head back home for the next part of my day. This is the creative side. The side where I remember why I love writing. I sit pensively with my iPad and I talk to my roommates while I blog. Or write poetry. Or work on my poetry book. Or write fiction. Or work on my novel. Or doodle in my writer’s notebook things that strikes me as useful for material.

10ish:

I put the computer or notebook away, and then pull out the IPad, and tap out some final thoughts about the day in my journal. My day ends with journaling.

So, there you have it. It’s not exactly David Duchovny in Californication. (Did that guy ever even write?!) But, for me, this is what it means to be a writer. Although, I will stand by my previous post on this and say that the biggest part of writing is getting your bum into the chair. You can have all the ideas and talent in the world, but if you don’t actually take the time to write them, they won’t go anywhere except your head.

Posted in Life

The Search for Wi-Fi

My life revolves around Wi-Fi. I wish it weren’t so, but alas this is the sad truth. I like to think it is the curse of the modern writer. That I am a success story in the making. Anything other than a truth I cannot shake–I spend way too much time on my computer.

When I was staying back in Texas for the holidays, I stayed out in the country, in places where the wi-fi revolution had yet to reach. As a result, I have spent whole days wandering the malls and haunting coffee shops and libraries looking for signal. Anywhere I could find to write, I wrote. I have written in coffee shops, and bookstore cafes. But I have also sat in the lounge of a shopping mall food court bathroom, so that I could plug in my laptop and get Internet signal.  I have written whole articles in FedEx Kinkos and in Burger King. I have spent more than one workday in a McDonald’s because you could buy a drink for a dollar, and keep the refills coming. I have written in break rooms, diners, church nursing rooms, and once got kicked out of a coffee shop.

But in all of that, no truer have I felt this addiction, though, than recently when the Internet went down–indefinitely. It’s a long story, but basically the place where  I’m staying, they are overhauling their Internet system for an upgrade. This is wonderful. But, in the meantime, I have been essentially without Internet.

The first week, I ran out my entire phone data plan. The second week, I had a meltdown. A complete Internet withdrawal with tears, flying books, and even some sad poetry. Over what?! Over an airwave signal. I knew at the bottom of it, I should really get a grip. But I need Internet for everything.

It’s not that I am wasting time, Facebooking, Tweeting and the like. By all means no. The truth is, I work all the time. E-mails and Word files zoom in and out of my devices all day and night as assignments come, go, morph and change. I need phone numbers, client websites,  statistics, and somewhere in there…yes…blogging. My life is designed to work with Internet. I have to have a connection or I die.

This scares me. A lot. If the zombie apocalypse comes, I just might sell them my soul for Wi-Fi password.  I think I need help.