Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Here, Up There, and Everywhere

How did I get here?, I asked myself.

I was standing outside, dressed in jeans and a down jacket- appropriate enough for the weather- yet wrapped from head-to-toe in a wool Pendleton blanket. I was smoking a cigarette and staring alternately at my cocktail on the deck post and the falling snow. My only light came from the streetlight half a block away, and the end of my cigarette.

 I don't smoke, mind you.

And I didn't mean "here," as in a physical place; I meant Here, this place in my life where I feel like some change is about to take place, but I can't put my finger on it. And where I'm fed up with the waiting, where I'd like to catch a break for once, but where I'm scared to force anything. That Here.

Since my last post  where I told an entirely true story and called everyone on Facebook assholes (Which, at the time, I said I didn't mean it, that people were assholes. That was a lie- I totally meant it.), I've had time to stop and try to identify what has brought me Here. I look back for clues and see these vignettes:

I am multitasking: laundry, dishes, making soup and the bed. I pull a stray hair caught in the pillow case, and let it fall to the floor. The vacuum will meet it later, I think, noting where the line of jet black has rested near my feet.

Question posted via Facebook: Remember your first day of something you now love? What was it like? Answer: It was literally a summer evening, and it seemed like the sun would stay up forever, and then an instant later I was under a blanket of sparkling stars. Questioner's response: Poetic...

I am looking out at the horizon, the Great Lake freezing over a bit more every minute. I can't even begin to comprehend the vastness of this, I think. I turn around and raise my arms up, celebrating the awesomeness all around; a photo gets snapped. I glance back at the lake for just a moment before I hear splashing behind me, to the side of me. Suddenly I am flat on my belly right there on the ice, reaching for the puppy's harness and baby-talking words of encouragement to him that intellectually I know he doesn't understand. Once safe on shore, he shakes the cold cold water from his coat and carries on as if it were a summer day.

I am laying in my bed, staring out the window; I had forgotten to close the blinds last night. The window faces due west, and I'm trying to discern if the sunrise that's about to happen (it is 7:18 now, and the sunrise is scheduled-scheduled!-to happen at 7:43) is going to be spectacular or cloud-covered and sunless. The blankets are pulled up around me; I'm in the same position I was when I last looked at the clock, when I blew out the candle on my bedside table, when I last glanced at my phone. Trying to figure out if getting out of bed is worthwhile is arduous. The bed says, Your pillow is still waiting for you to come and rest your head. Let me take care of You.

I am sitting on the stool pulled up to my makeshift kitchen bar. I am curled up on the couch, fading in and out of sleep to the conversational tones coming from the television. I am walking through the woods in snow that is still hip-high in places, listening for the light jingling of the bell newly attached to the puppy's collar. I am laying on my back, covered with too many layers and bargaining with whomever for sleep. I am tapping out syllables on my pillow for another haiku, the words I can only say in my head (not ever out loud), or only put in print on social media at two-thirty or three-thirty or even four a.m.

I am in the car, the radio is off, and the heat is on high. I've a chill that won't leave. The hum of the gears and tires on the road hypnotize me, and as I put the car in park in front of my work building, I have no recollection of what's transpired over the last 21 minutes/miles. Some days are like that, a small voice in my head says.

I am walking in the street, the sidewalks still covered with the snow and ice from a different day, and the puppy is on his leash. I keep looking up at the sky, more stars punctuating that plane with each glance. I try to make out constellations without slipping on black ice. Stargazing is better when you're not alone, I think. 

And now, I wonder how I got to this space in time, sitting here in a sunbeam that's streaming through my bedroom window, and me on the floor, back against the bed. Those things are all in the past, I tell myself, learn something from them and move on. Memories are the architecture of our identity, as the saying goes. What are you going to do next?

What does the next chapter in this story look like? What words will come out of my pen? Which characters will have a reoccurring role, and which will fade like those sunset colors I love so? And I guess that's the thing that keeps us going day after day, isn't it? The curiosity fueled by our innate human need for love and companionship, for mattering to someone, for validation that we are significant somehow. We look back on moments or memories for indicators, for the last piece of the puzzle, for a glimpse of our legacy. 

I tell myself, You can't create your life story by living in the past. Focus on now. Focus on up there, on the road ahead. Your story will write itself if you'd just throw back the covers and let it breathe.

And with those words, I'm off to write the next chapter, one adventure at a time. Live your story, friends. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being Thankful

Photo by the author taken November 3, 2013: I-43 North, somewhere in Wisconsin, and I'm
thankful for the road that goes through the storm clouds and leads me back home.

First, hello. And also, don't look at me like that; I know I've been slackin'.

Second, it's November, and as the title of this post suggests, it's time to share what we're thankful for. *groooaaannnnn*  I KNOOOOWWW!!!!

This November, my friends played a game on Facebook wherein they posted a random number of facts about themselves; if you "liked" the status, they would in turn give YOU a number, and you would then post that many random facts about yourself. Get it? 

Okay, so: I played along and posted my ten facts (thanks, Theo). Done. And then I "liked" someone else's list. And this is what happened:

Mrs. Hansen: 
I know you've already been given a number. Instead of sharing more secrets, post your favorite memory of a time in November.

ANY November? I mean, this November (so far) and last November have been crappy. And the memories I do have of Novembers past are not "favorites," I mean it's just me anticipating the end of the year. Every. Day. Lemme think on that...

Mrs. Hansen:
Any November.

I'll work on this. It is brewing right now as a blog post.

So I'm going to tell you a story about Being Thankful.

It was mid-November, some 15 years ago. I was married, I was living here in the U.P., and I was commuting weekly to Chicago for school. (Side note: I know a 300 mile one-way commute is extreme; however, I am a stubborn, stubborn woman and would not have had things any other way.) This was before cell phones were appendages, and so communication with my family in Michigan relied on land lines. At this point in the semester, they knew my schedule, knew when to expect check-in phone calls, knew when to expect me home.

It was the week of Thanksgiving, and my last class ended at noon on Wednesday. I drove home, walked in the back door of the house, and no one was there. There was a note: At my parents' house. I dropped my bags and drove the 1/2 mile to my in-laws' home. Everyone was there, save for my father-in-law, who was out at hunting camp. As I walked into the great room off the kitchen, my Wasband turned around from facing the fireplace and looked at me with a sheepish smile. My jaw dropped.

He had 1) cut his hair so close with the clippers that his head looked shaved; 2) his face was so swollen he could not wear his glasses; 3) his right eye was a gorgeous melange of blues and purples and blacks.

What the fuck happened? Well, I rode your bike to Gussie's last night to get a beer. Aaaannndd...? Well, you know how there are those cables tethered to the ground? And they're attached to the power poles? Yes... Well, I was biking home and was carrying my stuff in one arm, and was trying to balance things so I wouldn't drop anything...Aaaannndd...? Well, I kinda fumbled the bag and looked down and the front tire of the bike hit the tether in the ground. (Anticipatory silence.) And I flipped over the handlebars and landed with my eye on the end of the handle. (Stunned silence.) The bike is banged up some, like the front wheel rim is bent a little, but I didn't break anything. The ER doctor thought I might have fractured my eye socket, but the x-ray didn't show anything, so. And none of the beer bottles broke, either.

My children at this point in time were not-yet 7 and 3 years old. They were left home alone while their father- already drunk- rode a bicycle two-and-a-half blocks to the neighborhood store to get more beer. And a pint of whiskey.

I can't make this shit up, people.

How thankful was I to have in-laws so close to help with ER transport, childcare, and knowing glances? Very thankful. I cannot imagine what was going through my daughters' heads when they saw their father, stumbling drunk and disoriented and battered and bruised and pushing a bicycle towards the house. How thankful am I to have this experience under my belt, to have survived that relationship and learned from it? Very, very thankful. Is this something that I've felt compelled to share before today? No. That lifetime, thankfully, is over. I send up thanks every single day that my life is what it is now instead of what it used to be.

So right now, this 2013 edition of November? When my Facebook feed is littered with people posting daily "thankful" posts? Where they're rattling off thanks for things they have literally taken for granted the rest of the year (or perhaps only been lax in publicly acknowledging the rest of the year)? Those of you being effusive about your spouses, partners, children, parents, mentors, friends? Your good jobs, health insurance, warm homes, reliable cars? Your faith?

You're assholes. You make me angry for only now making public and highlighting those feelings that should always be acknowledged, no matter the month, no matter the other circumstances of your life, no matter what social media prompts you to do, no matter what your actions are the other eleven months of the year. 

(Side note: I don't really think you're assholes. Not all of you, anyway.)

I get it, really. I know that you need to make yourself feel better, that you need to start somewhere, and maybe more importantly, you need to receive validation for your efforts. You shouldn't have to participate in those games if you're living your life with gratitude; calling attention to yourself this way just highlights your weakness as a human- be thankful for that instead, for the recognition that you are a work in progress. Be thankful for the strength to carry on when you realize it's going to be a long time before things are okay. 

November, then, should be a month-long wake up call for your life. You hear that ringing sound? It's for you.

Until next time, friends.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another Mini Post


You don't need to tell me that I'm slackin', here. I can feel your disapointed stares and hear the tsktsktsk under your breath. But like that picture says: I have a strategic plan. Haha!

The thing is...I am in a funk. Or, I was. Well no, maybe I'm still there a little bit, but I'm making my way out.

Yes, that last one: I'm making my way out.

I have so many excuses at the ready, but no one wants to hear those, so I'll just say that the past few months have been REE-DICK-YOU-LUSSSSS-LEE hard on me; I also have been hard on myself in all the wrong ways. My lack of discipline in every aspect of my life has taken a toll.

Mostly, I blame the weather.

Anyhoo, now that the weather around these parts has finally turned to more sunshine than grey-cloud days, I can feel a bit of a lightening to my surroundings; I can focus on colors and early summer sounds, I can eat my dinner and ice cream outside, I can take my new puppy for long walks after 10 pm, I can sleep with the windows open all night. All Good Things.

I have even started a new, longer post that I'll be sharing soon. Mostly because I think it's about time I got back to this blog on the regular, but also because I kinda told someone I'd post twice per month. And if I failed to do so? I'd have to do something that scared me, that was the agreement. Strategic Plan, right? Let's get to the Doing Things part.

Until next time, friends.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stay Soft

You know, I haven't been updating this blog as often as I had hoped in 2013, but I've struggled this past fall and winter with a variety of things that have made being creative and positive and (hopefully) helpful kinda difficult: the past showing up uninvited, the present weighing me down like too many layers, the immediate future hiding, not even a square on the calendar yet. So much unsettled and up in the air can bring a girl down, and the stress of these types of everyday moments has caused me to batten down the hatches, as it were.

My primary struggle has always been to be open; my life has always been focused on simple survival, the barest of exchanges employed to move forward from point A to B. I am blessed to have cultivated a support system that allows me a great deal of latitude, that understands and recognizes my need to pull away and refocus from time to time. My secondary struggle is with patience. I have it in spades, my Co-dependent Brethren, except for when I finally figure out what I want, and then whatever that is becomes my singular cause, my whole life. And sometimes I build really tall walls to keep out interlopers, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

In short, I allow myself to be hardened.

It is not intentional, really, I just don't actively try to stop it from happening.

Every morning after I drop Blonde Daughter off at school, I drive to the lake with a big cup of coffee and I walk out on the sandbars (although these past few weeks, it's been more of a wade than a walk). I love taking note of the minutiae of changes along my path, snapping photos with my iPhone, sharing them on Instagram or Facebook. Or not. It is a routine that helps keep me centered. Every day, however, on my way back to the FJ, I recite a mantra. Sometimes out loud for the birds and clouds to hear, sometimes just to myself. And I send out intentions to the Universe- requests, I guess, or prayers. What I say to the Universe out there on the sandbars, in the middle of the lake each morning? What I ask for, hope for, what I must believe will be granted me? What propels me forward despite the overwhelming sense some days that staying put would be so much easier?

Those words are none of your fucking business.

Anyway, sometimes I'll get back to my Dollhouse and waste time on Pinterest, creating my Fantasy Life through design and fashion and food inspiration, pinning quotes that make me think or laugh or cry. A few weeks ago, I came across this quote:

Be soft.
Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let the pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
- Kurt Vonnegut


I'm a big believer in Fate, in things coming to us exactly when we need them to. I was in a bit of a funk, and so I sat with this quote for a few days after I found it. It made me pause and recognize that my walls were being built up again.

And sometimes when I need to clear my head and just not think so much, I go shopping.


So, I'm at the grocery store (honestly, you don't think this single parent has disposable income, do you?), walking around kinda dazed and lost, and as I moved from produce to meat departments, I saw a man standing in front of the meat cooler, studying the different cuts of pork. From the back- all long legs, bad posture, stocking cap, bad shoes, rough hands- I thought it was my Wasband. I didn't want to deal with him right there in the grocery store. Or at all, frankly. It wasn't him, despite the fact that this man had on the same windbreaker I had bought years ago. It wasn't him; as I moved over towards the poultry and then beef, he moved toward the lunchmeat and pickles. I moved to the eggs, he to the sliced cheese.

It wasn't him, and yet it was him, the future him. This man's face was etched with the weather of hundreds of days working outside. His beard was scraggly and only there because he didn't have any razors to make it go away. His eyes were blue. His eyes were defeated and half-closed. His eyes looked right at me, then past me, not hesitating to move on.

We played hide-and-seek among the aisles. Toilet paper, frozen berries, bread. I stopped to check my phone, and have lost him, I think. Iced tea, trail mix. Gone.

I got home and it was dark. I was in my own world, still a bit disturbed by this blast from the past/glimpse of the future. There was so much brought up in my mind when I thought the Grocery Store Guy was my Wasband; all of the issues and emotions (and the confusion that comes with them) made me a bit numb. And then I got sad. And angry. And onward through the stages, wall getting higher bit by bit, until I heard a voice in my head say: "Stay Soft."

I listened again: Stay. Soft. Stay soft. Some things cannot be undone. Some emotions will keep at you until you acknowledge them fully. Stay soft. Instead of looking at your Life So Far and shaking your head, wondering why you put up with what you did or how you managed to make it to this day, be thankful for that life and the lessons you've lived through and for the ability to apply those lessons in a way that will help you become who you've always meant to be, who you've been destined to be. Sit with that.

I felt incredibly calmed then, there on my couch in the lamplight glow.

Seeing the past and the future at the same time, presently, is most surreal. And the emotions that can bubble up can't be ignored. Those walls you've built up? Your suppressed emotions are going to overflow them, and then you'll have to mop that shit up. Ain't nobody got time for that. But-

But if you stay soft, if you recognize a bit sooner what you're doing to yourself? That emotional overflow can be soaked up, and like a sponge, you can choose to hold on to only what's necessary. It doesn't matter what triggers this emotionality- what's important is the validation and release of those feelings. At least, that's what I took from the quote and that voice in my head.

The next day, I went for my morning sandbar walk like always. But on my way back to the FJ, I stopped myself from reciting my usual mantra, and instead repeated to myself with every footfall: Stay, soft. Right, left. Splash, splash. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Since then, I've gone back and forth between this mantra and the other, always on the way back to the truck, always using the words to signal to the Universe that I'm ready to start the day, that I'm ready to leave my intentions out there for Fate to find and answer. Or not.

Either way, I've taken this discovery to heart. I'm more prone to think about a situation or person or possibility through a different field of vision, one blurred around the edges, only the most important things in focus. I'm getting more comfortable with being open, with being okay with embellishing the path from point A to B, with living a bit more and not just surviving. I'm not saying its easy, or that I don't still catch myself building walls; I'm saying that I'm not allowing the hardening to be complete every time.

Until next time, friends.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mini Post

Sunrise over Lake Michigan, April 2013.

Poetry month continues, and I wanted to share this beauty before I post my regular post. Enjoy.

I Think Over Again My Small Adventures

I think over again my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.

- Anonymous (19th Century)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April's Showers Are Just Poems

The snow showers that April has gifted to this part of the country are a certain kind of poem, I think: each flake unique, each one an intention brought forth from the clouds, each weather advisory maybe a calling for continued introspection before the celebration of True Spring.

It's true: April is National Poetry Month (and look here, too), and there is a poet in each of us.
Teen angst love ramblings, unintentional poetry from words spoken by children, commentary from so-called "professional" writers- just about anything can be called a poem. Although sometimes I think that all it really takes is the skillful use of a thesaurus and some clever spacing in Microsoft Word, I'm prone to insomnia-fueled haikus, posted as staus updates on Facebook myself, so I should probably refrain from being overly critical. Often poems are the only way certain things can ever be communicated; to use the words of a poem in actual conversation would seem, maybe to today's overly-saturated social media & technology-driven masses, too quaint. But then again, if the Hipsters have gotten a hold of it...

...and with that side swipe and an unapologetic smirk, I digress.

Back to poetry.

My regular writing has been feeling like more of a burden than an outlet lately, but I swear I'm working on a new post that is more in the vein of what I normally do. Upcoming topic?
Softness. Reader widens eyes, nods head to the side, thinks (maybe) aloud "Hmm. Softness. Interesting."

While taking breaks from that post topic, I've been painting. And knitting. And sulking. And writing poems (those last two go hand-in-hand, don't they?). I tend to be a storyteller when I write, so just allow me this one indulgence, okay? Like I said, I'm always good for a haiku (that form is the best-creating within structure-see what I did here?); but today I will give you this non-haiku, written recently, and only after many revisions do I feel comfortable posting it here (which is to say, I'm not comfortabe at all posting it anywhere at all).

Elegy, In Anticipation

I think about you some days,
and how heavy it felt to be near you
with you
even on days with good news,
even sitting in the light of a sunbeam.

The photographs of your childhood show sunshine,
but your face
is never really smiling, only
squinting from the glare,
or red from frustration,
or swollen-eyed from not getting your way;
the farm garden lush
the pine trees go deep
the pigs and cows and rooster
the front steps and the three-legged dog-

I think about your best artwork
pieces created years apart-
accidentally, reluctantly-
a study in contrasts, and
bright spots on your timeline, no doubt;
and you let them go
and you let me go,
animals in our own rights.

Those dreams of you driving?
Sweaty-handed and jittery at the wheel?
I know there is no sun, but
here comes the curve, and with it
the headlights catch you off guard
every time,
their brightness too much for you to bear
and you throw your hands up
and you let go.

And when you finally combust
by either your own doing or not,
or from the realization of all the brightness
you could have kept but wasted-
or maybe just couldn't bear to hold onto?-
and when those billion tiny particles move around the air
like dust sparkling in a sunbeam,
I will think of you as the cloud that makes them disappear.

I will leave you with this, a poem from a favorite author:


The rising sun not beet.
or blood,
but sea-rose red.

I amplified my heartbeat
one thousand times,
the animals at first confused
then decided I was another
thunder being.

While talking directly to god
my attention waxed and waned.
I have a lot on my mind.

I worked out
to make myself as strong
as water.

After all these years
of holding the world together
I let it roll down the hill
into the river.

One tree leads
to another,
walking on
this undescribed earth.

I have dreamed
myself back
to where
I already am.

On a cold day
bear, coyote, cranes.
On a rainy night
a wolf with yellow eyes.
On a windy day
eleven kestrels looking
down at me.
On a hot afternoon
the ravens floated over
where I sunk
myself in the river.

Way out there
in unknown country
I walked at night
to scare myself.

Who is this other,
the secret sharer,
who directs the hand
that twists the heart,
the voice calling out ot me
between feather and stone
the hour before dawn?

I have turned into
an old brown man
in a green coat.

Having fulfilled
my obligations
my heart moves lightly
to this downward dance.

- Jim Harrison

And now it's your turn. Write a poem. Read a poem. Go listen to someone else read a poem out loud. Memorize a favorite verse, or explicate a piece that really makes you think. And then write a poem about that poem. Until next time, friends.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'm still here, honest.

Original image can be found here.

Really, I do.

I haven't posted a darn thing since just before I left on my vacation- which was awesome- and I can't even tell you why, except to say that maybe I left a big chunk of my mojo back in Puerto Rico, or that the mojo I tried to find or recapture in Puerto Rico was out of my reach. I guess I lost my map.

Regardless, I've had a less-than-stellar Winter, and have some thoughts that have permeated my brain, made me re-evaluate things, made me remember that ultimately, I am just a passenger on this Universal Life Ride, despite my co-dependent control issues. 

I'll share soon, promise. Until then, I'll keep looking for my map. 
Keep giving, friends.