Hell in a Starbucks Cup

It’s been a year since I’ve had caffeine – and it’s been HELL!

Specifically, my signature black tea, and more specifically, sometimes a half a gallon a day!

I was sitting back today, calm as a koala on eucalyptus, thinking I should be doing something – like writing. And it’s been a year since I’ve had real flow.

That flow where you sit back and the ideas come. That flow wherein you read the news and see how each story can become a hundred short stories, a disaster novel, and a rom-com.

I consider how I used to sit at the dining room table, hot cup of black tea mere millimeters from my fingertips, and type like a hamster on a wheel. Go. Go. Go!

It’s the lack of caffeine – of course- which has caused my caustic dry spell. I glance toward the kitchen, knowing, somewhere in there, lies a discarded tea bag at the bottom of an unused drawer.

Screw the doctors! To hell with anxiety! I shall abandon caution and dive over the cliffs of caffeine haven.

I hesitate, like I do now while strung out on herbal bounty, and consider, weigh the pros and cons, and question my decision. Damn chamomile.

A knock on the door steals my attention. (Caffeine improves focus – pro). I pop off the couch and spring toward the door. (No late afternoon caffeine drag – con). I throw open the door. There, on my patio, a tower of chocolates.

SALVATION!

Things I Learned From a 2 Year Old.

Be determined!

Be excited.

Make the most of every moment.

Sing!

Gumballs can be used as marbles. (Use what works)

Play! (Park playlands make for a great workout!)

Spend the least time doing things you don’t like.

Laugh!

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Hug hard.

Nothing is really out of reach. (Goes back to where we started.)

*

imagine what we might accomplish!

The Ghost….

My short story, The Ghost in Her Room, has been published by Dreamers Writing.

The editors were very sweet. Kat mentioned in an email how much the story touched her.

Working with Dreamers Creative Writing has been an extremely pleasant experience.

Thank you!

A fondness for 4am

4am

The world is different at night. Those early morning hours before the sun rises, it seems no one is awake, no one is moving around ready for the world.

Even if you live in a big city. Maybe you hear some far off traffic. A train somewhere in the distance. Still it seems the world is your private microcosm.

There’s not much one can do at 4am. There are no appointments to keep. No errands to run. No one to call. Polite society (and even maybe not so polite society) are, too, in their own little secular places.

It’s quiet, mostly. It’s serene. The crickets are quieting. The birds are stretching.

All there is to do is reflect, to write, to enjoy the chill in the pre-dawn air, and the peace that has not yet been disturbed.

It’s a special time for us, artists, writers, thinkers to belong. We are separate but together.

I’ll (not) see you there.

Character (and human) Motivation

Learn How to Find the Motivation Within to Succeed | Inc.com

Recently someone did something for me. I did not ask, she volunteered. I was apathetic for a few reasons: I didn’t know her very well; when someone does something for us – there are usually invisible strings that will sway our way at some point.

Many of us operate on societal, cultural, and sometimes puritan programming that is mostly unconscious. Expectations seem ingrained in our very being.

What she expected in return was for me to behave a certain way given her grace. When I did not, she claimed to be hurt and upset, frustrated, why had she bothered?

She was entitled to a “Thank you,” which she received. But she was not entitled to control or to judge. She didn’t understand this. She didn’t realize (and denied) she was making judgements based on her own expectations. If her motivation was to “help,” she had accomplished her goal. But, then, why was she upset?

As writers, I think we see things more clearly. Maybe differently. We are observers of human behaviors. If we’re good, we’re looking for motivation.

This person, like our character, didn’t understand her own unconscious motivations and was, therefore, disappointed by the outcome. It is a rare character who can see their own faults, analyze their misguided or unclear motivations before they act. It’s only with reflection, and maybe help from their besties, that our characters grow to understand themselves and their own actions, motivations, and goals.

In Dreams

There is some magic that happens between midnight and three a.m. Words fall like rain, ideas bloom like tulips in the spring.

That state, somewhere between alpha and theta, when the mind is past meditation and drifting – freed.

Many nights, I wake filled with story. Sometimes I sit up and write, capturing those dream images and ideas. Other times, I hang on to the sweet theta mind and scratch notes to myself that I’ll decipher in the bright light of day.

There’s something quite lovely about theta, about that time of night. The world is soft and quiet. The world is ours and ours alone.

Writers are powerful in the dark, in the aloneness, capturing ideas that flutterby like butterflies.

Once, I fought a poem. The poem lay incomplete, begrudgingly sitting there refusing to become complete. I placed the notebook on the bed and fell asleep.

In a few hours, I sprang to wakefulness when the line in full form drifted by. I snatched it out of theta air and pushed it onto the page.

There, the poem complete.

*

*

*

I woke up one morning with this story playing in the theta playground. I got out of bed and wrote until I had to go to work. When I got back from work, I finished it, edited it, and had it accepted to Pilcrow and Dagger almost immediately.

What’s a girl to do when her ex gives her a stray dog?

Of Strays and Exes – on Kindle

Success Stories

I didn’t grow up with a lot of positive role models. There were not many (if any) people in our neighborhood who were looked up to as success stories.

I can see my neighbors, even now, from the concrete steps of our four unit blond brick building on S*** Avenue in Collinwood. Across the street, Francis. She had Lucille Ball red hair and sat on her porch from 9am to 9pm, beer in hand. Next door, a single mother who worked at a bar and brought work home with her – in all sorts of ways. Next to her, a retired old man who sat across from Francis with his own beer in hand. His wife, Goldie, was a sweet woman whose toes twisted around one another, feet mangled, she said from twenty years of high heeled waitressing. On the other side, a retired railroad worker, no patio, so he sat in his kitchen hand wrapped around a cold beer.

There were bars on every corner. T & M’s could be seen from the porch. Strangers and neighbors stumbling out with the music pouring onto the street.

The teenagers went to high school, married the boyfriends who beat them, and set up house on the next block. A few got away, I’m sure. But I can list many more who died young or ended up in prison. My teenage crushes are dead now. One was shot in the head, the other crushed under the wheels of a truck. I never got into drugs, thought those who smoked and drank acted silly, stupidly, dangerously. Girlfriends recall tales of waking up half naked, uncertain if anything happened. That wasn’t the memory – or lack of memory – I wanted.

Mostly, I felt limited. I felt outcast. I didn’t seem to belong with any particular crowd or group or gang. I wanted something more, something different, and I didn’t know where to turn. Getting out and getting away seemed the only answer for me. I didn’t know what might meet me beyond the borders of the familiar, but there was no safety and no options in the familiar.

Someone once said – it was very brave of you to travel across country on your own and start over alone. I hadn’t considered it was “brave.” I’d believed it was my only choice, my only chance. She offered, the world is a dangerous place for a young woman to do such a thing. Sometimes home is a dangerous place. Limiting yourself is dangerous. Not fulfilling your potential is dangerous. Living a life in which you’re completely unhappy is dangerous. Sometimes, saving yourself, however scary the unknown is, is your only choice.

 

Superman

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Mr. Rogers didn’t say anything, he acted.

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Just because someone isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything.

Love.

 

Citizens

Imagine going to a therapist who works out of her home. She tells you to use the side entrance, through the gate. But the gate is locked, so you go to the front door and knock.

The therapist, who specializes in trauma, whips open the door and screams in your face “GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY YARD?”

If you’re seeking a therapist with a specialty in trauma counseling, it’s because you’ve experienced trauma.

How do you react?

citizen_rankine-cover-image

Maybe part of that trauma is that you’ve been ignored your whole life, described as a criminal, pulled over and searched for no particular reason. When you walk by, people pull their purses a little closer. People say things to you that seem aggressive, yet they smile while they do it.

If you haven’t experienced these traumas, then perhaps you react. Ask the woman what her problem is? Ask her if she speaks to all her patients like this? Maybe you curse her out. And I’m definitely guessing, you don’t go in and pay her exorbitant fees.

But if you have experienced microaggressions and this is maybe just the third one that day, and it’s still early, you go in.

It’s not one black man who was brutalized by cops that hurts and angers large sections of our population. It’s the thousand little microaggressions that happen on a daily basis and it’s repeated brutality by those who should be setting an example in our society which makes it seem okay to other parts of our population. Further, it is those in charge who seem to shrug and say, oops, as if a cop didn’t just kill someone by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, but rather ran a stop sign or some other insignificant infraction.

Claudia Rankine describes hundreds of microaggressions perpetrated by colleagues, “friends,” strangers, and society. Citizen: An American Lyric is a book of poetry. I saw it enacted as a play at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles some time ago – and it made and left an impression.

I’ve used it in nearly every literature class since. It is a work of art.

Articles, excerpts, and videos:

New Yorker

An Excerpt from the book Poets.Org

The New York Times

You are In the Dark

From Granta 

Stop and Frisk – video

More from Youtube