2019-12-04 Being the Bearer of Bad News

One minute you are scrambling to fix the Christmas lights that have been blown over by a raging wind and it’s the most important thing in the world and the next minute .. you’re an unlikely messenger of tragic news. That was my day yesterday.

I’ve been spending my days lately getting ready for future events. Whether it be the Christmas party we are hosting for Jim’s office on Friday or Christmas in general or the wedding or just the next day which is an exhausting list of rotating things that always need doing. That’s exactly what I was doing yesterday when I received an unexpected message from a woman I have not seen or talked to in 15+ years. It was a Facebook messenger message and at first I thought it was some spam message.

The woman is the ex-wife of a man who is a close friend of friends of mine as well as my ex-husband. She relayed to me that he, her ex, had died unexpectedly. I then called her to get more info.

She said she didn’t know who else to contact since she’s not connected to anyone else. Through her tears she quickly relayed a few details about a heart attack and surgery and difficulty in recovery and additional complications. It was very brief and her request was that I relay the information to his friends. I agreed to do that and fumbled to say a few kind words and that was the extent of the conversation.

Mind, I haven’t seen this person for about 10 years as well. He was a part of the group of friends I was largely disconnected from when I got divorced. Still, he was a groomsman in my wedding and I went to high school with him and spent many, many good times at his parents house. That was all a long time ago but it’s still a part of my past.

When I hung up I just sort of sat and cried for a minute. He was still so young.. 47 and had two boys. Those poor boys.

Then I realized I had just committed to passing the info along to others. I called my ex-husband first and passed the brief story almost matter of fact like. What else could I do? This person was my exes best friend from elementary school. I don’t know if they were still friends as the relationship was very strained at times, but there’s still so much history there.

I told him who else I was contacting and asked that he pass the info to anyone else. I then called my good friends and that conversation went much the same. Just passing info. It didn’t strike me until later in the day when I was told that they speak to this person several times a week and there was never mention of heart trouble or surgery. Almost unbelievable really. And to have this news come from me instead of his dad or someone else had to be extremely strange. Again, almost unbelievable. I’m not sure I even 100% believed it.

I was really just a messenger and it was probably inappropriate.. but I was just doing what someone asked me to do. In the moment I didn’t think to question it or suggest other options. I think I was in shock. I am imagining now that news has travelled and someone, somewhere is in the throws of making arrangements. I expect the next bit of information I get will be about the funeral. I’m connected by history and people and I’m already feeling anxious about seeing everyone again. It’s selfish, I know, but it’s just the way of things.

It was an odd feeling to keep going about my day after that. I drug trash cans and yard waste cans and recycle bins to the curb. I dropped boxes of donations at goodwill and the food bank. I ran a few errands and through all of it, my thoughts never strayed very far from those conversations. Jim and I had a conversation about it, but there was not much to say.

I woke this morning thinking about it again. I guess this post is just one step in a process that feels necessary. I’m no stranger to friends passing and I just want to be there to support mine in their grief process, whatever that might be. It’s safe to say it’s something no one is ever really prepared for.

It’s a reminder that every day is a gift. Don’t wait to tell the people you love that you love them.

XOXO,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-12-03 Celebrating Success!

Somehow another month has slipped by. Somehow we’ve slid past the first of the fall/winter holidays and miraculously glossed right past the milestone that signified 2 months until the day of marriage vows. That was yesterday and I’m sure I could do a whole post about all of that, but it’s not what I’m aiming at today. Nope.

Today I’m raising a glass to another semester in my MFA journey being completed successfully (three down and one to go). Two days ago I submitted my final which included a 44 page craft paper, a sampling of 5 final drafts of poems, a summary of my experience throughout the semester with my faculty mentor, a summary of my overall experience, and a bibliography. It only took me a day or so to put that all together because the heavy lifting of writing all the supporting content has been done for a while now.

I still have a bit more to do for my class on campus, but my generative numbers are pretty solid. I submitted 44 new and revised poems to my faculty mentor for review and 18 for my class on campus. Only 6 of those were “crossovers” that we’re submitted to both. Almost all of them have some potential to be something more if I want to put the thought and work I to them.

That’s 62 new poems. Plus the 44 page paper and 7 other reading responses and essays for class. That’s a shit-ton of writing!!

According to my mentor about half of what I’ve submitted to him are candidates for my thesis (as well as candidates for submitting to publication). Now it’s tough to know what all that looks like when you don’t have a crystal ball and also when the work is evolving so rapidly.

In any case, I’m quite proud of some of what I have done and am excited for the next chapter in the story.. my final semester and graduation. My mentor suggested I do a character study of the central figure I’m representing in my body of work, and at first it struck me as an odd thing to do. Who is the character? Well, yours truly. And why would anyone need to do that? I mean, nobody is more of an expert on themselves but themself. Right?

Wrong. When it comes to the speaker of a collection, some things don’t fit. And I think it’s never a bad idea to do more self evaluation and make some choices. Obviously in my lifetime there’s a wealth of writing I could pull from but that would be a holy chaos so it all has to be filtered through a lens.

I learned early on in the program that I didn’t know much about poetry. I only knew what I had picked up a long time ago and most of what I have written in my life shows that. I also tried once or twice to apply what I was learning to revise some of that but found pretty quickly that it would be an exercise in futility.

I decided that the collection of hundreds of poems I wrote previously would stand together as an unaltered record of my life and a measuring stick that shows how far I’ve come. I’m ok with that. I might put some more effort into reorg and cataloging but otherwise it will remain unedited. For most of it I wouldn’t be able to get back into the right headspace anyway. Which is just one of the many things I’ve learned this term.

You have to be able to find your way back to that headspace or very near it to revise a poem. If you cant, something gets lost in continuity and you risk either trying to be about more than one subject or worse, just losing what the poems purpose is completely.

All the things I’m writing about currently are really easy in that way as I’m writing about my current life and all these big changes and all I have to do is wake up in the morning and I’m in that headspace again. It’s a see-saw of confidence and doubt. It’s a merry-go-round of thought, and worry and contentment swings to and fro from day to day.

Like I said, I don’t know what the future of this writing life looks like but I have a hunch that it will be a wild and satisfying ride. For today I just want to revel in my success this term and not worry about what’s next.

Cheers to Today!

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-28 Attitude of Gratitude

It’s thanksgiving and I’m feeling pretty good today. My friend Leah teaches Jazzercise and I wanted to take her superset class today which is 1.5 hours of cardio via dance mixx with some strength sets with free weights. I made a point to get up in time to get my ass out the door and be there by class start time. 8:30am.

When I rolled up there were about 35 cars in the lot and it’s a holiday and all the other businesses are closed so I knew it was going to be a problem. I did a loop in front of the building and the dance floor was wall to wall Jazzercisers stretching and getting ready to start. I. Just. Can’t do that. I drove home.

I like class when there is about 5-10 people. That kind of crowd (especially trying to dance) is not my jam. Too many people!

I’m now on the treadmill trying to make up for all the exercise I haven’t gotten this week. I suppose I can try to hit another class tomorrow. I’m just grateful I have a treadmill to walk on since it’s also really too cold outside for getting steps in there. Jim is getting his workout in too so that’s the bonus plan.

You know, I try to be grateful for my life and the people in it as much as I can, so this day is really no different. I kind of think about it the same way I always do with Valentine’s Day. Whatever sentiment is there should exist always and linger long after whatever a single day of the year can bring.

As good as things are for me right now, I’ve still had a few rough weeks of being low and doubtful and feeling sort of rejected, in multiple ways. The last few days have been slightly better and I’m hoping it will keep getting better into December.

Today my kids are going with their dad to his family festivities and that always makes me a little melancholy. We’re going to my sister’s place where my mom will also be and my sisters fiancé and his brother and parents. It will be a quaint little feast and I’m not required to bring anything so it’s like easy-easy. My sister lives a gluten-free lifestyle and so I made her gluten-free Chex mix, but that’s my only contribution. After that we will stop by to say hi to Jim’s parents. Should be a very chill day.

I’m kinda glad his family isn’t doing a thing so we don’t have to rush around to several places. I’m also glad to have a nice long weekend with Jim. We live in the same house but sometimes it feels like we barely see each other. We are hosting a holiday gathering at our house for his office one week from tomorrow and all the chores we have planned for this weekend focus on that. I’m hoping that once we get past that we can focus on the wedding a little more because some of my recent angst really has to do with me feeling alone on a wedding planning island.

See, I want to be grateful, but the day wants what the day wants. I keep trying to find a positive note but then end up thinking about the next thing that’s sort of bothering me. I think my mood has shifted four times since starting this post. I’m not inclined to keep writing if this teeter-totter mood is going to persist.

I hope you all have a great holiday and get to spend some relaxing quality time with the ones you love or at the very least have a satisfying meal and a fat cat nap!

XOXO,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-25 Writers Workshop Whammy

Where are we at today? Ah yes, in writers workshop where my poetry is being critiqued by an eclectic group of undergrad students. Most of whom, might I add, have had more exposure and experience than I in studies about literature, poetry, and writing in general. I got my undergrad in computer science, so what do I know anyway?!

One answer to that is that I know some things which only life experience can teach (and I have about 20 years on all these kids). I digress.

I submitted a poem to workshop which was a tribute to Terrance Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a poet whose most recent book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is (in my opinion) a masterpiece. If the words “tribute” and “masterpiece” do not make it abundantly clear what my position is, then I’m truly lost. Anyway, so I wrote this poem – a double sonnet, which I worked for quite a while on to get the sound and sense of just right. And might I add that I am proud of the way it turned out and would be honored if it ever reached the eyes and mind of the person who it was written for. I mean, I truly did toil over each line and phrase and combination of words.

To the critics who made me well up inside and out with angst over hearing their impressions and criticisms, I will concede a few points. There are word choices I did not realize would be offensive. Mind you, it’s a group of all white students save for one gal who remained silent the entire session (except for saying she was staying out of it). A couple of ill-placed line breaks which made the interpretation of my “white” poem seem racist. There I said it. That was the main tension in the room, that my poem was taking on a subject in a way that was offensive and inappropriate.

That somehow, in my attempt to praise Mr. Hayes for his skill and mastery of the poem and of language, I came across as crossing some line that shouldn’t be crossed. To me, hearing these comments was most disturbing because I was not trying to play a race card at all. I was not trying to use his blackness or my whiteness to any end. I used (sparingly) a little of his language and that was taken as appropriation. In the poem I was basically saying that he has done something I could never do and that I can never truly understand his words because his history and experience are so different from my own, but I can try. That I want to try and understand.

Right. In the poem I’m literally saying I want to try, I have to try, for my sake to make something more, to try and learn from what he has to offer and empathize with his plight. It is a poem about love of language and bowing down to the skill of another.. and if anything, the need in this hour of human kind for a little understanding across boundaries. Good gawd.

To be fair, there were a few comments that were counter to all the negative and one person said it was “the best poem they have ever read in workshop”. I think it was this differing of opinion that made people want to keep talking about the subject. In any case, The discussion ran long and the class was due for a break so the prof said to cut it there and take 5. I took my 5 to the bathroom on the 3rd floor of the fine arts building and arrived back after I had regained my composure (which took longer than the 5 minutes allotted).

I’ve never cried during workshop before and I’ve been in workshop with Kate Gale for god sakes. What on earth am I doing letting these comments get to me. I didn’t have the time or space to put together final comments so I basically just said something about my intentions. That It was meant as a tribute and high praise and was not at all meant to be offensive. I will probably change those line breaks and maybe another word or two here or there, but as for the rest? I’ll stand by it.

It kind of makes me think about that Robert Frost poem, Road Not Taken, which was written as a lighthearted jest to his friend who often lamented taking the wrong path. That poems true interpretation and intention has been argued countless times in the last 100 years (originally published in 1916), and at the heart of that, lies the secret of poetry – which is that it has layers of meaning and is always subject to interpretation in the mind of the reader. The meaning can be opaque and perhaps, in some cases, it’s better that way.

Now I’m not comparing myself to Robert Frost (ha!), but I would say that if my poem stirs that much discussion and controversy, then I might be on to something. If one measure of a good poem is that it makes a person remember and elicits a conversation long after it is over and done, then look how this poem might be a huge hit.

My only counter to that is that I don’t actually think it’s that edgy. I really don’t. In a way, I think these workshop mates of mine are just looking for something to be critical about. Still (as I said) I will revisit the poem again to make a few adjustments. I suppose the only true fix to this predicament is for me to have it accepted for publication. I should start doing more of that anyway.

Perhaps one day I will be posting a “conclusion” to this post in which I’m announcing my success. A girl can dream anyway right.

Ok.. that’s it for today. I’m over it.. and out!

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-24 The Current Trifecta

It feels like time is moving too fast. At the same time the minutes and hours of every day seem to creep by. I’m keeping a close eye on the calendar and have a growing list of things to do. Most of it has something to do with one of three main topics.. wedding planning or school stuff or parenting. Ask me any hour of the day and that’s what’a consuming me.

As far as wedding planning goes, I’ve successfully ruled out having a big wedding cake and am going to opt for a dessert table instead. I also was ducking floored by photographer prices and were not cool with that either. I simply hate the fact that people hear the word “wedding” and the price triples. Now all the alternatives are stacking up into a lot of work the days leading up to the ceremony. And I’m starting to feel like I’m going to end up running around the town like a chicken with it’s head cut off. I should probably start asking for help. I’m no good at asking for help.

As far as school goes the MFA semester is winding down and I’ve received what I think will be the last bit of feedback. That came in yesterday and I was really hoping for a little more and maybe another in-person meet up but that’s not the vibe I’m getting. I feel like I’ve been quite spoiled this term with such an abundance of feedback and encouragement that this last go-round feels almost like leaving unfinished business left on the table. I may be reading the tea leaves wrong though, as this last communication comes so soon after I’ve been triple-dissed by other persons. Too many grey clouds looming in my brain right now. I should probably just smile and nod and move along, but that’s tough for me too.

My on campus class is also in a bit of a lull and the last assignment was one that I didn’t necessarily resist, but the result is a poem I would never submit to any publication, ever. Not to say it’s terrible, it’s not. It’s very average but the subject matter is something I didn’t want to write about in the first place. It’s about my mom and it doesn’t paint the best picture. I may spend some time trying to do a new one so I don’t have to turn the other in. I dunno. For that class I just have one more poem reading response and a 3-4 page book review to do. Easy enough I suppose after tackling a 45 page craft paper.

All-in-all the semester seems to be running long and I’m kinda feeling just over it. I’m looking forward to a break. I’m also looking forward to that break for my kids too. Both of them.

The semester has gotten long for C and he’s fighting losing battles in several classes. Our weeks together are a constant struggle to get past due assignments and he’s now on a fast track to failing German. Of all the things I’ve been dealing with, this makes me the sickest in my stomach and in my heart. I want to help him and don’t know how. Of all the things I don’t know how to do right now, this is the worst.

And then he goes to his dads and I turn a blind eye. Relief for a few days where I can ignore it and focus on other things. Then I feel guilty. It’s a puzzle which doesn’t seem to have a solution.

On the bright side, things with Z are fairly positive and I don’t have to worry about her in the same sense. With her my worry is more about her independence and driving and I wonder how long that feeling will stretch out into the future. Last night her and I went to Frozen 2 which she’s been talking about for weeks.

The movie wasn’t as good as the first but I’m glad her and I had that time to spend together, just us. We both cried at the end of the movie. Then we came back home and I sat with her while she went through all her mail. All sorts of communications from colleges wanting her to apply and done she’s already been accepted to.

At this point she’s been accepted to all 5 places she’s applied and I’m proud of her. My thoughts might be consumed with my wedding and my school but we also have her graduation in spring and that’s a huge deal. The whole time I’m looking at pictures for my wedding video, I’m also thinking about her life and the graduation party we will be having for her. It’s going to be grand.

That’s my hour for today. Time to Jam.

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-22 A Love Letter for Today

A Love Letter for Today

 

My words are a love letter.
To love is a verb which doesn’t always mean
the same thing as it did the day before.
The bible says that it is patient and kind but i find
more often than not, it can also be lonely and wanting
and hopeful and full and sometimes stomping it’s foot
in defiance, not wanting whatever meaning is given that day.
What do the men that wrote the bible know
about anything really? How can you trust an ancient mirage
someone might have seen or heard
and language so new in the mouth
not everything had been named yet?
We can only know of love what we experience
in brief existence. And we can only know our thresholds
according to what came the day before.
And we can only learn the capacity of our cup
if we dare to let it run over once or twice
and can never know when or why it’s bigger
or smaller than the day before.
My words are a love letter to all who might listen
for a moment, in the morning to the birds
or gaze out a window, steam rising from a warm cup in their hand.
Those who allow themselves to be mesmerized by the dryer vent
pushing heat into the cold
or their breath as they wander out to get the mail in December
and also those who hold the importance of a moment up, in wonder.
Or a lifetime. Or a life.
Or each other. For all things fragile are a wonder.
I thought once that pain made me feel alive
and believed that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
Now I believe only that what doesn’t kill me, leaves me alive
to try again tomorrow.
My words are a love letter to myself. To my future self
who will never read them, just as so many others who love me
and will never read them.
This love letter is just words.
Some of which don’t know the meaning of themselves yet
Or might mean something different
tomorrow.

2019-11-21 Turn Left at Uncertainty

Let me start by saying this has not been a happy day and this will not be a happy post, if you have (like I have) had enough of just feeling shitty today, then best just skip this one. My feelings will not be hurt, because my feelings are already hurt. I’m sure the sun will come back out again tomorrow or whatever.

In about 73 days I’ll be celebrating getting married with a few of my closest friends and relatives and also my new family. I’m sure it will be a happy time, but with some unfolding events in this past week I can’t help but be reminded of where I was at in 1993, preparing for my first rodeo, as it were.

But hold up – this isn’t about then, this is about now. It’s about friendship and holding on and letting go. It’s about giving the benefit of doubt and trying hard to stay connected in a world where the over-connected nature of things make all interactions feel a little shallow. How well do we really know people and even when we know them do we really know them?

The detail behind these questions comes from a place of such doubt. I’ve got a friend who I have known for about 15 years and she’s recently disappeared from contact. We don’t see each other often, but I consider her one of my people. We go to lunch about once every couple of months – that’s our thing. I should call her, but I am afraid that her non-responsiveness over text is supposed to be a sign that she no longer wants to have anything to do with me. This makes me very sad and I am scared to call her because I don’t know what will happen. I hate feeling rejected. I’m sure (or hoping) it has nothing to do with me but what then?

The second instance is my other friend who I have known for 9 or 10 years. We have recently been trying to make plans to get together and it just never seems to work out. Too busy I suppose and I’m half of the problem but now she’s not responding to text either. Again, I feel like I should call but can’t seem to dial the phone. Maybe I hate the phone. Maybe I’m scared of more rejection.

The third whammy came last night when a very dear friend of mine, who previously agreed to marry me (as in officiate my wedding), let me know it was too overwhelming and she was going to have to back out. I was disappointed as an immediate reaction and let her know right away it was totally fine and that I understood and that I still love her. I mean, it is a big deal and all and I don’t want anyone feeling too much pressure. But still, after having about 24 hours now to think on it (and also start googling for other options), I realize I’m just sad about it. I really don’t want to have some stranger marrying us. I knew it would feel more special if those I love were involved. As it is, we don’t have a bridal party so I’m feeling kind of alone on this bridal island.

It’s just been a rotten few days since the invites went out and I’m wondering now about anyone showing up. Perhaps I will get no RSVPs or people will just politely decline.

25 years ago when I got married, I sent invites to a bunch of my classmates I had been going to school with for 2 years who I thought I had formed lasting relationships with and not a single one of those people showed up to my wedding. After the excitement of the day settled into the rear-view, that really bothered me. I guess it still kind of does actually as I am still thinking about it now. Of course, about a week after I got married, I drove off to Vegas to live with my husband just outside of Nellis Air Force Base and never saw any of those people again. Like “poof” two years of bonding over assignments and late nights in the computer lab and ping-pong in the cafeteria, and hitting bars around town to play pool and darts and not drink because I was only 19. All gone.

I’m going to see a famous slam poet tonight, Buddy Wakefield, and Jim can’t go so I had to hunt around for another date. Thankfully my sister is able to go and that made me feel a little better. I’m just not sure what to do about these other friends. I dunno. Wait until tomorrow I guess and maybe then the sun will come out. Probably.

Flame Off,

~Miss SugarCookie