2020-03-31 Crisis, Evolution, Kaczynski, and Poetry.. Oh My!

If you’re into drama and the sob-story of a broken cookie, I’m all about that today. If you’re here for the poetry, skip to the end…

Yesterday I was hoping to send my thesis preface and manuscript revisions off early in the day. You know, release myself from the hold it had on me. But it did not happen until much later in the day and once I did pull the trigger on that communication, I was not released. I could not let it go. I was still toiling in my head over certain sentences and the end and the worry that I had repeated myself too much somehow in my explanations. I need to let it go.

Even as I tried to sleep, I was plagued with ideas and little bits I want to change. It’s a good thing it was just a draft and not the final. The preface is 17 pages of elaboration about my personal journey and the internal and external influences that were important to the development of the manuscript contained within the thesis.

On one hand, 17 pages is a lot of words to string together in a succinct and organized fashion. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to condense so much into that space. It’s like saying, there’s so much more, but here’s the highlight reel. It’s not easy.

Making the cuts for the manuscript was very much like that too. Of all the hundreds of poems I’ve written, these are the very best and also the most relevant to the story I want the reader to experience.

See how I just can’t stop thinking about it or writing about it?! Insanity. I had intended to pivot this morning and write about something completely different but my brain hijacked itself. Good grief.

I was going to write about the document-drama Jim and I finished watching last night, Manhunt. It’s the story of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) as seen mostly from the perspective of the profiler and linguistic analyst who put the puzzle pieces together in order to solve the case. It’s such a well made show— I highly recommend it.

The last episode was so moving, I was on the edge of my emotional seat and teary-eyed through the last 15 minutes of the show. Some of that was the way the writers and directors set up those final scenes, but more than that it was the thought provoking nature of the entire story. Did I say I recommend it?? Yeah, put it on the list.

Thinking about it right now is giving me chills. It’s so tragic. And I’m not talking about the bombing victims (which is of course horrific). I’m talking about Ted and his life—his ideals and his misused intellect, the disturbing psychological experiments he was subjected to as an adolescent, and his subsequent lack of empathy and compassion. That a person can be so broken is hard to wrap your head around.

For me, the ideas he believes in hit pretty close to home. And he didn’t just believe them, he lived them and maimed and killed compete strangers to make a point and get his message, his manifesto out into the minds of millions of people. I know only the sliver of it that was portrayed in the two shows I’ve now watched on the subject but it makes me want to read the manifesto.

From the shows, the essence of the message is that technology is the root of evil causing a downfall of society. And that if we turned our back on it and pursued a simpler way of life, we would all be better off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this same thought.

And who am I? Just some girl sitting on her couch watching a show. I’m so afraid of the destruction humans are causing to this planet. I’m afraid for my children and future generations that will certainly see the polar ice caps completely melted, the rainforests reduced to flatland, creature extinct, and not enough clean drinking water.

Can tech solve? Or will humans have to change? Can we invent our way out of this fix or do we need to really heed Ted’s warning and change our way of life? Will we evolve or will we die?

And just like that, I look up and see myself in the mirror. I cut my own hair yesterday and could not help thinking about how good it looks this morning. How in the world can that be? I wrote about a year ago about the same exact experience and here I am, and it’s happening again. I’m reliving that moment. That’s unnerving.

It’s an anchor poem in the final section of my manuscript. The evolution of self and the poetic voice is one of my central themes and my manuscript preface gets pretty far into describing that theme and the aesthetic aim of this particular body of work.

See, just like that, I’m back thinking about that damn preface. I’m stuck in a viscous cycle. I want to go with the flow, but when your flow seems to be circling back on itself, it’s tough.

This damn pandemic is not helping. People need people. But sometimes those people also need to be alone. For real. This morning I listened to the news on Alexa and when they started talking about what is happening in New York, I just stood there and cried. And other major cities are not far behind. Soon New Orleans will be at the same point that New York is now, the healthcare system taxed beyond its capabilities. I can’t even think about it without becoming emotional. Here I am worried about my thesis and my hair and whether or not I will actually get to go outside today and people are suffering and dying in mass. My God!

I have to stop there, you know, I’ve already gone on way to long again. I’m ending with that poem “What’s in the Mirror” which was originally written May 31st 2019 and is now a 6th draft. It certainly does not adhere to some of the “rules” that govern this craft, but it is an accurate reflection of my experience.

With Much Love and Virtual Hugs,

~Miss SugarCookie

***

What’s in the Mirror

It’s morning again and I’m looking in the mirror.

Natural curls cling to each other in fluffy waves

on top and tight, smooth spirals underneath.

I flip it forward,

check the length,

and flip it back.

I admire how it looks better after waking up

but something’s not quite right.

Something inside is throbbing

and aching—winding up and unwinding.

Could it be my heart—too heavy?

Or my mind stretching

to get around some grief

like the sky being too big

or the possibility of a world without a sky—

existence where the words “blue”

and “rain” and “clouds” have slid

away from lips

into oblivion.

What if it’s not me at all

but a different girl, Sarah,

who I barely know.

She was raped on a date last week

and wrote a poem about it

and posted it on Twitter.

I’ve laughed with her

over giving the finger to the moon.

I want to reach out to her

and stand next to her in solidarity.

Or just hug her.

But what if it’s that other girl, Kala,

who I used to know.

She died of the cancer

that crept through her body

and sank its teeth into her bones.

When she died she left

two babies behind.

They will only remember

their mom as a person fighting

for her life. They will never know

the bright, fiery strawberry blond

who hung out at Billy Frogs on Fridays

after work drinking cheap vodka crans.

We laughed at our co-workers

and split nachos. I can’t reach out

to her or hug her

because she’s gone.

It could be that it’s that other girl, Z,

who I know so well

because I gave birth to her

and she’s getting ready to fly

and the sky is impossibly vast

and could collapse in on itself at any moment—

strands of air clinging together as they spiral down

and crash into the earth

and leave her drowning in a dirty brown sea

with nothing blue or green to hang on to.

My mind flinches and stops

on that ominous dead end street.

I can’t stop time

or un-melt the polar ice caps.

I can’t save anything or anyone

from the certain doom that happens naturally

when human beings are involved

because they are inherently selfish

and sometimes only think about

how their hair looks

when they wake up.

2020-03-30 Balance and Flow

When you put in the work, sometimes it sucks. But man oh man does it feel good when you’re close to the finish line.

That’s how I’m finally feeling today after putting myself in a box for the last three days. Not only did I need to crank out some pages for my MFA thesis preface, but I also had to complete another round of revisions on the actual manuscript. The due date my mentor and I chose together was last Friday, but he gave me a pass cuz, well the whole world is in chaos for one thing.

And though it’s no excuse, I’m also now being expected to pick up as many extra hours at work as I possibly can. This is mostly because my husbands income is being reduced during this challenging time.

My boss and my team are coming out guns blazing on a new project and I put my PM hat on for the three weeks while the real project manager was wrapping up her current gig. She started last week, thank goodness. I still worked like a full time chimp but this week I’m going to dial it back.

I’m gonna ease into a support role. I love my new PM, for real. She’s a fellow princess. My nickname for her is Princess KK and hers for me is Princess SheShy. Those names were established in the 90’s when we last worked together and became friends. After that she moved on to bigger and better things while I remained in Nebraska.

She’s a rockstar at both team and project management. She can have all that shit. Imma sit over in my corner of the universe taking notes and writing documentation and adding detail to the Jira tickets and confluence. That’s my happy place, keeping quiet and only interjecting when I feel something is really important. It will be easier to keep my damn mouth shut with such a strong leader.

The other thing that starts today for real is online learning for my kids. Last week was dedicated to “enrichment learning” while the teachers figured out their plans for how to teach in their pajamas.

When I pressed my son about doing enrichment work, he just said “mom, nobody is doing that.” He spent most of the week playing video games. My co-workers tried to make me feel better by saying that playing video games was enrichment. Haha! This weekend my email in-box was flooded with tons of instructions and links from all their teachers. Sure, the kids got these also, but who do you think will be responsible for making sure they actually get up and out of bed and on the Zoom meetings? There will be assignments and video instruction and quizzes and tests online.

Yeah.. all that starts today. I have to remind myself that balance is key and also try and take my friend Michelle’s advice and go with the flow. Give myself a little slack you know, partially because it is a stressful time in the world but also because I’m only human and can’t freaking do everything perfectly all the time.

Anyway, all that time in the box this past weekend was rough but I feel great about my progress and almost ready to send those pages off to my mentor. That’s my priority this morning (besides finally getting back to walking on my treadmill and writing).

At 10am I have a two hour work meeting and so the homeschooling will be delayed for a few hours today.

That’s it. Short and sweet. Balance and flow. Time to go.

Peace and Love!

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-03-22 Super-Sized Sunday Status

It’s Sunday again and I really need to get some steps to boost my stats and get my heart going. Plus, I’ve got a lot to say today so this could get long.

Imma start with school. Yesterday I had a two hour phone conversation with my assigned mentor for the semester and though it was a good conversation, it leads me to conclude I’m behind schedule. Those are my words and not his. He actually said I was in great shape.

However, it feels like the deadlines are coming in hot and I’m all duck-and-cover like the 16 year old me afraid of the volleyball in PE headed straight for me.

This is my 4th and final semester in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska. As such, I’ve worked with three mentors in previous terms and each has been a very different experience. Each opening my eyes to various aspects of the poetic discourse, craft, and the writers life. However different though, it’s tough not to start to compare one semester to another and one mentor to another. That’s human nature.

The mentor I have this term has been, by a good margin, tougher on me than the past three. I naturally push myself hard, trying to exceed expectation so to have someone pushing me even harder is not what I’m used to. The result, I recognize, is going farther and taking my writing to a whole new level. I feel I’ve made more progress this term already than I thought was possible and perhaps that I was also naive in thinking I didn’t have much farther to go.

Yeah, super foolish, SugarCookie! There are miles and miles to go and when you get over that little ridge ahead you will still see a mountain rising up before you.

The progress, however satisfying when you look back, is not without pain.

How many poems have I written and revised countless times. How many have I been so proud of? And how many were actually done-done? As it turns out, none.

With poetry the devil really is in the details. All the information I’ve absorbed in previous semesters about image and line and juxtaposition and the signified and the signifier, the interplay between the mind of the poet, the reader, and the poem itself, as well as learning how to give in to the destructiveness of a subject is all conceptual and very big-picture.

This semester I’m down in the weeds with grammar and syntax. I’m in a cage-match with punctuation and line breaks. And I’m having to cut and slash and, at times, re-imagine where I have been to try and rewrite the scene. I’ve learned so much about what those adjectives and adverbs are doing to my work and how passive voice seems to be my default and that just wont do.

Now, I think my mentor last semester was getting to some of this with me but I just wasn’t there yet and I just wasn’t getting it. Now I think I’m getting it. It’s starting to click. I just needed someone to point out specific examples. Which I now have a ton of. Which is good, but it stings a little, you know.

Paraphrasing a comment I’ve seen several times, “I think there could be a poem hiding in all this”. Ouch!

I mean when you hand over your baby and are so proud of how wonderful she is, it’s tough to have the response be “I’m not sure that’s even a baby. It could be a puppy. It’s cute but really, go back and try again.” Ha!

That’s overly dramatic of course, but that’s pretty close to how I feel reading some of the feedback. Speaking of overly dramatic, apparently that’s another one of my problems. Some of my poems were tagged as too melodramatic, too preachy, or too clever.

Too clever? Part of me is like so what? I like clever.

Oh, clever is not one of the goals and neither is preachy. People apparently don’t like that and I need to cut that shit out. There I go… cut, cut, cut. /shrug

There are a few references in a couple of my poems to the speaker weeping. Ummmm, that actually happened and in case there’s any question the speaker is yours truly. Please tell me how I’m supposed to write about the most difficult parts of my life without the reality that I sometimes cry about it?

It’s clicking now though. I get it. I don’t have to include every detail and however sincere, I can use the images to try and evoke a feeling. So I cut cut cut. Several poems have been cut completely out of my thesis manuscript. Among those are some of those tough moments that I still can’t completely capture successfully in a poem. I may never be able to do that.

My five year relationship that failed and left me devastated was represented in a poem that’s now been cut. I’ve re-written that poem like 10 times now in 10 different ways and it’s still too raw. Instead, I’ve got a short little baby that’s about 10 lines to represent that part of the story. And that one is a play on cliche.

So, yeah, having one of the most impactful things I’ve gone through being reduced to a pile-up of cliches makes my heart hurt.

Anyway, the conversation I had with my mentor yesterday was a lot more positive than all that and I think a few more things are clicking now for me to finish out my revisions of this book. I need to get that done so I can move on to the other requirements for the thesis and also developing a kick-ass lecture to get me to the finish line.

***

One hour in and I think I’ve finally exhausted my thoughts on that topic. But I’m not done yet, yo, it’s Sunday and I’ve still got to check myself on status.

Steps and exercise are not up to par. I’m just shy of 10k steps per day and my goal is 12k.

My sleep is a puzzle. On one hand my sleep quality has gone up and holding steady at an average score of 77. On the other, the average duration of my sleep is suffering and has fallen to about 6.5 hours a night. Whatever.

Work hours went up again this week and I’m now close to a full-time work week. That’s one reason the other things are suffering. Like school and writing.

I did not submit any of my writing this week so that’s a fail.

I did not write anything new so that’s a fail.

I did not read anything new so that’s a fail.

I did finish watching Batman Begins with Jim and we continue to also watch the documentary-drama on Netflix about Ted Kazinsky (I know that’s not spelled right but “meh”). We also watched 1917 this weekend with one of the kids. I didn’t like it and would not recommend. For a war drama, it did a poor job pulling me in emotionally. And I’m typically a sucker for that shit. I often get teary-eyed during emotional scenes. I mean I cried like 4 tunes during “Onward”. But I just didn’t feel that connection with the movie 1917. We should watch Saving Private Ryan again to see how that is. I’ve seen it but it was a long, long time ago.

What else? Yeah, my healthy eating goals are still being ignored for the most part. Ha!

I think that’s it. The household is probably waking up now and I’ve got to get to rolling with the day.

Take care and be well,

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-03-20 Best Laid Plans 🤷‍♀️

Today I’m going to try… really try to get through the last third of my manuscript and revise those pages based on feedback from my mentor. I have a call with him tomorrow.

***

I literally wrote that opening sentence 7 hours ago. I was called away by other duties as assigned and now it’s almost 4 in the afternoon. Wherever this Friday has been, it’s not been anywhere near what I was hoping for based on that sentence. I have not even opened a browser tab to access the feedback document or the thesis source document I’m editing in. Needless to say, I’ll probably be unprepared and winging it for that call tomorrow (not unlike other conversations I’ve been involved with lately).

The work thing has really blown up lately which is good, cuz $$$ but there’s a lot of big changes in general with life and it’s been leaving me feeling scattered. Like I said yesterday, at least when I’m working I’m mostly in a bubble and able to focus on the task at hand. With the school stuff, it’s a struggle. I think later today I’m gonna have to try. Maybe.

If I’m being completely honest, (and you know that’s the whole point of this right) … I haven’t showered in several days, my eating is askew and I’m just generally not feeling well. I keep taking my own temperature as if it’s suddenly going to register something different than yesterday even though I’ve been living under general quarantine for about 12 days. So yeah, paranoid.

I’ve been watching my kids and their spring break behavior, on laptops and computers for like 6 straight days now. In their rooms and not having any problem with it. I mean, my daughter is starting to have fast food withdrawal episodes but that’s about it for complaints. Are they just taking it so we’ll because they don’t realize yet it’s the end times? I dunno.

I also admit I got sucked into the FB vortex today and actually contributed to the noise. That’s how you know it’s truly the end.

Well, there you have it folks. Another post has spiraled into pandemic-y stuff. It’s like freaking unavoidable.

What else can I say? It’s Friday.. I’m gonna go take a shower and pour myself a bottle of red wine. Why not? I’m not going anywhere. To hell with goals.

Cheers,

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. I’m back to using pics taken in Kauai for my featured image. Daydreaming myself into the past. Hard to believe that was just 5 weeks ago.

2020-02-29 Cheers to Leap-Day and the Double-Dot ..

Today feels like a bonus day. Yesterday I wrote about some goals I have. Those are more general in nature and anyone who knows me knows that I also like to have little weekly and mid-tier monthly goals too. I have a white board that lives behind the door of my office that has a list of my monthly goals.

In the first few days of the month I check it, erase what got done, and replace that with new stuff. Yes, I always have things that don’t get done so each new month is a new color (that way I can tell how old something is). Right now though, the white board is blank.

Everything happening at the start of this has sort of hijacked my normal routines. I let it all go. Now that I’m back in action, I’m excited to begin again. But what’s that got to do with today being a bonus day (Besides being an extra day of the year)?

It’s that I get to ignore March and all the tasks I’ve committed to doing during that month (if only for just one more day). Ha! 😜

Also, it’s going to get up to 60+ degrees outside today and Jim and I have plans to get out there and enjoy that. That will probably include some measure of yard work or at least assessing the damage of the winter on the back yard. Hopefully it will also mean exploring someplace new.

I had great sleep last night and I feel as though I can take on the world today. And I haven’t even had any caffeine yet. If I have coffee I’ll probably start feeling like I have god-like super powers. it’s like the stars are aligning and the perfect time to work on projects. Goodness knows I’ve got a lot of balls in the air (even if they are mostly in my head).

In other related news, I got my second set of written feedback from my mentor yesterday with comments about my manuscript and revisions. I almost don’t want to open it because I don’t want to kill my Saturday feels. I think I’ll file that away in the “do this in March” list.

I’ve spent a lot of years of my life perfecting the art of procrastinating so this is just one of the classic go-to moves. On the outside it seems like I’m super organized and goal-oriented but on the inside the truth is it’s all just a play to categorize things into the future.

That bit is a dirty little secret so let’s keep that on the DL.. Ok?

Speaking of feedback. One of my most oft used punctuation marks is the double-dot “..”. For me it has come to signify something more than the end of a sentence but less than a full ellipses.

The ellipsis, “…”, is commonly used when there’s a continuation or more content that is not included in the text.

What I’m affectionately calling my “double-dot” (as of this moment) is like a longer pause, for contemplation. Where there might be more to consider but it’s up to the readers interpretation.. It’s not like actual defined text or content is missing. It’s an invitation to consider what else there could be within the context of ones own experience.

Yeah. I’m declaring the double-dot as official new punctuation today. Can I do that? Yes, of course I can. I mean the English language is always evolving and today is a good day for cool new stuff. Someone, somewhere, In the not so distant past put the words gigantic and enormous together and came up with ginormous. In 2007 it was officially added to the dictionary.

It’s been a long time since we had new punctuation to work with. And since punctuation is apparently one of the biggest problems with my poems, I might as well embrace it.. or fight it to the death.. or make my own mark on literary discourse.. Literally. 😂

Too much? Of course! 💃💃💃

So you heard it here folks. Yours truly has just invented the double-dot. Now when I read the question in feedback from my mentor that they don’t know what that is, I’ll just explain that it’s new and “all the cool kids are using it”.

How did I get from leap-day to the double-dot?.. 🤷‍♀️

Happy, Thank You, More Please,

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. Today’s featured image is a view from a hike on Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.. Shipwreck Beach to Punahoa Point

2020-02-28 Goals and Accountability

I kinda want to get my goals down on paper, as if that has some psychological influence of accountability. It feels like everyday is a struggle to get going and I think that comes from not having hard and fast responsibilities and deadlines.

I wonder what will happen when my kids grow up and move out. I mean, I’m still getting up every m-f to make breakfasts and facilitate the morning routine for them and for Jim too. And he can do that for himself if he wants, but I’m up anyway and I like being a provider.

Sometimes, though, when everyone is out the door and I’m left alone with the cats and I haven’t gotten good sleep, the bed calls to me “come back please.”

I have to fight it. A week ago I wondered if going back to bed at 7:30am would be considered “wasting time.” I kinda still wonder that right now.

Today I made it to the treadmill and plan to have a short session and then get my ass out the door to a Jazzercise class. I’ve been keeping track mentally of the way I feel. I would say 9.5 out of 10 times I totally feel better as my body gets moving and feel really great when I’m done. I just have to remember that when the bed tries to talk to me.

Beds don’t talk. It’s in my head.

Goals are only in my head too. I have to try and make them official. Given that, here’s what I’ve decided:

For the physical: 3 classes a week and an average of 12k steps over time. Some days that’s just not possible, but I need to put more focus on the physical. Hopefully that will help with sleep too though I’ve elected to not set a specific sleep goal for now.

For the writing career: Submit at least once a week to a publication. I started this week by submitting to a lit mag hosted by the University of Minnesota.

right now i have a queue of possibilities in my in-box from my MFA program coordinator, but I could also gravitate toward submittable for other options.

I also have a goal that has to do with launching a new online publication, which is slower going than interested parties would like it to be. /shrug— It is what it is. Having lots of balls in the air means that each only gets a little attention at a time and I’m treating this one kinda like the safety/oxygen mask on the airplane— securing my own first.

I should have goals for reading and writing new work, but I’m not pulling the trigger on that until I feel like my thesis manuscript is in a solid place. I’m a little behind schedule due to all the life events recently and have to get back on track. Therefore my short term goal is to finish my second round of edits by next Friday.

The current plan is to send the edits in thirds (which is about 25 pages each). Today that second third is due. The edits are done (as far as I’m concerned). I just need to put it in a document and write my comments/questions and that will be good to go. However, I recognize some of the newer and less refined (and also tougher) poems live in that last third so the next week I really need a kick in the butt to do it.

What else? I need to try and be more social. This week I went to a reading and it was super great to see so many familiar faces. I just need to follow through with scheduling meetups. There’s no defined goal behind that one. There shouldn’t need to be but my default MO is definitely sticking close to my sanctuary.

I think that’s the current brain dump. I really want to commit to first draft Friday but that might be too many balls in the air. I still also have to get my daughter graduated and on track for college and that’s a big deal too. Gah!!

Happy Friday Ya’ll

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. Today’s featured image is from a spot in Koloa on our hike to see the Makauahi Cave.

2020-02-26 Chickens and Squirrels and Pies, Oh My 🐓🐿 🥧

I might start by mentioning that I did land on a few goals for the year but that news is so two days ago.

I could go on a long tangent about the rabbit hole that I found myself in with domain management, web hosting, and WordPress theme customization. But that’s just yesterday’s news.

Then there’s the fact that the US Passport system requires you to actually send the physical certified copy of your marriage license to get a new book with your new legal name. So it’s a good thing We originally paid for two copies. Again, I’m so over yesterday’s news.

What is it today then? The answer is.. it depends.

If you ask the MFA student that has revisions of about 25 poems due in two days, she would tell you that’s what’s on the agenda.

If you ask the wife who wants very much to do enough that she feels she adds value to the team, she would tell you she’s going grocery shopping again. This time to stock up on extra supplies in case the Corona Virus really does start to cause disruption to daily life in America.

If you ask the mom. She’d say, “same story, different day”.

And the woman who didn’t sleep well last night because her mind refused to rest would say that she’s surprised the doxylamine succinate didn’t work and is irritated to still have morning after medicine head (but she took caffeine and made it to the treadmill anyway).

I’m supposed to meet with Josh today to get coffee or go for a walk but that’s just so unappealing. I’ve got so many other things to attend to. For real!

I really would like to section off my day and spend 1 to 2 hours with heads down focus on different tasks, but part of me wonders if it isn’t better to let myself get lost in one thing (like revisions or website development or housework) for as long as it takes?

I think my not being able to shut my brain off has something to do with all the pies my fingers are in right now. And also my need for instant gratification. So my name changed and I just want that to proliferate everywhere but that’s not how that works. It takes a lot of calls, time on the internet, and visits to certain offices in person.

How can I focus on my thesis manuscript when there are so many squirrels, chickens, and shiny objects to look at and chase.

If I was being disingenuous, I would hide the fact that I’m also fixing to get my fix of the Bachelor soon. Yes, it’s high on my priority list and really— what is a girl to do??!!

The answer for that one, at least, is to multitask. I can have the show on while I fold laundry and perhaps even work on the new website. It will be an interesting experiment anyway. In the end, I should be able to tell what my real priorities are.

With that, I’m going to cut this session short and dive into the day. If I do meet up with Josh I will probably get more walking anyway. See.. that’s me trying to think positively about it. 😊

Hiding from Squirrels, 🐿

~Miss SugarCookie

PS. Today’s featured image was brought to you by the girl who went on the most amazing honeymoon and didn’t even get to write about it.

(This one is a view of the Taro Fields from Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge)