2019-12-12 Channeling the Chocolate Chip

This post must be dedicated to Michelle without whom I would not be inspired to try and be a Chocolate Chip cookie – today or ever! 😉 (Thanks for being a great accountability partner and an awesome human).

I love a good chocolate chippy as much as the next girl, but for some reason the energy of this cookie is difficult for me to channel. It makes no sense really, as it is very universal and well liked and should be easy to break down into bite size pieces and consume, but something about it is eluding me.

Perhaps this is the classic scenario, with me and the Chippy, you know the “It’s me not you” thing. I’m just unable to get my act together enough for brown sugar and white sugar and butter and eggs and flour and baking soda and salt and vanilla and what else?.. Oh yes!.. The chocolate chips!! OMG, talk about making a mess.

***

Today I’m supposed to meet a fellow MFAer for lunch and it’s one of the more reliable people so the whole thing will go down just as we have planned it. It’s always an interesting chat with her (you remember what I said yesterday about the word interesting?). I never know how it’s going to go and I can’t predict where the conversation will wander. Of course we will be discussing our semester, of which I am certain mine was superior because of other rumblings I have heard from other folks.

This morning I sent my final five revised poems to my professor as a part of one of the last requirements for the Poetry Studio class and now I’m one step closer to being done-done with that (bout time!). One of the poems (the one that made quite a stir in workshop) was one that I revised and included and let me tell you I toiled over it for hours trying to get two more lines to fit into the first stanza/sonnet and then rework the last 4-6 lines in the second stanza/sonnet. It’s a double sonnet and I’m still unsure about the end but I’m letting that go (for now). I am doing much the same with all the rest.

Once I have that last class on Monday I’m going to let go completely for several weeks and not worry about any of that. I will still have reading to do for residency which starts in 15 days but I will not have to do any more writing or revisions for a while. I daresay that even in the first month of my last semester I am not going to do a lot of that because I will have a huge focus elsewhere (insert throat clearing cough here).. my wedding. Yeah, it’s freaking me out a little to think that less than two months from now I will be married. 52 days to be exact. Yowza!!

Anyway, time is moving really fast on all fronts and I have to try to stay focussed on the next most important thing. What does that mean for today? Well, it should mean finishing that last assignment for class, getting back to one of the vendors we got a quote from for services the week of our big event, and maybe even doing a little Christmas shopping, but we’ll see how all that goes. My plan is to do that lunch meetup and then see how I feel. I’ve got the distinct impression now that this chocolate chip cookie attitude is not going to work out no matter how hard I focus.

I did try though… and that should count for something right?! 😉

Made with Love,

~Miss ChocolateChipCookie

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

2019-07-24 Wild Wild West…

Or Wednesday or whatever.

I have so freaking much I want to write about. I feel like I stepped out of the car when I arrived home on Sunday and right onto a carnival carousel that doesn’t have a stop button. Round and round I go.

I still have thoughts from residency I’d like to wrap up and reflect upon. That ended on Sunday and I have neither had treadmill time nor enough alone time to collect my thoughts. Please don’t mistake this for complaining, the transition from one kind of crazy to another was completely necessary.

The kids came home Monday and Jim went back to work. Oh how I missed all my favorite people. I missed the cats and the birds and fish too and tending to the needs of others. I had some nice QT alone with my Z in the afternoon on Monday as my son was at his friends house. Then we were back together for family dinner (which turned out to be steak burgers and fries from Freddie’s). I still was feeling off in the stomach so I just sat at directed conversation.

While I was at Res, they were on vacation with their dad, road tripping to Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier. We never did anything like that when we were married. But I’m glad times have changed and the kids are getting the benefit of that. I lived vicariously through the lense of my darling daughter who took a lot of really spectacular pictures. She even got a few of her brother which is about as rare as seeing a bear in hybernation season.

He just refuses to let people take snaps of him. He’s not on any social media sites (except discord which is for gamers) and gave me and his Spanish teacher a lot of grief over not wanting to create an account for an app that they do their verbal assignments on. I think that was mostly because he hated Spanish. I digress.

I was so supercharged with ideas all of residency and with each conversation I thought of more things I wanted to write about or read. I kept a running file of random thoughts and have yet to even open that file. I haven’t finished translating my lecture notes into the Submittable form. I therefore had to make the command decision to bring the laptop with me on our next big adventure which starts today.

I spent most of the last couple days on trip preparation which involves getting the house in order, packing enough for 2 adults and four teenagers, and making sure things are taken care of as far as all the rest of the animals are concerned. That and having continued flashes of brilliance lingering from Res. Most of that was on my first assignments which are due in less than two weeks now. I agreed to that accelerated deadline for my own damn good. I need to push myself this term and take advantage of not working. And also get as much done as possible when my classes start.

As a consequence of all this chaos, I have still not been sleeping well and my stomach is still off. I wake up at 2, and 4, and 5am and then have been exhausted during the day. I eat little bits of food and then feel all kinds of naucious. The body count on this is now down about 7 pounds. 😱

On the bright side, I’ve got a solid handle on that first assignment and feel like I’m on track for the expectations for packet #.5. I wrote a partial start and conclusion for my 30 page craft paper and a lovely prose poem that goes perfect with that.

I also got inspired sitting on the couch Monday morning folding laundry and wrote a little bit that’s not related to anything else. It’s not really a poem and it’s too short to be a short story. Perhaps flash non-fiction. I’m not even sure that’s a thing. I’d say it’s nothing really except that it’s personal and therefore I feel emotionally attached to it already. Funny it came out of nowhere. Perhaps these things just want to be born.

I met a guy at Res who asked me a question about poems and poetry. He wanted to know what a person does with a poem that they have written. I clarified his question which led to more questions to which I replied “These are the kinds of things people get a masters in poetry to answer.”.

My follow up response was probably more on target with the way I truly feel which is “sometimes things just need to be written, and thought about, and shared.” Yes, that. Believe me.. these kinds of things float around my mind all the time. I’m really coming to the conclusion that it all comes down to the human connection. People sharing and collaborating and enriching their lives with what other people have to offer and what they give in return. Or the giving happens first. Someone has to be the initiator.

Anyhow since I have not had time to get steps on the treadmill and write I’m kinda feeling off my normal routine or rather that I’ve not made it back from Nebraska city. My body is (was) back in Omaha but my mind is somewhere in limbo.

Now, at this moment, I’m really in limbo because I’m transitioning again and I’m 10,000 feet somewhere over Ohio or Pennsylvania, on my way to NYC. It’s the Big Apple baby!! I mean, if I were doing this thing by the book of SugarCookie, today would be day 0. Travel day. The day I freak out about flying and lament about the evils of air travel. But these days, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” (Lucky for you.)

Perhaps I’ll have a few minutes to write once we get settled into our appartment and get our bearings with the area. Probably not. For this Wednesday edition, musing on the wild, wild west will have to do. Tomorrow I’ll get to New York Day 1 – Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire.

Literally! We are staying in the Hells Kitchen district. That sounds interesting. It should be quite an adventure indeed!! Until then,

Take care of each other,💕

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-21 MFA Res Days 8 and 9 – Tough Choices

The last two days I’ve felt less anxiety and less pressure, mostly, yet still inspired by so many shiny objects. On the downhill slide, the back of the back 9, the preparing for a return to reality from the dream, I find that the most difficult task is the necessity to chose between things, people, places, moments, activities, and food. A sense or acknowledgement that I cannot, infact, have it all as it is an impossibility and am faced with decision making. Not my strong suit.

Do I hang with people I just met, or my closest allies here who have grown more dear to me by the hour, or perhaps the faculty who I would get more wisdom from. It is not lost on me that everyone is on their own back 9 and also having to choose.

I had to choose between watching the sunset and talking with one of my previous mentors. We both kept crossing paths all week and promising each other we would take some time and catch up, but the time never materialized. We have similar dispositions and both worry about doing everything that needs doing and focusing on the next thing at hand. We were both prioritizing (though some of mine was dictated by basic needs sort of stuff). I chose the conversation, the sunset behind me. It was one of the easier choices and well worth it.

Later I had to choose between staying at the lodge and leaving for a walk with a few folks. Should I stay at the physical place that embodies the spirit of the program with its diversity of great people and potential conversations and possibilities for fun and games and amusement? Or do I leave the place and choose to reward myself with physical activity and the opportunity to have a more intimate conversation with a select few? More of a difficult choice, but I went with my gut. What I needed.

Some walking and digestion. Less sensory input, not more (except for that one bar we stopped in along the way where it was all just much too much). Less drinking not more. Less chaos of conversation not more. I made my choice and In return I was again rewarded by the universe by having a wonderful walk and conversation with two really incredible people. One a mentor and the other, a woman I met in the program who is now more than just a fellow writer, peer, safe space at the dining table, she’s a friend. Not the ‘see you later, let’s do lunch’ type of friend, but a genuine human I want in my life for a long time.

The walk deserves a whole blog post of its own, perhaps a collection of poems. Isnt that something!?! But my time for this one is getting short now and I’ll have to wrap soon. You know what they say about time.

This morning I woke naturally after the most amount of sleep I’ve had in 9 nights. I opened my eyes and shortly thereafter heard the low rumble of thunder. I got up and opened my window which revealed the pouring rain. I thought to myself “how god damned appropriate is that?”. “IT” was still happening, the serendipitous-ness of the program and the place and its people, even as everyone was well on their way back to their own realities.

The release, the transition, the dramatic change being echoed by nature. Or felt by it, or being mourned by it. It took me two trips to get all my stuff loaded into the car. I closed the trunk of my car and looked up at the sky, the rain on my face felt wonderful.

With peace and so much love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-19 MFA Res Day 7 – Deep Breath

Compared to the three previous days waking up today, despite still only having just shy of 4.5 hours of sleep, I’m feeling much closer to my center. Perhaps it’s because I just woke up and am enjoying my routine already but it could also be the fact that we are on the downhill slide of this little adventure and that yesterday there was a great release when the swell that comes from my having my “15 minutes of fame” here was over.

I’m talking about the student readings which appear on the surface to be no big deal to other folks. That’s how things often appear on the surface so I’m not sure if there is any truth in it. It’s a big deal to me to have the eyes of so many brilliant writers – brilliant people – all on me for even a short time like 5 minutes. One has the attention of the room and that brings power. And with great power becomes great responsibility. I felt it.

It’s a responsibility to step up to the plate and kill it, somehow trying, through my words to make a case that I belong here. That I, too, am worthy of this experience. It’s feels self serving to highlight the fact that the journey that led me here is very different than most people I talk to. Maybe I’m just drawn to talk to people with backgrounds and situations that differ from my own because that’s interesting or because I’m searching for the common threads between us.

Through reading their work and hearing them read it that is easy to glean, as the passion bleeds through. It feels like such a great opportunity to get a glimpse into the hearts and minds of everyone, many of whom are early in their writing lives and careers. It’s a special thing and I feel as tough the price for admission is contribution. Therein lies the pressure and the swell.

I spent several hours in thought and action for preparation, including most of my morning yesterday. Everyone else was having scheduled meetings with their mentors and finalizing study plans for the semester. My mentor was absent on “other duties as assigned” by the program and university. It’s a privilege to be working with someone who is so intrugal to the program, someone who is so invested in it, and whose work I respect so greatly. It’s worthy of so many more words but I’m going to hold them hostage until another time.

By mid-morning. I was done with final edits, timing everything, and preparing my comments for my reading. I’d love to appear fearless and polished, graceful and unrehearsed, and, as I said, worthy. I want those things to be real and overpower the anxiety and uncertainty that I experience with public speaking.

When it was over and done, I felt pretty good about it. I truly did, which is awesome, and then I had a wave of relief wash over me. The rest of the day I felt so much lighter inside. Other aspects of this time started to take their shapes again and some of my focus has returned.

As always, there’s a great deal more I could say about the rest of the day’s activities. Day spills into night and crosses through dreams and returns with the sunrise. With that, the sun is up and my time is up too.

Enjoying the Exhale,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-18 MFA Res Day 4 (And 5 And 6)- Going Beyond the Pale…

And trying to get back.

I’ve pushed past cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and have moved into territory that is a little unfamiliar. Is this what this is supposed to be like? This has happened a little in the past two residencies but not like this one. I’m in such a strange headspace, bodyspace, universe space I’m not sure what to make of it.

Yeah, I’m out my body and out of my mind and trying to figure out if I’m ever going to be the same. Think, if you’d like, that I’m being overly dramatic, but I’m not. I’m being nauseously, wrecklessly serious. I’ve lost 5 or 6 pounds in the last 5 days (verified this morning). Every time I eat, I feel sick to my stomach. I’ll stop short of going into the other sketch physical details, just know, it’s not pretty.

The problem manifests with physical symptoms, but it 90% mental, I am certain. I’m trying to maintain some sliver of routine, but it’s damn near impossible and my brain fixates on an idea and I can’t shake it and it throws me off whatever well-intended course I have.

My morning rituals, for example. This morning is the first morning I’ve really been able to find my way to the treadmill. When you don’t start like you normally start the day, it’s already off the rails. Then it goes into the weeds and grass on a paved path which turns into dirt trails leading into the woods. The packed brown earth beneath the feet begins to narrow and the canopy becomes more dense and you can’t stop and before you wake from the rythem of the daydream of your silent footsteps, you are lost, and when you turn and peer back and squint you can see the pale behind you.

Yesterday I was still in that place and so punch-drunk with the euphoria of the freedom that comes from being in an unfamiliar space. It’s exciting and you know you should leave, call for help, retrace your steps, ask for a map (you are not alone), or just slow down. But you don’t want to.

The instinct of logic has left your side and your left-brain, being absent, leaves your right brain scurrying around wild-eyed and manic. It just wants to know how far this path that is not a path goes.

***

I’m back on the treadmill now and need to get my act together because I have a lot of important business to take care of today. Fighting through the constant distraction of seemingly brilliant beginnings of thought is probably going to pose the greatest challenge. Every shiny object popping up right in front of me will be tough to resist. I need to try and stay on task.

As if on queue it happened just now. I started thinking about a person I got to know a little better yesterday who introduced me to some new music and I spent at least 74 seconds on that thread of thought. I just can’t do that and I have to resist the impulse that that is EXACTLY what I should be doing. Following those thoughts off Into the woods. “Isn’t that why we are here!”, my right brain insists.

When I got to the workout room this morning Bob was on the treadmill already. There is only one. I was here on the start of the first full day which feels like about 25 days ago now, and he asked me how long I would be. I had just started and selfishly replied “about 50 more minutes.” He left.

The second encounter was the following day when he sat behind me in lecture and asked me, as I was scanning the room before the start of it, “What time are you going to walk tomorrow?”.

I still felt guilty for presumably bursting his bubble previously and looked at the schedule and said “I’m not going tomorrow because the nature walk is that day and I don’t need to.” I shied away from explaining that I can’t predict what might happen over 12 hours in the future here. I can neither predict or commit to anything as concrete as a time of day. I just can’t. Ask me what I’m doing for the next 4 hours, sure, but tomorrow? Forget it.

I could tell a lot about Bob by the simple detail that he never formally introduced himself to me in those two encounters (I didn’t either). I thought about it after the fact so this morning I made a point to do it before he left the room. So that’s Bob.

He left less than 5 minutes after I arrived. He said I had good timing and I smiled and replied that that was the first time anyone had ever said that to me. I withheld a wink.

That’s it for now. As I said I need to focus and stay on task today. Get back to crossing necessary things of the mental list I’ve composed for the next 4 hours. After that. All bets are off.

Wandering Back,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-16 MFA Res Day 3 – The Floodgates are Open

Yes, the floodgates are open now and it’s serious. They mean serious business. I’m seriously serious and afraid for my safety and sanity. I’m not being overly dramatic, I’m being… serious.

Typically I would try to provide a brief synopsis of thought and feeling about the prior day, wrapping It with some overarching theme and providing some highlights that seemed especially vivid and moving for me personally, but I can’t do that this time because there is much to much and frankly, I’m dealing with the situation where it feels like day 3 has not actually ended yet.

The lack of sleep is STARTING to get to me. It’s got me. Now, just the facts ma’am, please. Ive been here five nights and in chronological order here are the stats…

Friday – 5 hours and 4 minutes

Saturday – 6 hours and 1 minute

Sunday – 4 hours and 46 minutes

Monday – 4 hours and 54 minutes

Tuesday (today) – 3 hours and 20 minutes.

It’s a problem I am not sure how to solve it. I’m self medicating but it’s not helping. A bit of foreshadowing here, I’m planning to drive home tonight and sleep in my own bed and before that (as of this moment), praying for rain so our morning outdoor group activity today will be cancelled. I need a break and I suspect I am not the only one. I need to take care of myself, and be selfish, and I suspect I am not the only one.

On the opposite side of that coin is the wealth of ideas and musings that I have been able to capture thus far. Yesterday was the best day for that yet, generatively speaking. I came into residency somewhat terrified of my 3rd term craft paper and now, I’m genuinely excited about it and enthusiastic to get that party going. I have tons of thoughts and they just keep coming. A very real flood of words. The waters are rising as I type this.

Yesterday our mentor preference forms were due and the outcome of the pairings was revealed before the evening faculty readings. I had to try very hard to not flaunt my enthusiasm about the result. I’m living that charmed life right now and the universe is giving me exactly what I want and need at the same time. I’m very much looking forward to see how this story unfolds and, in a way, all of that was akin to storm clouds brewing preparing to provide the downpour that is now occurring.

(Both literally and figuratively now. My foreshadowing of actual rain has already begin and I can hear the beating of tiny drums on the roof above me. I’m on the 4th and top floor of the lodge).

After the “big reveal” last night, we went right into the reading, which was a line up of four incredibly talented faculty members. These readings are always one of my favorite parts. You get to sit and listen to brilliance and let go of any self-expectations and responsibilities. We had a play-write, a poet, a short story guru (who read poetry), and a visiting faculty member who I had not met until workshop today and didn’t actually get to listen to because of the 3rd reader.

His subject matter and content hit me so hard, I wept openly during the reading and had to leave the room directly after to try and compose myself for the thing I had going on after the readings (volunteering to help in the bookstore). It came over me like a freight train and I didn’t try to stop it. I felt gross with all the stuff pouring out of my nose and eyes and managed as well as I could without a tissue. I can’t elaborate on the subject matter of the reading. Not right now anyway.

After that I got my act together and did the bookstore thing. That was followed by a walk to the basketball court with an enthusiastic group of folks hungry for a game. For me, this meant standing around talking with some other folks and cheering when someone made a basket or jeering some foul play. There was an issue with the lights and the game was much abbreviated.

Back at the lodge, a round of drinks and waters was secured and we gathered around the lobby area for conversation. Also great. I returned to my room close to 11:30 pm completely exhausted thinking I was going to fall into a deep sleep. I was wrong. I had taken a Tylenol for a slight headache earlier and seriously thought I had taken the wrong thing or something else because I had this giddy, medicine-head thing going on. I wondered enough about it that I googled it and as it turns out, it was just Tylenol and nothing else. That’s just how tired I was/am.

I could not fall asleep. I took a half a Xanax at 12:30. I woke up at 3:30M and thought and wrote and tossed and turned and through and wrote some more. I took another half and still did not sleep. It had zero affect. In short, I’m fucked up for doing anything today. That is why I am praying that this rain continues long enough our morning excursion is cancelled. Please, please, please. That’s selfish. I hope it stops raining and I muster the guts to just bow out even though I’m supposed to one of the carpool drivers.

I need to eat breakfast soon. I skipped dinner last night, trying to get some rest and avoiding the dining room experience (ordering from the menu takes an eternity to play out). I may be full of words and inspiration but the physical me is empty now. That requires a solution before anything else.

When it Rains.. it Sometimes Pours,

~Miss SugarCookie