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

2019-07-15 MFA Res Day 2 – Life is Wonderful

The day yesterday was certainly less action packed than the first and there were several sessions when I had the opportunity to sit, listen, and think without the expectation for something in return. There were also several noteworthy highlights that made the day so, so wonderful.

In chronological order, the workshop where my writing was discussed in detail, dinner with a fantastic group of people, frisbee in the park with a different group of folks, and a long evening walk through the town to the river and back.

I co-conspired with one of the faculty to organize the frisbee event and it felt great to get outside and be physical and release myself from all the heavy mental contemplation that immersion brings. It was also a great lead in for our walk where we got to spend time getting to know new people a little better outside the confines of the lodge. Oh my but it was a hot one.

Rewinding a bit, Part of the responsibility I assumed when I agreed to help organize was to secure a second frisbee for the toss. I had a brief break after workshop which I used to make a wal-Mart run. That’s when it happened, in the car on the way. That first outburst of tears. Impossibly unpredicted, a familiar feeling rose from somewhere deep inside, my stomach and heart conspiring to push it up through my throat to the top of my head. I wept openly in the car because of the catch and release effect that being workshoped has on me. It’s that satisfaction and doubt and confidence and vulnerability mashed together that does it. I should have anticipated it but I didn’t. No matter.

I secured the frisbee and continued about my day, holding a piece of that feeling inside the rest of the day. It was wonderful.

I sacrificed the sunset for the walk through town and it’s not lost on me that I also sacrificed missing something that happens far less frequently too. The MRAZ concert at the Stir Cove. I missed him singing “Life is Wonderdul” in order to actually live the words. The polar opposites in life that occur and that we can’t really know “it takes some bad for satisfaction”. That song is brilliant and is the essence of so much truth that I can’t even describe. I don’t need to, he’s already done it.

It also, of course, reminds me of another time in my life with a very special person. If there was a measure of a man, and that measure was poetry, he sits on the top of that list. That was my “Simply Vera” era, for which, now that it’s far in the past, I’m immeasurably greatful for. Yes, I’m talking to you Vis. How can I not think about you when I think about MRAZ and the music you introduced me to. I hope you went to the concert and I hope it was .. Wonderdul!!

I have more to say, but time is short today and I’m already running late. Such a tragedy.

Wishing you peace and love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-14 MFA Res Day 1 – Four, Three, Two, One.. Go!

The train has officially left the station and no time has been wasted getting up to full speed. The short story on what happened yesterday includes 4 lectures, 3 orientation/training sessions, 2 trips to the dining room, and 1 workshop. As an added bonus there was a faculty reading in the evening which is always one of my favorite events to attend.

The longer story includes my decision to switch things up with regard to the dining room to alleviate some anxiety about any awkward situations. In the morning I skipped breakfast and then had a quick bite in my room later in the morning (it’s not my first rodeo and I came prepared). At lunch I waited until lunch was almost over and then snuck in the dining room to eat alone. That felt a little strange but also just comforting somehow, being able to eat at my own pace without having to make small talk. I was planning to do a similar thing for dinner and hit the room super early when most people would still be in a mentor intro session. What I found when I arrived was one of my favorite mentors milling about and we grabbed a 4 top. Two other students joined us and it was a really great conversation! I left feeling like “if it was always like that, the dining room would not be a thing of dread”. Life!

Workshop was a generative session which was something new they added on for just this session for the poets, to balance with the record number of fiction and CNF crew in attendance this go round. The workshop was an open dialogue with the faculty about writing and risk it was superb.

The lectures were all top-notch as is typical and I took gobbs of notes. There’s far too much to consume and internalize but this I already expect and have let go of really trying. If I had a dollar for every author and book and article and poem and short story that are referenced as a “must read”, I would be able to buy a bookstore and committing to read them would mean reserving the rest of my life; doing nothing but reading. Not humanly possible.

At the end of the day, as is my way, I took my leave of all the people and found a quiet spot on the back deck, this time with a nice glass of red wine, to watch the sunset. Sunsets in Nebraska can be amazing and I don’t want to miss any opportunity to witness the plunge of light as the sun is swallowed by a canopy of trees, turning the sky to sherrbert for just an instant before darkness takes another turn at the helm.

Two nights ago I met Patrick on the balcony for the first time and last night he appeared again, as if just on que with the darkness. He sat his glass of wine next to mine on the table and we chatted for a while. I’m not sure how long. It was another great conversation.

Despite it being a nice time, thinking about it when I came inside made me feel homesick for Jim and I called him when I got back to my room. It was a quick chat, about nothing important, which was comforting. I then did some final prep for workshop today and then fell into bed for, what I hoped would be, better than the first night. I don’t care about leaving that to chance and took a Xanax.

According to my Fitbit I got only 4 hours and 46 minutes but for some reason I feel more refreshed today than I did yesterday. I’m thinking that has to be about quality and not quantity and the fact that today promises to be less action packed.

My hour here is almost up and I’m in serious need of a long shower and possibly some eggs from the breakfast buffet. If I’m going to make all that happen before our 8:30 start, I’ve gotta Jam.

Stay Frosty My Friends,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-13 MFA Res Day 0 – Stepping into the Familiar

Yesterday was a scramble to wrap up preparations and mid-afternoon I made the quick trip from my home-sweet-home to Nebraska City. Unlike a lot of the people in the program I live relatively close and don’t have far to go. Most traveling by car had a rough go because of all the flooding in the area. Those flying, well, had that nonsense to deal with of course. In truth, the drive was one of the best parts of my day. I would not have minded a detour that took me two hours off a regular route (as long as it was expected). I covet the time I’m the car to think about life.

My thoughts largely rotated around my expectations for the next ten days. I’ve got a week and a half of immersion in all things writing related and Lied Lodge Living. It’s an experience that truely does not compare to any other in my life. I can expect to laugh, and cry, and be filled with anxiety, doubt, confidence, and satisfaction. Sometimes all at the same time.

On my drive I was thinking about my first Res and how one of the people in the “upper class” said something about crying. At the time I’m sure the look in my face was screwed up with disbelief. What on earth is there to cry about? She just said “you’ll see”. Now that I’ve been here twice before, I know exactly what she’s talking about and was thinking about that in the car.

What will it be? How does one spiral into that frantic state. Is it the total immersion? The people? The overwhelming amount of thought my brain goes through? Probably a combination of all of it and the only other question will be “when”. Then again, life always has a way of surprising us so maybe something about this time will be different. So far though, that has not been the case.

Day 0 and I’ve already gone through the familiar first steps of coming together with the group, feeling awkward like I don’t belong, worrying about where to sit (there were not very many open seats when I came in the room and none next to any familiar faces), and then sitting alone in the front row.

Time slowed down to a snails pace and the next 15 minutes in that seat felt like 5 painful years creeping by. Why the hell would they say to be there at 6:15 if they were not going to start the welcome presentation until 6:30? Good grief.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the dinner to follow was equally awkward. I went into the dining room with a friend from my weekly writing group and we selected a table and made a straight line for the buffet. When I returned I found someone else’s plate at my space at the table which left no open seat for me to sit and eat. My choices? Sitting at the adjacent table alone which would make me a stark center of attention, or sitting with people I didn’t know, or squeezing in – making that 4-top into a 5-top. I choose the latter. It was super awkward.

I fucking hate the dining room. Hate it.

Anyway, after a dinner of salad and chocolate cake I lingered a bit because Margret was telling a story and then i left at the same time as she did. I went to my room to recover. It sounds like no freaking big deal, any normal person would not batt an eyelash. But not yours truly. I wish I could get over myself. Good grief! 🤦🏼‍♀️

After that I went for a walk and that felt great. The sun was nearing the horizon and I knew I had about 45 minutes to go out and come back to the back patio of the lodge to watch it dip below the tree line. That’s exactly what I did. The walk was peaceful albeit not exactly refreshing as I could not relax my mind. I got a few nice snaps in of a tiny lake area that I had not visited before. Then, returning to my starting point, found a lovely inconspicuous spot on the patio.

The sunset was so-so. I’m sure there will be better ones in the future because I’ve seen it.

After the sunset I lingered again and a first year student came out solo for a view or a bit of fresh air. That’s when I did a thing I almost never do, which is approach and introduce myself. We chatted about the program for about a half an hour and it was good. A highlight of the night really. One on one is much more my speed.

When that conversation exhausted itself, I excused myself and went to the “bookstore” to help a few of my friends do inventory. That was it for my night. What would follow is the familiar return to the room for a night of tossing and turning and trouble falling asleep.

Fitbit says I got 6 hours, but it certainly does not feel like it.

Right about now I’m 54 minutes into a sesh with the treadmill in the exercise room at the lodge. Another familiar space, and a welcoming one. I only have a few more minutes before I need to scoot my booty to get dressed for the day, eat breakfast (sans dining room), and get to student orientation which starts at 8:30 (or will it be 8:45? 😉).

I’ve gotten some steps and now it’s time to dive in!


~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-01 Big Bites

A few days ago I got a present in the mail which I was super excited to receive.. my packet of materials for my MFA residency coming up this month. It feels a bit like Christmas morning, getting a first look at some really great material. I always love reading other peoples poems (reading mine revision after revision gets old).

Last night I did a first pass at my classmates submissions. It’s such a different mix of stuff each time, based on author of course. People definitely take on a certain style.. I think they refer to that as voice. I’m curios if when people read my stuff they pick up on a particular common voice or tone?

Last week in one of my posts I eluded to the fact that this next semester is beginning to look a little terrifying. That’s not for no reason as I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Not only am I in my 3rd term and have all the standard requirements, which includes a 45 page craft paper, but I also am taking 7 additional credit hours in graduate level courses. The thought I had in mind was to be able to get the most out of these last two terms as possible, but I know once I start reading and writing full time AND get a grasp on what is involved with the two additional classes, I’ll be like “what the hell was I thinking?!”

The core graduate work will begin mid-July with residency in Nebraska City and the classes on campus will not start until August so I’m hoping to have enough done for the former when the second round hits. But you know what they say about the “best laid plans”… heh!!

In any case, I’ve got a few good weeks to think more about it and truly, the classes that start in the fall can be dropped in August if need be. So I guess I have time to simmer about it.

The next things on my to-do list for school involve coming up with a proposed reading list for the term and maybe a short list of possible topics for my craft paper. The more prepared I am going in, the more I will get out of it. Right?!

Of course I have big ideas and that’s what gets me into trouble. I’m sure as soon as I’m done posting this I’ll be onto the next thing (or the things I had in my list last week or last month that are still not done). That’s just part of the SugarCookie life. 🙃😉

Time to roll.

Peace Out,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-05-08 Wednesday Wanderings…

Today I feel like I got nothin’. Correction… nothing new. But that’s not new either. Life moves fast but amazingly it also moves slow, it’s like a strange trick of the mind. Nothing really changes much from one day to the next and then you wake up one day and realize everything has changed. That’s why the Time Lord is called Dr. Strange.

If you ask me I would say he was the most important character in the last two Avengers movies. I picked up on the clue the first time I watched Infinity War. He saw the future, or more accurately 14 million alternate futures, and knew what must have to happen to avoid the universe losing half of its inhabitants – permanently. That’s why he willingly gave up the time stone. Of course nothing would have happened to set the plot of Endgame in motion without the return of Ant Man. They never would have had the idea of traveling back in time to collect all the stones. I actually never saw any of the Ant Man movies but that’s one thing that Marvel does really well.. you didn’t have to watch dozens of movies that include characters and plots to enjoy any of the other movies. They all stand on their own merit. In my opinion anyway.

I guess this is what happens when my mind wanders along with no particular topic in mind. I start rambling about super hero’s and movies. 😜

Today I slept in until like 8am and that was glorious. I slept for a solid 8 hours according to my Fitbit and I feel great. My first meeting of the day isn’t until noon and that means I have plenty of time to get lots of stuff done before settling in for my work day.

I’ve got some follow ups to take care of and among those is searching for classes at UNO that I can register for this fall. I need to get that registration in ASAP and start gearing up for getting back to school. I had some communication last week with my program coordinator and director and I’m super stoked about this next term. I’m also already building my reading list and have some grand goals developing. I’ll probably take on too much, but I’d rather maximize opportunity than short change myself like I did last semester.

I had advice “it’s ok if things get messy.. let it happen” and “everyone fails and that’s how you grow”. To me those don’t feel like advice, they seem more like loopholes or excuses for not meeting your own expectations. My mentor last term was great, but too nice and “forgiving”. We were both too busy in our daily lives to put the right focus into the tasks at hand. She in the throws of divorce negotiations and moving and having a son go away to college for the first time, me just working too much and planning for moving and starting a new life with my fiance. I guess both beginnings and endings can make us too busy to focus on something that’s supposed to be important. We took turns exchanging apologies for being late on deadlines and she was extremely generous accepting some of my essays as “critical essays”. Half of them were more like just stream of consciousness pondering about the creative life, processes, and how exactly one gets in-tune with the “show instead of tell” mentality. I did try to critically evaluate that and several other poetic devices, such as Juxtaposition, Conceit (controlling metaphor), and Phanopoeia, but by and large my biggest leap forward was just getting a deeper understanding of the terminology. I definitely feel like I failed trying to apply what I was learning.

I thought, “if it’s ok to fail, let’s go with that”. One of my creative packets was comprised entirely of my failed attempts to try new things. I submitted it as a mini chapbook titled “Failed Expeditions and Other Tales of Woe”. It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. It was liberating to just try a bunch of things and feel like it’s OK if it doesn’t magically turn out to be the best thing ever. However, no matter how good it felt to be able to do that, I still felt like that was a “one trick pony” and I could not keep doing the same thing. It sort of felt like I was cheating, which in a way it was – I was cheating myself. I’m paying a lot for this MFA so I want to make more out of it than just getting away with the minimum. It was during that third packet that I started to contemplate taking a semester off in order to focus on one thing at a time. I took on a new contract at work, which was another 20 hours a week on top of what I was already doing. I was planning to move after the holidays. I would then need to sell my house. I knew I could not do all of that AND read and write and attend classes.

All of that is done now (or nearly done) and, as I have said, I am very much looking forward to diving back into school – head first! I have no idea what to expect from my search of the UNO course catalogue. Guess there is no time like the present to find out!


~Miss SugarCookie

2018-11-29 Aaaaand That’s a Wrap…

Last night I finished polishing all the documents required for my MFA final that is due this week. I haven’t yet got feedback from my mentor on my 4th packet, but that’s not really a requirement. That’s one more thing checked off my list for November and I feel great about it. ✅😊❤️

I’m a little sad to not be attending residency this winter but it was a necessary sacrifice for my family and my sanity. Having a semester break between my first and second years in the program makes so much sense for several reasons…

1. My focus needs to be on moving and selling my house and finishing all my current work projects. I want those experiences to be positive and I want to have time to do a fantastic job and not just half-ass things. 🕰⏳⏰

2. Financially I can maximize the tax benefit of contributing to a 529 for all 4 semesters (4 years of max contribution) which equates to 2000 extra bucks in my pocket at tax time (500 per semester). 💵💰💲

3. Once my house is sold I will have enough to cover the next two semesters without taking a student loan. Again important for my bank account as I will save in whatever that interest would have cost me. 🏠💶💃

4. I’m skipping a term that starts with a residency in the winter. Being in Nebraska City in winter over Christmas break and the new year holiday is not awesome. Doing it this way I will get two more summer residencies and only one more that is over NYE. ⛄️👎🏻🌨

5. I will have my graduating lecture and graduation in Summer term which is superior to winter and I’ll be graduating in a traditional spring term with a larger class. ☀️🌈🥂👍🏻

I’ll also be sad about not graduating with the people I started the program with but, the benefits of skipping a term outweigh the negative things. And by now, you should know me. I’m all about that balance. ⚖️

So today I will not only be submitting those final assignments and sending hard copies in the mail, but also turning my attention to the rest of my November checklist which there are only two more days to complete.

I’m so looking forward to everything in December. 😊🎄📦 However, I also want to not jump ahead to quickly. I need to take some time and have some celebration for this semesters success and accomplishment. 💃🎉🍾 🎈

Time for me to go get this Thursday party started and tie a nice little bow on my final submission.

So Much Awesome!

~Miss SugarCookie