Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rock collection

When I was a child and he was somewhere in the process of building or repairing the home he never finished for my mother, my father put in an order for gravel that was delivered by dump-truck and unloaded in the sideyard north of our house. I think my father intended to use this gravel to finish the driveway, a wide swath of bare earth in front of our home that entertained giant reflective mud puddle pools in the spring and often iced over for use as a private skating rink in the winter. But like so many of his best intentions, this hill of stones just sat around, purpose unrealized as my father's TBI personalized anything I can remember about childhood that my mother's dogmatism did not. So, this discarded treasure—my father's gravel load—became my plaything.

My mother once told me the story about how, as a girl, she and her sisters collected rocks and sold them roadside during summer months, sometimes turning a few cent's profit. I tried to follow in her infant entrepreneurial footsteps, but I'm no good at capitalism. Instead, my roadside stand added to a long list of reasons I was the odd kid in the rural neighborhood, and I amassed a shoebox collection that remained beneath my bed. I picked out dozens of igneous and metamorphic rocks—each chosen for some detail I found fascinating: a unique color, an odd texture, or a particular structural distinction. Sometimes, I'd take a hammer to them, breaking open one after another, hoping to find a geode inside, or to fleck off the glittering quartz that often fissured the center of stones. Mostly, I loved how the surfaces came to life under the stream of water in the bathroom sink; seeing my reflection in something stable somehow comforting.

Maybe I was pretty odd—a different sort of stone. The sort that defies gravity; a daydream basalt floating over the ugly weight of immovable obstacles. Occasionally I was flinty, but more often that not, crumbling, like pumice, or disappearing, like sandstone. Definitely metamorphic any way I cracked. Maybe some of the grit got stuck between my toes, because these days, I've stopped hiking for destination. I'm feeling much more grounded. Anymore, I wander mountain paths, both groomed and game trail, on principle of experiential merit and that childhood collector's streak. Along the way I'm gathering pieces for a new shoebox of sorts. Only these rocks aren't anything that would store neatly. In fact, I couldn't lift a single one if I tried. By necessity, this new rock collection is pictorial. But they are still individually unique, precious, worthy of my inner child's admiration.


Sunday, March 29, 2015


Within the first few weeks I dated Mr. PNU, I learned he possesses the secret to disarming English majors—the power of memorized soliloquy. Not one or two, my husband has numerous Shakespearian monologues up his sleeve.  The standards: Hamlet, Lady MacBeth, and Romeo. Also King Lear and Richard III. There may be more he's waiting to spring. Actually, I never know when he'll open his reserve and another searing passage will pour out, melting ground I previously believed was solid. It's a tricky superpower. The sort that keeps me guessing until I've given up on suspicion entirely, and then he dazzles me with yet more magic. Like the afternoon we came home from a poetry reading at LDS University of Choice and he started spouting Wallace Stevens. Or last week in the library of the Pie Tin, when I finally confronted the impending end of my baccalaureate, and he reminded me with Robert Frost that after 22 years of wandering along a road most would never dream to traverse—180 credits and three near completions of discarded majors—I'd discovered educational breadth that most can't touch. 

And that decision, or lack of decisiveness, has made all the difference.

This is how the wisdom of 22 years of college education sounds:

A few seconds of cheer

Question is: If L— is home from school 
when doesn't she play her guitar? 
This is a smidgen of a song she's writing
and my new favorite video.
I watch this clip and bad moods be gone.
Magic little witchy girl and her darling laughter.
My baby daughter.
Plays her six-string like a boss.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Academic tunnel love

My professors love me. Not like Mr. PNU, but it's love nonetheless.

Karin, my goddess of a CNF professor, gave me an hour of her time to discuss the scene that needs attention in my final essay this semester. It's a writing outcome of which I'm still uncertain, but she handed me a copy of her narrative Breach, told me she didn't refer students to her work often, directed me to read a particular chapter that deals with problematic sex scenes, and set me free until lecture at 5:30 later in the afternoon. I read the chapter, and then another, and then another. For two hours I poured over her language. I forgot an appointment with my advisor, didn't get caught up on any of the canon I need to cover for Brit Lit, but once I'd come to my senses at 3 p.m., I knew I am capable of writing this last scene, and that I can write it well. Karin is pushing for the essay's publication. We'll see. Lecture was a gem, as always.

Mike has finally given me my grades for Greek 1020 (B+) and Greek 2010 (A-). He's also given me until midsummer to turn in my final paper on Parmenides for the PreSocratics class I took last spring.

I caught Rob at the Starbuck's counter where we discussed the directed readings course I'd planned and then decided to drop. Since I haven't filled out the withdrawal form yet and I still want to do the work as a final poetry portfolio for graduation, Rob suggested that I check with my advisor about taking an incomplete. Then, during the first seven weeks of summer term, Rob would like to meet with me privately three or four times to review my work, give me advice, and oversee this crowning output of poetic effort—all without charging me for an additional semester. This is a godsend. If I get my advisor's approval I'll only have five classes remaining before graduation. If I can square the math credits away this summer I might be able to finish by December. If I only take two classes a semester, Fall and Spring of the coming academic year, I'll still be done by next May.

I rescheduled my appointment with my advisor for Friday. The light up ahead is expanding. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


That's the word a professor used to describe those of us at the Pie Tin with school aged kids. (Note: she also has school aged children younger than my own, but she didn't start her own gestational output until she was 32. Somehow waiting puts her in a different reproductive category from the rest of us early spawners.) 

This is what happens when people make full professor. She and her husband both moved to permanent Pie Tin fixture status last week. And now the privileged white woman persona comes out of the closet with a vengeance. 

She also complained that the Spring Break slated for the first week in April, two weeks before finals and simultaneously synced with local school districts, was scheduled with an "unfair bias toward breeders" and that the move "sacrifices the overall educational experience of those actually attending university." In the eyes of the Pie Tin's philosophy professor who specializes in feminism, a woman of my same age and gender, I am no more than a "breeder" and not actually attending university.

Granted, I may have handled these comments better if I hadn't spent the past five months unmedicated during six cycles of unsuccessful attempts at conception. Then again, maybe I wouldn't. And for the record, I hate that our Spring Break is this late and I voiced as much prior to this professor's snark. Thankfully, I only take classes from her husband.

Before I see him tomorrow I'm going to get over this. I have other philosophy students rallying around me in solidarity, and the kids I made are doing everything they can to help me see the absurd hilarity in PWW's remarks.

My circle breeds support and optimism. P. Chill, as my kids would say.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A forest holds them together

A forest holds them together
the way thoughts are knit
and we call it mind.
Caught up in trees 
and the memory of sky,
we are tangled in the faith of all things
present and unseen.
These are the edges of human shores 
—distant and near—
pressed between the sea
and the Earth's flowing core,
an inkwell of all words ever spoken—
a repository of dark spittle 
waiting to be splattered 
across the light
—the medium for God’s possibility
or smeared like some Rorschach handprint.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring tankas

I haven't been writing much poetry lately. That needs to change. In the spring I pick up tanka, and whirl with whatever sounds and syllables arrive.

An empty bowl carves
a curved space from the hollow
at rest in the dark
waiting to be filled with warmth
of broth that’s yet to simmer.

I work through knotted
lilac shadows of morning
cast across your frame—
horizontal memory
of compartments somewhere else.

With pink pliant lungs
I breathe hexagonal breaths
probably my last—
before a window closes
on the final winter’s night.

Nine o’clock arrives
and guttering sun goes dark
against the city—
the sudden internal spark
of life ignites our windows.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Pudding

What’s going on inside
the homeowner?

No real belief
in the original lumber

or the evidence 
that implies it takes 100 trees

to build a house.
You will not go the length

of framing a proof,
or taking a carpenter’s word.

My version of modern belief,
is that all the boards and required phrases

offer means to eat 
away at what’s inside yourself.

Source: Urban Dictionary’s definition of “The proof is in the pudding”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Application to the FP

We have a new bishop. He's very young, and I'd imagine overwhelmed because we live in South Happy Towne, a rough-ish Mormon neighborhood filled with college students, the poor, the blue collar, and a spattering of intellectuals looking to make the world better for the marginalized and the mentally ill. But this new bishop jumped right in after sustaining vote, and yesterday Church Headquarters sent me the online application for sealing cancelation. 

In between playing nurse, doing laundry and bleaching children yesterday I filled it. In retrospect, I should have taken more time. I've been nervous about writing the explanation for my last divorce, and once I'd rewritten it twice and finished the last draft it was several thousand characters long. 

Next, I was prompted to write my letter as to why I want a cancellation. That's the part where I got a little hasty. Why wouldn't I want a cancellation when I'm not sealed to the man who makes more sense than any other thing in my life? I cranked out something about how my last marriage nearly broke me, how it posed the greatest test of faith I've ever encountered, how I'd tried everything I could to make the marriage work, but that I got to the point that I'd rather die than continue living subject to abuse from my ex. 

And then I wrote a bit about Mr. PNU. I wrote how I believe we were lead to find each other. How I believe God wants us together. How I want to be sealed to a man who honors his priesthood, who honors my role on earth and the hereafter, who is my best friend and the kindest, most compassionate person I know. How it just makes sense to be sealed to someone who makes me feel emotionally safe adhering to covenants, and who brings me closer to Christ. I think now, after I clicked that 'send' option, that I was kind of in a hurry from the overwhelm. I probably should have taken a break, thought a little more carefully. Maybe I should have been more careful to craft the words just right. 

And then again, even though I didn't gush on and on about how much I love and adore my husband, maybe they were.

Coming Clean

In case you never come to visit while my house is as is,
I can clean, and sometimes, when there's a raging staph infection to fight, I do.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Staphylococcus sucks.

E— had in-office surgery yesterday. I got to watch. I won't post pics, but I took a bunch. There's something to having a father who was an Army medic, I think. The doctor seemed impressed that I had no problem watching my son cut open in three places. I took note of the doctor's technic for packing the incisions with iodine gauze. It looked so easy. Today, when it was my turn, I came to realize this takes great skill to make the job look easy. 

So far, E— is still alive. 

My house is bleach-scented. Most of it is as clean as I'd like it. I still need to attack my own bedroom and sanitize the refrigerator, but I could invite guests to eat in my bathrooms. I'd feel confident if you licked my kitchen floor. I Lysol-ed the couch, E—'s futon, all the doorknobs and light switches; the handle to the fridge, the oven, all the faucets, and the top of the washer and dryer. All of my family members have their own bars of soap, new toothbrushes and razors, garbage bags to keep daily laundry organized. I've been washing clothes and towels non-stop for the last 36 hours. There seems more to do every time I turn around. I caught myself thinking that puke would be better than little zombie bacteria, because then at least I'd know exactly what needed cleaning, instead of feeling like everything needs to be cleaned.

This is tolerable only because Mr. PNU is significantly contributing to the sanitation. I have no clue how a woman does this alone.

Each member of the household must bathe daily for half and hour in 1/2 C of bleach and hot water for the rest of the week. Then just once a week for the next twelve weeks. I've spent $120 on cleaning products in the last day, and gone through more sponges and DOW Scrubbing Bubbles than I care to admit. 

My palms are a desert. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Staph references

I picked up E— after his shift at the Center Street sandwich shop at 8:30 p.m., and we drove to the doctor for what I thought was spider bites. We talked about my father and how much E— reminds me of the best of him, and how E— feels an odd connection to my dead father whenever I talk about him. And then the doc came in to take a peek at the angry red hills on my son's legs. Turns out, E— has a nasty, nasty staph infection. He has six or seven abscesses on his legs. The worst looks like this:

You're welcome.

I got to watch the attending doctor at the after-hours clinic lance this puppy and squeeze just enough juice out to culture the strain. That was delightful. I look forward to seeing abscesses lanced nevery day. Doc said he was worried, because the sores appear to be MRSA. It's serious. You can look it up. But still, E—, Mr. PNU, and I sat around in the procedural office at the clinic joking about how E— is on his deathbed. It's been a surreal sort of evening. 

So instead of going to class tomorrow, I'll be accompanying my son to the hospital for an I&D. 

That's incision and drainage, for the rest of you who didn't know the first time you heard the term. I don't recommend Googling it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fantasy vs. Horror

I wrote a short story. It’s fiction, because I’ve changed names and sequence of details, and compacted these into a plot encapsulating the events of a fifteen minute span of time. But otherwise, these were based on factual persons and circumstances. I thought this story would be a shoe-in for the speculative journal on campus, but the editor told me on rejection that it just wasn’t fantasy enough. 

That’s scary.

This story deals with a person masquerading as “the right man for the right woman” on an online dating site. It depicts his habits in searching for women, and a habit of collecting photos posted by these women that he keeps in a stock fold for “art.” This art is violent in nature and is hinged to his addiction to hardcore BDSM porn. In the fifteen minutes readers spend with the character they experience his objectification of prospects and his plans to use them for grotesque “artistic” aims. In the end, the girl he’s trying to reel in gets away. That’s probably the most fantastic detail of all.

In the conversation I had with the speculative journal editor we discussed gratuitous gory violence and exploitative sexuality in media. He said he’s not so effected by sexuality. I said I wasn’t so effected by violence until a few weeks ago. On Valentine’s Day weekend Mr. PNU and I wanted to see a movie. The biggest title out was 50 Shades of Grey, and neither of us were interested. So on the recommendation of one of my best friends, a fellow Greek student, we saw Kingsman instead. About midway through the film, Colin Firth’s character, a British CIA agent extraordinaire is lured into a church styled after the Westborough Baptists. Under the influence of powerful radio waves unleashed by the film’s villain, Samuel L. Jackson, the agent’s inhibitions toward violence are repressed and in a grotesquely comic scene, probably five minutes too long, he slaughters everyone in the church enlisting every inhumane method of murder imaginable. The assault to my compassionate sensibilities turned my stomach, and I had to look away.

We left the theatre thinking that perhaps there had been redeeming qualities to the film. I was still disturbed by the violence.

The next week, ISIS beheaded 21 Christians on a Middle Eastern beach. I shouldn’t give in to my curiosity, but it gets the better of me more often than I care to admit. I know enough about my weakness to know I am no less immune to sexual pornography than men, and neither am I immune to the temptation of seeing, firsthand, what was done to these men. I confronted the most horrifying revelation when I watched the ISIS film, and for the most part, it was no worse than Kingsman. Granted, I looked away again, because I couldn’t bring myself to see the initial throat slits. But the violence perpetuated by ISIS reads on film almost as comically as the Hollywood rendition. I was appalled at myself and my level of desensitization. 

And now I have a short story I’m trying to shop around that is horrific, but too close to reality to pass as speculative. That is terrifying.  I read the piece last night at a weekly open mic after giving the audience adequate warning that the work is mature in content and that I would prefer people walk out than sit as a story assaulted their sensibilities. Five people left mid reading. The rest who stayed looked at me with a sort of startled fascination for the rest of the evening. I think perhaps the reality of what I’d read sank in. 

One woman told me it was absolutely haunting.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dog day

His text said something like: How's it going lover?
My text said something like: I'm awake and working thru some parental driven anxiety. :P
His text said something like: By parental driven anxiety, do you mean your parents, or anxiety driven by being a parent? 
He called and I said: I had a moment of dealing with the fact that I have shitty parents.
Then he said: Yeah, you kinda do. By that I mean, yes, you have to deal with having shitty parents. Not that they're kind of shitty, because there's no kinda about it.

And now I'm on to the rest of my day.

This sentence wants to begin with, "It all started when..." Except I can't place a finger on a commencement date. The latest episode came up a week or two ago when my youngest step brother—we'll call him [%]—posted a Gofundme link to raise $10K for a new therapy dog for another step brother—[&]. (I would use letters to represent them, but all of my step brother's and my adopted brother's names begin with T. Annoying.) 

Both brothers live with epilepsy. 

I want to clarify, I have NOTHING against therapy animals. I think they are highly beneficial to their owners when properly trained and cared for. But [&]'s first therapy dog, a black lab he lived with for ten years and put down a few months ago because the animal ended up with stomach cancer, was not treated well. Let me rephrase that. The animal was abused. [&] used the dog as a target for his temper, and [&]'s second wife probably stayed with him as long as she did to protect the dog from [&]'s mistreatment. She was by far closer to the animal than [&] ever was. Also, it is common knowledge in my family that [&]'s first dog didn't do anything to help with [&]'s seizures. In fact, it is common knowledge in my family that [&] used the dog to get out of taking jobs and going to events where the dog wasn't allowed. Therapy dogs should be allowed everywhere. That doesn't change the fact that this first animal didn't provide any assistance to [&] before, during or after his seizures.

But evidently, [&] has been having more seizures since his dog died. So [&] and his new wife went to check out some Doberman pups up for grabs by a local breeder. The cost for the animal alone is $1500. In order to justify the expense [&] claimed that he wanted the animal as a new therapy dog. Training for therapy dogs is thousands more. So [%] set up a Gofundme to raise the money. 

I've watched my steps and my mother go ape over this thing, pushing it to extended family, friends, associates at work. And yep. They raised the money for a new dog.

So, when I was a single mother of four, or even when I was a single mother of only three, and expenses came up for legitimate needs, I have either received loan money from my parents that I had to pay back ASAP, was left to my own resources, or I and my children went without. When Ex. No. 2 left me with $25K in debt that he'd run up in my name, I was told to declare bankruptcy. My parents told me time and again to go to my bishop for help, that they weren't the ones to rely on when finances were lacking. My bishops have never understood my parents. When I have been unable to participate in Christmas gift exchanges with my step siblings and parents because my kids needed to come first, the shame has always been thick. When I lost everything two years ago because I fled Ex. No. Nightmare, no help. My parents showed up the day I moved my scant possessions to Ex. No. Awesome's, didn't really help with the moving, and then my step dad sat in the car the whole time because he was allergic to Ex. No. Awesome's cats. No help. They drive within half an hour of our home often to visit [&] and his wife. We never know they're even in the state. My mother has begun calling my kids, and they can't figure why. We lived in the North Country, five miles from them, two blocks from her office, for ten years. She rarely had time for us then, and if we visited she told me to follow her around the house while she did chores, hardly paying attention to anything I might say. If we talked on the phone, she most often said "uh-huh" during pauses; I could hear the strikes of her fingers against the keys of her keyboard. My parents didn't like to have us over unless the whole family was coming for a big get together. My mother told me not to talk about my children's accomplishments in school in front of the other steps because they felt I was implying my kids were somehow the superior grandkids. Family gatherings turned into long hours where my kids and I were expected to sit in silence as conversation focused on the other steps and their kids. My children can't stand my family. My two oldest hate when my mother calls them. I've told them they aren't obligated to answer, since my parents didn't like it when I asked if they would help tend my children when we were around. They also didn't come to visit more than once or maybe twice a year while we lived nearby. And for the record, I've repaid every cent they lent me. I've repaid them for "gifts" as well.

But when my step brother wants a new dog, the family is all over it. Lapping up donations from people to help out. For a dog that will be mistreated, that will not be cared for well enough to do its job. 

And I'm supposed to be grateful to them for the work I've largely done on my own to raise a family?

So now you know what he means when my husband says, "Yes, you have to deal with having shitty parents. Not that they're kind of shitty, because there's no kinda about it."

Hard day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Last Saturday I met up with Dani for lunch. 

We met back in Women's Lit in 2013 and I was immediately impressed. Articulate, intelligent, and thoughtful, Dani made the class far more intriguing and challenging than it would have been on its own. 

Two years later, we've both come through some rough adjustments, but I am still impressed by Dani's fortitude and perseverance in the face of mighty trial. I think life is coming into focus for both of us, one step at a time.

Dani started a new blogging project that I believe is a wonderful place to find inspiration when searching for how to nurture the self. The blog is called Explorations in Self-. The hyphen leaving plenty of room for definition however anyone can or does. I'm touting the project because so often self is trampled for unhealthy cultural/societal expectations. In the end, suppression of self compounds initial inability to conform. It effectually turns us on ourselves. 

So if you're looking for an outlet, or just a place to relate to others on the journey, check out Dani's blog.