"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Month: October, 2012

To My Womenfolk

I don’t apologize for being grouchy in my last post. I did not name this blog “On Cushioned Knee-pads.” It’s okay to be real, people. But it’s also important to find the good. So while my posts and moods seem as shifting as this Illinois weather, here’s the good:  

The way a hot shower feels at night.   Clean wet hair.    Hoodie to snuggle in.

Naps with josh.   His sweet comments.              

The peace that comes from the new morning and better perspective after a bad day when I felt all

wrong and down and out of whack.  The fact that He understands a heart as crazy as mine.
Amazing news from my favorite group of cousins: one is having a baby, and one received a good report at his cancer checkup!

Piper’s smiles.          Getting better deals on shoes because my feet are so small that I have to shop in the kiddie section (yep, I can fit into a size four…but must dig to find styles that don’t include HelloKitty).                   

 A new whiteboard for my attic —my writing notes feel more organized. Milo is ONE (and I get to see Milo and his mommy in a month!). 

 Coffee on the stoop, coffee at E-town, coffee at Stockton Floral and Gifts, coffee anywhere. 

 Stella’s Café (because they share my philosophy that food should be an experience…and I think they are secretly a little bit southern).

Jovie (I know I mention her every time…but she really is the best dog and lives up to her name which means ‘joy’).

My mustard yellow Savvy scarf.                              The way Josh deserves an award because he never stops trying to understand me.                Getting over myself.  

Home soon…home SO soon.            Caramel pecan E-Town good morning danish. Ohmylands. Sweet friends. (makes the pastry even sweeter).
And here….I must elaborate, must give a shout-out to all the womenfolk:
God bless the women who know what pick-me-ups other women need. Who just know. In my life, it’s been the giving and receiving (mostly the blessed receiving) of many things: post-it notes, poems, messages, cards, photos. Haikus. Nights in, nights out, dance parties in kitchens and bagels on Wednesdays. Lunch dates and spontaneous trips. Cupcakes, a square of chocolate, the biggest possible diet Mr. Dew. Coffee, department  potlucks, deliveries. Books, the perfect songs. The pouring of moscato. The hugs and tears and Tylenol. A surprise left on a desk or sent in the mail. The hospitality of a home. The grace. The listening. The encouraging. The offering. The ones who show you the beauty of your flaws. The “Please tell me something to get me through the next hour.” The “Please give me truth.” And “Please make the truth not so bad.”  God bless the women—the genuine ones–who know sometimes it takes a little extra somethin’-somethin’ to get through the day, who dress the wounds of bruised knees. It’s a tough world out there, ladies. And just like Meredith Shepherd and Christina Yang, we all need a “person”.  Femininity. Embrace it. Celebrate it. And don’t forget to count it when you count your joy and thanks.     

Because I’m Grouchy, Homesick, and Hungry

Please understand my southern Illinois and Indiana homes are so far down there that it’s practically Kentucky. Few people know this, but the Mason-Dixon line actually spikes up and includes all of my people back home. Or at least it should. So northern IL qualifies as a different planet.

Here…there is no Barnes and Noble. Books-a-Million (BAM!), you are a disgrace. You are not cozy. The books you actually do happen to have in stock are hard to find. What the heck kind of system do you use? Your categories make no sense. You lack atmosphere. And you suck. So, Wha-BAM! (insert rap/ghetto/gansta gesture), how do you like that?  
Here…..No TACO TIERRA. It’s a tragedy. I crave your sanchos and your nacho supreme with the chips on the side. I even crave your perfectly crushy-slushy ice and want, right now, to sip a jumbo-something with your coffee-stirrer straws.
Here….No Coffee Cottage. I miss your cornbread salad. I miss your window seat. And your kind welcome. And your cool, mis-matched mugs. And the way you let me stay as long as I wanted. Every day.  
Northern people, you sound snooty when you speak. When you don’t smile, I think something is wrong or you hate me. Please smile more.  Why are you very forward in some ways and so reserved in others? As a whole group, I just can’t figure you out. Most of you make me nervous.  
And more on FOOD: Yes, we know southerners have junk in the trunk. Why? Because food is something we savor. Food…is an experience. Therefore, we make it taste good by using real butter and whole milk and recipes from grandma. Paula Dean is our bff. And we like pie. A lot. And pouring gravy on everything. Fryingthe chicken. Including sausage and bacon in our breakfasts. And eggs. And pancakes. And biscuits.  Maybe that’s why we are happier. And friendlier. Perhaps we are plumper. But pleasantly so. Ohhh, and put the sugar IN your iced tea, not in tiny packets on the table. For the love of sweet baby Jesus, WHAT do you have against sweet tea?  


 the game Buzzword with my family.    hilarious ridiculousness.    snuggling with my sister.
 my niece.    cupcakes.   crosswords with Jen and Mabel.   LPCC. seeing light-filled MEGAN.
Sarah’s soft convicting encouraging words.   chalkboards.     wooden signs.

really good hugs. like this one.
gift boats.
sunflowers.      blog planning sheets.   
when my husband pops in at random places (I have such a crush on him).
 i.d barevitamins skin rev-er upper.    

perk-up artist by Benefit Cosmetics. 
 Ulta.              massage chairs.                  
Savvy Scavengers two dollar nail polish (have you seen their new fall colors?).
 Halloween munch/Autumn Mix (I don’t actually know what it’s called, but I know it’s addicting (peanuts, m&ms, candy corn, mmmm).
 sorting art supplies.         magazines.            fragrant light pink roses.           pink heather.     
 burgundy carnations.           cooking days.          soups.           pepper jack cheese.  
 big sweet purple grapes.                 winks.          sharpies.            compliments.                              
Ricola cough drops.              art journals.              blank canvas.     this autumn lane.
 improving in tap dance (sorta).
seeing homecoming pics from my seniors (I miss you. I’m proud of you. How on earth are you seniors already?).         
 a warm house.      drinkable water.      no mice/spiders.                                                       
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.                      Door County Maple coffee.          Jovie hugs.
MFA program research.                 creating special cozy spaces like the attic room of my own.      
hope. HOPE.           

A Room of My Own Update

When we moved, I threw all of my classroom stuff upstairs. Literally…threw. The attic was a haunted Memorial High School graveyard of buried homeroom photos and senior pictures and lesson plans and binders labeled with each novel—a shrine to the people I love, the literature I adore, and the teacher I once was.   
I had to clean it. I had to dig up emotions I wanted to keep six feet under. I had to sort and separate and place in boxes and put in storage. And mourn. Shouldn’t I be done mourning by now? What comes after the mourning? The morning. The new.   
I’m determined to finally make the attic into a room of my own–what I promised it would be from the moment I saw its sloped wooden walls and window nooks and abundance of character.  
Right now, the room holds ideas. Odds and ins. Paintbrushes in coffee tins and mason jars. Black canvases. Old journals. New notebooks. Cutouts from black and white magazines. Pieces of cork waiting to become inspirations boards. Stamps and scissors, scraps of paper and glue. A desk. A table. A colorful quilt. A candle. I wish I had a bean bag or giant hammock, but the hand-me-down recliner we always dump our clean laundry on will do.
 I still need bistro lights, plants, chalkboards and whiteboards, my sister’s paintings, an easel, plastic to cover part of the floor, and a radio. I want maps of the world. I want to grow an indoor tree. I want to go back to Dean and Mary’s house and stumble upon more frames and doors and windowpanes and shutters. I need colors and pretty patterns and words.
As much as I doubted myself, I know I was a good teacher—one of the passionate ones in the classroom for the right reason.  I know the profession is fulfilling. I remember the education professors saying they wish they could bottle up my enthusiasm and energy, creativity and love. But that pretty little bottle slipped off the sink and shattered on the floor. And an overpowering sweetness lingers.
 So I have to hold my breath when I enter the attic. I’m scared. I’m scared every time I walk up the stairs with another armload or basket of supplies. Because I know we will leave this home, too. Because whatever world and sanctuary I create won’t last. Because life changes. Because my identity’s shaken. I work in spurts and go back downstairs often when looking at the pictures and artwork and cards and gifts from my kids becomes too much. As I hang up new pictures, I remember how crippling it feels to take them down, to pack up again.
Still, I hammer more nails in the walls. I rearrange. Because it is what it is. I will make my special space, the room of my own. If I stop creating environment and atmosphere, I’ll get stuck and won’t see possibilities anymore. I won’t hope. I don’t want to be stuck this winter. I want to take my coffee up to my studio, take in the inspiring change of scenery, and see the environment as an opportunity to work and motivate myself and write and play. To be passionate in other ways. I want to break the rules up there. So I’ll begin where I am and dream where I am. And on some small scale….go ahead and do what I’ll eventually do….where I am. So I claim the attic. I claim a room of my own. And I’m allowed to transform the space as life transforms me. Allowed to change. Allowed to keep moving. Allowed to grow, to rearrange.

Crazy Writer Girl

Excerpt from: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The writer’s psychology is by its very nature one of extreme duality. The writer labors in isolation, yet all the intensive, lonely work is the service of communicating, is an attempt to reach another person…….Chances are you want to write because you are a haunted individual, or a bothered individual, because the world does not sit right with you or you in it. Chances are you have a deep connection to books because at some point you discovered that they were the one truly safe place to discover and explore feelings that are banished from the dinner table, the cocktail party, the golf foursome, the bridge game. Because the writers who mattered to you have dared to say I am a sick man. And because within the world of books there is no censure. In discovering books, you became free to explore the full range of human motives, desires, secrets, and lies. All my life, people have scolded me for having an excess of feeling, saying that I was too sensitive—as if one could be in danger from feeling too much instead of too little.

This week I convinced myself I was a manic-depressive-bipolar-paranoid-schizophrenic. If you know both sides of me, you know I can be energetic, enthusiastic, charismatic, and bold. You also know I might spiral into shutdown mode. The timid worried hermit. Clammy. Hot-cold. Insecure and obsessive. Extreme. I keep winding myself up like a kid in a swing. Get dizzy. Wind myself up again. I will make myself crazy over imagined things that feel too real. My mind replays expressions, the tones of voices, the spoken words. I’ll take seven scalding baths and still not feel comfortable with myself. Inside-outside-naked-blanket. Tremble. Squirm. Tingle. Will my mind/body to still. And I want to claw and scratch my skin off. Desperate to express. Desperate for purpose. Waiting. Just winding up the swing.Spiraling. Again. Again.

An interesting realization occurred to me: At times I will stress, panic, and worry no matter what I’m doing. I will make any task into more than what is required. And avoiding it all and staying at home will trigger panic about doing nothing with my life. These freak-outs wreak havoc on my body, and being sane enough to know I’m not well is difficult. To recognize this duality is more disturbing than comforting. I value authenticity and want to be real—in my writing and in my personality. I require and crave genuine people in my life yet know I put on a daily mask to face the world. So, I’m either mentally ill…or a writer. Perhaps I am both.

I’m often asked how I got over my “shyness.” Well, whatever you call it, whatever holds you back, whatever thorn is in your flesh…you fake it. You push through the problem–big or little, temporary or terminal. You make yourself do something. Anything. You tell it on your bruised knees. With shaking hands and shaky voice. Mind spinning. Body drenched in sweat. You get up. You get out of bed. You get on with the day. You won’t feel great, but you’ll feel better. You keep trying. 

I keep trying.    

Paint canvas. Splash, slap color. Mod podge the shit out of something. Make art that has as many layers as you’re made of. Cut. Paste. Make arrangements that scream poetry and passion. Read a book. Amalgamate old and new. Light a candle. Cook food. Nourish. Turn up the music and make the demons go away. Begin. Feel too much. Venture out. See it all. These places. It doesn’t matter which places. Make them a part of your soul, your memory–your crazy beautiful memory.