How I Stopped Reading


It was a winter quarter back in my college days. In my haste to wrap up my major level classes, I eagerly signed up for all three courses offered without fully examining the description of each class. The subject matter alone was simple enough – Americana, 19th Century British Literature, and a course examining the “hard-boiled” novels of the American detective genre.

Had I dared to, oh, I don’t know, exercise my ability to read English, I would have quickly realized I signed away every single cell in my brain for the winter quarter.

When I showed up for registration, it still didn’t hit me. In fact, it didn’t hit me until I made it to the bookstore. I handed my class list to the student helper behind the counter and assumed the “I’ll just wait here forever” stance. The student looked at my classes then back at me then back at my class list. Her eyes grew large. She stepped away from the counter and whispered to someone, pointing at my list.

Shit.

They both scurried into action, grabbing books from all over the place, glancing at me in the midst of the insanity.

At the end of the mad rush amidst the books stocked for the quarter, they handed me no less than 18 novels.

I’m going to type that again so it sinks into your brain.

They handed me no less than 18 novels.

EIGHTEEN NOVELS.

EIGHTEEN.

FOR NINE WEEKS OF SCHOOL.

These were not light novels, not the romantic sweep you off your feet beach books you schlepp along with you to the doctor’s office or somewhere else you can quickly catch a glimpse of heaving bosoms.

No. These were books like Sister Carrie by Dreiser, The Rise of Silas Lapham by Howells, David Copperfield by Dickens, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Radcliffe, The Maltese Falcon by Hammett, Night Train by Amis, Child of God by McCarthy, and McTeague by Norris among others I’m sure I’ve long forgotten for a number of reasons.

I read two novels a week for the first four weeks. Then, my brain, in the middle of the night, turned off. It refused to send signals to my fingers to enable me to open a book. I tried, desperately, to crack open another book but all that happened was me, sitting there, holding the book, words swirling about in my head as my brain constantly signaled it was filled to capacity with knowledge.

I managed to scan the required sections of the remaining books but couldn’t bring myself to read the entire novels for the remainder of the quarter. In fact, I did not read a complete reputable book for over five years. That’s right. Me. The girl with a degree in English Literature, did not touch a single book for over five years.

Talk about being completely out of my element. I started writing when I was six. I devoured books as if they were smarties while growing up. But there was something about being forced to read 18 hardcore novels in such a short span time which killed a breaker in the “I love books” part of my brain.

In the past couple of weeks, I have devoured two books. One of them was only 87 pages long but it was by far the most difficult of all the books. It is both exhilarating and wonderful to be reading at this pace again. I find myself looking forward to opening books again, which is a pleasant surprise.

There’s only one caveat to this rediscovered love of reading – I will only read books made from dead trees. No ebooks for this gal, no sir. 100% dead tree for me or no words at all. That’s my dedication to books and I’m sticking to it.

A Brief Bad Poetry Analysis


A writing friend of mine shared a link with me the other day, prefaced by the following words: “If you ever feel down about a piece you wrote…”

I received it just as I was struggling to write for the day. I read it. Then I read it again. And then, I thought to myself, wow. Anything I write now will be gold, Jerry. GOLD.

I messaged this “epic description” of the poem to him yesterday: “It’s like she played Twister with a Thesaurus, writing down the words as she went, mashing them all together in one long horrific string.”

It’s that bad, people. What is it?

It’s poetry. Seriously awful poetry by none other than Kristen Stewart. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, right? I mean, we are talking about an actress who really only has one reaction to everything – a total non-reaction.

Her poem is entitled “My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole.”

So your heart is a ball of white plastic with holes punched in it? Mmmmmk. If you Google Freedom Pole (which I did), all that comes up is article after article about this stupid poem. Because obviously, none of us know what the hell a Freedom Pole is except for Ms. Stewart.

The first verse:

“I reared digital moonlight/

You read its clock, scrawled neon across that black/

Kismetly … ubiquitously crest fallen/

Thrown down to strafe your foothills/

…I’ll suck the bones pretty.

Digital moonlight? LED digital…oh hell. Kismetly isn’t even a word. But kismet is – so there’s destiny and fate…everywhere all at once disappointed. But Ms. Stewart? Crestfallen is ONE DAMN WORD. Apparently this verse, the best I can gather, is about the disappointment of a clock waking her, and she throws it off the side table then for some odd reason, sucks bones pretty. I’m shuddering at the mere thought of Kristen Stewart sucking anything. Pass the brain bleach?

There’s more.

The second verse:

Your nature perforated the abrasive organ pumps/

Spray painted everything known to man/

Stream rushed through and all out into/

Something Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck/

Through our windows boarded up/

He hit your flint face and it sparked.

Abrasive organ pumps? This line immediately after the line about sucking bones pretty… and then apparently someone has spray painted everything known to man, a stream rushed through and all out into. How does something rush all out into, exactly? If it’s rushing all out then into? Into what? Something Whilst the crackling stare down… is she being stared down by Pork Rinds? Then apparently sun snuck through the windows boarded up (then they weren’t boarded up very well, were they? And if this is the crackling stare down, um, you might be entirely too close to the sun or whatever shack you’re in is on FIRE.) A face made of flint that sparks. Fabulous. But what the hell does a flint face have to do with your heart being a wiffle ball/freedom pole? WAIT. IS the freedom pole what spray painted everything???? I’m so hopelessly lost.

Let’s move on, shall we?

Verse three:

And I bellowed and you parked/

We reached Marfa/

One honest day up on this freedom pole/

Devils not done digging/

He’s speaking in tongues all along the pan handle/

And this pining erosion is getting dust in/

She’s bellowing now. Apparently this is what one does when one sees a flint face spark. One bellows. Duly noted. Then someone parks. Parks what, exactly? Their freedom pole? What the hell is Marfa? Texas? The film festival? An honest day on the freedom pole. Does Marfa have a freedom pole? Are we talking about a flagpole here? Has Kristen Stewart been listening to far too much Harvey Danger and decided to flip “Flagpole Sitta” for her own hopeless hipster poetry? It makes sense that Marfa is in Texas now that she references the Devil speaking in tongues all along the pan handle. The dust reference makes sense too because well, Marfa is a desert city. Finally! Something I understand, dammit. (Marfa? My condolences for being immortalized in this poem. Really. You don’t deserve this. You deserve better.)

Fourth verse:

My eyes/

And I’m drunk on your morsels/

And so I look down the line/

Your every twitch hand drum salute/

Salutes mine.”

The dust is in her eyes? That’s a bitch. No, really, it is. There’s nothing worse than dust in your eyes when you’re on top of a freedom pole in the middle of the desert, right? Now Kristin is drunk on the morsels of her companion. WAIT. WHAT? She killed her companion in the middle of the desert and is nomming on the remains??? WHOA. She’s looking down the line as the hand twitches, saluting hers? KRISTIN. The hell, dude? WE EAT FOOD. Twilight was just a movie, honey, not real life. We do NOT EAT PEOPLE IN THIS DIMENSION. (Also? A little clarification goes a long way and is perfectly acceptable in poetry, honey.)

There we have it. The poem in it’s entirety. I’m left wondering why Kristen Stewart’s heart is a Wiffle Ball Bat though. Or what a Wiffle Ball Bat has to do with a Freedom Pole (flag pole?). The only correlation of which I can think is that both Wiffle Ball Bat and Freedom Pole reference things that are at the heart of Americana which is baseball and the American Flag. However, the remainder of the poem has absolutely no redeeming patriotic value to it whatsoever so….. I’m left holding morsels of my brain in my hand, wondering what the hell I just read and analyzed.

To quote Ms. Stewart’s thoughts regarding a post-writing reaction: “Holy f**k, that’s crazy”

Yes, Ms. Stewart, yes it is. Totally crazy.

Source for this post: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/kristen-stewart-writes-worst-poem-of-all-time-9121635.html

A Journey Toward Personal Intimacy


The paved road curves toward the forest as trees start to bend over the edges, giving the sense of entering a tunnel. The new green leaves flutter in the light breeze as the tires squeal ever so slightly at the apex of the curve as it slants downhill. The paved road fades into a gravel road. Dust kicks up behind the car, drifting up through the trees to a bright blue sky seared with sunshine.

Once again, the road curves, a brick wall looming in the distance. A gate crosses the road. The car slows, coming to a stop just inches away from this mysterious gate in the middle of nowhere. There is a house on the hill just a mile beyond the gate.

The driver swings the door wide and steps out of the vehicle. She walks up to the gate, grabs it, and gives it a little shake. Walking down the gate, it appears there is a chain with a lock, preventing the gate from opening. The driver shrugs and begins to climb the gate despite the clear lock and desire of the resident in the house to keep visitors out. The driver leaps to the ground on the other side, and begins walking toward the house.

Imagine, for a moment, that this road is a part of yourself you have decided to let a friend journey down. Part of your brain, part of you which you are comfortable sharing. Eventually, a wall will crop up whether you want it to or not. Even the most open of those among us have a wall somewhere.

Walls, while meant to be broken down, are also meant to be respected. It is not for us to decide to suddenly leap over them despite the clear warnings to do the exact opposite. Boundaries are healthy for both parties in a relationship. That said, it is important to not have too many walls in an intimate relationship. Too many walls lead to issues with communication and understanding. If a partner is left standing on the other side of a gate for far too long, he or she will start to feel as if they are being held at arm’s length.

Love is about trusting people enough to let them into the places you often keep locked behind a gate. It’s about letting yourself behind the walls in your own head and accepting them as wide open fields instead of gripping the key tightly and refusing to open the gate, afraid to let anyone, including yourself, through.

Intimacy with others must first start with yourself. Not THAT kind of intimacy. The intellectual kind of intimacy. The kind of intimacy we share with a close friend over a cup of coffee – the kind of intimacy we experience when we are at our absolute worst and someone offers to be there for us, even if it’s just to sit in silence. The deep intimacy which speaks volumes over any kind of physical intimacy.

It is this mental intimacy which we often deny because it means our soul is naked which, frankly, is far more intimidating than any sort of physical nudity. A mental intimacy is what keeps us together, it’s what endears others to us, and what endears us to others.

Keep that in mind as you relate to those around you and consider whether or not you are allowing yourself to be as intimate as possible with those closest to you, including yourself. The greatest damage we could ever do to ourselves is to lose touch with our own heart and souls – to not be intimate with our own minds. For when we fail in this area of intimacy, we fail at living the life we are meant to live and instead live the life others want us to live.

Ask yourself which life you’d rather be living and make the changes you need to bring a more personal intimacy into your life.

You won’t regret it.

Write Like Jackson Pollack


It’s late. I’m tired. All I can think of at the moment is pulling a Jackson Pollack, but with words as I watch the cast of The Big Bang Theory stuck in the desert dressed as the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Snow fell here today. Quite a bit of it. Did it change the landscape? Well, no. It’s still snowy, just as it was yesterday. Our snow piles are growing, however. It needs to warm up soon or I fear that the snow will develop artificial intelligence and trap us all in our homes if it hangs around much longer. That’s not gonna end well for anyone, especially if the snow refuses to let me out for sushi. Mmmmmmm. Sushi.

Speaking of not ending well for anyone, the company we currently rent from sent a front-end loader to plow today. Despite it being the biggest piece of machinery they have sent to plow yet, it was also the only piece of machinery I witnessed nearly spinning out in the middle of our road. A Kawasaki 65Z II, at that. I attempted to get video but by the time my camcorder activated, the spinning tire sessions were sadly over.

I cooked dinner tonight. Wow, there’s a sad boring sentence, huh? What did I make? A lovely chicken fried rice. This is going nowhere fast. Better pick another random topic for the next paragraph.

I glanced at the numbers. I’m barely halfway there. Sighs. My eyes are halfway closed too. Coincidence? I think not.

I finished a book I am reading for research today. Fascinating stuff. I really wish I could share it with you but the writing process is top secret right now so I can’t. The fact that I understood most of it without googling or using a dictionary for every other word was extremely validating. Reading it was wonderful but understanding it was completely energizing.

I’m hungry. They show pizza commercials late at night just to torture an old soul with heartburn, don’t they? Seriously. Pizza would be so delicious right now but a) giant blizzard blew through today, b) even if there wasn’t a giant blizzard today, most pizza places are closed or almost closed by now, and c) I’d be awake at 2am with heartburn cursing myself for eating the pizza to begin with. But I still want pizza, dammit. MMMMMMmmmmmm. Pizza. (I bet you want pizza now too. Curse Pizza Hut because that’s the commercial I saw).

Bed would be nice right about now. You ever notice how on TV, beds always look super comfy? So much more comfy than any bed you’d ever sleep in at home, right? I finally sleep in a bed that’s as comfy as I imagine the ones on TV to be. We have the best comforter ever thanks to Target and Nate Berkus. It’s fluffy, light, and absolutely perfect. Once nestled in properly, it’s as if I am in a cocoon made of the most wonderful fluff on the planet, nay, the universe. Couple that with my tempurpedic pillow and snuggles with J as I drift off? Oh.My.Heaven.

I am almost done now, rambling as I am whilst half asleep. I am sure you’ll be relieved.

Time to go curl up in bed and dream of little naked men wearing diapers shooting arrows into people’s asses because YAY, Valentine’s Day starts in just 30 minutes!  GO MOSTLY NAKED LOVE ARCHERS! DO YOUR THING!

A Few Ramblings About Love


When I was younger I foolishly believed in fairy tales, in the happy every after. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, animals sing, dwarfs get all ga ga, and well, happily ever after, right? Wrong.

In between, there’s housework, there is the daily mundane, the impossibly difficult discussions, the little things, the actual WORK required to make the happily ever after happen. You know, stuff which doesn’t fit neatly into a Disney movie and is over-dramatized in their sitcoms accented with a cheesy laugh reel.

Life isn’t some sitcom. It’s not a Disney fairy tale either. It is somewhere in between, it is not easy, and it requires work. Most of all, it requires intimacy, patience, trust, and the willingness to talk the hard stuff through without jumping to conclusions. It means listening instead of deciding what you’re going to say next. A partnership, a marriage.. it’s not about the day you say “I do”…it’s about all the days after.

The next time you see a couple who appears to have it all together, remind yourself you are only seeing a slice of their life. Do not compare yourself or your relationship to what they have. I used this example a few weeks ago – the story of the ugly duckling – he started out completely different from his siblings but ended up being the most beautiful and graceful creature of them all. It is also a perfect analogy for relationships. In my experience, people who have been through a lot together (and survived) have the strongest relationships.

Over the past few years through my work as a peer support advocate for women and families struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders, I have had the deep honor of getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the most amazing people I have ever “met”. I say “met” with quotations because most of them I have only had the pleasure of talking to on through a digital medium.

This work, this advocacy, has not only allowed me to enable others to move forward with their lives through the boulder of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders but it has also taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. You see, when you are supporting a family through a PMAD episode, you have to be aware of everything going on in their life because every little thing matters. Is she getting enough support at home? Is he sleeping okay? Does he have support too? How’s work going? Are the in-laws a source of stress? Are they communicating? Are they sharing the care responsibilities? Are they taking time for each other as a couple? There are a lot of little nuances which can add up to an explanation of why she’s had a bad week or why he seems a little snippy. These are the things which must be teased out to empower a couple to communicate and move past the potholes before they become sinkholes.

In no particular order, the following are things I believe empower a strong and successful relationship. They are things I strive to do in my current relationship and don’t ever intend to stop doing:

1) Listen. I don’t mean nod your head and “uh huh” at every little thing your partner says. No. I mean actually listen. Follow the conversation, ask questions, repeat things back. Validate their feelings, their concerns, make them heard. You would expect the same from them, yes? Everyone wants to be heard, deserves to be heard and this is particularly true with your partner.

2) Check in with your partner on a daily basis. Sure, ask them how their day went but dive deeper and ask pertinent questions beyond the surface. Get them talking abut their interests or offer to listen as they vent a problem they’re having at work.

3) Hold hands just because. Holding hands has got to be one of the most intimate things you can do with a person. I’m serious! It’s a quiet yet sweet way to let them know you care and you want to be near them. I adore holding hands and it means the world to me to be able to just sit and hold hands as we watch TV.

4) Discuss serious issues like adults. I don’t mean rage at each other, yelling and screaming. I mean sit down, and in a calm, rational voice, state your side of the situation, and then listen to your partner state his side of the decision. Sometimes you may need to wait until you both calm down. Work together instead of against each other to solve problems. You are both on the same team, here. I realize this is easier said than done but when both of you are capable of this it truly is a beautiful thing, trust me. (this is where checking in with each other comes in handy because there are less likely to be blow ups if you are actually communicating to begin with!)

5) Go on a date with each other. It doesn’t have to be ritzy, heck, it doesn’t even have to qualify as a “date”. Just spending time alone, the two of you, is great. You may have kids now but that doesn’t mean you are *just* a mom & dad. You are still the people you were when you fell in love. Nurture that, celebrate it, and don’t ever lose sight of yourselves as a happy, giddy couple madly in love with each other.

6) Surprise each other with little romantic gestures. These things are cheesy but they work. Texts, notes in work bags, mailed cards. I had to travel last summer and I left a well-planned scavenger hunt for my boyfriend at our condo while I was gone. All the clues were in a coupon holder with the dates written on the outside of the envelope. I had a blast planning it and he enjoyed all the little mementos. It really is the little things which matter in the long run.

7) Laugh together, often. Laughter really is the best medicine and if you can’t be utterly ridiculous with the one you’re with? Then you’re in trouble. It’s good for the heart, the soul, the abs, and your relationship.

8) Try new things together. Chances are you’ll both be nervous but it’ll be a bonding experience and hopefully one you’ll never forget. Just make sure you wear all the proper safety gear if you decide to leap out of a plane.

9) Give each other your own space. Know who you are and respect the person your partner is by allowing him/her to indulge in his/her interests without guilt. There is the potential for abuse of this (ie, someone hogging all the alone time and not allowing their partner to have their fair share). Love should never demand someone change their interests or who they really are just to be accepted. Love is about finding someone who is amazing and accepting them for WHO THEY ARE right then and there, not the person you plan on molding them to be.

10) Love with wild abandon. There’s no other way to love the person you are with than deeply. Love so hard your heart hurts and aches and you can’t wait to jump into their arms when they get home from work. Fall in love with them all over again every day for no reason at all than the fact that they love you right back.

Am I saying that if you do all of these things you’ll have the perfect relationship? No. Because not all of us are built the same and some of us need different things from a relationship. But for me? This is it. This is my list. Some of it may work for you, the whole thing possibly.

Underlying all of this, however, is the definitive need to communicate because without communicating, you may as well build a house without a foundation in the Everglades and just wait for the whole thing to sink beneath the swamp. And that’s not getting you anywhere but in a gator’s belly.